Kickstarter, the brewing hardware revolution and marketing

I have the word “innovations” in my job title. This means I’ve some responsibility for watching the current trends in order to extrapolate possible futures for digital marketing.

This is an area close to my heart. One of the reasons SEO was born as an industry was because neither PR agencies nor marketing agencies saw it coming or wanted a piece of it when it was young. Affiliate marketing thrives on innovations - with clever affiliates trying things before anyone else.

I think connected TV will be big. That’s not a hard prediction. It’s hard to work out when connected TV will be big and how it will manifest in our living rooms. It could be something as simple as the internet being used to stream TV content onto TV sized screens. It could be more complex like social apps built into the TV’s software or integrated social sharing.

The thing about connected TVs is that the technology is rolling forward fairly slowly. We also know which companies to watch when it comes to the technology. We know who makes TVs. Rumours like Apple’s iTV are easy to spot.

Although software innovation races on at an incredible pace, with internet startups springing up all around the world and not just in Silicon Valley the rate at which hardware has been progressing is much slower and confined to far fewer companies.

Or is it?

There have been a number of “almost curveball” developments on the crowdsourcing platform Kickstarter that have kept things less predictable.

At the time of posting, the Ouya project has 60 hours still to go and has raised $6,790,620. I wonder if a last day rush will take this project to over $7m. That’s incredible.

Ouya’s promise is to take Google’s Android OS and bring it to a small portal. The goal is to ensure gaming consoles survive the future by being affordable. The Ouya is very interesting to me as an “innovations” person in marketing because it’ll accelerate the rate at which living rooms find themselves equipped with connected TVs (if they can turn $7m into success). As the Ouya is also an Android then it could well see game consumption, perhaps TV, linked to your social ID far more quickly than without it.

The Ouya is not alone. The Oculus Rift made it’s $250,000 target on launch and today, with 25 days to go, has raised over $1.3m.

The Oculus Rift is the promise of cost effective and yet high quality virtual reality in the living room. It’s being pitched as a gaming device however the applications are far wider.

Imagine what it would mean for TV advertising if augmented reality became fairly established in households? That’s a big “what if” now but in some ways the attraction of virtual reality is stronger than 3D. 3D without the glasses impacts everyone in the room. 3D with glasses is just the same as virtual reality in terms of the “hassle” of putting on glasses – except without the lure of virtual worlds or, for example, the ability for different people in the same room to have a different visual experience.

In the Ouya and the Oculus Rift I’ve picked two high profile and extreme hardware examples. They are just examples. Kickstarter is full of other, alternative, hardware projects that have possible implications for “intention”, “attention” or “social”.

Some other quick examples; Blink is a very simple idea that has raised more than $100,000 and gives users the ability to pick a few (very few) internet actions that translate as a visual light/a link alert. Twine lets household objects communicate with the internet. Simple.TV is a DVR device that will bring network TV to all your devices.

People have cool ideas. In the past in order to turn a cool hardware idea into reality you needed connections and funding. With Kickstarter, and alternatives like IndieGogo this is less true (although connections always help). Any plucky engineer with a great idea could pop up on a crowdfunding platform and introduce a curveball.

I don't see this hardware revolutoin as a bad thing at all, it's not the Robopocalypse at all and I actually enjoying chipping in with a few quid to support exciting new projects. However, just in case you're worried - here's some tips on how to survive the Robopocalypse.

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