Cell Phone Accessories

The Glowme smartphone case makes every notification a light show

The rise of the smartphone has been accompanied by the many useful — and not so useful — accessories. Whatever their value, people still scoop them all up, prompting half-hearted inventors and passionate pursuers of innovation to create new add-ons in the chase for profits.

An accessory that lands itself firmly in the former category is the Glowme, a silicon smartphone case outfitted with an RGB LED strip housing 20 individual lights. Using the Glowme app, these lights can be customized to light up in whatever way a user wants, from an incoming call, an upcoming turn while driving, or even the music being played. It can also be used as an RGB flashlight or a multi-LED flash for photos, all while using “minimal” battery life. 

Connected Objects Toys

It’s your very own light show with the GLOW smart cubes

If someone didn’t know any better, they’d think cubes were the only form crowdfunding campaigns were aware of. With such a large variety of already clever cube-shaped devices like the Sugr Cube wireless speaker to the LED-studded Cuberox, it takes something truly innovative to stand out.

The GLOW interactive smart cubes try to do so but fall a little flat. They react to music and gestures, lighting up in a wide array of colors at various levels of luminosity depending on the stimulus. The company behind GLOW, Yume Cloud Inc., envisions it being used as a device to be played with, a piece of decorative flair for the home or even larger events like weddings, or simply as a visual accompaniment to music at, say, a concert. A set of two GLOW cubes is going for $106 and is expected in April 2016 should its $20,000 goal be met by February 3rd, 2016.

While the accompanying iOS/Android app can be used to play games with the cubes, the product seems like a throwaway. It doesn’t bring anything completely new to the table. Backers would most likely want something with a bit more functionality, and the GLOW doesn’t quite deliver.

Connected Objects Cycling

Revolights illuminates a more connected vision of bike lights with its Eclipse+

A complete lighting system that properly illuminates all types of bicycles no matter its make or model has been a thorny problem for a long time. At least that’s what most people commonly think. After two Kickstarters, the army of backers that have made both successes seem to think it has figured it out. Now, they’ve made their way back to the crowdfunding world—this time, on Indiegogo—to introduce their Eclipse+ connected bike lighting system.

The Eclipse+ is a refinement of the original Eclipse model. While it still provides 360º illumination, the lack of cables and addition of snap-in rechargeable batteries for power makes the entire unit easier to install. But the biggest improvement comes in its Bluetooth connectivity, adding a wide-array of features facilitated by the companion Revolights iOS/Android smartphone or smartwatch app.

Smart Home

The flick of a switch turns on all the lights with LampLink

To create the perfect ambiance in any room, the right amount of lighting is necessary. Most of the time, though, a room’s outlet placement can limit the kinds of lighting arrangements possible, forcing people to place a lamp somewhere they don’t want it to be.

LampLink is a transmitter/receiver system that allows a user to control all the lights in a room at once without the use of a smartphone. The transmitter is plugged in to a wall switch connected outlet, while the transmitters are plugged into lamps. When the wall switch is flicked on, all other lamps connected are turned on as well.


Adaptalux offers a hydra of color to light up macro photography

editors-choiceMacro photography can produce some startling images. However, unlike, say, portraiture that is often done in a studio, it’s difficult to have fin control over the kind of lighting and color in an image.

Adaptalux is a lighting add-on that attaches to the hot shoe of a digital SLR camera. The main unit hosts up to five flexible hose-like LED lights in five different hues that can be used with diffusers or gels to produce striking lighting effects for pictures of small objects such as leaves or bugs. The company also offers a miniature platform for staging such spectacles. Adaptalux Ltd. seeks £100,000 (about $150,000) by May 2nd. Prices range from about £100 (about $150) for a starter pack that includes two lighting arms) to £300 (about $445) for the complete set of lighting arms, diffusers and filters. All rewards are expected to ship in November.

Adaptalux dramatically expands the color options available to macro photographers in the studio or the field and the flexibility of the lights allow for a great deal of creative control. While the product has a companion app, it would be great to see it control the brightness of the various lights directly rather than merely offering advice, a feature that’s likely on the roadmap.

Connected Objects Lighting

Playbulb garden lights up your garden, saves you some green

Outdoor garden lighting tends to be pretty routine, offering little in the way of color. Few outdoor bulbs can also be deemed to be green, as in environmentally friendly, because they require the same electricity that indoor lights use.

However, the latest Playbulb LED lighting product -– the water-resistant Playbulb garden –- adds multiple colors, special lighting effects and smart functionality, and is driven purely by solar power. Each light is controlled via Bluetooth 4.0 by the accompanying free Playbulb X app for Android and iOS mobile devices. Users can change each light’s color with the app and also select from rainbow, fading, pulsing, flashing and candle light effects.

The built-in sensor detects lighting conditions and automatically turns on or off accordingly. The included monopod/spike allows more flexibility for installation. Once attached to the bottom of a Playbulb garden light, it’s easy to push into the grass to make the bulb secure. The monopod can also be removed if the user just wants to place the light directly on the ground. Each Playbulb garden costs $29.99 and will ship in May. Its maker set a goal of raising $10,000 by March 27.

Playbulb garden follows the Playbulb color and Playbulb rainbow, and will likely appeal to many homeowners with gardens. Other good features include its ability to run up to 20 hours on a full charge. One drawback is that its light might not be bright enough for some consumers. Customers shouldn’t expect to be able to use one to read a book outside at night. The product is featured in a recent Backerjack podcast.



Tiny N’ Mighty lights the way for cyclists, recharges in no time

Cycling is a great way to get around a city. It’s inexpensive, environmentally friendly and provides that always much-needed exercise. However, it’s dangerous to be on the road with cars and important to take all safety precautions necessary.

For light at night, there’s the Tiny N’ Mighty. What sets this bike lighting system apart from the rest is its rechargeable battery. Most lights use fussy lithium batteries, so a rechargeable battery is a good way to go. The lights are water-resistant and provide tons of bright light for both the front and back of the bike. Each light can be recharged in a matter of three hours. In addition, the lights will automatically shut off if the bike has been stationary for five minutes—a useful feature to have.

As far as bike lights go, the Tiny N’ Mighty has great potential. Most typical bike batteries do last for a long time, but for avid cyclists it’s a good idea to invest in a rechargeable system. Cyclists may also want to check out the Revolights, which illuminate a bike’s rims instead. Tiny N’ Mighty is going for a donation of $175 for delivery in April 2015. That is, if the lighting system can reach its $10,000 Kickstarter goal.


AURA ornaments spruce up your spruce wirelessly

The setting up of a Christmas tree should be a delightful activity in which everyone can pitch in to do and enjoy. Unfortunately, it usually grinds to a halt when the messy coil of Christmas lights is revealed to be tangled with broken bulbs and missing fixtures. Along with being a general pain, the wire itself can be dangerous as it can spark or overheat which can lead to fires.

The team behind AURA has created a set of wireless Christmas ornaments powered by a charging ring that can be placed underneath or within a tree to address these rather un-festive problems. The ornaments themselves come in either clear, frosted, or crackled varieties, and work by distance. When the ornament is near the ring, it lights up. When it’s moved away it turns off, no wires or batteries.

Another attractive feature is the AURA’s ability to be connected to Wi-Fi. This, along with the companion iOS, Android, or Windows Phone app, lets users set timers, schedules, and remotely control lights. Incredibly, the ornaments are rated to last 20 years and so their components are encased in glass to ensure they aren’t damaged. Without wires, AURA makes setting up a Christmas tree so much easier. A set of $69 lights can be expected by October 2015, just in time for next Christmas, provided the campaign reaches its $50,000 goal.

Imaging Tech Accessories

Foldio 2 mini photo studio gets great shots, even better than the original

The digital camera is slowly dying out as smartphone cameras become more and more powerful. Now, it’s possible to take great photographs with an Android or iPhone. However, nothing can replace the perfect photographing conditions of a professional studio.

The Foldio 2 is a portable set for taking photographs. When folded up, the Foldio 2 looks like a large flat folder with handle for ease of traveling. To set up, simply unfold and assemble using the accompanying magnets. Foldio 2 is made from lightweight white plastic. With bright LED lights, this little studio packs quite the punch and provides tons of light to make any subject pop.

The creators behind Foldio have found success on Kickstarter before with their original product, the Foldio. Now, they’ve improved upon the original design by making it twice the size. They’ve made up for portability by adding the above mentioned handle and have added an adapter for the lights so that they last twice as long.

The Foldio 2 is certainly an improvement on an already cool product. Amateur photographers have flooded social media sites, especially the popular Instagram, and this is a great product for just such a person. One will cost backers $65 by March 2015. Foldio 2 has already smashed its original $50,000 goal, raising over $350,000 on Kickstarter.

Cycling Safety

A strip show on wheels, LightCycle helps nighttime riding safety

Those little red squares on the back of most bikes claim to be some sort of brake light, but, in reality, are as useful as having nothing there at all. With the safety concerns associated with an increase of bike riders in high traffic areas, you would think companies would figure out a better alternative, but that hasn’t been the case. Instead, a slew of companies over the years have presented their own solutions to varying degrees of success.

LightCycle’s small, battery-powered brake system is easy to install on any bike and lights up every time you apply the brakes. This avoids unnecessary collisions and the potential for more dangerous accidents by increasing visibility. Revolights is another brake light system that handles this issue in a similar way but includes the front of the bike to achieve maximum visibility; even if the creators of LightCycle claim to use LED lights, the campaign video wasn’t convincing enough to prove it. That said, if you’re looking to make sure everyone sees you while you ride, the 8rlicht is the way to go — a large screen with custom messages will get surely rid of any doubt. LightCycle is currently going for $65 with an expected delivery date of January 2015. The campaign is looking for $2,000 to make it happen.