Sifteo Cubes: Resurrecting a legend

Dr Mike Reddy

Playlists: 'emf2022' videos starting here / audio

In 2009 a TED Talk by David Merrill showed small interactive tiles that talked to each other; an MIT “what if” project from their media lab. Little IoT devices that brought computers, toys and board game pieces together. In 2011(version one) and 2012 (version 2) a commercial version, Sifteo Cubes, was released, but I was unaware, thinking the dream prototype was just that, a dream not a reality. They passed me by…

In 2014, the v2 software was open sourced - the inevitable precursor to failure - and the company bought by Drone/Robotics developer for the obvious design skills of the Sifteo team; they had, after all, reverse engineered and reapplied wireless keyboard controllers into one of the coolest toys ever! So, I came to them late. Too late. By 2015, the server the control software required, along with the online marketplace for the dozen or so games that were made, were long gone. The Sifteo cubes I’d just (re)discovered from a desperate eBay sale were now just useless, battery powered bricks. And they didn’t even click together!

But I was stubborn. I wanted them to work. These little marvels of engineering and educational design. I had some of the software, a couple of the games, and none of the knowledge. Here’s how I managed to resurrect a legend, who I met, what some of them stole from me, and what I learned on the way