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.

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Fat Cheeks: The Cannonball on Kickstarter

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Fat Cheeks: The Cannonball on Kickstarter

Apr 9, 2014

Spring time has officially arrived; at least that is what people keep telling me, and what better way to ring in the new season then by spotlighting a game that features an anthropomorphic squirrel collecting nuts while flying through the air. The title is more than fitting as the protagonist, Fat Cheeks, is literally launched from a cannon and soars through the landscape dodging foliage and mountains; all the while actively fighting off legions of furry enemies. At first glance Fat Cheeks: the Cannonball looks like a classic Flappy Bird copy, but that is a shallow assessment. Looking deeper and there are enough differences here to dissuade real complaints and the addition of the ability to attack enemies adds a much needed new gameplay element to what is ultimately a stale and overworn genera. Sure, the core fundamentals stay the same, tap to rise and avoid all obstacles, but Fat Cheeks seems to do this with aplomb and “falls with style” better than similar efforts.

Ryan Gallini, the creator of this game, has done an incredible job hand painting the graphics and creating a game that visually stands heads and shoulders above its competition. The animals are appropriately adorable and the three different level designs are unique and compelling. These various levels host different enemies with their own various attacks and strategies. By varying up the gameplay, Ryan has created a game that could potentially harbor more replay value than just simply attempting to best a high score.

At time of writing the KickStarter campaign is still more than $5,000 short of being successfully funded, but with 25 days to go this seems easily achievable. All it takes is one dollar to earn a free copy of the game when it debuts on Android, iOS, and online at their website and the Chrome Store. To be honest I initially passed over this effort as just another clone, but after taking a look further I found that there are undeniable redeeming qualities that warrant a trip to the Fat Cheeks: The Cannonball KickStarter page for a small contribution.

Crowdfunding Spotlight: LineShark

Crowdfunding Spotlight: LineShark

Apr 2, 2014

With all these cheap knock off games and exploitative “freemium” apps sometimes the most useful and innovative apps can get lost in the noise. Looking across the app stores for both Android and iOS there are incredible apps that can be visually breathtaking as well as something that replicates the job of larger, more cumbersome analog machinery. Specifically looking into the music genera there are plenty of effects apps and recording software that, on one tiny tablet, can replace thousands of dollars and hundreds of pounds of foot pedals and even entire computers. The problem has always been interfacing that Fender to a tablet or smartphone, as there are not too many 1/4″ ports on tablets these days.

This is, as always, where this week’s Crowdfunding Spotlight comes in. Meet the LineShrark; a compact and powerful audio converter that allows virtually any electric instrument to be wired both into and out of any existing smartphone or tablet. The LineShark can be put into two different modes: recording and effects, and also comes with an adjustable gain meter on the top of the device. The first of these two modes splits the signal from the instrument and sends one signal to a smartphone or tablet for recording purposes with the other half going to the amp for performing. The latter delivers the input signal directly to the smart-device where, via an app, the sound has filters or effects applied to it and the output is then routed out of the device, through the LineShark, and into the amp. This is all incredibly exciting for live performers who now can leave those bulky, unintuitive effects pedals at home and instead load up their favorite app and have access to all the effects they need at the tip of their fingers.

The line shark has 21 days remaining, at the time of writing this, and is amazingly still $52,000 short of their $60,000 goal. So please be sure to check out their page and consider supporting this great project.

Crowdfunding Spotlight: SNAP!

Crowdfunding Spotlight: SNAP!

Mar 26, 2014

I think everyone would agree that smartphone can be the most amazing and the most frustrating pieces of technology. Great for train rides, and yet not so suitable for bike rides. Sure, there are mounts for bikes, cars, tables, strollers, and almost every other applications, but these are all very specific products that are rarely inexpensive and might not always fit all devices perfectly. One of the problems with this is that there is no case or accessory that has some sort of standard coupling mechanism. By employing this the costs of all these mounts would be dramatically decreased because the worry of securing the phone would effectively be solved.

But where would such a device come from? Why, KickStarter of course. Welcome the SNAP!, a universal mounting system that is putting its chips on the logic that a strong ecosystem is the recipe to long term success. Of course a solid product is still essential and that is exactly what SNAP! delivers. The female connector can adhere to any device via a super strong 3M adhesive and all the other components can easily just snap into place. These accessories can be as large and creative as camera stands and car mounts or as simple as a money clip or headphone wrap.

The creators of SNAP! have made clear that community input will be vital into deciding which securing accessories are made first, and because effectively only the base of the mount is being produced these should be cheaper than competing products who have to also include the cost of the phone case. I can really see this project taking off and becoming something that could potentially in a few years become an industry standard. The project is being lead by three extraordinary inventors and developers who have plenty of industry experience and are more than capable of guiding this project to the promised land of tech accessories.

In conclusion, please give their KickStarter page a visit, because more-so than just being a worthy project, SNAP! is a product that could really change the way we use our smart devices.

Threes! App Review!

Threes! App Review!

Mar 20, 2014

So what makes a great, addicting mobile puzzle game? Firstly, touch specific controls that are intuitive and responsive. Second, fresh, innovative game that seems both familiar and new at the same time. Finally, a game needs to look good and have some personality. Fortunately for all puzzle fans Threes! passes all of these tests and had me even pausing my binge watch of Breaking Bad because it’s so addictive. The best part of Threes! is how easy it is to pick up the basics but how hard it is to master. The game is very deep and strategically adding specific pairs is imperative.

The gameplay is snappy and responsive, and the entire game is bubbling with personality with the squares making comments or yawning when a turn takes too long. The game plays like a combination of Unblock Me and Tetris. Adding pairs by shifting the entire board allows for a constantly shifting playing field and with the addition of a new piece each turn the game ends when the board becomes too clogged to continue.

Most games come to a point where the realization that a terrible mistake has been made and it just fuels the drive to play one more game. The artistic direction of the app is spot on and very fresh. The swipe controls permeate the entire experience, and the helpful opening tutorial seamlessly leads into the first game almost without the user knowing. Some may find that the music becomes annoying after a while, and that may be a valid complaint, but if that is the worst thing that can be said about Threes! I am sure anyone will live with that.

The game does cost $1.99, but the forced lack of ads is actually very refreshing and Threes! definitely takes the crown as my new favorite game. Its personality, addictive gameplay, and dead-on touch controls make this one of the best games of the year.

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Dungeon Bash on Kickstarter

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Dungeon Bash on Kickstarter

Mar 19, 2014

After a few weeks over at IndieGoGo, AndroidRundown’s Crowdfunding Spotlight returns to its roots to spotlight an interesting new Kickstarter project called Dungeon Bash. As its name implies Dungeon Bash is an RPG dungeon crawler that aims to tweak the familiar formula by switching it up upon every play through. Steven Mathers is the developer who has created this game, and Dungeon Bash is his way of attempting to breathe new life into a beloved genera that is generally forgotten on mobile devices. Every time a new game loads up the player is assigned two random companions that can range from a wolf and troll to a slime monster and a mage. Only by working together as a team; as opposed to one strong leader with useful companions, will this trio make it out successfully.

As stated above, a big emphasis of the game is placed on working in unity with the two other assigned companions, and since this is all random each game can take on a different shape and force the player to progress slightly differently with each play through. Looking at the video on Steven’s Kickstarter page the game does not look like very much, but that is to be expected as there is nobody in charge of art direction at the moment. This is what the campaign aims to fund, and the entire coding half of the game has already been completed and tested. This is basically a finished game just in need of a fresh coat of paint.

While I am personally not a big dungeon crawler fan, I can certainly respect the genre and being a fan of games in general the simplicity of this game is sure to appeal to a very wide audience and not just those who grew up with Diablo etched into their hard drives. As it stands at the time of writing, Dungeon Bash is currently about 13% of the way to their goal with about 23 days remaining. This has to be a fairly promising start as there is still plenty of time to go. So consider giving what’s possible and help add the finishing touches to a fundamentally great game.

Crowdfunding Spotlight: IBOX

Crowdfunding Spotlight: IBOX

Mar 12, 2014

Given their rather simple construction and it is still a developing market, single board computers are a popular item on crowdfunding websites these days. Single board computers are devices such as the Apple TV, Raspberry Pi, or, technically, even the Chromecast. Unfortunately, many of these projects are simply underpowered, cheap money grab attempts, and there are very few innovative ideas; which is partly responsible for the small number of established names in this field.

This week’s Crowdfunding Spotlight shines on an established idea with a creative twist. Enter the IBOX, a single board computer that is powerful, stylish, and comes with a 32-pin multi-function expansion interface. That last item might not seem like a big deal, but for the more tech savvy this is something that is incredibly useful. With the help of a breadboard and some minor soldering now this tiny micro-PC can display all sorts of laboratory instruments or other technology accessories.

The IBOX is comparable with many Arduino cores which add to it’s versatility, and the possibilities of it’s use are endless. It is also a legitimate desktop entertainment box with the included HDMI out and the IndieGoGo webpage has links to different operating systems depending on it’s use. There are two kinds of Android listed as well as a lightweight version of Linux. On the front of the box is an IR sensor which will make the box compatible with remotes, and the SD expansion slot ensures that the movies will never stop coming.

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In terms of being a straight up computer, the specs may seem slight, but the dual-core processor and 1GB RAM will be enough to power the lightweight Linux through single-application processes. This is especially useful for possibly an educational setting where just a few small apps are being used, and for the basement tinkerer the IBOX has the possibility of becoming a vital, cheap tool.

Speaking of the cost the IBOX was debuting with products shipped at donations as low as $50, but that has climbed up to $70 with what I would guess as a final retail price somewhere below $100. This puts it more expensive than it’s closest rival, the Raspberry Pi, but it is close enough where it’s aesthetic and performance advantages could be enough to persuade potential buyers.

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Enfojer on IndieGogo

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Enfojer on IndieGogo

Feb 26, 2014

This week’s Crowdfunding Spotlight focuses on a project that, honestly, blew my mind. I have always been interested in film photography, and I recently started collecting old cameras, and something that has always eluded me about digital is the lack of that hands on, tactile nature of film. A design group from Croatia has created a way to develop real, black and white analog photographs from the snapshots saved on smartphones. Seeing as mobile camera technology has advanced so rapidly in recent years it really has become a viable way to take above average photographs, and what could be better than being able to go into a darkroom and make prints of those high quality photographs. What Enfojer is, essentially, is a stand that, when combined with the free app, turns most smartphones into an automatic exposure machine. Also included are trays, tongs, film, and a red darkroom light; everything needed to develop homemade prints save for the chemicals which are easy enough to find. The phone sits in the top of the stand and at the literal snap of fingers the screen turns off allowing for safe placing of the film. With another snap the screen turns on displaying the photo which is magnified via a lens to fill the size of the film and a timer configures the perfect exposure amount. When the screen again goes dark it is time to begin the three washes which are automatically timed as well.

The app gives full control over exposure settings while still offering assistance when needed. As someone who has spent time in a development lab, the addition of timing the ensuing steps is an much appreciated step that easily could have been overlooked. The entire package, including 100 pieces of Ilford quality photographic paper, was given for a $200 donation, and I can see that price rising, but not by much, and even then it would still be a tremendous deal considering all that is included.

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The bad news here is that this project was not successfully funded on IndieGoGo, but money has come into the project and they have stormed ahead nevertheless. Parts have been injection molded and final designs have been going out after initial delays due to some structure reinforcing due to a lens change. Their website is up and running, and with an email address one can leave an email to be notified when the final product will be ready for pre-ordering.

I hope that everyone who reads this goes and shows their support for this incredibly ambitious product, because this is the kind of project that is made possible only through crowdfunding. This is a product that will inspire creativity, and for those with younger children, introduce a whole new generation to the fading art of film photography.

CrowdFunding Spotlight: Atlas on IndieGogo

CrowdFunding Spotlight: Atlas on IndieGogo

Feb 19, 2014

It is no secret that the whole technology industry feels that wearable tech and fitness tracking tech are certain to become the next big thing. Giants such as Apple and Google have notably thrown their collective hats into the ring with Google Glass and the iPhone’s new M7 motion coprocessor. The problem with fitness trackers, as this weeks KickStarter Crowdfunded Spotlight quickly points out, is that they are essentially glorified pedometers; crudely equating vertical movement with movement and a work rate.

Allow me to introduce Atlas: the first fitness tracker that actually tracks your workouts. The innovative aspect of Atlas is that it tracks movement in three directions and accurately relates that movement with a set of programmed exercises. By paying attention to heart rate as well as movement, the matte black watch is acutely aware of the amount of effort going into each rep. This means that cheating on reps is now a little bit harder than before. Their IndieGoGo page claims that the included sensor is so accurate it can tell the difference between regular and triangle pushups, squats from deadlifts, and dual-bicep curls from alternating bicep curls.

This is honestly one of the most impressive crowdfunding projects in recent memory and above all I have to say that I find the entire yellow text on flat black to be very cool. The generously sized display is divided into two sections, one containing one large number that can be set as reps, heart rate, or elapsed time, and the other containing the remaining two stacked vertically. At the very top is a bar that lists the current exercise to ensure that what is being logged is accurate.

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The Atlas delivers a gold mine of information for fitness tracking apps, and it has announced compatibility with popular apps as well as an incredibly impressive in-house app that displays metrics such as stability, average heart rate, and workout intensity in addition to tracking workouts and suggesting different exercises to work underutilized muscles or rest overworked joints.

I have to say the total package of Atlas is incredibly impressive, which is probably why it has almost quadrupled its initial goal of $125,000 with still 17 days to go. As can be expected the Atlas watch is not particularly cheap, but $169 for a pre-order still feels like a great deal. So, I am sold. Spread the word; the fitness revolution is upon us!