10 Great Crowdfunded Gadgets You Bought In 2015

Backing a crowdfunding campaign comes with risks, but that hasn’t stopped people from leaping at some fascinating gadgets this year.

Here’s a selection of 10 neat crowdfunded gadgets you bought from Asian startups.

1. Remix Mini Android PC

  • Crowdfunding page: Kickstarter
  • Country of origin: China
  • Raised: US$210,000
  • Ships: Now

The Remix Mini, a tiny Android-based PC that fits in the palm of your hand, was the second Kickstarter gadget for China-based startup Jide.

The Remix Mini starts at just US$30. It’s so cheap because you have to provide your own screen, keyboard, and mouse. Despite that, shoppers saw it as a way to get a cheap home computer that they could plug into any TV or spare display lying around the house and get some work done on it.

The startup team is made up of three ex-Googlers who still clearly love Android.

2. Stary electric skateboard

  • Crowdfunding page: Kickstarter
  • Country of origin: China
  • Raised: US$743,000
  • Ships: Now

If you want a sleek electric vehicle, there are cheaper alternatives to a Tesla. Like the Stary electric skateboard.

The startup launched with an early bird Kickstarter price of US$399 for the electric skateboard. A rider applies the power using a small remote controller, which also features a brake that produces regenerative power for the onboard battery. It can do 30 kph (18.6 mph) and, in theory, could get you 16 kilometers (10 miles) on a single charge. At 93.4 cm (36.7 inches) long, it’s shaped like a longboard.

An added bonus is that while you’d look like an idiot on a “hoverboard,” you’ll look hip cruising around the city on a Stary.

3. Exploride heads-up car display

  • Crowdfunding page: Indiegogo
  • Country of origin: India
  • Raised: US$663,000
  • Ships: January 2016

Staying on four wheels, the Exploride is a futuristic-looking heads-up display (HUD) for cars, showing useful info like music and maps, and letting you take or decline calls.

The gadget first hit the web with an early bird price of US$239. Most cars’ screens, if they have them at all, are pretty bad and automakers have been slow in adopting Apple CarPlay or Google’s Android Auto. So it’s no surprise that many buyers were keen to get their hands on an affordable in-car display that can be added to pretty much any vehicle.

4. Solar Paper

  • Crowdfunding page: Kickstarter
  • Country of origin: South Korea
  • Raised: US$1 million
  • Ships: Now

Here’s another useful gadget – the Solar Paper, which claims to be the world’s thinnest and lightest solar charger. It’s just 0.15-inch in thickness.

The Seoul-based startup says the Solar Paper – priced from US$69 for the 5KW model – packs the most punch for its size, with its power output on a sunny day even matching that of a wall charger. It means you could charge your phone from it in just a few hours.

With Korea recently legalizing more ways of crowdfunding, expect to see more fundraising hits from the land of Samsung.

5. WAY skin analyzer

  • Crowdfunding page: Indiegogo
  • Country of origin: South Korea
  • Raised: US$127,598
  • Ships: Now

And here’s another from Korea. This smart gadget gives users information on the condition of their skin – like moisture content and estimated oil levels, all of which are beamed to an accompanying app. It can also analyze your surroundings to check the current UV index and give you a humidity read-out.

Aimed at women, the WAY gizmo is similar in size and shape to a makeup compact.

The startup, based in Seoul’s swanky Gangnam district, hopes to position itself as a dermatologist in your purse — and it even has one as a co-founder.

6. Diabeto blood sugar tracker

  • Crowdfunding page: Indiegogo
  • Country of origin: India
  • Raised: US$19,000
  • Ships: Now

Diabeto is all about a much more serious kind of analysis – your blood sugar levels.

The tiny bird-shaped dongle plugs into a diabetes sufferer’s glucometer – beaming data wirelessly to the mobile app. This augments the glucometer by allowing diabetes sufferers to see their blood sugar history and track trends or worrying changes. In addition, users can input their insulin intake, food, and mood to get a much clearer picture of their health.

The Diabeto starts at US$50.

The startup’s founder says he created it after seeing his parents’ ongoing battle with diabetes. The free app came out earlier this month, which can be used without the hardware. The dongle will go on general sale next month.

7. NextDrive plug for a personal cloud

  • Crowdfunding page: Indiegogo
  • Country of origin: Taiwan
  • Raised: US$73,893
  • Ships: Now

The team behind the NextDrive originally wanted to make a wireless SD card reader but then realized the larger problem was how to access all your files without having to upload and download them to some kind of online service.

So earlier this year the team crowdfunded the NextDrive, which makes your existing USB devices wireless. The price starts at US$79.

8. Atmoph Window

  • Crowdfunding page: Kickstarter
  • Country of origin: Japan
  • Raised: US$161,000
  • Ships: March 2016

We’ve not seen any gizmos from Japan yet, so let’s fix that right now. Here’s the Atmoph Window, a funkily-framed screen that’s a virtual window. It also plays sounds.

The 27-inch device, which starts at US$399, can display hi-res images and videos, and it’s promising to do live streaming from selected locations around the world once it finally ships to buyers.

It’s created by a former Nintendo designer who’s had this in mind since he graduated college and found himself in a tiny studio apartment with only one window – which looked out onto the building right next door.

9. Fove VR headset

  • Crowdfunding page: Kickstarter
  • Country of origin: Japan
  • Raised: US$480,000
  • Ships: Now

There was virtual reality (VR) all over the place this year. Most of them seem like toys that are hampered by little game support and will soon be gathering dust in people’s basements. But one stood out for its attention to detail – the Fove.

Named after the fovea, the part of the human eye that gives us sharp central vision, the Tokyo-based startup focused on creating a VR experience in which eye-tracking was an important part of the controlling mechanism.

“There are little cameras looking at your eye, but they’re not visible, and they track your eye movements,” the team told us this summer.

10. Greenopia smart flower pot

  • Crowdfunding page: Wishberry
  • Country of origin: India
  • Raised: US$15,000
  • Ships: Now

Let’s end our selection with something a bit more organic – the Greenopia self-watering flower pot.

The sensors are in the dipstick, which detect sunlight and soil moisture. The pot, which can store a bit of water, waters the plants at suitable intervals based on data from the sensor.

In what was a good year for India’s fledgling hardware startups, the Greenopia hit its relatively modest funding target after getting tweets of encouragement from a prominent Google exec in India as well as from acclaimed writer Margaret Atwood.

Hardware is hard

A number of gadgets from Asian hardware startups we looked at this year didn’t make it to fruition. The Singapore team behind the Boldr “clever watch” recently cancelled its project and refunded buyers after hitting supplier issues and realizing that they couldn’t make what they’d promised for the price tag. “In the end, we decided to be honest and not risk the trust our backers have placed in us,” wrote the team in an update to its Kickstarter project

Where are you meow? The Pura smart water fountain for cats didn’t launch after falling short of its funding goal.

Earlier in the year, the Taiwanese team behind the Pura smart water fountain for cats also threw in the towel and handed the cash back when the project didn’t hit the funding goal needed to get production going. At least those startups had the foresight to not leap half-assed into the complex manufacturing process – and the good grace to give people back their hard-earned cash.

Unlike some startups.

Getting gadgets from crowdfunding sites is fun, but there are plenty of cautionary tales that should remind you that it’s a risk. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are not stores; they’re places where you throw money at random people and entrust they’ll produce what they’ve promised.

That’s why 2015 was also marked by some high-profile stumbles. One of the region’s hottest hardware startups, Pirate3D, is fighting for survival after failing to ship 60 percent of its orders for the affordable 3D printer. Many more crowdfunded gadgets around the world struggled or totally flamed out this year, like the Coolest Cooler and the Zano drone, leaving people feeling ripped off.

My Tech in Asia teammate Lester Chan, who works on the IT side, has bought 33 gadgets from Kickstarter over the years – and two of them didn’t deliver. He says it’s “literally money down the drain” when that happens, but he’s still a keen early bird shopper from the site.

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