The future of toys has six sides and knows when you’re near

The future of toys is here, and it’s quadrilateral! Well, maybe—but this is nonetheless pretty cool. Meet Sifteo’s Cubes, the brainchild of MIT graduate David Merrill. These cute, “smart” little building blocks, set for release this September, made their debut as Siftables at the 2009 TED conference:

Cubes still retain the qualities that made for a compelling TED demo two years ago. They’re 1.5-in. plastic blocks with clickable color screens on their top and batteries inside. (They provide four hours of play on a charge and come with a recharging station.) More important, they seem to know the world around them. They can sense when you’ve placed two of them next to each other and know which edges are in proximity. They notice when you’re tilting them and in which direction. They can tell when you’ve flipped them over. 

But the blocks don’t just have motion sensors; they play games too. Via a wireless, easy-to-use USB adapter, game apps can be downloaded from your computer to your Cubes. Sifteo’s software, Siftrunner, also contains an editor for ambitious players to make their own games. 

In fact, this current version of Cubes only appears to have two major drawbacks. For one, your Cubes must be in range of a computer at all times. While completely wirelesss, it is the Siftrunner software which controls sounds and apps, making the Cubes much less portable than they appear. Secondly, there’s that price tag: if you include the starter kit plus 6 Cubes, you may find yourself running up a bill in the area of $284.

But if you’ve got kids—or have a young heart and plenty of disposable income—Sifteo is now taking pre-orders for Cubes. 

Lana Polansky