Reading Technology

Illumina XL seeks to light up the e-reader market with greater variety

Amazon’s pioneering Kindle leads among several popular e-readers on the market. But most of them require users to buy e-books from the device manufacturer’s own online store.

Illumina XL is an 8-inch Android-based e-reader that uses e-ink technology just like the Kindle Paperwhite and a few other premium e-readers. But Illumina XL allows its users to select from a wide range of apps, including Kindle, to buy e-books. Unlike most other current e-readers, Illumina XL also supports the MP3 audio format, so users can listen to audio books and music. It’s equipped with a 3.5mm audio jack.


Back to the Backers: Mükava ergonomic table

Backerjack covered the ergonomic table, Mükava, back in September. Although it was unsuccessful in reaching its goal on Kickstarter, the brains behind Mükava, Tom Keenan, decided to try another tactic. He set up a campaign on Indiegogo with a low goal, 1% of his original $50,000 campaign. Asking backers for only $500, Keenan found success on Indiegogo. Now, he’s moved back to Kickstarter with the same small goal.

Mükava is an ergonomic table aimed at making reading books, tablets, phones, magazines or whatever else easier. The table has an adjustable angle and height, making it easier to read in bed or wherever else. Devices stick to the surface made of a special material and it comes equipped with book holders for this old-fashioned medium. In addition, Mükava has USB ports for charging, an LED light and even Document Pebbles to attach documents.

Mükava is versatile to be sure, but looks a little bit like it belongs in a hospital. Still, its many uses span both the home and office. Keenan hasn’t changed the table at all since the original campaign. Backers can have their very own for a $225 donation for estimated delivery in April 2015. It’s clear that backers like this product because they’re still ordering it and if Keenan can keep those goals low, he’s certain to have success for Mükava. Don’t give up, Keenan!

Connected Objects Kids/Babies

TROBO kids’ robot brings snuggling to science education

Once upon a time, a talking teddy bear named Teddy Ruxpin read gave children all over America nightmares and also read them stories through the use of cassette tapes plugged into its torso.

TROBO is the nerdy spiritual successor to Ruxpin in a lot of ways, albeit without the nightmare fuel and with the feature set one would expect in the Internet age. TROBO is a plush robot available in two styles, Edison (male-inspired) and Curie (female-inspired), assuring kids will want a TROBO no matter what kind of toys they like. TROBO reads stories that are focused on science, technology, math, and engineering, fostering a desire to learn and become more skilled in scientific pursuits at a young age. The stories are read aloud with an app used on a tablet or phone that allows kids to read along and also interact with the stories.

The interaction takes place directly, as children make their own avatars that look like them and share their name so TROBO speaks right at the young reader. Multiple stories will be available at launch, with additional TROBO stories being added to the app store over time to prevent content from getting stale or boring. Team TROBO is raising $60,000 for manufacturing and testing the toys, as well as creating more stories. Parents can get their kids a TROBO for $50 delivered in time for next year’s holidays: November 2015.

From the ground up, TROBO is designed to be a toy that children love and want to play with, while at the same time is a toy that inspires them to learn and understand the world around them. For parents and kids, that’s a complete win/win. Assuming, of course, that parents don’t have any leftover trauma from “playing” with Teddy Ruxpin.


GemWhere smartwatch gives you a daily read on your wrist

The Premise. The internet is absolutely full of content that would take several lifetimes to sift through. Even the stuff that may be of interest comes out too often for a busy person to keep up with. To get through it all takes an assistant to give out only the relevant details.

The Product. The GemWhere is like any other smartwatch out there right now with one key difference: GemWhere will read through news reports, tweets notifications, and more, and read aloud a breakdown of the most key points of each. The watch has a built-in speaker or can be paired to any Bluetooth audio system. With a dual-core processor, GPS, Wifi, Bluetooth, and 3G, this Smartwatch can hang with the big boys while also saving  time by reading the important facts (and only the important ones).

The Pitch. Taking a cue from the introduction of the Macintosh, the GemWhere watch cleverly narrates the video introducing itself. At the Gem Web site, viewers can see what the GemWhere does to articles and preview multiple news stories broken down into what the GemWhere watch would read aloud. The photos are primarily tech-oriented, showing off the design materials and even a sample of the code that GemWhere uses to pick out the right snippets to read. Creator Steve Chen will ship GemWhere if it reaches $100,000 in pledges; enough to finalize the software, purchase the components, and enter production. A stretch goal is available at $350,000 to replace the boxy, classic watch design with something sleeker and more fashionable.

The Perks. The GemWhere smart watch will launch in October 2014, with supports who pledge $199 receiving one for themselves complete with the pre-loaded software.

The Potential. Unfortunately, GemWhere seems like kind of a one trick pony. The idea of having an AI read the news during a commute is helpful to only the most connected and busy of individuals, and if the technology is really that desired, it won’t take long for assistants like Siri to follow suit. As a smartwatch, the GemWhere looks like it’ll function just fine, but lacks the extra power under the hood that its competitors in the market are already offering, and driving a speaker can require a lot of power for a constrained device. What’s left is a functional concept, but nothing else unique enough to set this wearable tech apart.

Kids/Babies Tablet Accessories Toys

DiDi puts an iPad in a teddy bear’s tummy

The Premise. Stuffed animals are a staple for any child’s box of toys. Most, however, are limited in the interaction that they have with children, showing them how to cuddle but not much else.

The Product. Powered by iPad, DiDi is an interactive teddy bear system. Using an app, an iPad, and special touch toys, DiDi teaches kids the fundamentals of eating healthily, brushing their teeth as well as the fundamentals of reading. The iPad fits right into the body of the bear so that kids can use the touch screen to play or cuddle with DiDi without the iPad at night.

The Pitch. The DiDi video shows a little girl playing with her bear and all the different ways that the bear can be used.  The rest of the campaign shows the myriad of accessories that the bear comes with how they help kids with their reading skills. DiDi is shooting for $25,000 in 30 days on Kickstarter.

The Perks. The limited reward tiers offer early backers the DiDi package for only $25. This includes the teddy bear, Magic Touch toys and another stuffed bunny. The regular price is also $25 but doesn’t include the extra toy. Each teddy bear comes with the app needed to power it. Estimated delivery date is currently set at August 2014.

The Potential. We’ve seen a lot of these super teddy bears lately. The ZiBear is similarly powered by a device, though it isn’t directly connected to the bear. The ZiBear lets parents program what they want the bear to say. DiDi is interesting in that the touch screen is directly on the bear, giving kids the added visual aspect of the toy. It is also specifically a reading tool, which is a perfect way to get kids to learn how to read by incorporating their reading into playtime. One crawback to DiDi, though, is that only kids in iPad households can use the toy. However, the cost of the bear, app, and related accessories is relatively low which partially makes up for needing an iPad to use it. All in all, DiDi seems like a fun learning tool for kids and will certainly be entertaining as well as educational.


Cue Page Turner gives Bluetooth page flippers some sheet cred

The Premise. Musicians around the world have experienced frustration at having to stop playing their instrument in order to turn a pages of their sheet music. At best, it can result in momentary panic in terms of catching up to the continuation of a composition. At worst, there’s an avalanche of paper that must be frantically gathered. Tablets can clean up the mess, but they involve their own compromises — limited battery life, distracting screen glow, and generally a smaller size than the area of a standard music sheet.

The Product. Cue Page Turner is a mechanical page turner that turns the physical pages of sheet music while musicians are playing. The turning mechanism is controlled by a wireless foot pedal. Cue Page Turner also has a vacuum bottom that allows it to rest stably on a music stand or piano.

The Pitch. The Indiegogo campaign for the Cue Page Turner features a short video explaining the device as well as the reward tiers of the campaign. The rest tells how the idea for the product was born and how, after years on the back burner, it can finally be manufactured thanks to 3D printers. What the campaign lacks is a photo of Cue Page Turner itself. Rather, because it hasn’t actually been manufactured yet, the campaign only features digital mock-ups of what the page turner is supposed to look like.

The Perks. Supporters of Cue Page Turner giving $50 or more will receive the Cue Page Turner Lite which can hold 12 pages. Contributors giving $100 or more will receive the Original Cue Page Turner that holds 24. Higher backers in the $500 range will receive gold- or silver-plated Cue Page Tuners, which look more snazzy and tell the world, “I have a silver-plated Cue Page Turner.”

The Potential. There’s nary a performing musician who wouldn’t find the Cue Page Turner intriguing. Orchestras especially will continue to use sheet music for performances for the foreseeable future. So, while there are other products on the market that turn pages digitally, none are able to do so with physical paper. PageFlip and AirTurn, for example, both use wireless foot pedals to turn pages on a Mac, PC or iPad, but cannot be used with physical paper. At such an early stage, it’s difficult to justify shelling out in anticipation of the product because there are just too many questions, but demand could heat up with the next movement for this musicians’ aid.