South Korean startup Naran launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo today for a smart button meant to control analog devices ranging from speakers to your crock pot. Called Microbot Push, the device is a height-adjustable button that clips on to devices and can be programmed to perform a simple press motion when commanded over the internet.
For a problem as ubiquitous and technically simple to solve, it’s surprising that it has taken so long for a product to come out that addresses it. At its core, Microbot Push is just a wirelessly connected actuator that moves a rubber end piece to press or depress a button. As simple as the device is, the possibilities are pretty remarkable. So many devices, especially appliances, lack internet connectivity or an interface for remote operations. Buttons abound, though, so a smart button is at its core enabling internet connectivity for everything that you bought before 2010.
As simple as the device itself is, though, it belies the utility of the underlying platform. The Microbot Push device connects with a centralized node that the company calls a Prota Box that devices can connect to over Bluetooth or WiFi. Along with the buttons and the centralized hub comes an automation system similar to IFTTT, which lets users create what Naran calls “stories” using sensor data to trigger buttons and therefore actions. A simple use case for this, for example, would be a button that turns on a coffee pot when a certain level of sunlight is detected by a sensor mounted the window.
While competitors exist that perform either the function of being a button, like flic, or flipping a switch, like switchmate, Microbot Push combines the two functions into one sleek package. The device’s button also behaves like a capacitive button, though it is hard to see a real use case for this, especially since button functionality is easily achieved with an Amazon Dash button and a firmware change.
The company’s initial funding goal is $50,000, which it hopes to raise in the next 31 days. Naran says that the funding will be used for tooling development and other manufacturing costs. Its production partner is the Samsung supplier INTOPS.
At the end of its first day, Naran has already achieved more than 30 percent of its funding goal for the Microbot Push, and with 30 days remaining, it’s quite likely that it’ll be able to raise enough to cover its costs.
Whether or not the device will stick remains to be seen. As more and more people replace appliances and other devices with new iterations that are connected to the internet, Microbot Push’s market will continue to shrink. Furthermore, restricting operation to just pushing buttons severely limits the device’s capabilities. Being unable to perform simple tasks like operating an adjustment wheel definitely inhibits the device from enabling true autonomy.
In the meantime, users who’ve long searched for a way to automate their coffee pot are in luck. Microbot Push might not change the world, but it’s a great way to turn a Roomba on and off with your cellphone for $209.