With the spate of bad publicity surrounding all those Kickstarter projects that never make it beyond the funding stage, there's a certain surreality to actually holding a crowd-funded device in your hands. But here it is, the Node, a project we highlighted in its infancy, way back in February. The whole thing blew way past its funding goal, scoring $76,000 out of a requested $50,000. And now, roughly eight months later, the product has been shipped out to enthusiastic supporters all over the place, inside an unassuming white box. Since its inception, the Node's been an interesting (if not particularly easy to explain) proposition. Now that we've got our hands on one, not all that much has changed -- which is to say, in its early stages, there's a lot of potential, but its still a bit of a hard sell.
Hardware-wise, the Node's a solid proposition -- the size and shape of a roll of quarters. The body is made of a white plastic, with Node logos indented on either side. Next to one, you'll find a micro-USB port for charging, and by the other, you get the power button, which also serves to turn on the flashlight module. Inside the body, you've got the battery (which should give you 12 to 14 hours with Bluetooth on), an accelerometer, magnetometer and gyroscope.
Node modular iOS sensor hands-onSee all photos
The white plastic is flanked on either end by lights that flash red or blue, depending on whether the device is synced. Next to these, you'll find the metal modules, which are fastened to the device by two small screws (you'll want to pick up an eyeglass screwdriver kit). Those little metal discs supplement the internal sensors, including functionality for radiation, heat, chemical and climate sensing. There are also nodes that turn the device into a flashlight and game controller -- modularity is the key here.
The Node syncs quickly with newer iOS devices (only those that are Bluetooth 4.0 compatible, sorry) once you've got the free app downloaded. At present, the app offers up four modes: Kore (accelerometer, magnetometer and gyroscope), Clima (climate), Luma (flashlight) and Therma (infrared thermometer), with lots more planned soon. We played around with Kore, which offers up three moving graphs, detailing adjustments to the aforementioned sensors -- data that you can record and email. Luma, meanwhile, offers up wireless adjustments to the device's intense flashlight module, letting you cycle through patterns as well as brighten and dim.
Again, given the device's presently limited functionality, it's hard to see it as much more than a novelty. The app is smooth, however, and the hardware is solid. Between this and the promise of plenty of forthcoming functionality through official channels and open-sourcing, the Node will continue to grow into a more enticing proposition. If you're aching to pick one up now, it'll run you $150 through Variable Technology's site, with the interchangeable modules running between $25 and $75 a pop.