updated 07:00 am EDT, Sat March 29, 2014
Successful crowd-funded projects a fresh source of innovation
Macworld/iWorld 2014, currently going on at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, handed out its Best of Show awards on Friday, including a mix of hardware devices and software apps, many of which started life as successful Kickstarter or similar crowd-funded ideas, both from established companies and novice entrepreneurs. Winners included a portable RAID drive, a thermal camera for the iPhone, an app to get kids to do their chores, and new Thunderbolt adapters, among other useful apps and gadgets.
Akitio Palm RAID Thunderbolt drive
Among the hardware winners were the Akitio Palm RAID, a portable palm-sized device that holds two mSATA SSDs in a compact, bus-powered unit that includes its own self-contained Thunderbolt cable, available in 256GB (2x128GB, $399) and 512GB (2x256GB, $649); and Arcsoft's forthcoming Simplicam $149 home monitoring system, and Flir One, an add-on backing for the iPhone that will soon be available, and turns it into a full-fledged heat vision camera and thermal analysis system. Pricing is not yet available, but the company is accepting email signups to be notified about availability.
Another winner in hardware was Goal Zero's Sherpa 100 battery pack ($350), which not only offers plenty of power for computers and mobile devices alike, but can be recharged from AC, a car power port or even one of the company's solar panels. Rounding out the hardware winners were Kanex's coming-soon Thunderbolt adapters (expected this summer; email signups available now), both models of which feature USB 3.0 but differ in offer either eSATA or Gigabit Ethernet as a second connector; and Sonoma Wire Works' forthcoming Guitar Jack Stage (pricing not yet available), a version of its iOS hardware add-on Guitar Jack, this time in the form of a pedal controller and 24-bit audio interface. Both versions offer quarter-inch jacks for guitars and microphones, as well as being able to charge the iPhone or iPad.
In software, one of the winners was a follow-up from the makers of BusyCal, BusyContacts (available as a beta this summer) acts as a replacement or alternative front end for Contacts on the Mac, and syncs with iCloud, Google, Exchange and others, as well as integrates with BusyCal. The Chore-inator from Binary Formations intrigued us as a domestic take on task management. The iOS app ($3) lets users set up a list of chores, and other family members can check them off when they're completed (and take pictures to prove it) to qualify for rewards.
A subscription-based app, Cloak, is an iOS app that lets users list "trusted" Wi-Fi networks that can be joined as usual, but when joining an untrusted network automatically sets up a secure connection over VPN, and is compatible with the Mac version of Cloak. Subscriptions start at $4 for a week, $10 per month or $100 for the year, with unlimited data (a lighter plan with a limit of 5GB cost $3 per month).
We were very impressed with the freemium app Emulsio, which brings a video stabilization feature similar to that found in iMovie for the Mac to iOS devices. Now, handheld iOS shooters can achieve smooth, HD video right on the iPhone or iPad, so that footage can be easily edited and shared without leaving the device. Clips up to 30 seconds work at the free level, with an in-app purchase of $2 to stabilize unlimited-length videos.
Finally, Kamino (free) took home one of the Best in Show awards for its self-titled "walking tour" apps for various cities. It offers both planned and user-designed walking tours that are augmented with Instagram pictures, recommendations for local food and beverage options, and special offers and coupons for nearby businesses as one travels.
MacNN and Electronista have been checking out many of the new and interesting products at Macworld/iWorld, and we will be posting more about them over the days ahead and as they arrive at retail.