Sense Mother review: "Mother" is here to take charge of your smart home

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The Good Sense's $299 Mother is as flexible a home automation kit as we've ever seen.

The Bad $299 is a high price to pay for an automated, organized smart home, and the remote sensors are limited to a 65-foot range. A bit pricy, Limited by range.

The Bottom Line If you can get past Mother's odd and occasionally downright spooky branding, Sense's home automation hub is actually a pretty clever way to organize your life.

7.7 Overall
  • Features 8
  • Usability 7
  • Design 7
  • Performance 9

Sense's $300 Mother has been making the rounds at recent tech conferences and every time we spot those blank, lifeless eyes and ever so slightly upturned smile among the chaos we're unanimously struck by its sheer creepiness. Factor in Sense's bizarre branding messages -- "Who takes care of you better than your mom? Mother only takes care of what you want. Here's Mother: she's like a mom, only better." --and I'm thinking that I'd rather meet Hannibal Lecter in a dark alleyway than "Mother."

Since Sense's quirky smart home product just made the leap to production, we thought we'd suspend our initial design reservations and actually figure out what this thing does. And while I still haven't warmed to its aesthetics or in-your-face marketing, it all started to make a lot more sense when I began testing this (surprisingly) delightful home-automation kit.

Essentially, Mother is a data-tracker with a ton of built-in flexibility. Four "Cookies," or remote sensors, come with your purchase and you can use them to monitor motion and temperature. Cookies communicate with the Mother hub and display all sorts of useful information on the related web and mobile apps -- up to 65 feet. When Cookies exceed 65 feet, they will continue to log data, but you won't be able to access it until you're back in range of Mother (See? Doesn't that just sound creepy?).

Yes, Sense's Mother is on the pricy side and the 65-foot range is a bit of a bummer, but this $300 kit is uniquely versatile, giving you the freedom to track pretty much anything from how many steps you walk in a day to how well you sleep at night.

Getting to know Mother

Mother is a bulbous, glossy white hub that's shaped like a bowling pin or a Russian nesting doll. Connect it directly to your Wi-Fi router via the included Ethernet cable and follow the instructions on the Web app to register it and pair its four colorful motion-and-temperature-sensing Cookies.

This process was simple enough, but did nothing to counter our first impressions of Mother.

Megan Wollerton/CNET

Each hub has a unique identifier, but instead of a 24-digit alphanumeric code or some other randomly generated ID number, Mother has a name. Mine's called "Elwanda Melinda" -- certainly easier to type in than a long string of letters and numbers, but significantly weirder.

The same goes for each Cookie. The orange one is called "United Sundae," the yellow one is called "Adored Crunch," the green one is called "Natural Connection," and the blue one is called "Ideal Mountain."

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