Crowdfunding Spotlight: Boss Monster: Dungeon

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Boss Monster: Dungeon

Aug 22, 2014

Boss Monster is a physical card game that was successfully funded on KickStarter, and has since gained a substantial following in the gaming community. The game is quite revolutionary and turns the traditional dungeon crawling genera on its head by putting the player into the role of the evil villain who is tasked with building as treacherous a dungeon as possible. These are then invaded by well-meaning adventurers at the end of each turn, and the winner is the player who has the last “Boss” standing.

While I have no personal experience with the game, it seems to be beloved by fans and because of its inventive premise it is something I could really see myself getting into. The crowdfunding project we are shining the spotlight on today is the attempt by the developer of Boss Monster, Brotherwise Games, to build a digital version for the iPad and Android tablets. Having spent considerable time with the Magic: The Gathering app for the iPad recently I understand how well these tabletop games can translate onto the large tablet screen.

It makes sense for Brotherwise Games to be creating this app at this moment, as the ubiquitous accessibility, as well as the spontaneous nature, of app stores can greatly increase their footprint and create a larger legion of Boss Monster fans. I will admit that I was not initially sold on the initial card game KickStarter, but with the addition of a cheaper and more convenient mobile app the odds of me investing in Boss Monster has definitely increased. Included in the game is the ability to battle against up to three AI opponents, and this feature is essential for a card game who’s main draw is head to head competition.

The first thing that struck me while perusing through the KickStarter page is how the app easily conveys the atmosphere of the retro dungeon crawlers it is based off of. The graphic design is spot on, and the audio, which is being recorded by a professional studio, is nearly indistinguishable from late-90s PC adventure games. As of the time of writing, Boss Monster is over halfway to their $85,000 goal; so please, considering supporting this innovative game and its incredible developers by visiting their project page and possibly earning some cool limited edition digital cards in the process.

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Sense

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Sense

Aug 8, 2014

As an American I feel that it seems that we are sometimes destined to not get enough sleep. We wake up early for work and then spend all day chugging coffee only to quickly try and fall asleep so we can start it all over again tomorrow. There are plenty of apps for smartphones that allow the user to keep a record of their sleeping habits, and I have tried a handful of them myself. One of the biggest problems with these is that the phone has to physically be on the bed with you, and because it is constantly recording data is should also be charging. Sometimes these two things are not very convenient, and it puts the impetus on the user to set everything up before going to bed which, from my personal experience, is the area where I tended to fall short the most.

Enter the Sense. A beautiful, spherical device that sits on the bedside table and analyzes sleep not just through motion, but through ambient light, sound, and temperature. The Sense knows the perfect environment for sleep and will display what factor was most likely responsible for a poor nights sleep. This will allow for corrections to be made which should improve sleep quality.

The Sense comes in three parts, there is the base station that houses the brains as well as almost all of the sensors in the system. The actual motion sensor comes in a clip that discretely attaches to the user’s pillow and constantly communicates to the base station during the evening. The final piece of the puzzle is the smartphone app that is almost a given now days, and this displays a myriad of information for consumption by the user to digest. Featured prominently is a number that is the score for that night’s sleep measured out of 100. The app looks great, and it truly seems to be a joy to use.

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My favorite feature is the smart alarm that times the user’s natural sleep cycles and knows the right time to sound the alarm. Simply put in a range of acceptable alarm times and the Sense will know, based on that night’s sleep pattern, when the sleeper is at their shallowest cycle; aka. when they will wake up easiest.

As always, the biggest selling point will be the price; will the Sense be cheap enough that somebody would justify splurging for it or getting it as a quick birthday or holiday gift? With the pre-order price set to $120 this is sitting right on that line. Maybe for a big Christmas gift or college graduation present, but the Sense is definitely not something most people would buy on the spur of the moment. All that aside, however, this is a great product and I can see it really taking off and becoming a massive hit in the tech community; especially those of us who work for a living.

Crowdfunding Spotlight: ThermaCharge

Crowdfunding Spotlight: ThermaCharge

Jul 30, 2014

Looking around the KickStarter universe and it becomes apparent that consumers want to charge their phones by any means necessary. There are chargers for wallets, paper towel racks, purses, and now thermoses. Thermoses? Yes, that metal double-walled container that holds the morning coffee now contains a 1,000 mAh lithium ion battery in the base that charges via the hot morning liquid. The device, the ThermaCharge, takes advantage of what is known as the Seebeck effect which creates power from of a difference in temperature between two surfaces.

Certainly sounds like one of the more outlandish projects we have covered here, and I would absolutely agree. But after thinking on it some more I can really see the times when this would be useful. Imagine going camping and being without power for a few days, but still wanting to be able to call a family member or keep in touch with civilization while out in the wilderness. Simply boil some water over the campfire and in a few minutes the ThermaCharge has enough juice to bring any standard phone up to 60% or 70% battery.

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For those who do not hear Nature’s call as loudly as most the internal battery can be charged via conventional means for a quick mid-day pep charge. The biggest thing for a project like this is the price. The ThermaChare is definitely not a product that is worth spending a lot of money considering most people take their morning coffee mug into the office with them and there is no shortage of USB ports there. I could see this being really successful as a camping or hiking product or even for students who do not bring a laptop with them to class.

Fortunately, the smallest ThermaCharge is being offered for only a $60 donation, and the largest runs for a cool $75. For those who are just looking for a cheap gift there is also a non-thermal-charging version that comes with an internal battery which more than doubles the capacity of the standard ThermaCharge at 2,200 mAh. But considering that, even if the ThermaCharge is never used for the containing of a beverage, it is still a $60 thermoelectric power source; which is not something to take lightly.

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.