Cell Phone Accessories

ComboZip zips together USB cables for on-the-go charging, syncing

The Premise. People use their smart phones all day and everyday because they’re convenient. They become inconvenient when the battery dies or when the memory becomes full. Because of this, it is necessary to keep USB cables and even memory cards close at hand to avoid losing important information.

The Product. ComboZip is a bracelet with a built-in USB charger cable and microUSB cable for Android phones. The USB cable has a microSD card inside of it that allows for OTG file transfers on the Android. The bracelet looks like a giant zipper and comes in five vibrant colors: black, blue, pink, yellow and white. But the benefits of the zipper literally extends beyond aesthetics or wearable utility, enabling the cable to join source and target up 40 cm apart. The exterior of the bracelet is made with plastic silicone for a durable, splash-proof product.

The Pitch. ComboZip’s campaign kicks off with a straightforward video of the creator, Gary Lap Kei Tao, talking about what ComboZip is and how to use it. He states several times how fun and fashionable his product is,. but that probably applies only to pre-teens. The rest of the campaign shows the prototyping process, the several different ways to wear ComboZip and the materials used to create the battery-bridging bangle. Gary and his two partners (pictured in unenthusiastic photos) seek  a relatively low £2,000 after canceling a first campaign attempt seeking thrice that amount.

The Perks. For £8, early-bird backers will receive a ComboZip that has only charge/sync functions. For £10, early-bird backers get the ComboZip that has OTG file transfer capabilities. Later backers pay a little more for each version; £10 for the charge/sync ComboZip and £12 for the OTG ComboZip. Estimated delivery is currently set at April 2014.

The Potential. ComboZip makes sense for students and businesspeople who run around all the time with their phones and laptops. Sometimes, it is entirely necessary to recharge or back up important files throughout the day. ComboZip provides a way to carry around a charging/memory cable without it getting all tangled up. As a fashion statement, it’s doubtful that many will want to actually wear ComboZip because it’s a bit clunky and gaudy, though the campaign states it can easily be kept in a bag or clipped onto a backpack. Indeed, it faces plenty of competition from other compact cables such as the most stylish popcord, versatile Torso or jigsaw puzzle piece-like LifeLink as well as many commodity retractables. Younger users into colorful plastic bing may not appreciate ComboZip’s OTG file transfer feature and card reading capability, but its place on a wrist should make it worthy of a Snapchat photo from the mall food court.

Food and Beverage Health and Wellness

Drink E-Z helps patients, sucks lazy into sedentary Wall-E future

The Premise. Whether it’s as a result of oral surgery, injury or old age, many people have trouble making use of the common straw as a beverage delivery system. Also, some people are thirsty and want to exert as little effort as possible to fix that problem.

The Product. Drink E-Z reinvents something as simple as the drinking straw in a way to make the process easier for those who need help drinking or need to avoid creating suction in the mouth. Made up of four interlocking parts and operated by three AA batteries, the Drink E-Z looks like your standard to-go cup aside from the tantalizing red button at the cup’s base. This button activates a food-grade micro pump that propels your drink up through the straw and brings it right to your lips. The whole thing tears down just as easily for cleaning and works with all but the thickest of drinks. (We’re looking at you, Shamrock Shake.)

The Pitch. Inventor Damjan Madjar introduces the Drink E-Z and its uses, how it improves the lives of the infirm, and explains the simple but effective design. A second video, featuring a dentist, gives an endorsement for the Drink E-Z and how it can help reduce infections in post-operative patients. The campaign is looking for $65,000 to finalize the design and make the injection molds. Looking past the campaign, the team already has a placeholder domain registered and a Facebook group for fans to get updates.

The Perks. $35 will get you your very own Drink E-Z (batteries included) when it launches in June 2014. Higher-tier perks increase the quantity of cups for each order. By simple multiplication, the $350 tier is worth 10 Drink E-Z cups. However, this tier also gives backers the chance to brand the cups with a company logo. La-Z-Boy might be a good one. The highest $850 tier gives retailers a pack of 50 to sell on their store shelves.

The Potential. The market for a self-sucking straw seems fairly specialized among those who truly need it and the inspiringly lazy. It’s not outside the realm of possibility to expect dentists and oral surgeons to recommend these to patients and they could very well be found in your local pharmacy after launch. This does appear to be a truly unique idea, but despite what the campaign and its videos suggest, it seems a little far-fetched to expect to see someone lounging on the beach enjoying a drink at the press of a button when the straw is already in their mouth.


Gypsy Mule Wagon transforms from beach chair to beast of burden

The Premise. Family outings into the great wilderness always require a few items. Food, drinks, towels for the beach, camping gear for the woods and chairs are all essential for a trip into the great outdoors. All of this gear can be tedious for the lazy everyday average Joe to carry back and forth from the car.

The Product. The Gypsy Mule Wagon consists of one or two folding chairs that transform into a heavy-duty wagon. The chairs that recline and have adjustable heights look like something perfect for the beach. The striped fabric comes in different colors as does the metal frame. The wheels and handle attachments must be assembled to the chair in order to transform it into a wagon. Additional accessories include backpack straps to carry the chairs with and cargo netting to make transferring items easier.

The Pitch. The Gypsy Mule Wagon’s Kickstarter campaign begins with a rambling video of company president Robert Tyson putting the wagon together and showing how it’s just as easy as 1-2-3… 4-5-6-7-8 and all the way to 20 because that’s how many steps it takes to put the thing together. The campaign also shows how the Gypsy Mule Wagon is made, what it is made out of and the difference between the Single- and Dual-Chair wagons. Rob and the folks at Gypsy Ventures Inc. hope to raise $130,000 in order to shlep their wagons into the production process. More instructions for assembly, different fabric choices and other information can be found at the company’s Web site.

The Perks. You’ll have to pay a significant duty to have your beach chairs do double-duty. Contributions of $325 or more earn a Single-Chair Gypsy Mule Wagon with limited choices of color and fabric choices.  Backers willing to fork over $650 or more get a Dual-Chair Gypsy Mule Wagon. Higher donations earn more freedom with design and fabric choices for the wagons. Estimated availability is currently set at August 2014, giving the creators plenty of time to deliver after the campaign ends in March.

The Potential. Any product that means having to lug things around less is always welcome on the market. People love the idea of saving time and making their lives easier. In that sense, Gypsy Mule Wagons are on the right track. The beach may be difficult for the wagon’s wheels to plod through, but the Gypsy Mule Wagons are perfect for camping trips or picnics at the park. The clunky detachable wheels and other accessories make the wagons not as portable and compact as promised, however. A host of beach carts can help carry gear even when you’re sitting in other chairs. And while it holds only a fraction of the Gypsy Mule Wagon, the Beach Chair Portable Folding Cart  presents an alternative featuring wheels that don’t detach, which might make assembly and storage easier. All in all, the Gypsy Mule Wagons are a convenient, albeit expensive, option for the lazy and burdened lover of the outdoors.

Video Games

Nano Vapor provides affordable Steam Box platform

The Premise. The Steam Box platform is gearing up to offer top-of-the-line PC gaming experiences in the living room with set up and convenience similar to that of your standard gaming console.  One of the apparent strengths of the Steam Box/Steam Machines platform is its flexibility – there are already at least a dozen proposed models, each offering different components, different designs, tailored to fit any budget, any gamer’s requirements, and any entertainment center.

The Product. The Nano Vapor looks to hit the low end of two of those. The Vapor is designed to be small and convenient, both to set up and to purchase. Though it looks small, it’s packing serious heat under the hood currently operating with a 3.8 GHz quad-core processor, a Radeon 7750 graphics card, and plenty of RAM and storage. Any USB controller is expected to be supported, whether it’s an Xbox 360, PS3, or Steam Controller, or a good old keyboard and mouse.

The Pitch. The campaign is asking for a mere $5,000  (The company needs only 10 system pre-orders to move forward with production?) The campaign is designed to help the company pay for the system’s cooling units and to 3D print the prototype cases, in addition to funding the designers’ hunger for pizza as well as innovation. The price point of the Nano Vapor is expected to go up as they the device moves closer to production, so early adopters are getting in on a discount. There are no marketing materials yet aside from an early render of what the system looks like – a router with lots of vents.

The Perks. The project creators are keeping it simple. The $499 tier is both the highest reward tier and the lowest tier that offers a Nano Vapor at this time. Included in the cost is an HDMI cable to connect it to a TV, but no controller for the system.

The Potential. For the price, this is a solid, competitively priced performance option for gamers looking to get a Steam Box without paying full gaming PC prices. While it seems pretty commonplace to imagine seeing it on shelves of electronic, gaming, and department stores, it’s not without competition. Not only are there going to be scores of SteamBox models, but companies like CyberpowerPC and iBuyPower have announced models with similar power, and size at identical price point. The Nano Vapor could take off, but the company will have to figure out a way to stand out from the crowd, and really ought to try and bundle some kind of controller to compete.

Connected Objects

Fitlime cuts off juice, puts the squeeze on laziness

The Premise. If it wasn’t for distractions such as work and the family, fitness would be so much simpler. Well, okay, the TV, video games, smart phone, computer, social networking, iPad and various other gadgets might have a little something to do with it too. What if there was an electronic device that could assist people with restricting such distractions?

The Product. The Fitlime Air System is a combination of hardware and software that is ironically used to keep you from some of your favorite hardware and software. A bland black loxkbox prevents use of videogame consoles while the app is used to restrict permissions on phone or tablet apps such as games. The key for the lock device can be left with a trusted friend until workout goals are completed. Fitness goals are registered in the app by the user along with the offending gadgets of distraction; the company is planning to integrate with popular exertion tracking apps and devices such as RunKeeper and the Jawbone UP.

The Pitch. The idea for the product came to founder Trevor McGerri back in 2011 while working toward his dentistry degree; the aspiring oral doctor struggled with the newest gadgets distracting him from his fitness goals and studies. The campaign video hits on the idea of distractions interfering with fitness goals by using 1960s Woodstock-style music and a guy who zones out with his smartphone when it’s time to say his name. The point is accentuated by a woman who rolls off the gym treadmill while answering her ringing smartphone. Of course, as soon as someone says they’ve never heard of such a thing, a McDonalds-style lawsuit will be splashed all over mainstream headlines on just such an event.

The Perks. Before you have the privilege of self-denial, you’ll need the discipline to send at least $74 to the campaign, which is the price for a console. This includes the hardware locking device and a remote to unlock it plus apps to connect up to 10 devices, Depending on which tier a backer selects, the estimated delivery date would be anywhere from March to May of 2014

The Potential. From the time of Odysseus and the sirens, we’ve known that precommitment can be a powerful aid in resisting temptation. More recently, we’ve seen sites such as Stickk that require you to pay money when you miss certain goals. The Aim hardware device is similar in concept to Bob, designed to control tasks such as TV watching and game playing for kids. It, like the Aim, is ineffective for battery-controlled devices such as the iPad. Fitlime is trying to set straight tech junkies, game addicts, and those who tend to get wrapped up in TV, the Internet and social networking to the point of losing track of the time once they get started. But the veneer of prevention that it provides doesn’t appear to be enough of a deterrent.


Guitar Wing lets instrument-mounted controls and effects take flight

The Premise. Austin, Texas is known for at least two things: live music and weirdness. The town’s Livid Instruments has long embraced the intersection of those with a range of music products. But while there’s nothing been weird about wanting to have access to musical effects and controls at the tip of a guitarists’ nimble digita, the company had nothing to offer them until now.

The Product. A button-laden and LED-filled overlay that fits over the bottom right corner of an electric guitar’s body, the Guitar Wing lets guitarists have control over their existing software on their computer via MIDI effects, GarageBand, and even stage lighting effects through the product’s Win FX software plugin. Performers can glance at the LED control panel while playing instead of over at the computer, and a motion sensor can be used to control performance effects to make it easier to be a musician and a stage tech. Wireless technology lets musicians move around the stage without snagging cables or accidentally unplugging things. Livid Instruments promises the Guitar Wing can be used on almost any electric guitar or bass, and musicians will be pleased to note that this can be added and removed without damaging your instrument.

The Pitch. Livid explains that the Guitar Wing has been built, tweaked and tested, and a final prototype is ready. The Kickstarter funds will be used for the production costs of making GuitarWing. By producing in bulk, the company plans to keep consumer costs reasonable, and hopes to crowdfund these start-up costs. Livid’s most powerful tool in the campaign is the testimony of artists, which is key for such a product that would ordinarily require a level of tactile experience to judge.

The Perks. For $179, or $149 early-bird pricing, backers will receive the GuiterWing itself. But that’s far from being the highest price point, with $1500 backers receiving a personal, instructional demo from Guitar Wing staff. It’s slated to do its thing on stage in April 2014.

The Potential. Livid instruments has a track record of designing and creating add-ons for musicians. Guitar Wing will simplify and enhance live music performances. The company has successfully identified a need for musicians, especially in smaller bands, to connect to their computer for effects while performing. The product may appear as a bit of distraction and one will have to trust the testimonials for how easy it is to integrate into riffs, but there seems to be a great opportunity for use with performers.


Strawbees lets kids drink in a versatile construction toy

The Premise. As technology becomes more and more advanced, it is apparent that kids can still have fun with simple toys. Using their active imaginations, children don’t need fancy gadgets to play with. Construction toys remain popular because they present endless possibilities for fun and enjoyment to children.

The Product. Strawbees is a vaguely key-like small connector that acts as a joint between two plastic straws. The connectors can be purchased in several different kits that have numerous pieces in them. Because the straws are so inexpensive and easy to cut, one can create structures with many varied lengths and colors. Also, there’s not much concern about losing the connecting straws since one can pick them up in any supermarket or drug store.

The Pitch. Strawbees’ Kickstarter campaign features a video of the connectors and their attendant drinking conveyances in action, showing the hundreds of ways that it can be used, include attaching Strawbees to large pieces of cardboard or electronics. It’s interesting to see how versatile the system is and that it isn’t only fun for kids, but also useful for adults. The video even features the product being played with by a scholar from MIT. Strawbees’ creators, a.k.a. the Creatables, are hoping to raise $20,000 during their campaign.

The Perks. Strawbees is offering a Try Before You Buy Kit which includes over 40 pieces for only $15. From there, the Maker Kit (100+ pieces) is $25, the Inventor Kit (300+ pieces) is $50 and the Crazy Scientist Kit (800+ pieces and available to sane scientists as well) is $100. A pledge of $600 or more qualifies the backer for the less-than-literally-named Infinite Kit which includes plenty of Strawbees along with the machine and materials needed to make a near limitless number of Strabees structures. The highest reward tier includes the Infinite Kit and a day and a half workshop with one of Strawbees’ creators where he demonstrates the vast array of shapes that Strawbees can produce. Each reward tier, except for the workshop, has an estimated delivery date of April 2014.

The Potential. Crowdfunding has recently facilitated the launch of other recently crowdfunded building systems such as Snaak and CubeCraft. An upcycled variation of the classic Tinkertoy, Strawbees is one of those incredibly simple concepts with a million possibilities. The drinking conveyance-based system may have the edge in terms of versatility, however, and the straws needed to use Strawbees lets creations over a lot of ground without having to use a lot of pieces. One of the few drawbacks of Strawbees is that the straws needed to use it actually aren’t included in any of the kits; this takes a bit away from the out-of-box experience, but this enhances their portability.

Smart Home

EmoSPARK melds AI, cloud intelligence in a small cube

The Premise. The movie Her raises many questions about artificial intelligence (AI) in relation to human interaction. As technology grows smarter, a more capable AI becomes almost inevitable as humans continue to grow closer and closer to creating a computer program that can think and interact like a human.

The Product. The EmoSPARK is one of the first products that claims the capability to read human emotions and learn from its environment in order to improve its interactions with people. It allows people to interact with it via conversation, music and visual media through an Android-powered program that uses Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. By reacting to human emotions and interaction, the EmoSPARK can enhance the stimuli it receives to boost that emotion and make interaction seem natural—as if with another human being. It has access to over 39 million topics and can be paired with smart devices to make integration that much easier.

The Pitch. While maybe not as advanced and alluring as Scarlett Johansson’s voice in “Her,” the video shows that the EmoSPARK can read and understand human emotions—and subsequently translate that into a response that constitutes normal interaction. It can be used by people of all ages, and it can even be used as an Internet learning tool with its wide access to information on the web. The creators have held out two stretch goals at $200,000 for home automation and a Windows Phone app and $300,000 for compatibility with crowdfunding alumni Webee and Ninja Sphere.

The Perks. The EmoSPARK cube costs $224 for early adopters, and it will be delivered by May 2014. For an extra $50, the IP camera that gives it eyes and ears at home is worth getting as well if you’re investing in the cube. If you’re willing to drop a cool $9,000, you can claim a day with CEO in EmoSPARK’s London office as well as a cube signed by the whole team.

The Potential. The idea screams potential, but unfortunately, the product doesn’t. The EmoSPARK definitely takes steps toward being a more capable AI unit capable of human interaction, but the it still hasn’t reached the natural cadence of human interaction. EmoSPARK bills itself as the firat AI home console but it’s certainly not the first cloud-based device sitting waiting for your ambient commands. The Ubi recently began shipping to backers since being funded on Kickstarter in 2012. Nonetheless, the EmoSPARK may be a stepping stone worth taking a look at as we continue to strive toward that goal.

Displays Video

Avegant Glyph transforms from headphone to head-mounted theater

editors-choiceThe Premise. Since the inception of personal devices, there’s been a consistent battle to have the best graphics possible. As screens get smaller and closer to the eye, this has been quite the significant challenge to overcome. No product has been able to come out the definite victor, and they continue to strive for a completely immersive experience.

The Product. The Avegant Glyph combines high-quality audio with image quality unlike traditional displays. The flip-down headband provides a vibrant display by projecting the images directly onto the retina. The end result is a powerful combination of audio and visual entertainment with extensive potential. According to Avegant, they want the Glyph to be a universal device that can allow for 360 degree immersion, making phone calls, and seeing ultraviolet and infrared signatures in real time. It can work with most devices by using a simple HDMI cable, so it can be integrated with almost all your current devices.

The Pitch. Yobie Benjamin, the COO of Avegant, summed up the austerity of the Glyph pretty well. “It’s not about just building a better product. It’s actually about building a platform that nobody’s ever seen.” The video shows how simple the Glyph is: flip down the headband, and be immersed in an entirely new world. But the video really focuses on where it hopes developers will take the product and use it in ways previously unimagined. After demonstrating the Glyph at CES, Avegant hopes to bring the Glyph to consumers by the end of the year.

The Perks. $499. That’s all it takes to have this prototypical combination of crisp audio and stunning visuals in your hands. A pair of high quality headphones will set you back $300-$400 dollars, so it’s completely reasonable that the Glyph would be $499. It will take until December 2014 for it to ship, but the opportunity to be among the first to try out this new personal device it well worth the wait.

The Potential. The Glyph’s micromirror system helps avoid issues plaguing other virtual reality headsets and the flip-down headband/visor helps avoid some of the stigma often incurred with other VR headsets. While its profile is still chunky, Avegant claims that the functional beta shipping to backers will have smaller headphone cups. It may not be enough to make HMDs  mainstream. However it wouldn’t be surprising to see increased use in public places such as planes.


Flekt shapes and diffuses your DSLR’s popup flash

The Premise. To get that perfect shot, serious photographers rarely rely on just a camera in their hands. Any photographer’s assistant can tell you that there’s plenty of ancillary equipment like tripods, beauty dishes, extra lenses and external flashes that needs to be lugged around. But sometimes one needs to lug a little less.

The Product. Flekt is a diffuser that works with the built-in flash on your DSLR in order to eliminate the need for a much larger piece of equipment. Photographers use diffusers to prevent the harsh contrast of dark shadows common when using a flash. The accessory attaches to your DSLR via a magnetic piece called a Magattach inserted into the camera’s hot shoe. Light is then redirected by the reflector onto the Flekt attachment with a white, silver or gold reflector. The purpose of Flekt is to give professional photographers and advanced amateurs a way to achieve studio-quality lighting using just the camera’s pop-up flash, eliminating the need for other equipment. One can bend the shape of Flekt to create some variety in its lighting effect.

The Pitch. Flekt’s inventor, Preston Vance, and partner Max Beach present the concept of Flekt and explain the details that went into the product’s design. Preston  explains that he hired 10 photographers to give him feedback on the initial beta version in order to refine later product designs. While Flekt is the first in this product line, Preston’s ultimate vision is to have the photography community design attachments and reflectors which will then be created by his team.

Reading the rest of the campaign page, you’ll see that Flekt has been seven years in the making and that the founders are looking to raise $70,000. Other tidbits include sample photos and a few gifs which show how easily the system comes together. In a bold move, the site compares an image taken with an iPhone to an image taken with Flekt on a DSLR. While not really comparing apples to apples, it does capture the potential of image quality the product versus the common alternative.

The Perks. Material rewards for Flekt backers start at $65, which nets 150 early birds a Flekt system with the white reflector coating. From there, options continue to $150, which provides backers with the entire Flekt system including all three audaciously named reflector coatings – Lambertian White, Silver Exciter and Gold Exciter. If the project meets funding goals estimated, delivery of the systems will be September – October 2014.

The Potential. Several camera accessory brands have versions of pop-up diffusers, but Flekt is unique in that it offers a full system of interchangeable reflectors and was designed with several camera brands in mind. The photog community will likely put Flekt through a variety of tests to understand whether the innovation truly stands up in terms of image quality. The flip side is, that if Flekt passes the test, it will likely be eagerly embraced. What Flekt has going for it is its portability, simplicity and versatility.