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From a hardware perspective, the Wowcube is incredible. But at $250, only time will tell if the Wowcube can reach a critical mass to attract top developers. A cheaper price point would make this an easy recommendation purely as a neat desktop toy—even if the grand games never arrive—but the complex hardware means that's not going to happen.

  • Color: Black
  • Dimensions: 68mm cube, 410g
  • Display: 24 OLEDs
  • Power: 5V 3A
  • Sensors: Gyroscope, acclerometer
  • Innovative hardware
  • Unique gameplay and interactions
  • Visually stunning
  • Key software features not ready to test yet
Buy This Product

The Wowcube is a Rubik's cube-like fidget toy on steroids with no less than 24 OLED screens, which runs a variety of custom games that requires you physically shake twist tap and tilt the cube sections around. We've glimpsed it as a work in progress at CES for over three years now and it never fails to make heads turn, but, finally, it's a real product.

Billed as the Wowcube Entertainment System, is it in fact a fun clever tech toy, or would you be better off with an actual Nintendo? Let's find out.

Note that we're reviewing prototype hardware, which isn't yet available to purchase. It'll be crowdfunding in early April 2022, and while the hardware is mostly finalized, there are some known issues that we've been assured have been fixed in the final product. For the sake of transparency, these are:

  • Battery life improved (we got about 2-3 hours, but something closer to 5 hours is promised)
  • Screen brightness increased and oleophobic coating improved to resist fingerprints better
  • Volume increased

Wowcube Hardware

Out of the box, the Wowcube is a little less wow. It's a shiny black plastic 4x4 Rubix cube. Until you twist it, at which point the 24 tiny OLED screens burst into life (yes, twenty-four of them!)

In truth, it's one of the most unique and innovative pieces of hardware I've ever reviewed—but it's not only visually stunning. The complex mechanics, electronics, and software that goes into making this are themselves remarkable achievements. You'd be forgiven for thinking there's a core computing unit that sends display signals out and reads sensor data from each block of screens.

wowcube core
The plastic core of the Wowcube. Each module is a computing unit, which communicates with its neighbors. 

But that's not the case. As far as I know, this is the first consumer example of physical distributed computing. At the core is simply a block of plastic to facilitate each module's movement. Each of the 8 modules is a distinct computing unit all of its own, with a CPU, screen drivers, battery, three OLED screen etc. They communicate with each using a system of ball bearings, similar to a slip-disc. On a technical level, it's genuinely remarkable.

wowcube - individual computing units

Included in the basic package is a charging base, USB-C cable, 5V 3A charger, and app store coupon. Our press kit also included a strong carry case and optional silicone bumpers. Despite the inclusion of these bumpers, I'll add that the hardware seems surprisingly robust—by which I mean my son hasn't broken it yet. Also laudable is the plan to sell replacement modules and other parts for easy self-repairs.

Software and UI

Using the Wowcube takes a little getting used to, which is understandable given the entirely unique user interface that it utilizes. But the first thing you should know is that to turn it on, you just twist it. Turning it off is a little more complex: you’ll need to triple shake to return to the main menu, rotate and tilt until the power icon is highlighted, then double-tap to power down.

wowcube twisting

That set of instructions encompasses all the ways you can interact with the Wowcube: shaking, tilting, rotating a face, and tapping. When I say "tap", the screens aren't touch-sensitive; rather it uses a motion sensor to detect physical movements. In our prototype unique, I found the double-tap gesture to be a little unresponsive. There's a knack to it, but I'm confident it can be improved in the final product.

From the main menu, you select the app or game by twisting the cube around and tilting it between the faces, then double-tap to load that app.

You should also go ahead and download the Wowcube app, which can then connect over Bluetooth to remotely manage your Wowcube. This allows you to download new games and apps, change settings, customize the screensaver, and more. I haven't included screenshots since it's a little barebones at the moment, and there are no additional apps available yet.

wowcube - lower angle of main screen os

To charge the device, you should use the supplied 5V 3A charger. Gently pull apart one side then slot it into the charging base.

Gaming on the Wowcube

Our prototype included around fifteen games, though more will be available on the Wowcube App Store at launch. Of those available right now, some are demos of branded titles, while most are variations of the same basic concepts:

  • Breakout / Blocks
  • Cut the Rope
  • Matching games: 2048, as well as pizza and candy variations
  • Line following games: Pipes, Racing, and Ladybug
  • Rubix cubes: classic, a variation where some faces are subdivided, and a Butterflies variation where you need to match both orientation and color.
  • Rings: I still have no idea what this is about

While you might be familiar with some of those titles, you should know that these aren't just sideloaded versions of existing games. Each one has to be created from scratch to display on 24 screens, and use only the limited set of interactions offered by the Wowcube. While titles like Cut the Rope are thematically obvious, playing on the Wowcube requires quite different game dynamics.

wowcube cut the rope

Games like 2048 meanwhile play in a reasonably similar way to their 2D counterparts.

wowcube 2048 number pair game

Wowcube will be launching their own App Store, though exactly how many developers will jump on board is unknown. You won't be able to sideload existing Android games. In fact, it doesn't even run Android OS. It's such a unique bit of hardware that an entirely new OS had to be crafted. You can download the SDK and have a go at programming your own software.

Personally, I didn't find any of the current lineup to be all that compelling. Mostly I found them frustrating and stressful. But I'm not a fan of Rubix cubes, puzzles, or casual gaming in general. Perhaps I'm just too entrenched in the traditional controller. My wife on the other hand apparently enjoys puzzles far more than I do, and regularly drains the battery in a single sitting. I had to pry the device out of her hands to get it back for photos. My son is equally amused with all the apps, but then he's easily amused by anything with a screen, so I wouldn't take that as a glowing endorsement.

If you enjoy puzzles and casual gaming then you’ll probably enjoy the offerings on the Wowcube. If however, your idea of casual gaming is playing Elden Ring in a onesie, the Wowcube isn’t going to be for you you’ll be equally frustrated as I was.

What Else Can the Wowcube Do?

So its gaming credentials are solid and it can be a compelling toy for some, but what else can the Wowcube do? While it isn't just for gaming, it is very early days so a lot of the other features aren’t fully fleshed out yet. And I daresay some killer apps haven’t even been conceived yet. We just don't know what could be developed for this, because right now all we have are first-party tech demos.

The Timer app, for instance, is a perfect demonstration of how bad this twisty interface can be when paired with certain tasks. Each face of the cube is tied to a different amount of time, so there’s a face for ten minutes, 15 seconds, 1 minute, etc. Turning to that face then twisting either side will supposedly increase or decrease the timer. But no matter how many times I tried to set a specific number of minutes, I just could not get the right number. Compared to lifting my watch and saying "hey Siri set a timer for X minutes", this just isn’t how timers should be interfaced with.

wowcube timer app interface

From the Wowcube app on your phone, there's a choice of screensavers that will kick in when you put it down for a moment. I'm quite partial to the Matrix design.

wowcube - screensaver matrix

There’s a Widgets app, which covers every screen in a deluge of information like stock prices, weather, messages, and photos. Unfortunately, it's not yet customizable in our prototype unit, so of limited utility. It seems like a useful way of presenting a large amount of information when it's sat on your desktop, but the system relies on Bluetooth, so your phone will presumably need to keep it updated.

wowcube thumbnail-1

You also have a Night light or Bubbles app, which are basically variations on the screensaver. You can twist to get some different visualizations, all of which are quite mesmerizing, but not music reactive.

wowcube - nightlight lavalamp

Some obvious applications are notable by their absence, like a custom photo mosaic. Bizarrely there is an app called Manga, which seems to be a jumbled-up mix of manga panels that you need to rearrange to read. Suffice to say it doesn't feel like an effective way to read a comic.

wowcube - manga

Should the WowCube Be on Your Christmas List?

At $250, only time will tell if the Wowcube can reach a critical mass to attract top developers. A cheaper price point would make this an easy recommendation purely as a neat desktop toy—even if the grand games never arrive—but the complex hardware means that's not going to happen.

From a hardware perspective, the Wowcube is incredibly impressive. I'm also wowed by the promise of having simple repair kits available. But ultimately it's the software that will sell this, and as the Wowcube's Magic 8-ball app will tell you: Outlook is unclear. The fact there is a paid app store and freely available SDK means that anyone can get started programming for the Wowcube. We should see new concepts and use cases develop, but we can't review those because they don't exist yet.

wowcube - main screen OS

The easiest way to create software for a new system is to port something that you've already made. Any new interaction or display method requires additional development time to implement, all of which must be weighed against creating a new title for an existing system you're already familiar with, have workflows for, and have a guaranteed audience. The Wowcube may have doomed itself by being so innovative to the point that porting software is just too difficult. We've seen how many developers are unwilling to even port games to VR, which is a relatively simple task of rendering two views instead of one, or implementing a real set of hands rather than preprogrammed interactions. But to render 24 views, in an entirely new distributed computing paradigm, with a twisty tap interface? That's a big ask.

The question then is if you had $250 to spend on a new game system, would you want an innovative bit of hardware with a handful of compelling games; or a Nintendo Switch?

wowcube - game butterfly matching held in hand
wowcube - main screen held in hand
wowcube candycrush match2
wowcube featured