May 30, 2012
Follow the often tech-relevant Product Design section of Kckstarter for a while and you’ll see quite a few kinds of devices resurface – iPhone and iPad cases and mounts are popular as are and all manner of photographic stability aids, mounts and dollies. Lately, though, it seems that there have been a curious number of overlapping funding campaigns for products with a somewhat similar focus. Take your pick if any of the following are of interest to you:
Now, the similarities among thee pairs varies a bit. Still, having similar projects compete against each other is not just bringing Kickstarter closer to how tings work in traditional private equity, it could be the basis for a whole new competitive means to drive funding. So, is this some plot by Kickstarter to drum up drama by adding a more competitive dimension to fundraising? More likely it’s a coincidences driven by the site’s growing popularity. That would indicate that there’s room for competition, perhaps from a more transparent party that would be willing to stand by its users and insure against loss of pre-order dollars in the event a project falls through.
Tags: competition, crowdfunding, crowdsourcing, Kickstarter, pre-orders, startups
April 3, 2012
Honeycomb, you are deluding yourself. It is the Samsung Galaxy Note that is big. Indeed, last Friday Sam Biddle at Gizmodo recently lambasted Samsung’s 5.3” smartphone, calling It a “distended LED baking sheet.” The self-described rant goes on to decry the Galaaxy Note as an ergonomically poor design and then amplify concerns that the Note will lead to other phones of similar or perhaps even greater size.
The first thing about the Gizmodo piece I find interesting is that it doesn’t weigh in at all on the S-Pen. In this age of blending finger and pen input, I’m certainly not as anti-stylus as I once was, but I’ve noticed that the inclusion of the pointing device hasn’t been nearly as polarizing as the size of the screen. In fact, it’s had so relatively little impact that it’s somewhat surprising Samsung has forged ahead on integrating it into a 10” Galaxy Tab.
April 1, 2011
As usual, the gang at ThinkGeek did a great job with this year’s selection of mock geek products (although nothing as brilliant as last year’s iCade). The retailer seemed to know it had a winner with the Playmobil Apple Store Play Set, for which it made its own Apple product introduction parody video showcasing the “optional line pack” that depicts the iconic Playmobil people waiting in line for the hot new iDevice..
But if I had to pick the product most likely to actual become available for sale, it would have to be the Star Wars Lightsaber popsicles. The price tag of $35 may be a bit high for four molds, but ThinkGeek is already wise to the fees required to create a Lucasfilm-licensed product.
Tags: Apple Store, iCade, Playmobil, ThinkGeek
January 29, 2010
Earlier this month, San Jose Mercury-News columnist Chris O’Brien provided a great retrospective of Segway, Inc., which was recently acquired by a UK company after burning through more than $160 million. O’Brien reminded that the Segway was introduced to great fanfare in 2001 as the greatest advance in transportation since the automobile, but ultimately became a pop culture joke, a comic relief prop in movies such as “Paul Blart, Mall Cop.”
This got me thinking about two of the Segway’s other supporting roles — transporting the Wikipedia-editing, Klingon-speaking geek played by “Weird Al” Yankovic in his “White ‘& Nerdy” parody and as the signature ambulatory aid of incompetent playboy magician GOB (pictured) in the sorely missed TV series Arrested Development. In all of these examples, the Segway is the product associated with a buffoon. Often, companies pay to have their product placed in movies so they can be associated with heroes such as Jack Bauer or James Bond. But what if any recourse do companies have for having their products associated with dolts?
By the time Arrested Development debuted in 2003, the writing may have already been on the wall for Segway, at least as a consumer product. Unfortunately for the company, the enthusiasm for the transportation aid by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak likely helped to inspire “Weird Al” Yankovic to use the Segway in his video, which goes to show that unpaid endorsements by the “wrong people” can have adverse effect. And it was Segway’s own target market of security personnel that may have led to the product being so prominently featured in the Kevin James vehicle. Perhaps Segway even saw this as an opportunity to promote to business customers, but the cumulative effect was to knock the product down in a way that no gyroscope could right.
Tags: Arrested Development, GOB, Paul Blart, product placement, Segway
November 26, 2009
I’ve always gotten a kick out of how folks find that a case or container designed for one object works well for another, particularly when it’s a tech product, of course. I remember, for example, how someone discovered that small zippered book protectors (apparently no longer) sold at Barnes & Noble offered scratch protection (if not much cushioning) for the old NEC MobilePro handheld PCs. More recently, of course, there were the Altoid tins that could hold three UMDs. And I came across one myself a while back when a case designed for an old Palm VII was a great fit for the chunky Archos 5 portable media player.
Well, at the local Starbucks, they’ve been selling these packets of Via instant coffee in a nice little Neoprene pocket done up in seasonal red and green for about $13. It turns out that the pocket is a decent case for a small camera or iPhone, which is not surprising as it’s actually a slim “Hoodie” camera case by Built. I suppose it’s not a bad deal. You also get some bundled “ready brew” coffee, which is what the case will smell like.
Tags: Accessories, Built, camera bag
October 14, 2009
Ever since I received positive feedback on the guest column for Technologizer I wrote about the “pro” label, I’ve been wanting to write about products that slap the “HD” label onto their name to take advantage of the high-resolution trend that came into vogue about five years ago
Kodak High-Definition film was one of the early products to get flack for usurping the “HD” nomenclature. In its defense, the ASA 400 film does seem to produce less grain than other films and has been widely seen as a replacement for the Royal Gold film from Rochester. Rather than increasing absolute resolution, though, it simply seems to produce higher contrast. Perhaps Kodak should have simply come up with some arbitrary contrast ratio number, like everybody else does.
Nearly all digital cameras have been capable of “HD”, that is, more than 720 lines of resolution, for years. Consumer camcorders are now pretty far along that transition.
HD Radio, the digital radio standard developed by iBiquity, has become the technological destiny of AM and FM radio stations as far as broadcast technology is concerned. When it comes to audio, it seems “HD” is the new “CD-quality.” HD Radio offers a greater content selection (albeit one that isn’t nearly as broad as the Internet’s) and better sound quality (which is often better than what is found on the Internet, at least outside of managed services such as Slacker). Because it has lacked the receiver subsidization that helped fuel the early growth of satellite radio, HD Radio has been slow to get off the ground. However, it recently got a shot in the arm by being incorporated into the Zune HD, which is in part a true HD product in that it can output HD video with the aid of a separate dock.
Incidentally, ibiquity is far from the only company to associate “high definition” with audio. Intel led the charge in the PC space and a wide range of headphone brands have offered “high definition” headphones and earbuds, including AKG, Monster Cable, Philips, Sony and XtremeMac.
From the sublime to the ridiculous, a stroll through your local drug store may put you eye-level with the as-seen-on-TV HD Vision sunglasses direct from direct marketing land. The wraparound variety will fit over existing sunglasses so even those in need of prescriptions can get in on some HD vision, making you “look brighter and more alive.” These appear to be the latest in a line of polarized tinted anti-glare shades, a more modern incarnation of Ambervision. Believe it or not, they will not upconvert standard-definition videos, even if you watch them while squinting into the sun. Now how much would you pay?
And if your HD Vision shades don’t do much for staring at your old Trinitron., how about staring at your nails? You’re sure to revel in your high-definition hands with Sally Hansen HD Hi-Definition Nail Color. And what a spectrum of colors it is. HD Nail Color comes in eight different hues, twice the number that could be produced at one time by the standard-definition Atari 2600 (but only half the number that could be produced at one time by Intellivision). The thematically on-point shades include Cyber (purple) BLU (as in –”ray”), Pixel Pretty (turquoise, pictured), Hi-Def (green), Lite (yellow), Digital (pink), Three D (orange), and Hi-Res (red). I suppose using the “Hi-Def” shade of the HD nail polish will produce that holy grail of fingertip colorization, quad-HD nails.
Tags: film, HD radio, nail polish, sunglases
August 26, 2009
It hasn’t been the most elusive of computing’s holy grails, but there have been a few attempts toward optimizing a computing device for kitchen use. Two of them, the Macintosh Color Classic-like Icebox (now in an under-the cabinet configuration courtesy Salton) and the apparently madness-inducing 3Com Audrey, bombed. Another, the HP TouchSmart, has done well, but more generally than as a kitchen PC per se. We’ve also seen some content recently aimed at usage in the kitchen, such as the family of digital cooking video programs for the miBook and Nintendo’s Personal Trainer Cooking for the DS.
While the expansive TouchSmart might be a natural addition to, say, Kitchen Stadium, it’s a bit overwhelming for many an urban countertop. Enter the iPod touch. It plays music from local storage, a home network, or streaming from Pandora, Slacker or other sources, and maintains its minimal footprint with the JBL OnStage micro , it can act as a digital photo frame or display a clock, including a countdown timer. It can access weather forecasts when getting ready in the morning or check traffic on the route, and has a Yellow Pages app for looking up businesses and Safari for much more. Oh, it also has the AllRecipes app for connected cooks.
November 26, 2008
October 31, 2008
Today’s a sad day for the former employees of consumer electronics specialty retailer Tweeter, which was regionally strong in New England. Some questioned whether the store would make it through the holiday season and those questions were answered last night as the chain was sold to a liquidator.
Specialty retailers did well in the early days of flat-panel television, but have struggled as more of that market has shifted into mass merchants such as Walmart, Target and Costco.