Kickstarter, Solving First World Problems

Even though Kickstarter has some particularly awesome projects (like Printrbot, which I still expect to build around the time the kids are 18 and I finally have an office to myself…) I do have to wonder sometimes.

For instance, today I came across Scanbox, which is a brilliant (if somewhat fallible) idea - using your smartphone instead of a flatbed scanner.

I linked to it on Twitter, and 15 minutes later, a photographer friend came back with the modahaus steady stand range, which despite not being as neatly foldable, can be disassembled trivially and does pretty much the same (albeit at a different price point).

I’m actually surprised something like this hasn’t popped up on Instructables (I did a cursory search, and there are a few static solutions, but no cutaways or foldables yet…), and even though the concept is brilliant on paper, I have some serious doubts as to the quality of the results - especially since I’ve recently had to scan several years’ worth of stuff1.

Believe me, even with 8 megapixel cameras and LED strips, it’s not gonna be that easy. But hey, it’s a great hack if it works well enough to mail your receipts over to your accountant.

Another project that recently caught my eye was The Pocket TV, largely because it’s based off the (apparently pretty popular right now mk802 Android 4.0 device I linked to the other day.

I found it rather interesting that they’re apparently intending to sell a device you can order in bulk for under US$78 and an optional keyboard that’s US$35, both at around US$160 (their stated retail price - pledges are $119-$135, and those are sold out). Doing the math for ranges of 5K-10K units, there’s a tidy profit in there2.

Sure, they’re going to do some custom packaging (and maybe a little software customization), but from the moment I tracked down the original manufacturers (I knew all about the MK802, but, again, Twitter helped me track down the QWERTY remote in a few minutes), all the magic was gone.

This is not to say that these projects lack merit, or that they shouldn’t get funded (I think they should, even if only to see if they spawn mainstream competition), but it saddens me that stuff like the $50 computer - which would be of real consequence in educational environments (even if admittedly a lot less cool and less “fun”) gets a lot less funding.

This, of course, isn’t Kickstarter’s fault - maybe it’s just that pledgers don’t do enough research, or simply that they’d rather sponsor cool toys. I’m not passing judgment here, just documenting my musings.

Nevertheless, there are some hidden gems in there.

For instance, I love Sensordrone - the concept seems to be original (although I will be researching it a bit further, since I have more than a passing interest in ambient sensors and remote metering), there is a lot of future potential (again, sadly, mostly for first world countries), and I’m going to pass the link along to all my hardware-hacking friends because that kind of sensor pack is a godsend for prototyping a number of original mobile apps.

  1. Incidentally, I ended up buying Vuescan mobile, which works fine for small volumes of pages (it couldn’t deal with the hundreds of A4 sheets I scanned in and OCRd painlessly - and driverlessly - with its older sibling, but is great for scanning in a few bills now and then). ↩︎

  2. I’m still trying to track down one of the alternative manufacturers (the MK802 is a reference design, and we’re only seeing one or two variants in the Western hemisphere), and I’ll try to get a more detailed cost breakdown… ↩︎

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