Crowdfunding Picks: Throw Trucks With Your Mind & Other Cool Control Interfaces

from the thinking-forward dept

For many, many years, we've talked about all kinds of business models, including ideas (and early attempts) at crowdfunding before "crowdfunding' was a word. Obviously, over the past couple years, Kickstarter has become "a thing," along with a number of other platforms, like IndieGogo, PledgeMusic and many more. On a nearly daily basis, we get pitches from people running cool crowdfunding projects, but we rarely write about them. Mostly, I've tried to only write about campaigns where there was something new or instructive about the way the crowdfunding was being done -- rather than the specific product itself. And yet, we keep seeing all sorts of cool products showing up that aren't necessarily doing anything unique or innovative on the business model side, but are simply unique, innovative and awesome all by themselves. For a few months now, we've been discussing internally the idea of a weekly series of something like "the five best crowdfunding projects of the week," but just never got around to doing it. This week, however, we came across three separate projects, all so awesome that they needed to be shared. Hopefully, we'll be making this into a weekly feature, so enjoy.

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.
  1. 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 Duty Gears 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.
    Lat has hooked up an off the shelf NeuroSky EEG device (which you can buy for about $80) to the game he's developing, and there are different actions that you can perform in the game based on how focused you are and how calm you are -- the two things measured by the NeuroSky. Moving around and selecting what telekinetic power you have is done via the keyboard. But staring at a truck and launching it at your enemy to crush them is an amazingly satisfying experience. You can also do other things like lifting, pulling, super jumping and "slow falling." As a fun test, Lat effectively has you jump off a cliff, and you fall slower if you remain calm, but if you get excited you fall faster and die. It's an interesting mental battle to try to keep yourself calm just as you start to fall faster and faster off a cliff.

    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.

  2. 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.
    For about a year, there's been a lot of buzz about Leap Motion's cool gesture control device, but the MYO may be equally as intriguing, supposedly recognizing different muscle movements in your arm to allow you to do things very easily. Since it's a wrist band, it can hook up to desktop machines, but also mobile phones or (eventually) something like Google Glass. The possibilities are pretty limitless.

    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.

  3. 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:
    Almond already has a quite successful (and hugely popular) touchscreen wireless router, but this takes it up a notch by also adding in a smart home hub, and making the whole thing beautiful.

    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.
And, that's the kickoff of our exploration of some cool crowdfunded projects that popped onto our radar screen this week. Let us know if you like this concept or how we might change and improve it (and what to call it), and hopefully we'll start making it a regular thing.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    rw (profile), Mar 2nd, 2013 @ 8:56am


    How about: Awesome Stuff!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    jameshogg (profile), Mar 2nd, 2013 @ 9:59am

    You're quite right in saying that crowdfunding has been going on long before Kickstarter and IndieGoGo started. Admission via tickets, such as gigs, plays, sports events etc, is technically a form of crowdfunding.

    Here are the similarities:

    - Refunds (full or partial) for all ticket-holders if the performance does not go ahead, which will happen soon enough with crowdfunding in the same way publishers always take this fall anyway.
    - The performers can choose to not go ahead with the show if not enough tickets were sold (all-or-nothing model).
    - Higher priced tickets for sitting closer to the stage and being more involved with the performance (or creative production).
    - Ticket numbers are limited only to the size of the stadium or venue (the internet) and how well you can advertise.
    - Gig duration is as long as it needs to be (two hours for a rock band playing songs, six months for an album development).
    - Official merchandise for those willing to pay extra.
    - Chance for other bands to be advertised through headline bands (so ads can rack up money on big crowdfunding projects).
    - The audience get what they pay for.
    - The artists get whatever profits the markets think they are worth.
    - Impossible for pirates to take any money from it.

    You should call the section "Evidence Of Copyright's Falsifiability."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2013 @ 10:21am

    How about the MST3K guys over-funding their live project in just three days?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Mar 2nd, 2013 @ 11:36am


    - Impossible for pirates to take any money from it.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    btrussell (profile), Mar 2nd, 2013 @ 12:12pm


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Canadian, Mar 2nd, 2013 @ 12:23pm

    Great idea Mike. Not only is it promising to be a great read every week it gives something to look forward to on Saturdays where things are a little slow here on Techdirt. Keep up the great work and thanks for making such a great site and community.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Josef Anvil (profile), Mar 2nd, 2013 @ 12:25pm

    wait for it....

    Intellectual Ventures is salivating in the wings.

    Patent number B21998566091 Method and system for interfacing mentally with a computer

    Patent number B22002533893 Method and system for remote gesture control of a computer via wireless transmission

    You've been trolled.

    The last one is probably already being trolled as I am typing this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2013 @ 12:53pm

    Awesome, this needs to be a regular thing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Beech, Mar 2nd, 2013 @ 1:12pm

    Re: Re:

    That isn't piracy, scalping is more like pure capitalist economics at work. If someone can buy a ticket for your show, then sell it to someone else for enough of a profit to be worth his while, then you have undervalued your tickets. Really, you should have nothing to even be mad at, you wanted $20/ticket and sold got exactly what you wanted. If someone else can sell a ticket they bought for $40, awesome on them, I say.

    I would suggest maybe counterfeiting tickets as a way pirated could make money from it, though. Or sneaking in. Bootleg recording maybe?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Beech, Mar 2nd, 2013 @ 1:14pm

    My suggested title:

    "Crowdfunding Things This Crowd Should Fund"

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2013 @ 3:40pm

    Re: wait for it....

    If the patent does nothing functional, it should be thrown out as invalid. I hate how people patent things that they can't actually do with the information provided in the patent. Seems to me that would be called, I dunno, fraud?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Mar 2nd, 2013 @ 8:11pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    If someone can buy a ticket for your show, then sell it to someone else for enough of a profit to be worth his while, then you have undervalued your tickets.

    That's the problem with 'pure' economics. It assumes that the only value is the price.

    What's usually going on is that bands are trying to connect with and reward their true fans, and not, e.g., homeless guys hired by speculators.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    Mike Masnick (profile), Mar 2nd, 2013 @ 8:49pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    That's the problem with 'pure' economics. It assumes that the only value is the price.

    No. That's the problem with people who don't understand economics. People who only have a half-baked understanding of economics think that. Real economics looks at marginal benefit, not just price.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    G Thompson (profile), Mar 2nd, 2013 @ 9:55pm

    Ideas Crowding our Inbox (or Mind)?

    And the Trucks project sounds very familiar to Driver: San Francisco>/i> where you had to throw cars in the Boss fight at the end. Was awesome then and would be more awesome using quasi telekinesis ;)

    Though I had a go at some brain control devices a few years ago at CEBIT . They were extremely cool and though very basic gaming and keyboard entry (learn to type with your brain) you could see the potential and also the benefits of becoming a major tool in the war against stress.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2013 @ 12:52am

    section name; Tech Juice

    section name; Tech Juice

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    Andrew F (profile), Mar 3rd, 2013 @ 1:02am


    Off-topic, but can I complain about the Intuit advertising post? Although the content was clearly written by Intuit, the language is written in the third person, to give the impression that someone from Techdirt is actually writing the content. I doubt it'd fool anyone, but the ad comes off as douchey.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. icon
    Andrew F (profile), Mar 3rd, 2013 @ 1:03am

    Re: Advertising

    Also not a fan of the 15 second ads. At the very least, I should be spared an ad if I'm clicking a link to read sponsored content.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    btrussell (profile), Mar 3rd, 2013 @ 4:37am


    Technical knockout

    techdreams (with techdirt)

    Because "everybody needs a little something, to get your rocks off"
    Dr. Hook

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Beech, Mar 3rd, 2013 @ 5:15am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I don't see how that's a problem. At all, it's a beautiful thing, in my humble opinion. Society has found a way to peacefully assign tickets to those who value them most. How much would you pay for front row center tickets to your favorite band? If you value those seats at $100, that's what they're worth to you. If someone else values them at $200, why shouldn't they be allowed to sit there instead of you? Really, everybody wins in this situation. The band makes more money for the sale of the seats, and the person in the audience who values them most gets them. In cave man times I'm sure such disputes were solved by clubbing each other over the head until everyone who valued the seats enough to club someone else was unconscious.

    The reason "scalping" is thought of so negatively is more or less a conspiracy by those who sell tickets. It's the same kind of thing we read about on this site all the time. People get all bent out of shape when someone make money based on their work, even when it doesn't harm them at all. That mean ol' bad guy scalper is making $20 profit off of that ticket that the band/sports team/actors/etc. didn't. They obviously COULD have if they had only priced the ticket at that price in the first place since there is apparently someone who will pay it, but they didn't and the thought of someone else "cashing in" on that discrepancy is deplorable. But again, everyone wins. The guy buying the scalped tickets isn't getting "ripped off" because he apparently values them enough to pay the new asking price for them. If he didn't, he could buy tickets for worse seats at the box office, or just not buy a ticket at all. The box office isn't getting "ripped off" because they already sold the tickets for exactly what they valued them at.

    So, in the long run, scalping is economics at work in one of the purest fashions we know, and I think that's just great. Everybody wins! Wheeeee!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. icon
    btrussell (profile), Mar 3rd, 2013 @ 6:01am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    "If you value those seats at $100, that's what they're worth to you. If someone else values them at $200, why shouldn't they be allowed to sit there instead of you? Really, everybody wins in this situation."

    You forgot the standard disclaimer: Everything else being equal.

    I wonder who values $200 more. The single unemployed mother or Bill Gates?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. icon
    Ninja (profile), Mar 4th, 2013 @ 2:48am

    I'd call the series "Most insightful/funniest projects of the week" and include one or two of each categories: music, software, gaming, tech, movies/series and services. Not all of them would be required to be on every post and none of them should come from big companies UNLESS they go the crowdsource route. Sounds it'll be very interesting!

    As for this article, the leap thing really caught my attention. I am VERY interested in it. I'm just afraid they won't be shipping it to my country. Also, the Almond thing is exactly what I need right now (I'm doing some maintenance at home and I'm planning to add "smart home" perks to it). I'll surely keep an eye.

    In the end this has opened a path for people with great ideas but no money to actually put their ideas to work. And this is great.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Mar 4th, 2013 @ 6:27pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Yeah, I put 'pure' in quotes for a reason.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. icon
    Just John (profile), Mar 5th, 2013 @ 2:38am

    The smart hub

    Interesting, the Smart Hub video was filmed in Taipei, Taiwan. You can see the Taipei 101 outside of the window behind him.
    I should see if I can track down their information.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. icon
    Michael Ho (profile), Mar 5th, 2013 @ 11:52am

    Re: Advertising

    Hey Andrew,

    We're still "playing around" with these new ads... and we're finding out that sometimes some strange ads get on our site (and it can be hard to police our ads all the time).

    We try to make the pages look distinctly different with shaded/colored backgrounds and heading that say "Advertisement".... so the ad content isn't supposed to "fool" anyone into thinking it was written by Techdirt authors.

    If you see anything really horrible, please do let us know....



    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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