Crowdfunding Spotlight: UBIK UNO Smartphone Hits 75% Mark, Adds Stretch Goal

Crowdfunding Spotlight: UBIK UNO Smartphone Hits 75% Mark, Adds Stretch Goal

Aug 10, 2015

One of the cool things about having a mostly open-sourced OS that can be used across manufacturers is that one can see it legitimately appropriated on varying hardware.

Which leads to one of my hobbies: raiding Kickstarter for Android-powered smartphone projects. I am a huge fan of crowdfunding — it is the ultimate ode to responsible consumerism — and seeing it manifested in new mobile technology pieces is somewhat gratifying.

UBIK hit the wires a short while ago with an Android project to adore: an unlocked smartphone named UNO. Interestingly, UNO has already hit the 75% funding mark; specifically, it has raised more than $150,000 of its $200,000 goal via more than 500 backers, which is especially impressive considering the fact that it still has more than three weeks of funding time left.

It’s not too hard to see why the upcoming device is garnering the support of tech enthusiasts willing to put their cash where their mouths are. It’s Kickstarter website also doubles as a portal with which the company keeps a pulse on fan sentiment. One result of this feedback led the company to reduce the price point of the device from $345 to $298.

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UBIK is also using incentives (like including a free case with a pledge for the UNO for sharing the campaign on social media), and has added a stretch goal that bundles a free tempered glass screen protector if 150% funding mark is reached.

So, what does the UNO bring to the table? Of course, one gets our favorite mobile OS, specifically stock 5.1 Lollipop, one piece no-bezel frame, 5.5 inch 1920 x 1080 Gorilla Glass display, an octa-core processor, 3GB of RAM, 16GB onboard memory (expandable to 64GB via microSD), 20MP main camera and other consumer-friendly trappings like NFC and Bluetooth. In other words, it doesn’t seem to be sacrificing the extras due to price.

This is one folks will really want to keep an eye on.

We know we will.

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Comet, an Android Phone that Floats

Crowdfunding Spotlight: Comet, an Android Phone that Floats

May 20, 2015

For folks like us that spend way too much time on Kickstarter, Indiegogo and the like, this should be interesting: we hear that we’ll soon be seeing Comet, an Android device that comes with water resistance and buoyancy as part of its core functionality set. It incorporates fins that pop out when the device hits water.

It’ll have Android Lollipop and will sport two 16 MP cameras (one each on front and back), a screen with a resolution of 1440 x 2560 and a 2.5GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor with 4GB RAM.

It’ll come in two flavors: 16 GB and 32 GB.

Beyond that, the device also adds some features new to Android. According to the press release, the device will also pack a border of Turquoise LED lights that light up when a user receives a call or message, pre-installed messenger for communication, app-enabled ability to measure body temperature and gauge mood, and a quantum lock that utilizes 256-bit AES to encrypt voice communications.

The Comet is expected to cost between $300 – $375, and will be available on AT&T, Verizon and Sprint.

CometCore Chief Prashanth Raj Urs mentions reflecting users personalities and being able to take one’s device everywhere.“We developed Comet to be a phone that people could truly take anywhere,” he says. “We also wanted Comet to really reflect its users’ personalities, so we made it as customizable as possible- Comet is functionable, but it’s also a really fun phone to use.”

We admit it: we are intrigued. The hardware seems to be compelling enough, and the the buoyancy is more than a simple cherry on top. The advertised ability to use it on three of the major networks is definitely a plus. Other specifics (connectivity, expandable storage, etc) will help define the device if included.

Comet should be landing on Kickstarter soon, and we can’t wait to see how it does.

[Source: CometCore Press Release]

KickStarter Spotlight: Ginkgo Solar Tree

KickStarter Spotlight: Ginkgo Solar Tree

Sep 11, 2013

One of the biggest trends within KickStarter over the years has been the number of projects that have a focus on sustainability and green technology. With most companies cutting corners by using mass produced, and typically environmentally unfriendly, materials it comes as no surprised that these small, ambitious startups are focused on a bigger picture. This week’s Spotlight focuses in on one such project that aims to address the ongoing power consumption of mobile phones and their affect on our planet. Modeled to resemble the leaves of the famous ginkgo tree the appropriately named Ginkgo Solar Tree sees solar power charging as a small step toward fossil fuel independence. Containing an internal battery that charges during the day this attractive piece of tech ensures that a free and clean source of power is always available. I personally find the Ginkgo Solar Tree to be one of the best looking KickStarter Spotlights we have ever done, with it’s adjustable solar panel leaves and it’s bamboo stem.

As I mentioned in the opening, The Ginkgo Solar Tree is made from sustainable materials including bamboo and the high tech, environmentally friendly material reSound. On the reSound stand is a ledge to display charging devices and five LED’s that show both percentage of charge and if the large panels are supplying power to the battery. Speaking of those panels, they are laid flat on the top of three large ginkgo-leaf shaped platters. This wide surface area allows for a maximum absorption of solar energy, and the fact that they swivel on top of each other allow for easier shipping which further reduces the product’s carbon footprint.

One question about the Ginkgo Solar Tree is the capacity of the battery is only enough to give two full charges in one go, and because it takes a full 9-10 hours to completely recharge the lithium battery it seems to me that a rainy day or two could spell trouble for those hoping to become dependent on this device. Another concern is the price. The Ginkgo Solar Tree can be had for about £65 which comes out to about $100 stateside. The final proposed retail price is somewhere in the $150 range which will definitely be enough to scare consumers away. All in all though I am very impressed by the Ginkgo Solar Tree, and have all the confidence that it will find its target audience and become a successful product.

The Ubuntu Edge: Canonical’s Proposed Ubuntu Android Phone With a Lofty Crowdfunding Target. $32 Million Lofty.

The Ubuntu Edge: Canonical’s Proposed Ubuntu Android Phone With a Lofty Crowdfunding Target. $32 Million Lofty.

Jul 22, 2013

Ubuntu’s parent company Canonical has made a lot of rumblings over the past couple of years about Ubuntu for Android, their concept of a mobile OS that would be adaptable to mobile-friendly interfaces while functioning as a standard desktop OS when docked. While news has come out and even test builds have made their way on to Nexus devices, a concrete plan for Ubuntu for Android has not been realized until now. Canonical wants to launch the Ubuntu Edge phone, but needs more crowdfunded money than anyone else has ever gotten.

First, the phone: while it’s currently still a concept, the specs they’re targeting would make it the fastest phone on the market. 128 GB of storage, 4 GB of RAM, “the fastest multi-core CPU” all on a 4.5" 1280×720 display. Granted, this is all targeted for next year, but that’s not a bad set of planned specs. Not real yet, but planned. Interestingly, the phone is intended to launch with the ability to dual-boot Android as well as Ubuntu, which is quite possibly the best part of this. Have any issues with Ubuntu lacking apps? Well, good news, they’ll be on Android. Even just as a phone that could run Android when needed as a phone and work as a desktop when necessary, that’s not a bad combo.

Now for the sticker shock: the price? Planned to be about $830 for the unlocked version. Or $600 for those who back Canonical’s $32 million IndieGoGo project for the Ubuntu Edge on day one.

Yes, Canonical has decided to take the maxim “shoot for the moon; even if you miss you’ll be among the stars” to heart. This could conceivably be the biggest crowdfunding project of all time and it could still fall well short of its goal. Of course, the scale is massive. Hardware crowdfunding projects have done big business before: look at the Ouya and Pebble watch. Still, those were fractions of the price of the Ubuntu Edge. It’s a lofty goal, but pledges are coming in, with over $850,000 pledged as of writing. Despite being on IndieGoGo, which has more flexible funding options than Kickstarter, this is using the same “all-or-nothing” fixed funding model: if they don’t get at least $32 million, they get squat.

And right now, if they don’t fund the Ubuntu Edge, the plan for an Ubuntu phone is dead. Ubuntu for Android will still exist, as they’ll keep targeting release on other hardware, but their own flagship device won’t happen. The chances that they succeed with this project are slim, as getting people to part with $830 for a phone that has an estimated release date of May 2014 isn’t easy, and no one has ever come close to this sort of crowdfunding money, much less away from Kickstarter. But Canonical is an established enough company that it doesn’t seem impossible. Just highly unlikely.

KickStarter Spotlight: Sonte

KickStarter Spotlight: Sonte

Jun 5, 2013

Houses and apartments with floor to ceiling windows have a major problem with covering those windows for both privacy and convenience on sunny days. If that first sentence seems wholly unlike anything that should be on this blog; do not fret, this week’s KickStarter Spotlight is slightly mind blowing. Named Sonte, it has been garnering the highest of praises from all over the internet after its debut at CES 2013. In a nutshell, Sonte is a thin layer of transparent film that adheres to any glass surface, but apply a current and the film becomes opaque and provides UV protection. Because this is a property of the film, it is able to be cut down to any size as easy as cutting a piece of paper. Installation is as simple as cutting the film, peeling off the backing, adhering, and connecting the power supply. Sonte can come with WiFi connectivity which will allow it to be controlled by any smartphone or tablet.

I realize that most Android Rundown readers are not also interior decorator experts, but the possibilities of this project are pretty exciting. Imagine, for a moment, having a glass partition between two rooms, and, with a tap on a phone, be able to obscure that boundary instantly; halving the room and adding privacy or intimacy. Sonte would be great for those who want large windows in their bathroom as it can be clear during the mornings allowing the rising sunlight to illuminate the space, but for more private moments the window can immediately become opaque restoring that traditional sense of privacy.

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As I mentioned earlier, I am not the only one offering praise on this innovative and ambitious project, media outlets such as Entrepreneur, Engadget, and CEPro have all offered their adulation towards Sonte. The only aspect of this project that concerns me; besides the terrifying risk for bubbles in the film, is the price. Right now they are planning on pricing a 1m x 2m (3.28 ft x 6.56 ft) section with WiFi support at $480, but early supports can grab it for just $360. Over time, I am sure that price will go down, but $480 for a simple 1m x 2m section seems very steep, even though the film can be daisy chained with less expensive 1m x 1m sections so working with large windows will be less expensive per square meter.

So for anyone who is looking at doing a modern home redesign, or just for a quick way to renovate a boring room, I would highly suggest giving Sonte a look assuming the price is right. Personally, Sonte is going to the top of my wish list when it comes time to purchase my first home or apartment.

Kickstarter Spotlight: Dog Sled Saga

Kickstarter Spotlight: Dog Sled Saga

May 1, 2013

Chicago’s bubbling-under indie scene has seen some Kickstarter success, and the latest project to come up from the Windy City is Dan FitzGerald and Lisa Bromiel’s Dog Sled Saga. This is a cross-platform arcade dog-mushing game. Ever play that before? Well, they’re looking to raise funding for the game’s development via Kickstarter to make this idea a reality.

The core gameplay involves tossing food to the team of four dogs to keep them at their peak performance in order to do well in the mushing competitions that are entered. It’s a simple control scheme to use, just tap and hold to control the angle the food will be launched at, but doing this effectively at a continuous rate will be the challenge.

DogSledSaga_catching-w-lots-of-treesManaging one’s team plays a big part in the game, and randomized elements that could have a big effect on how well one does will come into play. Raising and succeeding with a mushing team and one’s dogs will be the ultimate goal: becoming the top dog-sledding team ain’t easy, but nothing good ever comes easy.

The game is coming to Android – I’ve played an early version running on the developer’s phone – and could come to consoles like the OUYA at some point in the future. iOS, Windows, and Mac will definitely see the game released as well.

While the game has already reached its base level of funding that will allow the developers to create the game, there’s a lot more in the works for those who wish to continue to support the game’s development and to see more advanced features. The dynamic music stretch goal has already been met. Time of day and weather effects will be added in at the $8,000 level. Wildlife activity in scenery will be added at $11,000. A new gameplay mode at $12,000. $20,000 will see one-on-one multiplayer tournaments added to the game. $25,000 will see cross-platform cloud saves added with MusherNet.

Dog Sled Saga‘s Kickstarter runs through May 25th.

KickStarter Spotlight: auris

KickStarter Spotlight: auris

Sep 12, 2012

It is truly a testament to the popularity of the iPod and iPhone that whole speaker bars were set up with Apple’s ubiquitious 30-pin connector as their central means of connectivity. With the rise of Android and the introduction of the new Lightning dock connector, these speakers and clocks are suddenly facing a swift extinction. But what if there was a way to not just recycle these expensive devices, but to improve on their functionality as well? As with most of the questions I ask in these blog posts, of course there is a way, and of course it comes from the neverending pool of ideas that is KickStarter.

The project is called auris, and its simplicty is only surpassed by its functionality. About the size of an iPod shuffle, auris has a 30-pin connector on the bottom and connects wirelessly to any Android or iOS device through Bluetooth. The auris plugs into any 30-pin connector dock and will wirelessly play any audio coming from the connected device. I mean any audio. One of the big selling points about auris is the abilty to stream any kind of audio directly to the device; delivering wirelesss, full room gaming sound. Another important feature is that now iOS devices that would usually be connected to the dock are free to be used for any purpose. Listen to that new Gaelic Storm album from an iPad over a powerful speaker while typing an iWork document at the same time.

For those who reguarally listen to their iPhones over a dock speaker, auris instantly grants a great deal of freedom as it allows the phone to finally be separated from the dock. Now moving into another room does not mean that calls and texts will be missed as the phone remains faithfully close all the time. For a limited time, the auris is on sale for a $24 donation at the KickStarter page and it will retail for just $40 after. So for those looking for a cheap way to go wireless and gain some freedom, invest in auris.

KickStarter Spotlight: InstaCube

KickStarter Spotlight: InstaCube

Aug 22, 2012

Instagram is everywhere. No matter how much I, as a photography buff, want to deride and ignore its presence; Instagram is not going anywhere. While I may not choose to accept it, Instagram is a great success and is an application that has taken off like wildfire, quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to share snapshots on both the iPhone and Android. Because of its quick and easy way to make photo effects that would normally take a lot of effort from a real photographer readily available to anyone, Instagram is set to replace the point-and-shoot camera market. The biggest feature of Instagram is its ability to instantly upload any photo to Facebook or Twitter; making sure that every friend is immediately up to date with today’s proceedings. The problem of static photo frames has already been addressed by LCD photo displays but these are clunky and hard to update which then really does not fix the issue of the old, unchanging photo frame. Fortunately for all the Instagrammers of the world, an innovative KickStarter project is well on its way to rid of the world of monotonous, dated photo frames.

The project is called InstaCube, and as it probably readily apparent from its name; it streams photos directly from any user’s Instagram account and displays them on a large 6.5″ LCD touchscreen. Display those photos from the park yesterday or randomly check in on some friends, because what good are those photos if they are stuck on a tiny phone screen all the time. Probably the greatest element o InstaCube is its ability to stay away from being one dimensional by including full access to Instagram. Doing this allows for photo browsing, ‘liking’ of photos, and InstaCube will even display live photos of sunrises and sunsets from around the world.

Every photo that is taken by an InstaCube user in immediately pushed directly to the photo frame back home which makes for a constant supply of fresh photos of the ones that are loved the most. For any Instagram user InstaCube almost seems like just another natural step in the evolution of social media and photo sharing. And for just under $100 special price on KickStarter; there is not a better time to get in on the action than now.

Kickstarter Spotlight: Botiful

Kickstarter Spotlight: Botiful

Aug 8, 2012

Note: Regular Kickstarter Spotlight author Joseph Bertolini is away this week, and editor Carter Dotson is taking his place. Joseph will be back next week.

The beauty of mobile data and smartphone/tablet devices has been the ability to connect people from completely different places by using more than just voice, providing video as well. Of course, there’s no real way to interact with the person on the other end. That’s what Botiful’s Kickstarter is aiming to do: it hopes to launch a remote-controlled robot for video chat.

Now, what Botiful claims to do is to connect with an Android phone over USB or Bluetooth, and allows the person on the other end of a Skype call to control the robot using their PC or Mac. It has wheels for moving forward and backward, and its head can tilt up and down to adjust the view. This is designed to allow the person on the other end to have a degree of interactivity with the person they’re talking to. The examples given include being able to play with a child, or being able to easily talk directly to specific people in a boardroom meeting. Of course, the downside is that while nobody puts baby in the corner, Botiful can be put in the corner.

What isn’t explained is how exactly it will work to be controlled by the phone. The Kickstarter page says it connects via Bluetooth, but will it use an app running in the background to control the Botiful’s motion? Or will it be able to detect commands via Skype alone? While Skype is certainly a conveinent way to integrate video, is there anything in particular with Skype that is needed for Botiful? There’s an SDK that will allow other applications to connect with Botiful, so there’s the potential for other applications to use this. Imagine an augmented reality game that used the Botiful to navigate around and target enemies, or explore an area?

Those worried about their phones staying on the Botiful will be assauged by the presence of a powerful magnet in the stand that can hold a small magnetic strip that can be attached to a phone (or preferably a case) and promises to keep it on the robot.

The Botiful Kickstarter has had over $68,000 pledged so far, and will end on August 22nd.

Kickstarter Spotlight: Proppa

Kickstarter Spotlight: Proppa

Mar 21, 2012

This week’s Kickstarter Spotlight focuses its attention onto a quirky little game from a college professor and a few ambitious students. The appropriately simple and phonetic name for this project is Proppa. The game revolves around helping a few wronged “Proppas” (surprise) in their quest to recapture their floating eggs. Seeing as this would not be a game without a challenge, standing in the way are legions of black, floating ghost snakes. The game is played in waves as more and more of these ghost snakes attack, some even taking the form of “dragon snakes” that seem to be the silhouette of an angler fish. The game takes place in three worlds so far, each with a different theme and with the hope of separate enemies in each world.

Initially the need for Kickstarter isn’t initially apparent as this project seems to be doing well enough on its own and has the backing of a university professor with years of experience working for established companies such as Midway. The problem is that most of the work is being done by students who are doing this as an unpaid internship, and there is no way for them to become paid because they are not actually working for a real company or startup. Their appeal to Kickstarter is not only for money to aid in development of the game but also to make this small club of people into a more legitimate company. Instead of offering these students a place where they can learn a trade for no pay and then search the market for a real paying job, this Kickstarter project, if funded, will allow this group to actually become these students’ first job right out of college. Instead of waiting to get their careers started, these students can start working right out of college in an environment they are already familiar with and begin earning valuable experience and a living.

So, I strongly encourage anyone to check out this Kickstarter project to help make Proppa and this project a reality both for these students and future game design students.

Kickstarter Spotlight: Island of Diamonds

Kickstarter Spotlight: Island of Diamonds

Feb 8, 2012

This week for our Kickstarter Spotlight we have a great game that is already in the final stages but just needs that final push across the finish line. Island of Diamonds is an indie game by first time programmers under the name Happymonitor Games Studio. It is very much akin to the immensely popular Super Monkey Ball franchise, and the main gameplay simply involves an user-controlled, spunky coconut named Seamus who is forced to navigate treacherous structures in his pursuit of diamonds. Based on early gameplay videos, Island of Diamonds looks visually striking and the slightly shell-shaded, fully 3-D environment fits well with the overall feel of the game. This level of quality is hardly seen from an initial launch for first time developers, but it is just another example of the great contribution that indie programmers make to the landscape of mobile gaming.

Seeing as Happymonitor Games Studio already has a working iOS version, they are not asking for much on Kickstarter, just enough to equip themselves with the minimum for a solid Android launch. The asking price is even more reasonable considering that, up until now, their entire endeavor has been self-funded which includes small but costly expenses such as buying software and hardware, registering licenses and good ol’ free time. A great feature in Kickstarter is overfunding, because a project never stops receiving funding even when the goal is reached, developers can provide overfunding goals. In the case of Island of Diamonds the developers promise a foray into multiply and global leaderboards as well as animated cutscenes for their coconut protagonist.

For those who use their phone as a portable gaming platform, I strongly endorse Island of Diamonds. Glancing through the screen shots and gameplay video, I am amazed with the level of quality here; both in the technically impressive graphics and rich, colorful levels. So take a look, and consider giving up that fatty lunch that would have been purchased today in order to help some deserving developers get the coconut rolling.