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Bxi 2.0 controller senses motion, displays notifications, responds to voice commands

Every once in a while when you’re using your smartphone, there’s that annoying moment when you need to tap through a recipe, flip the page of an eBook, or skip a video ad but don’t have a finger to spare. Perhaps they’re coated with flour dough — or barbecue sauce. Whatever the reason, the result’s the same: You’re stuck without a way to use your touchscreen — unless you have the gesture-sensing Bixi 2.0, that is.

The original Bixi, the product of the French startup Bluemint Labs, looked a little like a miniature hexagonal hockey puck, and its successor is no different. The Gorilla Glass-shielded black surface, which houses optical sensors and a rechargeable battery that lasts up to a month, is supported by five stabilizing plastic feet. There’s also a key chain ring.

Just like last years’s model, the Bixi 2.0’s sensors easily differentiate between horizontal, diagonal, and vertical swipes. The Bixi 2.0 features eight distinct, preprogrammed gesture modes, two of which were demonstrated by company representatives at CES in early January. When paired with an iOS or Android device via Bluetooth LE, you can control system volume by raising or lowering your hand. Within lists and apps that scroll vertically, such as cooking guide Allrecipes, you can swipe up to reveal a recipe’s list of ingredients, for example. Inside eBook readers, navigation is just as intuitive — you can swipe left or right to turn the page.

But the second-generation Bixi features a first: An E Ink display that shows the current temperature, time, and smartphone notifications. Thanks to a built-in microphone and support for Amazon’s Alexa voice service, it can accept verbal commands, too. And it ships with a Wi-Fi connected hub that lets you control smart home devices like Samsung’s SmartThings and the Philips Hue.

The Bixi 2.0 naturally invites comparisons to Leap Motion, an $80 USB gesture controller for Windows and Mac, but Bluemint Labs is adamant that the Bixi is meant to complement rather than replace a touchscreen or mouse. And unlike Leap Motion, which in recent years has pivoted to development for virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Gear VR, Bluemint is maintaining a narrower focus with the Bixi. It’s intended strictly as an input device, company representatives told Digital Trends.

The original Bixi is available in Europe. U.S. customers can pre-order a Bixi 2.0 unit for $99, and it’s expected to ship in March.