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Global innovations in 2016: Canadian smart coat, Swedish air drum, Japanese floating bonsai and more

Published: Jan 15, 2017 1:11 p.m. ET

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The most-funded Kickstarter projects in these countries may surprise you

By

EvieLiu

iBand Plus, Arenar
iBand+ has pledged about $671,000 from 3,958 backers through its 2016 Kickstarter campaign.

Since the launch in 2009, Kickstarter has successfully funded more than 117,000 projects with $2.8 billion globally. According to data from 2014, the top nine countries with most pledged funds accounted for almost 85% of Kickstarter’s total pledge. Here is our roundup of some of the most funded Kickstarter projects from these countries in 2016:

United States: Pebble 2, Time 2 + All-New Pebble Core

Pledged $12.7 million from 66,673 backers, 13 times more than original goal.

Pebble Technology

For any smart wearable lovers, Pebble is not an unfamiliar name. It’s arguably the first notable smart wearable device on market and started the whole revolution followed by most big consumer tech manufacturers like Apple, Google, LG, Microsoft, among others. When the Pebble smartwatches went on sale at Best Buy in 2013, they were sold out within five days.

In May 2016, the company returned to Kickstarter for the third time with its latest products, after its 2012 and 2015 campaigns generated more than $32 million and ended up the most funded projects for each respective year. The latest campaign led to another big success on the crowdfunding platform, reaping another $12 million from 66,673 backers.

The company just confirmed its acquisition by Fitbit FIT, -2.60%   in early December and will no longer manufacture any new products or provide warranty support for current products. Any Kickstarter backers that haven’t received their rewards yet were promised a full refund.

Sweden: Freedrum — The Drumkit That Fits in Your Pocket

Pledged $622,877 from 4,054 backers, four times more than original goal.

Freedrum

Air drumming is coming to a whole new level with this gadget, which allows you to create actual beats anytime from anywhere you want.

You don’t need an actual set of drums, but only a pair of sticks equipped with the motion-sensitive sensors. After pairing them with your smartphone via Bluetooth, you can start producing sounds through the mobile app by simply hitting the air, where the imaginary virtual drumkit should sit. The best part? You can put on a pair of earbuds and never worry about bothering others around you.

It’s also more financially friendly for aspiring young musicians who can’t afford a real set of drums. The “First Bird” price for a Freedrum kit on Kickstarter is only $69, much cheaper than the conventional drums that usually cost hundreds or thousands of dollars.

United Kingdom: Dark Souls — The Board Game

Pledged $4.6 million from 31,178 backers, 75 times more than original goal.

Steamforged Games

A board game based on a popular video game series has almost assured its fan base and success already. When the British company Steamforged Games announced its crowdfunding plan for a miniature-based exploration of the action role-playing video game, it received £3.7 million — roughly $4.6 million — in pledges within 27 days. That’s 75 times more than what the company originally asked. The extra cash went right to the backers, who will now get a lot more additional player characters and items through the campaign’s stretch goals. The product is expected for delivery by April 2017.

Games are the most popular category on Kickstarter, outstripping Design and Technology with 20% of the platform’s total pledged funds.

Board games, particularly, seem to be doing well in recent years. Tabletop game projects have raised twice as much money on Kickstarter in the first six months of 2016 as they did two years ago, according to data from ICO Partners, an online games consulting firm. That’s six times more than the video game sector.

France: Dual Universe : Civilization Building Sci-Fi MMORPG

Pledged about $590,000 from 8,166 backers, 1.1 times more than original goal.

Novaquark

One seamless and persistent universe shared and built by all players at the same time, with no instances, no zones and no transitions. That sounds like the ultimate dream for many video gamers. Novaquark, the indie game studio based in the center of Paris, is bringing that dream to reality. “Dual Universe is going very far in trying to answer this dream, and create a playground in which the players will be able to recreate entire civilizations,” said J.C. Baillie, founder of Novaquark.

Dual Universe has been the third biggest video game Kickstarter campaign worldwide in 2016, and the biggest ever in France.

“We have been working very hard since the last E3 to build up our community and have tens of thousands of people interested in Dual Universe before we even launched the Kickstarter,” Baillie wrote in an email to MarketWatch. “Kickstartershould be the culmination of your marketing efforts, not the starting point.”

The video game industry as a whole, however, has seen a tougher year in crowdfunding than 2015, according to Baillie. The total amount of money raised for video games in the first half of 2016 — a meagre $8.2 million — has shrunk more than half compared to more than $20 million in the previous period, according to data from ICO Partners.

What’s missing are the larger projects in the upper tier. Although some of the big players like Chronicles of Elyria, System Shock and Dual Universe still received great success, fewer video game projects were able to drive more than $500,000 of investment this past year.

Australia: Nura: Headphones that learn and adapt to your unique hearing

Pledged $1.8 million from 7,730 backers, 1.8 times more than original goal.

Nura

In the endless pursuit for better sound quality, the Australian company Nura provides a whole new solution — personalized sounds tailored to your ears.

It is a rarely known fact that not only do human ears capture outside sound, they also produce their own — the so-called “otoacoustic emissions” from the vibration of our cochlea hair cells in response to auditory stimulation. Scientists have been using them to detect hearing problems in newborns, but Nura decided to capture them for a different use.

The microphone embedded in the earbuds of Nura headphones would register and analyze these emissions to work out which frequencies you heard well and which ones you don’t. The headphone would then modify the sound coming out of it to best fit your “hearing profile”.

The team traveled to U.K., Berlin, U.S. and Australia to showcase their products to journalists and presented at festivals such as the Berlin Music Tech Fest. “This helped us to overcome the credibility barrier and also appeal to those outside Australia,” said Sonia Miles-Khan, direct marketing manager at Nura.

The team has grown to more than three times the size it was during our campaign and is now split between three offices in Melbourne, San Francisco and Shenzhen, China.

T he Netherlands: iBand+: EEG headband that helps you Sleep and Dream!

Pledged about $671,000 from 3,958 backers, 13 times more than original goal.

iBand Plus, Arenar

Never heard of lucid dream? It’s like the real-life “Inception” when you are aware of your own dream and could possibly even control it.

It’s not a new concept in the human history, but technology has finally brought us to the point that it’s possible for everyone, or at least as claimed by iBand+, the Dutch team with its so-called “dream-inducing headband”.

iBand+ uses EEG technology to monitor users’ brainwaves and other body vitals to monitor their sleep phases. Once it determines someone has entered Rapid Eye Movement (REM), the stage of sleep when people dream, it would play some audio-visual cues—either through light patterns on the headband LEDs or sound from the pillow speakers (included in the kit). These cues would alert the user that he or she is in a dream without waking them up.

EEG is not a new technology. But while a classic EEG session might involve as many as 30 electrodes around your scalp, iBand+ managed to compress it into one small piece of wearable with only three electrodes over the forehead.

The products are due to be delivered to backers next May.

Germany: Mr Beam II - The Desktop Laser Cutter and Engraver

Pledged about $982,000 from 791 backers, 12 times more than original goal.

Mr Beam Lasers

At the 2016 World Maker Faire in NYC earlier this October, Kickstarter presented The Future Fablab — a collection of machines that “translate processes typically found on factory floors to your desktop, automating everything from circuit-board assembly to metal cutting”. Mr Beam was one of the inventions featured in The Future Fablab.

It’s a small group of consumers compared to other Kickstarter projects — only 791 backers, but they are very devoted. On average, each backer pledged to Mr Beam as much as $1,242, generally six times more than any other projects on our list.

“They just love to use their engineering skills on mini fabrication machines of all kinds at home,” said Teja Philipp, CEO and co-founder of the company.

It’s Mr Beam’s second campaign on Kickstarter. The company rolled out a simpler portable laser cutter in 2014 and raised around $180,000.

Canada: Smart Parka - The World’s First Complete Winter Coat

Pledged $2.4 million from 8,805 backers, 109 times more than original goal.

North Aware

The average temperature of Toronto’s winter could drop below 10 degrees Celsius (14 Fahrenheit). Considering that, there is no surprise that Smart Parka, a multifunctional winter coat, ended up the 2016 Kickstarter champion in Canada.

The product comes with built-in gloves, sewn-in scarf, length extension, detachable hood, removable lining and pockets for tech devices. Seriously, what else to expect?

The company behind Smart Parka, North Aware, has now received 11,000 online orders from all over the world and raised more than $2.4 million, according to CNN Money. That’s over 100 times more than what it had asked for.

These numbers are especially impressive considering fashion has been one of the least successful categories on Kickstarter.

Japan: Air Bonsai | Create your ‘little star’

Air Bonsai has pledged $843,743 from 3,784 backers through its 2016 Kickstarter campaign.

Creative Common

Bonsai is the traditional Japanese art form by growing trees in containers or pots. But if being pretty isn’t enough for you, check out this bonsai that also floats and rotates in the air.

The Air Bonsai uses the power of magnets to repel itself away from the base and levitates in air. There are several plant designs you can choose from. But don’t bother ordering one. This elegant-looking product has completely sold out.

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