Tag Archives: kickstarter

Reduce Travel Stress with GoBag BackPack



Domestic and short-haul travel has become a two-edged sword. On the one hand, budget carriers have made getting away from it all much cheaper, but on the other hand, poorly managed security processes, strict luggage allowances and jobsworths have made it tiresome and stressful. I once had an argument with the a security operator as to whether a transparent bag printed with a retailers logo in the middle counted as “clear”. It wasn’t a great start to the holiday. Anyway….

Spotting a niche in the market for carry-on luggage that meets the needs of the traveller, security and the airlines, James Fyfe launched the GoBag on Kickstarter back in 2015 eventually reaching 663% funded with almost 2,500 backers. The special feature of the GoBag is a vacuum-pack compartment that can be stuffed with clothes and then vacumed to suck most of the air out. This dramatically reduces the volume of clothing and is incredibly useful in maximising space. If a vacuum’s not available at the other end, sitting on the bag nearly works as well. Regardless, it’s great for short-breaks.

The Scottish GoBag team are back with an updated GoBag BackPack, a second iteration of the original idea, and looking to repeat the first’s success on Kickstarter. It’s already blown through its target of GB£10,000 and is past £30,000 in a couple of days.

The Backpack has nine features for stress-free travel.

  1. It’s perfect for carry-on at 35 x 55 x 20 cm.
  2. It’s got the vacuum-compression system.
  3. It’s got loads of zips. Makes it easier to find stuff.
  4. It’s got a transparent waterproof wash bag. No leaks and no whining from security Herberts.
  5. It’s got a top pocket for easy-to-get at stuff along with a soft pocket for sunglasses and mobiles phones.
  6. It’s got a secret pocket for important documents (seriously, don’t put your passport and tickets in there –  someone might steal the whole bag!)
  7. It’s got a backpack harness that hides away so it doesn’t snag when it’s not needed.
  8. It’s got a laptop pocket. Duh!
  9. It’s got two bottle pockets. Stay hydrated folks.

There are still a few “Early Bird” offers – get in quick for GB£125 / US$163. If you miss that, it’s £125 / $179.

As always with crowd-funding, don’t spend what you can’t afford to lose, but as GoBag are on to their second campaign after a successful first, there’s a good chance they’ll deliver.


Keep Prying Eyes Away with the InvizBox 2



Perhaps I’m just old and suspicious, but I’m increasingly concerned about the personal information that I give away to companies like Google and Facebook for their services. I’ve had enough of being the product. As for the information gathered surreptitiously by third parties, such as ISPs and government agencies, I’ve had enough of snooping and I don’t accept that if I’ve nothing to fear, I’ve nothing to hide. It’s simply none of their business.

Consequently, I’m working on a couple of strategies to mitigate my exposure, including some fake personas for simple things like compulsory registrations. While I’m not a social media superstar, I’m present on most social media platforms and it’ll take time to balance out the public and private. Fortunately in the UK, it’s not illegal to take a new identity unless the intention is criminal (so I’m told).

On a more practical side, I’ve already signed up for protonmail.com to secure my email correspondence and I’m going to move away from the big name providers in a gradual process. The other area of interest is VPNs and for those who aren’t in the know, a VPN is a Virtual Private Network. It hides your activity from the owner or maintainer of any local network connection – think of it as an opaque pipe within a transparent tube – so it’s good for protecting against both nosy ISPs wanting to sell your browsing history, and defending against nefarious activity on public wifi hotspots.

I’ve been tinkering with some of the software-based VPNs both for both mobile and home use as my ISP provided-modem/router doesn’t have any VPN capability. Software solutions are fine if you have one or two devices, but when you’ve umpteen tablets and laptops in the house, it’s a pain.

An alternative is a dedicated VPN hardware solution and this Kickstarter campaign from InvizBox caught my eye. Simply, the InvizBox 2 is a wireless access point that connects to your home router, and then encrypts all the traffic over a VPN (or the Tor network). There’s no need for individual configuration as everything that connects to the access point benefits from the VPN. Your local ISP is then completely unable to track your activities and sell them on. Even better, the ISP can’t throttle your traffic based on type of use, or use of competing services.

Obviously these are benefits enjoyed by all VPNs, but as a neat hardware package, the InvizBox 2 looks attractive. Other features on the InvizBox 2 include ad blocking and parental controls. The latter is useful as the VPN will bypass any controls implemented on your router or by your ISP, so you might need to defend against inquisitive teens. You can get round geo-blocking too – that’s where you can’t see some content because you are visiting from the wrong country. As with most VPNs, a regular subscription is required (allow around US$5 / €5 per month) but there are some deals there too.

The standard InvizBox 2 is currently at €109 and the Pro is €149 if you get in quick, both with a year of VPN service. Other deals are available and delivery is expected in April next year. The team has already hit their goal of €50,000 and there’s still a week to go, so the project is going to be funded. As background, the InvizBox team are based in Dublin, Ireland and have a track record of delivery from previous Kickstarters, so there’s a good level of confidence. However, as with all Kickstarter campaigns, consider yourself a patron rather than a customer until the product is in your hands.

I might actually plonk down some cash for this….


Audeara Headphones Adapt To You



It doesn’t look like this project needs the publicity given they’ve blown through their AU$100,000 target on Kickstarter but the Audeara headphones have a fairly unique selling point: they give you a hearing test and then adjust sounds levels across the frequency range to compensate for your personal physiology and hearing loss. That’s clever.

Designed by a team of doctors and engineers, the A-01 headphones carry out a simple hearing test the first time they are used via a mobile app. The results are recorded in the headphones themselves and is used to modify the sound signal before it is played in the ear, and each ear can be different too. Once the headphones are programmed, there’s no need for the app and the profile is used whatever the sound source.

Everyone has some degree of hearing loss. Obviously it tends to be worse in older people, but some suffer damage through their occupation or attending too many loud music concerts! The Auderea headphones can compensate for any loss, making the sound better, not simply louder, and they also incorporate active noise-cancellation for noisy environments. As everyone is different, everyone hears differently and every profile is different, but the A-01 headphones gets the sound as close as possible to the original.

For those concerned about hearing loss, the test results are stored in the app as an audiogram. By retesting hearing on a regular basis and looking for changes between the results, early indications of hearing impairment can be spotted and a medical assessment arranged.

It certainly sounds interesting and there are more details over on Kickstarter along with some early bird offers if you get in quick. Deliveries are expected in July 2017 but as with all things Kickstarter, exercise caution. Current offers are around AU$299 which is about U$230 or GB£185.


Ding Smart Doorbell Hits Kickstarter



Ding LogoEarlier in the year I interviewed Avril at The Gadget Show as part of the British Inventors’ Project. She was showing off Ding, a prototype smart doorbell, and I’m pleased to say that Ding is now live on Kickstarter. Way to go!

Ding ButtonDing comes in three parts, the Ding Button, the Ding Chime and the Ding app (for iOS and Android). Much like any doorbell, pressing the Ding Button rings the Ding Chime via DECT, and if home, the owner can open the door to the visitor.

But unlike most doorbells, the Ding Chime in turn communicates via wifi to the Ding app, allowing the homeowner to then chat with the caller at the door, whether simply out in the garden or miles away at work

I like Ding because it’s beautifully designed and looks great. I like Ding because it takes a problem and extends it just enough to solve the problem. There’s no video camera requiring bandwidth or online remote controlled lock, so it’s relatively inexpensive, works with ADSL and security isn’t a big concern. If someone steals the Button, all they have is half a doorbell.
Ding Chime

Launched today, Ding can be backed at a couple of price points, starting at GB£92 for a charcoal Ding, rising to GB£106 for a teal, salmon or cobalt one. Delivery is expected in August 2017 with delivery worldwide.

There’s plenty of info on the Ding Kickstarter page and even more at Ding Products, including some very cool clocks.

Good luck, DIng!

 


Bold Euro Cylinder Smart Lock on Kickstarter



Bold LogoSmart locks have been gradually appearing on the US market over the past few years, with the Kevo Kwikset being one of the more popular. Over on the European side of the pond, it’s taken a little longer for smart locks to appear but they’re beginning to come onto the market from both established vendors and start-ups. Locks in UK and mainland Europe use different styles and standards from the USA so it’s not simply a case of rebranding an existing product.

Yale announced their entry into the market earlier in the year and you might have listened to my interview with them at this year’s Gadget Show Live. While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, some of the early smart locks have left a great deal to be desired aesthetically, with boxy designs  and limited colour choices. Black anyone?

Fortunately, there are some smart locks beginning to appear that work with European doors, match the door furniture and look good. Case in point, the Bold smart cylinder lock which has just launched on Kickstarter. It’s a plug-in replacement for doors that use the Euro profile cylinder lock, comes in four different colours and looks like a door knob.

Bold Smart Cylinder Lock

The Bold uses Bluetooth technology so it unlocks based mainly on proximity of a smartphone or key fob using the Bold app. One of the big benefits of pure wireless (no keypad) is that all the electronics can be on the inside of the door, safe from both the elements and criminals. There’s no remote unlock feature so you can’t unlock the door from the comfort of your desk to let a neighbour in but you can invite or authorise them to use their own smartphone to unlock the door. There’s benefits of both approaches and you’ll have to think through your use cases to decide what’s best for you. A keyfob (say, for children) is available for extra cost.

Bold Key Fob

The Bold seems to keep it simple from a hardware point of view too. The Bold isn’t motorised so it doesn’t actually unlock the door itself, though it engages the handle with the mechanism so that the door can be unlocked (or locked) by turning the handle. The benefit of this is a much longer battery life (three years) and lower cost for the lock while eliminating the need for often troublesome moving parts.

The team appear to have given some thought to security, working with specialists Ubiqu and their qKey to provide a secure system. Can’t say that I’m qualified to comment further but it does provide some reassurance that the Bold team aren’t making it up as they go along. To see the Bold in action, check the video on the Kickstarter page.

If this interests you, the lowest price point currently available is €149. Just remember with all things Kickstarter, there’s a risk to your money so don’t spend what you can’t afford. You might also want to check the dimensions on your door to check that the Bold doesn’t foul existing door handles.

Personally I’ve mixed feelings about smart locks. While I know that most door locks can be defeated by the determined criminal, I’m still confident that once I close my front door behind me and turn the key, that door is going to stay locked. With smart locks, there’s still that kind of nagging feeling that it might automagically unlock itself…and of course a mechnical lock is still going to be working in ten, twenty, thirty years’ time. Still, I’m tempted…..


Before Ive, There Was Rams



Braun LogoAsked to name an industrial designer, most Apple lovers will come up with Sir Jonathan “Jony” Ive, designer of iconic products such as the iMac, iPod, iPhone and iPad. Go back a few decades, and it was Braun and Dieter Rams that were synonymous with industrial design. From coffee makers and toothbrushes to calculators and radios, there’s a good chance that you’ve seen or used one of his designs.

Braun CalculatorRarely seen in the public eye, there’s a fantastic opportunity to learn more about this great designer, famous for his “Ten Principles for Good Design“. Film director, Gary Hustwit, is recording a feature-length documentary about Dieter Rams which is currently looking for funding on Kickstarter. The director has previously produced Helvectica, a documentary about typography and Objectified which looks at the relationship between objects and the designers behind them..

The project has already reached its target of US$200,000 with another two weeks to go. There’s some cool rewards (including your own private screening with the director at $5,000) but a $15 digital download is more reasonable.

To underline Dieter Ram‘s significance, there’s a trail that goes from mid-century modern straight through his work to today’s designs from Apple and Ikea. If you want to understand the consumer products you buy now, this is a must-see documentary….though you’ll have to wait until 2017.


Never Get Caught In a Downpour Again with Oombrella



Oombrella LogoI live on California’s Central Coast. We’re in the midst of the rainy season here and weather patterns are often unpredictable, with overcast days that could produce a downpour at any moment. It’s tough to know when it’d be a good idea to bring an umbrella or leave it behind. Fortunately, the makers of Oombrella are working to change that.

Scott met up with Clement Guilot of Oombrella. Clement showed off the Oombrella chip, a small device that monitors the weather around you and also pulls in weather data from other sources to give you the most accurate meteorological predictions possible. Oombrella sends notifications to your smartphone to let you know if you should bring your umbrella or leave it at home. Oombrella also uses Bluetooth to notify if you accidentally leave it behind. So, you’ll never lose another umbrella! The product is still in the planning phase but Clement is optimistic it’ll be in users’ hands by Fall of this year. Oombrella should retail for around $85 but backers to an upcoming Kickstarter campaign will be able to get the device at a discount for $65.

Scott Ertz is a software developer and video producer at F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.

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Aurai Helps Fight Eye Fatigue at CES



Aurai LogoEye strain and eye fatigue are real problems faced by most modern people. All day long, we’re staring at computer screens, tablets, smartphones, and other displays that can be stressful to our eyes. And while we have a number of options available for treating fatigued muscles and joints, there aren’t a lot of choices when it comes to treating eye problems. Aurai is a new “eye massager” that is hoping to change that.

Eric Chu of Taiwanese manufacturer In Trust Technologies stopped by the booth to meet with Daniel and Todd. Eric came armed with a working prototype Aurai. Todd was volunteered to test out the device. Todd compared the Aurai experience to a massage chair but with much lower pressure. He said the sensation of the Aurai is cool and that he could feel it “walking back and forth” over his eyes. Aurai consists of two parts: A silicon mask that’s placed over the eyes and an external controller. Aurai’s massaging action is created with water and its temperature is controlled by a smart-chip enhanced thermal-electric cooler. In Trust Technologies will be launching a Kickstarter campaign soon to further development of its Aurai massager. The company is hoping to offer an early bird special of $119 to its Kickstarter backers. When the product goes full retail, it’s expected to sell for $239. You can register to be notified when the Kickstarter campaign goes live if you’re interested in purchasing an Aurai eye massager.

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Dragon’s Lair: The Movie is on Kickstarter



Dragons LairDo you remember the Dragon’s Lair video game? It was a unique type of game that attracted a lot of attention back in the day. The game debuted as a LaserDisc format game which was something like an interactive movie. The graphics were vastly different, and better, than every other video game in the arcade.

I can’t tell you how many quarters I spent trying keep Dirk the Daring alive for as long as possible. Truth be told, I was absolutely terrible at the game. What kept me coming back to it was the animation and the desire to learn how the story ended.

The original creators of Dragon’s Lair, Don Bluth and Gary Oldman, have a Kickstarter going right now. The goal is to raise enough money to create “Dragon’s Lair: The Movie”.

They need to raise $550,000. At the time I am writing this blog, the Kickstarter has 28 days to go. There is a whole bunch of interesting rewards for backers that pledge specific amounts of money. Some rewards include: digital downloads, Blu-rays, DVD’s, original signed books and artwork, signed posters, t-shirts, and more.

I have mixed feelings about the potential production of “Dragon’s Lair: The Movie”. On the one hand, it would be awesome to see the entire adventure of Dirk the Daring in a movie format. That’s a huge improvement over gathering around an arcade game and catching bits and pieces of the story (based on how good the current player happened to be). I’ve never seen anyone complete the game – so it would be nice to finally get to the ending in the movie.

On the other hand, I’ve always found Princess Daphne to be problematic. Back in the day, it was difficult enough to be the only girl in the arcade. Everything about Princess Daphne, from her barely dressed glitter covered attire, to her bubble-headed voice, made me uncomfortable. It was as though the game had a “Boys Only” sign slapped on the front of it. Why couldn’t they have given Princess Daphne a princess gown to wear?

The game Dragon’s Lair was released in 1983. Decades later, the game still has plenty of fans and lots of nostalgia attached to it. I’ve no doubt that the adventure of Dirk the Daring would be interesting to watch in a movie format, and I am inclined to go see this movie (if it gets made). At the same time, I don’t think Princess Daphne will be very well received today, in a world where 52% of video game players are women.


Aberford Combines Zombies and 1950’s Housewives



Aberford on KickstarterAberford is a video game that is currently on Kickstarter. At the time I am writing this blog, it has 26 days to go. Aberford takes place in the 1950’s and all of the player characters are female.

The game was created by Sketchy Panda Games. Aberford is described as a graphic adventure game with brawler-style combat. Personally, I like video games give players a lot of zombies to fight against. It’s awesome that all of the player characters are female. I can’t think of any other video game like that.

Almost all of the player characters are post-WII suburban housewives who live in the town of Aberford. (One character is a teenager, and another is unmarried). So, what we have in this game is a wealth of diverse female characters who are ready and willing to fight and kill zombies.

The player characters you see in the video are Peggy and Betty. Peggy is a professional girl’s-baseball-player-turned-unhappy-housewife. Betty is a former Army nurse who is “the master of everything a 50’s housewife should be”. Other characters, who are not shown in the video, include Doris, who worked as a riveter and lost her job after the war ended. Sylvia is a former scientist (and mother of two children).

Sketchy Panda Games also has some expansion characters These characters play important roles in the main story and are playable in freeplay/multiplayer mode. Some of the stretch goals for the Kickstarter involve the creation of full side campaigns for the expansion characters.

There are four expansion characters. Norma is the manager of Ms. Butler’s Boarding House for Girls and Young Women. She fought in WWII before transitioning and is taking experimental anti-androgen. Mary is a third-generation Japanese-American who spent her teenage years in a wartime internment camp. Mary is not married.

Sixteen-year-old Patricia is a cheerleader and the daughter of Doris. Alejandra, who speaks very little English, fell in love with a Mormon missionary in Mexico and married him after she completed her degree in mathematics. This couple has just moved in to Aberford.