Last year, I spent $17 on an Aqara cube, and it’s been one of my best purchases for enjoyment per dollar spent.

I control my multi-room audio using a gyroscopic gesture-recognition cube -- yes, this basically makes me Iron Man.

The Aqara cube is a three-inch square plastic cube that sends gestures over Zigbee to a cheap off-the-shelf dongle.

By pairing this cube with Home Assistant, I have a three-dimensional button with 45 unique interactions to control whatever I want.

And over the last six months, I’ve used it to control a small fleet of antiquated streaming devices to help me discover new music.

🎭 The Tragedy of the Logitech Squeezebox

The Logitech Squeezebox is a bygone streaming device that was too beautiful for this world. Logitech snuffed the Squeezebox in 2012.

But because others share my enthusiasm for Squeezeboxes, there’s still hope. The second-hand market persists. And there are wonderful nerds cobbling together Squeezeboxes from Raspberry Pis.

Logitech Squeezebox fans

I built a DIY Squeezebox from a Pi Zero Pimoroni PirateRadio kit and Squeezelite software.

I blanket my humble abode in music by combining a DIY PirateRadio, a Squeezebox Boom, and a Squeezebox Touch.

My Dockerized Logitech Media Server perfectly synchronizes these three devices. Music from Spotify or WQXR is seamless when you walk from bedroom to kitchen to dining room.

🏴‍☠️ Pimoroni PirateRadio

Home Assistant is ✨magic✨

Home Assistant is open-source home automation software, and it’s the only IoT software I don’t find myself screaming at regularly.

And, of course, there’s a Logitech Squeezebox integration for Home Assistant. The integration lets you use Logitech Media Server’s (somewhat esoteric) API to control your devices from Home Assistant.

Home Assistant Squeezebox Lovelace Card

I also use a community-made Home Assistant Blueprint that automates each of the cube’s 45 unique gestures.

Mi Magic Cube in Home Assistant

Currently, since my mental stack is tiny, I only use four gestures:

  1. Shake: Turn on all players, and start playing a random album from Spotify (that’s right, album – I’m old enough to yearn for the halcyon days of Rdio).
  2. Double-tap: Turn off all players.
  3. Flip: Next track.
  4. Twist: Twist right for volume up; twist left for volume down – like a volume knob.

🧐 Why would anyone do this?

In a 2011 article, “A Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design,” Brett Victor describes touchscreens as “pictures under glass.” I loathe pictures under glass.

It’s impossible to use a device with a touchscreen without looking at it. And touchscreen interaction is slow – traversing a menu system is all point-and-click, there are no shortcuts.

Another alternative is control via smart speakers – devices literally straight out of a dystopian novel.

While the smart speaker is the closest thing to a ubiquitous command-line interface in everyday use, I’m too weirded-out to have a smart speaker in my house.

I’ve opted for a better way: shake a cube and music appears.

The cube is a pleasant tactile experience – shake it, tap it, spin it – its a weighty and fun fidget toy. Its design affords instant access to all its features – there is no menu system to dig through.

The cube is frictionless calm technology and it’s behaved beautifully in the background of my day-to-day for months.