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Summary:

With more than a dozen projects raising more than $1 million (some in less than a day), 2012 was a banner year for Kickstarter. Here are GigaOM’s favorite campaigns from the worlds of connected devices, open-source technology and publishing.

Kickstarter

ArduStat

Goal: $35,000
Amount pledged: $106,330

As space exploration becomes more privatized, the folks behind ArduStat want to give the general public a way to explore the final frontier. ArduStat will be a mini satellite with more than 25 sensors (including cameras, a Geiger counter, spectrometer and more) connected to a bank of user-programmable Arduino processors. Those who want to harness it can write their own code, use code available online or try out a template that ArduStat’s makers will create for its backers. Ideas for ArduStat apps include programs for photographing the sunset over the horn of Africa, sampling the upper atmosphere to learn about biomarkers and detecting meteors vaporizing over Europe. In addition to its backers, it’s attracted the support of Discovery and Astronomy magazines.

ATOMS Express toys

Goal: $100,000
Amount pledged: $126,140

Hoping to raise the bar in the world of connected toys, Boulder, Colo.-based ATOMS Express last month launched its Kickstarter campaign for a set of sensor-based electronics sets that lets kids create innovative, iOS-controlled projects. The ATOMS are sets of inputs, a logic unit and outputs that kids can mix and match to make the items they already have (like LEGOs, costumes and action figures) more interactive. For example, the “Magic Wand” kit includes an accelerometer input and a light output that could let kids turn off lights or close a door when they wave their “wand.”

LUMO Smart Posture Sensor

Goal: $100,000
Amount pledged: $200,503

As health gadgets gain in popularity, keep an eye on the company behind this device. Worn around your waist, the LUMO Smart Posture Sensor monitors your movements and gives your lower back a buzz when it senses that you’re not standing up straight. Its maker, LUMO Body Tech, turned to Kickstarter for validation before going into production and got it within a matter of weeks, ultimately raising more than double their goal amount. But they plan for this to be just the first in a line of wearable devices for improving health and performance and avoiding injuries. On the heels of their successful campaign, this week LUMO said they raised $5 million in Series A funding from investors, including Eric Schmidt’s Innovation Endeavors.

MATTER

Goal: $50,000
Amount pledged: $140, 201

Many of us at GigaOM have a special connection to this Kickstarter project because it was co-founded by Bobbie Johnson, GigaOM’s former European editor. But even aside from our personal interest, we think it’s a project worth noting.  MATTER’s focus is on long-form, reported stories about science and technology. But unlike most digital news sites that publish a lot of shallow content, Matter only publishes one, in-depth story each week on a bigger issue. Each story is available online for 99 cents and downloadable as a Kindle Single.

OUYA

Goal: $950,000
Amount pledged: $8,596,474

Topping $1 million in just over eight hours, Ouya is an open-source, Android-based game console that lets anyone create a game. The $99 game machine holds Kickstarter’s record for the most money pledged in a day (more than $2.5 million) and is expected to ship at the end of December. Despite the campaigns success, some have expressed skepticism over whether the console can deliver an experience on par with other game systems. But it shows the strength of the gaming community on Kickstarter and has already attracted attention from publishers Square Enix and Namco Bandai and has a few dozen confirmed games.

Pebble E-Paper Watch for iPhone and Android

Goal: $100,000
Amount pledged: $10,266,845

In some ways this year’s poster child for crowdfunding, Pebble’s founder Eric Migicovsky was rejected by Silicon Valley investors before becoming a blockbuster Kickstarter hit. The iOS- and Android-compatible Pebble watch, which displays text messages, emails and Caller ID information, raised more than $10 million to become the most-successful Kickstarter project ever. What makes the watch extra interesting is that it also offers an app platform for developers who can use the Pebble SDK to create mini-apps that work on the watch. Pebble’s makers sank a bunch of hearts earlier this month when they said that the watch, already months behind its release date, won’t be available for Christmas. But it’s still widely recognized as an interesting test case in crowdfunding.

Safecast X Geiger Counter

Goal: $4,000
Amount pledged: $104,268

Designed by Xbox hacker and Chumby co-founder Andrew “Bunnie” Huang, the Safecast X open-source geiger counter was created as a way to help citizens of Japan detect radiation in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Safecast, a nonprofit group led by Sean Bonner, started creating an open-source database of radiation contamination immediately after the March 2011 earthquake-triggered crisis and teamed up with Huang when it wasn’t able to collect real-time, accurate and localized data. Produced by Geiger manufacturer International Medcom, the device was designed for everyday use and includes extensive logging capabilities, the ability to work in scenarios where Internet and power have been out for days and a sensor that can detect all three forms of radiation. Now, with a $400,000 grant from the Knight Foundation, Safecast is creating a real time map of air quality data of Los Angeles and is similarly working on an open-source device to collect that data.

SmartThings

Goal: $250,000
Amount pledged:  $1,209,423

One of several Kickstarter campaigns in the Internet of Things category, SmartThings wants to give people an easy way to connect the physical world and the digital one. When the company ships its products later this month (although some are further behind schedule and will ship in February), they will include an app environment, a SmartHub that connects and houses the intelligence for the sensors, and the sensors themselves. Those sensors can, for example, notify you when a pet runs out the back door, the door to a safe has been cracked open or even let you know when you have a new Twitter follower by making your lights dim. On top of its Kickstarter earnings, the company this week said it raised $3 million more from venture capital firms and angels. 

To Be Or Not to Be (a choose-your-own-adventure version of Hamlet)

Goal: $20,000
Amount pledged: $470,179

Even the Bard is part of a Kickstarter sensation. To Be or Not to Be, a humorous choose-your-adventure novel by webcartoonist Ryan North, this month set a record as Kickstarter’s most successful publishing project.  Through the print book, readers can follow the story of the tragic prince or choose the path of a different character in the play. North describes the book as “80,000 words of comedy and mayhem” but it also shows the power of Kickstarter to rally people behind artistic and literary projects traditional publishers would likely never touch.

Ubi – The Ubiquitous Computer

Goal: $36,000
Amount pledged: $229,594

A Siri-like home assistant, Ubi is an always-on, voice-activated home computer. Want to send a text or change the thermostat while you’re chopping vegetables or otherwise engaged? Ubi’s goal is to let people interact with the Internet and their environment without using their hands. When it ships, a few applications include voice-enabled Internet search, a baby monitor, a noise pollution monitor and an indicator system that causes a light to blink when a stock hits a certain price or a email from your boss comes through. It recently announced that it will partner with SmartThings for a voice-controlled home automation platform.

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  1. Love kickstarter. Cant wait till we see some traction with the Jobs Act next year. :)

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  2. Hello Ki Mae, can you please check out my project ELECTRO PONG on Kickstarter. Thanks in advance! Juan Acevedo

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