Tony Fadell on the iPod, Kickstarter, Nest, Steve Jobs and more

Tony Fadell has a very interesting background, and he’s very knowledgeable about the process of creating great hardware and gadgets. In this excellent interview with Kevin Rose, Fadell discusses a wide variety of topics that would be helpful and interesting to entrpreneurs or anyone who loves gadgets.

He explains the value of Nest and where the company is going in the future. He gives some background on his role in the creation of the iPod and his work with Steve Jobs. And he also addresses some of the challenges of trying to create a hardware company using Kickstarter. Listen to his discussion of the power of saying no and the need for simplicity in products.

Check it out, and you can follow him on Twitter here.

No One Panic, but the Wheel May Have Just Been Reinvented

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I’ve covered a lot of Kickstarter projects on this site, as the crowd funding behemoth proves to be an infinite source for the latest, and most interesting, projects currently out there.

But of all those Kickstarter projects, few have ever been so bold as a seemingly simple invention called the Shark Wheel, which claims to have reinvented the wheel.

It’s origin story is much humbler than its aspirations, as the story goes that one day creator David Patrick was playing around trying to get six pieces of interlocking cable to fit into a cube (which is apparently how eccentric geniuses entertain themselves), when he realized that upon dropping his created design, the shape he’d formed not only rolled, but rolled smoothly over a long stretch of ground.

As a lifelong skateboarder, David immediately realized the potential of this design, and modified it to create the Shark Wheel, a somewhat warped interpretation of the standard wheel that is designed to specifically reduce the amount of direct contact with the ground. Among other things, the benefits of that approach includes faster speed, better grip and control, and the ability to provide both of those features in wet or uneven terrain. In other words, by shifting the model of the traditional wheel slightly, it manages to provide the most desirable aspects of the regular skateboard wheel in a way that the old design cannot.

Now, the term skateboard wheel is being thrown around here, because that is the sole intention of this design’s function at the moment, as the Shark’s kickstarter campaign will net you 4 longboard wheels for a $50 donation.

While the inventor insists this design is not currently intended for use on an automobile or any other wheel dependent vehicle, it is nonetheless impressive that someone out there has managed to accomplish what was previously only referenced in terms of a joke and has actually improved the wheel, even if it is only in one specific capacity. It does go to show though that there is an infinite world of creative possibilities still to be explored, and, on its own, looks to be an impressive piece of design that any skateboarder should be intrigued by.

The Monkey Light Pro: Geek Made, Hipster Approved

As biking becomes more and more popular due to its financial, health, and environmental benefits, particularly among bearded twenty-somethings in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, we’re starting to see biking culture become a bigger and bigger thing.

For the most part, this has been a tame culture. Some biking outings, a few repair shops here and there, and of course some minor…err…accessorizing. Again though, nothing unusual.

Of course, it was only a matter of time until someone said screw it, and really just crafted something wild for the most eccentric of bicyclists. It turns out that time is now, that someone is MonkeyLetric, and the something wild is a series of LED lights that go on the spokes, and can create an almost limitless amount of images, such as these.

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Working off of a 4 piece LED unit that attaches to a bike’s spokes, the Monkey Light Pro is an incredible piece of technology not just because of its ability to create a moving image based on nothing but the bike’s momentum, but because of the creative potential of the images themselves.

Besides a few stock images that come with the device, considering that just about every file type is supported for uploading, and variables such as speed and looping abilities can be implemented, there really appears to be no end to the images that can be created, leading to some amazingly creative examples so far stemming solely from the invention’s creators.

Speeding towards its $180,000 goal on Kickstarter, and requiring a $695 baking to receive one, it’s looking more and more likely that we will be seeing these on the streets sometimes in the future. While it’s hard to tell if this will eventually be annoying, or even hazardous, for right now the creativity of the device makes it one of the more entertaining Kickstarter projects, and the best bicycle wheel enhancer since the baseball card.

New Wool Blend Shirt Could be the Last Shirt You Ever Need

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A question for you. Why would someone wear a shirt for a 100 days straight?

There are several answers of course. You really like that shirt, it’s a harbinger of good luck, you’re really broke, you’re…umm…trying to win some sort of bet, and of course many others.

Whatever your reason may be though, it is ultimately irrelevant as of course even the sturdiest of shirts need to be dried, ironed, and generally maintained in order to preserve their quality, meaning that the shirt of a 100 straight wears is in fact just a pipe dream.

There is one upstart designer, though, by the name of Wool&Prince that insists that isn’t true. What’s more is that they aren’t relying on some space age material or microchip to accomplish it either, but are rather using a simple wool blend to craft a shirt that can be worn for a 100 days straight, without generating a single wrinkle, or producing one bad odor. Also, unlike your typical wool sweater, the material is apparently very high quality and actually comfortable to wear.

While the 100 day wear spree may be a gimmick, it is one that proves the more interesting point that this is a durable shirt that can survive conditions both common and extraordinary and come out the other side in fresh from the dryer quality, with no more upkeep required than the occasional wash. While certain individuals like the business man on the go benefit most from this shirt then, it’s hard to imagine there isn’t a guy who wouldn’t like to have that one favorite shirt that just happens to be near invincible.

Of course the point is that you won’t have to imagine any longer. The makers of the shirt Wool&Prince have already earned $300,000+ of their asking $30,000 goal, meaning it’s just a matter of time until you can own a shirt that’s Clark Kent sensible on the outside, and Superman durable within.

Ditch the Routine Pocket Pat-Down, and Consider the SmartWallit

There’s a compulsive activity I do almost everytime I leave somewhere, where I pat my front pockets for my keys, wallet, and phone, and don’t proceed until all three are accounted for. It’s a common impulse used to make sure your most necessary items are on you, but is far from infallible. For instance, sometimes you are running especially late, or are just hammered drunk, and don’t remember to take the usual precautions.

There’s been a variety of tracking devices over the years that help you keep tabs of your valuables in situations like that, but I’ve never considered one until the SmartWallit.

The SmartWallit is a small device that you slide into your wallet, and link to your phone via Bluetooth and an app. From there, if you leave your phone behind, the device in your wallet will beep as a notification. Similarly, if you snag your phone, but forget the wallet, the phone will beep, and even provide an approximate proximity to the wallet. While there is a keychain option for the device to keep the “band together” so to speak, there’s no way for it to notify you you’ve left them all, because, as in all things, at a certain point, you’re just screwed.

The SmartWallit isn’t just a high tech game of marco polo between the necessities, though, as there are additional app features. The most intriguing of which has to be the one that reads sensors from the device to know when you opened your wallet last to make a payment, and keeps a loose record of it that will show you the time and exact location it was used, meaning you’ll never forget where that twenty went to again. You can even import more advanced financial features to keep closer tabs on your active spending habits.

Looking for just under $7,000 to finish its Kickstarter campaign, the SmartWallit isn’t the first of its kind, but is among the least invasive, and most versatile, of the tracking devices I’ve seen yet. Plus you can never really have enough gadgets that help you never have to know the horror of replacing the contents of your wallet.

Bartendro: The Drink Making Robot that (Probably) Loves to Party

Bartenders are truly some of the greatest people a man can know.

They listen to your problems, always know at least one good joke, will help you scope the girls (and provide useful information on the regulars), and most importantly, disperse sweet lady alcohol in a variety of creative and enticing concoctions.

The one downside? They are usually relegated to just the bar.

Party Robotics is looking to change that by bringing the drink dispensing skills of a bartender to your home through robotics. Their idea is called the Bartendro (because that’s exactly what a robot bartender should be called), and it lets you put a series of tubes into the liquor or mixer bottles of your choice, and then use your tablet or smartphone to send a Wi-Fi drink order to the machine based on the available liquids.

The “how” of the device is complex, but the why should be immediately evident. Coming in designs of 3, 7, or 15 (!) dispensers (a somewhat superfluous single shot model is also available), Bartendro is designed to make the perfectly mixed cocktail at any time, everytime. It’s ideally useful for social gatherings, though honestly once you’ve invested in a cocktail making robot, every day is a party.

Invest early on the device through Kickstarter, and for a full unit it will run you $699 for the 3 tube model, $1,299 for the 7 tube, while $2,499 gets you the 15 tube behemoth in all of its glory.

Bartendro may not be designed to tell jokes and listen to your troubles (yet…) but even at the heavy asking prices, is an incredible representation of the glorious and golden age of alcoholic technological possibilities we live in.

Still, It’d Be Nice If It At Least Knew Your Name

The Game Stick: A Small Console that is Part of A Big Movement

One of the bigger stories of 2012 in gadgets was the success of the Ouya. The Ouya promises gamers a new type of game console that will be powered off the Android OS, and will retail for under $100 with free to play games, which could include thousands of titles, and serve as a  highly accessible development platform for small game developers everywhere.  It sparked a sizable wave of hype, and destroyed Kisckstarter records, as the idea of such a fresh game console took the public by storm, and had them throwing money at their computers to support it.

And now, not long after the release of the initial Ouya development kits, it appears the Ouya’s triumphant burst onto the gaming scene has left a gaping hole for other companies to join the party through. The latest, and most intriguing, is the Game Stick, a project of PlayJam. It’s intriguing, because it’s a console that is essentially just a controller and a USB stick that plugs into your TV’s HDMI port. From that simple set up, you have access to a substantial number of high profile Android based games available through the PlayJam Games Network service, as well as a host of additional titles the company are hoping to acquire from major Android developers.

Currently the creators of the Game Stick are looking for $100,000 on Kickstarter to start production, and are over halfway to their goal with 29 days to go.

2013 is set to be a huge, huge year in gaming, and you can’t belittle the Ouya’s role in that. Even if it achieves nothing greater than its current role as Kicstarter darling, the little system that could is proving that there is a market out there for a cheaper, simpler, open sourced gaming platform. While the Game Stick doesn’t appear to be quite on the same level of the Ouya as far as depth or available titles, it does offer further evidence that the indie and mobile markets are looking for a traditional platform that will allow them to stand shoulder to shoulder with the big boys to see how they measure up. At an expected $75 price point, the Game Stick may not prove to make that impact, but it could be a great way to get Android games on TV’s on a budget, and with minimal set up.

The CruxSKUNK Might Provide the Perfect iPad Keyboard

For a company all about upselling (just try to leave an Apple Store without being sold a case for your iPhone) Apple themselves haven’t done a great job of providing an accessory to fix the iPad keyboard dilemma.

See as beautiful a device as the iPad is, its on screen keyboard doesn’t exactly lend itself to any use more urgent than internet browsing. This severely hinders many of the features the wonder tablet can offer. Apple, along with several other companies, offer Bluetooth keyboard accessories, but the results of trying to use one are often awkward and make enjoying using your iPad more burdensome than need be. Some companies like Belkin, Zagg, and Kensington have tried to get around this problem with keyboard/case hybrids that turns your iPad into something that closer resembles a laptop. Reactions and results are mixed on those hybrids, with many of them still coming off as awkward, causing severe limitations in mobility, or worse just plain cheap.

Where others have failed in resolving this problem, though, an unlikely savior, with an unlikely name for a savior, may have emerged from the funding fields of Kickstarter.

It’s called the CruxSKUNK (what?) and it may succeed where other, similar products have failed by using some of the same product synergy Apple is so fond of themselves. That’s because, when you put your iPad into the case, the entire unit is made to resemble a Macbook Air in weight, looks, and feel. The metamorphosis is genuinely impressive, as is the keyboard itself which features nice large type-face, full keyboard set-up and range, and a nicely thin base (6mm). Aesthetically, it is the most immediately pleasing case of its kind on the market.

But the CruxSKUNK isn’t trying to get by on its looks. Instead the real beauty of this case is its hinge that lets the user place their iPad in a variety of positions to suit their needs. The idea is to provide the perfect set up for watching movies, working on documents, or playing games all without having to remove the case. After seeing the video of the CruxSKUNK in action, its hard to believe that they haven’t achieved just that. If you do need to remove your iPad, however, the Crux also allows you to do so without much in the way of hindrance.

Currently the CruxSKUNK has already well exceeded its revamped $90,000 goal, with over $191,000 dollars earned and 20 days still left to go for funding.  The only available backing options left range from $155 for a CruxSKUNK and nice leather carrying sleeve, to $1500 plus for 10 cases and 10 sleeves. Obviously, that’s not cheap when compared to some of the competitors on the market. However, since the main complaint of those competitors is how cheap their actual products are, you ultimately have to ask yourself if your need for an iPad keyboard case is truly great enough to warrant going for the top of the line. If it is, even in its pre-production phase, the CruxSKUNk appears to be just that.

The MaKey MaKey; Changing Input One Banana at a Time

Confused by the headline? Well, it’s about to get stranger.

That’s thanks to this new invention called the MaKey MaKey. It’s another project that’s finding success on Kickstarter, and its goal is to inspire the creative side out of everyone that uses it, and try to turn the world into inventors.

And it’s achieving that with little more hardware than a circuit board and some alligator clips.

If you couldn’t watch that video (or if you were just as befuddled as I was when I saw it), I’ll elaborate. The Makey Makey is a small circuit board that provides inputs meant to function in place of your basic mouse and keyboard set up. You simply plug one end of the alligator clips into the inputs you desire and then attach the clips to any item that can conduct any form of electricity (bananas seem to work very well, but a pencil drawing, Play-Doh, or a million other items would theoretically work), and that item now functions as the input device.

Examples shown so far include a series of bananas substituting for the keys of a piano, Play-Doh being formed into the shape of a controller to play Super Mario Bros., and four buckets of water filling in for a Dance Dance Revolution dance pad. But from the looks of it, anything is possible.

Again the device’s main goal is to inspire creativity in its users and to try to blossom the inventor in everyone. It’s seems to be meant mostly for artists, amateur creators, and of course children, where it might ultimately find its biggest success in the toy market.

Of course just like another hot invention of recent times, The MakerBot, I think that the Makey Makey’s biggest contributions lay in the technology the invention is based off of and not the actual invention itself. Still with almost $130,000 dollars raised so far for the Makey Makey, it looks to find success in one field or another immediately, whether or not there is still more promising things it can lead to down the line.