Connected Objects Writing

Cronzy is a pen that lets you write with a rainbow

Several years ago, at least some of us thought it was a major achievement when manufacturers introduced pens that could write in more than just blue or black ink. They were a dream come true especially for kids, artists and teachers who no longer needed to carry around separate pens for writing and correcting mistakes on their students’ tests, term papers and homework.

Cronzy is a pen that goes many steps further than most multi-color pens because it can write in pretty much any color that any user would want and can even match scanned colors also. The pen is capable of writing in more than 16 million colors, its makers say. Its main mechanism is based on solenoid valves like those used in various other devices and the pen features a special algorithm for mixing colors.

Connected Objects Sleep

Chrona slips in your pillow to size up your sleep

A good night of sleep is one of the most important things to maintain a healthy life. But all too often people have issues when trying to sleep, sometimes without even knowing it.

Chrona is a thin foam insert that transforms any pillow into a smart pillow. Combined with an app for iOS, Android and Windows Phone mobile devices, Chrona serves as a sleep optimization system that tracks and optimizes sleep using sound. The Bluetooth Low Enery device not only tracks users’ sleep by movement, but it also improves their sleep through the use of acoustics. Depending on where users are in their sleep cycles, Chrona uses low-frequency sounds to help them sleep more deeply or high-frequency sounds to prepare them to wake up. Chrona costs $169 and ships in December. Its maker has set a Kickstarter goal of raising $50,000 by May 18.

One of the product’s advantages is that it doesn’t require an uncomfortable wearable. But it faces competition from a growing number of products that promise pretty much the same thing, including Proper Pillow Plus and SliiP.

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 If the AirBoard becomes a reality, the hover board may be outdated before it even exists.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.

Virtual Reality

ViSR VR cardboard headset is a low cost of entry for a high-quality virtual experience

One of the boldest moves in the past few years, in the midst of tech companies chasing the dream of virtual reality, was Google coming out with Cardboard. If you hadn’t heard, it was a pair of VR googles made completely made out of the ho-hum material that worked in tandem with Android devices. As ridiculous as it may seemed, what most surprised everyone was that it worked. 

Now, there are Google Cardboard imitators pretty much everywhere, but the folks at ViSR VR would be quick to point out the superiority of their Mark I headset. Theirs is a laminated, high-quality quality cardboard visor that is extremely durable and can last as long as most smartphones.

At the end of the day, though, it isn’t a very new idea to upgrade Google Cardboard with better material, but its durability will certainly attract those who had been previously been on the fence about VR. Compatible with iPhones, Android devices, and Windows phones, most anyone can get into the VR game as long as they have £15 (~$23) to spare. Notable stretch goals include special edition versions in gold, a day with the team, or even a backer’s own ViSR game! The £25,000 (~$37,900) campaign is looking to ship the Mark I ViSR by March 2015.

Smartwatches/Bands Technology Wearables

Colorful Miiya connects kids to physical activity

For a kids’ smartwatch to be appealing to its targeted customer base, it must accomplish a few things. On the one hand, it needs to feature all the usual technology that tracks a user’s activity, while at the same time making it fun to wear and use. The device also needs to be visually appealing enough for kids to want to wear it. Making it available in multiple colors helps.

Miiya, designed by a pair of Belgium-based brothers, has been created with those features in mind. It is being fielded in four colors: blue, orange, red and white, each featuring the same cute original Miiya character icon in a superhero cape. The smartwatch tracks the activity of its young users and they are given gold stars each day as rewards for physical activity.

A Miiya app for smartphones gives parents direct access to daily reports on their kids’ activities. The device uses Bluetooth LE to synchronize with the phones. It is already compatible with iOS (starting with the iPhone 4S) and will also be compatible with Android (expected in May) and then Windows Phone and Blackberry. The device’s “Dynamic Safety” feature enables parents to be warned if a child goes too far away from them and can indicate where the child has gone.

The Bluetooth signal range, however, is only about 200 feet. Interference can also be generated by a lot of objects, and that will reduce the signal range. The device is also waterproof and dust-resistant. Backers can buy a watch at the “super early bird” price of $75, a 40% discount off its normal price, for delivery in May. The device’s creators are looking to raise $50,000 on Indiegogo.

Miiya compares favorably to other kids’ smartwatches, including Jumpy. Miiya seems especially appealing at its $75 super early bird pricing, much less so at its regular price. Another barrier may very well be the Miiya name, which sounds uncomfortably similar to Mii, the name of the digital avatar in Nintendo’s videogame systems.

Smart Home Technology

Linkio offers affordable home automation solution

Mobile home automation systems offer the undeniably appealing ability to turn off your appliances and other electronic devices when you forgot to shut them before leaving the house from anywhere. French newcomer Linkio is yet the latest company to enter the growing category with an affordable and simple solution.

The company isn’t shy about celebrating native language with the system’s components. The main component of the white Linkio system is “Le Hub,” a central control unit resembling a router that communicates with the rest of the Linkio system and wirelessly links the user’s mobile phone to their electronics in conjunction with “Le Remote,” a remote infrared controller that looks somewhat like a typical smoke detector. A separate “Le Plug” connector allows any electronic device that it’s plugged into to be turned on or off via a free mobile app. Also part of the system is “Le Switch,” a component designed to replace mechanical wall switches that enables lights and ceiling fans to be controlled manually and through the app. The targeted price of a full Linkio system package is €99 (~$123), and it includes one each of the Linkio components.

Linkio’s system is targeted at consumers who aren’t interested in buying an entire smart home ecosystem, but instead want the ability to control just a few of their electronic devices from outside the home. Linkio will also sell plugs individually at €19 (~$24) each. The company’s Kickstarter goal is to raise €50,000 (~$60,000), in order to mass produce the finalized versions of the Linkio components. Linkio expects electrical design optimization to be finished in January and for the finalized product to follow in October.

There’s been similar home automation system concepts before. The Webee smart home system is just one of many competing products to seek crowdfunding. Belkin’s WeMo Switch, meanwhile, is a competing product that’s already widely available. An advantage that Linkio has over some of its rivals is that it’s an independent system that requires no server dependency. Also, unlike at least some rival devices, Linkio supports Windows Phone in addition to the more ubiquitous iOS and Android. But the home automation category is just too crowded to expect Linkio will become a major mass-market consumer product.


Technology Wearables

Timer Smart Ring unlocks doors, phones and hearts

Fitness tends to be the main application featured in smart wearable devices. But the maker of the Timer Smart Ring is focusing on other uses for its device, including the ability to use the ring to open intelligent door locks, unlock mobile phone screens, or pass along digital business cards to other mobile phones using NFC technology.

The ring supports most intelligent door locks on the market that use 13.56 MHz, including locks made by Samsung. Users can set the ring to unlock the screen of select mobile phones, whether or not the phone already uses other unlocking systems, such as a gesture code or password. The ring is compatible with Android and Windows smartphones, but not iOS. As shown in the campaign’s somewhat corny video, the ring can also be used to make romantic connections in public places by taking advantage of the device’s NFC. The ring designed for male customers is made with titanium, while the female version is made of 18K rose gold. Its maker is looking to raise €39,000 (~$48,600). Backers who pledge €39 (~$49) will get a ring in a choice of black or white.

Unlike similar products such as the Arcus fitness ring, the Timer Smart Ring actually looks similar to a fairly standard metal ring.  That, and its reasonable price, will make it especially appealing to some male consumers who wouldn’t be caught dead wearing some of the other smart rings on the market that seem to be designed only for female users. But the device’s unmemorable, and even downright strange, name stands to make it a tough sell. An even bigger challenge, however, is its lack of iOS support.




Cell Phone Accessories

ALLCOM ONE pushes a rugged push-to-talk accessory for smartphones

allcomoneSmartphones seem capable of nearly any mobile application these days. Still, sometimes they are limited by their hardware design  and can wind up cumbersome instead of convenient. The ALLCOM ONE is a handheld device that can be clipped or held to enable push-to-talk walkie-talkie style communication through apps, and also function as a loudspeaker for calls or music. The ALLCOM ONE is durable, withstanding falls up to two meters, is dust-proof, and water-proof up to one meter in depth — a bit of overkill for consumers but great for public safety pros who may not need dedicated walkie-talkies. Backers who want to talk with one hand while leaving the smartphone pocketed or put away can get an ALLCOM ONE for $125 in October 2014.