CharmCam: a Baby Monitor That Does So Much More

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Image via the CharmCam Indiegogo campaign.

Modern baby monitors have come a long way since the sound-only models that used to pick up the neighbors’ wireless home phone conversations. These days, they’re wi-fi enabled, allow remote access and viewing from our smartphones, night vision, and more. They’re certainly good, but they still end up being simply a camera in your baby’s room, and leave you as the parent to play the role of security guard, trying to go to sleep or get other tasks done, and worrying every time there’s 10 seconds of silence.

It seems like, with newer camera technologies, especially in the areas of pattern recognition, as well as the many additional sensors available, there’s more baby monitors could be doing.

Enter the CharmCam (GeekMom’s sponsor today):

Currently looking for funding on Indiegogo, the CharmCam is the next generation of baby monitors. Sure it’ll send a 1080p video stream to your phone at better than 15fps, in normal or IR light, but it also monitors your baby’s temperature constantly, watches in case the baby’s face gets covered by something, senses the air quality, and will even play a lullaby and deliver a soothing light show.

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Every time there’s something you might want to check—an elevated temperature, or a face covered for more than a few seconds—you can set the app to give you a notification. Parents can rest easy that everything is okay.

If you’re interested in helping get the next generation of baby monitors into production, and get your hands on some of the first ones out the door, take a stop by the Indiegogo campaign, where early-bird supporters can pick up a CharmCam with both a table mount and a clamp-style mount for just $149.

Fund This! One Campaign to Rule Them All!

This special edition of Fund This features what very well may be the most epic geek campaign ever. A group of architects has launched Realise Minas Tirith, a crowdfunding venture to raise the equivalent of almost $3 billion to build a functional, livable Minas Tirith in the south of England.

Minas Tirith, of course, was the capital city of Gondor. It was also called “The White City” as its courtyard held The White Tree. The city was featured heavily in The Lord of the Rings trilogy film The Return of the King for the final battle against the forces of Mordor and the coronation of Aragorn.

The campaign’s leader, Jonathan Wilson, states on the campaign page:

“We are a team of Tolkien fans who are passionate about creating a beautiful, inspirational and fully-functioning replica of Peter Jackson’s depiction of Minas Tirith, as seen in his Lord of the Rings films. We all share a love of Tolkien’s work, and a desire to challenge the common perception of community and architecture. We believe that, in realising Minas Tirith, we could create not only the most remarkable tourist attraction on the planet, but also a wonderfully unique place to live and work.”

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Image courtesy of lotr.wikia.

They had me at Tolkien. Continue reading Fund This! One Campaign to Rule Them All!

Fund This! Launching Your Own Campaign!

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Image used with permission from Rocio Lara under CC BY-SA 2.0

Since I’ve been covering GeekMom’s Fund This! article for a while, I frequently get questions on crowdfunding and how to approach using community-based fundraising to launch a product or project. Having run my own successful Kickstarter, and perusing hundreds of other campaigns, I definitely have a few insights on what works and what doesn’t.

Campaigns usually fall into two categories. The first come from companies, organizations, or people with an established following who are using this platform to expand their offering. Great examples of this are The Oatmeal’s Exploding Kittens Game (which my family has been playing for about a week straight. Every night. Because it’s awesome.), NASA’s Reboot the Suit (in which the public proved that they valued something that needed funding outside of the regular budget), or Amanda Palmer on Patreon (in which one of my favorite artists took control of her ability to produce and connect with her fan base).

The second category is entrepreneurs. People who have an idea and are going for it. It’s this second category that needs the most support and the most thought before launching. But a well-planned campaign can make your project dreams come true and possibly launch a whole new business. There are also two other categories: the campaigns in which you are buying a product and the ones in which you are investing in a cause you believe in.

Probably the most common way that homegrown projects fund their startup costs these days is through crowdfunding. Websites such as Kickstarter, IndieGogo, GoFundMe, and Patreon allow your community to invest in your project. Some, such as Kickstarter, only fund you if you meet your goal. If you use this model, make sure you set an attainable goal amount. Other platforms allow you to keep whatever you raise. You should know that while all these companies take a percentage of what you raise (which should be calculated into your asking amount), some take a higher percentage if you do not make your goal. You are not charged an extra percentage for exceeding your goal on any platform. There are many choices online, but some of the popular platforms include:

Kickstarter: Probably the most well-known platform, great for launching new products. Advantages include popularity and sense of urgency, disadvantage is the funding is all or nothing.

IndieGogo: Another well-known site, but this one has the option of keeping what you raise, although the percentage they take is higher if you do not reach your goal.

GoFundMe: Personal fundraising website. Good for things like raising money to receive training or gain a new skill that relates to your goals or business.

Tilt: Formerly know as Crowdtilt, this platform is a great way to collect and track money for a project or cause, particularly from an established group.

Patreon: Platform to support artists of all kinds on an ongoing basis.

Choosing your platform is directly related to your end goal and who you think is going to fund your idea. When approaching a crowdfunding campaign, consider the following:

  • Who is your audience?
  • How big of a community will your space serve?
  • Is there any component to your project that would serve others outside your community?
  • How will you connect your mission to your audience?
  • Who will write your campaign and film your video?
  • What perks can you offer and who will fulfill them?
  • Who will do the daily marketing required for your campaign?
  • If you fail to meet your goal, what is your back-up plan?

The good news is that statistically, your crowdfunding campaign will either never make it out of the gate or you are almost guaranteed to fund, and that gives you some control. Preparing for a campaign by gathering and motivating your community, lining up local media coverage, and making smart choices around perks can set you up for success before you have even started. You don’t necessarily need a finished product, but you do need enough of a prototype or a plan to demonstrate feasibility and success.

If you are doing a crowdfunding campaign, my advice is to keep it simple and doable. I wish someone had told me before we launched ours the amount of daily work it would take to market and push our project in every direction we possibly could. I still would have done it, but I would have delegated more.

I also wish someone would have warned me about how much time and energy fulfilling our perks would cost. If your project is a product, the reward is fairly straightforward. For campaigns that are causes, physical perks such as t-shirts are costly and time consuming to mail, and honestly people generally do not want more “stuff.” Perks like “A Month of Making: 30 Days of Projects” sent by email, which was a reward of the Austin Tinkering School Kickstarter, offer an experience and information that you can provide easily with very little overhead and deepen your connection and value to your backers. Every person I have talked to that has run a crowdfunding campaign has stressed that while all the small reward backers add up, offering really dynamic rewards at the higher levels can make all the difference. Those backing at a higher level will have different expectations and you should plan accordingly.

Finally, my last piece of advice is you may not need any crowdfunding website. If you are running a local campaign or have backers waiting with money in hand, you could bypass using an external site completely and post your project on your website with a link to Paypal or another money collecting system. You would decrease the cost to your backers and keep more of the funding by appealing directly to your community.

So, what do I personally look for when I am choosing campaigns to feature on Fund This? First, was I able to make it through the whole video or explanation? Second, does it really offer something new and unique? Third, does it spark joy, do I want it? And finally, has the campaign demonstrated to me that they can accomplish what they have promised? I tend to focus on campaigns that appeal to our geeky audience, but since that is who I am, the research can be very personal as well. Therefore, campaigns that show personal investment and enthusiasm always catch my eye.

My (last) last piece of advice is to make sure you show yourself and connect with your audience. Passion is infectious, and can make all the difference.

Happy Funding!

Fund This! Crafteeo, iBesties, Maxwell’s Soaps, and ReBoot the Suit!

I don’t know about yours, but my summer is going faster than New Horizons past Pluto. Speaking of space things, don’t you want to see Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit conserved and displayed? How about girls as CEOs and tech leaders? Maybe you feel deeply about helping out the homeless, even in one small way? Or are you feeling feisty and need your own hackable suit of armor? Whatever your passion—you can fund it!

Happy Funding!

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Photo credit: S. Cook

Crafteeo Pulsar Armor and Helmet

The photo above is the new product from Crafteeo, a full armor set with programmable lighting. I received the armor fully assembled, so I did not get to build the kit. However, I did get to play with the programming. Creating different lighting options was very easy, since it uses the Arduino platform, which our family is very familiar with. If your family is not, it is a fairly quick learning curve. Also, Arduino is open source, which makes this project highly hackable. My 10-year-old son was very excited and immediately put it on, but wished there was a sword to go with it. Fortunately, Crafteeo had also sent me a broadsword kit (available on their website), so we could get a sense of how hard these were to build.

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Photo credit S. Cook

Generally, the kits are well put together and the pieces are easily identifiable. Crafteeo has directions on their website, as well as video tutorials. These worked great for me as a visual learner, but my son wished they were also narrating the steps. It definitely took both of us to make the sword. My son is a great builder, but some of the sections required my help and there were some lengthy drying times that had me helping him stay focused and patient. The benefit to this was family engagement. It was something we did together, learned together. It was also a product that he and his sister enjoyed using. My son decided to personalize his sword with the crest of the knight he was named after, which is another way you can hack the kits. I also ended up adding a couple layers of shellac to everything because I was concerned that our family’s energetic use of the armor and sword would quickly deteriorate them. Ultimately, I would love to see Crafteeo make custom kits where kids can choose their own combination of parts for even more control over their design. But for now, you can support this growing company with their new Kickstarter!

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Completed broadsword and scabbard. Photo credit S. Cook.

GeekMom received Crafteeo’s Pulsar Armor Kit and Broadsword Kit for review purposes.

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Photo courtesy of iBesties.

iBesties

Another campaign targeted towards girls, but this time it focuses on entrepreneurship and tech leadership. At the center of this product line is a book about six friends who start a friendship blog that goes viral. Each of them has a special skill that they must hone for their collaboration and success. Once again, the product is clever and I like the fresh point of view. Very modern and stylish, but not inappropriate for their targeted audience of 6-11 year olds. My daughter went nuts over these. She immediately identified which role she would play and which friends she thinks would fill the other roles. And now she knows what a mogul is. The campaign is ending in 2 days! Hurry!

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Photo courtesy of Maxwell’s Soaps.

Maxwell’s Soaps

This campaign doesn’t need me to sell it. A combat veteran turned entrepreneur who makes healthy natural soaps wants to raise money to supply a mobile homeless hygiene bus with enough soap for six months. Because natural soap is good for people, good for the environment, good for dignity and self worth.

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From the Reboot the Suit campaign: Profile of astronaut Alan Shepard in his silver pressure suit with the helmet visor closed as he prepares for his upcoming Mercury-Redstone 3 (MR-3) launch. Photo credit: NASA.

Reboot the Suit

Honestly, it never occurred to me that Neil Armstrong’s space suit—the one he walked on the Moon in—was not conserved and appropriately documented. I mean, funding, I get it. But how cool and necessary it is to make sure that this historically important artifact gets the preservation it deserves, and if it does, we get to enjoy it with our very own eyes. This campaign provoked a stirring of many GeekMom hearts, let me tell you. We are all behind Rebooting the Suit!

Con Man Offers Mourning Firefly Fans Reprieve!

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Image: Alan Tudyk/Con Man Team

Today, Firefly favorites Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion announced their new project, Con Mannow open for funding on Indiegogo. What is Con Man? Well, the description from the Indiegogo says:

“Wray Nerely (Alan Tudyk-Me!) was a costar on Spectrum, a sci-fi series which was canceled -Too Soon- yet became a cult classic. Wray’s good friend, Jack Moore (Nathan Fillion) starred in the series and has gone on to become a major movie star. While Jack enjoys the life of an A-lister, Wray tours the sci-fi circuit as a guest of conventions, comic book stores, and lots of pop culture events. The show will feature all the weird and crazy things that happen to Wray along the way to at these events these events.”

That sounds… oddly familiar… Wait, where was I again? Yes! You can support this project, because the guys want you (and everyone else) to be the producers of their fine endeavor. You can check out the Indiegogo page for all the various awesome you could get for helping to support this project. But most important of all, Firefly fans, we get to see two of our guys together again. On a spaceship.

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Image: Alan Tudyk/Con Man Team

“I wanted to make a show that featured all of my favorite convention artists and friends together,” Tudyk says. “Not only that, I wanted to celebrate the world where heroes, villains, zombie hunters, and space pirates all overlap. I especially wanted to work with my friend Nathan Fillion again.”

It’s a celebration of why we are geeks in the first place, and I for one cannot wait to see this happen!

Support the campaign for Con Man HERE.

Read this great interview with Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk on io9.com.

Fund This! ARTtv, Qduino, Adventure Scents, and Studio Cosplay!

It feels like spring here on the west coast, time to emerge for more gatherings and collaborative projects! This week, I found funding campaigns that channel this collective creativity: An art show for kids and their families, a tiny Arduino compatible that can level up a project, a line of fragrances that make any RPG experience more authentic, and a new makerspace devoted to cosplay!

Happy funding!

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Photo courtesy of ARTtv.

ARTtv: A Creative Art Show for Kids
I don’t have enough room in this post to wax on about how important the arts are. Experience and exposure to the arts is a foundation in critical thinking, creativity, innovation, and more. As a constructivist teacher, I actually start drawing lessons before I even begin math and letters. It is essential. This project is, frankly, fun. It is intelligent and attractive. It feels like my favorite parts of Yo Gabba Gabba without the awkward (to me) puppets combined with an art class to make a community that exudes support and acceptance for whatever kind of art excites each kid watching. This is the kind of screen time programming we need more of.

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Photo courtesy of qtechknow.

Qduino Mini
This little gem was designed by a 14-year-old maker named Quinn, who continues to impress me, not just because of his skills (though boy does he have them!), but because of his innovative spirit and perseverance. I like that he knows what he loves and he goes for it. Now, this little device is a tiny Arduino compatible that has a battery connector and charger built in, as well as a fuel gauge that can tell you when to charge the battery! It is also inexpensive, available with a minimum pledge of $25. Since he is teaming up with SparkFun for manufacturing, I am going to bet that, should this be successful, you will be able to buy more on their website. I can think of five projects right now I would use this on, and I bet the kids I mentor could take it even further!

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Photo courtesy of Adventure Scents.

Adventure Scents
This might be one of the more unusual campaigns I have covered, but hear me out. So much of our human experience is connected to our sense of smell. Now, why wouldn’t we want to gamify this?! Adventure Scents is a line of 20 fragrances to match 20 common fantasy adventure locations, from Healing Sanctuary to Smoky Campfire to Rowdy Tavern to Moldy Crypt. Beyond their use in RPGs, you could totally set up a scene or enhance accessories or a costume with these. Since I am working on a Sky Captain cosplay, I might need to get my hands on the Flying Airship scent.

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Photo courtesy of Studio Cosplay.

 

Studio Cosplay
I tend to be careful about posting funding campaigns that are local to a region, but this one really got me excited. The talent and genius of what costumers are capable of when they have the resources and community to pull off their vision blows me away. I loved the idea of tailoring a makerspace to this end. To take it even further, I have seen both children and adults be drawn into making and hacking through the catalyst of projects inspired by their favorite fandom. I love that Studio Cosplay included rewards for those of us who share their passion, but are not local to the Washington, DC area, and I am glad they plan on creating a sustainable model that can be replicated. Cosplay is a specific kind of making and needs a specific kind of space. By building it and creating community around it, I can’t wait to see the next level of cosplay emerge.

Fund This! Geek Illustrated Cookbooks, Inked Geek Shirts, and Interstitial Art!

This edition of Fund This features a geek cookbook, geek ink shirts, and art that pushes the boundaries! This month I was really attracted to campaigns that were taking fandom or known genres and pushing them into new and fun contexts. I wanted to see campaigns that were about pleasure and enjoyment, and I think I have found some great examples. Happy Funding!

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Photo courtesy of the Interstitial Arts Foundation

Interfictions Online The Interstitial Arts Foundation is raising funds to create an online home for their artists. In case you are unfamiliar, Interstitial Art includes those media and projects that fall outside the accepted standards or boundaries of acknowledged genres. They push the limits of what is expected and/or possible. Funds raised will go towards building two new online issues, paying the artists a fair wage for their work, and maintaining the online anthology free to the public. Interfictions Online is an amazing resource for cutting edge ideas brought to life, and as an artist myself it is one of the places I go for inspiration and aspiration. I look forward to seeing their next issue!

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Image courtesy of the Inked Geek Kickstarter

Inked Geek Shirts I am a Geek. I have tattoos. I must have at least one of these shirts, thank you very much. There are only a few days left on this campaign and it is fully funded, but I could not leave it out in case any of our geeky readers wanted in on the action! I have included a picture of my favorite design above, but they also have Pokemon, Harry Potter, and Star Trek represented.

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Image courtesy of Kitchen Overlord

Kitchen Overlord‘s Illustrated Geek Cookbook From the popular Kitchen Overlord blog comes a fully illustrated cookbook featuring their most popular recipes, and some new exclusive ones too, accompanied by the fandom characters that inspired them. Besides being a very cool and very beautiful ode to food, comics, and culture, the book covers over 120 years of Geek culture, and I am pretty sure my family would beg me for a recipe a day from their favorites. Of course, the book is the primary reward, but if you want to kick out a little more dough (see what I did there?), you can actually have them design a recipe based on your favorite fandom with an acknowledgement. I would love to see what she could do with my family’s requests!

Grush Crushes Cavity Creeps with Video Game Toothbrush

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The Grush Brush is a toothbrush that doubles as a motion-sensing gaming wand controller. Image: Grush, Inc.

Recently, my son’s dentist installed an Xbox in the waiting room. He probably doesn’t need a few extra gaming minutes in his life, but it certainly takes the sting out of going to the dentist. (I wish my dentist did that!)

Now, one company is looking to mesh gaming with everyday dental hygiene. A start-up by the name of Grush is hoping you’ll zap those cavity creeps with the Grush Brush, the video game toothbrush.

At this point, my son has gotten too tall to stand behind him to help and typically, I need a miner’s helmet to get a good glimpse inside that mouth. The Grush Brush is designed to create better brushing habits and make tooth brushing less painful for everyone involved.

The Grush Brush combines an electronic toothbrush with motion sensing technology and an app for iOS and Android devices. The motion sensing can track where kids (and adults, yes me—I want one!) brush and how they brush. Then, all of that information is stored in the app. Parents can then check on those brushing habits, as well as share them with the family dentist via the “Grush Cloud.”

Grush was founded by two dads, who apparently share every single parent’s pain when it comes to taking care of teeth. To get the product out to the masses, the two are turning to the crowdfunding site Indiegogo. Judging by the drool my son had while watching the video below and the four times he asked, “Can we get that?,” I’d say the Grush Brush is going to be a success. To reserve your own Grush Brush, you’ll need to pledge a minimum of $30 before the campaign ends on May 18, 2014.

When the Grush Brush ships, it will come with two standard games. For instance, “Monster Chase” allows kids to brush away all of the monsters in their teeth, while “Toothy Orchestra” transforms that toothbrush into a conductor’s wand. Other games are expected to follow.

The company expects the first Grush Brushes to go out by March 2015. Oh what, you think that your kids will get better brushing habits before then?

Color Cables: Glow-in-the-Dark, Device-Charging Convenience

Color Cables are bright, effective, and glow in the dark! Image: Patricia Vollmer.
Color Cables are bright, effective, and glow in the dark! Image: Patricia Vollmer.

Are you sick of the same, plain, black and white mobile device charging cables? Those kind that get tangled and wadded up in your bag? Or the connector/cable junction gets all frayed and ratty? Well, lament no more! Check out Color Cables for a great alternative to those standard, boring cables.

I had the chance to review Color Cables, a brand new charging and sync cable startup that’s currently at the tail end of an IndieGoGo campaign. I think our faithful GeekMom readers would agree with me when I say that a glow-in-the-dark charging cable option is a really cool idea, and considering it doesn’t cost any differently than standard quality cables, what’s there to lose?

The company was gracious enough to send me three Color Cables: an orange 6-foot Apple Lightning cable, a pink 3-foot MicroUSB cable (compatible with Blackberry, Kindle, Samsung, and Windows Phone devices), and a blue 3-foot Apple 30-pin cable.

What Comes in the Box

  • One Color Cable in your choice of color
  • A coupon for 25 percent off your next purchase

Usability

The cable works just like the factory cable that came with your device, except it's bright and cheerful! Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
Waflles, anyone? The cable works just like the factory cable that came with your device, except it’s bright and cheerful! Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

I’m not going to waste your time talking about how to use a charging cable. You simply plug it in, right? The Color Cables are only USB at the power end. If you want to connect to an AC power outlet, you need to dig out that plug from your Samsung or Apple box. Otherwise, feel free to plug it into your computer or USB outlet for the same use.

I used the Lightning cable with my new iPhone 5s, the MicroUSB cable with my Samsung Galaxy Note 8 and my sons’ Kindle Fires, and the Apple 30-pin cable with my iPad 2.

These cables are flat. I can’t say with certainty what benefits there are to flat cables in terms of its ability to charge, but I do know that it’s much more difficult to inadvertently tie the cable in knots.

This close up will show you the translucent glow-in-the-dark plastic coating. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.
This close-up will show you the translucent glow-in-the-dark plastic coating. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Charging speeds seem to be comparable to the devices’ factory cables, and in the past month, I’ve not had any problems with the charge starting up as soon as plug in the cables.

Glow in the Dark Feature

These cables are covered in a glow-in-the-dark plastic coating. This gives the cables more durability.

I wasn’t able to photograph the cable glowing in my dark half-bathroom, but trust me when I say that the glowing cables are indeed pretty bright, so long as they’ve been exposed to enough light to “charge” them. The instructions on the box suggest at least 30 minutes in direct sunlight for best results.

While the glow-in-the-dark feature is novel, don’t expect enough light to emanate from it to help you find the charging port on your device if you’re trying to charge your eReader after a late night of reading. Frankly, I don’t need the glow-in-the-dark feature, but I do appreciate the reinforcement it provides to the cable.

Conclusions

This past month of using exclusively Color Cables, I’ve been quite happy. While I don’t necessarily need the glow-in-the-dark feature, it does help make the cables more durable.

You can buy the 30-pin Apple and MicroUSB Color Cables through their website, starting at $14.99. However, if you take part in the IndieGoGo campaign, for as little as a $9 contribution, you can have your own Color Cable shipped later this month, including the Apple Lightning cable. Keep up with the company on Facebook or Twitter for product updates.

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

Fund This! Halloween, A Kid Detective, and the Exploratorium

Happy October! I will be your regular Fund This guide from now on, choosing projects from crowd funding sites that I find compelling and exciting. I am interested in showcasing a variety of creative ideas in science, technology, and art; balancing ideas that are practical, beautiful and/or innovative. I receive no benefits from any of the projects I feature.

I’m going to start off this month with three projects that caught my attention in three very different ways:

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Take Back Halloween

The ladies at Take Back Halloween are at it again. Easy DIY, mostly no sew costumes of famous women in history and mythology. I could not be more impressed with their creativity and selection. Incredible, powerful, empowering. If my daughter wasn’t demanding I be Marceline to her Princess BubbleGum this Halloween, I would be all over that Morrigan costume. I could easily see one modding these down to girl size as well!

Contribute to their campaign to help them offer a whole new selection this season! This Kickstarter has a goal of $4500 and ends on November 1.

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Dewey Mac, Kid Detective Book

Fourth grade teacher Michael Carroll is designing a comic book about a kid detective that uses STEM skills to build his own equipment and solve crimes. The book will include instructions along the way so the reader can build the same real, working gadgets out of common materials as they move through the story.

I could really see kids getting into this idea and feeling empowered as they make projects that allow them to become detectives themselves. This Kickstarter has a goal of $5000 and ends October 20.

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Exploratorium Innovation Zone

The Exploratorium is an amazing museum, in many ways setting the standard by which other museums and science centers connect their visitors to science, technology, and art. They have recently had a rough time of it, needing to lay off 18% of their workers after unexpected drops in attendance after a huge move and remodel. But I like their innovative spirit and resourcefulness. If the public won’t come to them, they will come to the public. Thus we have their new campaign: The Innovation Zone.

This project will bring their unique learning approach to the streets in the form of installations that use art and science to engage the public as they pass by. It is my hope that they will create a blueprint for other cities to bring the same kind of public interactive installations to new communities- especially those who do not have access to this kind of  intersection of ideas and learning. This IndieGogo Campaign has a goal of $75,000 and ends on November 12.

 

Help Bring Back The Middleman

Image from The Middleman IndieGogo campaign
Image from The Middleman IndieGogo campaign

You know that friend who regularly informs you that by not watching a certain show, you have missed out on the best entertainment the world has ever had to offer, and your life is lesser due to having not seen it? No, I’m not talking about the ones mourning the end of Breaking Bad. I’m talking about me, and the look of horror I get when you say you haven’t seen The Middleman.

In the wonderful but all-too-brief summer of 2008, a magical thing happened: ABC Family started airing a show with the most clever writing I’ve ever seen on television, with an engaging cast and fearless lady lead. The Middleman was based on the Viper Comics series by the same name. Of course, as you can expect with a show so brilliant, it got a mere 12 episodes before being cancelled. (See my post 6 TV Networks That Aren’t What They Started Out To Be for a bit on the problems of ABC Family’s great shows.)

Heck, the very first scene involves secretarial temp Wendy Watson at A.N.D. Laboratories (re-scrambling your DNA!) calmly dealing with an attack by what she herself calls “the hentai tentacle monster.” And it only gets better from there.

The Middleman is an all-American, clean-cut, classic hero type. Despite previously being a Navy SEAL, as Wendy points out, even his cursing repertoire consists of epithets like “jumping bananas,” “sands of Zanibar,” and “sweet mother of Preston Tucker!” His name is known only to the inimitable Ida, the android dressed as a woman who links all the Middlemen through the years. Wendy’s an artist and geek gal (a gamer who laments that she was just about to “crack the Slovakia torture dungeon level on Gut Wrencher 3”) who gets drafted into sidekick status thanks to her high skill roll in Epic Calm When Faced With Epic Weird. She’s more frequently referred to as DubDub by her roommate, Lacey. (Does Lacey look weirdly familiar? She was Debbie Pelt in True Blood. Try to watch both and imagine Debbie as Lacey. You’ll go cross-eyed.)

Now that I’ve gushed for a moment, let’s talk about the return of The Middleman, thanks to an IndieGogo campaign that as of this writing has, on its first day, already raised more than 1/3 of its $37,000 goal. Reaching their funding goal will mean producing a new comic book episode, “The Pan-Universal Parental Reconciliation,” as well as a print-on-demand service for the older books as well, as they are soon to go out of print.

“The Pan-Universal Parental Reconciliation”? Did I not mention this show had the best episode titles? Pretty much the opposite of Friends and its “The One With” formula. It’s hard to pick favorite with a list that includes “The Flying Fish Zombification,” “The Ectoplasmic Panhellenic Investigation,” and “The Vampiric Puppet Lamentation.”

Several of the most interesting perks in the campaign are already all claimed, largely due to including props from the show, such as “the screen-used mole stain that gave away the thieving Mexican wrestlers in ‘The Sino-Mexican Revelation.'” But there’s still plenty to get your hands on, from a copy of the new graphic novel to autographed prints and tickets to the cast reunion and live reading of “The Pan-Universal Parental Reconciliation.”

The what? Oh, yes. They’re getting the band back together. May 24, 2014 in LA, the cast is coming together one more time to do a reading. The Middleman, DubDub, Ida, Lacey, Noser, High-Aldwyn, and… for the role of “Comic Book Wendy,” Amber Benson. If you can be in LA on May 24, I can’t imagine not wanting to see that.

Geek gush over. You have a few things to do:

1. If you haven’t already, The Middleman DVDs. Wear them out. I know, that’s pretty tough with optical media, but I believe in you.

2. Support the return of The Middleman through the IndieGogo campaign.

3. Go buy the existing graphic novels if you can find them. They’re expensive on Amazon, but some are available. Comics America has some availability, but eBay might be your best bet.

Kickstarter is Coming to Canada – The Good and the Bad

Image: Kickstarter

Break out the poutine and maple syrup! Later this summer, Kickstarter is coming to Canada. Hailing from Canada, I have many thoughts about this. Some good. Some bad.

The good news is, now Canadians have more options when it comes to funding their projects. Having options is always a good thing.

But, sometimes, these options are not always in the best interest of person. Or, in this situation, the project.

Kickstarter has two things going for it that are missing from Indiegogo.

The first is the ability to create stretch goals. I believe having this ability results in a bigger incentive for people sharing the campaign. It’s gamification of crowdfunding. The more people share, greater is the potential for receiving funds. The more funds over the initial goal, the more perks people will receive, without having to give any extra money. Sure, people can create some sort of extra-reward system on Indiegogo, but that requires a great deal of added effort, as it isn’t something built into the system.

The second thing Kickstarter has is a larger community. Indiegogo is a great platform. For reasons beyond my comprehension, it doesn’t have the same brand power as Kickstarter, which makes it less likely that people will just stumble upon the campaign and fund it.

But, in my opinion, I think that is where the positives of Kickstarter end.

Indiegogo has many things going for it that are missing from Kickstarter.

The first is that with Indiegogo, you can have either flexible funding, or fixed funding. If you are willing to pay any extra costs out of pocket, then you can choose flexible funding, and you’ll receive all funds, minus a larger service fee. The larger service fee is waived if you reach your goal. Plus, for payments made via PayPal, you’ll receive those funds immediately. Or, if you must raise a specific amount of money to create your project, then you go with the fixed funding model, and will only receive the funds if you reach your goal.

The second advantage of Indiegogo is that they offer multiple payment methods. Backers can pay via credit card or PayPal. With United States Kickstarter projects, if your potential backers don’t have a credit card and an Amazon account, then they can’t fund your project. For UK projects, the Amazon requirement is removed, but your backers still need to have a credit card. Sure, you could always create a web site with a PayPal link, but those funds won’t count towards your total. Also, that requires more work in an already labor-intensive undertaking. They have yet to announce how payments will work for Canadian projects, but I assume it will require, at the minimum, a credit card. However, now that Canada finally has Visa debit cards, this barrier may slowly disappear. Visa debit cards in Canada are different than the ones in the United States, so they have their own set of issues that may prevent Canadians from switching to them until those issues are resolved.

The third advantage is that with Indiegogo there is no approval process. While some will argue that this can lead to sub-par projects, I’d argue that no one is under any obligation to fund or share a sub-par project. I use the same argument for celebrities who are criticised for using Kickstarter. No one is ever under any obligation to fund a project.

The fourth advantage is there are less restrictions regarding types of projects and types of perks you are allowed to offer. Here is the list of restricted perks for Indiegogo versus the restricted perks for Kickstarter. With Indiegogo, projects do not need to fall into specific categories. With Kickstarter, projects must fit into one of the following categories: art, comics, dance, design, fashion, film, food, games, music, photography, publishing, technology, and theater.

The fifth advantage is that Indiegogo doesn’t have regional restrictions. You don’t have to live in the United States, the UK, and soon-to-be Canada, to create a project. Indiegogo’s current community may be smaller than Kickstarter’s, but, because of the lack of regional restrictions, this may soon change.

I used Indiegogo to create Five Little Zombies and Fred. Even though I didn’t reach my full goal, I still consider it successful because I raised more the bare minimum I needed to get the book into the market.

Would I have gone with Kickstarter if I had the opportunity? I don’t know. If I went with Kickstarter, I would have started with a $1,000.00 goal—the bare minimum I needed—with stretched goals onwards to $10,000.00+, and it would have appeared to be more successful. But, without the ability for backers to easily use PayPal, for me that is a huge negative.

I have an idea for a second book. With the news that Kickstarter is coming to Canada, I have a lot of thinking to do about the funding platform I will use. Does a larger community and the ability to gamify my campaign outweigh the benefits of flexible funding, multiple payment options, and no approval process? That is a difficult decision.

Difficult decision or not, positives and negatives aside, I am happy that I, and other Canadians, will soon have a choice. In the end, it will come down to what I think is the smartest choice for my project. Without knowing if an Amazon account will be needed for both backers and Canadian creators, pondering this choice will be put on hold. If Amazon is required, then I will not use Kickstarter, because it is just one barrier too many for me. If Amazon is not required, well, it could be a fun experiment.

And, if the experiement doesn’t work out, there is always Indiegogo.

Fund This: Organic Yarn, Blast into Space and App Camp for Girls

Welcome to another edition of Fund This, GeekMom’s bi-weekly section that focuses on places to invest some of your hard-earned cash. Here we highlight a few of the most interesting projects we’ve found on crowdfunding websites, such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and many more. Ready to make someone’s dream a reality?

First up, we have a Kickstarter project that’s to dye for (don’t hurt me for that one). Crafters have already helped the Saco River Dyehouse achieve its initial $25,000 goal. However, there’s still time left in the campaign, and the company is in desperate need of that extra support.

This Maine-based company is pretty darn special, because it has a rich history, and uses organic dyes to color organic wool and specialty fiber yarns. I haven’t really made it past the scarf phase with my knitting, but this project isn’t just for those who are good with a needle. It’s good for the people of Maine and the U.S. textile industry in general. To find out more about the operation, check out the company’s campaign page, which is accepting backers through Thursday, July 18, 2013.

Next up is App Camp for Girls, which has been completely funded with 22 days to go on Indiegogo. That’s understandable, since it looks so incredibly awesome.

When I went to summer camp, I made an ashtray and a few Fruit Loops necklaces. The newly launched App Camp for Girls invites girls ages 12 to 14 to spend a week in Portland, Oregon, where they will learn how to plan, design, and encode their own app. There will also be plenty of women app developers on-hand for inspiration and guidance.

“They’ll get to be creative and geeky, while having a lot of fun,” says app developer Natalie Osten.

The funding will help launch this summer’s App Camp, with 32 girls attending two sessions in June and August. If all goes well, the program hopes to expand to other areas of the U.S. and beyond. If you want to help put someone on a path to a geeky future, the App Camp for Girls campaign runs through Tuesday, July 16.

ARKYD is the first publicly accessible space telescope. Image: Planetary Resources.

And finally, you still have a few days to get in on ARKYD. Designed to satisfy your inner-astronaut, ARKYD is the first publicly accessible space telescope.

For a minimum pledge of $25, Planetary Resources will blast you—or at least your photo—off into the stars. The company plans to launch the ARKYD telescope to make that happen. The more you pledge, the better the perk.

The project has been wildly popular, surpassing its $1 million goal. However, the Kickstarter campaign still has a few days left. That means that you still have time to book your intergalactic trip, as long as you’re willing to wait in line behind the almost 14,000 backers that have already pledged funds.

Indiegogo Campaign: TinySuperheroes

 

I have to thank my mom for pointing this one out to me. Last summer Robyn Rosenberger made a cape for her two-year-old nephew’s birthday. She was also following the story of a little girl named Brenna, who was fighting a serious skin disease. The idea of the cape met the reality of children battling incredible obstacles, and her organization TinySuperheroes was born.

Since making their first cape in January of 2013, they have made 500 capes for sick and disabled children. This Indiegogo campaign (which ends on June 18th!) will help raise money to make and distribute 1,500 more capes in the next year. Their motto is “Empowering Extraordinary Kids – One Cape at a Time!”

Marvelous.

Geeky Music-y Parody EP on Indiegogo

Debs and Errol Geeky Music-y Parody
Image copyright: Errol Elumir and Deborah Linden. Used with permission.

One of my favorite geek music duos, Debs and Errol, want to make a geeky music parody EP. To do this, they need your help! Enter their Indiegogo campaign.

When completed, this yet-to-be-titled EP will contain six songs. Currently, Debs and Errol can tell you that the album will contain the following five parodies:

Continue reading Geeky Music-y Parody EP on Indiegogo

iPhone Stun Gun Case — Protection or Trip to the ER Waiting to Happen?

Yellow Jacket Stun Gun Case / Image: Indiegogo
The final product will have a cap over the electrodes on the top of the case. / Image: Indiegogo

The Yellow Jacket iPhone Stun Gun case is exactly as its name implies. It’s a case for your iPhone that has a built in stun gun feature. With a 650K volt stun gun built in, this is not a case to be taken lightly by its user. Currently just an Indiegogo project, the Yellow Jacket has already made its minimum goal to start production.

Imagine this for a minute….you get a call and go to answer it. Instead of pushing the incoming call button, you get the shock of your life and stun yourself. I guess the makers of this case anticipated that exact same scenario because in order to use the stun gun feature, you must bypass the safety switch and rotate an electrode cap. Yellow Jacket’s website claims this should only take about a second to complete.

The shock is described as “incapacitating and capable of inflicting pain and injury” (I guess calling it a stun gun wasn’t enough to tell people that).

Coupled with the iPhone, the total weight of the case and phone will be around eight ounces. The thickness will be comparable to the Otterbox Defender and Mophie Juice Pack at around one inch in thickness. The battery that supplies the stun gun its juice can also provide your iPhone with an additional twenty hours of battery life.

I didn’t see anywhere on their page that said the screen would be fully protected from drops.

It should be noted that before traveling with any kind of stun gun device, you should check the local laws to see if they are allowed.

What do you think about this device? Do you see any potential safety issues or are you already wondering when you can get your hands on one? Let us know in the comments section.

The Wow Wireless Bluetooth Speaker: Style and Sound

Wow Wireless Bluetooth Speaker, Image: Antonio Aarevalo

Here’s a crowdfunding project for all you audiophiles.

It’s the Wow Wireless bluetooth speaker and it not only sounds great, but looks great, too. Despite the huge number of speakers out there, most of them look a lot alike. They’re generally little cubes or little rectangles made of shiny metal and plastic. It’s not that they’re ugly, but they’re just not very pretty. This little speaker delivers not only great sound, but a genuinely stylish design that will add to your room.

Continue reading The Wow Wireless Bluetooth Speaker: Style and Sound