Technology

Mui’s internet-connected block of wood is a minimalist’s dream

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I was thoroughly charmed by Mui, the internet-connected block of wood that acts as a smart home hub, when I first saw an early model prototype back in 2017. I got to see a working model today at CES, and despite being displayed against the backdrop of a hotel convention hall, it remains an elegant device I’d love to have in my apartment.

Mui’s biggest draw is that it’s a smart home display that integrates seamlessly to home interior as furniture, and not a device like the Amazon Echo Show or Google Home Hub. The version I saw today came with an updated minimal interface that displays five icons on the home screen. There’s an icon each to show the weather, control temperature, adjust lighting, display Spotify music playback, and open smart doorbells. It uses IFTTT to connect to smart home devices like Sonos, Nest, and Philips Hue.

There’s also a dedicated Google Assistant button on the screen which you have to press before making a request. Unfortunately, “Ok, Google” wake words don’t work, so you’ll have to tap the screen whenever you want to make a voice command. The LCD display will type out your command, and display the response one character at a time. It’s a bit slower than just hearing the response from a speaker, but the Mui doesn’t have speakers, so you can either wait for your response to be typed out in full or tap the screen once to show the entire message.

The Japanese company successfully raised over $110,000 for its Kickstarter last December, and is continuing that momentum by launching on Indiegogo InDemand this week, which lets companies continue crowdfunding as they enter production. It’s rare and refreshing to see a device go from prototype to its successful end goal, and Mui also received a CES Innovation Award this year. If you’re interested, Mui will be available to backers for $549 when it launches on Indiegogo InDemand this week, but the device will likely skyrocket to its $999 retail price after.

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