LAS VEGAS — Controlling your smartphone with the tap of a finger is certainly convenient — until your finger is occupied with other tasks. The creators of Bixi wonder why you need to rely on those fingers when gestures can handle many of the same tasks.
That's the idea behind Bixi, a tiny device that connects with your iOS or Android phone or tablet via Bluetooth LE. Wave your hand over a Bixi, and you can do everything from controlling playback of a song to remotely operating the camera.
Bixi does more than just control smartphones. You can also set up the device to operate a GoPro camera or adjust the lighting from a Philips Hue lightbulb — again, without doing anything more than making a specific gesture over the Bixi.
It's certainly an appealing idea for anyone who's ever tried to access a smartphone while their hands are busy or dirty. I like to listen to music or podcasts on my iPhone whenever I wash the dishes after dinner. At the same time, my family occasionally likes talking to me. That involves me wiping off my hands so that I can pause whatever's playing on my phone. With Bixi, I could just wave one of my sudsy hands to pause playback.
Bixi does more than just control playback or adjust volume (which involves raising or lowering your hand over the device). Demoing the Bixi for me, founder and CEO Vijayaraghavan Narayanan was able to unlock an iPad, scroll through recipes, and even control the camera on his tablet by using various gestures.
Bixi currently supports eight gestures. It could support more, Narayanan said, but the company didn't want to complicate things for early adopters. The plan is to add support for more types of gestures as people get more comfortable with Bixi.
The obvious comparison to Bixi is Leap Motion, an $80 controller that works with Windows and Mac computers. But Narayanan points out that Bixi can support iOS and Android as well. It runs on a rechargeable battery and has durable features such as Corning's Gorilla Glass, allowing you to use it outside.
A Kickstarter campaign for Bixi will launch in February. Pricing has yet to be set, but Narayanan said it will be in the range of Leap Motion's price tag. If all goes well, Bixi will be available for purchase online toward the end of 2016.