All News | Chips | Boards | Devices | Android | Software | LinuxDevices.com Archive | About | Sponsors | Subscribe

Follow LinuxGizmos:

Twitter Facebook Google+ RSS feed

Taking stock of 2013’s crowdfunded Linux devices

Dec 18, 2013  |  Eric Brown
Tweet about this on Twitter30Share on Facebook0Share on LinkedIn3Share on Google+0

What’s the latest status on all those cool embedded Linux and Android Kickstarter and Indiegogo projects of 2013? Most are moving forward, but delays are a common problem.

Crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have emerged over the last two years as a prime launch path for embedded Linux and Android devices. Sometimes it’s hard to decide when to cover these products: when they first launch, or only when they’ve reach their funding goals?

Here at LinuxGizmos, we’ve done a bit of everything, including covering products before they’ve entered funding, or waiting to see if a product actually emerges. The following blurbs provide the latest updates on every product we’ve covered that went through a Kickstarter or Indiegogo funding round in 2013.

Of the 19 such products listed below, five were never successfully crowdfunded. Of these unfunded devices, all but one appear to be moving forward with alternative funding. In fact, one — CrystalFontz America’s CFA10036 module — has already shipped.

That leaves Canonical’s doomed, yet history making Ubuntu Edge smartphone as the only “failure.” Although Canonical cancelled the Edge project, the company claimed that the publicity — it broke records for the highest crowdfunding total ($12,814,216) and highest goal ($32,000,000) — made the gambit worthwhile. The company gathered useful marketing data, and recently announced that it had secured an (unnamed) hardware partner to build the first third-party smartphone running the same Ubuntu for Phones build that was planned for the homegrown Edge.

Of the 19 projects, seven have been delayed. Although a few of these have begun to ship, several have been delayed by as much as three to six months. In the case of the Lima cloud storage device, this has raised questions among backers whether the project is a scam. Although this accusation has been firmly denied by the developers, and would appear to be premature, scams do happen on Kickstarter — our favorite is Kobe beef jerky — and we will continue to do our best to look for red flags.

The comments sections on these delayed projects is full of anger and frustration. As Terry Gaunchat noted in a Nov. 18 post on the comment page of the WigWag Kickstarter page after a delay was announced, “Every Kickstarter I’ve backed (and WigWag is now on track for the same fate…) has Over Promised and Under Delivered (with both significant delivery delays, postponed or cancelled features, and quality control / bug issues when finally delivered). Why are so many Projects launched with overly-optimistic ‘Estimated delivery dates’?” He later adds, “This situation is slowly eating away at the viability of crowdfunding.”

However, when compared to non-crowdfunded tech products from startups, the track record of these projects is actually pretty good. Delays are expected, even from established vendors. Yet when you’ve promised your own money, you’re understandably less willing to tolerate them.

Successful products we’ve covered this year based on 2012 crowdfunding rounds include the Android-based Ouya game console, the OpenROV underwater robot, the Ninja Blocks home automation device, and the Parallella open source ARM/FPGA single board computer. We expect many of the following devices will emerge in 2014 with similar success stories.

Here’s an update on the products we’ve covered that were crowdfunded in 2013, listed in alpha order. We missed some along the way — both winners and losers — but this should offer a reasonable overview of how embedded Linux-based gadgets perform in the crowdfunding space.
 

AirTame

Summary:

Description — AirTame is developing an AirPlay-like protocol for PC-to-PC content streaming and screen mirroring, plus a Linux-based dongle for AirTame rendering on TVs. The device plugs into a TV via an HDMI port and enables mirroring of 1080p HD content from the PC. It does not support streaming or mirroring from mobile devices.

Status — Still in Indiegogo funding, the project is on schedule to ship AirTame devices by May 2014 for $89.
 

BiggiFi

Summary:

Description — DigiLink Software’s $79 HDMI dongle essentially turns HDTVs into supersized Android tablets. The BiggiFi device is claimed to let users run unmodified Android apps on their TVs using their phone or tablet as the TV’s touchscreen — including motion input for games — without screen-mirroring overhead latency. No content data is transmitted, only touch signals.

Status — The BiggiFi device appears to have begun shipping as of last week for backers who ponied up at least $69, thereby keeping to its planned December release. It’s unclear when pre-orders will open for retail devices, which are said to cost $79.
 

Crystalfontz CFA10036x

Summary

Description — The tiny, SODIMM-style tiny CFA10036x COM (computer-on-module) is built around Freescale’s 454MHz ARM9-based i.MX28x processor, includes 128MB or 256MB of RAM, and houses its open-source embedded Linux OS in a microSD slot. The open source module ships with an optional onboard 128 x 32-pixel OLED display.

Status — The Kickstarter funding may have failed, but the event helped attract enough interest among Crystalfontz’s own customers that the company decided to move forward with production on its own dime. The company shipped the module back in May at single-unit prices ranging from $76 to $100.
 

GCW Zero

Summary

Description — This “truly open source,” $135 handheld game console is “powerful enough to run classic PC games, emulate the game consoles we grew up with, and run homebrew games seamlessly at high frame rates,” says the Game Console Worldwide (GCW) startup behind the device. The GWC Zero runs OpenDingux Linux on a 1GHz Ingenic JZ4770 MIPS processor, and offers WiFi, HDMI, and analog controls.

Status — After several delays, the first 778 units were sent out in September, with another 200 expected to ship within the month. It’s unclear if all 1,680 funders have received their devices. Also in September, the company announced open source drivers for the GWC Zero’s Vivante GPU. Judging from the Kickstarter comments section, there appear to be some troubles with international shipping, but many commenters are enjoying the handheld console, even though it still offers only 13 games.
 

GlassUp

Summary:

Description — The GlassUp Android eyewear display system is billed as a simpler, lower-cost ($199 to $399) alternative to Google Glass. The device is a receive-only Bluetooth accessory to a nearby mobile device, providing a monochrome, 320 x 240-pixel augmented reality display of incoming messages and notifications.

Status — From the beginning, the Italy-based GlassUp startup said it would push forward with the project even if it failed to meet its Indiegogo goals. Toward the end of the funding round, the company ran into trouble with PayPal, which refused to release funds to GlassUp without further evidence the augmented eyewear would be produced. The project has launched pre-orders for the general public at $299, but there’s no indication when the glasses might ship.
 

Lernstift pen

Summary:

Description — This Linux-based digital pen from German startup Lernstift incorporates an ARM Cortex processor, a WiFi module, and a motion sensor, and is designed to correct penmanship, spelling, and grammar errors as you write. 3D motion sensors, including a gyroscope, accelerometer, and magnetometer help the smartpen’s embedded Linux computer calculate the pen’s 3D movements and generate 2D vectors. The sensor pack offers approximately 400dpi resolution at 200Hz.

Status — Lernstift fell far short on Kickstarter, but is still on track, says the company. The final prototype of the 99 Pound (about $161 U.S.) pen has been finalized, and the pen is open for pre-orders and is slated for a mid-2014 release, according to an email from CEO Falk Wolsky. Lernstift team member Jessica White responded that the project is currently going through a second open funding round with investors on AngelList. “The prototype is full steam ahead and we are currently planning beta testing in schools!” she added.
 

Lima

Summary:

Description — Developed by Paris-based startup Cloud Guys Corp. (CGC), this OpenWRT Linux-based hardware adapter is designed for unifying USB-connected storage. The tiny Lima device eschews cloud storage for a localized approach whereby an app or driver installed on each participating computer or mobile device intercepts filesystem accesses. It then redirects data reads and writes to storage drives attached to the user’s Lima device.

Status — Charges of “scam” have been leveled at the Lima project on the LinuxGizmos comments page soon after the device attained funding, based simply on design issues. They continued on the Lima Kickstarter comments page and elsewhere after delays of three to six months were announced, along with product modifications. In response to protests from impatient funders, CGC insists on its innocence and good will. In a Nov. 27 post, CGC said all 13,000 promised Lima devices will ship in the Spring of 2014. The company apologized for the delays, saying they had only expected 1,000 backers, and that while the hardware design is complete, development of desktop and mobile apps was taking longer than expected. To help make up for the delay, they have announced a hardware redesign to give the device a more polished CE look (see image at right; click to enlarge). On Dec. 11, CGC followed up with a more detailed explanation of the project and the reasons for the delays.
 

Logi FPGA

Summary:

Description — The $69 Logi FPGA is an expansion board that supports both the BeagleBone Black and Raspberry Pi. There are also pre-optimized versions for each called the Logi-Bone and Logi-Pi. The Logi boards incorporate Xilinx Spartan 6 LX9 FPGAs, offer Arduino shield expansion, and are supported with open source Linux code. The devices support up to 59 PMOD-compatible peripherals via four Digilant PMOD expansion ports. Some 32 FPGA I/O signals are accessible via the Arduino and PMOD expansion ports.

Status — We covered the Logi board when it appeared at Maker Faire New York in September, along with a BeagleBone-based BBot drink serving robot (pictured at right) based on an earlier version of the board. As projected, the Logi FPGA board launched on Kickstarter last week, and having blasted past its modest fund-raising goals, will stay open until Jan. 10. Shipments to backers are expected in March, 2014.
 

MiiPC

Summary:

Description — A creation of cloud services company ZeroDesktop, the MiiPC is a $99 mini-PC that runs Android 4.2 on a 1.2GHz dual-core Marvell Armada 1500 SoC. The MiiPC can act as a PC or a media player, and offers family-oriented multiple user accounts, content controls, and parental monitoring features available via mobile apps.

Status — It appears that MiiPC shipped to all 2,000 of the initial funders this summer. No plans have been announced going forward.
 

Peloton Bike

Summary:

Description — Peloton Cycle’s Peloton Bike is equipped with a 21.5-inch touchscreen console that runs Android 4.1 on a 1.5GHz dual-core ARM processor. It offers multiple wireless options for connecting heart rate monitors, and delivers 1080p video chat and live on-demand indoor cycling classes. The company is building a 50-cycle spinning studio in New York City, and will offer live video broadcasts of several classes a day on the Peloton Bike’s console, so users can ride along remotely.

Status — Despite successful Kickstarter funding, which followed $4 million in VC startup funding, Peloton Cycle’s Peloton Bike has been delayed from the expected November ship date to the first quarter of 2014. The company expects that bikes ordered in 2013 will ready to be shipped within 90 days of the order date. However, the bike still appears to be under development, and as a result, “may not be delivered to you until later in 2014,” says the company.
 

Piper

Summary:

Description — BlackSumac’s Piper is a Linux-powered home automation and security system aimed at apartment dwellers. The device incorporates features motion, sound, and temperature detectors, and offers a 180-degree fisheye HD camera with pan and zoom viewable and controllable via smartphone apps.

Status — The Piper was expected to ship to backers for $209 in November. This appears to have slipped a bit, and the company is now saying the shipments to North American backers will occur by mid-January. PCBs have been manufactured, so now it’s down to testing and final assembly.
 

Red Pitaya

Summary:

Description — The Red Pitaya is an open source, Linux-based measurement and control SBC based on the ARM/FPGA Zynq-7020 SoC from Xilinx. The education- and R&D-focused board is said to replace thousands of dollars of test equipment, and will initially ship with apps for oscilloscope, spectrum analyzer, waveform generator, frequency response analyzer, and PID controller functions. In addition to typical SBC I/O, it offers a pair of analog inputs and outputs for attaching optional diagnostic probes.

Status — In late October, the Red Pitaya project said it was still on schedule for a December delivery of the Red Pitaya to backers who paid $299 to $399 apiece for the board. New pre-orders are available for $449. Red Pitaya is backed up by hardware partner Instrumentation Technologies.
 

RIO

Summary:

Description — The RIO (Raspberry IO) I/O add-in card for robotics navigation is the brainchild of developer Cosma Paboutctsidis, and manufactured by Roboteq. The RIO is built around a 32-bit STM32 microcontroller, and stacks atop a Linux-based Raspberry Pi board. The card includes a 3A DC/DC converter, several serial interfaces, a CAN interface, 21 GPIO, and an optional module with an accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer for robotics navigation.

Status — The RIO appears to have shipped to backers on time, and is available now from Roboteq for $175.
 

Spiri

Summary:

Description — Spiri is a hackable Linux quadrocopter that runs Ubuntu Linux with Robot Operating System (ROS) extensions on a dual-core Freescale ARM SoC. The airborne craft is equipped with three cameras and a variety of sensors to navigate autonomously.

Status — It appears that the first Spiri models will ship to backers starting in January, continuing through April. Spiri is available for new pre-orders for $545, with shipments expected in May 2014.
 

Ube WiFi Smart Dimmer

Summary:

Description — Ube’s WiFi Smart Dimmer switch controls smart devices throughout the home, including incandescent, LED, and CFL lights. The novelty here is that it controls the devices via gestures on the dimmer’s capacitive multi-touch interface. It runs embedded Android, along with a WiFi networking interface, on a 32-bit ARM processor. Ube also offers a compatible Ube Smart Plug and Ube Electrical Outlet. The devices are said to be compatible with the WigWag home automation system (see farther below).

Status — The Ube WiFi Smart Dimmer was set to ship to backers starting in July, but on Oct. 30, Ube said that the device would begin shipping somewhere between 4-6 weeks and “hopefully less than 4-6 months.”
 

Ubuntu Edge

Summary:

Description — Intended as a developer phone for Canonical’s Ubuntu for Phones platform, the Ubuntu Edge was to offer dual-boot Android support, and a full Ubuntu desktop in docking mode. Specs include a 4.5-inch 1280 x 720 display, 128GB of storage, and the “fastest available multicore processor.”

Status — The Ubuntu Edge still holds the world record for crowdfunding, but nevertheless barely reached a third of its unprecedented $32 million goal. As promised, Canonical cancelled the project, but recently announced it had secured its first (unnamed) hardware partner for a third-party Ubuntu for Phones model due to ship in late 2014.
 

Udoo

Summary:

Description — The 110 x 85mm UDOO board runs Linux or Android on a Freescale i.MX6 ARM SoC, and integrates an Arduino Due-compatible subsystem running on an Atmel SAM3X8E ARM Cortex-M3 SOC. Linux or Android can run on the high-end i.MX6 SoC while the low-end Atmel SOC manages the board’s Arduino-compatible I/O expansion bus.

Status — The open spec Udoo project’s modest Kickstarter funding goal was easily surmounted, but the Boston-based project missed its September shipments goals. The Udoo board didn’t start shipping until November, with the final shipments said to have gone out on Dec. 4. New orders for the board are being accepted with delivery within two to four days. The Udoo ranges from $99 for the dual-core version, up to $135 for the quad-core model.
 

WigWag

Summary:

Description — WigWag’s home automation kit of the same name combines a Linux-based 6LoWPAN router with sensor units running the open-source Contiki OS. Controllable via an Android smartphone app in conjunction with a WigWag cloud service, users can add ZigBee, Bluetooth, and other modules to expand the home network. A development kit includes shields for the Arduino and Raspberry Pi.

Status — WigWag has been delayed 60 to 75 days from the original November target, shifting the ship date to January or February. Kickstarter pricing ranges from $139 to $579. A pre-order button is displayed on the website for a second batch due to ship in “early 2014,” but did not appear to be functional.
 

Wizarm

Summary:

Description — The Wizarm is a hackable media player with DVR recording, HDMI pass-through, Miracast support, and video overlay capabilities. The $259, open source device dual-boots Android and Linux on a Samsung Exynos 5250 system-on-chip, and offers SATA storage and extensive I/O.

Status — According to Wizarm, its failed Indiegogo campaign will not stop the product from shipping, and the company has just completed adding 1080i support for better Xbox One integration. “We had flexible funding on the campaign that means the product will be shipped no matter what,” said the Wizarm spokesperson. “Basically the campaign only represented a possibility for the internet audience to get more options and/or cheaper price. The only difference now is that the price might be higher once available.”
 

(advertise here)


PLEASE COMMENT BELOW

6 Responses to “Taking stock of 2013’s crowdfunded Linux devices”

  1. Dox says:

    Why no mention of the PengPod? That looks like a good candidate too!

    • LinuxGizmos says:

      From PengPod’s Indiegogo campaign page:

      “This campaign did not meet its $349,000USD funding goal by the deadline. Funding duration: September 09, 2013 – October 26, 2013 (11:59pm PT).”

      It managed to gain $59,480 in pledges.

      • Alan Polinsky says:

        Actually, you are referring to the SECOND Pengpod offering. The first one WAS successful, from a crowd funding perspective but somewhat less so on the quality front. That is probably why the second effort failed.

        Alan

  2. Losa says:

    No word about the Neo900 phone? Shame on you!

    • LinuxGizmos says:

      From our recent article:

      Open-spec Neo900 phone heads toward production

      Neo900.org has begun production of its open source Neo900 phone, an update to the Nokia N900 that can run GTA04 (OpenMoko Debian), Maemo, and other distros. The Neo900 project, which is backed by OpenPhoenux and hardware partner Golden Delicious Computers, has begun building prototypes for a build of 200 of the 1GHz, 3.5-inch Neo900 smartphones for early crowdfunders this fall….

      Dec 6 LinuxGizmos coverage

  3. GCW user says:

    This article has a December 18th date on it, but for the GCW Zero, it doesn’t seem to be accurate as of that date.

    By the end of November, the GCW Zero was available for sale and in stock at thinkgeek.com. I received mine in early December, and I wasn’t even a Kickstarter backer. There are some Kickstarter backers outside of the US who do not seem to have received their units yet, but that appears to be due to customs issues, not lack of units.

    Also, it had far more than 13 games. It’s primarily an emulation device, and had (and has) mature emulators for systems like the SNES, NES, Genesis, Game Boy Advance, and more. So it can play the entire library of those games. My system has roms for thousands of different games on it.

    Also, even ignoring the emulators, it had at least a bit more than 13 games available as of mid-December. The official GCW website did not list all working software available for download, but more programs and games could be easily found by going through message boards.

Leave a Reply