Litter Pro gets the scoop out of the loop

The Premise. Cats can be a joy to have around the house. Anyone who has cared for them, though, knows that it’s not all fun and games. Cleaning a litter box is a chore that most people will admit to not being a fan of, yet it’s an essential part of owning a cat. It’s not only time-consuming, but there’s no getting around the fact that it’s a bit gross as well.

The Product. It’s called the Litter Pro, and it’s being billed as a fast, no-mess device to help streamline cleaning a litter box. Essentially a large strainer that sits atop a five-gallon bucket, the Litter Pro allows the user to simply dump their entire litter box in, as opposed to cleaning it with a scoop. Once the waste is strained, the litter can be returned to the box for a fresh, mess-free start.

The Pitch. One can sympathize with the Litter Pro’s creator; there’s really no appealing way to demonstrate a cat waste product. Right from the start, though, you can tell something is up with the pitch. The video makes an example out of what it already calls and “unlikely scenario” in which a cleaning job could take a great deal of time. In reality, though, everyone who has a cat knows that regular maintenance requires just a scoop or two and can be done in seconds. The video is a bit crudely thrown together, too, which doesn’t necessarily help things at all.

The Perks. The base Litter Pro package (shipping in May 2014) starts out at $25, which seems fair enough as an entry-level price for the system. Things get a bit odd with the perks for this campaign, however. Higher-tier prizes include cat posters and t-shirts, for example, which at least apply to the product. For $500, however, the campaign leader will repair your computer for you(?). Or, if you happen to be Petco, you can order 100 Litter Pros for $1,500. It’s clear that the developer is trying every approach possible to reach the rather unreasonable $30,000 goal.

The Potential. It’s not uncommon for cat lovers to lavish large amounts of money on their fury friends, but usually it’s for things that are actually useful. In many ways, using the Litter Pro appears to be more work than simply staying up with typical litter box maintenance. For those who have a number of cats, it may find some use. Most cat owners, though, will do best by simply sticking with a normal scoop, and may even end up making less of a mess. Of course, there’s always the option of toilet training.


Off’n’Up makes getting out of your wetsuit as smooth as your wetsuit

The Premise. If you’ve ever tried to get yourself out of a wetsuit after a day at the beach, chances are you know that it’s not quite as easy as it looks. It’s an awkward task to take on, especially when you get down to the legs of the suit. For those who spend a lot of time in the water, this can be a nuisance standing between you and the next part of your fun day outdoors.

The Product. Laura Taylor of Galway, Ireland has created what she’s calling the world’s first patented wetsuit removal tool, and while it’s not the most attractive-looking thing in the world, it appears to work quite well. Essentially a foot long metal “gripper” with a plastic handle and head, the Off’n’Up works by running the shoehorn-like product against your leg, during which the plastic piece grabs the wetsuit material and pulls it down to your feet. The project’s campaign page states that there’s no other product like it on the market, and it is indeed hard to find anything similar out there. It not only lets you remove the wetsuit efficiently, but while standing. And as a bonus, it can also double as a hanger for the wetsuit.

The Pitch. The campaign video starts off by having a young man flail around on the ground demonstrating just how difficult it is to get out of a wetsuit after being in the water. This is followed by the company’s founder speaking about the history of the product. The description accurately walks the viewer through how to use the product, but the tone fails to really capture much excitement associated not only with the fun activities one can engage in while in a wetsuit, but the opportunity to get on with things after one is out of one.

The Perks. Early adopters of the Off’n’Up can do so for an entry price of $50 (the prototypes will be shipping in July). Considering that the Off’n’Up may find daily use with some people, the price itself is manageable, if a bit high. For those who only wear a wetsuit on occasion, however, it’s difficult to justify making such a purchase. Other perks (guided adventures with the founder, for example) are offered at much higher prices, with a five-day Ireland adventure for 2 clocking in at just under $900.

The Potential. There’s really nothing out on the market that serves the same purpose as the Off’n’Up, but it’s a bit pricey for such a limited-use product. Even among those who wear wetsuits often enough to find a strong need for it would likely find it an awkward implement to bring along. A collapsible version, though, would be a more compelling option for separating a wetsuit — and some funds — from a prospective buyer.

Connected Objects Sleep

DreamNet opens lucid dreaming to analysis, app variety, collective unconsciousness

The Premise. The idea of lucid dreaming — in which one is aware that one is dreaming and wakes to remember the tale — has been around for a long period of time. Up until recent years, however, it’s been the kind of thing that people have had to take on entirely themselves. For many, lucid dreaming is difficult enough as it is, and it can take years to learn even just the basics. As today’s technology is pushing just about every industry in the world in a new direction, it should stand to reason why lucid dreaming is heading in a new direction.

The Product. DreamNet offers a new way for people to embrace lucid dreaming. The sleep mask-like device is a programmable headband that allows users to create their very own personal lucid dreaming experience. When synced with a smartphone or tablet, the software associated with DreamNet takes a sophisticated approach. It lets you choose a specific point in your sleep schedule to trigger an alarm, which alerts you that you have entered into a dream. It utilizes an EEG to monitor brain waves, which you can even go back and analyze in the morning, Perhaps the most fascinating thing about DreamNet is that, true to the product’s name, it is trying to build a network of dreamers. that share data in order to create more effective analysis.

The Pitch. Synapse, the team behind DreamNet, has created an effective campaign for those who want the nitty-gritty on the headband’s components, choice of processor and software origins even if a lot of it reads like hard-to-follow inside baseball. Much praise is offered to researcher Bill Murphy, the narrator of the video.

The Perks. DreamNet has a unique pricing structure. For those who are willing to submit at least four of their sleep sessions to the company for research purposes, the product can be had for just $140. Otherwise, the entry point for DreamNet is $150 for early adopters, and is due to ship in June 2014.

The Potential. Lucid dreaming products are all over the place. The smartphone-optional Aurora, a similar product to DreamNet, raised more than double its funding goal on Kickstarter. What sets DreamNet aside from the competition, however, is that it offers a state-of-the-art way to not only trigger the headband’s alarm at a specific point in time, to track what’s going on when you sleep and to contribute ultimately to the state of lucid dreaming research.

Food and Beverage

Pricey SolarCooler uses light, irony to keep your cold ones cold

The Premise. If there’s anything that can ruin a trip to the beach, it’s a cooler full of warm beverages or or water-logged sandwiches. It’s a scenario that most people have found themselves in at least once or twice, yet it seems unavoidable unless you want to keep running back and forth between the beach and an ice machine. After all, even the best coolers start to lose their cold temperatures after sitting in the sun for a long enough period of time.

The Product. The developers behind the SolarCooler are billing the product as “the world’s first solar-powered refrigerating cooler.” Converting energy from that great gaseous giver of life, the cooler maintains a low temperature throughout the entire day, perfect for keeping drinks and food cold and ready to consume. It even makes its own ice. In addition, the SolarCooler can be used to charge cell phones and other USB-powered devices, making it somewhat of an all-purpose beach workhorse.

The Pitch. The TechCrunch video posted on the SolarCooler’s campaign page does a decent job of explaining what the device is capable of, but it would’ve been nice to have seen a more “produced” video that shows how the device works. Normally, this wouldn’t be a big deal, but it makes the SolarCooler team appear a bit less professional than they could. One interesting aspect of the pitch, though, is that the SolarCooler is being touted as a solution to keeping vaccines at the perfect temperature for transport. This makes the product a bit more viable than it would be if it were only used to keep beverages cool.

The Perks. Sunlight may be free, but the SolarCooler is anything but. An “early bird” special price of $950 (delivered in June 2014) may seem exceptionally high as it is, but the cooler will actually be retailing for $1,200. One look at the price is enough to send people running away in a sweat no chilled beverage can aid. But, as the project owners point out, the SolarCooler’s features extend beyond recreation to include the transport of potentially life-saving vaccines. Indeed a $5,000 pledge will allow philanthropists to “adopt” a full vaccine SolarCooler.

The Potential. The price, bulkiness and overall novelty of the SolarCooler makes it less than ideal for those who are looking for a simple solution for keeping drinks cold on a hot day. If there’s any market for this product at all, it could potentially be for vaccine transport. Still, at about 40 times the cost of your average chiller, it’s tough to see demand for the SolarCooler heating up.


Tread Pad sucks out the whimsy from a Dance Dance Revolution workout

The Premise. Home gym equipment can cause more headaches than it’s worth. Between the bulkiness, awkward shapes and price associated with home machines, sometimes getting that daily exercise is best left going to an actual gym. As technology is advancing at an alarming rate, however, new equipment is hitting the market all the time, some of which seems to be an excellent alternative to the issues that have been associated with home gym machines ever since they first came out.

The Product. The Tread Pad is a new kind of workout device that utilizes touch pad technology that is operated entirely by foot. It resembles the appearance and functionality of the dance pad for the game Dance Dance Revolution, but the flashy graphics and sound of that game have been replaced with some sterile red LEDs. This likely helps conserve battery life. The device allows for continuous tracking of calories burned, distance, average speed and number of steps. Perhaps the best thing about the Tread Pad, though, is that it only weighs 10 pounds and measures in at 24”x30”, making it semi-portable and easy to store.

The Pitch. If there’s anything that hurts the Tread Pad, it’s the campaign video. It feels dated, and as serious as a heart attack it seeks to prevent. The product is being billed as a customizable, easy-to-use device that could potentially replace the type of exercise equipment we use today.

The Perks. There are only a handful of different tiers to choose from with the Tread Pad. Entry level sits around $150, which would be very reasonable for a true treadmill substitute. However, despite its billing, the Tread Pad doesn’t offer the full leg extension that a treadmill can. Also, the reward’s description as “pre-retail” leaves it unclear as whether the device itself would be a late prototype of if you’re simply getting the final version before it’s available at retail.

The Potential. The Tread Pad seems like a product destined to show up on late night infomercials but for its price. It could be helpful to have a versatile aerobic aid that can travel fairly well and store easily. And the device’s different exercise modes may help routines stay reasonably fresh. Unlike with the original Dance Dance Revolution game, though, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of joy in using it, something the campaign points out all too well.

Health and Wellness

The ARC helps alleviate a pain in the neck

The Premise. In a world where so many people spend their entire workday in the confines of an office environment, neck soreness and discomfort has become extremely problematic. Solutions can be expensive, and are somewhat limited in scope. Clinical therapy can be effective, but sometimes it’s a shot in the dark, leaving those with neck pain to suffer until they finally find the solution they’re looking for.

The Product. The ARC is billed as a “simple, elegant and effective solution for neck soreness.” As the individual lies back with his or her neck resting on the arced device, it utilizes pressure points to quickly relax muscles and joints. In this way, it is similar to several back therapy products. It is said to be engineered in a way that makes it safe for daily use. It features a sturdy collapsible construction that makes use of neoprene padding, pressure inserts and a living hinge. The ARC will also be available in two sizes, which should make it easier for customers to choose a product that best fits the shape and size of their head/neck.

The Pitch. The video for the $25,000 campaign with CEO Gene Shirokobrod gives a description of how the product was designed, based upon therapeutic principles involving pressure points to relieve discomfort in the face/neck. The ARC, says Shirokobrod, essentially replaces the hands of a clinical therapist. The pitch makes clear that those with neck discomfort are the primary target audience for the ARC.

The Perks. The ARC will be released to the world in May 2014. Backers can get entry-level package pricing at around $40.

The Potential. Any pain relief gadget invites a healthy dose of skepticism. Furthermore, as with any devices used to treat medical conditions, however, it’s important to run this product by your doctor, especially if you’ve suffered from neck pain for a while. If it works and can find the right channels, though, it could find a significant market. Neck soreness certainly is omnipresent, and given that treatment can be so expensive, the ARC could represent a great supplemental approach and value for those seeking relief.


Crane Elite gives a lift to laptops of DJs, others

The Premise. We currently live in the era of the DJ. With records and CDs becoming a thing of the past, many of today’s most popular DJs “spin” their tracks straight from laptops and MP3 players. Laptops are fragile, though, and sometimes setting them up on stage can be trick. There are many laptop stands out there, but most DJs can agree that more could to be done in order to create the perfect stage-ready laptop stand.

The Product. The Crane Elite Laptop Stand is a sturdily-designed product that is meant specifically to elevate a laptop off of the table it is placed on and pitch it at an angle. Its modular design allows the user to try out a number of different set-up combinations in order to find the one that is right for a given situation, and also features what the company calls an “industry first non-slip spline for rock solid placement. Its telescoping risers are constructed out of carbon fiber and allow for full adjustability, making it possible for DJs of all heights to find the perfect placement solution. The product is also collapsible, which can really come in handy on the evening of a gig.

The Pitch. Crane’s main pitch comes in the form of a video featuring DJs that love the company’s older products, yet have a few things that they’d like to see changed. Telescoping, tightness variability, wider legs and a few other suggestions are suggested; as a Crane employee explains, all have been implemented in the Elite laptop stand.

The Perks. It’s head-spinning how many different tiers of perks are available for the Crane Elite. A pledge of $67 gets the user a Crane Stand Plus, one of the company’s older models, while $150 is the entry level for a first-edition model of the Crane Elite. Pledge $999 or more, and you’ll get an initial prototype of the product. The Elite is set to be released in July 2014, while the older product perks will be shipped in February. The developers are looking to raise $35,000.

The Potential. There’s certainly no shortage of laptop stands for DJs out there — The Roost, another Kickstarter project, seems to serve a similar function. Still, it’s clear that Crane has put a lot of work into the development of this product, as it seems to blow The Roost out of the water in terms of durability. With more and more DJs popping up on the scene, it’s fair to say that Crane likely has a great product on its hands although the price and features will be overkill for someone just looking to prop up their laptop in bed.


Sensors/IoT Sleep

Aurora headband offers the sleep experience of your lucid dreams

The Premise: There’s been a lot of interest in lucid dreaming for many years, and technology has made it more approachable. The ability to control one’s dreams is certainly enticing, especially for those who are looking to learn more about themselves.

The Product. Aurora is just the latest in a string of devices meant specifically to make lucid dreaming easier and more accessible. The way in which the Aurora works is quite simple, really. As one begins to go into REM sleep, eye movements change rapidly. The device (a high-tech eye mask) is able to pick up on this, after which it emits customizable lights and sounds. In theory, once you experience this “reminder” that you are actually dreaming, you’ll be able to train yourself to control the results of the dream. The USB-rechargeable Aurora can communicate with your smartphone and can also time your wakeup so that you feel more relaxed, a premise of the Lark device that launched on Kickstarter last year.

The Pitch. The pitch video makes a very good case for what the product is capable of. A nice production value, a great explanation of what Aurora does and plenty of attractive imagery makes the product look quite enticing. Developer iWinks describes how the companion app maps a typical sleep cycle and introduces a stretch goal of $300,000 at which point Aurora’s algorithms will be baked into the mask itself, making the smartphone optional.

The Perks. The Aurora is due to appear with a pretty quick turnaround, scheduled for March 2014. At $175, it is quite a pricey device, although you can certainly find pricier alternatives. Most of the reward tiers from there include incentives for developer access.

The Potential. Given the low maintenance associated with the device, its perfect for those who ascribe to the “set it and forget it” ideals that come along with so many of today’s products,  That said, it’s difficult to avoid comparing the device to 2012’s Remee, another Kickstarter-funded sleep mask meant to help make lucid dreaming easier, and LUCI. Since the Remee is only $80, shelling out the extra $100 or so may be difficult for some folks, if not unnecessary.


Bergaffe tube system proposes a one-stop slope shop

The Premise. For many, the multi-function nature of the smartphone has provided one tool that can achieve the functionality of a GPS device, a camera, a camcorder, a digital music player and much more. Perhaps there’s a similar opportunity to create another kind of do-it-all product for tasks in the physical world beyond the Swiss Army Knife or Leatherman multitool.

The Product. The Bergaffe is, by the Austrian designers’ own description, a “simple tube” that is threaded that it can be connected to a variety of different ends to create tools used for what seems to be primarily winter sports. When broken down, the tube itself is nothing more than a small threaded cylinder designed to create “a series of tubes” as the Internet was once famously described. Bergaffe plans to create multiple connections to increase the functionality of the tool.

The Pitch. The short campaign video walks us through some of the Befgaffe’s bag of tricks, showing its use as a shovel, a rake, a tripod and, perhaps most impressively, a bench. The last trick, though, requires use of a snowboard.

The Perks. The Bergaffe is due to hit slopes in March. Backers can offer £120 for the full basic package. At that price, it certainly won’t compete well with many of the products such as a shovel and tripod that it can replace.

The Potential. One can see the use for some of Bergaffe’s current applications, but  the company hasn’t really offered a tantalizing view of what lies beyond and how someone could create it in the field cost-effectively. Beyond a select group of skiers and snowboarders, this probably won’t help much, and it certainly won’t be worth the price of entry the way pricing is currently set.

Connected Objects Pets

Bluetooth-connected app control brings color to the collar

The Premise. Nighttime can be rough for dog owners — especially owners of skittish dogs. If a dog runs away under the veil of night, how are you supposed to bring it back to safety?

The Product. A team in Boulder, CO has created a Bluetooth LED dog collar to hopefully make these situations less stressful. While still early in its development and may be useful for those who own multiple dogs, it seems a bit trivial in the grand scheme of things. Upon first glance, the generically named collar looks like any other dog collar save for the LED studs. Once activated via the smartphone app that it talks to, however, the collar quickly illuminates, becoming something out of a science fiction movie. You can create custom profiles for each dog, ensuring that you know who is where if you’re dealing with multiple animals at once. The collar is waterproof and runs off of standard AA batteries. The custom profiles feature is perhaps the most valuable part of the offering. It allows you to create a digital dog tag, and you can share your profiles with others via the Web.

The Pitch. The very basic video — music, poor lighting and artifact-filled audio — sets up the idea that the project owners view the dog collar as something of a frivolous stepping stone before moving on to bigger and better things. The campaign page goes on to show closeups of the product and accompanying Android app; there’s no iPhone support for now.

The Perks. Because the collar uses Bluetooth, it’s perfect for those who use smartphones on a daily basis.  Due to ship in March 2014, the collar will ship to backers for #30.

The Potential. For fawning owners of finicky dogs, this could be a fun product that might end up getting a lot of use. Turn your dog’s collar green for Christmas and orange on Halloween, or  your favorite team’s color on game day. For a connected product, it’s pretty inexpensive and one could easily see it or something like it showing up on the shelves of Petco.