A couple of recent crowdfunding projects demonstrate the ability of this platform to generate clever new consumer products. The Toronto-based Pigeon promises to raise the bar on digital image frames, while CogniToys, based in New York, suggest the future of playtime for our kids.
Of course, in crowdfunding (even more than in other types of business) there's many a slip twixt the cup and the lip. But these projects at least give us a bellwether indicating how product categories are likely to eveolve.
Toronto-based Pigeon has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund its Pigeon digital frame. The product is designed to work with a home Wi-Fi network and download photos automatically over the Internet from mobile devices.
The frame works with an included app, for Android or iOS. This connects using a security code found on the back of the frame. Each frame allows connection by multiple contributors, so families can make it a central repository of their images and videos.
The plan is to offer 10-inch frames in five different styles, with traditional wood-grain molded borders. Audio is supported by built-in speakers. A motion sensor turns the frame on only when there's someone nearby to look at it, thereby saving power in the rechargeable batteries. A green LED alerts the family that there's new content available..
Pledges of US$119 or more will receive an entry-level ‘Winkie' frame. Pledges of US180 or more will get the ‘White Vision' model, with rechargeable battery, LED Gallery Lighting and a choice of 5 frame styles.
This is a challenging project, and with 28 days to go, was showing just $3,501 in backing towards its goal of $50,000. However, it's a promising idea, and shows how many gaps are still waiting to be filled, even in established product categories.
Another Kickstarter, which recently achieved its funding goal, introduces a new line of smart toys. CogniToys, from Elemental Path, in New York, are intended to allow kids aged 4-7 to "directly engage in intelligent conversation."
The first product in the line is a squat, cuddly green dinosaur. (Having reached its ‘stretch' funding goal, the project promises to add Red and blue versions.) Pressing the big button in its belly allows a child to ask questions and receive "age-appropriate answers." Or to give commands, hear stories, tell and listen to ‘knock knock' jokes, and more.
The toy will apparently evolve a unique personality based on these interactions. Internet connectivity allows cloud processing. Parents can observe their child's activities and moderate content via a ‘Parent Panel' web portal.
The technology is based on IBM's powerful Watson supercomputer. Elemental Path were winners of a Grand Prize in The Challenge, IBM's contest
"By integrating Watson, the most advanced AI in the world, we're bringing a first-of-its-kind product to consumers," said Donald Coolidge, co-founder, Elemental Path. "We're poised to break into the toy market while aiming to inspire learning and interaction as kids make discoveries about the world around them."
By mid-February, with 27 days still to run, the CogniToys project had reached funding of $103,728, amply surpassing its goal of $50,000. Pledges of US$99 or above will receive units from the initial production run.