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Spotting Technology Trends with Kickstarter

At the beginning of this year I spent some time re-familiarizing myself with the machinations of Kickstarter.com for a new project I was working on. Since then, I check back in every so often to see which Kickstarter campaigns are gaining real traction, partly because it’s quite inspiring to see all the incredible ideas being worked on out there and partly because – and I warn you! – it can be really addictive!

But genuinely, I also think it’s a good way of spotting emerging technology trends, based on the responses and support that the various products and ideas receive. Kickstarter has made it really simple for you to do this by being able to filter the numerous projects by “Popularity” and “Most Funded.” For example, if you filter results on ‘most funded’ you’ll find wearable tech device Pebble in the number one spot, which raised over $10 million, a whopping 10,267% of their target, back in the relatively early days of May 2012. Since then, as we saw from this year’s CES conference, wearable technology – or at least the debating of its potential – seems to be everywhere, but Kickstarter allowed Pebble to steal an early march on the development of their product, no doubt buoyed with confidence from the overwhelmingly positive reaction.

So, with this in mind, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the areas I see trending in all the technology projects listed. So here goes:

  • 3D printing is still huge news

3D printing is such big news on Kickstarter, it has a sub-sector all of its own. Currently there are 57 3D-printer projects vying for support, from LIX, the ‘smallest 3D printing pen in the world’ (which is 2,051% funded) to The Micro, which bills itself as ‘the first truly consumer 3D printer.’  With an incredible 6,802% funding ($3,401,361!) it clearly captured the imagination of many.

  • Educational and informational tools spark major interest

Many of the popular technology projects speak to the ‘maker’ mentality of the Kickstarter community. There are multiple examples of Arduino-compatible products to help the self-starter get more creative (and frankly, push my limit of understanding!). But there are also several projects that seek to inform and educate. The two that really caught my eye were Scio, a ‘pocket molecular sensor for all’ that allows you to scan items from fruit to clothing to reveal their chemical make-up (564% funded) and Mirobot, a DIY robot designed to help teach children about technology and programming (264% funded). I’ve noticed more and more articles in the press on teaching young children coding, and it makes perfect sense that Kickstarter would be the place to find new ideas and methods for this.

  • Smoothing the edges on current technology 

It’s often said these days that we are becoming less and less patient. That sentiment is firmly captured in the support for the ‘Legion Meter’ which ‘accelerates your smartphone or tablet’s charge speed up to 92% faster.’ The project sought just $10K, but with 41 days yet to go is at almost $85,000. Another big hit is the ‘Quickdraw Cable.’ Serving iPhones and iPads it comes with a lifetime guarantee, lets you know how much your device is charging, and wraps up tightly so you no longer have a pile of cables to unravel.

Both these last projects, and there are many others like them, strike me as one of the key powers of Kickstarter as an intelligence-sharing, innovation platform in which ideas can develop based ultimately on their commonly-agreed usefulness. I urge you, then, to spend a spare 5 minutes dipping into the site, and be inspired by the inventiveness – and of course, occasional wackiness – you’ll find there.


 

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