New smart home controller Welle turns gestures into IoT commands

There’s a new entrant in the race to control your smart home devices. A Chinese company called Maxustech has made a pretty good impression in the Kickstarter world with the Welle — a new smart home controller that uses sonar to recognize gestures as commands. It feels a bit like using the Force to turn your stuff on and off, which is pretty cool by itself.

The developers claim the Welle is the first device of its kind to use embedded sonar to detect human motion for the control of smart devices and apps. It’s the same kind of tech that is used for high-level sensing in drones and currently being tested for self-driving cars by a variety of tech giants. Because it’s meant to be a universal controller, the Welle can be used to control a wide variety of devices including lights, televisions, speakers, door locks, thermostats, fans, and more.

More: Researchers add gesture recognition to nearly everything

The early bird price on Kickstarter gets you one Welle for $69, and Maxustech has raised over $30,000 based on a $20,000 goal. The product will be in beta testing by May 2017 with production beginning in September. Maxustech expects to start shipping in October 2017.

In contrast to hands-free devices like the Echo and Google Home, Welle uses hand signals rather than voice commands to control smart home devices. It works by emitting low-level ultrasonic waves and collecting echoes that bounce back within its sensing areas. Then the device translates those echoes via software algorithms into commands for IoT devices, software applications, or other controllers. Because the device is designed to utilize the latest Bluetooth technology in concert with the latest sonar tech, it also consumes very little power.

The Welle will detect gestures out to about a meter, and recognizes at least a dozen simple gestures. In a nifty programming trick, the Welle developers integrated a function where a letter of the alphabet can be assigned to a unique device. In other words, just dash out an “X” in the air, and you can fire up the dishwasher or turn on certain lights. The developers are also using an open application program interface to encourage software and hardware to redefine gestures and invent new functionalities.

“Our goal was to create convenient control for people that could be used anywhere,” says CEO & Founder Mark Zeng. “Our team creates technology that adds pleasure to life by amplifying natural human ability. The feedback has been amazing.”

The development of the Welle could also be the cusp of a new age in IoT control. A recent study by Juniper Research forecasts that by 2020 there could be more than 400 million motion- and gesture-tracking devices. The technology could also have a fundamental connection to rising technologies like virtual reality.

Product Review

Ring Alarm makes DIY home security simple and affordable enough for everyone

Ring first made waves with its video doorbell, and now the Amazon-owned company is moving on to home security with the Ring Alarm. You can install the sensors and keypads yourself, then have Ring professionally monitor your home.
Smart Home

With a simple command, Alexa can arm all your security devices

Alexa customers can query status plus arm or disarm home security systems several companies. New Alexa Guard skills set your home to away mode, send alerts when alarms or sensors go off, and contact home security monitoring services.
Home Theater

These top-line smart speakers conduct the most sophisticated symphony: Your life

Stuck talking to yourself? Get an A.I. assistant to keep you company! Whether you put your stock in Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri, we've picked out the best smart speaker for any smart home ecosystem.
Smart Home

Ring Alarm vs. Nest Secure: Which one is right for you?

Thanks to the advance of technology, it's become really easy nowadays to secure your home and protect it from thieves, intruders, and unwanted guests. Which one of these two top contenders is right for you?
Smart Home

Facebook Portal and Portal+ video-calling devices gain new content and features

Facebook's Portal devices are video smart speakers with Alexa voice assistants built in that allow you to make calls. The 15-inch Portal+ model features a pivoting camera that follows you around the room as you speak.
Smart Home

Dog or cat shedding? These vacuums do a great job of sucking up pet hair

Got a pet hair problem? Fortunately, there's help for you and your furry friend. We tested out a bunch of vacuums that promise to remove pet hair. Here are a few of the best you can buy.
Product Review

Hue who? Nanoleaf Canvas brings a riot of color and vibrancy to the smart home

Fun and festive, Nanoleaf Canvas feature lighting adds personality and vibrancy to any room. Nanoleaf Canvas features squares that you can connect in any configuration you’d like. Sync to music, play games, or relax in soothing light.
Smart Home

Rocco wants to rock out. Parrot learns to use owner’s Amazon Alexa

Rocco, an African gray parrot, fell in love with his owner's Alexa unit and ordered himself treats and other goodies, but mostly uses the smart assistant to rock out to his favorite music.
Smart Home

The Echo Wall Clock can help you keep track of multiple Alexa timers

Amazon just released the Echo Wall Clock that was announced at its September new hardware device event in Seattle. The Echo Wall Clock is an analog clock that also indicates the minutes remaining on one or more Alexa timers.
Smart Home

Espresso On Demand: The five best Nespresso machines

Most people still trek down to their local coffee shop to get an espresso or a cappuccino, but you don't have to. A Nespresso machine can put coffee shop quality espresso on your kitchen counter.
Smart Home

This device detects when your pet is at the door and opens it for them

Tired of waiting for your dog to come inside, or running home in the middle of the day to let your four-legged friend out? Wayzn automatically opens sliding doors for your dog and gives you remote control.

Get electronics gifts for high-tech homes for under $100 with these deals

The holiday season is in full swing with Christmas just around the corner. New deals on interesting, fun, and practical electronic gifts under $100 from major online retailers can convert last-minute shoppers to savvy bargain hunters.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Booze-filled ski poles and crypto piggy banks

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Smart Home

Put away that sponge and let us help you pick the best dishwasher for your buck

Tired of doing dishes by hand? Take a look at our picks of the four best dishwashers currently available and let a machine do the dirty work for you. They’ll do a much better job, anyway.