Father and son’s screen device gives entertainment and information a new look
The device is primarily for entertainment and to play games, but it has modes to display current information.
BY JEREMY LOSAW
Sometimes, coming up with a realistic invention idea is harder than assembling Rubik’s Cube. Other times, it’s a walk in the park.
Savva Osipov remembers that day a few years ago with his father, Ilya Osipov: “We were just walking in the park and this idea—magical idea—came from the gods of a Rubik’s Cube, but with screens. Then we thought about if it is even possible to do that.”
The eventual result was WOWCube®, a three-dimensional screen device that allows users to play games and view data in a unique way.
The cube-shaped device consists of eight equal pieces that snap together via a proprietary magnet system. The attachment system allows for the halves to be twisted and locked in a similar manner as a Rubik’s Cube.
WOWCube features a suite of sensors that can interact with applications and games that run on it. The device is primarily for entertainment and to play games, but it has modes to display data such as photos, weather, time and stock prices that are sent via Bluetooth from a smartphone. It is even certified by STEM as an educational toy.
The father and son’s extensive history of electronics know-how and tinkering—along with a love of puzzle games—laid the foundation for that day.
Ilya Osipov had a career as a programmer and helped develop a media website in his native Russia. He eventually sold the company and moved to the United States.
Suddenly, he had a lot of free time on his hands. He began to develop 3D mechanical puzzles for fun and became so good at building them that he was able to license some of his designs to companies that produced and sold them via ecommerce.
Savva Osipov grew up in this creative environment and began to tinker and play with electronics, too. He even created his own minimalist gaming system from a microcontroller and 3D-printed parts.
With their idea of taking electronics displays beyond interaction in a single plane, Savva and Ilya began working on a prototype to see whether the concept was viable. They started with an Arduino as the brain for the device and built a 3D-printed case to house the screens.
This first prototype was not able to play a game, but the screens reacted to sensor inputs and changed the color gradient based on the readings—which proved the core concept that they could control the screen via motion on the device.
Excited by this breakthrough, they did a search for competitive products and existing patents. Although they did find a product that resembled dominos with a screen, they found nothing similar to what became their concept. So they kept developing.
One of the biggest challenges was how to keep the segments locked together but still have the rotation of the cube feel right for the user.
To solve this challenge, Ilya used his background building physical 3D puzzles and came up with a system of spherical magnets to hold the cubes together. This also had a pleasing locking feel and virtually no friction or mechanical parts to risk wearing out.
IP and production
Intellectual property is a big part of the strategy for Ilya and Savva. They filed a suite of patents around the magnetic connectors, overall design and technical layout.
They knew they wanted to grow internationally, so they filed in Europe and key Asian countries such as Japan in addition to the United States. Ilya notes that a patent portfolio is especially important for hardware startups and has helped WOWCube raise almost $2.5 million in investor funds.
With such a unique device, it was important to get help from manufacturers as soon as possible. Ilya built an engineering team centered around Shenzhen, the electronic device manufacturing capital of China. The team there took over the engineering of the physical and electrical aspects of the device, as well as building the custom applications required to interact with the 24 screens.
Designing each of the eight segments that make up the WOWCube was a key breakthrough.
“Every part is the same. It’s very important to mass production [to have] absolutely the same part[s],” Ilya says.
The two even had to build a custom case, which is a series of connectors that snap onto the edges of the device to keep the screens safe when it drops.
The WOWCube launched at the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show to rave reviews. Showgoers were impressed with the technology; distributors from all over the world were interested in carrying the device.
“We had an unbelievable success. We had a few hundred pre-orders every day,” Ilya says.
Father and son built 150 units and gave them to influencers and developers to test out. This has also helped to boost interest in WOWCube, inspiring developers to create new applications to run on the platform.
Heady 2021 plans
Ilya and Savva are focusing their efforts on bringing WOWCube to market this year.
They are freezing improvements on the device for now to allow the manufacturing to proceed but are still working with developers to create games and apps. They are taking pre-orders via their website and are considering a launch on crowdfunding in the spring.
Early planning stages for the next generation of WOWCube are underway. Ilya and Savva are also looking into other ways that the device can be used, such as making it a controller for VR or other devices.
The best-selling toy of all time is Barbie (more than a billion dolls sold), according to therichest.com and pivotint.com.
Hold on. Goodto.com says Cabbage Patch Kids is (are?) the best-selling toy ever.
Nope, says buzzfeed.com. It’s Rubik’s Cube, with more than 350 million units sold worldwide.
(Make that 400 million units, says ruwix.com.)
Let’s just say that a whole lot of Rubik’s Cubes have been sold.
The impetus for the WOWCube was the colorful, square, now ubiquitous creation that hit the world market in 1980. Its inventor needed a month to solve it before mastering it, eventually learning how to solve it in less than a minute.
There are seemingly as many fun facts about Rubik’s Cube on the internet as there are possible configurations for the toy. Many of these facts are repeated on different sites, but the New York Post presented them in an especially entertaining way:
- It’s a Communist block. It was invented in 1974 by 29-year-old Hungarian sculptor and architecture professor Erno Rubik, when his country was under Soviet domination. Originally, it was made out of good old proletarian wood instead of flashy capitalist plastic. The corners were rounded.
- As many as one out of seven citizens of Earth has tried to solve it. That’s a billion people, according to rubiks.com. But that’s not the truly mind-blowing number, which is this: The puzzle has 519 quintillion possible combinations. That’s 519,000,000,000,000,000,000. That number is even higher than the number of times Alec Baldwin has lost his temper in public.
- It’s not just a cube. It’s a thing of wonder. According to his website, rubiks.com, “Erno has always thought of the Cube primarily as an object of art, a mobile sculpture symbolizing stark contrasts of the human condition: bewildering problems and triumphant intelligence; simplicity and complexity; stability and dynamism; order and chaos.” Top that, Cabbage Patch Kids!