Each block must be plugged into a standard wall outlet for power. It also requires an Ethernet cable to get online (you can add Wi-Fi to the device via a USB port). When the box is connected to the Internet, you can create rules for it to follow through Ninja Blocks’ Ninja Cloud service. If you have several Ninja Blocks, you can set up rules that correspond to each one. Wotton isn’t sure how many rules a single block could adhere to, but he guesses “hundreds or thousands.”
Both the hardware and software for Ninja Blocks are open source, so people can build their own or modify the hardware or software as they please.
But even with its Kickstarter popularity, is there really an eager market for devices like Ninja Blocks?
Eric Wilhelm, founder of the DIY technology community site Instructables.com, thinks so, albeit a limited one. He believes Ninja Blocks will mainly be useful to people who already have an issue they’d like to solve, like getting a text alert when someone leaves a package on the doorstep.
However, Michael R. Nelson, an adjunct professor of Internet studies at Georgetown University, thinks that with its plug-and-play setup and simple sensors, it “really does help realize the hype we’ve heard of the Internet of things.”
Nelson preordered a Ninja Blocks pack that included the block and five sensors, a Wi-Fi dongle, and a webcam for roughly $265. He says he didn’t buy it because he had problems he wanted to solve. “It’s because I can start thinking of problems to solve,” he says.