Like Siri, the voice-activated virtual assistant on Apple’s iPhone, the Ubi responds to human speech. Ask it a question—how many ounces are in a pound?—and the four-inch box (slightly smaller than a CD jewel case) searches the Internet for the answer. It also checks calendars, reads e-mails and turns on the porch light. The prototype is the creation of three engineers in Toronto whose biggest challenge was developing a microphone that could distinguish voices from afar. Last summer the team raised $230,000 on Kickstarter, enough to ship the first Ubis this year. “Within two years, the quality of voice recognition will be on par with Star Trek,” predicts cocreator Leor Grebler. The Ubi plugs into a wall outlet and connects to the web via WiFi. An added trick: It features sensors for tracking the temperature, humidity, air pressure and ambient light in the home. $220; theubi.com.