Kickstarter Happiness Rating: 40%
I've backed 27 projects on Kickstarter since joining the service in November of 2010. One of those 27 was unsuccessful (and grossly unsuccessful that that, only reaching 2% of its goal), and five are currently in progress, though they've all met their goals so they will succeed. I love Kickstarter. Unfortunately, the level of quality of the funded products has been hit or miss. A few have been real winners, but most have been so-so and a few were downright terrible.
Let's start with the good stuff
The TikTok+LunaTik Multi-Touch Watch Kits project was my first on Kickstarter and it was amazing. The build-quality of these watch bands was top-notch. The guys at MINIMAL know their way around building a solid product, and the LunaTik was especially nice. Based on the success of this project, it's not surprising I backed the MINIMAL crew again when their LunaTik Touch Pen project launched. I haven't received that product yet, but I'm hoping it will impress me the way the watch bands did.
The Manual, by Andy McMillan, is a gorgeous, independently-produced design journal. The first volume was beautiful. I've since gone on to order the second volume, and plan to do so with the rest of the series.
The Oona is a simple mount for your iPhone 4/S that uses suction cups to hold it to a variety of surfaces. Works exactly as described, and is well made. I just never use it because I never have reason to.
The Cosmonaut is a “wide-grip” stylus that looks a lot like a dry-erase marker. I loved the idea and the size of this stylus, but it didn't work out as well as I had hoped. My first Cosmonaut wouldn't work unless I pressed very hard–a manufacturing defect–and the stylus itself is very heavy and fatigues my hand after even a few minutes of use, especially if I'm lying in bed.
GoPano micro, a 360° video recording device, is a very cool idea, marred by some hardware and software issues. The hardware works decently, but the video captured is usually pretty blurry and distorted. The ability to pan around 360° in a video is definitely amazing, but it requires proprietary software and Adobe Flash players to do so, which means it's hard to share the contents with anyone.
Red Pop, which was eventually renamed POPA, is an attachment for your iPhone that gives you a big red shutter button for taking photos. Only it requires you use the POPA photo app, which is terrible (and crash-prone). And you can't use it with a case. And it's hard to get it onto and off of the phone.
Dark Sky, an iOS app, predicts precipitation. You give it your location, and it can tell you if it might start raining in the next hour. Cool idea, but this app provides you with nothing else, not even the current temperature. Which means if you want to use Dark Sky as your weather app, you'll need another app to tell you, you know, the weather. It's a great idea and the app looks nice, but it focuses on one tiny fragment of the bigger picture and that makes it hard to justify keeping it on my home screen.
LUMI Mask, the “sleep mask that wakes you up” is a neat idea–you wear the mask when you go to sleep and set an alarm which will slowly brighten LED lights inside the mask to wake you up gradually. Unfortunately, the product is broken, poorly designed and even more poorly manufactured. Everything about the LUMI Mask I received screamed cheap–the packaging was a plastic bag, the printed materials looked like they came from a home printer, and the mask itself was poorly manufactured and cheap looking. It wasn't comfortable. And the worst part is that didn't work at described. Setting the alarm was a pain and then you did, sometimes it just wouldn't go off. If you were lucky and it did go off, instead of slowly brightening the LEDs, they'd simply go from off to full blast, which is quite a terrible way to be awoken. Insanely bright light two millimeters from your eyeballs when you're deep does not make for a pleasant morning. LUMI claims they're working on a new version of the mask, but I'm not hopeful.
iPen is absolutely terrible. It doesn't work at all, it's poorly made, and the company behind it, Cregle, seems sketchy as hell. Of course, when you back a project, you don't know how poorly it can go. iPen's project is the worst I've experienced on Kickstarter.
Hope for the future
Many of the projects I've backed haven't been finished or shipped yet, so I'm unsure of the outcome.
Urbio Vertical Garden was funded in May of 2011. Still haven't see this product arrive at my doorstep. I've been looking forward to hanging pathetic little succulents on the wall of my office since back when we lived in New Jersey.
Hidden Radio & Bluetooth Speaker, funded in January, still in production. This little speaker looks amazing. Based on how poorly the Jambox performs for me, I have a feeling this won't wow me, but I'm holding out hope.
The Shape of Design by Frank Chimero is a book about design. I'm excited to read it when it's ready. Frank's a good writer and I sort of like design. Sort of. (Alright, I love it.)
Geode from iCache is a dream I've had for years, potentially fulfilled at long last. If this thing works as well as they depict it, goodbye wallet.
Pebble E-Paper Watch combines two of my loves: watches and gadgets. I want this right now.
Kickstarter can't guarantee the projects you back will produce products with a level of quality/usefulness you wish for, but the ability to help individuals or small companies design, build and release products they never could have without support keeps me coming back for more.
Not every product will be terrific, but every time I hit that “Back this Project” button I'm filled with a little hope.