Backed to the future: the crowdfunded tech of 2014 and beyond - PC Retail

Backed to the future: the crowdfunded tech of 2014 and beyond

Laura Barnes and Matthew Jarvis take a look at what future technology might begin to enter the market in 2014...
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Laura Barnes and Matthew Jarvis take a look at the projects causing the biggest stir on crowdfunding sites – and see what future technology might begin to enter the market in 2014…

Every year, Gartner’s analysts put together a list of ‘strategic predictions’ that could be disruptive in the IT industry.

This year, one of Gartner managing VP Daryl Plummer’s predictions was that by 2017, over half of consumer goods manufacturers will achieve 75 per cent of their consumer innovation and R&D capabilities via crowd-sourcing.

With that in mind, crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo are becoming a popular place to seek out the next big thing in technology, gaming and consumer electronics, as budding entrepreneurs turn to consumers to put money directly into the tech and products they want to see hitting the market. Below are some of the most exciting new offerings...

VIRTUAL REALITY, WEARABLE TECH AND GAMING

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Gaming is set to offer even more immersive experiences in 2014, as virtual reality and new control methods bring pixelated worlds closer and closer to feeling real.

The Oculus Rift headset, which itself should see a 2014 launch for its consumer model following a highly successful Kickstarter campaign that raised nearly $2.5 million, has sparked a renewed interest in virtual reality – but players still have to use a controller or keyboard to move around inside games.

In comes the Omni – a device designed to allow players to walk around in games by walking in real life, and which is set for a release in December 2013 after its Kickstarter raised more than $1 million. The circular platform uses a low friction base combined with low friction shoes and a waist support belt. The tech allows players to walk, run, jump and crouch – actions which are then recreated inside any game that supports keyboard input. Not only does it make games feel like real life – it also lets gamers stay healthy by getting them off of the sofa.

For those who want to get even more involved, haptic devices such as the iMotion controller will give users the chance to grab and control virtual space. Haptic feedback is a form of physical response that offers more specific and enhanced physical feedback than standard vibration. The iMotion is worn in the palm of a hand, and creates a virtual touch-screen in front of displays, allowing users to grab and actually ‘feel’ PC programs and games as if they were moving physical objects.

Mobile gaming is set to continue growing too, becoming more and more like its console and PC rivals. Controllers made to offer console-like experiences on mobile devices, such as the Drone, which offers a compact way to control tablets, PCs and consoles, will become more prevalent as gamers increasingly play on the move.

But mobile gaming will also begin to make its way back onto the bigger screens, with Android-based microconsoles such as the Ouya, which will see the release of an improved device next year, offering cheap living room gaming in a trend that’s likely to be adopted by other hardware manufacturers if it’s a success.

Technology will also start to blur the lines between digital and real, with wearable tech such as smartglasses and watches becoming more common.

Cheaper crowdfunded products such as the ION?Glasses are likely to battle with high-end offerings from corporations, like Google’s Glass.

3D PRINTERS

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While 3D printing has been around in the specialist and enthusiast sectors for some time now, 2014 looks set to be the year that it starts to makes its way into the hands of consumers. CES 2014 will have an exhibit area dedicated to 3D printers and a number of retailers are already stocking them as interesting Christmas gifts.

The Peachy Printer is a build-your-own device – and claims to be the first 3D printer and scanner costing under $100, rather than a premium pricetag.

Another printer bidding on its portability as a selling point is the LumiFold. The firm says its device is ‘probably’ the smallest 3D printer in the market. It’s foldable, making it easier to transport, and is allegedly the first 3D printer with a 3D holographic visualisation of the printing process.

Mark Chisholm, publications specialist at CEA, says: “While it’s exciting to imagine all the products we dream of creating via 3D printing, the technology also finds its way into products we might never consider.”

One example of this is the 3Doodler, which claims to be the world’s first 3D printing pen. Using ABS plastic (the material used by many 3D printers), the 3Doodler draws in the air or on surfaces. As the 3Doodler draws, it extrudes the heated plastic, which quickly cools and solidifies into a strong stable structure.

SMARTPHONE ACCESSORIES

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With a number of manufacturers having already released – or planning to release – wearable tech that works in conjunction with their smartphones, there has been an influx of other accessories and gadgets on Kickstarter and Indiegogo that are controlled via a mobile device.

More battery power is something every smartphone owner welcomes. The thought of being out in the middle of nowhere with no power point to charge your beloved device can be a scary one. That’s where the FlameStower steps in. The gadget, which is ideal for camping, converts the heat of fire into electricity. Users can power any USB device by placing the blade section in a fire. The opposite surface of the device is in contact with a small water reservoir. The hot side gets hot while the cold side stays cool. This temperature difference generates electricity.

It’s not just charging solutions that companies are developing for smartphones. Mesh Motion has invented a keyless bike lock that can be controlled via an app. The BitLock senses your phone’s proximity to your bike and verifies your identity, enabling you to simply press a button to remove the lock. The app also allows users to locate their bike, share the location with friends (who may want to borrow the bike), map rides and view detailed health statistics.

Another gadget that can be used in conjunction with a smartphone is a tracking device. One example of this is the BiiSafe Buddy, which enables user to share their location, send alerts and track their keys or phone.

The BiiSafe Buddy is small enough to be easily attached to a user’s set of keys, placed in a pocket or even worn like a necklace. With one touch of the button the user can share his or her location with anyone else registered to the account. Holding down the button sends out a distress signal if they’re lost or in need of help.

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