Remember the fun of creating a secret knock for your childhood clubhouse? If you’d like to recapture that feeling and apply it to your adult life, check out Knocki — a smart gadget that lets you control connected devices with a few taps of your hand.
Knocki is a palm-sized disk that you stick to a table, countertop, wall, door, or any other convenient surface. Tapping or knocking on the surface will then trigger actions in your other gadgets, like turning on the lights or sending a notification to a smartphone. One Knocki device can store up to 10 different patterns, from two quick taps to long Morse code-like sequences, and each pattern can trigger multiple actions at once.
The sensors inside Knocki respond directly to vibration, not sound, which means the Knocki hiding under your dining table won’t interfere the one clinging to the wall. The creators say their tap-detection algorithms are good at cancelling out noisy signals, so even a “busy” surface like a kitchen counter shouldn’t cause false positives. Knocki connects over Wi-Fi and uses standard AAA batteries, which should last about a year.
Knocki is only the latest entry in the Cambrian explosion of user interface ideas brought on by the Internet of Things. We’ve seen polyhedral remotes, multi-gesture inputs, armband muscle sensors,interactive physical displays, movement-tracking shoes, radar sensors, touch-sensitive fabric, and a number of voice-activated AIs.
The simplicity of tapping is an advantage, but with 10 patterns per device plus the associated actions, there’s a lot to remember. Because it’s designed to hide behind or under normal-looking surfaces, Knocki has given up the chance to present cues and give feedback about how it works. Like any new user interface, tapping may wind up being more confusing than convenient until it is widely adopted and common gesture-action pairings have been standardized
On the other hand, some tapping patterns fit seamlessly into the existing routines of our lives. For instance, Knocki can be affixed to a front door and set so that any number of knocks triggers a mobile alert to the homeowners — an instant and intuitive smart doorbell. And some users may enjoy creating their own personalized “Knocki hints mode” by decorating surfaces with written or symbolic instructions.
Knocki is being funded on Kickstarter through July 2, and is expected to ship by at the end of 2016. Learn more in the video below.