Kickstarter is famous for being one of the most popular crowd-funding websites. In the past three years, a large number of independent developers have used the platform to present their ideas. The result? Some pretty cool technological inventions and projects that have reached their funding targets. New ventures are uploaded every day, so rather than trying to keep an up-to-date ‘best of’ list we thought it would be interesting to take a look at trending subjects. What do successful ideas have in common? Which ones stand out? Here are the four areas of development in the Kickstarter technology category that currently seem especially popular with both developers and backers.
Many, many 3D printer projects can be found on Kickstarter, most of which seem to aim for lower costs and greater precision: basically, a consumer product with professional quality. Two stand out, because they offer something more. FORM 1 is simply outstanding from an aesthetic point of view. It’s the only 3D printer that you’d want to proudly put on your desk, even if you didn’t ever plan on using it. It’s absolutely stunning – oh, and it also prints with amazing quality! EasyMaker, on the other hand, looks just like most other 3D printers. The difference is that it isn’t just a 3D printer: it’s a robot that makes stuff, using a combination of milling and additive manufacturing methods.
Another popular subject is the accessible electronics kit Arduino. It’s an open source microcontroller that can be connected to your laptop and programmed for any kind of interactive technology project: it is perfectly suitable for adaptations and additions. The Tiny Duino project aims to make Arduino parts even smaller, Minion and RadioBlock add simple radio functionalities, and chipKIT provides portable battery shields that can be stacked on top of Arduino-like modules to give them more power. While these could all be useful for experienced Arduino users, The Robotics Learning Laboratory is the only project that aims to make interactive technology simpler for robotics novices by offering them a cheap kit containing all the most commonly used hardware parts.
For those who are not interested in building their own robots, several smartphone docks projects provide suitable gadgets. The Helios telepresence robot aims to create greater interaction and personal connectivity by adding movement to video chat, controlled by the user at the other end of the call. Public Lab DIY and LabStrip turn your phone into a chemistry lab. But the project that really got everyone talking was Shimi. Even before reaching its funding goal, a prototype had already impressed many at the Google I/O conference. Shimi is not just a speaker dock, but an intelligent robot. It dances, recognizes you, and even interprets talking and clapping to come up with an appropriate selection of music. Extra functions can also be added through Facebook apps.
Ah, yes! And then there are the projects dedicated to music. No dancing robots this time, but instruments and applications that make creating music more intuitive. Maestro Touch, for example, is a free iPad app that aims to make it easier to compose music. It has a specially designed interface that can create chords and harmonies, without them being specific to musical instruments: the focus is not on learning to play music, but on composition. The app is already available, but its developers are looking to fund additional features, such as drum loops, a wider range of instruments, sound effects, file sharing, and availability on other mobile platforms. Another project, the ScuffN, wants to deliver an “augmented musical reality.” It looks like an instrument, but is actually a small electronic device that lets you use your arms and hands, or your feet, head – anything that moves – to make music. Motion sensors detect gestures like conducting, or playing air guitar, or drums, and activate pre-loaded audio samples, simultaneously combining sounds.
Plans like the ScruffN are very simple: produce 300 copies, release them in to the world and see what happens when other people use their creativity. It is a good model for releasing anything through Kickstarter – throw your idea out there and see the results. It’s clear that a lot is going on, indeed
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