Cell Phone Accessories

Gerp Grip takes a stand, gets a handle on your tablet

The Premise. Anyone who owned a tablet or an iPad knows that these rectangular electronic devices aren’t exactly easy to hang on to. And it’s not a good idea to drop something that costs hundreds of dollars, either — especially when the screens are prone to cracking.

The Product. The Gerp Grip combines a suction cup with what looks like a computer joystick or pistol grip. It has a locking mechanism similar to those used in many windshield mounts to ensure your device doesn’t go flying. The Gerp pulls double-duty as a handle and a stand, and it can balance on softer surfaces like couches and beds.

The Pitch. The video features some bad dubstep as intro music, a “fishbowl” effect on some of the scenes, and the narrow screen (suggesting it was filmed on a cell phone). Bad editing aside, though, it does a great job of explaining and demonstrating the product. The name of the item is a bit of a mystery and is never explained although we can assume it’s a play on a vastly misspelled version of ergonomic grip. In any case, the pitch really showcases the product and explains why someone would need it.

The Perks. Your admission ticket to the world of Gerp ownership is $25. It goes up from there, with higher donations coming with colored Gerps, and multiple Gerps.

The Potential. There are other products that can act as both a stand and a hand grip for a tablet. But while the Gerp is a bit bulky (or perhaps ergonomic), it can work with just about any smartphone or tablet that has a smooth surface. The product offers a simple solution to a common problem. Until these Gerps catch on, you might look a little awkward walking around with your tablet on a stick.

Connected Objects Sensors/IoT

A little Birdi whispers life-saving things to your smartphone

The Premise. Everyone has those annoying fire alarms in their home, but many people let their batteries die or unplug them because they continue to beep for no reason. Because their notifications are so annoying, many folks aren’t too diligent about checking their battery levels. Or aren’t too disappointed when they get too low. Plus, even when they’re working, most budget smoke alarms can’t do much to save your home when you’re away.

The Product. The Birdi is a connected multi-use home alarm set to compete directly with the Nest Protect. It connects via WiFi to alert you of smoke, carbon monoxide, and 10 other variables such as humidity and air quality. It sends the user alerts when there are elevated levels of smoke or carbon monoxide, but if it detects sufficient levels of these dangerous elements in the air, it will dial out the fire department. Birdi can even notify you via smartphone when its batteries are low and automatically order replacements (although the standard AAs wouldn’t be too difficult to find at any nearby store.)

The Pitch. The inventors of the Birdi make their case well for a smarter alarm in a two-minute campaign video that features lots of shots of the product and families. They also note that they’re working with PCH International’s Highway1, an accelerator that helps take projects from prototypes to projects and may help increase their chance of success.

The Perks. After selling out the $89 early bird, the Birdi is now offering a $99 Indiegogo special for its flexible funding campaign. Units are due to be delivered in October 2014.

The Potential. The humble smoke alarm is one of the many things around the home that companies are looking to turn into connected products. Obviously, everybody needs one. And many can probably justify even a significant premium for a device that can not only automatically contact the fire department when you’re not home, but do so with no subscription fee. There’s cause to be more skeptical about Birdi’s interesting neighbor-notify feature, though, since that would likely require a very large installed base.

Connected Objects Sensors/IoT Smart Home

Ninja Sphere keeps digital tabs on things roaming around your home

The Premise. Everyone loves the promise of a smart home that can alert us to — and ideally control — things around your home. But many of these products are expensive or complicated. Other systems require apps for different manufacturers.

The Product. Ninja Sphere is a second generation home sensor and automation platform from the Australian team who raised over $100,000 bringing you Ninja Blocks. And, boy, have they upped their industrial design game. The curved, underlit Spheramid is the heart of the system that also includes roaming waypoints and smart plugs. Ninja Sphere integrates Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and Zigbee radios and takes advantage of gestures and triangulation to pinpoint where things are in your home in addition to the usual sensors.

The Pitch. The campaign, while someone jargon-heavy is beautifully done. It showcases many of the features of the Ninja Sphere. Most users will be too captivated by what’s happening on screen to listen to the narrators discuss technical details. Examples of the functionality include a pop-up on the television screen that alerts the user to an incoming call and tells her what room the phone is in. While a proof of concept, you can also turn the lights on and off with the push of a button on the “smart watch.”

The Perks. This product is obviously pushing the limits of technological advances, and the ability to control your home are growing exponentially. A system of devices, Ninja Sphere started at the sold-out $199 AUD level. However, the company also offers a $549 AUD level to address a two-level home. Other configurations are aimed at apartments, but it doesn’t seem feasible that many people living in apartments would have the need for something like Ninja Sphere. Products are expected to be delivered in June 2014.

The Potential. With some similarities to the multi-radio Revolv home automation system, Ninja Sphere is definitely a bleeding-edge product designed to keep track of multiple things going on in your home. The success of these products will depend on how many things worth controlling enter the market and how many consumers adopt them.

Cell Phone Accessories Music

Sharebuds MX2 retract the cable, share the music

The Premise. Ever wanted to show a friend a video on your phone, or wanted to let them listen to a song? Most people just pop one of their earbuds out and hand it over — but this results in a diminished sound value and some questionable transfer of ear wax.

The Product. Sharebuds were inspired when the developers saw known-by-first-name celebs Oprah and Bono listening to a song on a Project(Red) iPod. Rather than rely on a simple — or not-so-simple — splitter, their solution combines two pairs of headphones on one cord — one to wear and one to share. The newest perk of the MX2 redesign is that both sets of earbuds are now retractable, which makes them more useful as daily wear headphones. Just tuck the extra pair away and go on your way, as you might hear Fleetwood Mac singing if I could share their song with you.

The Pitch. The video is not anything special. It doesn’t ever actually show how the product works, though. It just looks like two people wearing separate pairs of headphones. You have to scroll down the page to actually see a shot of the whole headphones set as well as a wide range of folks with different relationships — father and son, mother and daughter, couples Yes, you’re far more likely to share music with those you know than complete strangers. Also provided is a collage of audio sources — everything from Spotify to Netflix. Since Sharebuds don’t rely on any software, copy protection isn’t an issue. There are also quotes from a number of celebrities, including Tom Arnold, Selena Gomez, Hoobastank and Plato, although the last one probably wasn’t approved by his PR team. The project owners are also teasing a wireless version of the Sharebuds in a more traditional headphone design due in December 2014.

The Perks. The Sharebuds MX2 will be available in May 2014 at a price of $79, but the developers are doing something interesting to take advantage of the holiday giving season offering you to buy a special $50 gift card that can be redeemed for a pair at a discount. This could set a precedent in how project owners allow people to take advantage of gifting when their actual products are months away.

The Potential. It’s tough to say how good the Sharebuds’ audio quality is. Most people, while having many of the relationships featured in the campaign, don’t need to share headphones too often and retractable coils are prone to wear out. It might be useful to take the Sharebuds along if you know you’ll be traveling with a friend or loved one with whom you share music tastes. But if they bring their own buds, a splitter and a spare pair may do just as well.


Triflex gives cameras spindly, grippy legs

The Premise. Photography is all about getting the shot, but what about when that shot puts your camera in perilous danger? And what if you wanted to take your camera somewhere a tripod wouldn’t balance? There are many tripods on the market, but few offer versatility to grip onto a wide range of surfaces.

The Product. The Triflex is a triple-legged device that attaches to your camera. The legs are easily manipulated and can grip onto a variety of shaped objects. The flexibility of the Triflex allows for precise adjustment of camera angles, and the developer touts the exceptional ability of the legs to hold onto whatever you choose to wrap them around.

The Pitch. This campaign’s home video isn’t anything spectacular, but it does have a wholesome vibe to it. The designer of the product does the voiceover and the videography, which means he obviously trusts his own product. The “maybe-try-this-at-home” moment comes when he even attaches the camera to his in-laws’ moving ceiling fan to show how well it can resist centrifugal force.

The Perks. Triflex is a product that allows a photography to really take control of the shot and not have to fear they’re going to lose their camera. The Triflex, due to ship in March of 2015, goes for $25. There’s a $10 fee for a Go Pro adapter although that’s pretty standard.

The Potential. Even with the slowdown in the digital camera market, accessories like the Triflex have appeal because they can also be used with smartphones that people definitely want to protect. The main competition is from the Joby Gorillapod and similar products that can support beefier cameras, but the Triflex’s longer appendages should give it the leg up in many instances.

Cell Phone Accessories Wearables

Look out, Google Glass. Vigo is here to outdork you

The Premise. Nerd alert! Did you ever want to be able to track your level of energy and have it recorded into an app and then use that data to plan your day? Probably not. But if you’ve ever nodded off or yawned at an inappropriate time, it might be helpful to get some early feedback on your advancing state of drowsiness.

The Product. An “energy monitor” for the human body, Vigo goes in your ear and extends to your eye. If you wear two at the same time you might look like Geordi La Forge from Star Trek. The Vigo measures the amount of times you blink and your head position, inputs the information into an algorithm, and then alerts you when you are getting drowsy. It can notify you in a number of ways, including an LED, vibration or a “pump up” song.

The Pitch. The Vigo video takes you through the story of its creation at UPenn by a trio of students who wanted to get a better grip on their consciousness and the campaign page goes into some interesting detail about information literally contained in the blink of an eye. The Vigo, which resembles a Bluetooth headset that’s undergone a growth spurt, looks just as awkward as the Google Glass, and you can’t even use it to watch porn.

The Perks. Vigo may not offer much of the functionality of Google Glass, but it stands to cost a lot less. After selling out an early bird special on Vigo for $59, backers can pick them up for $79, a discount from the $119 they’re expected to ship for when they’re available next May. But of course the real perk is having an awkward distraction over your temple that will break your fall once your sleeping head falls into your plate.

The Potential. Surely, there are professions where having a good handle on your level of alertness is critical — truck drivers, for one. But that job offers exactly the kind of solitary work environment where the Vigo wouldn’t be more distracting than a droopy eye or head jerk. Skip the headgear and just make sure you get an energy shot in time.


For guitar solo acts, the BeatBuddy goes on

editors-choiceThe Premise. You’ve practiced your scales, know a few chords, can play a song or two, and are ready to start jamming with other musicians, but you’re still too shy about your guitar prowess. Or maybe you’re a working musician, and need something to help compose your masterpieces when the band isn’t around, or something to accompany you on solo gigs.

The Product. The BeatBuddy is a drum machine that functions like a guitar effects pedal. For those of you who haven’t become lost in the vast deserts of musical gadgetry and their jargon, this is a device that will accompany your playing with a drum beat, is foot-operated, leaving hands free to shred, and splices your guitar and amp, allowing both backbeat and axe to play over the same speaker, keeping gear (and headache) to a minimum.

The Pitch. A no-nonsense approach to presentation of the BeatBuddy is well-suited to the seasoned musician. Product specs are succinctly presented, benefits are simply and comprehensively listed, not “pitched,” and concerns are well-anticipated and addressed. These guys thought of everything, from possible shipping issues, to potential backlash from unemployed drummers. The video and audio production of both the sales and drum-sampling films are extremely high quality, demonstrating that the people behind this product know their stuff, even if their delivery of the dialogue makes it clear that they’re pro musicians and not infomercial MC’s.

The Perks. While the early bird tier for the new rhythm section ($179), has sold out, the standard backer pricing of $219 is still around, but incentives to contribute beyond that are minimal, considering how much more one is expected to give. $399 sweetens the deal with a t-shirt and dibs on the first BeatBuddies off the line, and $1,000 gets a song/beat you can choose and name yourself produced and uploaded into the product.

The Potential. With features like the ability to transition between beats to accommodate song sections (verses, choruses, bridges, etc), software that lets you create your own beats, pro-studio quality samples, and a $200 price tag, the Beatbuddy makes for a sound purchase which will continually benefit any level of musician and grow with you as you shred your way up the ranks to rock god.


Tiny Camarama attaches to keychains, Polaroid’s past

The Premise. Feeling nostalgia for the instant cameras of yesteryear, complete with dubious image quality? Did you ever want a retro-style digital camera the size of your thumbnail? How about a stunning *cough* 1.3 megapixel photo that you have to keep on some sort of accessory keychain so you don’t lose it?

The Product. This IndieGoGo project creates a tiny, functional replica of the iconic Polaroid instant camera, swapping out digital images for stamp-like instant prints. It comes with a micro-USB cord, is rechargeable, and is a little bit on the cute side. But honestly, any smartphone has a better quality camera and the ability to immediately post it to any number of social media outlets.

The Pitch. The video is an odd mashup of slow saxophones paired with teenagers on the beach and adults at some sort of cocktail party. It’s clear that the adults are having trouble holding onto the product. There’s also a sequence from the “factory” where they make the product, but the creators are seeking $10,000 to move past a prototype.

The Perks. A novelty item, the Camerama might be a good gift, or even a good gag gift. But at $50, it’s not exactly cheap compared to other keychain cameras. If anyone were to appreciate it, the target demographic would probably be teens who like to have trinkets. Backers will receive a Camerama product in return for their support.

The Potential. The creators of Camarama want to eventually expand their product line to have their digital cameras inserted into other retro shapes. First, though, they must peddle a joke-quality quality camera. At a lower price, it might show up at Urban Outfitters. Laugh-inducing as it may be, though, the Camarama is going to be a tough sell beyond the least price-sensitive of Polaroid nostalgia buffs.

Connected Objects Smartwatches/Bands

Haloband taps into smartphone features from the wrist

The Premise. When you’re in a rush and on the go, it can be difficult to access the key features on your phone. Fumbling through the process of unlocking your phone, opening the the app, and waiting for it to boot up can often end up being a waste of time. This can make accessing smartphone apps a problem.

The Product. Using NFC technology, simply tap the phone to your Haloband to access your favorite apps. You can quickly unlock your phone, change the song, turn on the flashlight, check in to social networks, open the camera, and access many other features all with a simple wrist movement. The silicone band is not only flexible and waterproof, but it doesn’t require any batteries either.

The Pitch. Product Manager Sam Luo starts off the video by showing some of the Haloband’s main features and how they’re accessed with a simple tap. At around the 50 second mark, the video suddenly takes a turn towards the realm of high school video projects. If you can get past the cringe-worthy awkwardness of the acting, the video turns back to Luo who asks for a donation to put the Haloband into mass production.

The Perks. For just a $19 donation on Kickstarter, pledgers will receive a black Haloband, and for $22, you can choose your color as well. This is one of the cheapest options for wristband technology today, so it may be worth checking out. If you want to pledge more than $2000, the Haloband team will take you out to dinner along with a tour of Shanghai, China (travel fee not included).

The Potential. Smartphones have incorporated software that improves the accessibility of their phones already, so the Haloband’s purpose of improving their efficiency falls short of the mark. However, if accessing applications on your phone still remains a challenge, the Haloband may very well be an effective and economical solution for your needs.

Camping Chargers/Batteries

PowerPot X cooks soup, generates juice

The Premise. Every campsite should have a piece of cookware, every camper/outdoorsman should have a receptacle in which to boil water, every home should have an alternate power source in case of emergency and everybody could use an extra method to keep their electronics charged.

The Product. It sounds like someone’s tenth attempt at creating a new strain of super-hemp, but the the PowerPot X is actually the latest in outdoor gear. Its promise of charging modern devices using a must-have piece of equipment for any camper, potentially makes it one of the most practical and ingenious pieces of kit to come along in ages. It’s an aluminum pot that doubles as an electric generator, using thermoelectric technology to convert the heat used to cook or boil water into usable electricity.

The Pitch. The PowerPot X’s marketing may alarm the skeptical consumer. The video production has campy, home-spun feel that, while endearing and aligned with the spirit of the product and its intended consumers, falls slightly short of effective advertising. The product pictures are crisp and clear enough to display its quality. Its technical aspects are comprehensively explained, its production plan seems on-point, and one’s incentives for buying are plentiful, including two sizes, built-in power regulator, dual-USB charging-cord, carrying case, and the confidence of having such a practical and versatile product with no moving parts.

The Perks. Early backing of $165 or $175 earn the 2.3-liter PowerPot X or 3.8-liter PowerPot XL, respectively. Five bucks will get you a sticker that, by the producers’ own admission, might get you pulled over and questioned if placed on your bumper. And for those people of means who are worried about confusion over ownership, a pledge of $249 will rustle up their choice of the PowerPot X or XL with custom laser-engraving.

The Potential. There may be better camping-pots out there. The Lodge LCC3 Logic combo-cooker, perhaps, which sports heavier construction and a lid that doubles as a frying pan, but will it charge the kids’ iPads? And there may be more powerful solar generators available, but they’d never work at night, let alone cook your dinner.