Kickstarting May with a Vengance
Although Kickstarter’s been around for a few years, it’s only recently garnered widespread attention with the successes of the Double Fine Adventure and Wasteland 2 projects. As a result, there's been a crowd-funding "renaissance" of sorts. Indie gaming and hardware developers are seeing crowdsourcings true potential and taking various projects to Kickstarter.Over the last several months, Kickstarter has become a cornucopia of amazing video game and gadget ideas. We’ve taken the liberty of compiling a few Kickstarters that have caught our eye and might be worthy of your attention (and wallet). Keep in mind that Kickstarters only have a certain window of time to fundraise, so unfortunately most of the projects you see featured here will only last through May.
LIL KIKR Speakerphone Charger
One of the most irritating things about trying to multitask with a smartphone is phone placement. If your hands are occupied, should you stop what you’re doing and pick up the phone or lie it flat and be forced to uncomfortably hunch over?
The LIL KIKR solves that dilemma by providing a sturdy stand that holds your phone at a good viewing angle, so you can look at and use your phone hands-free.
The LIL KIKR’s been designed to match the aesthetic theme of Apple products. Crafted with aircraft grade aluminum and stainless steel and polished with Apple color schemes, the LIL KIKR is sure not to clash with your iDevice.
It has also quite a few neat features. The LIL KIKR stand is shaped in such a way that sound can easily flow through the bottom of the stand, boosting the decibels of sound coming in and out of your phone. It also features the standard Apple 30-pin charger, so that you can use the stand without having to take your iDevice off when its juice is running low.
Minimum Contribution for Product: $50
Expires: May 12, 2012
~Archive: a Knowledge Tool by the Brooklyn Institute
You’d think that finding and accessing books would be easier in the digital age. What else is the Internet for?
The sad fact is that books are constantly disappearing into the abyss of being rare or out-of-print. The Brooklyn Institute for Social Research is trying to recover some of these texts so that they can be reprinted or converted into ebooks that can be readily accessed by the public. If the Institute reaches its relatively small budget of $7500, it’ll make available three texts: a pre-1923 book, a post-1923 book with questionable copyright (because books pre-1923 are in the public domain), and an out-of-print book.
For any extra money that’s donated into the project, the Institute will put towards new projects that may involve multilingual translations.
Although putting down money for this project won’t yield you a tangible reward, you can get e-copies of rare books and the satisfaction of knowing that you contributed towards the greater good.
Minimum Contribution for Product: $10 (for one e-book)
Expires: May 16, 2012
Soundlazer - Parametric Speakers
Ever wanted to listen to music without disturbing anyone else, but didn’t want to put in headphones? Well, parametric speaker technology allows you to go about your day blasting music without anyone else hearing it, unless they’re in your immediate vicinity. How’s that possible?
The idea behind parametric speakers is that they emit a highly focused “beam” of sound, so that only those who are standing in the immediate path of that beam can hear it. Hence, “sound laser.”
You’d be hard-pressed to find a place to buy parametric speakers, especially for cheap. The Soundlazer is meant to be an affordable, consumer-grade parametric speaker. It’s also open source, so if you feel like messing about with the speakers with your own waveforms and filters, everything you need to do so is readily available on Soundlazer’s sitefor you to use.
Although the Soundlazer does come at a bit of a hefty price for a speaker, keep in mind that you don’t come across parametric speakers everyday. Plus, not annoying your parents, roommates, or spouse while enjoying your audio with the volume control cranked up is well worth the investment.
Minimum Contribution for Product: $175
Expires: May 19, 2012
Bukobot 3D Printer
However important and useful 3D printer technology is, you’ve probably only ever used it to craft your own pet projects. With the ability to create objects in 3D space, you could be doing something useful, such as making and repairing important furniture parts around your house--or you could very well be printing out that one cool thing you modeled once upon a time in that basic 3D modeling class you took way back when.
Whatever the case, 3D printers are fun to play with. The only problem is that 3D printers usually retail for upwards of $4,500, a price tag that’s just a wee bit hefty for a toy.
The Bukobot is meant to be an affordable, open source 3D printer without compromising quality. Plus, the Bukobot makes itself worth its cost because of its (and most 3D printers’) Skynet-esque ability to print off components to produce another 3D printer.
The Bukobot Kickstarter is offering different levels of kits, depending on how much you’re willing to spend on a 3D printer. There are cheaper “mini” and “green” options available for purchase that greatly reduce the cost of the Bukobot. The former allows a smaller print volume to reduce costs and the latter consumes less energy and only uses parts that are environment-friendly. The best part is if you decide to pick up the “mini” Bukobot, you can always buy the parts to expand it to the standard “Vanilla” Bukobot if you wished.
Although the Bukobot’s cheapest model is still roughly the price equivalent of a decent desktop setup, you’re not going to find a 3D printer for any cheaper anywhere else. The Bukobot’s taking quite a few strides in making 3D printing at a consumer level much more probable.
Minimum Contribution for Project: $750 (Mini Green Kit), $999 (Full Vanilla Kit)
Expires: May 23, 2012
Luminance - Open Source LEDs
There’s just something absolutely captivating about LED lights that appear to dance in sync with music. Maybe it’s just because of the pretty colors.
The Luminance project, born out of creator Naim Busek’s fascination with lights strobing in sync to music, consists of LEDs paired with an Arduino board and accelerometer.
You can play with your LEDs “vanilla” right out of the box, if you’re feeling boring and unadventurous. Since the project’s completely open source, all documentation will be made available to you if you feel like messing around with the software or hardware of your Luminance. You can tweak the code to change up the behavior of your lights, or even mess with the hardware to make the LEDs react the way you want them to in response to motion or sound. Busek, in his pitch video, showed off how the Luminance project could be tweaked to be used as a bike light that’s attached along the biker’s back.
At the end of the day, you could always mess around with the LEDs and make all your Tron fantasies come true.
Minimum Contribution for Product: $54
Expires: May 24, 2012
Epiphany Eyewear - Computing Enabled Eyewear
Diaries and journals, even digital ones, are hard to keep. Even if you constantly update yours, words sometimes just don’t capture a memory quite right. Some of the finest details are lost in the transition from experience to the written word. Video journals aren’t any better as an alternative--whipping out a camera to “capture the moment” only serves to spoil the purity of the event.
But what if there was a way for you to record video of your experiences at the touch of a button, hands-free? It sounds like stuff out of science fiction, but Vergence Labs is hard at work with their new line of “social eyewear”, dubbed Epiphany Eyewear.
Epiphany Eyewear is a line of electric sunglasses that allow you to not only change the tint of the lenses instantly, but also record video (with audio) at the touch of a button. So how does “social eyeware” describe Epiphany Eyewear? Well, the sunglasses are currently able to store up to 2 hours of 720p video. These videos can then be transferred via USB. The final version of these sunglasses are planned to have wi-fi, allowing the glasses to wirelessly stream the video to your phone or tablet, which can then be shared via a social media or video streaming website. Imagine the possibilities of sharing these videos. You could have videos that literally force others to look at the world from your point-of-view.
While discussing their sunglasses project, Vergence Labs also managed to slip in a few words about the prototype of their insanely cool immersive reality glasses. Basically, these visors are meant to contain an entire computer within them, although right now their prototype is still a jumble of separate parts. If you decide to drop $7K on the sunglasses project, you’ll be a proud owner of these futuristic visors once Vergence Labs is able to deliver on the final project, estimated to be December of this year.
Minimum Contribution for Product: $199 (Sunglasses), $7000 (Visor)
Expires: June 6, 2012
Pebble - E-Ink Watch
You’ve probably already heard of the Pebble wristwatches, as they’ve recently gained a lot of media attention for dethroning Double Fine Adventure as the most funded project on Kickstarter. (At the time of this writing, the Pebble project is sitting on $6.7 million raised, 6700% of the $100K goal they set.)
The Pebble wristwatch uses e-Paper technology, allowing the wearer to change the watch’s clockface whenever they want. The watch will also sync with smartphones via bluetooth so that the watch to take advantage of a smartphone’s GPS to allow runners and bikers keep track of miles traversed. The watch also allows you to control simple tasks on the phone such as skipping or pausing music tracks playing on a smartphone.
Recently, Pebble’s developers have also revealed intentions to bring games to Pebble. It’ll be interesting to see how games will take advantage of Pebble’s four buttons, accelerometer, and its ability to sync with smartphones. Since the Pebble SDK is being offered up for no charge, third party developers should have a field day with the watch.
Although it’s only been about a week since Pebble’s Kickstarter page launched, all of its early bird specials are already out. However, you can still buy a Pebble as an early adopter for a significantly lower price than what’s planned for retail.
Minimum Contribution for Product - $99 (Jet Black Pebble)
Expires: May 18, 2012
The iPad Laptop
Although there are countless numbers of iPad keyboards and keyboard folios floating out on the Internet, none really do a satisfactory job of recreating the laptop experience. Most of these keyboards work well enough on a flat surface, but collapse too easily when used on an actual “lap top”.
The Brydge keyboard mimics the feel of your laptop with a hinge that securely fastens onto your iPad. The developers are so sure of how well their product clings to the iPad that they even show a video of a shake test with the Brydge on their Kickstarter page.
The Brydge allows you to fold up your iPad like a laptop. It’s constructed out of aircraft grade aluminum and has a minimalistic style that matches aesthetics of the iPad. According to the Brydge Kickstarter page, the keyboard weighs in at a meager 1.28 pounds. When paired with an iPad, the duo roughly weighs about the same as a Macbook Air.
Like most keyboards, Brydge connects to the iPad via bluetooth. It charges via microUSB, but you won’t be doing that often, since its promised battery life is over a month long.Brydge also comes with optional speakers for audiophiles who feel like the iPad speakers aren’t sufficient in volume.
Although Brydge won’t protect the beautiful, silvery back of your iPad from the cruel world, it’s definitely a step up from keyboard folios. You’ll never have to worry about tetris-ing books together onto your lap to try and help your iPad keyboard stand again!
Minimum Contribution for Product: $170 (Brydge, no speakers)
Expires: June 4, 2012
Blink/Steady Bike Light
I think we can all agree that riding a bike at night is dangerous. No matter how bright of colors you wear or reflective strips you tape to your bike and how much you wildly flail your arms at every intersection, there’s still a chance that a driver won’t see you and cause you to end up in an overnight stay at the hospital.
You did buy bike lights, but not only were they annoying to toggle on and off, the nice ones constantly got stolen.
The Blink/Steady light has you covered. Because it’s built with an accelerometer and photo sensor, you’ll never have to toggle on the light because it’ll toggle on with the slightest shift on the bike when it gets dark. Since the Blink/Steady’s relatively small and screws in directly under the bike seat, it’s difficult to spot and steal.
The Blink/Steady can easily switch between “blink” and “steady” mode just by flipping the device over.
As for battery power, the Blink/Steady conveniently runs on AAA batteries and runs over 200 hours of continuous run time, plenty of juice to keep the Blink/Steady on a bike going for almost half a year in the very least.
Minimum Contribution for Product: $95
Expires: May 27, 2012
JuiceTank - iPhone Charger Case
At this point, you’ve probably seen your fair share of new iPhone cases on Kickstarter.
Well, the JuiceTank isn’t just a vanity phone case, nor is does it make large promises of protecting your iPhone even if you decide to pound it repeatedly into the nearest table. The JuiceTank was designed with the frustration of having your phone dying with myriads of free Edison outlets just mocking your lack of an iPhone charger.
The JuiceTank has an Edison charger conveniently built right into the back of the phone so that you can charge your phone by plugging it directly into the wall. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to use your phone unless you decide to crouch on the floor and use it while it’s plugged into the wall. If you don’t want to risk getting weird looks, the JuiceTank has a microUSB port on its side. Still, I’m betting that if you didn’t bring that 30 pin Apple charger, you probably didn’t bring your microUSB charger along either.
Just think of it this way: at least you’re charging your phone for use later, rather than being screwed with a dead phone in your hands later.
Minimum Contribution for Product: $55
Expires: May 13, 2012
Republique is probably one of the most unique iOS games I’ve seen pitched, to date. It’s not necessarily because of its content either. Developers Camoflaj and Logan teamed up and decided to develop a game at a scope that’s never really been seen before on the iOS.
Part of the problem with the iOS is that most games hardly tend to push the boundaries of the hardware’s capabilities. Even for those that do tend to get the “AAA” treatment aren’t constructed for touch screen hardware, hence the game has awkward and clunky controls. Besides Chair and Epic’s Infinity Blade, there’s really yet to be a game that’s matched Republique’s proposed scope.
You play as a hacker who has taken control of an authoritarian nation’s surveillance systems to help protect Hope, a young woman who has enlisted your aid in escaping from the antagonist, the Overseer. You’ll be watching and aiding Hope through cameras and manipulating electronics in order to keep her alive.
Camoflaj and Logan have set a fundraising goal of $500K, which is still a fairly small budget considering that they plan to have the game fully voiced with cinematics. Unfortunately, the project’s only recently started getting traction. There’s only less than two weeks left for the project at the time of this writing, and Comflaj and Logan are only one fifth of the way to their goal.
The developers have also recently announced that due to overwhelming demand, Republique will also be available for Windows and Mac. However, this version of the game will have unique features, story elements, and gameplay tweaked to match the platform, so you won’t just be getting a shoddy iOS to PC port.
Minimum Contribution for Product: $10 (iOS), $15 (Windows/Mac)
Expires: May 11, 2012
With the recent success of various videogame sequels on Kickstarter, such as InXile’s Wasteland 2 and Harebrained Scheme’s Shadowrun Returns, Crate Entertainmentk made up of former employees of Iron Lore Entertainment, is looking to do the same. Grim Dawn is intended to be the spiritual successor to Titan Quest, an action RPG featuring ancient mythology.
Grim Dawn’s backdrop is the war-torn fantasy world of Cairn. Rather than featuring one hero and one storyline, Grim Dawn features an open world design that allows players to do as they please. Grim Dawn will, as requested by the Titan Quest community, be DRM-free and come with modding tools. As of now, Grim Dawn will only be supported on Windows, as porting to Linux and Mac would require additional funding.
Crate Entertainment’s already put two years of work into the game. The Kickstarter is so that they can hit the home stretch paying the development team. The finished product is expected to hit sometime in August of 2013, according to their Kickstarter page.
Minimum Contribution for Product: $18
Expires: May 18, 2012
There’s just something about the post-apocalypse and wastelands that draws game designers like flies. Especially as of late, there’s been a ridiculous number of post-apocalypse games. The genre’s like the videogame equivalent of the young adult paranormal romance section for books, only with less sparkles and more angst.
Even though it sits in an oversaturated genre, Ravaged stands above the crowd as a FPS with an emphasis on vehicles. Admit it--driving in games usually sucks unless the game’s part of the racing genre. Vehicles in FPSes especially leave a lot to be desired. Every time you hop into a vehicle, they’re either on rails like in Call of Duty or you feel like you’re trying to steer through a pit of margarine like in Borderlands or Rage.
Ravagedis as much about the driving as it is the mindless, shooter-y fun. Using a combination of your vehicular and FPS skills, you have to team up with others in the multiplayer campaign in order to survive this drab world of made up of varying hues of brown sand.
2 Dawn Games set a low figure of $15,000 to raise for this project because this game’s been in development for a while. The small sum they’re requesting from Kickstarter is for marketing, setting up a beta, and pushing the game out onto Steam.
Minimum Contribution for Product: $25
Expires: May 19, 2012
Legends of Eisenwald
Fans of Paradox Interactive published games, Legends of Eisenwald is right up your alley. Although the game’s entrenched in the fantasy genre, you won’t see any mystical creatures or magic around here.
Legends of Eisenwald is a RPG strategy game with turn-based battles. You can play as a Knight, a Mystic, or a Baron and each playthrough will turn out different results. Think Final Fantasy x Heroes of Might and Magic x Mount & Blade as you follow one character as he rises to prominence.
Legends of Eisenwald’s been in development for over two years now. Its developers have only just put up a Kickstarter fundraiser in hopes of adding more to the campaigns and making the game available in both English and Russian. With additional funding past their $50,000 goal, they plan on porting the game over to Mac and Linux and adding more language support.
Minimum Contribution for Product: $15
Expires: May 21, 2012
Jane Jensen’s New Studio
Remember the old Gabriel Knight point-and-click adventure games? Well, they were all designed and written by Jane Jensen, who’s now starting up a new indie studio with her husband and daughter.
This Kickstarter’s a little bit unusual since it’s not to directly fund the development of a videogame. However, Jensen and her family have proposed an interesting business plan. By contributing to the Kickstarter, you’ll be considered a “Community Supported Gaming” (CSG) contributor or member, meaning that you’ll have access to the games and different levels of behind-the-scenes content, depending on how much you decide to put into Pinkerton Studios.
CSG contributors and members will have access to special areas on the Pinkerton Studios forums. Pinkerton’s promised plenty of interaction with fans and have already decided to develop their first game, Moebius, based off of fan requests. Moebius will feature graphic novel-like graphics and be a point-and-click adventure of epic proportions, offering something like 10-20 hours of gameplay.
CSG contributors and members will also receive early access to the games that Pinkerton Studios develops for this year, which Pinkerton states will run up to June 2013. I expect that a similar Kickstarter will be available after that for yet another CSG cycle.
Minimum Contribution for Product: $16 (1 Pinkerton game), $50 (all Pinkerton games)
Expires: May 18, 2012