This is part of a series of articles that looks at entrepreneurs hoping to get their ideas off the ground through crowdfunding. At the time of writing, each of these innovations is currently seeking funding.
Earbud headphones come as standard with most smartphones, but they’re typically prone to breaking, and their one-size-fits-all design means that they can be uncomfortable and fall out when exercising. In the past, we’ve seen HeadFoams make the devices more durable, especially for young users. Now OwnPhones is enabling consumers to customize their earbuds to their own unique style and ear shape through 3D printing.
Currently seeking funding through Kickstarter, the startup aims to make the best-fitting and best-sounding earphones available. Customers looking to order a pair can download the OwnPhones app and use it to take a short video of their ear, which is digitally translated into a 3D model from which the earbud can be created. Because the devices are built to perfectly fit inside users’ individual ears, the buds don’t fall out even if they’re used during exercise, and they won’t be uncomfortable. OwnPhones enables customers to choose from a range of designs — from simple to eyecatching — so they also fit with users’ personalities.
The snug fit enables true noise cancellation, although the app also comes with a feature that lets certain noises through, so listeners aren’t completely cut off from their environment if they choose. On top of this, an optional color-changing LED on the outside can indicate to others if they don’t want to be disturbed or are ok to talk.
As well as dealing with the problem of ill-fitting earphones falling out, OwnPhones use wireless technology to avoid the problem of tangled or damaged cables. A basic pair of OwnPhones is available to pre-order through Kickstarter from USD 149, although actual retail price is expected to be from USD 299. The campaign will run until 25 August.
Could 3D printing improve individual fit and bring personalized design to other mass-produced products?
Employees benefit from good health insurance policies from the companies they work for, but if they don’t look after their health then employers are the ones that end up paying a higher premium. Tools such as FwdHealth have previously let bosses track their workers’ exercise regimes, and now EatRight Rewards is encouraging healthy eating by offering cash to employees that buy fruit and veg at the supermarket.
Developed by Boston-based Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, the program has teamed up with supermarkets including Shaw’s, Star Market, Roche Brothers, Hannaford, Wegmans to provide data on members’ shopping habits. Using an algorithm, each product in employees’ shopping carts is assigned a score based on how healthy it is. The company has already rated more than 100,000 foods to help determine the healthiness of the scheme’s members. Those who stick to products like fruit and veg and eschew chocolates and fatty foods can earn up to USD 20 a month in cash, which is deposited into their checking or PayPal accounts. The company hopes that the monetary incentive will help foster a healthier workforce and reduce premiums for businesses.
As with FwdHealth, some may see the scheme as a little too intrusive into workers’ personal habits, but others may welcome the cash, which could help ease the burden of their monthly shopping bill. Are there other ways smart tracking such as this could help make insurance premiums more accurate?
The web has enabled more and more people to become better informed about the world thanks to the relatively free and instant sharing of information across national borders. However, there are parts of the world where consumers don’t get to participate in the global conversation due to a lack of such a technological infrastructure. In the past we’ve seen VascoDe provide SMS versions of popular apps such as Twitter and Gmail, and now Kan Khajura Tesan is an always-on radio station that those in electricity-scarce locations can access by calling it on their cell phone.
The problem with traditional media such as TV and radio is that they require devices being plugged in at all times. In rural areas in countries such as India, mains electricity is scarce, meaning portable mobile phones have become citizens’ primary device. Developed by Hindustan Unilever Limited, Kan Khajura Tesan — which translates as Ear Worm Radio Channel — is a new station that aims to reach those in media blackspots. Users simply phone the memorable 1800 3000 0123 number on their device and hang up after it’s connected. The radio will then phone them back and listeners will have access to free entertainment for as long as they stay on the line. The station is funded by advertisements and, according to HUL, the project has already reached 11 million subscribers.
Watch the video below to learn more about the project:
Kan Khajura Tesan serves to deliver entertainment to those who otherwise can’t access it, while also opening up an avenue for marketing in locations other companies can’t reach. Could a similar service be set up for more worthy causes, such as the dissemination of political news or emergency information?
With the World Cup settled and its new stadiums emptied of fans, Brazil faces the question of how to best use these structures. According to a duo of French architects, turning the buildings into much-needed housing is a good answer.
Axel de Stampa and Sylvain Macaux of 1week1project have suggested that many of Brazil’s World Cup stadiums might be converted into low-cost housing. The transformation would require the insertion of prefabricated units of approximately 105 square meters (1,130 square feet) between existing, load-bearing pillars. According to their Casa Futebol proposal, it would contribute a significant amount of living space to host cities while still allowing use of the stadium as an athletic and event space, the proceeds of which could support maintenance.
While the plan may not be feasible as is, the idea is relevant; passionate protests concerning poor public services as well as the estimated $14 billion cost of the World Cup have rocked Brazil, drawing international attention to the increasing needs of its citizens.
Yet Brazil is only one of many places with the burden of trying to re-purpose large-scale facilities while off-setting an enormous tab. Russian officials are currently addressing the leftovers of the Sochi games, and claim to be experiencing success in transforming sports arenas into community resource. As photographers Jon Pack and Garv Hustwit explore in their project The Olympic City, cities such as Sarajevo, Atlanta, and Montreal have been forced to abandon structures ranging from statues to whole stadiums, leaving them to ruin.
Other cities have triumphed, however, in adapting large-scale architecture to their contemporary needs. Over the centuries, the city of Lucca, Italy absorbed the ancient Roman amphitheater at its center, filled it with commerce, and renamed it the Piazza San Michele. Similarly, Rome’s classical Theater of Marcellus currently houses (admittedly wealthy) residents in what were its upper rows of seating. More recently, architect Richard Rogers transformed Barcelona’s Las Arenas bullfighting arena into a high-end shopping center.
Brazil’s choices for handling its surplus of sports facilities are many, and, with any luck, its offers for good guidance will be, too.
Images: 1week1project, Amel Eric
The fourth annual Kickstarter Film Festival is upon us. Tomorrow night in Fort Greene Park in the fine city of Brooklyn NY from 7-11pm, Kickstarter will be showing films, and featuring musicians and local food purveyors. The festival will be replayed in Los Angeles on Sept 12th, and also in London later this fall.
Here’s a short trailer for the festival:
Here’s the website for the festival. It lists all the films that will be featured. Attendance is free.
It’s going to be a beautiful night in NYC tomorrow night. If you are considering your weekend plans, think hard about spending friday night in Fort Greene Park watching the amazing things that emerging filmmakers are doing right now.
Airbnb officially unveiled its revamped logo today (the preamble kicked off a week ago, actually), and what came next the lodging website probably did not anticipate – a social media frenzy. No, the public wasn’t flooding Twitter feeds praising the company for its desirable new design, but rather reacting to Airbnb’s inadvertently sexual new symbol. In a few words, Airbnb’s new logo is a vagina. Twitter users also found the new logo reminiscent of a birds-eye-view of a toilet seat, a butt, breasts, and, well, other anatomical parts taking little imagination to visualize. The REAL inspiration behind the new Airbnb logo is far less inappropriate, however. In fact, it’s pretty profound.
Introducing the Bélo – the universal symbol of belonging.
“Belonging has always been a fundamental driver of humankind. So to represent that feeling, we’ve created a symbol for us as a community. It’s an iconic mark for our windows, our doors, and our shared values. It’s a symbol that, like us, can belong wherever it happens to be,” Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky states in a blog post.
You see? It’s not a vagina. Or a butt. Or boobs. It’s a symbol celebrating the idea at the core of Airbnb – belonging – and that’s much more beautiful than even the best-looking caboose.
While the new Airbnb logo stole a lot of the spotlight, it wasn’t the only change the company debuted on Wednesday. Airbnb redesigned every page of the user experience, both web and mobile, and also included a Create Airbnb feature to let users customize their own Bélo symbol.
“So together, with this new identity, I look forward to starting the next chapter of this improbable journey with the idea that first set it in motion – the belief that belonging can take us anywhere,” Chesky adds.
The Airbnb makeover includes cinematic photography, a “Discover” section to browse selected places around the globe to travel, as well as typographic and color scheme adjustments for a beautified overall aesthetic.
Studio D Radiodurans works with creative thinkers, strategists and data scientists.
How would you design the following experiment?
Launched out of Wiens’ college dorm room in 2003, iFixit is akin to a Wikipedia for information on repairing electronics, appliances, vehicles and more. Wiens also launched Dozuki, in 2012, which focuses on documentation software. We talked to him while researching our trend report on the circular economy, an alternative, more sustainable economic model whose principles include keeping goods in circulation for as long as possible rather than tossing them into landfills. Wiens discussed why brands should get more proactive about helping consumers fix their products, which brands are doing so and which consumers are most interested in making their own repairs.
What was the inspiration to create iFixit?
I was just trying to fix my computer. I was a student, and I wasn’t able to afford a new computer. I had dropped my laptop on the power plug; I knew it was just a loose connection—if I could take it apart and just put a drop of solder on the connection, it would be fine. I was looking around on the Internet for how to open the computer, and I couldn’t find any information anywhere. I got it fixed, but it was never perfect again.
It turns out most repairs are like that. Once you’ve done it once or twice, it’s easy, but the first time is difficult. We decided to take some pictures of the process and put them online for our own satisfaction, just because we were annoyed at how hard it was. We had 10,000 hits the first weekend. It turned out there was a lot of pent-up demand, because it was something the manufacturers just weren’t doing.
To frame it in a circular economy context, there are oftentimes circular opportunities around products that the manufacturers don’t realize, maybe because they’re not entrepreneurial enough internally. Maybe it’s just an opportunity that hasn’t gotten big enough for them to choose to take advantage of it. And in this case, the manufacturers have left a gaping hole in the market.
In order to have a repair economy work, the person doing the repair—whether it is the consumer or repair technician—needs three things. They need the knowledge of how to do the repair, they need the tools to get in and open the product up, and then they need replacement parts. iFixit provides all three of those. So if you break your iPhone and need to repair it, we provide you with a replacement screen; it comes in a kit with the tools you need, and then the instructions are free on the web or in an app. We make it really easy to go through and do the repair.
What are some of the drivers behind your company’s success?
We are a community website; we teach about 3 million people a month to repair their own things. And it’s not just information we’re creating. Anybody can write a repair guide, so you can think of us like a Wikipedia for repair. People want to know how to do everything from changing the oil in their car to fixing their phone. If we don’t have an oil change guide for their car, then once they figure it out, they can take some pictures, put it on the website and other people are able to use and improve them. And over time, it turns into a very valuable resource.
There are two major economic impacts we have: empowering consumers to make their products last longer and empowering the same consumers to make better purchase decisions around products. People tell us that once they have successfully repaired a product, they’re more likely to buy something from the same manufacturer.
We did a survey of about 13,000 community members last year. We asked, “If you fix something, does that make you more likely to buy something else from that manufacturer?” And 95 percent said yes. We asked whether repairability was a factor in purchase decision, and 93 percent said it was at least somewhat of a factor.
These are the kind of market research questions that very few people are asking. Nobody is talking to consumers. If the data were more widely known, you would get companies designing products differently.
For brands, it seems that by getting involved in the repair process, they’re developing a deeper relationship with the consumer, going beyond just that one-off purchase.
Exactly. The other area where we feel like we are having a significant economic impact is empowering independent service organizations. So, helping people start small repair businesses. In the ’80s and early ’90s, there were thousands of electronic repair businesses all over the U.S.; every neighborhood had a TV repair shop. Those guys all went out of business because the TV manufacturers stopped sharing repair manuals and service parts. That was a bad thing for the economy, and it’s certainly a bad thing for sustainability.
We’re seeing the opposite trend now, in the last three or four years. Now we have thousands of cell phone repair shops popping up all around the country. What’s interesting is, unlike the TV repair shops, where they had a direct line to the manufacturers, all these cell phone repair shops are working without support of the manufacturers. They’re using crowdsourced service manuals like iFixit. They’re using supply chains where they’re getting parts direct from suppliers in China or from companies like us that are importing those parts. The Internet and open access to information has allowed them to circumvent the blocks put in by the manufacturers.
Basically, the circular economy is happening around these companies’ products whether they’re participating or not.
Do you foresee a future where manufacturers start to get behind this?
I think it’s inevitable. We just launched a partnership with Patagonia. They are very eager to teach their customers how to repair their products. They’re doing everything from basic repairs—how to patch a hole—to how to replace the zipper on a jacket. We’re doing sewing clinics with them where we’re going into their stores and teaching customers how to sew. They provide instructions on how to fix the handle on one of their luggage lines. Then they’re actually looping that information in and improving the design of the product to make it easier for customers to repair their things.
Are any other brands doing similar things?
But there are a lot of companies out there that really support and stand behind their products. Zippo has built their entire brand around a product that’s repairable and lasts forever. You can take a Zippo from 50 years ago, mail it in to them, and they will repair it. You would think of a Zippo as a disposable product—I mean, they sell for $10—but it’s part of their brand identity that the Zippo is a quality product.
Timbuktu is a messenger bag company that just announced a big repair initiative. Dell and Lenovo are two electronic companies that really are doing the right thing and are making repair information available to their customers: Let’s say the circuit board in your laptop dies, and you’re under warranty. You call them up and they say, “You have two options. You can mail it to us, we’ll fix it and mail it back to you in a week. Or we’ll send you a circuit board and the instructions, and you can install it yourself. If you want or need your laptop working overnight, that’s your fastest option.”
And it’s a really good model not just for consumers but also for IT shops and companies. One of my first jobs was an IT guy at a software company, and when we had Dell laptops that failed, I would just have them send me circuit boards. By doing the repairs in-house, I was able to provide a much better level of service for our folks internally rather than having to make them go without their computer for a couple of days.
Do you foresee this becoming something that’s mainstream, where people are taking on fixing things themselves, or do you foresee these little repair shops springing back up around the country?
It’s exciting to see these repair shops happen. And it’s really something where the manufacturers have missed out on a significant business opportunity. If you look at Apple, they have 400 stores around the country. And their retail stores just can’t keep up with the volume of repairs. It’s frustrating for consumers, because even if you wanted to go in and have them fix your screen, you have to schedule an appointment so far in advance. And they’re not convenient enough to where people are. You want to be able to go into a mall and have somebody right there.
Brands need to embrace the community and understand that the best customer experience sometimes is the one you can’t control yourself. Dell is not there holding your hand when you do the repair. But they want to do everything they can to make sure you have a successful experience doing it. It’s really about figuring out how you can support the ecosystem and support reuse and repair around your products.
There’s a great Ikea hack community. People are taking old Ikea products and making new things, and that’s a great thing for Ikea’s brand. It’s a great thing for the circular economy. It’s a great thing for the environment as a whole. Ikea just has to figure out as a brand how to embrace and extend that.
Have you noticed whether this is taking off among any particular generation?
We see it as something that’s really across the board. If anything, it’s skipping a generation. The current generation is very interested, and the older generations are very interested. When we do local reuse clinics, we’ll have grandparents teaching young folks how to sew and how to do repairs. And the old folks are really into it, and the young folks are really into it. The middle-aged folks just sort of skipped a generation of practical skills.
Overall, though, it is hugely empowering for consumers. You have a jacket where the zipper is jammed or a computer that won’t turn on, and you spend an hour or two learning about the product, getting engaged and tinkering, and then you take a leap of faith in yourself. You get to the end and it works; it’s the greatest feeling in the world.
What’s next for iFixit?
We’re really focused on expanding the types of information we have on iFixit. We don’t have a whole lot of bicycle repair information, but we’re working on it, we’re partnering with some bike companies on that. Timbuktu just announced that they’ve got a bunch of repair guides on iFixit, so we’ve been working with them on that. We’re doing some more outdoor-gear work this year. We’re adding more and more repair guides for cell phones. We’re adding repair guides for toys. We don’t always know what’s up next. It’s up to the community. It’s what people are interested in.
What do you think brands can take away from iFixit’s success?
For me, the key takeaway is not just to support repair but also to really support and empower consumers and independent organizations that are working with your products. It’s about embracing the community and allowing other people to take ownership, and integrate your brand into their lives. Just make information available, that’s all it takes. Make the information available about how to repair your product, and people will do amazing things.
The Internet of Things is determined to make smart technology take over our homes. However, user experience is likely to make or break successful systems — consumers won’t want to feel uncomfortable in their own homes. While in the past home control devices such as Ubi have used ambient lighting to deliver information to users, Homey is a system that uses voice recognition to enable users to simply speak orders to their home.
Using wifi to connect to smart appliances and digital devices out of the box, Homey can do many of the tasks that other automation hubs offer — remote control of ovens, stereos and lighting, smart heating schedules, presence detection, and more. Much like others, it also has an app that can be used as a control center as well as a way to visualize metrics such as energy use. However, the Homey hub includes a microphone array that’s used to recognize voice commands in multiple languages including English, Dutch, German, Spanish and French. Pulling a smartphone out of your pocket and finding the Homey app takes a lot longer than flipping a switch, and — according to the team behind the device — simply saying a demand out loud is even quicker. Homey will even talk back with confirmation or additional questions if users aren’t being specific enough.
Watch the video below to learn more about the device:
Developed by Netherlands-based Athom, Homey recently raised more than EUR 200,000 through a Kickstarter campaign, where the device could be pre-ordered from EUR 179. Will voice-activated homes enabled by products such as Homey become a common sight in the future?
Punctures are the bane of cyclists’ existence, not least because they seem to happen at the most inopportune moments and require getting your hands dirty to fix. While New York’s Bikestock equipment vending machines have aimed to make available 24 hours a day the tools riders need to fix their bikes, a new device called patchnride is a portable device that permanently fixes any puncture with one easy maneuver.
The typical way to fix a puncture is to take the wheel off the bike, remove the tire and use patching kits that are fiddly, take time to set, and often don’t work if not applied correctly. Because of this, many cyclists simply use a new inner tube, sending their punctured one to landfill. patchnride is a single device that makes fixing a puncture easier.
The tool has a nib on the end and inside is a single-use cartridge that contains the patching material. When riders get a flat, they rub patchnride leak detecting solution on their tire, which will bubble at the location of the puncture. After finding the hole, they simply pinch the tire, insert the nib and pull back the slider on the side. A rubber stem from the patch sticking out of the hole indicates that the patching was succesful. The method takes around 60 seconds to complete before riders can simply pump up their tires and get back on the saddle.
Watch the video below to learn more about patchnride:
patchnride is available to pre-order for USD 25, with USD 5 shipping. Are there other ways to make bike repair and maintenance quicker, easier and cleaner?
Ever wonder what 8 million flower petals looks like? Sony wanted to explore this as it made a huge splash dropping 3.5 tons of vibrant colored flower petals, creating an epic shoot to promote their new line of TVs, which promises 4x the detail of HD.
Shot by photographer Nick Meek and filmmaker Jaron Albertin, and organized by McCann, the idea was to cover the area near the Irazú Volcano – located in central Costa Rica – with a flower petal for every pixel in Sony’s 4K Ultra HD TV.
And, according to Sony’s behind-the-scenes video, the team hand-picked the most vibrant flowers they could find in the region to flood the streets with color, with almost no digital manipulation.
Take a look: