Can you take a classic toy and and gamify it even further? That’s what the developers of Sifteo have done with one of the most basic instruments of play- the block. The building block has been stimulating motor skills, and creative and analytical brain development for generations. Now the block has been built upon once more, this time as a hand-held video game system. Sifteo is basically a set of three 1.5″ LCD touch screen cubes with motion sensor and wireless communication. The cubes sync up to your nearby computer through a wireless USB to initiate games that involve touching, connecting, shuffling, stacking or flipping the cubes.
While this style of control is not entirely new, combining it with separate pieces adds a higher level to the game play as far as dexterity, focus and brain function. Sifteo has a strong potential for educational games as tactile and kinesthetic learning awakens more regions of the brain at one time, increases engagement and helps to better commit things to memory. Sifteo already offers some purely educational games in its currently limited library: Mount Brainiac – which focuses on memory with math and vocabulary and Wordplay – a timed spelling and letter scramble game.
Sifteo has a small catalog for now, but considering it hasn’t yet had a full release (its Early Access option has long since sold out) 5 games is a pretty good start. You can also use Sifteo Labs which has smaller games still in beta that let you see what the designers have been working on, and get an idea of what’s to come. And while the initial set comes with 3 cubes, you can purchase an additional cubes to expand your game play, add a new level of challenge and unlock new features.
Sifteo has already been getting a huge buzz and has created status level for those who were quick enough to sign up early. It offers a customizable and upgradeable gaming experience and explores yet another level of gamified gaming. A major downside to the system is that it requires a nearby computer which, even if you have a laptop, keeps it in limbo between portable and stationary gaming systems. It’s unclear just yet how Sifteo will fare against other platforms, but hopefully the developers will continue to experiment with new games and push them further. Sifteo’s design is at once, limiting and expansive. It will be interesting to see how much more can be built upon the concept.