Munehiko Sato: Creating ambient technology inspired by Kyoto’s culture

Staff Writer Sep 14, 2022
Original Device Manufacturers Alexa Startups Alexa Fund

Based in Kyoto, Japan, mui Lab integrates digital technology into systems and devices in a completely natural way, where technology operates in harmony with humans. 

Mui Lab is supported by the Alexa Startups program that engages startups in a number of ways: through direct investment via Alexa Fund, startup programs, business development, and technical support.

In this interview, Munehiko Sato, CXO of mui Lab talks about the company’s mission, the importance of Alexa to his company’s offerings, and his vision for the future of ambient computing. 



What is the inspiration behind mui Lab?

With the rise of the digital attention economy, notifications and scrolling screens have been interfering with our ability to lead mindful lives, and our ability to be present in the moment. Solving this problem was the inspiration behind mui Lab.

We sought to develop an interface that we ourselves would use – one that balanced people’s everyday needs while offering the convenience of digital technology. We believe that information and user interfaces should appear only when they are needed, and recede into the background when not in use. Therefore, we created an interface using natural wood that would blend into the interior of people’s homes. 

Our office, just south of the Imperial Gardens, is in Kyoto’s historic furniture district. We take a lot of inspiration from Kyoto’s culture—often incorporating nature and the seasons into our daily lives to inform future products and services. 

mui Lab’s products specialize in filtering information to remove distractions, so that families can focus on their daily routines and enjoy more family time. By purposefully integrating blank space into our design, we create experiences that help evoke rich experiences and emotions. 


Why did you decide to integrate with Alexa? 

We believe that Amazon’s vision of ambient intelligence with Alexa resonates with mui Lab's vision of “Calm Living.” Our vision focuses on using the convenience of digital technology to promote healthier relationships between family members, and between people and technology. Amazon’s customer-centric vision and ability to provide underlying technology that blends into the environment are elements that strongly align with mui Lab's customer-centered experience. 

The combination of Alexa's extensive voice service capabilities, paired with mui Lab’s unique and calming wooden display will provide a wholly new experience to customers. For example, customers can ask Alexa to set a timer with our mui board. What's more, with our skill, Alexa keeps track of the timer – however, customers can also observe the timer counting down on the mui board, drawn out in a natural free-form line. The line gets shorter as the timer counts down. We believe that this skill exemplifies mui Lab’s Calm Technology philosophy—providing ambient information to customers in a subtle and playful manner. At the same time, Alexa’s vast array of skills and connected services and devices help broaden the mui board experience even further. 


What is your vision for the future of ambient intelligence? 

As digital technology and connected devices continue to expand in functionality, we aim to fulfill the growing demand for user interfaces that are appropriate to the context of people’s daily lives. Through our collaboration with Amazon, and our continued support for the Matter smart home standard, we aim to provide rich experiences where devices work with each other, and provide experiences that balance convenience with calm living. 

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