from the thinking-forward dept
We're still debating (and debating and debating) what to call this new section and when to post it. This week, we're going with "Crowdfunding Picks" and trying Saturday morning. But we think there must be a better name than that -- and that the name doesn't necessarily have to be about "crowdfunding," but could just be about awesome innovation or cool projects or... something. So if you've got any ideas, please leave them in the comments.
- First up is a game by Lat Ware, called Throw Trucks With Your Mind! And, yes, the name is quite descriptive (Lat jokes that we should imagine a world in which
Call of DutyGears of War is called "Hide Behind Chest High Walls," since he appears to prefer games to be named after their key concept). Lat was able to stop by our offices yesterday and let me try it out, and the game delivers what it promises. I did, in fact, get to throw some trucks with my mind, and it's pretty awesome.
I've read some of the discussions online about TTWYM elsewhere, and some were concerned about how much fun the gameplay could really be, and let me just say that there shouldn't be any concern. After I tested it out for a bit, I called in someone else who works here, and we got to throw trucks at each other with our minds for a while, with the person more focused and more calm person winning. It's an interesting mental battle of wills when you're trying to kill your colleague by being the most calm. The game itself can handle up to 32 people at once, either over a LAN or the internet.
The game itself is just the very rough pre-alpha version, built on the Unreal Development Kit. But the goal of the Kickstarter project is to bring in a team of kick ass video game artists to turn it into a very different visual experience that's much more whimsical and fun (there's some mockup art on the Kickstarter page). You can buy the NeuroSky device independently or one of the tiers includes one, but you do need it to play the game -- which may limit the number of folks who can play it early on. As of right now, the game is about half funded (to the $40,000 Lat is seeking), but it's definitely one of those things that feels like it's from the future, and gets you thinking about all the cool stuff that's going to be possible before very long, even if this example just involves using your mind to fling giant trucks at your friends.
- Okay, move past that ability to throw trucks with your mind, and start thinking about controlling your computer with simple gestures, and then check out the MYO device, which has been generating a ton of attention mainly due to its amazing video highlighting how a simple arm band can create all sorts of useful gesture controls.
When I first saw the video, one of the first things I said to someone was that I was amazed MYO hadn't gone the Kickstarter route, as it just has the feel of a Kickstarter project. However, they apparently decided to go it alone, and it's working. The MYO website lets people pre-order the device for $149 and, within a few days, they claim to have received over 10,000 orders, or $1.5 million. Not bad.
With both of these first two items, there are quite reasonable questions that can be raised about execution. Cool demos are one thing. Consumer-ready production is a different sort of challenge. I'm very hopeful that these two companies will succeed, but even if they end up not making it, just the fact that these kinds of offerings are being designed and built (by smaller teams, rather than giant multinationals) is really quite encouraging. We're about to enter a very interesting era concerning just how we control the electronic devices around us. The Microsoft Kinect and the Nintendo Wii were just the warmup round. A ton of innovation is about to appear in this space.
- Finally, after those first two items that feel totally revolutionary, this last one might even feel a bit mundane (perhaps I should have put it first on the list!). But, it certainly caught my attention as soon as I saw it: It's the Almond+ Touchscreen WiFi Router / Smart home Hub from Securifi. Check out the video first:
This caught my attention for a couple reasons -- one practical and one inspirational. First, on the practical side, I'd actually just been exploring some of the latest in home automation. My house has an electronic door lock with a punch-button code, courtesy of its previous owner, and it's really handy, but a little simplistic and clunky. It can only store two codes, and we're constantly replacing the batteries. So I recently went looking around to see if the technology had advanced much in the past few years and, lo and behold, it appears that there are a growing number of "smart home" door locks that look similar but have a bunch of other cool features, such as the ability to receive email or text alerts when someone opens your door, or (much more useful) the ability to "schedule" codes to give people limited access, even from far away. But, for that to work, you need both the new door lock and a Z-Wave controller, which adds up in price. However, the Almond+ (beyond looking awesome) includes both a WiFi router and both Z-Wave and ZigBee support. And all that for less than the cost of just about any Z-Wave hub on its own. Just the Z-Wave part of this makes it really tempting for anyone interested in exploring the home automation field.
The second reason it caught my attention was that it got me rethinking the home router a bit. My current WiFi router is shoved in a closet, where it belongs, because it's an ugly box with blinking LEDs. But the Securifi guys have turned the home router into something that looks really good and is the kind of thing that people would be proud to display out in the open. As we move towards a world where we have increasingly connected systems and devices, it strikes me as an interesting idea to actually make the central router/hub devices look good from a design standpoint -- because historically that's almost never been a part of the goal. As such, it makes me wonder how we'd treat our devices differently when we're not ashamed of them, but happy to display them.
The Almond+ has already far surpassed its goal on Kickstarter, but still seems to be going strong.