The revolution in connected hardware won’t start with a “what if?”, but a “why not?”. There is a clear distinction between the devices with complimentary apps and those with them at their core. The iKettle can boil water from the opposite side of the planet, but does it boil water better than an average kettle? Not really. While it, and a flood of electronics like it, are interesting ideas, the only products which will drive the concept of connected devices forward are those who are unquestionably intertwined with it. The industry should take a page from the book of indie hardware game company, Sensible Object, who have successfully tackled the question “that’s nice, but why?” and developed a brilliant physical-digital game called Fabulous Beasts.
Fabulous Beasts is an adaptation of Jenga and seamlessly incorporates technology to include a virtual world which responds to the real. Each block is shaped like an animal and encapsulates an RFID chip. The player scans the block on the base before balancing it on previously placed blocks. The game is brought to life on a tablet which shows a magic world that evolves as the game progresses. Each block alters the world slightly and is ultimately brought to destruction when the tower collapses.
The game was developed by a new indie hardware games company called Sensible Object, founded by game designer Alex Fleetwood. After receiving some R&D funding from the REACT Play Sandbox Scheme Alex built a team with game designer George Buckenham, product designer Tim Burrell-Saward, artist Lyall McCarthy, and engineer Chris Shaw.
Alex was kind enough to bring it along to Hard Talk and the game instantly adopted some inquisitive gamers. A tower of colourful, angular shapes was quickly built up and knocked down in spectacular fashion. The game was certainly a hit.
The prototype uses an Ardiuno to take RFID scans and measure the weight of the blocks. This data is fed to the app to determine which block has been placed and alter the virtual world accordingly.
The project has had a great response from angel investors who have helped fund the prototype. Having confirmed its market fit the team plan to launch on Kickstarter in the new year to raise money for production.