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Bixi lets you control smartphone apps and smart bulbs with swipes

Touch is undoubtedly the most intuitive way of interacting with touchscreen-equipped smartphones and tablets, but there’s the occasional scenario when fingers are inconvenient, occupied, or otherwise unavailable (think of following a recipe in the kitchen, or greasing a bicycle wheel). That’s a use gap Bixi, a gesture-sensing, platform-agnostic peripheral for mobile devices, intends to fill.

Bixi, a product engineered by the French startup of the same name, looks a bit like a miniature hexagonal hockey puck: a large, flat black surface surrounded by five stabilizing plastic feet and a loop for attaching the unit to a keychain. Beneath it lies a rechargeable battery that lasts up to a week, and Gorilla Glass-shielded optical sensors that monitor the motion of your hand and fingers. Impressively, these sensors are perceptive enough to differentiate between a horizontal and vertical swipe of the hand in the air, or an up-and-down motion.

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Just as impressive as the precision of Bixi’s gesture recognition is the number of apps and devices to which you can connect it. It pairs with a companion iOS or Android app via Bluetooth LE, and by default lets you control system volume by raising or lowering your hand. For certain categories of apps, the Bixi’s got eight distinct, pre-programmed gesture modes, two of which were demonstrated by company representatives at CES. Within vertically scrolling cooking apps such as Allrecipes, you can swipe up to reveal a recipe’s list of ingredients, and within ebooks, you can swipe left or right to turn the page.

But Bixi’s able to manipulate more than apps. Thanks to support for smart home platforms such as Samsung’s SmartThings and Philips Hue, you can gesticulate to switch on or off an Internet-connected light bulb, outlet, or relay. And clever GoPro integration even lets you snap a photo or record a video with a swipe.

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Bixi naturally invites comparisons to Leap Motion, an $80 USB single-controller gesture solution for Windows and Mac computers, but the company’s representatives are adamant that the Bixi’s meant to complement rather than replace existing methods of input. And it’s compatible with Android, unlike Leap.

Bixi’s not available for sale just yet, but a Kickstarter campaign will launch in February. Pricing hasn’t been revealed either, but a company representative told me it’ll likely land at around $99 when Bixi goes on sale in December.