Crowdfunding sites are littered with dodgy ideas - petrol-powered toothbrush! Solar kettle! Unicorn detector! - but there are also plenty of treasures buried amongst the dregs.
It's a big business, but more often than not it’s also a great way for independent creators to test the water when it comes to their ideas.
Put something online, see if enough people bite, and you know you can make your product without fear of losing your entire life’s savings. Whether it’s a cool drone, electronics kit, pet-tracker, or a wearable that gives you an electric shock if you don’t get your butt to the gym, there's plenty of projects worthy of your cash.
We've rounded up ten interesting projects gasping for your money right now. Happy spending.
1. Bttn (from US$100)
Described by its creators as the “simplest internet user interface in the world,” bttn (pronounced ‘button’, unsurprisingly) is designed to make technology more accessible, fun and human. A bttn can be connected to the web via 3G or Wi-Fi and set to perform predefined tasks, such as sending messages, controlling smart home devices, or triggering IFTTT recipes.
This means it could be used to set your home up once you get back from work, as a means for a child to let parents know they’ve gotten home safely, or just tweet “I’ve got a bttn” every time you pound it with your fist.
2. Commodore Amiga: a visual ‘commpendium’ (from £10)
Following on from its successfully funded C64 predecessor, this tome focuses on the art and imagery within classic Commodore Amiga games and demos. It’s full of luscious pixel art and photography, along with short reviews and quotes from original Amiga developers like Dan Malone and Ron Gilbert.
Edited by Edge launch editor (and also Zzap!64 and Amiga Format alumni) Steve Jarratt, the book will comprise a minimum of 264 pages of Lemmings, SWOS, Speedball II and Turrican goodness, along with a whole lot more.
3. PlexiDrone (from US$700)
PlexiDrone is all about bringing drones to the masses through making the technology relatively affordable and very accessible. The kit fits in a backpack-sized ‘Plexi-pack’ and takes about a minute to snap together.
After that point, it’s controlled by your smartphone and can be ordered to follow the user via GPS. There are obvious applications for commerce and sports, but the creators seem especially keen on having drones inspire people to make films — building bridges through creativity rather than blowing them up.
4. Pavlok (from US$150)
You know you’re in for an interesting crowdsourcing video when a creator begins: “Now, I know that electric shocks sound crazy…” But this wearable, co-created by the guy who invented Lego Mindstorms, is more than about shocking (both figuratively and literally) — it aims to shift willpower in order to urge you on to better habits.
Despite the Indiegogo page being full of videos and words, precisely how Pavlok does this seems a bit vague, but it apparently includes punishing you through online shaming, fines, or allowing your friends to shock you from across the web. If that all sounds a bit much, Olive takes wearables in the opposite direction, aiming to help you beat stress (and all without electric shocks).
5. Anonabox (from US$45)
Tor is essential software for anonymising your online activities, ensuring your location and habits can’t be snooped on by prying eyes. Coupling a healthy dose of paranoia with outrage regarding online censorship, August Germar devised Anonabox, a tiny networking device that sits between your router and devices, using Tor to provide reliable encrypted anonymous internet access.
For the typical person downloading LOLcats, an Anonabox probably makes no odds, but for someone suddenly cut off from critical services due to government interference, it could be a life-saver.
Oh, and just for reading this paragraph, you're now on a watch list. Hi NSA, how's it going?