I was charmed by a strange little gaming device earlier this year at CES 2022. The WowCube is basically a digital Rubik’s cube with 24 screens. Players can twist it to play puzzle games or put a picture on it and use it as a neat little home conversation piece.
It comes at a time when we’re seeing a lot of video game gadgets outside of the usual console giants. Steam Deck is revolutionizing how gamers access PC games, Analogue Pocket is a must for gamers with a lot of old mobile games, and Crank-controlled Playdate is so weird that it has captured the curiosity of the gaming world. WowCube resides in the same space as the device that combines games, video game consoles, and tech gadgets into one.
When I sat down with Max Filin, CEO of the creator of WowCube Cubios, it immediately became clear that the black box is more than just a nice gimmick. It’s an astonishingly impressive technical achievement that could one day shape the world in very unexpected ways.
The most surprising thing about the WowCube is that it delivers brilliantly on its wildest playing field. The device is a dense black box of eight cubes, with four screens on each side. When turned on, each screen lights up with a different app icon. Click on one of them and the screens will light up with a twist-controlled tactile game.
Many of the current games available on it nowadays are straightforward. In a game, players move a ball around the cube, collecting points. Rotating the cube creates different paths for the ball to move through. Another title is a 3D version of 2048a puzzle game where players match numbers until they double up to 2048. The latter is what I ended up spending the most time with, as it’s a concrete progression on already addictive puzzles.
While the current version works without a hitch, it took time to figure out how to put it together. The prototype of the device was much less agile than the current version. It was a larger box with thick plastic surrounding each screen. It was a low-resolution device with Arduino CPUs packed inside. However, as you might imagine, operating a rotating cube of screens was not an easy task. It will require an inventor’s touch.
“You can’t just put one CPU, one battery, one motherboard and then connect it to 24 monitors. Nothing on Earth can support 24 monitors at the same time changing the geometry,” says Filin. completely.”
I was really shocked when Filin completely disassembled the device, breaking it into individual cubes that still showed pictures apart from the rest of the components. Essentially, the team found a way to create eight computers that communicate with each other via magnets and charge them in a single dock. In theory, the WowCube could be broken down into its components and reassembled as a flat 4×2 monitor or any real shape. Filin describes it as a “game operating system,” likening what they created to the technology that powers smart devices like cars and refrigerators.
“It’s way more than just a hardware game; it’s a distribution of eight independent computers, and this technology is behind it,” says Filin.
While the team at Cubios will develop their own apps and games for the device, anyone will be able to create their own apps and games. The company even hired a 20-year-old developer after they created an eight-ball magic app where users could ask a cube a question and twist it to get an answer. The only reason WowCube isn’t widely open to developers yet is because the team isn’t big enough to keep up with the demand from interested developers.
As far as gaming hardware go, that might seem a little convenient – and it is. But like a lot of new technologies, WowCube only starts with video games, because it’s a tried and true way to get users inside and a way to stay focused. When Filin begins to talk about the broader potential of this technology, his imagination begins to spiral like the device itself.
“In 2019, I met a friend of mine who owns a clinic for people injured in car accidents,” says Filin. “He said, ‘You have a device that can be a great puzzle where you can change the difficulty. “We can give puzzles to patients who want to recover from a head injury. We can put white here and white here. No buttons. You twist, call, blink, very easy. It’s brain development.”
It’s way more than just a hardware game; It is a distribution of eight independent computers and this technology is behind it.
Filin goes on to list several potential use cases, such as helping children with autism or adults with Alzheimer’s disease. It lists several sectors that Copius pursues, some of which are surprising. The team focused on a long-term project on early childhood development. Another may see the device being used as a controller for smart home devices.
open source capabilities
Of course, some modern buzzwords make an appearance in conversation, too.
“The cube is what I would call the perfect repository for your NFT set,” says Filin, using the device’s aquarium-like display app as a possible example. “It shows your art. Or you can buy those fish or sell them like NFT. You can breed them! I take one unit with a fish and put it in another cube. They breed and I have a unique fish. It shows here in the aquarium.”
The company already has the white label (a product or service produced by one company that other companies have rebranded) for ideas like that, and many more, says Flynn. However, he’s not moving on them yet as he wants to stay focused on the gaming side for now. Given that it’s an open source platform, though, buyers won’t have the same restrictions at launch. They will have access to eight independent computers that can interact with each other.
Filin hopes to have the devices in people’s hands by Christmas, even though the current shortage of components is wreaking havoc on an eight-computer. If all goes well, people will be able to start pre-ordering them starting in April in most parts of the world. People in the US may have to wait a little longer, although Flynn notes that some distribution plans are in the works, with “minor assurances” from some major retailers.
The WowCube may not replace your PlayStation 5, but if Cubios’ lofty aspirations come true, it could become the most versatile tool of the modern age.