The Internet of Things (IoT) is making our lives easier in many ways, connecting the devices and objects we use daily so that our worlds function more smoothly. There are many ways we can control those connected devices, from computers to smartphones, but those methods can have their limitations—for anyone, but especially for people with various disabilities.
Enter the MagicKnock: a device that allows one to control connected devices with a simple knocking sound that can be made with fingertips, knuckles, or even a foot.
Kento Sasamoto and his partner Hikaru Ito, students at Keio University in Japan, came up with the idea for MagicKnock to solve a very simple problem. “One day, I want to change the channel of TV on my bed, but I can’t reach remote controller. Then I thought I want to control devices without having it in hand.”
MagicKnock is a small device that can be placed on a tabletop or the floor. It uses piezoelectric elements to sense vibrations created by the user’s knock; those vibrations are made louder with an internal amplifier. The device analyzes the signal’s waveform to detect the type of knock: a combination of soft and loud knocks give MagicKnock different instructions, and it responds to each with a different color, allowing the user to see that her or his input has been received.
Once MagicKnock has received the user’s signal, it uses a Bluetooth® signal to communicate with the MagicTV app, which then uses wifi to send signals to connected IoT devices in the environment. So, with a few knocks, one could send a signal via MagicKnock to the MagicTV app and from there to the lamp, coffee pot, or stereo. Kento chose to use Bluetooth technology in his concept/project because, as he explains: “Every IoT device have a battery problem. Bluetooth is the best simple way to reduce battery consumption and connect other devices.”
“I’m only a beginner yet,” says Kento, about whether he considers himself a techie. “But I love to gadget and technology and to solve problems. Because I feel a lot of problems of my life and the best way to solve them is to use gadget and technology.”
Developing a new way to interact with the many connected devices of the IoT was natural for Kento, whose favorite subject is user-interface design. “Computer science is very fun for me, but I think the best thing is how to fit the technology of my life.”
Kento sees himself continuing in a similar vein in the future. “I want to become life hacker,” he says. “Ten years later, we have more technology than I think. So we will make some useful things with the new technology.”
Not getting too far ahead of himself, though, Kento has more immediate plans for the future of MagicKnock. We asked what, if he were to win the Imagine Blue contest, he would implement as the next part of its development process. “The next step is packaging the device and software. Today our device have to edit the code and we have to use terminal.app to control ourself tv, light and music. So I want to packaging them for not engineer people. For example to make GUI.”
Other immediate plans for MagicKnock include a Kickstarter campaign to raise both funds and awareness of the project, as well as several other contest entries in addition to Imagine Blue. We’ll be on the lookout for MagicKnock in headlines of the future!