Apparel Wearables

The Back-Off: Personal safety apparel accessories light up your life

Welcome to The Back-Off, where Backerjack contributors weigh in on two or more products being crowdfunded concurrently.

What. Night visibility for pedestrians isn’t just for Halloween anymore. Whether it’s a bicyclist coming home from a night out or just a pedestrian out for a midnight stroll, it can be life-threatening if a motorist doesn’t notice them under cover of night. Enter the Halo Belt 2.0 and Adamas Light, two products designed to combine sci-fi fashion and modern day safety.

Why. While the Halo Belt 2.0 presents its personal light as a strap that can be attached around any surface, the Adamas Light is more of a vest that is worn around the upper torso. Adamas has a large glowing green diamond on the back with four reflective strips framed by utility pockets. The Halo Belt is a little more fashion-forward with a single strip of light the length and width of one half of the strap’s circumference. The Halo Belt light is available in several colors, can be set to blink, and is USB rechargeable. On the other hand, the Adamas runs on 3 AAA batteries, offering longer usage time at the cost of requiring external batteries. The Halo Belt 2.0 is sent to backers pledging a minimum of $35, $10 less than the minimum pledge for the Adamas. Neither campaign offers much more in the way of more extravagant reward tiers or stretch goals.

When. The Adamas Light vest beat the Halo Belt 2.0 to Kickstarter by just a day. Adamas is running a 35-day campaign slated to end April 1st,  while the Halo Belt will be raising money until April 27th. Even though they were second to the party, Halo Belt 2.0s are scheduled to ship in July, one month before the Adamas Light.

Winner. There’s something to be said for the consistency of the Adamas vest, However, in terms of style, versatility, convenience, and even price, the Halo Belt 2.0 seems to be smarter choice. The strap design looks less intrusive than the Adamas vest, and the team also has the experience of running a successful Kickstarter campaign with the previous Halo Belt model, which should put any fear of a mismanaged project to rest.

Fitness Smartwatches/Bands

Moov wearable adapts to your workouts, offers coaching to improve them

editors-choiceThe Premise. All those New Year’s resolutions to lose weight are already two months old. A small percentage of them are probably still in progress, most have already been given up on, and some never even got started. Of course, it’s harder to turn down a workout with a trainer that can motivate, push, and correct issues with form or impact.

The Product. The Moov is designed to be the personal trainer that it doesn’t feel awkward working out in front of. Pairing with a mobile device (only iPhone 4s or above supported currently), the Moov can be attached or worn anywhere to monitor movement and track stats. More than just a simple pedometer, the Moov can have apps created for virtually any kind of workout, with built-in support for running, body weight workouts, cycling, boxing, and swimming (it’s waterproof). Most of these workouts only require the base Moov, but boxing works best with a second unit, one on each wrist, and up to five can be used in conjunction with each other. This way, not only will distance or reps be tracked, but the device can even provide suggestions to help exercise more safely and effectively.

The Pitch. The Web site for the Moov is pretty underwhelming and just sort of generic 2014 startup with plenty of big pictures and lots and lots of scrolling. The video ads are slick though, and show off the flexibility and possible applications the device could have beyond workouts, though hearing Apple’s Siri as a fitness coach feels less encouraging and more like an Orwellian state-sponsored physical fitness mandate. Moov needs $40,000 to hit the ground running.

The Perks. The Moov can be pre-ordered for $59.95 (half the retail cost), but the product’s creators also offer backers a nifty referral link that others can click through to pre-order as well, earning the original backer a $5 credit for each pre-order. The first batch is expected to ship in the summer of this year.

The Potential.  Moov is a lot more versatile than the average fitness band, and the coaching and multi-device usage really help it stand out; of course, the quality of that coaching remains to be seen. It’s adaptability to different exercises remind one of the Atlas, byt Moov’s approach is quite different. Many people with Fitbit friends know that it becomes all they talk about or post on social media. The Moov looks like the next evolutionary step in personal fitness devices, and will certainly command the same kind of enthusiasm from anyone trying to get or stay in shape.

Health and Wellness Wearables

SunSprite fights SAD, offers feedback to keep you grazin’ in the sun

The Premise. For years, doctors have suggested that a major factor in the rise of depression, energy loss, and insomnia is a result of the increase in time most people spend in doors, bathed in the glow of computers and televisions. The remedy to this concern is simply exposure to the sun, but concerns about complications from ultraviolet rays keep people unsure about just what to do.

The Product. With a clip onto any article of clothing or accessory, the SunSprite is available to tell consumers how much bright light exposure they need in a day for optimum health benefits.  The SunSprite itself is solar-powered, meaning that charging it is as easy as using it. A line of lights on the product’s surface measure how much light its owner has basked in that day, and a companion app helps people plan for harsh UV exposure, advising them to use sunscreen or other protection. The SunSprite comes with no extra cables or attachments and is roughly the dimensions of a house key.

The Pitch. SunSprite is the brainchild of the Harvard-educated doctors and engineers at GoodLux. The message in their introductory video is simple – the human body was designed to be out in the sun, and their device will help make sure its owners are getting enough exposure. Additional videos include a product unboxing and the medical background behind the product’s inception. The graphics help explain the different reward tiers, how the SunSprite works, and how bright light affects the human body. GoodLux needs $50,000 to finish tooling, production, and certification for their creation.

The Perks. The Sunsprite and its companion app are available for contributions of at least $99, and is expected to be arriving in June in time to get plenty of sun. Pledges of $399 also include a SunBox SunRay II (or different model for European backers) that will allow backers to get light exposure even on the cloudiest of days.

The Potential. This simple device is sure to help people make sense of an easy holistic solution to their ailments. Outdoor enthusiasts will surely be adding these to their list of essential gadgets. While it may not become a common accessory based on the price and limited functionality, the self-powering, non-invasive SunSprite will become a fast favorite to those who are serious about lighting up their lives.

Technology Toys

Skirmos makes futuristic laser tag more like modern warfare

The Premise. In the ’80s, children everywhere were promised that laser tag was the sport of the future. In a sense, that prediction proved true by the number of bachelor parties that involve the game, but aside from a few dedicated arenas and the occasional attempted revival of the home version, it remains criminally uncovered by ESPN.

The Product. In its current state, the Skirmos laser tag rifle looks kind of like an airsoft gun found in Tron. With clear plastic and smart-looking colored LEDs inside, it’s what faces the gun’s user that makes the Skirmos more than just a toy gun. Using Arduino, Skirmos is fully open-source and can be programmed to track any number of stats, create any amount of game modes, and customize the laser tag experience for all players. Inspired by first-prerson shooters like Halo and Call of Duty, the built-in LCD screen can display kills, health points, ammo, and even be used to mark capture points. Players can even design killstreaks that will incentivize tagging multiple opponents without being shot.

The Pitch.  The Skirmos team shows off the gun’s capability in both indoor and outdoor environments, and also shares some visions for what the platform could support after release.  Photos show off different LED colors, and even a sample of what programming for the Skirmos will be like. The project needs $60,000 for manufacturing and design. Additionally, multiple stretch goals are in place starting at muzzle flash LEDs and more game types at the $100,000 level. Later add-ons include force feedback, RGB LEDs, accelerometers, and smartphone integration.

The Perks. Pledging $99 will result in a single Skirmos rifle arriving around the same time as the holiday season, setting the stage for an arctic battle. Higher tiers are available mostly for ordering the guns in sets of two or four.

The Potential. Skirmos offers an alternative to other combat sports that has a comparatively low entry cost considering what it can do. The only cheaper alternative might be NERF, and while they have a similarly shaped model in the upcoming N-Strike Elite NERF Cam ECS-12 Blaster, the only feature that gun offers is a camera with superimposed cross-hairs and the option to record battles. Skirmos could be the thing that revives laser tag yet again and creates memorable get-togethers with friends, assuming they can be convinced to buy their own.

Chargers/Batteries Smartwatches/Bands

Carbon stores solar energy on your wrist, makes a fashion statement

The Premise. Having a cell phone or tablet run out of battery is pretty much the modern-day indication that it’s time to get back home ASAP. Many people feel naked without their devices, so why not wear something that can keep them running without tethering users to their homes?

The Product.  The team at EnergyBionics has a solution – the Carbon Precision Solar Charger. This small device is worn like and even resembles a modern, designer watch. Instead of a clock face, the Carbon houses a solar panel that can store energy equivalent to roughly 3 hours of additional phone life. By pressing a button and unscrewing a cap, the Carbon can connect to most major mobile computing devices and keep them going for a while longer. If Carbon needs to be charged in a flash (and not one of sunlight), it can connect via USB to any traditionally powered device to charge up without the assistance of the sun.

The Pitch. Like the product itself, EnergyBionics puts forth a simple, no-frills presentation video that explains the Carbon and how to use it, including a demo with an iPhone 4s. The other campaign materials show off the optional crush proof case, currently available cable adapters, and go over the technical details. At this point the Carbon is compatible with most phones and tablets, personal music players, and even the PlayStation Vita. EnergyBionics needs $48,000 to get three major certifications, manufacture the small, initial run, and create the molds for the internal parts.

The Perks.  A minimum pledge of $95 is required to get a hold of the Carbon Precision Solar Charger with a black silicone strap, available in August 2014. Getting one with all the bells and whistles (leather strap and black crush proof case) is possible with a $130 pledge.

The Potential. Portable chargers, and indeed solar chargers for mobile devices are already plentiful on the market. Some DIY-ers have even made similar devices to the Carbon, but what makes this particular item so marketable is the sleek design and the sturdy components. The Carbon is perhaps even fashionable, which means a lot for a device that someone has to wear, regardless of how well it functions. Obviously, it would be even greater if the designers could figure out some way to get an actual watch face overlay on there. Nonetheless, gadget stores and even cell phone mall kiosks will want to upsell this kind of item to people in the process of upgrading their phones.

Imaging Video

Cinetics strikes again with Axis360 modular motion control camera mount

editors-choiceThe Premise. With the right equipment and a combination of talent and practice, taking a beautiful photograph can become a true passion. Doing more with a camera however requires access to the kinds of utilities and professional-grade equipment that is uncommon and expensive. Even those who have truly great vision and artistic sensibilities can find it difficult to make their ideas into reality without the right tools.

The Product. Cinetics, makers of the previously Kickstartered CineMoco and CineSkates, has another unique tool for photographers everywhere: The Axis360. Designed to help automate panning, tilting, and sliding for photographers and keep shots steady even over long periods of time, the Axis360 acts almost like a construction set toy for a camera. The base tripod is designed to shoot panoramic scenes with variable speeds, but with more Axis360s and modular components, the same camera/product combo can also tilt vertically or even slide along a 32-inch track over time. These pieces can be combined in nearly any sensible fashion to capture the perfect video or series of photos.

The Pitch. With a series of technical and inspiring shots, Cinetics shows off the kind of product that a camera equipped with the Axis360 can provide. Showing off their experience in successful Kickstarter campaigns, the materials for the Axis360 are comprehensive, visually explaining how the different parts interact, and what illustrating just what each tier provides. A how-to video is also provided that shows how the control is used to set up the product to move in just the right way. Cinetics needs $75,000 to bring the Axis360 to market, complete with all of its specialized components.

The Perks. The basic, panning tripod Axis360 model will launch in May 2014 and is available to those who contribute $395 or more. Being able to use the tilting or sliding functions requires additional modular components, which are gradually offered at higher tiers. The $1,495 tier comes with enough Axis360 modules and all of the available add-ons to allow photographers to make full use of the equipment.

The Potential. Based on Cinetics’s past history with crowdfunding, it’s a safe bet that photographers and videographers will be eager to get their hands on the Axis360. It may be a little much to expect to see it on the average store shelf with standard equipment, but the modular features make it essential for those that are truly passionate about professional quality time-lapse photography or video to order these once they become available.

Tech Accessories Wearables

ThumbTrack creates a wearable mouse for mobile computing

ThumbTrackOne of the continued limitations of laptop computing is the lack of a functional mouse substitute. Far from the first ring-slinger, The ThumbTrack takes the hand motions of the standard mouse and shrinks them down to a wearable thumb ring that is light, small, and easy to use at any location. The design is also designed to be ergonomic and reduce hand strain. Simple touch features are also available to allow users to easily scroll or drag icons. Backers interested in giving this project a thumbs-up will be able to get this product on their hands in December of this year for a $119 pledge.

Automotive Chargers/Batteries

ReVolt3000 breathes new life into dead car batteries

The Premise. The average lifespan of a car battery is under three years. Most people deal with a battery that won’t hold a charge at some point and for many, the solution is to simply go out and buy a new battery, then throw the old one away.

The Product. The ReVolt 3000 gives consumers another choice. This device allows consumers or businesses to recharge dead or dying batteries and give them at least triple their original life span. Working with multiple battery types (NiCad, NiMH, and Gel-cell, aside from the standard fare), the ReVolt3000 reduces the amount of built up lead sulfate, eliminates short circuits, and gets batteries working like new again. Even some batteries that have been laying around for years in disrepair are able to become marginally useful. Users will only need to give each battery in their home no more than 8 hours of use with the ReVolt3000 every year to stay in top shape.

The Pitch. Inventor Tom Hoops outlines what the ReVolt3000 is, and what its impact can be. He starts by explaining the economic angle of saving a family money in the long-term instead of buying new batteries, but then takes the more philanthropic route of outlining just what kind of waste a discarded battery creates,  and how using the ReVolt3000 as an alternative is a smart decision for the planet. There are plenty of pictures of prototype kits to help explain the hard science behind the device. The campaign is looking to raise just $16,000 to begin production and distribution.

The Perks. Backers can start recharging their batters at the $250 tier, promising to arrive by July.  A 12-month warranty is also included. For $30 more, the limited second batch of ReVolt3000s are being sent out to arrive in June, while the highest tier at $300 gives backers a complete, tested pre-production model sent out by April.

The Potential. Most people think of a battery with no charge that needs a jump-start as a dead battery, but the ReVolt3000 can truly take all manner of non-functioning batteries and bring them back to life, at a method that is accessible to the general public in terms of ease of use and price point. Based on Tom’s own math presented in the video, the ReVolt3000 may not be the best solution for an individual with a single vehicle, but at the very least it is certainly a step towards eco-friendliness.

Cell Phone Accessories Imaging

Ember takes low-light iPhone photos beyond the flash

The Premise. According to a 2013 study, 23% of all smartphone users take at least one photo a day with their phone’s camera. While the result is more visual media than ever and the meteoric rise of the “selfie,” the ever-popular camera doesn’t always provide best results. Every new generation of phone promises more and more megapixels, but what about lighting? What will it take to get more than a basic flash?

The Product. Enter the Ember, an iPhone accessory that naturally attaches to the contours of the iPhone 5 and 5s, providing warm light that makes photos pop and stand out. The Ember makes the phone’s back panel a 56 LED light source with an independent power source that lasts for up to 4 hours of continuous light. Because it’s independently powered, the Ember can even be removed and held in a different position to provide my dynamic staging to any otherwise low-light photography. Color and diffusion filters are available that can be slid in and out of the housing without any fuss. Additionally, the top of the device can be removed to support any peripheral lenses.

The Pitch. With a video that calls out to the heart of every Instagram addict and selfie genius, the Ember introduces itself as a fully capable addition to any 5-series iPhone. What really makes the strongest point however, are side-by-side comparisons of night photos taken with the built-in iPhone flash versus the Ember. The colors are warmer, the details more natural, and the overall aesthetic is much more pleasing. Naturally, Instagram is among the social networks that Ember is present on. Creator Jedd Goble needs $30,000 to make his dream of well-lit mobile photography a reality. At this time the only stretch goal available is that at $50,000, Ember will be fully funded for large-scale production.

The Perks. Getting an Ember in choice of white or black, with tripod adapter and warming filter, takes a pledge of $59. The Pro Package at $99 will include additional colored filters.

The Potential. While a bit big and ungainly, the accessory perfectly complements the modern Bohemian market that Apple has worked so hard to cultivate. Attaching an Ember makes any iPhone scream business in the front, fashion shoot in the back. The features of the Ember stand out against its competitors and are well-designed to appeal to the finicky perfectionism of professional photographers while being simple enough for the late-night party crowd. The Ember might not be for everyone, but people who always have their phone out taking pictures for social media will definitely want to pick one up.

Connected Objects Tech Accessories

NanoHive offers users simple personal hosting and cloud access

nanohiveWhile businesses and complex, professional, high-traffic websites have to pay hosting companies to keep their services running, the average consumer doesn’t have to. Those with less demanding needs in terms of hosting or cloud storage can turn to the NanoHive, a small personal server about the size of a mobile phone that only needs an electrical outlet and an Ethernet cable. It is functionally similar to products such as the PogoPlug or Drobo Sync. With a quad-core processor and 8GB of onboard storage which can be supplemented using two USB ports, users will have fast, simple access to their files across all devices. For $75, supporters can connect to their NanoHive in August 2014.