Crowdfunding Spotlight: Coffin Dodgers

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Coffin Dodgers

Jul 25, 2014

This week’s Crowdfunding Spotlight is a memorable game that takes an incredibly morbid topic, namely death, and turns it into something adorable and exciting. Coffin Dodgers; by popular studio Milky Tea, is a kart-style racing game that contains the usual thrills of dashing to the finish line while evading traps and launching projectiles at opponents, but there is an interesting added twist; geriatrics. That is right, all the riders are old enough to remember Eisenhower and they are going as fast as their heavily modified mobility scooters will allow them to. The hint or morbidity comes from the fact that, in addition to racing amongst themselves, they are also trying to outrun Death who also happens to enjoy a good go-kart race on the weekends.

Luckily, the depressing presence of Death is overcome by the amazing joy and vibrance of the surrounding world. The game is based on one giant map of the small retirement community in which these elderly characters reside, and the town has great detail and contrasts well with the dark comedic tone of the game. Just like the town the character models are enjoyable and are filled with emotions that betray their supposed old age. The developers say the art style borrows heavily from the Pixar movie Up and this is immediately apparent as Coffin Dodgers has essentially a perfectly identical vibe.

The game is also animated beautifully and it is apparent the amount of work that went into all the animations, and the map seems to fly by with no sense of lag or deterioration. All the weapons seem appropriate, with projectiles being things such and bowling balls and medicine, and Death has his own arsenal of tricks like tombstone walls. As with most games nowadays Coffin Dodgers features a progressive means to level up a characters kart with better power, shields, and even, apparently, giant racks of missiles.

The only downer of the entire project is the lack of funding so far. This game looks great, and is sure to become a popular title, but at the moment it’s KickStarter campaign has only has raised a touch over £2,000 with a goal of £65,000. There are still eight days to go, and I implore anyone reading this page to check out Coffin Dodgers and consider bringing this incredibly well designed game to the masses, because after all, who doesn’t enjoy cheating Death?

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Puracoat

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Puracoat

Jul 21, 2014

It is no secret how fragile the glass screens of our smart devices can be. I have a busted EVO 4G sitting in the back of my desk drawer and a cracked iPad on my bedside table at the moment. As screens get larger they inherently become easier to crack, and with the increasing beauty of the displays it seems like such a waste to cover them with the traditional sticky plastic cover. I have a personal hatred for these things for a number of reason, but the air bubbles and their corner’s refusal to stay down are at the top of the list.

Luckily for all of us a small startup, Puracoat, has modified liquid glass coating for high rise apartments and converted it to be cost effective enough to market and work on smartphone screens. Simply apply a few sprays of Puracoat onto a smartphone screen and wipe thin. Then buff out the imperfections and voila, a semi-permanent hard cover that is nearly impervious to scratching, impacts, and even water. That last part is a hidden benefit to the Puracoat, as it can be used to make any surface water resistant, and because of the perfectly clear nature of the liquid it can be applied to any surface for those looking for a good way to attempt to waterproof their smartphone.

I remain slightly skeptical about this product, but I would still be willing to give it a shot if it meant that my $500 phone’s screen is empirically more resistant to breaking and catastrophic damage. The application of the product is the only thing that worries me, because the IndieGoGo page is very sparse on details. They simply show an actor spraying on the product, wiping it off, and then polishing it flat. I find it hard to believe that it is that easy, but I trust that during the drying process it is fairly easy to get a perfectly flat coat on the screen.

Each bottle can coat up to four smartphones, and the screen needs a new layer of Puracoat every three to six months depending on wear and use. The project started with an oddly low goal of $500, and has since surpassed that, earning nearly 100 times that mark. Pre-orders start at just $18 so I would take this opportunity to get what could be the product that finally kills those awful stick on screen protectors forever.

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Swich

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Swich

Jul 9, 2014

This week’s Crowdfunding Spotlight shines brightly on what might end up being the best looking product we have ever featured. For those who spend a majority of their day at a desk wires really become somewhat of an unexplainable annoyance. For the more refined taste, an elegant, serene work space is the pinnacle of productivity. Now more than ever work is done via smartphones and it is very important to have them at our beck and call. This leads to wires and inelegant solutions such as vertical docks that limit the ability to handle the phone when necessary. Slovenian designers Lutman Design have taken the traditional phone cradle, removed the wires and reclined the phone towards a more natural position. The device is called Swich and I am truly smitten.

The first part is really the Swich’s biggest selling point. Using inductive charging standard, Qi, Swich will charge any appropriately enabled device; which at this point is simply the Nokia Lumia and Nexus 5, or any device with a Qi receiver. The aftermarket receiver is what most consumers will opt for, and for $10 Lutman will provide iPhone users with a special charging case of their very own. Even though the field at the moment is limited, the Swich is banking on the reasonably safe bet that wireless charging is the way of the future and some day soon smartphones will come without the ubiquitous micro-USB ports. This technology is built into the stand and is underneath a layer of micro-suction material to ensure no slippage.
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What is possibly even more impressive than the wireless charging or micro-suction surface is just how elegant this device looks. The either white or black ceramic base and surface are joined by a delightfully arched piece of stained American dark walnut. The inclusion of high quality wood between two matte piece of ceramic make the Swich truly a modern work of art, and no designer would think twice about putting this device in their office. I am glad to see that it is also not as overpriced as I feared; a standard Swich can be had for around a $140 donation. Unsurprisingly, this project has already been funded but there are still 20 days to go, and with speakers, different colors, and even multiple designs promised through stretch goals there is no reason not to jump on this project right now. For those looking for something both convenient and beautiful to charge their phone at home or work look no further than Swich.

Crowdfunding Spotlight: SoSecure

Crowdfunding Spotlight: SoSecure

Jul 2, 2014

Everyone wants their data to be secure, and to go along with that security there is also the demand for portability and the ability for it to be constantly backed up. This is a hard task for hard drive manufacturers to deliver on, but with the rise of quality solid state hard drives there has been an advent of devices that aim to create that elusive perfect mobile drive. One of those drives is the project that was created by British developer SoSecure, and its accompanying KickStarter project is our focus in this week’s Crowdfunding Spotlight.

SoSecure aims to revolutionize the portable hard drive industry by delivering a SSD that interfaces with any smartphone to extend the security capabilities beyond a simple password or file encryption. The app that connects to the hard drive over Bluetooth allows for a bevy of options including immediate locking of the hard drive, setting an inactive time before locking, proximity alerts, and of course information on all the available metrics on the drive like date of last backup or battery percentage remaining. The date of backup is important because in conjunction with keeping data secure the SoSecure drive also has a docking station that contains an identical SSD, and this drive, along with charging the device, automatically backs up the main drive to the copy.

Basically the SoSecure drive is the perfect hard drive. Extensive security for those with a lot to hide, including a destroy drive button that restores the drive to clean factory settings. There are more security measures for the extra paranoid including a number pad that randomizes the tile layout to thwart wandering eyes, and a motion detection mechanism that will alert the owner every time the drive is moved. Pair this with the proximity sensor that sends an alert when Bluetooth connection is lost because of distance, and there is essentially no way that any unauthorized person is getting the data off this device.

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To make the pot even sweeter, the SoSecure drive comes in a plethora of designs including real oak, bushed aluminum, and carbon fibre. Unfortunately, with such upside there was that one large elephant lurking around the room and that is the price of the device. For just one hard drive, without the Zero-Touch Backup dock, it is $315 for the 64 GB version and $398 for 128GB. Add on another $45 to both those prices for that carbon fibre finish. The dual-brushed aluminum Zero-Touch Backup drives will run a cool $874 for 64GB and $1,003 for 128GB. It is worth noting that the backup drive is 2TB however so this option is slightly more feasible.

I am definitely out the running for this device, but I am sure there are those out there, especially in a professional capacity, where data reliability and security are paramount. For these people the SoSecure drive looks like a godsend, but there are some 64GB single drives available for around a $300 donation. For those looking for a no-holds-barred security solution to their data look no further, the SoSecure is certainly poised to become a revolutionary product.

Crowdfunding Spotlight: ODIN

Crowdfunding Spotlight: ODIN

Jun 26, 2014

Having a projector is a great luxury, but due to their large size and weight they are not exactly the easiest things to transport. Throw in some fragile bulbs and an expensive projector is not exactly something to throw in the back of a car for a weekend. There are a handful of portable projectors, but they are usually very limited in their capabilities and their picture quality can be generously deemed less than impressive. Plus, taking them somewhere also means bringing a laptop to plug into and for some that is also slightly inconveinent.

What if there was a way to cut out the middlemachine, and just load our media directly onto the projector? What if that same projector also had standard wireless capabilities as a modern smartphone? Finally, what if that same projector was further able to fit inside a rear pocket? Well, I am glad to announce that such a product does exist, and it looks as good in practice as it does on paper. This week, our Crowdfunding Spotlight shines on the ODIN; an Android smart projector that is essentially unlike anything I have ever seen before.

ODIN has a quad-core processor running Android KitKat as well as 16 GB of internal storage. Add in WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity and this essentially becomes a smartphone capable of projecting a 250″ display in a dark room. Further adding to the functionality are two USB ports and an HDMI port for connecting laptops and consoles. The included Android allows for steaming content from most any source to ensure that never again will there be a moment where Pretty in Pink cannot be displayed proudly for all to see.

For those who are less visually inclined and would just like to dance the night away; ODIN can do that as well. In addition to the typical full projector mode, there is a second Bluetooth speaker setting that shuts down the Android brain and projector and just uses the bluetooth and dual speakers to stream music from any Bluetooth phone.

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The one thing that gives me pause about this project is the fact that the battery does seem to be lacking, regardless of the fact that the act of running a projector is incredibly power intensive. It is only slated to provide two hours of performance, and even with an included power supply and replacement battery it does seem a bit short. To put it a different way; about two-thirds of the way through the first Lord of the Rings movie ODIN would be completely gassed and would need to have a fresh battery inserted.

ODIN has just under two weeks left and it still needs about $56,000 in funding. I find this project to be quite impressive, and assuming the actual performance is similar to what they show in their KickStarter video there is no reason that ODIN will not be an incredibly successful product some day.

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Hat Cat

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Hat Cat

Jun 20, 2014

With the popularity of Portal and its sequels it is a wonder that there are not more mobile games that are based around this physics warping premise. I have seen a few in development for the PC, but these games offer the ability to bring something truly mind-bending and fresh to the puzzle genera. This week we are shining the Crowdfunding Spotlight on a small game called Hat Cat that attempts to remove the silly ovally confines and gives you an entire resizable box to work with.

Instead of a gun and putting the two portals wherever one pleases, Hat Cat allows the user, with a simple drag of the finger, to place a square on the 2-D screen around the character. When the admirably hatted cat walks into a side of this box it appears on the opposite side inside the box. Essentially once the box is up the cat cannot leave, but one the user removes it the cat is free to roam. What sets it apart is that all four sides of the box can be used, which makes solving more vertical oriented puzzles quite the challenge.

Speaking of those puzzles the difficulty curve in this game is very gradual, but that is not to be confused with easy. The levels become quite diabolical, and force the player to use both axises simultaneously while also balancing the same conservation of momentum laws that govern the Portal series. There is a demo available for the PC and more than anything it illustrates how well this game will transition to the world of touch screens. Simple drag and drop controls are perfect for a game that does not necessarily try to appeal to a hardcore audience.

Hat Cat does not set it’s aim very high, with its target fund only set at $500 to cover the App Store and Google Play fees, and with donations set to $1 and $5 rewards only they certainly are trying to keep expectations tempered. This also means that for just $5 and donor can get their name in the “Special Thanks” screen of the app, which is definitely a pretty cool reward. So, please check out Hat Cat, and help make what has ultimately been a three year dream for a handful of young developers become a mobile success.

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Tall Tails Puzzle Adventure

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Tall Tails Puzzle Adventure

Jun 11, 2014

It has been a while since we have featured a crowdfunded game here on the Spotlight, and this week I have a project that is both deserving and in dire need of backing. The Kickstarter campaign, aptly coined Tall Tails Puzzle Adventure, is a game that revolves around the one thing that everyone on this planet can agree on, and that is cute puppies. These adorable little pups make for perfect mobile gaming fodder, and Tall Tails does not waste the opportunity delivering unexpectedly precious looking cartoon animals within tight, colorful gameplay.

Tall Tails is more that just looks, though, and with the promise of puzzles so hard that your mind will literally break it certainly has a lot to live up to. The details of the puzzles are a little vague, but the core elements revolve around guiding a persistent little pup from one edge of the map to an end tile while using as little “ink” as possible. The game has said to deliver an experience that blends “Flow Free with Happy Birds.” At the moment I am having trouble wrapping my head around that statement, but it certainly sounds ambitious, and who am I to knock them for that.

Overall the art direction of the game looks incredibly strong; everything appears to be well thought out and the bright colors really make the game pop off the screen. This is before looking at the dogs, who, predictably, are almost obnoxiously cute and will surely have teenage girls giggling for hours. A connection to these pups is created by having the player choose one animal at the start of the game who persists through every puzzle. As with similar games there are incentives for finishing levels more efficiently and these coins can be cashed in towards the purchase of clothing and accessories for the player’s dog. This may seem cheesy and overplayed, but these little things are what help similar apps become just that extra bit more addicting, and besides if just one more hour of gameplay is what it takes to dress that dog in an adorable sun hat then it might be worth it.

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Alas, this game is still far away from being funded with only half of its ambitious $150,000 goal being backed. There is still a week remaining, however, and new developer Zuul Labs is certainly hoping for a big push at the end of this campaign to help make their puppy fueled dream something that can be enjoyed by pre-teens and puzzle solvers alike.

Crowdfunding Spotlight: XS Powercard

Crowdfunding Spotlight: XS Powercard

Jun 4, 2014

Mobile batteries for smartphones are an easy target for people looking to gain financial backing via popular crowdfunding sites because they are easy to assemble and there is certainly a market of people who want longer battery life for their smart devices. Generally, I try and steer clear of these projects because I am looking to focus more on innovative and creative endeavors, but every now and again something comes along that surprises me and breathes some new life into a stagnant product field. Most products are simply small batteries that will fit in a pocket or a purse and that is essentially where their functionality ends. With all that said, this week’s Crowdfunding Spotlight shines on XS Powercard solely because it broke out of the doldrums to deliver some new features that we have not seen before in these kinds of batteries.

Firstly, XS Powercard has all of the necessary wires built into its slender body which is obviously very important for ease of use and overall longevity. Secondly, embedded into the device is a tiny USB flash drive that is no bigger than the USB dongle for a wireless mouse. The thinking here is that, in addition to providing power, the XS Powercard can use its micro-USB or Thunderbolt connection to transfer data to a medium that is traditionally unavailable to smartphones. This flash drive will be available in the typical 8, 16, and 32 GB capacities. Finally, the third feature I like about the XS Powercard is that it is slim enough to fit inside of a wallet. This is imperative in a world where the only things that are carried around on a regular basis are keys, phone, and wallet; aka. The Holy Trinity. By combining this product with one of those three the developers are dramatically reducing the burden on the consumer; making it more convenient to carry an additional item with them wherever they go.

Again taking advantage of the USB connectivity, the XS Powercard can act as a straight USB connector to any computer, and when charging it always charges the phone first before charging the 2200 mAh battery. This truly makes the XS Powercard the ultimate smartphone accessory because it means that, not only does it remove the need to carry a USB cable, but now a personal flash drive will always be available whenever it is needed. This project is currently about $20,000 short of its planned funding, and with three full weeks remaining it is fairly safe to say this project will be funded. This means that there are not many more spots to get a discounted set of XS Powercards, with several tiers already sold out. The XS Powercard is a deserving project that really tries hard to stand heads and shoulders above other devices in its market.

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Dimple.IO on IndieGoGo

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Dimple.IO on IndieGoGo

May 30, 2014

Technology is fickle in the way that certain features quickly fall out of style only to be missed just a few years later. Phones have gone from big to small and back to the phablet monstrosities we have today. Phones have been losing non-essential buttons for years and have left us with only an I/O button, volume controls, and a home button if we are lucky. With this push for buttonless phones there has been a small feeling that maybe a few dedicated buttons would not be a bad idea, especially because of the recent obsession in speed and workflow optimization.

Giving users the most unobtrusive means to add a few physical buttons is this week’s Crowdfunding Spotlight project Dimple.IO. Using NFC, which is quickly becoming a common feature in new smartphones, the Dimple.IO sticks to the back of any phone or case and instantly provides two or four physical buttons that can be assigned to nearly any desired function. Because of this the device can be placed anywhere without affecting performance making it incredibly convenient. As with most recent projects the accompanying app has an ultra-modern dual-chromatic style and an open SDK. What’s more the Dimple.IO extends functionality beyond just a simple click. For example, a button can be programmed to bring up a grid of different commands which allows for more than just a simple 1:1 relationship, and there is also integrated Tasker support for automation. Their IndieGoGo page states that the Dimple.IO v2 will come out at the end of this year with gaming compatibility.

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Obviously, because of the use of NFC this product will only be available for a limited section of the smartphone market that consists of mostly fairly recent phones and unfortunately does not include the HTC One M7 & M8. But as this technology becomes more invasive and widely used there is no doubt that there will be a plethora of devices that take advantage of NFC’s benefits. As with most crowdfunding projects there still is room to be cautious; we still don’t know much about how well it adheres to the device and at the moment it will not work until the phone is unlocked. That said, a stretch goal phone-specific case with imbedded buttons looks very tantalizing and may well end up being more popular than the actual individual product. Because the Dimple.IO has already been fully funded this is what I am most excited about and is much more exciting than the other stretch goals of additional colors. The cases will be for Galaxy devices as well as bringing support for the HTC One M7 & M8.

So please give Dimple.IO a look on their IndieGoGo page and consider helping these innovative entrepreneurs realize their more ambitious visions and not just their current project.

Crowdfunding Spotlight: SmartWood

Crowdfunding Spotlight: SmartWood

May 28, 2014

Everyone likes building with their hands; the tactile feeling of cutting and joining two pieces of wood is something that is an innate experience as human beings. Now instead of a nice bedside table or cutting block wouldn’t it be nice to have a fully functioning RC car that communicates with virtually any smartphone? The technology is more than out there to be able to do this, and it is something that avid hobbyists have been doing for years. The problem is that even though it may seem simple enough from the surface it is a task that pulls from a lot of disciplines, computer science, electrical and mechanical engineering, and, of course, the ability to build a car from wood.

Fortunately, for the rest of us mortals the duo of Elad an Gili have created SmartWood which is essentially like a wooden K’Nex set. Simply labeling it as that, however, is selling the project short as it is much more complex than merely snapping a few pieces together and letting it go. Experience with hardware is a requirement as there are varying levels of gluing and screwing depending on which one of three designs is assembled, and for some SmartWood could make a great father/son bonding project.

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Did I forget to mention that by the end of this there is a fully functioning RC car? Yeah, that is pretty awesome. This is done by means of an Arduino which connects with the SmartWood app via Bluetooth and gives the user full control of the vehicle right from their phone. This might not be complex, or exceedingly hands-on, but the ability to have a working Arduino powered motor assembly that natively works with a smartphone opens the doors for those who are looking to create more complex bodies and take this whole concept to the next level. So if one ever becomes bored with the standard tank, dragster, and truck offerings they are more than welcome to let their creativity shine with the assurance that they will have a reliable way of locomotion.

There is still 45 days to go and SmartWood is already nearly 20% funded so it is safe to say that it is not in desperate need of funding, but the stretch goals are fairly attractive and nothing is ever fully assured. Also, the rewards start at $39 for the control unit and $59 for the tank, or crawler. These seem reasonable and the quantities are limited so be sure to get in on the action before they are all sold out.

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Shindig for Android

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Shindig for Android

May 21, 2014

Let’s be honest, going out and ordering drinks with friends can be a stressful endeavor for those unfamiliar with craft beers or those who cannot tell a 1996 Cabernet from a 2013 Merlot. Fortunately, smartphones have recently made this an easier experience with apps such as Shindig and Untappd. Android owners, however, have not had access to the former, but that is about to change; a recent KickStarter project has just been successfully funded that has allowed the developer of Shindig to bring its successful app to the Android side of the fence.

The iOS version of the app was given an “Editor’s Choice” rating by our sister website 148apps.com, and has found a devoted following that is constantly updating the drink database which is not just limited to mixed drinks but also includes craft beers and wines. No longer will Android users be blankly staring at the wine list before a big meal, and ordering a craft beer at that new bar down the street will be less of a shot in the dark.

Shindig keeps it simple. Instead of filling out a long list of criteria for each drink the user simply has to snap a picture and tag the drink from the aforementioned database. This is such a benefit because nobody wants to spend 5 minutes on their phones typing detail after detail while out at a bar with friends. Of course there are other details to add if there is time, such as location and a note, but these are strictly optional. And again, because all the information is crowdsourced there will always be up to date information on any brew or wine out there. Also, have a hankering for a really good Tom Collins? Just enter it into Shindig and it will displays all the bars in the area that serve that specific drink which is perfect for travelers or those just looking to explore and find new establishments in a familiar city.

As I stated earlier this project was just successfully funded, but there are still two days to go and every extra bit still helps and there are plenty of donation incentives to reward those who pledge and there definitely are plenty of reasons to support these developers. Part of the reason I like this project is the commitment to not just create a port of the existing iOS app. iOS and Android have differing design philosophies so just copying the style over from one platform to the other neglects the subtle differences that helps to create a seamless phone experience.

Crowdfunding Spotlight: ALYT

Crowdfunding Spotlight: ALYT

Apr 23, 2014

Even though sometimes these things seem impractical it is good to highlight those projects that are actively pushing the envelope and creating the foundation for the future in technology. This week I believe we have just that project in ALYT; a project that could be the dominating iPod-esque frontrunner 20 years from now or a necessary unsuccessful attempt that piqued interest but left room to be improved. We’re always hoping that these projects are successful of course and ALYT is bringing some serious innovation to a burgeoning field of tech that is beginning to show signs of cash grab mimicry.

The technology is Z-Wave and it is a standard that allows appliances and security systems to interact and create the futuristic, mythical smart-home. The technology is quite impressive and seems to has the benefit to watching the missteps of previous wireless standards such as wifi and Bluetooth. There have been a lot of developers hoping to gain an early foothold on this market which has lead to a lot of helpful products that unfortunately have not been very creative. Most of these are just simple modules that work with an existing security system, and there has not been much of an effort to make a device that ties all these devices together. This is what the ALYT aims to do. The ALYT‘s goal is to be the central hub of the house; the device that manages not just the security system but the lights, thermostat, and even the shopping list from a connected refrigerator. All these plans are possible because unlike a lot of other devices the ALYT has 512 MB of RAM which allows it to smoothly run its Android software and manage all the scheduling and security measures that accompany a fully operational smart-home.

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Now this is obviously a piece of technology that is still a handful of years away from breaking into the average family’s ranch, but the ALYT seems like a very solid piece of hardware with some smart software and a very impressive looking app for both Android and iOS. It goes without saying, but as with everything now this is fully compatible with most smartphones, but what is interesting is that the ALYT comes with a 3.5G cellular connection and a battery backup in case of a power outage. It’s these little things that make me think that this little device can really embed itself into the middle of this emerging field, and it is definitely worth a look at its IndieGoGo page.