MET:Sifteo Cubes in the Classroom

From UBC Wiki

Sifteo cubes are mini interactive cubes that allow the user to move information physically and view the resulting relationships between the different elements. Since they have been on the market for a relatively short time, they are not being widely used right now. However, this multi-purpose device with a visual and sound component has the potential to revolutionize they way students learn by acting as a teaching tool that users can work with to create learning.


Created by David Merrill and Jeevan Kalanithi at the MIT Media Lab the Sifteo cubes were first widely introduced at the TED 2009 conference as the prototype Siftables.

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In January 2010 Sifteo Inc. won the International CES (Consumer Electronics Show) Innovations 2011 Design and Engineering Awards Honoree for electronic gaming hardware. The creators have also been featured in numerous articles and interviewed by networks including Bloomberg and ABC (American Broadcasting Company).

Future Direction

In January 2011, Sifteo Inc. sold out of their early release batch of cubes. The sets included three cubes and all of the necessary accessories for $99 available only in the United States [2]. In the future, the organization plans to sell this set for $149 which will include the 12 games that will come standard with purchase.

Since the introduction of Sifteo cubes, the company has been approached by everyone from video editors who want to use the device for editing to business people who think the device would be a great way to facilitate Gantt chart creation. Since the company is still in the early stages of development they have yet to solidify exactly what their focus will be.

To allow people to unlock the full potential of the cubes, the company plans to allow users to create their own games or cube functions which will be called cube apps (applications). This strategy is similar to what most smart phones currently have available. The price of the apps would range from free to $10. There is also the potential for the prices to be higher if the perceived value is significant.

The target market for the cubes consists of casual game players and young children [7]. The type of video game players that are being targeted are those who are drawn to more interactive ways to play. The perceived competition is other video game developers like Sony and Nintendo with products like Wii and Kinect that attempt to virtually put the users in situations that simulate real life actions. However, these cubes have more to offer than just entertainment and should also be considered for use in the classroom, especially for kinesthetic learners.


Potential Use for Educators

As demonstrated in the video clips, Sifteo cubes can be used to teach students about colors, math problems, storytelling, making music and playing a wide range of games. This makes the use of the cubes ideal for an academic setting, be it with a primary class or advanced education. As this device evolves, new ways of using them will also be discovered.

Scrabble Flash

Scrabble Flash

The versatility of the Sifteo cubes lend themselves well for many different types of applications. The most popular use as of early 2011 is Scrabble Flash. As opposed to the traditional board game, this version of Scrabble includes 5 Sifteo cubes which display different letters that can be put in different orders to form words. The tiles beep when a word is made, the time is tracked and the score is automatically calculated.

This is just one of many examples of how this device can be used to enhance the learning experience. The benefits of Scrabble in an educational setting include improved spelling, increased vocabulary and sportsmanship. Converting this to an electronic game format that is more interactive and exciting will help engage students even more.


[1] Bloomberg. [Video file]. (2011, January 24). Video posted to

[2] Carnoy, D. (2011). CES: Sifteo Cubes promise revolutionary tabletop gameplay. Retrieved February 8, 2011, from

[3] David Merrill: Siftables, the toy blocks that think. [Video file]. (2009 February). Video posted to

[4] Hart, R. (2011, January 23). SF start-up creating touch-interactive video games. Retrieved February 8, 2011, from

[5] International CES. (2011). 2011 Innovations Honorees. Retrieved January 29, 2011 from

[6] Mahindra, S. (n.d.) Tangible User Interfaces and Children. University of Auckland. Retrieved from

[7] McNicholas, K. (2011, January 4). CES: Taking on Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft. Message posted to

[8] MIT Media Lab. (2011, January 28). In Wikipedia: The free encyclopedia. Retrieved February 1, 2011, from

[9] Morales, T. (2004). The Benefits of Scrabble. Retrieved February 8, 2011 from

[10] Murph, D. (2011). Sifteo announces early access details for Cubes: $99, Q1, lots of extras. Retrieved January 31, 2011 from

[11] Ramos, J. (2011). Sifteo Cubes: A new way to play. Retrieved February 8, 2011, from

[12] RobAid (2009). Siftables should enhance children education and creativity. Retrieved January 29, 2011 from

[13] Sifteo Cubes. [Video file]. (2011, January 4). Video posted to

[14] Sifteo Inc. (2011). Sifteo – The Future of Play. Retrieved January 29, 2011 from

[15] Vaucelle, C. & Ishii, H. (n.d.) Interfacing Video Capture, Editing and Publication in a Tangible Environment. MIT Media Library. Retrieved from

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