Crowdsourced funding is going from strength to strength these days, and when the Pebble ePaper Watch achieved more than 10,000% of its funding goal to raise $10,266,845 the new era had officially arrived. The maturity of approach on the platform is really starting to make it a credible and reliable place to find cutting edge technology and futurist design. With that in mind, and my credit card crying out under the weight of new pledges, there are some amazing campaigns that speak directly to the futurist mindset – all of these campaigns are currently running so you can get in on the action right now!
[UPDATE] Omni: Move Naturally in Your Favourite Game – $353,577 with 48 days to go
It seems this post was rather fortuitously timed (or such is the fascinating nature of Kickstarter these days), as this one is a candidate that could break some records. Virtual reality gaming, previously the overextended let-down of the 90’s, is back with a vengeance. With the Oculus Rift in tow the Omni looks set to be the first mass market virtual reality movement platform for the home market. Early reports are very positive, and as a sign of things to come this bodes very well for those looking forward to immersing themselves in their favourite digital worlds. There’ll be some interesting social and psychological consequences no doubt (not all of them bad, think of the exercise factor), but come on…the future arrives with virtual reality and it’s so close you can almost taste it (something that’s being worked on as well!).
Sparki: The Easy Robot for Everyone! – Currently on $148,283 with 7 days to go
You might want to look at this project with a slight degree of skepticism at the obvious correlation with our favourite little garbage collector. But any misgivings fade away the moment you look into this campaign in any detail. What we have here is one of the cheapest, and most accessible, fully functional robotics platforms available. Essentially the project is a set of functionalities provided in an adorable package that’s hard to resist, but what stands out the most is the attempt to make a very complicated subject accessible for the young and engineering-illiterates such as myself. The stretch goal for a visual programming language is one that must be reached, so get out there and make it happen! Besides, if we’re going to ruled over by our robotic overlords you may as well learn to talk with them whilst you still can (and whilst they’re still adorable)…at least then you’ll be one of the more useful meatbags when it all hits the fan.
Glowing Plants: Natural Lighting with no Electricity – Currently on $387,590 with 13 days to go
Putting aside for the moment some of the ethical considerations in synthetic biology and genetic engineering, this project is your chance to literally nurture the cutting edge of scientific development. There’s not many projects that can be considered more futurist than one that combines DNA laser printing, genome programming, and phosphorescence into a central talking point for your home or office – and we all know how much futurists love to talk! The higher pledge levels even give you the tools to become your own budding (ha!) genetic engineer, and the project is open source thanks to its crowdfunded nature (ha ha!). You can even get them to code a message into a DNA sequence, or with enough dough into the very genome being used itself. Not so sure about that last one, but that’s a discussion for another time. Interestingly the project is only available to those in the US, likely because of differing international regulations on such endeavours but there’s also a mention in their FAQ about using a non-native plant to reduce any risk of cross-pollination. Kickstarter projects don’t get much more futurist then this!
Euphoria: Build a Better Dystopia – Currently on $109,310 with 19 days to go
Futurist thought is as much about philosophy and literature as it is science, and it’s also about a changing aesthetic landscape that extrapolates from current social norms in often wildly inaccurate directions. The dichotomy between utopia and dystopia is a classic literary sub-genre and here we have the concept born out in the entertaining format of a boardgame. For those of you who might not have kept up with such things, boardgames have changed a lot since you were young. The levels of system complexity and creative platforms for competition are inspiring, and there has been a rapid evolution in what boardgames mean, how they are played, and the themes that these often elegant systems have wrapped around them. Clearly taking a great deal of inspiration from the likes of Metropolis and 1984, Euphoria looks like the kind of game that any futurist must experience. I can imagine quite a few deep conversations on social structure and human utility emerging from sessions of this game, and the artwork and design is fantastic. Above all, this looks to be shaping up as an excellent ‘worker placement’ system with enough variety in gameplay to keep you coming back time and again.
Radio Free Albemuth: Theatrical Release – Currently on $17,115 with 39 days to go
I’ve written about this Philip K Dick adaptation a number of times, having reviewed it (twice!) and also had the opportunity to interview its director John Alan Simon. I’ve said everything that I think needs saying in the previous posts – but now the film is emerging from the festival circuit and punching valiantly for wider theatrical release. In the tradition of self-distributed films that aim to fulfil a very specific purpose and vision, the team behind Radio Free Albemuth are looking for funding to make such a release a reality. The film itself covers the sublime mix of dystopian conspiracy, techgnostic mysticism, and small-town American aesthetic that Philip K Dick did better than anybody else. I don’t need to explain to any futurist why PKD is an important author, and this project is one of the most authentic depictions of his work (and himself!) that we’ve yet seen.
W/Me Wristband: Improve your Lifestyle – Currently on $57,288 with 38 days to go
Wearable technology has been increasingly discussed over the last few years as one of the next waves of consumer innovation. We’re also seeing a much tighter integration between different objects, with the mindset that products should be able to communicate with one another in order to build a greater whole from their respective strengths. Smartphones are going to be the technological hub of our lives over the coming years, and a product that can integrate application software with various bio-readings in an effective and useful manner will definitely see a lot of traction. W/Me looks like a product that might have cracked this difficult design challenge, although like many items of technology the price might hold it back for a few more years before it can see widespread use. However, the novelty factor is undeniable and for those seeking a more active and self-aware lifestyle this looks like a product of value. I wonder how long it will be until we get bands like this that give us a swift shot of anti-depressants when our mood dips beneath a certain level…
Agent: The World’s Smartest Watch – Currently on $521,603 with 26 days to go
Whilst Google is putting its weight behind the future of augmented reality, the current trend rests upon wrist-based accessories – and building upon the success of the Pebble ePaper Watch comes an impressive design for a similar product with the Agent Watch. We all know that these kinds of integrated technologies are the next step, the question now is how do you design and market them to appeal to consumers and make them the next ‘must have’ item. There are no doubt many who will say that projects like this are merely jumping on the bandwagon, but iterative innovation and design is often just as important as the initial burst and this seems to be doing it right.
Lightpack: Ambient Backlight for Displays – Currently on $407,281 with 6 days to go
If you haven’t seen Microsoft’s IllumiRoom proof-of-concept then you need to take a look at it now. We’re inching closer to the elusive perfection of holodecks, and unlike the recently failed 3D-TV technology backlighting looks like something that will add to our entertainment experiences without any detrimental tradeoffs. Whilst we’re still not sure how far away IllumiRoom is (or how much it will cost) there’s an open-sourced project available which is going to help the mass market take the first steps towards this new immersion concept. Lightpack is certainly far more simple than IllumiRoom, but then it’s also the kind of product that won’t need developers working closely with it – adding to anything on screen through its software analysis and emitting the appropriate colours. The open-sourced nature of the project means that it will see plenty of creative implementations from all those clever people out there that love making our lives a bit more interesting and enjoyable.
meta: Fully Augmented Reality Glasses – Currently on $118,059 with 22 days to go
Speaking of augmented reality, here’s a campaign that speaks right to the heart of most every futurist’s dream of the future. Films such as Minority Report really displayed the functionality and usability that combining augmented reality with physical manipulation could bring, and here we have the beginnings of such a technology line. It’s design is atrocious, but to be fair it is currently aimed at the developer level and the preview video does show an intention to correct this obvious flaw over subsequent releases. In large part this will depend on the needed components becoming smaller and cheaper in general, a trend which we know will continue to meet projections if not exceed them. It might not be the kind of product that you want to pledge large amounts to in order to receive the actual kit (for now) – but throwing a few dollars to help us along the way towards more immersive and interactive augmented reality is certainly something that any futurist will likely consider a worthwhile substitute for a cup of coffee.
If you haven’t yet delved into Kickstarter then I hope that this post serves as inspiration to keep a close eye on it (and other crowd-sourced funding platforms). It’s worth keeping in mind that these are just some of the projects available to pledge on. Every week brings something new, and most of them are situated on the experimental fringes of consumer product and creative expression. There’s some absolute gems to be found, and some important projects to support – so now is the time to become an active part of the crowdsourcing revolution!
Have you backed anything on Kickstarter or another crowdfunding platform? Let us know by commenting below!