Crowdsourcing sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo let inventors appeal directly to the public for funds. They’ve made a lot of entrepreneurial dreams come true.
If you’re inspired by the inventor’s pitch video, you send some money. It’s not an investment; you don’t get rich if the invention becomes a hit. But you do get some memento — a T-shirt or a discounted version of the invention once it’s manufactured — and the rosy glow of knowing that you helped bring a cool idea to life.
Until now, there’s been only one problem: You had no way to know if the invention was actually any good. You had to trust the inventor’s video.
That’s the beauty of our Kickstarter reviews. We actually test the prototype, find out how much promise it has and help you decide if the thing is worth funding or buying.
Today’s Invention: Satechi GoRemote Bluetooth Waterproof Remote Control
The Claim: This compact, black, plastic, waterproof square has all the controls you need to operate your iPhone or iPad from up to 33 feet away. Play and stop music or video, skip tracks, press the Home button (or hold it down for Siri), use as a remote control for the phone’s camera.
Goal: Seeking $50,000.
Status: With only one day left in the campaign, the GoRemote has raised just over $10,000.
What I tested: Usually, the Kickstarter prototypes I test are coarse and barely functional. The GoRemote, however, looks and acts like a finished, shipping product. It works flawlessly and quickly.
What I learned: Exactly as advertised, the GoRemote is a remote control for an iPhone or iPad (or iPod Touch). It’s as though you ripped all the buttons off the edge of a phone or tablet—and then carried them away with you across the room or across the yard.
You start out by pairing the GoRemote with your iOS gadget using Bluetooth 4.0 (the kind that doesn’t drain the battery when you’re not using it). The GoRemote has a dedicated pairing button hidden under a panel on one edge, so that’s easy.
And that’s it. All of a sudden, you can press the buttons on the GoRemote to:
* Start and stop music playback
* Skip to the next or previous song
* Start or pause video playback
* Hold down the Home button to talk to Siri
* In Camera mode, press the Volume Up button to snap the shot by remote control. (Great for selfies or keeping the phone very steady in low light—by setting it down somewhere.)
And yes, it’s waterproof. I did, in fact, control my phone’s music playback while holding the GoRemote underwater.
A coin-style battery powers the GoRemote for two years. (There’s a tiny on/off swtich, too.)
For $10 more, you can buy a wrist strap for the GoRemote (so you can control music playback while you’re running or exercising) or a steering wheel/handlebar strap (so you can affix it to your bike or car).
When I saw how well the GoRemote works, I have to say, I was baffled by its lack of fundraising success. Why wouldn’t people be more turned on by this idea?
And then it hit me: Because people might not see why it’s useful. I mean, this scene its Kickstarter video illustrates the problem:
Here’s this guy, using the GoRemote to operate his iPad—which is sitting right in front of him. How often is it really useful to control your phone or tablet from across the room?
First of all, the Siri thing? No. There’s no microphone or speaker on the GoRemote. So yes, you can trigger Siri using the remote—but you still have to speak into the phone or tablet. If it’s across the room, you can’t use Siri. Even if it’s a few feet away, Siri can’t hear you well enough.
OK, then how about the music-playback thing? Well, yes. But if you’re running or exercising, why wouldn’t you just press the controls on your earbuds cord?
There are a few situations when a phone/tablet remote would be truly useful, however:
1) When you’ve hooked it up to your TV (for watching videos on the big screen).
2) When you’ve hooked it up to a sound system.
3) When you’re listening to music on headphones that don’t have playback controls on the cord.
4) When you’re wearing gloves (skiing, say, or motorcycling). The GoRemote’s big, solid, clicky buttons are a lot easier to hit than the skinny little white controls on the standard Apple earbuds cord.
5) Listening to music while running, or riding your bike in the rain. (Otherwise, the GoRemote’s waterproofness doesn’t seem to help you much.)
6) The ability to snap your phone’s camera shutter (or start and stop video) by remote control is real.
The bottom line: The six times and places where a remote control might be useful are all, let’s face it, fairly offbeat; not everyday scenarios.
But still, it seems odd that this Kickstarter campaign hasn’t done at least somewhat better than it has. I mean, plenty of gadgets at this price do only one thing (for example, firing the camera and nothing else).
Maybe people didn’t immediately grasp why or when a remote would be useful.
Maybe the GoRemote would do better if it also worked with Android phones. (The company says that’s in the works.)
Or maybe people just never knew that this puppy was out there on Kickstarter.
Well, in that case: This is for you, rainy-day bikers and glove-wearing music lovers. The GoRemote is ready to go to manufacturing. You have 24 hours to contribute to its fundraising campaign.