Editor’s note: Ross Rubin is principal analyst at Reticle Research and blogs at Techspressive. Each column will look at crowdfunded products that have either met or missed their funding goals. Follow him on Twitter @rossrubin.
Bikes and tech go back a long way. During his first stint at Apple, Steve Jobs would talk about how, when one compared the efficiency of various animals in advancing a kilometer, humans fared poorly, a distant species from the class-leading condor. But when you did the same comparison with a human on a bicycle, humans blew away the pack. The idea of computers as a “bicycle for the mind” was a theme he would repeat, and “Bicycle” was even floated as a name for the Macintosh.
Jobs, of course, was not the only adult enamored by bicycles; the two-wheeled wonders are prized by a huge community of enthusiasts ripe for the pedal peddlers at Kickstarter. Whether your New Year’s resolution was to tone up under the premise of “two wheels good, four wheels bad” or are looking to match your attraction to being ecologically green with limited-edition Kickstarter green, a number of recent projects have offered new takes on urban mobility.
Backed: Bicymple. Capable of riding in a straight line with its rear wheel parallel as well as ultra-tight turning radii, the compact and nearly symmetrical Bicymple is distinguished by the lack of a chain and the placement of pedals on the rear wheel. However, Bellingham, MA-based designer Josh Bechtel admonishes that it’s not a “two-wheeled unicycle,” citing the ride as very different (and hopefully more favorable to the balance-challenged) and ignoring that such a thing would be an oxymoron.
Reward tiers to bag a Bicymple of one’s own range from $ 800 for the fixed-gear model up to $ 2,700 for a two-gear model, which may be as many as you can get away with while trying to stress simplicity. Despite the pricey merchandise, the project beat its $ 20,000 funding goal by more than half with about 40 days left to go in the campaign.
In a rare and welcome move, Bechtel has set the delivery date at December 2013 but notes that he’s giving himself room to wiggle as much as the Bicymple’s wheel and expects to fulfill orders well before that.
Whacked: NexiBike. It may seem like a bold statement to say that your invention will be “a game changer that will revolutionize human-powered transportation.” That statement, though, comes from Scott Olson, who, with his brother, developed the Rollerblades that Olson also claims revolutionized human-powered transportation. It may not have done that, but it did revolutionize the roller skate.
Olson’s latest pursuit, a 25-lb. foldable bike that you can carry with you onto public transportation, looks a bit like a steampunk project folded up. Unfolded, it’s characterized by its small wheels and the seeming promotion of a comfortable, un-hunched riding posture. More portable but less attractive than the Bicymple, the NexiBike needed $ 100,000 for its production. And while the bike’s puncture-proof tires may resist flattening out, the campaign could not. With about 17 days to go, it has collected less than $ 3,000.
Whacked: Zuumer. The NexiBike revolution may have to wait, but at least two folding bike projects did make their funding goals in years past: the Brooklyn-born CMYK Folding Electric Bike and what would become the Model Ue curve-framed electric bike (now slated for delivery this year). There’s also been at least one electric scooter, the sleek but whacked JAC< from the Netherlands.
The Zuumer (not to be confused with the Honda Scooter or Palm-developed PDA sold by Casio and Tandy Corp. in 1994) adds a second rear wheel to the electric scooter, and “lean-in” steering that allows 300 lbs. of flesh and cargo to travel up to 20 mph before being recharged. Most of the 23 early-bird Zuumers, priced at $ 2,300 each, are still left, with the next reward tier jumping $ 500 for the same thing. But one may need to wait a while to find out who’s zooming whom. With 20 days left, Zuumcraft has attracted only about $ 17,000.
BMW is out with a new type of steering wheel called M Performance Sport Steering Wheel. This wheel is a High-Grip Alcantara wheel, which has a small OLED Display embedded at 12o”clock and two LED meters on the either side. Which offers whole bunch of data while keeping your focus on the road. Read More: t.coRelated Posts:
Extra information when driving can be useful, but also distracting. Enter BMW‘s new M Performance sport steering wheel — which offers a whole bunch of data and information while letting you keep your eyes (mostly) on the road. Essentially it’s a high-grip Alcantara wheel, with a small OLED display at 12 o’clock, and two LED meters on either side. There are three readout modes: EfficientDynamics, Sport and Race. The former will tell you average fuel consumption, speed as well as oil and water temperature. Sport mode will tell you lateral g-force data (that cleverly remains on the display until you bring the wheel back to its neutral position) while the LED strips provide cues for gear shifts. Like to take things out on the track? Lap times, with section splits, and even a drag-style Christmas tree mode will help you get those times down. How much for this king of steering wheels? A racy $ 1,700. Speed past the break for a video of the goods in action.
Filed under: Transportation
We didn’t spot it on stage during the pre-E3 2012 press conference, but Sony’s PlayStation Blog is showing off a new PS Move Racing Wheel on the way. This framework apparently fits around the Move, and can be adjusted to different grip styles depending on what kind of racing you’d like to do. The “precise motion tracking” afforded by the Move appears to be targeted at titles like the upcoming LittleBigPlanet Karting, but it’s hard to see how this will be real wheel, or even controller, alternative for serious gamers. It certainly seems to be fair competition for Microsoft’s Wireless Speed Wheel that was introduced last year, but frankly we’re surprised that’s a battle anyone else wanted to be in. Either way, we expect to get our hands on it this week before it hits stores this fall for $ 39.99.
Gallery: PlayStation Move Racing Wheel
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A force-feedback steering wheel. It’s quite literally the stuff of racing games, and AT&T labs, along with Carnegie Mellon, is researching the possibly of throwing similar tech into your real-world whip. MIT’s Technology Review recently highlighted the project, which uses 20 vibrating actuators shoved inside of a steering wheel to create a variety of patterns — a counter-clockwise sequence could indicate a left turn, for example. As you might have guessed, one of the goals is to keep drivers less distracted by the likes of visual turn-by-turn GPS navigators and more focused on the road. While it’s currently being tested with driving simulators, the results are positive so far, if a bit modest. When supplemented with typical audio / visual navigation, folks near the age of 25 kept their eyes planted on the asphalt for 3.1 percent more time than without it. Notably, the improvement wasn’t found with those over 65 in the aforementioned instance, however, supplemented with just the audio, the vibrating wheel had them focusing on the road by an increase of four percent.
According to Technology Review, this isn’t the first time haptic feedback has been tested as a driving aid, although past tests have, notably, resulted in “fewer turn errors” by those behind the wheel. Best of all, the tech is capable of sending more than just navigation cues — it could certainly be useful in a Telsa. So when can you expect to find a force-feedback steering wheel in your ride? Technology Review cites Kevin Li, an AT&T Labs researcher on the project, who says the main hurdle is making something that people will just “get,” and that it’s still “years” away from becoming a possibility. While there’s no photos of the setup just yet, a full report on the research will get release in June. Hey, there’s always Forza and Gran Turismo, at least for now — right?
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Thirty spokes meet at a nave; Because of the hole we may use the wheel. Clay is moulded into a vessel; Because of the hollow we may use the cup. Walls are built around a hearth; Because of the doors we may use the house. Thus tools come from what exists, But use from what does not. - Tao De Ching
There’s a carousel in a small Cape Cod town that we visited this summer and the kids rode it a few times. The carousel is quite old and quite handsome and it makes a great diversion of an evening. I’m reminded now of trying to take pictures of the kids while they rode the carousel. For a while I’d wave and try to get their attention as they roared past, their laughter dopplering around the edge of the curve, and then, after four or five tries I’d give up and just watch. It’s a wheel, an endless circle, designed to delight and enthuse and distract.
Reading the recent back and forth between Stephen Fry – an Apple apologist – and Mike Daisey – an Apple user/abuser – I’m reminded of that carousel. The gist is this: Mike Daisey woke up the NPR-listening world with his long piece of Foxconn for This American Life. It was a great piece – dramatic, educational, and eye-opening – but it’s definitely nothing we haven’t seen before. Some could say that it was The Jungle of Chinese manufacturing, a tell-all with just enough outrage to make us rethink a great horror. But the problem is this: Daisey is an actor and knows how to bring out the story, just as John Steinbeck was a writer and knew how to populate the Dust Bowl with Christ figures. That doesn’t make the story less effective – it makes it more so – but it does make the story less true.
The problem is the endless circle of blame and apology. Daisey is correct in many of his assumptions, but offers a way forward that is currently unenforceable. But if you argue against Daisey’s points, you’re an apologist. But, as Paul Krugman writes:Such moral outrage is common among the opponents of globalization — of the transfer of technology and capital from high-wage to low-wage countries and the resulting growth of labor-intensive Third World exports. These critics take it as a given that anyone with a good word for this process is naive or corrupt and, in either case, a de facto agent of global capital in its oppression of workers here and abroad.
We keep going over the same ground here. The argument can be delineated like this: Foxconn is an evil sweatshop. Apple is a huge Foxconn customer. They should change things. Two of those things are true, a third is false.
To be clear, I’m with the crowd that says that Apple is, at best, ignorant of Foxconn’s problems and at worst ignoring them. I agree things must change and Apple is in a great position to do it. But I don’t agree with the first point. I’ve seen sweat shops and Foxconn is a factory. If many of the major brands (I recall that Ford was a customer at one factory I visited) knew that their promotional USB keys were made in a building that looked like a gulag, they’d be skewered. Here’s hoping they are, one day. However, Daisey’s Foxconn story – written outside of the factory – and my own research, written inside the factory – don’t jibe. His discoveries that people get sick or are injured in factories are naive and I suspect his sample size of employees who approached him is far smaller than we realize. To go into the Foxconn factory is to see a place staffed by college-age kids and engineers who work 10 or so hours a day building electronics. There is no great Dickensian work house nor are there sad-eyed madonnas of the assembly line chained to the soldering irons. This isn’t the mundanity of evil – this is just mundanity.
Nor am I saying that Daisey’s interviewees are malingerers with an axe to grind. I’m sure their lives are ruined or much harder thanks to Foxconn. The value of Daisey’s efforts is his ability to give these people a voice in an environment that would normally quash that voice. He’s doing what artists must do – reflecting a time and place through his own lens.
My own opinion is simple: Apple needs to do more for the people in its manufacturing chain. I will not pretend that Apple can simply wave a magic wand and make every Foxconn employee rich and happy, but it has the cash and the wherewithal to further disrupt the Chinese supply chain and improve the lot of Foxconn’s employees. But I also agree with what one Gawker commenter said: “I believe Tim Cook will do more good for those employees (and already has, in point of fact) than Mike Daisey ever will.” Apple on the aggregate couldn’t care less about our existence nor does it deserve our undying respect and admiration. On an personal level there are plenty of folks inside Apple working and worrying about worker’s rights in China, but as an entity we are talking supply chains and price management. Apple makes excellent tools for our digital age, that’s it. To defend or excoriate the company is like screaming into the wind. However, through their constant rejiggering and improvements, they have essentially created a Western, ISO-compliant factory environment in a corporate culture that used to force underperforming employees to stand outside wearing a sign that said “I am a bad worker.”
What Daisey did is made us think. Did he do it the right way, using the right tools? Absolutely not. Will he improve the lot of the workers he interviewed? I doubt it. But will his efforts – and the efforts of many who came before him – help bring the Chinese worker out of penury? Sure, eventually.
I opened this piece talking about a carousel in Cape Cod, a delightfully bourgeois setting for a piece on poverty wage labor practices. I get to go to Cape Cod and put my kids on a carousel because my job involves dicking around on the Internet all day (I suspect Daisey’s does too). My one wish is that every Foxconn employee, at some point in their lives, will be able to sit down to an unhurried meal, chat with family, and maybe ride a carousel. I think it’s in Foxconn’s best interests to ensure that that happens – and soon – and I think that we’re nearly there. Things will get better, I’m sure of it, and I also feel that they already have.
Question by : Do you need Kinect to use the Xbox 360 Wireless Speed Wheel? How does the Wireless Speed Wheel for the Xbox 360 work exactly – do you need Kinect to use it? Or does it have its own motion-sensor in the actual wheel?
Answer by PharaohNo you don’t need Kinect for that, it should work with your console .
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We’ve seen steering wheel desks in the past, but never anything of this quality. I mean, it has cupholders. And — AND — an iPad stand. What is this, 2050? Is that a f***ing hover car?! Now granted the desk is only meant for use when in park, but is that gonna stop me from multitasking on the drive to work? No. Actually paying attention to the road so I don’t get pulled over is. Get it? Because I don’t have a license. Don’t tell the po-po!
Hit the jump for a couple more crappy quality shots and a link to the Etsy product page.Related Posts:
It’s amazing to realize that about two years ago Fanatec’s first Xbox 360 racing wheel, the Forza 3 Porsche 911 Turbo Wheel, hit the scene. Although it turned out to be a mixed bag, Fanatec pleasantly surprised us with its Porsche GT2 and Clubsport Pedals in January of this year — despite a roaring fan and shaky shifter mounts. Now, we’re saying hello to a new trio of racing sim-related goods from the company intended for Forza Motorsport 4 on Xbox 360: the $ 249.95 Forza Motorsport CSR Wheel, $ 59.95 shifter set, and $ 149.95 CSR Elite Pedals.
If you’ll recall, it was back in March that we checked some of this kit out, and now with Forza 4 here, we hooked this mashup of gear up with our Playseat Evolution for a massive amount of virtual spins. So, did this combination help speed past the checkerboard with a respectable feel? Shift past the break find out in our full review.
Gallery: Fanatec Forza Motorsport CSR Wheel and Elite Pedals review
Continue reading Fanatec Forza Motorsport CSR Wheel and Elite Pedals review
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There is a very special peripheral for future owners of Mario Kart 7 on the 3DS coming soon, but it’s not made by Nintendo itself: video game accessory maker Hori announced a steering wheel that’s specifically designed for the game and that’s officially licensed by big N.
The device will feature large L and R buttons for better control:
Hori says the steering wheel, which is Japan-only at this point, will be released when Mario Kart goes on sale (on December 1). It will be priced at US$ 17 and doesn’t have a release date outside Japan yet (so you might want to contact your import shop as fast as possible).