MI Kickstarter Report: Hardware Rules List of Top 5 Projects in 2014

Last week, I wrote about a Michigan-based company’s struggle to complete a 2013 Kickstarter project that raised more than $500,000 toward the development of Bluetooth headphones. Today, let’s focus on the best-funded tech-based Kickstarter projects across the state in 2014.

Perhaps not surprisingly in a state that has given birth to so many world-changing machines, Michiganders love hardware projects. From a portable headset with a built-in screen that projects images directly onto the retinas, to a Bluetooth mood light, to a wet diaper-detecting key chain, we love our gadgets in the Great Lakes State.

Xconomy is examining Kickstarter funding trends across our 10-region network to learn how the innovation clusters we cover across the nation are reflected in the projects that make backers whip out their wallets. There have been 4,223 technology projects launched from Michigan since Kickstarter’s inception in 2009, with the vast majority falling into non-tech categories like food, music, and films.

Here’s a more in-depth look at the most popular local tech projects on Kickstarter in 2014, starting with the best-funded.

Glyph: The mobile personal theater raised a whopping $1.5 million from 3,331 backers last year, despite an initial goal of only $250,000. The Ann Arbor-based hardware project beams images right on your eyeballs courtesy of a virtual retinal display, resulting in what creators describe as “sharp, stark images unlike anything you’ve seen before.”

When the Glyph project launched last winter, Avegant, the company behind the headset, said it had been working for two years to miniaturize the technology in order to get it to fit into a portable headset. The Glyph uses a simple HDMI input cable to allow users to watch content from anywhere in their library, whether mobile or desktop. Glyph creators also imagine exciting future uses: film directors being able to produce 360-degree movies, where they can watch the story unfold from multiple angles on the set; an integrated camera that sees ultraviolet and infrared signatures in real time; or the ability to make phone calls.

The project’s most recent update was a de-brief of January’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where the Glyph was reportedly greeted warmly by press and attendees alike. As is often the case with hardware projects, the design has undergone several tweaks along the way, but a beta prototype is expected to be shipped to Kickstarter backers in the fall of 2015.

Ion: A millennial update to the lava lamp, the Ion is a Bluetooth-powered, app-controlled mood light containing 40 multicolor LED lights. It can pulse along with the music on your phone’s playlist, and it ships with 15 customizable moods. It can even imitate the weather outside; “snow” is particularly nice. The Flint-based project is also manufactured in the U.S. using mostly Michigan suppliers.

The project came out of Social Media Day Detroit in 2013, and it raised $74,026 from 405 backers, well over its $20,000 goal. According to the most recent update posted on Kickstarter in late December, the iOS version of the Ion app had just been approved by the Apple Store and units were in the process of being shipped to backers.

CANBus Triple: What would a Michigan Kickstarter report be without a car-themed project? The CANBus Triple allows users to “hack their cars” by sending and receiving raw data packets to the car’s computer and accessing the reams of data stored in its Controller Area Network (CAN), a message-based protocol found in all modern vehicles. It uses open source software and can be integrated with wearables.

Its creator, Derek Kuschel, calls it Arduino for your car, and he first invented the device as a way to tap into his vehicle’s navigation data. He posted the first iteration of the CANBus on a Mazda message board before launching the Kickstarter page, and the masses clamored for one of their own. Kuschel raised $67,965 from 807 backers, with his original goal being a mere $18,000.

Kuschel posted footage of the CANBus being manufactured in mid-January, and said he expected to ship them to backers immediately upon completion.

Wet diaper detector: Eric Schuh, based in tiny Stevensville, MI, apparently wasn’t content with the traditional “lift and sniff” method of detecting when a baby’s diaper needs changing. So he devised a patent-pending keychain that would light up when placed next to a wet diaper.

This diaper detector works with capacitive touch, using a USB connector as the electrode. It runs on a coin cell battery, which is included. Not just for babies, Schuh imagines his product could also work in nursing homes.

Schuh hit a nerve, because he far exceeded his initial request of $500: 628 backers ponied up $12,728 for the chance to never have to wonder about a wet diaper again. According to updates on the project website, Schuh has shipped all units and is now offering Kickstarter backers a portion of his of profits in exchange for helping get the word out about the keychain.

Maximite BasicBoxx: Inventor Chuck Hellebuyck has invented what he calls an “updated, modern-day version of the Commodore 64, Apple II, and TRS-80 style computers.” He wants to bring these early computers back, which don’t require installing an operating system or knowledge of programming languages outside of BASIC, which is how Steve Jobs and Bill Gates learned to program a computer.

Hellebuyck envisions this product as a great learning tool as well as a fun item for those nostalgic for the past. One hundred backers agreed, pledging $12,078—a few thousand over the $10,000 being sought. All BasicBoxx computers were shipped to backers in August.

Sarah Schmid Stevenson is the Custom Content Editor for Xconomy Insight. You can reach her at 313-570-9823 or sschmid@xconomy.com. Follow @

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