Wednesday, September 4, 2013

NFC-enabled beer keg automatically charges customers and pours a drink

The Untappd app has already helped craft beer fans find local beer resources near them, but what if they could get their own beer keg could give them recommendations and then pour a drink? Robokeg is an NFC-activated robotic beer dispenser that offers the best drink for the occasion and automatically charges the user. Presenting their idea at the TechCrunch Disrupt NY event recently, the team behind the device want to help event organizers and hospitality companies to avoid lengthy queues for the bar through an automated system. Attendees are first required to show proof of age and their credit card number, which is loaded onto an NFC wristband. The beer tap features a built-in computer that uses the weather and type of event to recommend one of the beverages available, although users can make their own choice. When they’ve decided, they simply swipe their wristband on the NFC reader, which automatically charges their card and begins pouring their drink. A bill is sent to them via SMS and – as an optional extra – the order can be tweeted from the user’s Twitter account to let their friends know what – and how much – they’re drinking.

In Rio, partygoers encouraged to use urinals to keep music going

We recently reported on the Beer Turnstile campaign that helped reduce rubbish caused by the annual Rio Carnival by offering free train rides home for those handing in their empty cans. However, a more difficult problem posed by the event is the number of revellers using the streets as a toilet. To combat this antisocial behavior, a campaign titled Xixi El├ętrico – or Electric Pee – placed electricity-generating urinals on a truck that relied on people using the devices for it to continue pumping out music. Devised by creative agency JWT Brazil for AfroReggae – a nonprofit that aims to promote positive culture among the youth communities of the country – the campaign installed specially-created urinals in various locations among the crowds at the festival in February. The toilets used the flow of urine to power dynamos inside, which generated electricity that was in turn used to power the NGO’s music truck. The organization informed revellers that the greater the number of people using the urinals, the longer the party would last, giving them an incentive to avoid going in the city streets.

Wise Words with Ryan Frayne

Anyone who’s ever tried to blow up a traditional air bed using only the capacity of their lungs knows what a tiring task it can be. Not only are many attempts aborted before the things are fully inflated, but the toggles usually included aren’t the most hygenic, especially if users are taking turns to have a go at blowing it up. Sure that there must be a better solution, Windcatcher co-founder Ryan Frayne set about researching new possibilities and developed the technology that magnifies each breath to inflate an air bed in seconds. Ryan has been developing new products and solutions to common problems for the past five years, including ZipIt – an adhesive tape for sealing boxes with the ability to be easily resealed – and LiquidLoc – a resealable pouch for fluids. However, the Windcatcher has proved to be his breakout hit with consumers. We spoke to him to find out how Kickstarter – and a bit of luck – helped him succeed. 1.Where did the idea for the Windcatcher come from? I was at the beach with my family and we all had inflatable rafts/mats that we were trying to inflate. I gave up after just a couple breaths because I saw it was going to take forever. My brother kept going for 30 seconds or so until he also got fed up. He ranted for a bit about how ridiculous inflating these mats (and really anything) was, which reinforced my idea that this would be a good problem to solve. So when I got back to Portland, I started looking for a solution. After a lot of trial and error I was lucky enough to stumble upon a pretty compelling solution. 2. Can you describe a typical working day? There’s nothing typical about my work days right now. Thanks to Kickstarter and articles like the one on Springwise, we’re pretty overwhelmed by the demand. It has been really awesome but there’s just not that “typical” or predictable work day right now. Every day does include me going through my emails and checking out Basecamp for any updates from Zeke and Rob (co-founders). Based on those emails and Basecamp, I’ll add more stuff to my to-do list. 3. How do you unwind or relax when you’re not working on the Windcatcher Because there is no typical work day or even a typical work week, what I’ll do to unwind is completely random too. Lately I’ll watch The Dog Whisperer, a standup comedy clip, or just listen to Pandora radio. 4. What’s the secret ingredient to success as an entrepreneur? Haha. Luck. Seriously. I’ve worked just as hard on other inventions but with Windcatcher I got really lucky. It’s the type of invention that seems to sell itself. I didn’t set out to make a product that was highly demonstrable and well suited get people’s attention on platforms like Kickstarter or in blog posts. It’s just luck that that’s the case. I was also lucky that our Kickstarter campaign did as well as it did. Had we not gotten picked as a staff pick or been picked up by Core 77 and GizMag, the Windcatcher may never have gone on to grab the attention that it did. Both successful and not so successful entrepreneurs work really hard. The only thing that separates success from failure is how lucky you happen to get. 5. What excited you when building your business? Developing the idea is the fun part. It’s everything else that will give you a headache if you let it. 6. What motivates you to keep going? No matter how stressed or frustrated I get or how much work needs to get done, it is always 100 times more enjoyable working for myself than working for someone else. So the desire to keep working for myself and never having to go back to having a normal job definitely keeps me going. I’d also like to see the Windcatcher technology integrated into every inflatable object that can benefit from it. The desire to see that happen keeps me going too. Plus the support from our Kickstarter backers and fans of Windcatcher is also really awesome! It’s more amazing than anything I could have hoped for. 7. If you were to start again, what would you do differently? I think it’s important to learn from mistakes but I never regret making them. While I was working on what would eventually become Windcatcher, I was also working on another invention called LiquidLoc. There were a couple of companies that showed an interest in the invention including Kraft Foods. After talking with a person a Kraft a couple of times, they asked if I’d be interested in doing some consulting work. I was so excited about the idea that I told them I didn’t really care about the money, I just wanted a chance to develop more products. The instant I said it I could tell the mood had changed. I guess they took my lack of monetary drive as a sign I wasn’t serious. Of course not being driven by money and not caring are very different things. But in any case, they never called me back and stopped returning any of my phone calls or emails. At first, I was really bummed that I may have thrown away my best chance of finally becoming a full time product developer. But the truth is that if I had gotten that consulting job, I probably would have shelved Windcatcher, which in hindsight is obviously a much more promising invention. So I wouldn’t change a thing. Because like my mistake with Kraft Foods, what seems like a mistake at the time may really be a blessing in disguise. 8. Where do you see your business in five years, and how will you get there? Five years is a lifetime away. Within two years, we plan to license the Windcatcher technology to the major players within the camping gear, pool toys, kite surfing, and medical/emergency equipment markets. To get there, we’ll just keep doing what we’re doing; using our flagship product, the Windcatcher Air Pad to showcase the technology to the world. 9. If you weren’t working on the Windcatcher, what would you be doing? The same thing I did before Windcatcher; working at a crappy job just to pay the bills while inventing new products in the hope that one of them would be a success. 10. Tell Springwise a secret… It’s a secret to everybody 11. Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs? If you’re thinking about doing a Kickstarter to launch your product, stop thinking about it and do it! It is absolutely that best way to launch a consumer product.

In Russia, supermarket checkouts will read emotions to offer personalized deals

Supermarkets are already making moves to personalize discounts according to individual user behavior, but now Russia-based marketing tech company Synqera wants to bring emotion detection to checkouts to offer timely promotions based on shoppers’ real-time feelings. The company has developed a platform called Simplate, which involves touchscreen tablet-like devices placed at till cashier desks and self-service checkouts. When shoppers go to pay, facial recognition technology automatically scans the store’s loyalty scheme database for their details, locating purchasing histories and other personal data to provide special offers and rewards tailored to the individual at that moment. The sensors can also detect the emotions of consumers through their facial expression and can use this data when choosing to offer discounts – targeting shoppers at times when a small boost might improve their mood and help them feel more sympathetic towards the brand. The information gathered at the checkout point provides retailers with greater insight about their consumer base and can help them target ads at individuals either through their phone or digital billboards as they’re exiting the store.

Picnic blanket doubles as a disposable trash bag

There are plenty of innovations that make it easier for consumers to enjoy the warm weather – take the hybrid Speaker Blanket for example. However, public parks suffer the most in summer months due the amount of trash that isn’t cleared away. Aiming to solve this problem, the Netherland’s CleanPicnic blanket transforms into a sealable, disposable waste bag. The CleanPicnic is a small, square mat made of 100 percent recycled plastic and decorated with traditional picnic blanket patterns. Users can set out their food on the mat while they enjoy their time in the park, and when it’s time to leave they simply place all of their rubbish in the middle, fold in the edges and pull them through the hole in one corner to secure it. It can then be placed in the trash, but even on busy days when the bins are overflowing the CleanPicnic keeps rubbish contained and it can be easily picked up by waste removal agents. The innovation helps keep parks clean for everyone to enjoy, reducing the time and money it costs to maintain them.

Men’s clothes range features pockets that clean phones

WTFJeans have already provided tech lovers with fashion tailored to smartphones. Now VoyVoy has created a range of t-shirts and shirts that feature microfiber linings to help them clean their devices or glasses effectively. The slickly-designed line for men includes a pocket with a contrasting color or pattern that is made out of soft microfiber material – the kind used to make dusting cloths and spectacle cleaners. The range includes a smart button-down shirt suitable for business attire, as well as more casual t-shirt designs. As well as the pocket, the shirts also feature a patch of microfiber material located on the underside of the bottom, allowing for manual cleaning of smartphones, glasses or other items. VoyVoy Tees are available for USD 39 from the company’s online store, but the Summer Oxford shirt – which was retailing for USD 98 – is now sold out. Could this indicate consumer need for more practical yet stylish fashion?

Through crowdfunding, site aims to resurrect cancelled TV shows

We recently saw the #SkyRec campaign enable television fans to record their favourite shows from their Twitter account, but what if they get cancelled? Sweden’s Reupp platform could have the answer, giving consumers the power to bring back an axed series through crowdfunding. Operating like a Songkick for TV programs, users can search the site’s database for a show – such as 90s mystery series Twin Peaks (pictured above), for example. If it has been cancelled or simply stopped running, they can pledge some money towards the production of a new season. If it’s still airing, money can still be pledged to show appreciation and help fund its continuation. If the title gets picked up again, the money is donated to the producers; if it doesn’t, the campaign stays open. The idea behind the site isn’t to raise enough money to fully fund the production of an entire season – considering a single episode of a series such as HBO’s Boardwalk Empire can cost almost USD 20 million. Instead, each campaign serves more as an online petition, with financial backing illustrating the seriousness of fans’ desire to see further episodes.