unidice Q&A: What is it, and what does it do?

A German company called unidice GmbH reached out to let MCV/DEVELOP know that they’re developing the most curious piece of portable gaming hardware since perhaps the Playdate.

unidice GmbH have created the (don’t be surprised here) unidice, an “intelligent, adaptive dice, equipped with six digital displays” that can be controlled and customised from within a dedicated smartphone app to be compatible with pen and paper and tabletop games. Alongside the control app, unidice GmbH also intends to release bespoke video games for their smart-dice which will take full advantage of its built-in interaction trackers for rolling, tilting, shaking and tapping. 

While there’s no release date for the product yet, the launch line-up is set to include games like House of Influence, a deception game set in the past, and Cyberrun, a mission driven game with a sci-fi setting.

Obviously we had to know more about the upcoming piece of tabletop gaming tech, so we arranged for a Q&A session with Sarah Hoelke from marketing, which you can read below. 

How did the idea for the unidice come about?

During a game evening and the use of many different dice for just one game as well as others for the next game, the idea of an omnipotent die came up. The fusing of the digital and the analog world was the only logic solution. During all the thoughts the Bluetooth connection to transfer data between die and mobile device plopped up. But we were sure that only for these reasons the unidice would not be bought — this is when the development of our unidice-games as well as using it for gamification of everyday life occurred.

Now the unidice calculates, tracks rolling results, and more. You can even trigger sounds with rolls. It can be used for TTRPGs, casual, party and board games with 6 displays customizable to whatever dice skin you choose. It can also simulate all types of dice from D4 to D8, D20, etc.

There are countless dice apps that would appear to do what unidice does, albeit in 2D — what’s the appeal?

2D feels rather boring in comparison. The experience of having something in your hand, hearing and seeing how it rolls all over the table and triggers extra effects is amazing. We like the sound of an exploding fire when you roll a fireball.  That is something a 2D simulator cannot emulate so easily. Having an actual object in your hand: That’s what the tabletop experience is about. Plus the extra effects add to the immersive experience. We do have a couple of ideas in store to further enhance the tabletop experience even more.

What are the wider applications for the unidice beyond being a very expensive customisable d6?

Because of the Bluetooth connection there are a lot of possible uses.

For games: Aside from also being able to simulate D20, D100 etc: There are a lot of things you can do — our developers keep coming up with new ideas: Upgrading your dice — some board games have these mechanics when you need to switch dice faces, which can be a bit of a hassle. There are also a lot of mechanics you can play with: using the fact it has 6 digital displays you can use it like for an escape room puzzle. Or the dice faces can change according to a board game map your character moves into with just a tap. Imagine your character moves into a jungle:  And with a tap your dice changes with it. And you might be able to implement “card deck mechanics”: Like randomly rolling 1 out of 6 or 20 events. Instead of shuffling around with dozens of even card decks and setting up the board game: one practical die with Bluetooth.

Aside from that there are also other possible uses:  The unidice can also be used for office applications like for example time-tracking or a fun way to learn programming. Just change one thing and test out what happens with a roll, tilt, tap or shake. It is kind of exciting, especially since we have more plans in store. There are probably lots of ideas we have not even thought about yet — but since we are also gathering a creative community along with the unidice — maybe we will manage to realise the vision we have.

The site mentions that the die is programmable and can be used “as a new games console” — can you explain?

Well it is more than a typical game console because it also makes use of the extra displays on the die. It is a portable console with screens ready to be used with your mobile phone games. You can play by yourself — or with friends — because it can be used in many different ways with tons of games.

Dice, for us, sounds too cheap for that product, as does gadget. Game device or game console might not be a perfect term either, because the displays do add another dimension to gaming, but for a lack of a better term it is currently the most fitting one.

Unidice is set to sell for $199. If you’d like to find out more about the product, or even reserve one, you can do that here.

About Vince Pavey

Vince is a writer from the North-East of England who has worked on comics for The Beano and Doctor Who. He likes to play video games and eat good food. Sometimes he does both at the same time, but he probably shouldn’t.

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