Insert Coin: 2012's top 10 crowd-funded projects

This trip around the sun has been a monumental one for crowdfunding, marked by big projects and astronomical numbers. Take Kickstarter wunderkind OUYA, for example, which raised more than $8.5 million in funding from 63,416 backers. Kickstarter itself has even grown and matured, expanding to the UK and putting its foot down when it comes to pitching hardware by requiring working prototypes and assessments of risks and challenges. Out of the 60 crowdfunding efforts that crossed our desks as Insert Coins in 2012, 47 were successfully funded, four still have time to rake in funds and nine fell short of their goals or were otherwise stymied. We've handpicked and placed the top 10 projects that won our hearts and, on occasion, our hard-earned scratch after the break.


Insert Coin a look back at 2012's top ten crowdfunding projects

Status: Funded
Money Raised: $10,266,845
Backers: 68,929

After crafting the inPulse watch for use with BlackBerry devices, the team at Allerta decided it was time to take on iOS and Android with Pebble. Their new smartwatch packs an e-paper display and can communicate with smartphones via Bluetooth, run apps, receive notifications and control certain phone functions like music playback. Allerta is even promising an SDK for developers to build apps for the timepiece. With a total of 68,929 backers, the project raised a staggering $10,266,845 -- blowing right past their original $100,000 goal, which it met in two hours -- and making it the Kickstarter project that's received the most funding to date. Pebble is well into production, but there's no word on when it'll finally ship, as it missed its original September date and won't roll out to owners by the end of this year.


Insert Coin a look back at 2012's top ten crowdfunding projects

Status: Funded
Money Raised: $526,125
Backers: 9,023

Historical and science fiction author Neal Stephenson took to Kickstarter and voiced his frustration with swordplay in video games. According to him, if you're holding a gamepad and pushing a button or pulling a trigger to swing a sword, something's wrong. In order to right those faux pas and create an accurate swordplay experience, Stephenson proposed raising $500,000 for a game called Clang, along with a toolkit for user-created content, made by his company Subutai. Make no bones about it, Stephenson doesn't fancy himself a master game designer, but he set out to create a PC arena game that's light on story and character development, but laser-focused on accuracy. Once he's laid the foundation, however, he says there's room for expansion. Rather than rely on a gamepad, the initial goal is to leverage a third-party, low-latency, high-precision motion controller. More than 9,000 gamers heard Stephenson's call, raising $526,125 in total, reaching the campaign's $500,000 goal with a tad of padding. If things go as planned, gamers should be swinging a motion controller to sword-fighting victory in February.


Insert Coin a look back at 2012's top ten crowdfunding projects

Status: Funded
Money Raised: $636,766
Backers: 978

A raft of extremely solid photography accessories surfaced on Kickstarter this year, but we had to shoot for the moon by including what is likely the priciest -- and slickest -- of the bunch: Genie. The hardware moves a camera to create tilting and panning time-lapse shots you've come to expect from such rigs, but the real sweet feature is the additional freedom offered by Genie's linear motion accessory. Thanks to the add-on, Genie can pull itself along a rope, which can be rigged however you please, while it works its time-lapse magic. At $1,000 it's a hefty investment -- and to be sure, cheaper and less complex solutions exist -- but you'll have to look deep inside and ask yourself just how much those shots are worth. For 978 backers who raised $636,766 (surpassing the project's original $150,000 goal), it seemed worth the investment.


Insert Coin a look back at 2012's top ten crowdfunding projects

Status: In Progress
Money Raised: $140,000-plus
Backers: 600-plus

The folks behind the Drobo set their sights on providing a file storage and transfer system that nixed recurring fees, focused on security, emphasized collaboration and provided access even when the finicky cloud is down. Their solution was the Transporter, a small black monolith that sucks down shared files and stores them locally for users to access remotely or when they're connected via WiFi. More than 600 backers have already pushed the project over its $100,000 goal with roughly just under a month left in its campaign. A single Transporter without a drive can still be had for $179, or loaded up with a 1TB hard drive for $269. Once the campaign is finished, the hardware is expected to arrive in January.


Insert Coin a look back at 2012's top ten crowdfunding projects

Status: Funded
Money Raised: $1,209,423
Backers: 5,694

With the help of 5,694 backers who raised $1,209,423 (besting a $250,000 goal), SmartThings aims to let users digitally monitor and control parts of their homes. The experience centers around the internet-connected SmartThings Hub, which communicates to various sensors and slings information to and from them. SmartThings aims to help folks remotely switch appliances on and off with a bevy of sensors and products crafted to communicate with the hub. Even third-party developers can create compatible hardware and apps for the platform. There's no word on when the devices will start to ship en masse, but some may start to trickle out this month.

Chameleon Launcher

Insert Coin a look back at 2012's top ten crowdfunding projects

Status: Funded
Money Raised: $66,804
Backers: 6,420

There are home screen options aplenty in the Android ecosystem, but the folks at Teknision resolved to take to Kickstarter and provide a finely polished, contextual experience. By keeping tabs on GPS locations, WiFi networks and time ranges, Chameleon Launcher serves up user-customized home screens that are appropriate for the situation. Waking up in the morning might mean glancing through email and reading headlines on a single screen, while heading home in the evening and connecting to your home's WiFi might mean it's time for a media-focused view.

Chameleon also reminded us that Murphy's Law has little sympathy for crowdfunded projects. The project had already surpassed its $30,000 funding goal, having raised $50,000 in just three days, but an employee at Teknision who held the Amazon payments account that would receive the funds left the company and forced the team to cancel the campaign. Roughly a month later, the group was back in business and raised a final total of $66,804 from 6,420 backers. After beta testing, the launcher went live in September for $10 on Google Play.

Oculus Rift

Insert Coin a look back at 2012's top ten crowdfunding projects

Status: Funded
Money Raised: $2,437,429
Backers: 9,522

With a lineup of all-star game developers including Gabe Newell, Cliff Bleszinski and John Carmack waxing fanatical about the Oculus Rift head-mounted display, it was sure to earn a lot of traction. In fact, 9,522 backers pledged a grand total of $2,437,429, handily surpassing its $250,000 goal. The $300 headset offers a 7-inch display, a 110-degree diagonal field of view, support for stereoscopic 3D and low-latency head-tracking. Developer units, which were the focus of the campaign, are expected to ship out in March 2013.

Digital Bolex

Insert Coin a look back at 2012's top ten crowdfunding projects

Status: Funded
Money Raised: $262,661
Backers: 440

Filmmaking aficionados may have largely moved on from analog concerns to debating the merits of 3D and 48 fps, but a passionate duo of independent filmmakers resolved to bring back the feel of film with what they bill as the first affordable digital cinema camera. With a shell based on the exterior of Bolex cameras popular during the '60s and '70s, the Digital Bolex D16 shoots RAW frames instead of video. The payoff is that there's no interlacing, compression or artifacts to be concerned with in Super 16mm mode -- just uncompressed 2k images (2,048 x 1,152). The retro crank on the side of the shooter isn't there just for flair either -- it's programmable to a variety of camera functions such as frame rate, speed ramping and volume. The D16 has a pretty hefty price tag of $3,000, but it met the $100,000 funding goal in a single day (with nearly $250,000), and raised a total of $262,661 from 440 backers.

Impossible Instant Lab

Insert Coin a look back at 2012's top ten crowdfunding projects

Status: Funded
Money Raised: $559,232
Backers: 2,509

Did you really think we were going to escape a 2012 recap of anything without even the slightest of nods towards Instagram? We didn't either. Impossible Instant Lab transforms digital snaps -- be they from Instagram or elsewhere -- into physical photos. Placing an iPhone atop the contraption's extendable tower exposes the film inside the gadget to the image on the screen. The project caught the eye of 2,509 backers who raised $559,232, comfortably doubling its $250,000 goal. Delivery is estimated for February of 2013, and it's set to carry a $300 retail price tag.


Insert Coin a look back at 2012's top ten crowdfunding projects

Status: Funded
Money Raised: $8,596,474
Backers: 63,416

The $99 Android-based gaming console wasn't formally written up as an Insert Coin, but it definitely deserves a mention for the wave of support it garnered. Though the team at OUYA set its funding goal at just shy of $1 million, more than 63,000 supporters raised $8,596,474 during the campaign, surpassing its original $950,000 goal roughly nine times. Pebble may have collected more cash overall, but OUYA was the Kickstarter project that had the biggest first day and raised the most money in a 24-hour period: $2,589,687.77. The Yves Behar-designed, Tegra 3-powered console offers its own controller, promises to make game development affordable and requires titles on the platform to have a free component. Developer units are set to ship out on December 28th, while fully polished OUYA boxes are expected to shove off to doorsteps everywhere in March 2013. Come spring, we'll find out if it'll fire up Android game development and give the establishment something to worry about, or if it will fizzle out and let others capitalize on living room gaming.