Jooki Wi-Fi Speaker: Stupid Name, Great Idea

With the ever-loving number of products that are introduced at CES each year, it never takes long before you come across a gadget that causes your brain to stop functioning for a second under the heavy processing load of trying to figure out just why in the hell something like that would ever have reason to exist. Jooki, “an award-winning, figurine-controlled wifi speaker that develops children’s independence and imagination, away from screens” fell into that category when I read the initial press release. In fact, I had absolutely no intention of even taking a cursory look at something that seemed so stupid and had such a silly name. But Jooki was at an event featuring a number of startup companies with “smart” or “connected” products, and—out of the sheer goodness of my heart—I sat through what I thought would be a quick (but painfully dull) demo. It turns out that Jooki wasn’t quite what I thought it was.

The problem is that Jooki is hard to explain in a way that does it the justice it deserves. Seeing it in action, on the other hand, shows how interesting and well-thought-out it is. Essentially, Jooki is a water-resistant, portable, streaming speaker (Wi-Fi and Bluetooth) built for kids. Although it does have an app that goes with it, the app is for parents or caregivers to use in order to program playlists, time settings, and volume limits. Young users of Jooki don’t require access to an iOS or Android device to play music (or stories or voice messages) through the Jooki. Instead, play lists of music from streaming services or from music stored internally on the Jooki can be selected by placing a Jooki “token” in the ring located in the center on the front of the speaker. Volume and transport controls are located around the ring.

Jooki ships with a variety of eight tokens, five of which include colorful, playful figurines (such as a dragon and a knight) plus three flat (no figurine) tokens that can be labelled by the parents or young users. You can think of the tokens as real-life, 3D menu icons that, instead of getting touched on a screen, get placed on the surface of the Jooki. This type of 3D interface makes it especially easy for young children and elderly music lovers to operate the Jooki without requiring the physical dexterity or visual acuity needed for manipulating a user interface on a smartphone or tablet.

Jooki’s internal, rechargeable battery is supposed to last up to eight hours and charges from a standard USB charger. It’s expected to be released in August/September of 2017 with an anticipated MSRP of $199.