Once in a blue moon, a piece of technology comes along that we suddenly can’t do without. We play with it and can’t put it down. Then we miss it when we aren’t using it. Sifteo cubes are just like that. They are intriguing, magical and very playful.
Sifteo cubes are ingenious hands-on digital cubes with built-in accelerometers that emit a wireless signal to interact with one another. Put simply, when the cubes are placed side-by-side, they sense each other’s presence, allowing animated objects and characters to pass from one screen to another. Each 1.5 inch cube connects wirelessly to your computer and allows you to play a whole host of games designed to facilitate thinking skills. Sifteo call this ‘Intelligent Play’. I call this fun.
So what do you do with them? First, you need to download some software onto your computer and then you can transfer games onto the cubes. The games include all sorts of puzzles and brain teasers to get your teeth into and each one contains very clear user instructions and tips to help get you started.
Click a cube and you are away. Before you know it you are moving, shaking, tilting, stacking, flipping, rotating and getting the cubes to interact with each other through motion sensors. You can use the cubes to bring characters to life in a storytelling game, crack codes, match shapes, find your way through mazes, see addition and subtraction in action, unscramble pictures, test your reflexes, practise your spelling and much more. You can even code and create your own games using Sifteo’s innovative Creativity Kit.
The games can be played as a single player or more sociably with others to foster cooperation skills, not to mention head-on excitement. You can purchase more apps as and when you need them from an ever-expanding game library. The Sifteo pack comes with six cubes and extra cubes can be purchased.
The cubes will last for about four hours on a single charge and they will turn off automatically if you don’t use them. Practically, the cubes are small, light, and tactile and are perfect for little hands. They are pretty robust too.
The educational benefits of game-based learning are far reaching and the Sifteo cubes satisfy every thinking skill going from strategy and planning to creativity and design. The idea for the cubes came from sifting and sorting things and has been inspired by brainy activities like chess, tangrams and crosswords.
So what about the moans and groans? Well, there is a trade-off using Sifteo cubes that can be a pain: you have to be near a USB dongle plugged into your computer for the cubes to actually work. We aren’t talking centimetres away, but certainly less than 6m. This is because the cubes do not have speakers and rely on a computer for audio output. Some might say that the graphics on the cubes are pretty basic. They would be right, but I can see future versions improving on that. Anything else? Sifteo cubes are not geometrically true to their name, but let’s not get too picky as the bucketful of positives far outweigh these minor irritations. My biggest fear would be losing a cube.
To get a real sense of the potential Sifteo cubes have, you need to see them in action. Take a look at the Sifteo website (www.sifteo.com) to see what all the fuss is about and you will soon want to get your hands on them.
The price of new technology is always a bone of contention. The starter pack contains six cubes, a charging dock and AC adapter, a USB dongle, two free games, 500 points to spend on other titles and can be yours for £230 (ext VAT). It’s not an impulse buy, but it’s definitely worth consideration.
Sifteo cubes are a brilliant concept full of excitement, kinaesthetic action and exploration. There is nothing on the market to rival Sifteo so they will quickly, and deservedly, become known as the latest ‘must have’. This is innovative thinking at its best.