Friday, July 21, 2017

Crowdfunding Product Review: Baserock

I was going to do a write up on a low-cost 3D printer, but thought that was too boring, or maybe a "smart ring" you could use to make calls (maybe next week); but I enjoy making fun of really dumb products too much to let this one go.

I present to you, the Baserock: the world's first backpack that truly enhances how you feel your music.
i.e. a backpack with a speaker that vibrates your back.

Perfect for next year's Fyre Festival!

In the words of the campaign creators:
Baserock is a technology that allows you to physically feel music by vibrating bass frequencies throughout your body. It is a completely new and immersive way to experience the music you love.  
Baserock has an integrated microphone input, so you can take it to a live show and it will listen to the same music you are listening to. It is the most immersive way to experience a live show. Period.

Incredibly, at the time of posting, it's made over $69K and is 462% funded.


First, because all good crowdfunding campaigns need one, a video!

Now, some more on those features (listed in the order presented on their campaign page):

1. Hydration:
AKA a water bladder
This makes sense, unless the venue you're going to doesn't allow liquids or non-sealed containers.
Not a bad feature, but nothing revolutionary.

2. Straps:

This is the #2 highlighted feature for this product.

3. Storage

Can be used as a bag.

4. Water Resistance

Made of common bag material, but useful when things get crazy in the foam pit.

5. Bass Boosting Back Panel
Here we go. The raison d'ĂȘtre!
From what I can tell, there's really nothing special about this. It's just two low frequency (bass) speakers pointed at your back.

On the Kickstarter page, there is not one, but two gifsand a video displaying the assembly of the speaker package.

I understand the concept of what it's trying to do, but I have serious doubts about the execution.
For someone to feel physical pressure generated by the speaker, it would have to be very close to, if not in contact with, their back.

If you're relatively close to the stage at any festival, I would hope their sound system is good enough that you could not only hear the music, but feel it as well. Also, if you're dancing, the bag will likely be bouncing around. This would likely both eliminate the contact on your back and your own movement would override any pressure from the speakers.

A quick search (surprisingly) yielded a couple of similar products.

The first was the SubPac M2, a strap-on device that has a similar intent, without the storage feature:

It looks like it has the same fundamental technology, but a better fit on your back will result in greater physical response.

Second is the Basslet, which also ran a successful Kickstarter campaign and raised an incredible €600,000.

I'm sure there are numerous other products out there that try to give listeners a more immersive, physical experience to music.
Clearly Baserock is not the first company to do this, but it's packaging is pretty novel incorporating more utility into a single product.

The SubPac sells for $349 and the Basslet is on sale for $129, so the $199 Early Bird price seems reasonable. I'm not sure the expected MSRP of $399 will sell, but those numbers are generally inflated to give a sense of greater savings on crowdfunding campaigns.

I wouldn't buy it, but $199 isn't a crazy price for a decent pack with tech features.

I really don't see the benefit of this bag over other bags and doubt it will even work well to enhance your experience, but it's nice to have a bag and water at a festival. However many don't allow outside liquid or bags at all, so that negates two features.

As for the "bass boosting", I am highly skeptical that it will work well as it would need to be secured close to your body to get sufficient sensation from the transducers and even then, if you're moving around a lot, I doubt you'd feel any difference.

But then again, maybe I'm just a grumpy old man who doesn't understand these millennial kids and their festivals.

Would you buy the Baserock or a similar product?

Monday, July 10, 2017

Crowdfunding Product Review: Scorkl

For the second entry to my Crowdfunding Product Review series, I thought I'd highlight a product that looks technically sound and I'd actually want.

The Scorkl is basically a miniature scuba tank that you can refill via larger tank or with a hand pump.
It lasts up to ten minutes and divers can go a recommended 10 meters maximum, if you are scuba-trained, or 3 meters for everyone else.

The campaign for Scorkl is actually over, but you can still pre-order on their Kickstarter page.
In total, they raised AU$1,294,688 (Australian) of a $30,000 goal. (4316% funded).


Kickstarter video:

1. Handheld
A couple of the biggest problems with scuba diving are all the advanced planning needed and extra gear you need to haul around: tanks, regulator and hoses, weights, etc.
By creating a compact solution, divers are able to hit the water at a moment's notice with little more than a single back of gear.

2. Available hand-pump
Unless you are in a popular diving spot, finding a place to refill a tank can be a chore.
Having an available hand pump to recharge the air tank is a great, portable option. It also saves money in the long-run by not having to pay for your air.

While this doesn't allow for air mixtures (Nitrox, etc.), you don't require them if you stick to the recommended depth limits and, unless you're doing dozens of dives, you won't exceed any time limitations.

3. Pressure Gauge
This is the weak point in the design of the product.
While it's helpful when filling the tank, it's difficult to see the gauge when the mouthpiece is in your mouth.
You could take it out of your mouth to check, but that's a huge hassle and inexperienced divers may have issues re-inserting the mouthpiece without taking in water.

Adding this section to reviews because, while the Scorkl is cool, I remembered seeing something similar a while back.

That product: Spare Air, which was created over 35 years ago.
Looking at Spare Air again, the similarities are uncanny.
I'm not sure if it is the same manufacturer who is just rebranding and capitalizing on crowdfunding or an enterprising person who realized any applicable patents will have expired.

A single Scorkl and scuba tank refill adapter was priced at $199 ($295 MSRP). Add in the hand pump and it'll run you $398 ($591).

An equivalent Spare Air model is priced at $320, so $199 is a relative bargain and even at full MSRP, you'll save $25 compared with the original.

The more expensive option is the hand pump, which costs an additional $199. This seems excessive for something that looks like a bicycle pump, but it's a multi-stage compressor as well, which definitely adds cost to manufacturing.
I'm sure they're making a good profit off the $199 pricing, but for those who want to dive in more remote areas without tanks or shops nearby, it may be worth paying that premium.

As I said before, the Scorkl is a product that looks cool and one I'd actually want.
While not as original as I initially thought, the crowdfunding pricing is cheaper than its projected MSRP and significantly less than the original Spare Air.

I live in New England with ice-cold-Atlantic water almost year-round, so I wouldn't get much use out of it, but for people who live in warmer climates (or have a drysuit), this is a nice alternative to the sometimes significant prep time for a full diving excursion.
Additionally, it may save some money in the long run if you typically do shorter, shallower dives anyway.

Thoughts on the Scorkl? Would you buy it?
Own a Spare Air? I'd love to hear your thoughts/comments!