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Sifteo Hands-On: We're In Love With These Little Interactive Gaming Blocks

Sifteo Hands On
We had the chance to do a hands-on with one of the most innovative gadgets we've seen this year: Sifteo's modular, digital gaming blocks. These tiny cubes sport touchscreen LCD displays, along with three-axis accelerometers, neighbor-sensing technology and wireless networking, to create a hybrid physical and digital gaming experience that was difficult to put down. While we've seen some concepts similar to Sifteo in the past, these are the first we've seen go into production. Be sure to check out our hands-on video after the break.

The blocks measure about 4.3 by 4.3 centimeters (1.7 inches) across and wide, and 1.9 centimeters (.7 inches) deep. Sifteo has developed about a dozen games in house, which are played by moving, twisting and shaking and turning each of the blocks, each of which communicates with other blocks placed next to it. In one game, for example, letters appeared on each of three blocks -- the goal was to create words by physically rearranging the letters. Another 'Bejeweled'-like game requires you to constantly rotate the boxes to clear lines of colored circles.

You download each of the games from either a PC or Mac directly to the set of blocks (currently you can include up to six blocks in a set), much like any other app. A wireless USB dongle transmits all of the app information, as well as the positional information of each of the blocks, to the set.

Started as a graduate project at the MIT Media Lab by Sifteo founders David Merrill and Jeevan Kalanithi, the blocks were originally called Siftables and garnered attention when prototypes were shown off at a TED conference last year. After a name change and some tweaks, the Sifteo blocks are headed to market in the fall for a limited run.

While some of the games are primarily aimed at kids (including maze, math and word games) it seems as though the blocks wouldn't be solely limited either to gaming or education alone. (Still, they make for a perfectly interactive set of flashcards, especially when learning, say, spelling.) But we'll hold off from fantasizing aloud about other possible applications until we can get a set of our very own.

Tags: accelerometer, blocks, design, education, gaming, kids, motion, siftables, sifteo, top, videos