Games Maker/Development

Hackaball ball will get your kids off the couch and outside

Time and time again, traditional video games have gotten a bad rap as enablers of a sedentary lifestyle. These days, with both console and mobile games increasing in popularity, many kids are spending much less time outdoors, their eyes instead glued to a screen.

Hackaball wants to lend a helping hand in getting them moving again. At its core, Hackaball is a computer kids can throw around. Inside the product’s tough, transparent case sits a plethora of motion sensors, 9 LEDs, an accelerometer, and a gyroscope, all of which can be programmed by using the companion iPad app to create games. With it, kids are limited only by their imagination as they can think up of many new ways to play with Hackaball. Additionally, the product comes with unlockable features that become available the more it’s used.

All of this fun is ultimately educational, with the companion app serving as a light introduction to programming — which makes sense given that there’s mention of future Arduino support for Hackaball. Hackaball’s ultimate enemy just happens to be the demographic they’re targeting: children’s attention spans. The $69 product is estimated to be delivered in December 2015, provided a successfully funded $100,000 campaign goal by April 3.

Connected Objects Music Tech Accessories

Keys MIDI keyboard gestures create new wave with a hand wave

MIDI controllers are already hugely popular with music making aficionados, from lone bedroom creators to DJs dropping beats in front of enthusiastic crowds around the world. Typically, music makers are extremely creative types who are always open to  different ways of interacting with their homegrown sounds.

Keys, a product from Team Opho, provides a new way of doing just that. Keys is a modular, LED-equipped MIDI keyboard designed for both novices and pros alike. Along with being compatible with widely used music software suites like Logic, ProTools, and Ableton, Keys can also be hooked up to computers and smartphones. The weighted keys on the keyboard offer users a comfy and responsive touch.

Additionally, Keys incorporates gesture controls and an embedded proximity sensor which enables users to control a number of different parameters like octave and pitch while giving them the ability to sustain them with different movements. If that’s not enough, Keys are modular and can be linked together immediately. In other words, without any wires or configuration, 24 keys can become 48 or 72 keys instantly. Keys can be had for just $92, and Team Opho, which previously created the gTar,  is looking for $50,000 in funding to get it off the ground.

Unlike other illuminated keyboard controllers, Keys needs to be charged. Its slick quick-attach networking happens without Bluetooth, so backers will need a Keys dock for its magic to take place (semi-)wirelessly. Still, the product’s gestural control, modularity and feedback truly makes it a stand out. Advanced musicians and deejays will appreciate that it’s compatible with many products already popular today even as the company preps its own apps. Those interested in this sort of experimental product can look to Skoog for another colorful take on the MIDI interface.

Tech Accessories

ChatLight lets video chatters see each other in a better light

Skype, FaceTime, Oovoo, and other video chat systems have become increasingly popular over the last few years. Each allow a way for people far apart to have a face-to-face conversation. Of course, when talking to someone from afar, most want to look their best.

ChatLight offers a way for video chatters to look great. This bright light attaches to any smartphone, laptop or tablet because its length is adjustable. The light itself is versatile too, allowing the user to either set it on high or low. It charges via a USB cable and only needs 15 minutes for a full charge. ChatLight rotates too, so that it’s always in the right spot.

This product is a neat little invention, great for anyone who likes to video chat a lot. The brightness is an especially nice feature for new college students who may have to talk in the dark due to sleeping roommates. There’s no mention on how hot the light gets, however, something the creators may want to detail in their campaign. One ChatLight goes for $20 with delivery in June 2015. This product is looking for $50,000 in funding on Kickstarter with a campaign end date of March 28.

Connected Objects Lighting

Fancy sleep tracking system lights the way to a good night’s rest

With the glut of sleep tracking apps all vying for consumers’ attention, companies have begun to package the sleep tracking experience in a multitude ways to differentiate themselves.

The oddly named Fancy struggles to stand out. It uses ambient lighting to influence a person’s sleep cycle, helping them to get a deeper rest and wake up gently. The system incorporates the Fancy lamp and an iDo Plus — a connected device that uses an accelerometer to track sleep movements and interface with the lamp. Tying everything together is the companion iOS/Android app allowing users to map out their sleep characteristics, download mobile statistics, and “download their dreams” (whatever that means).  The $100,000 AUD (~$78,545) campaign is looking to get the $129AUD (~$101) Fancy system out to backers by August 2015.

As different as this product is, it just isn’t that compelling in the wake of competitors. The SafeBand incorporate sleep tracking along with subtle vibrations, and products like Beddit and Luna have focused their efforts on making beds themselves smarter. Other products like the aforementioned Luna do the same job far better than Fancy, making it a tough sell. The extremely vague campaign doesn’t help, either, especially when it seems like there’s more to the product.


Beam smart projector shows video, images from any light socket on any surface

editors-choicePico projectors that can be connected to Android and iOS mobile devices to display video and other content can come in handy at home and at the office when making presentations. Combining a pico projector with an LED light bulb into a device that can be connected to any light socket could make it even more handy.

patent-claimedThat’s precisely what the makers of Beam have created. It’s an always-connected 100-lumen LED projector that promises 20,000 projection hours, and comes equipped with an LED light, two 2-watt speakers and 8 GB of onboard storage. Beam features a tapered, cylindrical design that’s designed to accommodate any standard light socket. Any electronic device can be connected to Beam, including mice, keyboards, game controllers, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth speakers, and smartwatches.

Beam turns any flat surface into a big screen, whether it’s a table, ceiling, floor or wall. It also enables users to listen to music via its speakers. Beam can be programmed to do a wide range of things, such as play music or display certain content at specific times each day, or whenever somebody turns on connected Bluetooth speakers or starts the Beam app. It will ship at $399 in October. Beam’s maker set a goal of raising $200,000 by March 24. That money will be used to complete Beam development and start production, according to its Kickstarter campaign.

Beam, which is featured in Backerjack’s Episode 7 podcast, holds a great deal of promise. Its multi-functionality and unique design help it easily stand out from the growing number of pico projectors on the market, including TouchPico.

Connected Objects Kids/Babies

Evoz monitors babies, captures special moments

There are many devices on the market that monitor babies, but few of them offer multiple functions, such as the ability to play lullabies, serve as a nightlight, and capture photos of special moments.

Evoz is a smart baby monitor that works in conjunction with an app for mobile devices, and alerts parents if there are any issues with the baby. Initial support is for Android and iOS devices, but its maker is working on compatibility with other unspecified mobile platforms. It features a wide-angle, Wi-Fi-enabled, 720p HD video camera, so parents can see everything that is going on in the baby’s room from the screen of their mobile device. The monitor has eight infrared LEDs partially hidden behind the black circle around the lens, which enables a 12 to 16-foot range for night vision video.

The device’s maker developed data mining algorithms to look for patterns in the baby data that experts have indicated are meaningful. That information is stored and can be accessed by parents at any time. As an example, if a baby is older than six months, and daytime naps are consistently less than 45 minutes, parent are presented with a step-by-step guide to teach them how to increase nap times. The device’s makers worked with therapist Kim West, the “Sleep Lady,” for more than two years to understand data trends and provide parents with information and expertise.

Evoz holds a lot of promise, offering a collection of features that competing devices on the market just can’t match. In addition to access to videos in which West offers advice, parents who use Evoz will get access to sleep and parenting experts that West trained and certified.

Evoz will ship in April of this year to those who back $169. Its maker set a goal of raising $25,000 by March 17.

Personal Transportation

AirBoard personal aircraft promises an aerial revolution, puts Back to the Future on notice

The dreams of many people around the world envision a future where travel facilitated by personal hover vehicles is the norm. The most popular example is the hover board from the movie Back to the Future, something people are still patiently waiting for. If the AirBoard becomes a reality, the hover board may be outdated before it even exists.

By taking the idea of a Hiller Flying Machine and modernizing it, the team behind the AirBoard is claiming to have created the world’s smallest manned aircraft. Capable of clearing all sort of terrain with its ground collision detection system, the product is truly the stuff of sci-fi. It sports four rotors underneath to provide altitudes of at least four and a half meters, all in a package that, when opened, is just 71″ by 59″ tall. More impressively, it is three times smaller when closed, measuring a petite 31″ by 43″ tall—small enough to be put into a car’s trunk.

The combination of a powerful, Bluetooth-compatible Intel chip—along with a gyroscope and accelerometer—allows the AirBoard to be connected with a companion smartphone app for additional control, making it easy to pilot even for newbies.

The proposed product is truly unique and will prove revolutionary if the final price is reasonable. But, as impressive as the product seems to be, it’s extremely hard to believe that it will live up to its claims, with its tight production schedule and nary a video showing off at least a prototype. Although many will be rightfully excited by the idea, the campaign is floating on an awful lot of doubt for the time being.

$250 gets backers a priority ticket for the chance to purchase an AirBoard in late 2015, with a price TBD. The campaign is looking for $30,000 by March 21.

Connected Objects

Smartstone offers non-verbal communication without all the noise

The world of the smart device is one full of proprietary jargon and gestures that need to be learned before its power can really be unlocked. For a lot of people, this just isn’t the case. All of the lingo and maneuvers that need to be learned serve as a road block, and as a result, what should connect people just puts up more barriers.

The need for a more humanized way of using technology to communicate inspired the creation of the Smartstone, a compact Bluetooth-enabled device that facilitates a more complex yet inviting form of non-verbal communication. A Smartstone’s capacitive touch surface and sensors work in tandem to detect and process multi-touch, swipe, motion, and tapping gestures so that users can quickly and easily send messages to each other. Instead of fumbling for a smartphone to shoot off a message—or for those situations where a smartphone just isn’t necessary—a simple swipe or tap can send off a message that’s received as vibration and lights on another Smartstone. Caregivers, parents, and friends will all find great use from the platform, and it seems like a novel way to incorporate technology into the many lives already filled with it.

What’s interesting is the capability of users to use the companion app to create more gestures and messages alongside the 12 standard Hapticons, or messages composed purely of light, sound, and vibration. A single Smartstone is awarded for $79, while a two-pack can be had for $149. Accessories for the device are also available. The $50,000 campaign is looking to ship the product in December of this year, and is seeking to be funded by March 20.

Lighting Music

BROOGS Smart Lamp charges devices, plays music, and lights the way with portable lantern

The beauty of the new, connected world slowly being forged is the transformation of ordinary parts of the home that are taken for granted into dynamic, living devices that can be interacted with in so many new ways. With this in mind, BROOGS has taken the humble lamp and pumped it full of interesting ideas.

The BROOGS Smart Lamp is minimalist and elegant in every way. The use of touch controls on the slickly curved device itself eliminates the presence of protruding buttons, while the portable LED lantern docked within gently lights surroundings. USB ports on its side allow users to charge their devices, and hiding within is a Bluetooth speaker that can interface with an iOS or Android device to stream music. It doesn’t only use the Bluetooth connection for sound, but also to push notification alerts from a device to the lamp, expressing them with the more than 16 million colors and the limitless combinations they that the lamp can create. A white BROOGS Smart Lamp is now $150, which is $49 off what it will be priced for retail.

The BROOGS Smart Lamp is a sleek addition to any home. The quantity of color combinations is mind boggling, and those who like reading before bed will find the gentle light much more soothing the harsh light of a ceiling light or tablet screen. Other interesting takes on smart lamps include the LIVING Room Lamp and LumiSmart, the latter being almost an assistant in the way it recognizes a routine after some time. When compared to other offerings on the market, the BROOGS Smart Lamp has looks, but lacks other factors that could truly separate it from everything else.

The $50,000 campaign is looking to raise its funding by March 13, and expects to ship the product in May of this year.

Connected Objects Food and Beverage

Tlinkle connected tumblers keep couples connected

Technology has the bad reputation of being anti-social, and it isn’t hard to see why. With the way the devices available on the marketplace dominate the attention span, most agree on the negative effects it can have on relationships and behavior. In response the growing trend of humanizing technology is springing up, offering products that aim to connect, rather than disconnect, those who choose to use it.

The Tlinkle is a prime example of this sort of technology. The product is a Bluetooth-enabled tumbler that lights up when another designated Tlinkle is used. By leveraging a touch sensor below the tumbler’s frame, the embedded LED lights up with the corresponding color of who’s drinking from it. The Tlinkle is ideal for couples, but also shines between friends or within a family, all in the name of letting loved ones know you’re thinking about them.

Although the product is well intentioned, the amount of sips taken throughout the day will quickly make each moment of lit-up refreshment lose their importance. The companion app aims to alleviate that with community features, but even those seem half baked. Something like Smartstones is a bit more ambitious, and because of that ultimately more exciting.

A Tlinkle is awarded for $70, and is expected to ship in October of this year, given a successful $40,000 campaign.