The Skysphere

The ultimate do-it-yourself project coming out of New Zealand is quickly becoming a viral internet sensation. Would you purchase a small “apartment-style” unit, shaped like a giant lollipop, that embraces smart home technology and can be built practically anywhere? It’s a neat idea, that is generating a lot of discussion and demand online since pictures of the first prototype began surfacing online just a few days ago.

According to the official website, the Skysphere is a Tower fully designed and built by Plastics Engineer Jono Williams.

Its two main selling points is that practically every aspect of the environment, from heating to appliances to entertainment, is controlled using an Android app. And second, the entire unit is powered by green (solar) energy. The entire thing took three years and $NZ75,000 to construct.

Here is a list of key features posted on the website:

  • Mobile App Remote Controlled
  • Fingerprint Entry Motorized Door
  • Refrigerated, In-Couch Beer Dispenser
  • Fully Solar Powered with management system
  • Miracast Projector
  • Wireless Sound System
  • Computer generated voice dialogs
  • 360 Degree Viewing Window
  • Custom Built Queen Size Bed
  • Dimmable Colored Mood LED Lighting
  • High Speed Internet
  • Central Ladder
  • Rooftop Starview Platform
  • Natural Light Portal for column

Williams makes a few interesting points about the Skysphere’s construction. The initial design, he claims, was to resemble more of tricked out treehouse. The design had to be scrapped because of difficulties stemming from environmental factors, such as the prevention of damage to the trees and the unit due to high winds and tree growth. The idea of building the sphere on a metal column was to facilitate the construction of the unit on any terrain, offering the owner “endless possibilities.”

The 360 degree window design is a point of pride for Williams. The 2m high and 14m around window I argued to have a superior advantage over a traditional treehouse by allowing the resident to completely immerse themselves in their natural surroundings. He points out that part of the original design of the Skysphere was to use an electronic smart film overlay that can go from opaque to transparent when an electric current is applied, for privacy reasons. Hopefully this feature will appear in future models of the unit, or perhaps a hobbyist will take the time to add the feature themselves after purchasing a unit for personal use.

Logan Booker of Gizmodo, focuses heavily on the technical specifications of the Skysphere, taking note of the in-couch beer dispenser, fridge temperature, voice-controlled coloured LED lighting, fingerprint locks, motorised doors and a wireless sound system. Which can all be controlled with a push of a button on a smartphone application of Williams’ own design.  Edger Cervantes of Android Authority, notes that the power source, solar panels installed on the roof, are very discrete, and have the capacity to store enough energy to power the unit for up to 2 days, making it the “perfect weekend getaway.”

What’s most interesting is that Williams only ever planned to make one Skysphere for himself, not anticipating that many others would want one of their very own. Details of an eventual commercial rollout will be announded on his website and Facebook page.

Jason Quintal | July 14, 2015

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