A Startup Puts the Internet in Your Couch Cushions

Whoever has been stealing Mark Wotton's newspaper should look out: He's formulating a revenge plan, and it involves ninjas.

Well, technically, it involves Ninja Blocks—little computerized, sensor-equipped boxes that Wotton helped create. The blocks connect to the Internet to carry out preset actions in response to stimuli. For example, via an online service called Ninja Cloud, Wotton could set a Ninja Block equipped with a motion detector to automatically take photos of the paper thief and upload them to Facebook.
A Ninja Block might also be programmed to turn on a hall light when a child cries in her crib, or sound an alarm when the cat jumps onto the sofa. Wotton built the small devices and corresponding Web service with two cofounders. "Chances are people will have good ideas [for the devices] we've never thought of," says Wotton, the company's chief technical officer.
Ninja Blocks are among a recent wave of devices aimed at popularizing an idea known as "the Internet of things"—the connection of everyday objects to the Internet. The blocks also fit in with trends to democratize computing, and make it easier for the average person to control technology without actually knowing how to program. There's recent evidence that both geeks and nontechies would like to mix the Web with everyday things: both Ninja Blocks and a similar project called Twine recently completed successful campaigns on Kickstarter, the crowdsourced fundraising site.


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