profile of Chuck Kolyvas

5 Kickstarters that connect to your smartphone wirelessly

Physical things that connect wirelessly to your smartphone can make mundane chores such as walking, typing, looking and thinking, a thing of the past! Kickstarter is a veritable petri dish for such shit, peripherals designed to enhance your smartphone’s usefulness. Here are five such Kickstarter projects:

Instacube

If you’re an Instagram fanboi like me, you’ll be drawn to this ridiculous waste of human engineering and mineral resources. Instacube may seem like a glorified LCD picture frame, but it has some smarts built into it... smarts in the context of Instagram, that is.

Instacube will display your own live Insty feed—all of the low-fi, filter-laden bullshit that your followees put up constantly. Or, for a photo stream of things you find interesting, you can tell it to follow a particular hashtag, such as #sunrises, #architecture or #Lycra. The designers also give an example of giving Instacube as a gift so that your friend can see a stream of pics with your personal hastag. Naturally, that means dozens of selfies and pics of rather suggestive uses for incongruous fruit and vegetables.

Instacube is a 600 by 600 pixel display, showing your vintage-look images at full resolution. A cute touch is the heart button on top that instantly likes the image on-screen.

I’m a bit concerned that Instagram may change the resolution and/or format of images—the latter would probably the bigger problem—meaning that Instacube needs a firmware update or is possibly even useless.

Pledge success

$250,000 goal. $537,000 pledged so far. ‘Nuff said.

Did I fund it?

Yup—might not be the greatest tech investment, but it’s pretty cute and I’m going to be using it a hell of a lot.

Should you fund it?

3 days to go! If you’re an Instawhore like me and you have cash left over from all the fucking music festivals that are on in the next 6 months (seriously, who can afford to go to all of them?), then you need it. It’s pretty cute, ya dig?

SmartThings

Home automation isn’t a new concept. Nor is home automation via your smartphone. But it has never been an option for the regular punter; rather, customised home automation has been the domain of the well to do.

SmartThings aims to change all of that by allowing you to control pretty much anything in your house from a mobile app—from anywhere in the world. You can make toast for your loved ones whilst you’re shitfaced on a Contiki Tour in Crete. Almost any device, event or environmental change in your home can be monitored. It’s a bit HAL 9000, but without the self-awareness or awesome looks.

Actually, just on that—the SmartThings hub is butt ugly. It looks like a marine safety beacon. It looks like it should float or clean my pool. I don’t even have a pool! Fair enough they’ve steered clear of the Apple design language, but put some effort into that shit.

Straight out of the box, SmartThings will be able to control a range of functions. But its real potential is in its open platform—anyone can create any app to interface. So expect to see a lot of weird shit.

Oh, it also interfaces with Instacube. Why?

Pledge success

$250,000 goal. $949,953 pledged so far. ‘Nuff said.

Did I fund it?

No. I really, really wanted to. My house is about to renovate itself and SmartThings would be able to oversee my architect and labourers. But my issue is that cellular support is US-only for now and even then, it doesn’t seem to be a guarantee anyway. That and I’m broke from all my other Kickstarter pledges.

Should you fund it?

If you’re an Australian living in Australia—probably not. If you’re an Australian living in the USA—probably yes. 3 days to go!

LIFX: The Light Bulb Reinvented

Want to hear a success story? 3 days old, $100,000 goal. $800,000 pledged at the time of writing. 57 days to go. It seems people want LIFX.

LIFX is an LED light bulb, designed to replace your existing, nasty tungsten light bulbs. Unlike other ultra efficient LED bulbs, however, LIFX is controllable with your smartphone. BUT WHY? NEVER GET UP FROM THE COUCH AGAIN—THAT’S WHY! Control individual bulbs or control groups of bulbs. They’re dimmable too. Not just that, you can change the colour! It also appears that they can strobe—if the video is to be believed. What can’t these light bulbs do?

The makers are sitting on a goldmine.

Pledge success

Yuss!

Did I fund it?

Sure did. As I said, my house is about to renovate itself, and these bulbs will impress guests for years to come. 25 years apparently.

Should you fund it?

Singles have sold out, but you can buy a 2 pack for $119. I know right—that’s a lot of cash for a tiny pair. But if you’re ultra enviro, you can’t go wrong with 25 year, wireless light bulbs. Plenty time to think about it—57 days.

iControlPad2

Not everything on Kickstarter is a gem, take the iControlPad2 for example. Once you get over the awkward pitch video, the first thing you’ll appreciate is how ugly the device is. It’s not ugly in a kitsch way or a cute way, it’s just plain ugly. Do you want it insulting the svelte lines of your iPhone 4S or Galaxy III?

Then there’s the functionality. It sticks to the back of your iPhone and you have to delicately swivel it out from behind. Okay… no. It has a qwerty keyboard built in. Its physical controls seamlessly interface with any apps. This is a device for people who aren’t happy with the concept of touchscreen phones in general. Unlike any of the other devices in this story, iControlPad2 fixes a perceived issue and fails to enhance your smartphone’s abilities.

Pledge success

$150,000 goal. $50,7726 pledged. Could get funded with a decent 24 days to go. But certainly no fervour here.

Did I fund it?

No way. It’s so clunky.

Should you fund it?

If so, you’re a nerd and you should probably be looking at a Nintendo 3DS.

L8 SmartLight

It’s almost a Kickstarter prereq. to use an invented compound word as your product name. L8 SmartLight, which I’ve written about before, lives up to that union of words too. With 64 LEDs on the front and one super LED on the back, obviously it can be used for ambient lighting, but L8 can also notify you of events. Custom animations and icons can be displayed for events such as phone calls, tweets or emails.

L8 has inbuilt sensors that monitor variables in its environment: movement, ambient noise, proximity, temperature and luminosity. With the right software (which anyone is free to develop) and these sensors, there’s not much L8 can’t do.

Pledge success

It’s fully funded already. $203,677 against a goal of $90,000.

Did I fund it?

I did. It’s a poor cousin to the SmartThings device above, but I’m rather looking forward to having this sitting on my desk.

Should you find it?

If you haven’t already, then it’s too late—it’s fully funded. Look out for it though, it’ll probably go to market eventually.


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