Sifteo launches second generation of its touch-screen cube games

Sifteo (see disclosure), the San Francisco-based company known for its popular touchscreen cube games, is launching a second generation of the product that will be available for pre-order on Thursday, expanding to a portable edition that won’t require users to play near a connected laptop.

Currently, Sifteo’s gaming system is composed of Sifteo Cubes, which “are motion-aware 1.7-inch blocks with full-color touch-sensitive TFT LCDs,” the company explains in a press release. “The cubes communicate wirelessly and respond to each others proximity and players’ gestures during gameplay.”

The game system, which was developed by entrepreneurs David Merrill and Jeevan Kalanithi beginning at the MIT Media Lab and later drew attention from the popularity of Merrill’s TED talk, is currently available in a few brick and mortar stores, as well as Amazon and the company’s website. The updated basic package will include three cubes and a base for $129.95, although players can purchase additional cubes and play games with up to 12 at one time.

Wireless Sifteo cube gameIn the new version, users will be able to play with the Sifteo cubes without the presence of a laptop nearby. The new version includes a base for the cubes that communicates wirelessly with the cubes, making the game more portable and technologically powerful. The company is also entering in a partnership with Nickelodeon to design games exclusively for the Sifteo cubes, including Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Ninja Slide, one of four games to be released.

“The whole thing is truly a portable system now,” Merrill said, explaining that it merges the concepts of a high-tech software game and an old school physical game, a combo he thinks has proven successful.

“I think we’re on the cutting edge of this and it’s something we’ll see more of, because of the timeless human goodness of these classic game experiences that bring people together around the table. It’s just a natural way for people to interact with each other,” he said.

The updated version of the Sifteo game will be available for pre-order beginning Thursday, and Merrill said he expects it to ship in November. The company will also release software October 1 that will allow developers to use the Sifteo API to create games exclusively for the platform.

Here’s a video demonstrating how players use the Sifteo game:

Disclosure: Sifteo is backed by True Ventures. True Ventures is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.