UNI Computer Builds ‘Em As You Go

UNI is a compartmentalized computer concept by where most of the important media and computational functions have been broken up into modules. You only buy what modules you need thus allowing for expansion.

Thanks to the Network HomePlug technology and wireless USB, digital signals can transfer through normal household powerlines at 200mbps. Wireless USB allows the different modules to communicate with each other at 480Mbps.

The Think module is the main computer unit. This is where most of the processing and data handling occurs. The DVD module lets you read audio/video data while the STORE module lets you save anything to it.

This paradigm shift in computer design also benefits those who want to upgrade certain components that are normally hardwired into today’s computers such as video display outputs. Use the standard VGA module until you need to upgrade to the HDMI module. Then just swap one for the other or keep both on for some real flexibility.

Although the concept is intriguing, I find daunting to have to expand my computer’s footprint everytime I need to upgrade. Now more than ever, space is at a premium. Nobody wants a monster on their desk.

Designer: Richard Choi

67 Comments

  • tso says:

    hmm, i dont see the issue with the size.
    the stack does not look much bigger then say a shuttle cube.

    and about the only think you may need to add later on are more store modules.

    but i worry about that open plug. it really need a cap of some sort.

  • capoosta says:

    Wspaniały !

    Fenomanlny design, pomysłowy, jedyny w swoim rodzaju.

  • Ian says:

    In the bottom picture, why are there ports on the bottom of the one laying down? It looks like this thing can only sit one way (because of a random connector sticking out the back). The THINK portion, which I’m assuming is the brain of the thing, shouldn’t need a plug out the back. That way you could lay it down and use the ports you’ve put on the bottom.

    Cool concept though.

    • Me says:

      That’s a UK mains plug/socket.

    • Jez says:

      You should be able to lie it down, considering one side is still flat. Just plug everything in from the other side. It might have a plug or since it’s a UK socket, just buy a child protective plug that is flat, for the front.
      I mean, it’s not like you have to read the words to use it. 😛

  • robin says:

    Using the UK mains plug what would happen if any of the devices were plugged into a 240v UK mains supply?, the design looks good but the use of the UK mains plug to link them is unattractive and could be dangerous if all the modules are not design to plug in the mains directly, additionally it will restrict usage as the is not always a lot of room around a mains outlet. Is the US version based on the US mains plug?

    Regards

    Robin

    • Me says:

      The point is that it’s built round a home networking system, that’s designed to allow high speed networking over mains wiring.

      You can in principle plug one into each room. (As I understand the silly concept anyway)

  • Rob S says:

    Interesting concept, for a first attempt, but you’ve got to have some kind of universal compatability and standard for all your various components, which is basically what we have at the moment.
    At present what we have in the way of computing is either a small portable, neat but underpowered box or a large, clunky, somewhat unattractive box with a load of wires and peripherals coming off of it but with lots of power and storage.
    What needs to be done is to take these two elements of computing, portability and power, and make them mutually interchangeable. Your main, power, computer at home would be a boring old box that you could stick out of the way in a cupboard but its open architecture would allow you add more memory, processors, etc.
    Interfaces, such as audio, video, keyboards, disc readers, would run over a network and could be plugged in anywhere required thus eliminating the need for any number of duplicate devices, such as computers and video players around the home.
    Data storage would be handled in part by the main computer but your portable device, a cross between a PDA and mobile phone, would, hopefully thanks to advances in smaller memory storage, be used to store the bulk of your data. In this way you have total portability.
    When at home or the office you then plug your portable storage computer into the main computer in order to utilise its power. The smaller portable device can also be used to edit documents, watch video, listen to audio or talk to people when you are out and about.
    All this could be done quite easily, Apple after all has had a go at doing most of it at one time or another but what is needed is an intergrated approach which eliminates the need for duplicate devices and gives the user total portability for their data.

    • tso says:

      thats more or less what microsoft is aiming at with their “home server” i guess.

      as in, a NAS device that you can access while home or out and about with equal ease.

      then it does not matter if your using a laptop, pda or whatever as long as it can talk to microsoft live. and guess what, vista, windows mobile 6 and god knows what else comes with support for that out of the box iirc.

      talk about msn to the nth degree…

      anyways. now that im thinking about it, something similar could be pulled of using usb or ethernet (if all parts have support for the power-over-ethernet standard). only thing needing mains power then would be the “think” part. the rest would get theirs from the usb.

  • DesignUgly says:

    looks like the same idea that won the 2005 Microsoft Design Competition. Slightly different style though.
    http://news.uns.purdue.edu/html4ever/2006/060112.Shim.computer.html

  • Jordan Lund says:

    I like the idea, it would allow people to easily upgrade their CPU/Motherboard or video card on an as needed basis without needing to replace everything else. Much “greener” solution.

    Looks like the Think module also has a plug on the left hand side and so can expand in either direction. That’s good.

    But I’d like to see some shaped connector plugs to go between the units so you could make a PC in the shape of a ring.

    Also the ports on the BOTTOM of the USB unit… I don’t think someone thought their cunning plan all the way through. :^)

  • Alireza says:

    This is an amazing concept! Please please please god let it make it into the market.

  • Zds says:

    The concept looks damn cool. However, instead of using power line to carry the network, better idea is already existing Power Over Ethernet Standard: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Power_over_Ethernet

    With already existing technology you can just inject 48VDC power to the gigabit Ethernet jack in your wall, thus giving you both power and the fastest copper-based home network available. This naturally assumes you already have Ethernet sockets in your apartment, but many, or most of the new apartments are already built this way and the old ones can be converted it needed.

    • MF'08 says:

      very cool concept.. i think it's “market'able” 😉
      but it would be better if this technology uses the new “electricity via air connection”.

    • MF'08 says:

      very cool concept.. i think it’s “market’able” 😉
      but it would be better if this technology uses the new “electricity via air connection”.

  • This is a very unique concept and a great one too. Imagine you just need to install the needed hardware for your computing needs making it more practical because you don't have to purchase all of the parts.

  • This is a very unique concept and a great one too. Imagine you just need to install the needed hardware for your computing needs making it more practical because you don’t have to purchase all of the parts.

  • Dielie says:

    they abandended sidecar expansion in the “80’s for a reason

  • Tucker says:

    Sorry to tell you, but the design is flawed. The network based interconnection between the modules is an inexcusable performance bottleneck. Without going deep into memory design, processor architecture and cache flow, I'll show you whats wrong with a real world example.

    1. I'll assume the "Store" module consist of a hard drive and the associated control electronics. Now the most common hard drive interface in use today is SATA which boasts a bandwidth of 3 Gigabits per second (375 Megabytes per second), compare this to the bandwidth of the wireless interconnection which only hits 480 Megabits per second (60 Megabytes per second). So with this setup the interconnection would slow the "Store" module to 1/6th its potential speed.

    Other notes of interest:
    1. HDMI has bandwidth in the Gigabit range, so HD video would probably be impossible.
    2. You'd do better to use Gigabit Ethernet between the units, faster and less troublesome then WiFi. But you would still have the bottleneck.
    3. The above calculations assumed the interfaces worked at full speed, in the real world they wouldn't. More likely to receive roughly 75% of total bandwidth.
    4. Just cause you can draw it, doesn't mean you can make it. Engineering 101.

  • Tucker says:

    Sorry to tell you, but the design is flawed. The network based interconnection between the modules is an inexcusable performance bottleneck. Without going deep into memory design, processor architecture and cache flow, I'll show you whats wrong with a real world example.

    1. I'll assume the “Store” module consist of a hard drive and the associated control electronics. Now the most common hard drive interface in use today is SATA which boasts a bandwidth of 3 Gigabits per second (375 Megabytes per second), compare this to the bandwidth of the wireless interconnection which only hits 480 Megabits per second (60 Megabytes per second). So with this setup the interconnection would slow the “Store” module to 1/6th its potential speed.

    Other notes of interest:
    1. HDMI has bandwidth in the Gigabit range, so HD video would probably be impossible.
    2. You'd do better to use Gigabit Ethernet between the units, faster and less troublesome then WiFi. But you would still have the bottleneck.
    3. The above calculations assumed the interfaces worked at full speed, in the real world they wouldn't. More likely to receive roughly 75% of total bandwidth.
    4. Just cause you can draw it, doesn't mean you can make it. Engineering 101.

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