Realty Mogul, a real estate crowdfunding company announced that it had been named a “Start-Up to Watch” for 2014 at Digital LA’s Digerati Awards, an event recognizing “digital” leaders in the Los Angeles area.
SOURCE:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/realty-mogul-named-start-up-to-watch-at-digerati-awards-in-beverly-hills-247299111.htmlRead More →
NYC’s betaworks has taken $10 million in additional investment from Japanese digital media incubator and Twitter investor Digital Garage, which is tagged on to the $20 million round the company received in December.
According to betaworks founder John Borthwick, Digital Garage is very similar to betaworks. The partnership is meant to help Japanese startups expand into the U.S.
The WSJ reports that $7.5 million of the $10 million investment is coming from Digital Garage, with the remaining $2.5 million coming from other angel investors.
Borthwick said that after the $20 million round in December, the first time betaworks has raised money in four years, the firm received additional outreach from other investors who wished to be more involved with betaworks.
Digital Garage joins an impressive list of investors, including Tumblr’s David Karp, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Jerry Yang (Yahoo), Ev Williams (Twitter), Abdur Chowdhury (Summize founder), Dave Morin (Path), and Gerry Laybourne, who recently joined the board at betaworks.
Betaworks is a startup factory of sorts, making seed-stage investments in existing companies (such as Airbnb and Kickstarter), as well as launching and creating new products, such as Digg, Dots, Chartbeat, Bitly, Poncho, Telecast and, most recently, crowdfunding-based equity platform Alphaworks.Read More →
Beacon, part of the current batch of startups incubated by Y Combinator, gives readers another way to support (and get access to) high-quality journalism.
Two of the company’s co-founders, Dmitri Cherniak and Adrian Sanders, told me that they previously worked together on a photo storytelling app for the iPhone, where they wanted to pay the photographers and give them an incentive to post more content.
Given the relatively small size of the audience, Sanders said, “The digital ad model did not make any sense,” but the pair still wondered, “Man, wouldn’t it be great if these mobile photographers could earn real money with this niche community?” Then they encountered Dan Fletcher, formerly managing editor at Facebook and social media director at Bloomberg, who would become the third founder at Beacon. As they discussed the state of the journalism industry, they realized that they could solve a broader problem.
Beacon’s approach is basically a form a crowdfunding. Journalism has previously been supported on general crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and through more focused efforts like Spot.us, but I haven’t seen a model quite like this one. Sanders argued that on its own, crowdfunding can accomplish a lot, but “it doesn’t necessarily deliver a great experience for a community of readers.”
On Beacon, readers browse through different authors and their projects on the site, and if they find one that they like, they can buy a subscription. There are different subscription levels but the basic price is $5 per month. The subscription actually gives them access to the full array of Beacon content, but the specific project that they support will get the “vast majority” of their payment, Sanders said.
Meanwhile, around 25 or 30 percent of the subscription revenue is put into a bonus pool, which is eventually paid out to the writers as well — not based on pageviews or social sharing, but on how many readers hit the “recommend” button after they finished an article, showing that they actually thought it was worth their time.
There are more than 70 journalists located in 30 countries on Beacon right now, with projects such as this effort to release government documents around U.S. counterterrorism, and this project covering the threats facing North American deserts. There are even journalists grouping together to create micro-publications, such as Climate Confidential.
The site is currently strongest on overseas and public-interest journalism, since that’s an area that requires a significant investment (and one where many publications are pulling back). But Sanders said he doesn’t want to limit Beacon to any particular type of project. Instead, the goal is to experiment and find what readers are willing to pay for. In fact, Beacon could support other forms of content entirely, like photography or cartooning, as it does with this look at New Yorkers.
“In the future, there has to be some way for people with large followings on the Internet to really group together and … be supported,” Cherniak added, arguing that it’s “crazy” that the main way to do that right now is to “put ads up on something.”Read More →
The National Security Agency reportedly has a love affair with mobile app data, collecting personal information from Google Maps and Angry Birds, referring to the program as a “Golden Nugget”.
The classified documents, which were leaked to a handful of news agencies — originate partly from a leak by whistleblower Edward Snowden. They reveal a long-standing project to collect personal data from “leaky” mobile applications. Mobile apps collect a staggering amount of personal data, on everything from product preferences to location.
According to Propublica,
“The two agencies displayed a particular interest in Google Maps, which is accurate to within a few yards or better in some locations. Intelligence agencies collect so much data from the app that “you’ll be able to clone Google’s database” of global searches for directions, according to a top-secret N.S.A. report from 2007.”
Some apps collect quite personal information, from martial status to sexual preference. Think Grindr, the wildly popular geolocation hookup app.
“Some apps, the documents state, can share users’ most sensitive information such as sexual orientation – and one app recorded in the material even sends specific sexual preferences such as whether or not the user may be a swinger.”
From a national security perspective, if agents can find a terrorist with a secret Grindr account, that’d be a strategic goldmine.
So, of all the reported spying thus far, mobile app data could be the most ripe for abuse. Most of the leaked document slides are from a few years back, so it’s unclear whether international agencies ever actually built the technology, or were allowed to collect such data.
Rovio, makers of Angry Birds, vigorously denied cooperating with the NSA.
“Rovio doesn’t have any previous knowledge of this matter, and have not been aware of such activity in 3rd party advertising networks,” spokesperson Saara Bergström told The Guardian. “Nor do we have any involvement with the organizations you mentioned [NSA and GCHQ].”
The future of the NSA is now in congress’ hands, as the 2014 session will deliberate whether to end the legal programs that allowed the digital spying of Americans and foreign nationals.Read More →
Bitcoin – an emerging peer-to-peer payment system, cryptocurrency, trading platform and exchange system – has captured global interest in the last year. It i…Read More →
How much should you pay for an ebook? $9.99? $0.99? $0? And how much should you price your ebooks? I’m going to tell you what people have actually paid for their ebooks, based on some hard data from Luzme. You can set the price of your book to be anything you want; what really matters is what someone will pay for it!
Last year, Luzme captured a large amount of ebook price data and reader pricing preferences. I am analysing this data and will share any interesting results.
I do not claim that this is representative of the whole ebook industry, but I hope that some real data might contribute something useful to the debate.
So here is my analysis of the actual prices that people have paid at Amazon in 2013, when they bought via Luzme.
For the US data, I have normalised it against the “standard price” of $10.
Here is the way the various prices worked in terms of units sold.
The most popular price points are at the low-end, with a local peak around the $10 mark, and then tailing off as the price increases.
This does not surprise me. But what I did not expect, is how much people will actually pay for an ebook (well over the $10 price! How much do you think the most expensive one went for? I will tell you later…)
Now look at the revenue over the same price points.
See how the $9-10 range shows a spike of revenue? I suggest this validates the industry viewpoint that there is a good market for books priced around $10.
The UK market is a completely different story. Here, I have normalised the data around the £6-7 range, which is roughly $10.
By far, the largest number of units sold is £1 or less (mostly 99p). And then it tails off as the price rises. There are hardly any sales over £5 (approx $7.50)
And the revenue tells the same story; £5 or less is where the sales are.
So why the great difference?
I can understand why there are markets for both low-price ebooks and $10 ones.
From talking to my users, they fall broadly into two categories. First there is the avid readers who buy many books each week; their watchlist is so long that they are happy to buy whichever is cheap today. Then there is the reader who has a particular book in mind; they do not buy very often but when they do, they are not price-sensitive, they just want the book straightaway.
But why the difference between the US and the UK?
In the UK, there is usually a fierce price war going on between Amazon and some new entrant; currently it is Sainsburys, previously it was Sony and Nook. But there is usually someone trying to buy market share by discounting the price. Previously we had the 20p offer from Sony, now 99p seems more common.
In the USA, the current tussle appears to be between the existing ebook stores and the new startups wanting to sell you a subscription model (aka “Netflix/Spotify for ebooks”)
10 facts you may not know about 2013 ebook sale prices, as seen at Luzme:
In the USA:
- In the USA, ebooks sell at all prices from $1 up to $10.
- The most popular price range was $1-2.
- The most revenue was earned between in the $9-10 price range.
- Specialised ebooks sell at high prices, over $100.
In the UK:
- It’s completely different!
- Ebooks don’t sell well above £5.
- The most popular price range was <= £1.
- The most revenue was earned in the <= £1 price range.
- There is less evidence of specialised ebooks selling at high prices.
- Someone thought an ebook was worth $134.84! “Digital Signal Processing in Power System Protection and Control”, to be precise…
Rachel Willmer is the founder of Luzme, a book comparison site. This is part of a series on crowdfunding and publishing, The Mytro Project. For future posts I’m looking for more input from online analysts and other crowdfunding platforms so please email me at email@example.com.Read More →
I just returned from the most exciting Consumer Electronics Show I’ve ever covered. Thanks to extraordinary demand for gadgets that make us healthier, stronger, and smarter, the technology industry is putting some serious brain power behind the next generation of wearable health devices. Over the next year, a torrent of new devices is hitting the market to provide automated elite coaching, a pocket-sized clinical lab, and your own personal assistant.
Labs In Your Pocket
It seems that nearly every time I rush head-first into a new diet or exercise program, I find months later there’s some crucial oversight that’s holding back my progress or actively destroying my body. Exasperated in frustration, I drag myself to a clinic for expert diagnostics, only to discover simple advice I should have been following from the beginning.
Now, nearly every expensive lab test I’ve gotten over the past year is coming to the delightful convenience of my smartphone. The Sensoria smart sock correctly diagnosed that I make the runner’s rookie mistake of heel striking, leading to a workout-stopping knee pain (available this spring).
Valencell’s PerformTech in-ear heart-rate monitor calibrated my V02Max (a common measure of endurance) in a nearly painless five minutes of light stair-stepper work on the CES show floor (available now). The results were within 5 percent of lab-test results I received months earlier and helped me know that two months of running San Francisco’s hills are probably paying off.
Quality rest is just as important as hitting the gym. The Basis B1 wristwatch, Sleeprate app, and Withing’s Aura bed pad will diagnose the quality of the major stages of sleep, including crucial REM cycles.* I got a preview of Sleeprate’s heart-rate-monitor-powered app, and apparently I’ve got a nasty restless sleep cycle (Basis update coming January 21, Sleeprate January 23rd, and Aura in the spring).
Unlike a lab test, these devices can follow you wherever you go, ensuring you actually follow through with the advice. Many of us work so hard at self-improvement; it’s nice to know that our time isn’t going to waste.
Automated Elite Coaching
The defining feature of the world’s sharpest coaching minds is a broad novel strategy that is meticulously applied to each student. The delicious replicability of elite coaching makes it ripe for automation.
While last year was all about fitness gadgets that monitor activity, “what’s going to happen next is teaching technique,” said Ruth Thomason of Cambridge Consultants. Cambridge was showing off the ArcAid basketball free-throw technique video analyzer. Normally available to college sports teams with budgets larger than the entire Humanities Department, this kind of video technology could bring elite coaching to the masses.
The marathon-enthusiast fitness company, Polar, is releasing what claims to be the most advanced training watch on the market. The Polar V800 meticulously tracks heart rate to advise athletes when they’re overtraining, analyzed through a free online web app, Polar Flow (available in April).
There’s also hope for my fellow ADHD brethren: Interaxon’s Muse headband is like a mind-reading meditation coach. Using classic techniques from the field of neurofeedback, the behind-the-ear mounted EEG device measures brainwaves to coach users into a state of meditative peace. Unlike its competitor, Neurosky, which is mostly used for brain-controlled computing (and women who love to wear rotating cat ears in San Francisco), the muse will track improved mindfulness over time.
In the same way online education is bringing the teachings of world-class professors to anyone with an Internet connection, the future of health tech will be to essentially roboticize elite coaches in the devices we wear on our bodies.
The Digital Mother
“Sit up straight and brush your teeth!” Sometimes, we know exactly what we’re supposed to do, but just aren’t very good at following through. The latest health tech is here to gently nag you into better health.
The Lumo Lift is a vibrating shirt pin that buzzes whenever it detects slouched shoulders. It’s pretty much impossible to answer 5,000 emails a minute and remember to sit up straight for eight hours. This little guy helps you remember (available in the spring).
For objects around the house, the aptly named “Mother” device imbues everyday objects with the nagging power of our lovely moms. Sen.se’s Mother interacts with satellite “cookies” that know when and how an object is being used; for instance, whether a bottle of pills is being picked up and poured upside down. The same goes for a jar to water the plants (available in the spring).
2014 is going to be an exciting year for digital health. For years, technology has conspired to transform our upright bodies into hunched-back zombies. Now, it can make us all ubermen. Bring on the gadgets!Read More →
European Civil Liberties Committee Votes To Ask Snowden To Contribute To Its NSA Surveillance Inquiry
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden will be invited to contribute to a European Parliamentary committee’s ongoing inquiry into the U.S. NSA surveillance program.
The European Parliamentary Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) committee voted to ask Snowden to contribute to its inquiry via video conference earlier today, with 36 votes in favour of inviting the whistleblower to air his views. There were just two votes against, and one abstention.
Snowden is currently living in Russia where he was granted temporary asylum after the U.S. cancelled his passport, stranding him in Moscow airport. It’s unclear whether he will take up the offer to contribute. Snowden has previously indicated he wants to testify before the American Congress before making other contributions.
Later today the LIBE committee will debate its draft report into the U.S. NSA surveillance program, produced by MEP Claude Moraes, which looks at the impact on EU citizens’ fundamental rights and on transatlantic cooperation in Justice and Home Affairs.
The LIBE’s inquiry into the program started in July last year. So far it’s held 15 hearings and submissions from EU and US experts, across EU institutions, national parliaments, US congress, academics, journalists, civil society, security and technology specialists and private business.
The Inquiry’s draft report, which will be debated by LIBE today, contains recommendations for a “European Digital Habeas corpus for protecting privacy” with seven suggested actions.
The suggested actions include: adopting the Data Protection Package in 2014; concluding an Umbrella agreement between the EU and US that ensures “proper redress mechanisms for EU citizens in case of data transfers from the EU to the US for law-enforcement purposes”; suspending the Safe Harbour agreement until a full review is conducted and current loopholes “remedied”; developing a European strategy for “IT independence”; and developing the EU’s role as a “reference player for a democratic and neutral governance of Internet”.
The LIBE’s draft report into NSA surveillance can be viewed here.Read More →
What is to be done with Europe? As The New York Times wrote just two days ago, there are not enough people in Europe qualified to fill all the technology jobs available. At the same time, Europe is not producing really big platforms to take on the global players. Too much of European technology has been caught up producing client-driven businesses in enterprise. As it is often said, where are the platforms like Google, Facebook and or Twitter in Europe? We can’t recycle stories about Skype forever. There are some amazing companies coming though. But more are needed.
So it is that the European Commission wants European member states to develop ‘a new generation of web services’, and of course, reap the economic benefits from those.
Of course, the Commission is not the magic bullet, or the super hero to save the day. But it wants to try.
There’s no getting around it. For a long time Europeans have looked with envy upon the sheer scale of technology innovation coming out of places like the USA (in software and internet platforms) and Asia (in hardware). The Commission, quite rightly, wants to help do something about this.
So back in May 2013 it introduce a set of ’6 actions’ by the EC VP for Industry & Entrepreneurship, Antonio Tajani as part of its grandly titled “Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan”. The little unit inside the Commission to deliver this is one year old, which, in EU Commission terms, is a teeny tiny baby.
So the question is, can they do it, and what the hell is their action plan?
Well, their Action Plan described as a blueprint for “decisive action to unleash Europe’s entrepreneurial potential, to remove existing obstacles and to revolutionise the culture of entrepreneurship in Europe.” (This was developed after a public consultation process with a number of European entrepreneurs).
The aim is to invest in in changing the public perception of entrepreneurs (typically poor in risk-averse European business culture), in entrepreneurship education and to support groups that are underrepresented among entrepreneurs. The aim is to revitalise an entrepreneurial spirit which has considerably declined in the postwar years. And let’s face it most jobs are created by SMEs and micro-firms that did not exist even 5 years ago.
The Commission wants to under-pin the idea that it is only when a large number of Europeans recognise an entrepreneurial career as a rewarding and attractive option that entrepreneurial activity in Europe will thrive in the long term.
So, what in each is in this “Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan”. Well, it has three main pillars: Entrepreneurial education and training; the creation of a business environment where entrepreneurs can flourish and grow; and finally, highlighting role models while also reaching out to specific groups whose entrepreneurial potential is not being tapped to its fullest extent.
Since it issued it’s action plan, the Commission has delivered six initiatives aimed at each of the above actions, which I’ll go into in a moment.
• Setting up a Startup Europe Partnership
• The “Leaders Club” of entrepreneurs
• MOOCs for increasing web talent in Europe
• Accelerators Assembly – A Commission-funded network of tech Accelerators who are asked to share knowledge and information.
• A network of EU investors active in raising venture capital
• An EU crowd-funding network
These activities are, in theory targeted as ‘web entrepreneurship’ (or W.E. as they like to call it) and is all about helping to cultivate more ambitious tech start-ups which, crucially, are also able to scale into full-blown going companies, while boosting overall economic growth and jobs in the internet-based economy.
The EU Commission has a motto for this action plan which is ‘start in Europe and stay in Europe’. Of course, it’s not going to suit every business, but it’s a laudable thought.
In order for this to happen they want to overcome what obstacles there are in Europe to starting up and to work out how they can enhance startups to ‘scale up’ inside the EU and compete internationally.
Here we detect a slight problem in the thinking. Many startups will want to scale internationally from the word go, not just in the EU.
But, of course, it’s only the EU area of member states that the Commission can deal with anyway. That said, if the EU can create some sort of ‘best practise’ there’s nothing to stop nearby non-EU states taking a leaf out of their book.
One area the Commission thinks it is ‘doing OK’ in is the area of the Telecom Single Market legislation – an area championed during Neelie Kroes’ second term in office, with it’s aim to reduce the cost and legislative burden on companies, and the geographical asymmetries that prevent ‘single market’ economies of scale. And to be fair, she has been pummelling the networks to reduce roaming costs – and it does indeed look like those will come down year over the next few years.
So what has the Commission been doing in a concrete manner on the ground, and where do they go next?
The answer is six main initiatives, with a couple of ancillary activities tacked onto the end.
• Startup Europe
They set up the Startup Europe which covers a a wide range of activities and calls on private sector to come together to support European startups. A number of these are listed here.
Confusingly, They have registered, and promote this URL StartupEurope.eu
Under the banner of Startup Europe, the Commission ran “Tech All Stars”, which was basically a European Commission-backed effort to run a startup pitch competition. Except they did not run it. It was a series of two competitions run by AngelsBootcamp and Founders Forum culminating in the overall winner, Trustev, being showcased at the Digital Agenda Assembly in Dublin on the 19th June.
Note that this has a different logo to the StartupEurope Partnership. Confused yet?
Under the list of achievements is the expression of interest and the quality of the corporate ‘pledges’ received so far from companies such as Telefonica, Microsoft, Adobe, Google.
The pledges they are after include things like mentoring, Open office hours, access to office spaces, funding, training, etc etc. All things corporates are famously bad at, of course, but at least it’s something.
They’ve had Telefonica bring Campus Party to Europe. Microsoft pledged to create CoEntrepreneurs.eu as a “a platform, a community and a collection of 2.0 initiatives enabling massive entrepreneurship support by the entrepreneurs themselves” – however, the site re-directs to CoEntrepreneurs.be, a Belgian domain, and a site with a couple of guys taking in French about startups. Not very Microsoft.
There’s also a vague commitment from Microsoft BizSpark to engage with European Institutions, but since this is simply cover for MS to sell software then you’d expect them to do this anyway.
“The Leader’s Club” is a group of six successful web entrepreneurs assembled by the Commission to basically come up with a list of things they think Europe should do, which they called the Startup Manifesto.
These are: Daniel Ek (Spotify), Kaj Hed (Rovio), Joanna Shields (Tech City UK), Reshma Sohoni (Seedcamp), Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten (The Next Web), Zaryn Dentzel (Tuenti), Niklas Zennström (Atomico) and Lars Hinrichs (formely of Hackfwd).
In March last year they met EC VP Neelie Kroes and in September launched their Manifesto of 22 actions needed to boost entrepreneurship for internet-driven economic growth across Europe. They boiled down to five headings: improving tech skills and education in Europe; making it easier to access talent in and outside the EU; increasing access to capital; modernising data laws across the EU; getting European countries to take ‘thought leadership’ in tech.
They tested the interest in the manifesto by subjecting it to public vote, but that garnered a relatively low 3,000 or so votes. That said, the ideas were rock solid. Indeed, the Leader’s Club has probably come up with amongst the best output of any Commission initiative to date – assuming anyone is listening.
If this were to go any further, one might suggest they look at the UK’s Tech City policy of creating a ‘Fast 50′ layer of much larger startups on their way to an IPO.
• Fostering Web Skills
The Commission has put out to tender a project to study the capability of MOOCs to improve web skills in Europe, for EUR 90,000. The study is due to report later in 2014, and will map the supply and demand for these, with the results to be published at a conference Q3 2015. The MOOCs Tender was launched to explore short term and long term objectives in developing massive online courses, such as the ones launched by Stanford’s Coursera, or MIT’s EdX which have had an explosive growth.
Massive Online Courses have clearly aided the development of skills, though, arguably, basic Computer Science combined with trawling the web for the usual coding resources works equally well.
There’s little to say about this initiative other than it’s probably a good idea to get data on MOOC usage in Europe.
This is a network of tech Accelerators which was launched in the first half of 2013. It was set up as an on-line group but has had some offline meetings. It has some 200 active accelerator members who are supposed to be sharing knowledge and information about access to funding opportunities. The Commission has commissioned a report expected Q1 2014 to summarize the overall situation in Europe with respect to the growth of accelerators.
This is the work to create a network of Venture Capital firms, ongoing since March 2013. Oddly, although this is to “create awareness” about the growth of web services, you can probably agree that they already know this already. However, there is more specific work going on to survey of over 60 VCs and publish the results later this year.
Once again we have a separate web site for a pretty related project. Launched in June 2013 by various Commission departments, the idea here is to make EU member states aware of the movement of Crowdfunding and ‘Crowd-Equity’ financing for startups. Why? Well, to put it bluntly, this who thing has apparently not been noticed at policy-making levels by quite a lot of EU states. This has led to some very non-EU friendly behaviour, such as the fact that legislation in Germany and Italy has a completely different view of what crowd funding actually is. Thus, ‘harmonisation’ – a favourite EU word – of the on-line crowd funding market is very relevant. If EU platforms played by the same rules, then they would be able to raise much bigger sums of funding. The Commission plans to commission a report analysing the policy priorities in the EU and run an event around this issue in the second half of 2014.
Aside from all this, the Commission has started some work on trying to dynamically map what is going on in Europe across the EU ecosystem, but there has not been results of that published yet.
In addition, the Commission has been dabbling in what amounts of PR works for startups.
It created the Europioneers awards to use its media profile to highlight the work of startups, alongside the Techallstars activity.
So there you have it, a long laundry list of things the Commission is planning or already implementing.
The question is, can they achieve what they have set out to do?
And should the Commission even be dabbling in these initiatives at all?
The questions is, are these the right things? Many would argue that the Commission would be better off emphasising that EU Members States invest vastly more into Computer Science and Engineering skills, than dabbling in startup competitions usually better run by the private sector.
With Europe facing a skills and entrepreneurship gap over the next few years, it would seem they have to do something.Read More →
But it was also a time for gadgets. As we wait for 2013 to come to a close and hope for brighter things for the year to come, here’s a look at the gadgets we loved, the ones we hated, and the ones that we found aesthetically offensive.
The Fitbit Force
Fitness trackers are many and varied, but Fitbit consistently delivers top-notch hardware. The Fitbit Force is the latest. It takes the successful formula of the wrist-borne Fitbit Flex and adds a basic screen so you can get information right from your wrist, instead of having to open an app on your phone every time you want to check your progress (in more detail than via a few lighted dots).
Many tried to make a smartwatch people wanted to wear and use this year, and many failed. Pebble succeeded. Success for a smartwatch still doesn’t look like massive millions of units sold, but it looks better than when the Pebble team tried this a few years ago with the inPulse smartwatch for BlackBerry. “The what?” you say. Exactly.
iPad mini with Retina Display
The iPad mini with Retina display takes the winning form factor of the original iPad mini and slaps a super high-res screen in there. It’s essentially a no-compromise machine, in that it’s cheaper than the iPad Air, and has the same processor, computing power and battery life. Plus if you have big pockets, it’s pocketable.
Kids need coding skills if they want to survive in our dystopian future. The ability to hack a circuit board could be the difference between eternal servitude and mastery over a private robot army by 2050 and we all know it. This educational tool is the perfect, cheap apocalypse survival kit. It’s technically from last year, but we contend it had more impact this year when production really spooled up.
Amazon knows when it’s got a good thing going. Last year’s Kindle Paperwhite was a good thing, and this year’s update keeps all the good and adds some better stuff. Like faster page refresh, greater text/page contrast and more even lighting.
Samsung Galaxy Gear
Pebble made a good smartwatch, and Samsung made a dumb one. They made weird ads to try to promote their dumb smartwatch, too, which helped nothing and creeped out the entire world. Plus it only works with a small pool of Galaxy devices, and it has terrible battery life and looks awful. Go home Samsung, you’re drunk.
“Android-based game console” is a phrase we wrote so many times this year. So. Many. Times. And it turns out, they mostly blow. Atop the pile of those that miss is the Gamestick, a crowdfunded disaster that no one loves.
The Ouya is like the Gamestick, in that it was a disappointing “Android-based game console,” but to its credit, it isn’t the Gamestick. It’s still not great by any stretch of the imagination, but huge hype didn’t help, and it has decent niche appeal for anyone who really likes emulation and would rather have something permanent instead of plugging their phone into their TV repeatedly.
Speaking of startup gadgets that really blew it in 2013, the Leap Motion Controller doesn’t live up to its massive hype at all. Sure, if you’re a billionaire inventor like Tony Stark or Elon Musk it’s great for designing space ships or giant death airships, but for regular people, trying to, say, browse the web, you’re going to try this once, hate it and stick it in a drawer.
CTA Digital iPotty
Kids need to learn to use the toilet, and they should learn early that they also need to use iPads while they’re doing their business. So why not combine potty training and tablet use into a single device? The answer is that you shouldn’t do this because God will never forgive you if you do.
Maybe face-based computing is going to work eventually, but as-is, Google Glass looks like garbage. It makes your face look bad. Don’t try denying it. Google has released plenty of images of models wearing it and none of them look any good, so you with your normal-person face will look plain ol’ stupid.
The LG G2 is a great phone, as it is essentially a slightly improved version of the excellent Nexus 5, albeit with some LG bloatware crud. But LG went out of its mind and put the wake/sleep and volume rocker button on the back, just to infuriate me to the point where I would like to do murder. You couldn’t choose a less ergonomic place to put that button, LG. Not if you ran a thousand focus groups to figure out more inconvenient positioning.
I ain’t mad at you for dropping one of the ‘D’s Nintendo – you never needed three to begin with. And this device is actually pretty great, and I’d buy this instead of a 3DS if I didn’t already have one. Still, it’s not good-looking. It is, in fact, ugly. Good looks cost money, though, so uglification for a budget device may be strategy, not a stupid mistake.