Even with all today's gadgets, it can still be tricky to get in touch with family that's abroad, or even just upstairs. A new device called the Nucleus is aimed at making it quick and simple to speak with family members wherever they are. Surprisingly, it's inspired by the trusty old intercom.
The device is described as a combination of the family phone, the intercom, video chat and security alerts. It allows for audio or video conversation "in the home, between homes, or with any iOS or Android device." So, for example, it can be used to speak to a partner upstairs, catch up with a parent or relation who lives elsewhere, or get in touch with teenage offspring who are out with friends.
The device itself is a 8 x 7 x 0.85-in (203 x 168 x 22-mm) unit that can be placed on a desk or shelf, or attached to a wall. It can be powered by the mains or by Ethernet and connects to the internet via Wi-Fi or, again, via Ethernet. It also has Bluetooth connectivity.
The unit features a an 8-in (203-mm) screen and a has a 5-megapixel HD camera with a 120-degree wide-angle lens that allows it to captures an entire room in one shot. It also has night-vision capabilities and a noise-cancelling microphone.
Users can put a Nucleus unit in every room of the house with which they want an instant line of communication, the kitchen, living room and an upstairs computer room or office being ones that immediately spring to mind as potentially worthwhile. Users with multiple Nucleus devices can give customized room names to each device so as to make managing and calling between the devices easy.
Each home can can have as many Nucleus units as they have open IP addresses, which nucleus says would typically be 255, so that's unlikely to be limiting. Units can also, of course, be installed in the homes of other family members and the mobile app effectively turns a user's smartphone into an additional Nucleus unit as well, allowing them to stay connected even if they're not at home.
Once Nucleus devices have been installed and setup, users can make calls between them. It's possible to make either video or voice calls and to launch the calls with a single tap or a single voice command. There's no dial tone or waiting. The devices can be set to answer automatically or to require a touch to answer and there's a physical shutter to disable the camera for privacy.
Nucleus says that, due to the device being custom designed, it's faster than any other solution currently available. It uses proprietary hardware and software that the firm says connects voice and video calls within 500 milliseconds, no matter where users are in the world.
In addition to its primary communication functions, Nucleus integrates with a number of smart home products, including Nest, SmartThings and iControl, and can be used an interface to manage the connected home. It can double as a home security device, providing alerts when unexpected motion is detected, can provide weather alerts and has built-in HD speakers for playing music or podcasts.
The Nucleus is available to pre-order online from US$209 for a single unit. It is expected to begin shipping from early 2016.
The video below provides an introduction to the Nucleus.
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