Sending It Up

Any seasoned watcher of Indiegogo and Kickstarter will know that there’s a fairly standard formula for product pitches, from the vocal inflections to the disembodied hands. This gives a great opportunity for lampooning those start-ups that take themselves entirely too seriously. Here’s Introducing Carrot, a new venture dedicating to bringing the orange root vegetable to the technorati. Not sure why they didn’t go with Carrt….

If that’s not enough, Ikea’s BookBook, is both a fabulous parody while promoting a real product. Total genius, though it has been around for a little while.

Finally, Mike Frey‘s My Life Vs…GoPro is a great antidote to GoPro’s videos, jumpcutting between their adrenaline-fuelled action and mundane reality.

All too true.

Creators Must Complete Their Kickstarter Projects

Kickstarter logoKickstarter has updated its terms of use to emphasize that those who use Kickstarter to fund their project must actually, you know, complete the project. Creators are also expected to fulfill each reward. It is only after a creator has done so that they’ve satisfied their obligation to their backers. Of course, this is referring to projects that have been fully funded by backers (not the ones that didn’t raise enough to get fully funded).

A key point is that the creator of a project has a legal obligation to the people who back the project on Kickstarter. Unsatisfied backers can potentially take legal action against a creator who raised funds but never produced the product. This isn’t new, it is simply being pointed out in an extremely clear way.

The new terms of use clarify the obligations that creators have to their backers. If a creator of a fully funded project fails to complete the project and fulfill rewards, they are required to “make every reasonable effort to find another way of bringing the project to the best possible conclusion for backers”.

They are also going to be held accountable in other ways. Creators who are unable to complete their project must post an update that explains what work has been completed, how the funds were used, and what prevents them from finishing the project as planned. Other requirements include being able to demonstrate that they used the funds appropriately and that they made every reasonable effort to complete the project on time. This would be helpful in situations where a person had something tragic and unexpected happen that prevented them from finishing the project.

It also sounds to me like an attempt to ward off scammers. One cannot simply create a Kickstarter account, and then abscond with the money after the project is fully funded, without producing the product. I believe these new terms of use are a push for honesty and transparency from the people who use Kickstarter to fundraise a project that they are hoping to create.

Ouya Review

Ouya My Ouya finally came late yesterday afternoon. First a little background from me, I am not a gamer, I have no hand to eye coordination so I am not very good, but I enjoy playing them. I have been without a gaming console for a couple of years now and I miss not having one. I had thought about buying a Xbox 360 or a Playstation 3 but I couldn’t bring my self to pay $400 to $500 on a console that I knew was going to be replaced in a short time. When I heard all the noise about the new gaming console that was a Kickstarter project called Ouya I became intrigued. So, at the beginning of April after the Kickstarter project had become successful I preordered one. The email I received from Ouya stated that I would not receive the console until June, which was fine with me. I was aware how Kickstarter worked. However I have to admit when yesterday rolled around and I started seeing articles that the Ouya would be available for purchase at places like Amazon, Best Buy, Target and more I was a little upset that I hadn’t received mine yet. I was therefor very happy when my husband came in with it, saying it had been thrown in the bushes.

The Ouya comes in a small box about the size of a shoe box but slightly narrower. In the box you get the console, one controller, a power cable, a HDMI cable and a brief instruction book. The Ouya console itself is quite small. It is only three inches by three inches by three inches and is square with a rounded front. The console is made of plastic, but feels fairly solid and heavy for it size. There is a fan on one end and the power button on the other end. On the back there is a HDMI port, a power input, an ethernet input and a USB input. I was actually pleasantly surprised that a HDMI cable came with the console, although it is fairly short. The controller, which is bigger then the console does feels cheap. You can tell that it was made from a mold. The buttons on the controller are placed similar to how the Xbox controller is set up. Because it is so large and I have small hands (although normal I think for a women) it does feel a little awkward to me.

The setup went fairly smoothly after and initial hiccup. Because the Ouya is black I didn’t see the power button on the front, so when I first plugged the Ouya in and connected it to my monitor and nothing happened I was quite upset. I even tried a different outlet and still nothing. I was getting ready to send it back, when I took a closer look at it and noticed the indentation on the front face and when I pushed it the power came on. A simple red line around it to indicate power would have been appreciated. That problem solved the rest of the set up went fairly quickly and without a hitch. It does take some time since it has to be updated with the latest firmware. During the setup process you do have to provide a credit card number so you will need to have one available. Once setup is done you have to pair the controller. I had no problem with that once I figured out that the batteries went into the wings of the controllers. I have noticed also that the controller loses its pairing with the console occasionally. Not when playing a game but when I restart the console I will sometimes will have to reconnect the controller to it. Once you fire the Ouya up the first screen you will see is the management screen on it there is an option to play the games you have already chosen, discover new games, make a new games (if you are a developer) and manage your account, and the system.


Most of the games you will find on the Ouya are not ones you will recognize, unless you play a lot of independent games. However there are some that will feel familiar to you even if the names are different. There is one called Polarity which is a lot like Portal and another one called Puddle which reminds me of World of Goo my iPad. There were a some games I did recognize like Final Fantasy III, You Don’t Know Jack and Canabalt. I played a little bit of a couple of games, including Polarity and Puddle and everything seemed to work fine. The reaction time between when I pushed the button on the controller and the movement on the screen was a little slow, but not terrible. If this had been a $500 machine I would have said it was pretty bad, but for $99.00 it is fine. That is the one thing I would tell anyone who buys a Ouya  to remember is that this console only cost you $99.00 and if you compare it to an Xbox 360 or a Playstation 3 you will be highly disappointed. However if you remember that it is a $99.00 console I think you will have a lot of fun playing the games that are available on it. You may even find some independent games that you really like. Overall despite the few problems, so far I am happy I purchased the Ouya. If you are looking for a gaming console you can play on your TV and it will not break the bank, then the Ouya is worth a look.

HAPIfork Helps You Monitor Your Eating Habits

HAPILABSHAPILABS has created a specialized fork that can help people to monitor their eating habits, and potentially lose weight as a result. It is called HAPIfork, and it has a Kickstarter that will gather funding until June 1, 2013.

Those who cannot wait to get their hands on the HAPIfork have the option of pledging $89.00 (or more) to the Kickstarter in order to get their very own “smart fork” for $10.00 off the regular price. HAPILABS will begin shipping those out in September of 2013.

The HAPIfork monitors and keeps track of your eating habits. It pays attention to “fork servings”, which is described as “every time you bring food from your plate to your mouth” (with the HAPIfork). It will note how long it took for you to eat your meal, the amount of “fork servings” you took per minute, and the interval of time between each “fork serving”.

The data is then uploaded via USB to your Online Dashboard, so you can track your progress. Each HAPIfork comes with the HAPILABS app and a coaching program that will help you improve your eating behavior. There is a HAPILABS mobile app for Android and Windows mobile that will keep track of health, fitness, sleep, relaxation, and physical activities. Data can be loaded to the app via Bluetooth.

Eat too quickly, and the HAPIfork will vibrate to let you know that you need to slow down. It is subtle, and I think most people would prefer that type of notification instead of a loud sound or a flashing light that would instantly attract the attention of everyone else in the room. When your meal is over, you can wash HAPIfork either in the sink or the dishwasher.

The primary concept is to encourage people to eat more slowly in order to avoid digestive problems, weight gain, and post-operative complications. This amusingly named “smart fork” sounds like an interesting device to use if you are hoping to lose some weight.

UrbanHello Home Phone

Urban Hello Home Phone

It’s not often that technology is so new that it’s only a few hours old but in this interview, Andy McCaskey chats to UrbanHello about their Kickstarter launch for their Home Phone.

The Home Phone is a DECT-based cordless speakerphone designed for family group conversations where everyone can take part. The 360 degree HD speaker produces great natural sound and not only is the Home Phone functional, it looks modern and stylish. The coloured part at the bottom of the phone comes in a range of interchangeable colours to either match or contrast the interior decor.

Don’t take my word for it, the Home Phone took Design and Engineering Honors at CES 2013 and it’s 27% funded with about ten days to go.

Interview by Andy McCaskey of SDR News for the TechPodcast Network.

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PlayPlay

Elite: Dangerous

There’s a pretty good chance that if you are a 40+ British geek, the mere mention of “Elite” will roll back the years to hours of gameplay in front of a BBC Model B, flying a wireframe starship around an almost limitless universe. Trading, fighting, arms-dealing, slavery, whatever it took to get respect and the coveted Elite status. Even now, I still feel a small hint of pride in my own Elite achievement, over 20 years later.

Created by David Braben and Ian Bell, Elite was the first 3D game and eeked every last ounce of performance from 8 bit processors and 32 KB of RAM, even less once the OS had taken its share. There were tricks such as making all the objects in the universe concave, which significantly reduced several calculations in techniques such as hidden line removal and despite being largely only in monochrome, it was totally amazing for its day.

The successor to Elite, “Frontier”, never gained the same traction as the original Elite. In some ways it was too big and just wasn’t as immediate as the original Elite.

Returning to the original ethos of Elite, David Braben has launched a Kickstarter campaign for “Elite: Dangerous” to raise £1.25 million ($2 million) for the development of a new game in the canon, aiming for delivery in March 2014. Elite: Dangerous will be a multi-player game in a massive universe and initially the game will be for the PC, but other platforms will be looked at.

As usual, there are various funding levels, but £20 gets you a copy of the game plus the opportunity to reserve your commander’s name. But if you were looking to get lunch with David Braben at £5000, I’m afraid that all five slots have already been taken.

There’s additional reporting at the BBC.

 

Hiku on Kickstarter

Let’s say you’re a crack team at Palm who suddenly has nothing to do because HP decides to get out of the mobile device market. What do you do to follow up on the Treo, the Centro, WebOS and the TouchPad? You create Hiku, a pebble-sized gadget that “turns everyday grocery shopping into something modern, magical and fun” and fund it via Kickstarter.

What is Hiku? Basically, it’s a barcode scanner with built-in wifi that’s intended to send your shopping list to your mobile phone so that when you are in store, you can get everything that you need. And if you don’t have a box or tin handy to scan, you can talk to Hiku and tell it what you want.

Hiku Scanning

Hiku

Out of the box, it’s going to support iOS with Android coming along soon after launch. There’s also integration with Evernote and Remember the Milk. Check out some of the videos on Kickstarter or YouTube – they show what the Hiku can do and it is really cool. More advanced features include checking prices on the Net and showing where a product can be bought cheaply.

One of the cleverest things is how you program your wifi settings onto the Hiku. It uses Electric Imp‘s BlinkUp technology which uses light pulses to transmit information and the light pulses are generated by your smartphone. Amazing – there’s a video of the prototype working on YouTube.

I’m backing this project partly to support the ex-Palm guys, but mainly because it’s such a clever kitchen gadget. The Kickstarter funding round closes in about 2 days and they need another $24k-odd to hit the $80,000 target. $99 gets you on the list for a Hiku so if you are thinking of ordering one, get your pledge in now.

 

Kickstarter Team GB

Kickstarter LogoUs Brits are pretty good at inventing stuff. Telephone and TV; radar and jet engine; antibiotics and vaccination; pneumatic tyres and hovercraft; these are all great British inventions or discoveries. And don’t forget that new-fangled worldwide web thingy from Sir Tim Berners-Lee. We might be a nation of shopkeepers but we’re also a nation of cracking inventors.

Consequently, I’m delighted to see that Kickstarter is now allowing for UK-based projects, which if nothing else, will save on the typical $20 postage across the Atlantic. From today, proposers will be able to start putting together their Kickstarter projects for launch on 31 October (not October 31).

Intelligently, there won’t be separate UK Kickstarter site: all Kickstarter projects will appear together so brilliant ideas can be funded from across the world – you’ll just have to pay in pounds sterling rather than US dollars. I doubt this will reverse our trade deficit but every little bit helps.

The only obvious difference at this stage seems to be that payments won’t be made through Amazon but an unspecified “third party payments processor”.

I’m very much looking forwards to funding some truly British Kickstarter projects and I’ll keep GNC posted as I do.

(For pedants everywhere, I know that UK and GB are not synonymous but I really can’t be bothered explaining the difference to Johnny Foreigner every time.)

Kickstarter Accountability – Part II

Kickstarter Logo Following on from my post last week about the role of patron at Kickstarter, NPR has run a piece called, “When A Kickstarter Campaign Fails, Does Anyone Get The Money Back?” This appears to have nudged Kickstarter into responding with a blog post, “Accountability on Kickstarter.”

I suggest that you read or listen to NPR’s show before reading Kickstarter’s reply but one of the key statements Kickstarter makes on this matter is below.

Is a creator legally obligated to fulfill the promises of their project?

Yes. Kickstarter’s Terms of Use require creators to fulfill all rewards of their project or refund any backer whose reward they do not or cannot fulfill. (This is what creators see before they launch.) We crafted these terms to create a legal requirement for creators to follow through on their projects, and to give backers a recourse if they don’t. We hope that backers will consider using this provision only in cases where they feel that a creator has not made a good faith effort to complete the project and fulfill.

That’s great, but does it change anything in reality? Are you really going to take out legal action to recover $100? I  think not. Kickstarter even points out that it feels that legal action is only appropriate if the creator has failed to make a good faith effort.

Consequently, I don’t think this changes anything. Kickstarter is still a great site, but go in with your eyes open as to the possible outcomes, especially the one where you lose all your cash.

Note that UK folk may have some protection if they paid for a failed project using a credit card under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 as it appears to cover purchases outside of the UK too. I am not a lawyer, etc.

You are a Patron at Kickstarter

Kickstarter LogoI like Kickstarter. It’s a world full of promise, where great ideas vie for money. I’ve pledged for a handful of projects, most of which met their funding targets and of those, all delivered on their promises. A few of the products weren’t as I expected but who hasn’t bought something that they later regretted?

For sure, it’s not always million dollar projects at Kickstarter. Plenty of projects fail to meet their targets and many of them rightly so. I’m not going to name names, but you don’t need to look very hard for projects that have no merit whatsoever (IMHO). Conversely, there are many worthwhile projects  that don’t make the cut too.

But what of those projects that do get funded but don’t deliver on their promises? Fortunately, there haven’t been too many of them and while Kickstarter distances itself from the projects themselves, it encourages project owners to return the funding if the project gets into difficulties. But there are no guarantees…if the money is gone, it’s gone.

In a consumer and customer-oriented world, an older world perhaps more accurately describes our role. Patron.

From Oxford Dictionaries, definition of a patron:
1. a person who gives financial or other support to a person, organization, or cause: a celebrated patron of the arts

The definition makes no mention of reward or goods and it’s easier to comprehend with the more artistic projects on Kickstarter given the historical context of the term. Regardless, it applies equally well to the technological ones in that there might be a hope of a product at the end of the project but there is no certainty.

Don’t get me wrong – I like Kickstarter and will continue to support projects there. However people need to understand the risks. At the moment, Kickstarter occupies a useful unregulated niche but I fear that a few high-profile failures losing millions of dollars will draw it to the attention of the authorities and regulation. I sincerely hope that day won’t come, but until then, remember you are patron at Kickstarter.