The Kickstarter Blog

Kickstarter at Sundance 2015

It's time to head to Park City for another year of celebrating independent film. For the fourth straight year, Kickstarter-funded features, docs and shorts will make up more than 10 percent of the festival slate. 17 films going to Sundance this year were funded on Kickstarter, and they join the 70+ Kickstarter-funded films that were selected for previous Sundance Festivals. 

We're so proud of these filmmakers — all amazing storytellers who have found their own ways to cultivate audiences and and make work that represents their true creative vision. Here's a brief look at each of the 17 films whose journey to Sundance included a stop on Kickstarter:

Advantageous 

In Jennifer Phang's science fiction short Advantageous, a single mother makes a decision to partake in a cutting-edge biomedical project in order to secure her daughter's future. It's a story about family, the struggle for a future, and surviving in the technological singularity. 

Christmas, Again 

In Charles Poekel's Christmas, Again, protagonist Noel suddenly finds himself unable to do what he's done for years — sell Christmas trees in NYC. It's a film about endurance, human spirit, and the unique relationships that communities form with their Christmas tree vendors. 

Dog Bowl 

Dog Bowl is a short about what happens when a disaffected young woman steals the vest from a service dog and finds herself contemplating the answer to her very existence.

Finders Keepers 

In 2007, a severed human foot was discovered in a grill bought at a North Carolina auction. Bryan Carberry and Clay Tweel's Finders Keepers is the story of what happened after that — and it only gets weirder.

I'll See You In My Dreams 

In I'll See You In My Dreams, Blythe Danner plays an older woman who begins dating again when her routine is shaken. She finds herself connecting with two very different men — one older and exuberant, and the other young and unsure about his next steps — as she enters a different phase of her life.

In Football We Trust

Filmmakers Tony Vainuku and Erika Cohn have spent the past five years following four Polynesian football players as they try to make it to the NFL. For these Salt Lake City teens, football isn't just a game — it's a way out of poverty and gang violence. 

James White 

The third feature from filmmaking trio Borderline Films, James White, is a coming-of-age story of a young man caught in a spiral of reckless behavior — but it's also a film about the relationship between a mother and son. (See also our interview with two of the filmmakers, from earlier this year.)

Misery Loves Comedy 

Misery Loves Comedy is a documentary about the darker side of comedians — in it, actor (and comic) Kevin Pollak examines the popular notion that the people who make us laugh are, in fact, miserable. 

Papa Machete 

Papa Machete examines the art of machete fencing — and talks to the main man doing it — in Haiti. 

Racing Extinction 

Racing Extinction is a film by the same people that made the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove. It takes on the topic of mass extinction as something our planet might be facing soon.

Saturday 

Set against the backdrop of the Hillsborough disaster of 1989, Saturday is a fictional account of one family's experience — one brother is at the football match, and the other is at home, watching events unfold.

Sembene! 

Ousmane Sembene is one of Africa's greatest storytellers, on the page and screen. Sembene! is the first documentary about his life. 

Songs My Brothers Taught Me

A reckless decision changes everything for three Lakota best friends in this coming-of-age film from director Chloe Zhao. 

The Mask You Live In 

An exploration of the way that American masculinity is portrayed, The Mask You Live In is a doc about the ways in which certain behaviors and traits are socially imposed on boys from an early age — and how it affects them negatively throughout life. 

The Royal Road

San Francisco filmmaker Jenni Olson's contemplative The Royal Road takes on ideas of colonization, nostalgia, butch identity, and more, and sets them against a backdrop of 16mm California landscape. 

Volta 

Volta is the Greek word for a stroll. In this short film, a single mother and her daughter take a journey across Athens by foot, bus, and more. It's part road movie, part love song to a city in crisis. 

Welcome to Leith

In a town with a population of 16, an individual begins buying up land in order to turn the town into a white nationalist community. Welcome to Leith is the story of the town as it struggles for sovereignty against his vision. 

How We Made the Kickstarter iPad App

By now, apps are such a routine part of our daily lives that we rarely think about what actually goes into making one. We sat down with Brandon Williams, our iOS Engineer, and Zack Sears, Product Designer, to discuss how they created Kickstarter’s iPad app even as they were updating the iPhone app. If you’ve ever wondered how something like this comes about, read on. (If you just want the app, you can get it here.)

How do you start making an app?

Zack Sears: We would lock ourselves in a room with a whiteboard. The primary problem we wanted to solve was how you navigate from a list of projects into a specific project, to other projects, and then making that flow work. The iPad is such an interesting device in terms of how you open or close things with pinching, dragging, and swiping — we really wanted to think through all the different ways of navigating through. Once we solved that we went into mockup phase. I started working through different concepts of vertically scrolling through projects, horizontally scrolling through projects — what do we think the transition is going to be when you're going from a project within a list to a project page, and then into the next project, and then how do we close that? Is there a visible close button? Or is there some cue to be able to drag it and close it or pinch or something like that? 

Brandon Williams: We just wanted to visualize it so I wouldn’t be coding blindly. Then I would experiment a lot — I had things like a white screen with samples of project cards, showing what the transitions would be for blowing them up and shrinking them back down. It was a lot of coding. We did so many versions, and the one we settled on was having this entire vertical world spectrum of categories, and within each of those, sideswiping between projects. It had all been converging on that, but we went all over the place along the way.

The entire app, the code, it opens up with splitting: “Am I on the iPhone or on the iPad?” And then along the way there’s more and more code saying "if iPad, if not iPad." That’s the route we went because we were like, we’re just going to do the iPad. 

Why an iPad app?

BW: After we launched the iPhone app, it just made sense to have an iPad app too. Zack, back in the day, worked on something that was internally known as “Lean Back,” and became publicly known as video mode, which is what should have been on an iPad. No one wants to do an intensive video discovery on their desktop computer.

ZS: The idea was to be able to, quite literally, "lean back," and browse Kickstarter projects based on their videos. We built the feature but the technology wasn’t right — it really was an experience intended for the iPad. The iPad is the perfect device for that. It’s geared toward casual discovery.

BW: And the entire point of the app was to focus on discovery.

ZS: I think a lot of our power users — people come to Kickstarter to find out about new cool stuff — are not necessarily looking for a specific thing they want to back. It’s more like, "I just want to see all this cool stuff that people are making." Really embracing the idea of being able to get a cross section of this creative universe.

BW: That’s also a relatively recent user pattern — for people to just casually browse. Historically, so much of our traffic has been someone going straight to a project because a friend shared a link. But we've reached a point where people are going to come to Kickstarter without knowing about a project, just wanting to explore.

Is that something you've already noticed happening?

BW: Yeah. We were surfacing that data and seeing more and more repeat backers.

ZS: We’ve reached a certain level of maturity where people are comfortable enough with the platform that they’re coming back and looking for stuff.

BW: No one is downloading the iPhone app who only ever backed a single project. It’s going to be people who are repeat backers and just want to be in this mode of browsing. If you just backed a single project, you'd use the website. So we could also use the app as a playground for experimenting with our brand, where it would typically be a bit more scary to do that on the site.

Do you have an example of that experimentation?

ZS: The way we revamped Discover — the pages for finding projects — last summer on the actual website was very much inspired by what we had done already on the iPad. We had this back and forth where we got inspired by using the iPad as a testing ground and solved a lot of things. Then we actually brought it to the website, and solved all the other things that weren’t quite finished yet.

What was your vision for the app?

ZS: If you download the app, you probably already know what Kickstarter is. That's a huge hurdle that's already been solved. So the things that motivated me were, first, the opportunity to make a really nice, optimized experience on this device — but second, I think the most important part was creating something that really caters to our hardcore, passionate users.

BW: When I first started working here, Kickstarter wasn’t really looking for an iOS developer. It’s a web company — the conversation was, "does Kickstarter even need an app?" I grappled with that for a long time. It really is serving some of our core, most vocal people. We aren’t trying to push everyone into this app. If you downloaded it, you get it.

Can you talk a bit about how you started working on the iPad app and revamping the iPhone app that already existed?

BW: It wasn’t part of the original scope. Zack and I were working all day in a conference room. I had the iPad and the iPhone hooked up to my computer. You can install the app straight from your computer as a test. I accidentally installed the iPad app on my iPhone, and it was all gigantic and didn’t make sense, but there was enough there that it could totally work. The project cards were the size of the phone, but you could scroll through them sideways and flip through categories.

ZS: Even tapping and pulling it closed and stuff like that — we were like, this could totally work.

BW: We saw it and couldn’t un-see it, so we worked on it in secret just as a side project, spending a couple hours on it, getting it more into shape and as we worked on new designs for things we hadn’t nailed down. 

ZS: We went rogue and did it silently because, honestly, we wanted to make sure we could actually do it before we promised anything. This is a huge win, technically, because we now have a universal app with a shared code base. It’s also a win for us in terms of creating a nice, unified experience across phone, tablet, and desktop.

BW: Pulling up a category page, seeing a splash of color, you can tell that all these things were influenced by each other, and it’s the first time we’ve had that ever.

As you were working on the iPad app, did it change the way you thought about looking at the site on a desktop computer?

ZS: I think it has informed a lot of future direction for the project page. We recently rolled out a revamp of the project page, and I think there are hints of this new stuff, but we’re going to do it a little more incrementally on the site. It’s almost entirely changed the way we think about the Discovery section of the site and what we care about putting front and center — how we present categories, how we present the primary ways of slicing and dicing the projects.

Can you give some examples?

ZS: Right now, if you go to a category page, the category name is front and center and all the sub-categories are below that. The content you want will be grouped together. We’re basically pulling out of the advanced filter and putting that front and center, so it’ll be category sorted. That’s something that we found just by looking at the data around the new Discovery experience. That’s what people are doing nine out of ten times. 

BW: And the project cards are precious.

ZS: They’re representations of people’s projects, and we don’t want to clutter that view with 50 things to look at. This is very much about making sure that we’re not putting too many things in front of you at once. We left everything on the table forever, but we decided on certain interaction patterns early on — this idea of swiping horizontally through projects, whether that’s in discover view or once you actually open up a project. We thought, this is the way it has to be. We knew that was right. Everything had to fit around it.

Kickstarter at CES: Friends Old and New

The Consumer Electronics Show is so big that it no longer fits into the main convention center in Las Vegas. There's another show floor down the street at the Sands, and a big chunk of it, called Eureka Park, is set aside for startups. We spent a lot of time there last week, because Kickstarter creators took up nearly a quarter of the booths!

The 102 creators who were at CES raised more than $50 million on Kickstarter. We had such a great time stopping by the booths of old friends and making new ones. Here are some highlights from the floor.

The WobbleWorks team launched their 3Doodler 2.0 project at CES, and decorated their booth with lots of amazing things that people have “drawn” with a 3Doodler…

...including this dress, which was the work of two design students in Hong Kong.

The folks at ProtoPlant are running a project to make 3D printing material that conducts electricity. They showed it off by printing a game controller that connects to a MaKey MaKey and lets you play drums.

Janelle Wang and Peter Treadway of Acton RocketSkates let the public try out the skates for the first time. The public did so, very carefully.

The RocketSkates app lets you find people near you who also have the skates, so you can rocket together. PicoBrew, which makes home beer-brewing machines, does the same thing on its site: live updates showing what’s brewing where.

Speaking of PicoBrew, Greg White let us try a fresh batch from their Zymatic brewing machine, which is pioneering the Internet of Beer. Tasty!

John got his head scanned by Occipital's Structure Sensor, a 3D scanner that snaps onto the back of an iPad. (Action figures coming soon.)

And he also checked out the new design of the Avegant Glyph, a pair of headphones with a video player inside that tricks your eyes into thinking you’re looking at a giant screen.

We also saw Tony Hawk ride a Boosted Board, danced with dinosaurs in a demo of the latest Oculus Rift prototype, and celebrated a batch of project launches, including LyteShot, Vikaura Screen, and Listnr.

All in all, quite a week! Maybe we’ll see you in Vegas next year.

An Interview with Christopher Doyle

Christopher Doyle is perhaps best known for his work as cinematographer on the films of Wong Kar-wai — Doyle worked on every film the iconic director made from Days of Being Wild to 2046, including the classic In the Mood For Love. He’s also collaborated with countless other directors, directed several films of his own, and become a mainstay in the world of international cinema.

Both Doyle’s biography and work style make him a bit of a character in the film world — he held a range of oddball jobs before picking up a camera, including cow herder, practitioner of Chinese medicine, and a stint on a cargo ship. But when he ended up behind the lens, at the age of 32, it was magic: Doyle’s freedom for improvisation, sense of movement, and ability to think on his feet make his work recognizable in a world where cinematographers often blend into the background.

His latest project with producer Jenny Suen, Preschooled Preoccupied Preposterous, is a three-part series telling the stories of three generations of people in Hong Kong. Preschooled features the voices of Hong Kong’s schoolchildren; Preoccupied takes on young adults during the anti-government protests of the Umbrella Movement; and Preposterous is set aboard a tram filled with seniors on their way to a speed dating event. The three parts are very different, but combine to create an impression of the chaos and pattern of life in Hong Kong.

I spoke with Doyle and Suen over Skype shortly before Christmas.

How did you come up with the concept for the series?

Christopher Doyle: I’ll give you a little bit of background. It’s strange, because I’ve shot eighty films, and every time I’ve directed, I’ve always just done it.

Jenny Suen: We didn’t pitch it.

CD: It just happened. This time it happened because the Hong Kong Film International Festival wanted to do something that was a reflection of Hong Kong kids. We had the idea in 2014. When you’re 14 years old, you don’t know what it’s going to be like when you’re 20. When I was twelve, I thought I’d be dead by the time I was 20. We understood the theme of the film to be youth in Hong Kong, and it just evolved from that. Then Jenny did all the work.

Can you talk a little bit about your style, and how it works within this film?

CD: I’d done many different kinds of films, and one of the films I’d directed previously was in Polish. I don’t speak Polish so there was almost no dialogue. This attracts me because visually I can express whatever — what is the poetry of the image?

So in this film also there’s no dialogue. I didn’t think I had the right to speak for the kids — we were giving them their own voice and letting it take us somewhere. It’s not a documentary, it’s whatever it is.

JS: There’s no script, we didn’t ask any questions. We didn’t cast actors. We talked to them about their everyday lives, what they want to be when they grew up, what they do after school. From our simple dialogue, we got stories that inspired us to have them act out certain things on screen. The voiceovers you hear in the film are all the kids talking about themselves.

How did you decide to do parts two and three?

CD: We thought the first part of the film was a great pleasure. It’s complex, it took a lot of interviewing, but the actual process of the film flowed very smoothly — partly because the kids were pushing us in a very specific direction.

So then we thought, well, we started with the kids, why don’t we keep going? So the next thing is the next generation. And just as we were preparing for this, suddenly the next generation took over central Hong Kong. At least a part of what’s relevant to these kids at this point in their lives is what happened in the last three months in Hong Kong.

What happened in those three months?

JS: Students were boycotting classes because they were protesting an anti-democratic bill that was going through the legislature, and they were camping outside the legislature.

CD: They took over four or five city blocks.

JS: It started when the police started firing tear gas into the crowd. At the height of the movement a quarter million people came out for the political rallies. At the height of the protest camp, there were 2500 tents. It’s as if, for two months, you couldn’t drive down Broadway, 5th Avenue, and Park Avenue. That’s how incredible it was. They really occupied the city.

CD: What we found in the process was the sense of community — it was so unexpected. Hong Kong is a very materialistic place, and there is very little room. Most people live with their parents, and young married couples could never afford an apartment. The calm and the sense of community, the experience of having a whole city with no traffic, it was astonishing. Kids were studying. And they were recycling everything.

JS: And there was a charging station for your cellphone.

CD: There were turbines, and bicycles creating electricity.

JS: And a farm.

CD: It pushed us to celebrate this aspect of community. It was very uplifting for everyone involved. Just editing it the last couple of days, the poetry and complicity that came from what we shared has made this part very solid.

JS: When the movement began we realized that the questions the kids were asking — what is this city? And what is its relation to mainland China? And all these questions of identity were really the same questions we were asking in making the film.

What does Hong Kong in 2014 mean to you?

CD: You know Neil Jordan, the Irish director? I made a film with him in southern Ireland a couple years ago, and he asked me, “Chris, how come all your films are different?” That really shocked me because I thought they were all the same. All the films I did with Wong Kar-wai were the same — the story just got simpler and simpler and more and more precise. It just evolved into what most people regard as the best one, which is In the Mood for Love.

But Hong Kong is where I started making films. People ask me why all my films look different — they look different because they’re done with different people in different communities. But the ones that have really centered me and pushed me along, and the ones that most people know best, are Hong Kong films.

Hong Kong created me. The energy and space and the intimacy of people’s relationships, and the intensity of it, and the colors. That’s what pushed me toward what I’m doing now. Hong Kong created my life, and created the rhythm and the dance of the films we do. It’s what is so exciting about the first part of the film: we don’t know five-year-old kids who think things in real life, so it’s enlightening. And through our experience of filming it, we got to share an extremely important moment of Hong Kong history. There will be so many kids born in nine months. 

It wasn’t something you could have planned for. You just let the city be what it is.

CD: Hong Kong is the dynamic of our films. I’ve done at least ten films within ten blocks of where we’re sitting now. It never stops energizing me. There’s always a detail that pushes you further into the poetry of space, or the eclectic nature of how people engage, or the energy of the city.

JS: For example there’s this old man who we saw all the time. He makes these piles of cardboard. At first we thought he was some kind of crazy artist, because the piles were quite sculptural. But then we interviewed him and we found out that he was just taking it to the recycling station and getting a couple of bucks.

CD: And he’s become our best actor.

JS: He actually has. He’s the most reliable, and a bit crazy.

CD: He never remembers us.

JS: We’ve spent so much time here but it doesn’t cease to put us in awe. We thought he was an artist and he was just a cardboard man.

CD: You know the famous line from Rauschenberg, the artist: “If I walked completely around the block and didn't find enough to work with, I could take one other block and walk around it in any direction.” You walk around a block and something visually unexpected hits you and it carries you on.

JS: Hong Kong gave us so much and the only thing for us to do is give them back.

You described your process a bit like jazz music. It made me want to ask — what are some of your non-film influences?

CD: (Holds up a glass of beer.) This. And women. And the sea, because I grew up by the sea. I used to be a merchant marine, and all the cities I love are cities by the sea. Amsterdam, Hong Kong, New York. The only exception is Berlin. The depth of the sea and its sense of possibility. And dance. When I first started in Taiwan, we’d drive around and just film. We were always moving. We’d come up with subjects like the wind, or the mountains. We wouldn’t have a narrative, we’d just let people tell their own stories and have the visuals take you on a journey through whatever subject we were working with.

From there, I started doing a lot of stuff with dance. It’s always a dance between the person in front of the camera, and the camera itself. The engagement is like a dance. 90% of the films I’ve shot are handheld. It seems more intimate.

It also seems less invasive.

CD: We were in an argument about that subject last night. We were in a bar and some guy was saying something about the objectivity of the camera, and all this kind of crap. I usually say there’s the person in front of the camera communicating to the audience, and the bridge between them is the camera. The process is not about the lens, it’s about creating complicity. People in front of a camera need an incredible amount of love. They really need to be taken care of, and if you don’t give them that sense of security and if they don’t trust you, it won’t work. The engagement is much more important than the technical stuff. As you’ll see with this film, they just evolve naturally from the engagement you’re having with the subject. There are no tricks.

You aren’t trying to be objective or detached.

CD: This is why I’ve made so many films. I like to move, and I like to think on my feet. I made my first film when I was 32 years old. I didn’t even like photography. But somehow I fell into this engagement that is so appropriate to my own physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs. That’s why it works. Because I’m not trying to be an artist or a great filmmaker, I’m just getting on with it.

We saw that with the kids — we were there with them in the center of Hong Kong and suddenly the sun came out. We said, “Why don’t you respond to the sunlight?” I didn’t plan it. But the great thing is that reciprocity that the process allows us. it’s there, the stuff is given to us with whoever we’ve decided to go with. They’re not faking it or acting it. They’re just sharing. Our job is to be the conduit.

How did you decide on the scenarios that featured the kids?

JS: We didn’t have a plan. We know the characters and where we’ll shoot and it happens from there.

CD: We did a thing with Jessica Chastain last year. We had two or three hours, and we didn’t have a plan. She got frustrated because she was used to people telling her exactly what to do. I said no, it’s fine, just walk around, it looks great. So maybe we’ve been spoiled — there’s a certain lack of pretense in Asian actors. Some of the greatest actors I’ve worked with are great people first of all. They’re humble and easy to get along with, and they just do it. Maybe we’ve been spoiled by that, that we think filmmaking should always be like that, a give and take between what’s possible and what’s doable.

In the style of these things, the interviews in the film are a tangent to what’s happening, it’s not an explanation.

JS: And it’s not a narration.

CD: It has this abstract and poetic nature to it. It’s not an explanation — it’s not ”I go to school at eight o’clock and I always say hello to the bus driver because he gives me a candy after school” — no, you just let them go in and take the bus and see what happens. It’s parallel storytelling.

You use a lot of empty space and slow shots — there’s a lot of room for things to happen in Preschooled. 

CD: We work with a lot of younger people, and I have to tell the kids — it’s usually a younger person editing — to slow down. They just cut out of habit because they’re used to doing commercials and music videos. Once you let the image take you somewhere, there’s more space for your own engagement. That’s basic to our style.

Making Payments Easier for Creators and Backers

Today we’re excited to announce a seemingly small change that will actually make it a lot easier to use Kickstarter: We’re partnering with Stripe to seamlessly collect and process payments for all projects on Kickstarter. We've already started moving projects over to the new system, and by next week, it will be in place for all new projects.

For project creators, this means you won’t need to set up an Amazon Payments business account anymore. Instead, you’ll just enter your bank account details on the Account tab when you’re drafting your project on Kickstarter. It takes about two minutes, whereas the old way could take a few days. It will look like this (with some small differences depending on your country of residence):

For backers, this means a simpler, faster and easier checkout process. No more being redirected or having to log in to a separate service. It takes half the steps, and it all happens on Kickstarter. Here’s how it will look:

Here are answers to a few questions you might have:

I’m about to launch a project. Should I wait?

We always recommend launching whenever you’re ready. If you’ve completed all of the steps of project build, have the green light to launch, and want to go live, then go forth! If you’re still working on getting your project set up, we should be fully transitioned to Stripe by next week.

Are your fees changing?

No. You can view a complete rundown of our fees here, but the short of it is that they’re staying the same. If your project is successfully funded, we will apply a 5% fee to the total amount of funds raised and Stripe, our payments processor, will apply credit card processing fees (about 3-5%).

Why the move to Stripe?

We’ve worked with Amazon Payments from the very beginning of Kickstarter — a year before we launched, in fact. They’ve been an excellent partner, processing $1 billion in pledges. Late last year Amazon decided to discontinue Amazon Flexible Payment Service, the payments product that we have used. We took the opportunity to consider the best possible partner to process payments for creators and backers moving forward. After careful consideration, we decided on Stripe. Stripe processes payments for Twitter and Facebook, and we’ve gotten to know their team and product well. We’re thrilled to partner with them.

Any more questions, you can reach us here. Thanks!

Connected Everything: Our Tech Predictions for 2015

RocketSkates are carrying us into 2015.
RocketSkates are carrying us into 2015.

It’s fascinating to follow tech projects on Kickstarter and watch people build pieces of the future. Thousands of projects have made the leap from the workshop to the mainstream in a few short years. So we thought it would be fun to look at the year ahead through the eyes of the people who have checked out more tech and design projects than anyone else. John Dimatos, Julio Terra, and Nick Yulman are Kickstarter staffers devoted to these projects, and the time they’ve spent talking to creators and tracking trends makes their perspective unique. Here are their predictions for 2015, which build on the things we’ve seen bubbling up on Kickstarter in 2014.

Squink lets you create circuits like this one at home.
Squink lets you create circuits like this one at home.

John Dimatos

DIY circuit boards. Techniques, products, and kits allowing you to prototype circuit boards that are one step closer to production level, along the lines of Squink, Circuit Scribe, and Cartesian’s EX¹.

A factory on your desk. First came 3D printing, and now comes the spread of CNC milling — computer-controlled sculpting and carving. The Othermill, the Nomad CNC, and Carvey are the first of what are likely to be many inexpensive options for precision machining with easy-to-use software, opening up this technology to a much larger creative audience.

New flavors of 3D printing, using advanced materials and composites. We’ve seen magnetic filament, carbon fiber and flexible filament. What’s next?

More stuff made of carbon fiber, a material that’s still largely untapped. It’s popping up in wallets: Common Fibers, RCFibers, Carbon Leather.

Edyn monitors your plants and controls watering.
Edyn monitors your plants and controls watering.

Julio Terra

Connected everything. More smart Bluetooth and Wi-Fi devices, in the footsteps of the Pantelligent frying pan, the Noke padlock, the Edyn garden waterer, and the Point home monitor.

Smarter, smaller drones. We saw a lot of fun drone projects this year, including Hexo+. Watch for drones to get more sophisticated as their software starts to solve harder problems, like collision avoidance. And we’ll see more tiny drones like Zano and the Pocket Drone, shooting photos and video, everywhere, all the time.

Wraparound video. The 360-degree video camera projects we saw this year, like the 360cam and Joey, will make more of an impact next year, especially as the gear for viewing immersive video gets cheaper and more accessible.

Health tech for monitoring your every twitch will be pretty big. The Stethee heart monitor and the Quitbit stop-smoking device are recent examples.

DIYVR takes a keep-it-cheap approach to virtual reality.
DIYVR takes a keep-it-cheap approach to virtual reality.

Nick Yulman

Oculus for everybody. The mainstreaming of affordable virtual- and augmented-reality viewers and control interfaces, going beyond hardcore gaming applications. Viewbox and DIYVR are early efforts at this. Increased attention to audio and haptics in this area as well.

Touch screen burnout. More simple, single-purpose physical interfaces and notification systems that provide some relief from touchscreen/hands-free fatigue. More attention to choices of design and materials for these controls and displays too. These will let people set up their own tactile interfaces for different smart-device functions and make them feel good to use. Recent examples: Pressy, Spin remote, Palette, Ditto, Notti.

People movers. More innovation in personal transport and vehicles — electric, hackable, smartphone-connected things with wheels, along the lines of Onewheel, Acton RocketSkates, and Whill.

20 Questions with Cool Sports Stories For Kids' Ben Miller

Ben Miller's Cool Sports Stories For Kids is a hilarious collection of semi-fake stories about athletes that are absolutely not for kids. When we got a copy of the zine in the office, we crowded around it like we'd discovered a new species of animal. After we laughed for a good 30 minutes, we decided we would hit up Miller for our 20 Questions series to see what he was all about. Turns out, his job somehow involves fishing, and somehow that's boring? Who knows. There's a lot of good stories below, read on:

Tell us about the last great meal you had:

I ate a can of chili last week. Later I found out that it was expired by two years.

First movie you saw in a theater:

I can't remember. But I saw American Beauty in high school. I asked out my friend's ex-girlfriend on the phone. Apparently he was at her house at the time. After I asked her to the movie, she said, "Hey, Jonathan's here" then put him on the phone. It was really awkward.

An experience you'll never forget:

When I was five years old during a moment of silence in church I yelled "butthole" real loud.

Music you loved as a teenager:

'90s college radio. My sister DJ'ed at a college radio station when she was in high school. I used to listen to the shows on the radio and tape them on a cassette. I was like 9 or 10 or 11. I grew out my hair and some redneck kid in my class started calling me sheepdog because of it. It's hard to calculate how big of an impact that music had on me.

First book you remember being really affected by:

Skim by Mariko Tamaki. This is a graphic novel that I think is intended for Japanese teenage girls. I had read just a couple of graphic novels at the time and decided to grab it for some reason. Anyway, this book is strange and really well done and it got me interested in graphic storytelling.

How do you start each morning:

I drink a bunch of coffee and write and try to come up with ideas for an hour.

Favorite app?

Twitter. Hit me up: @kfctacobell

What's your computer desktop/phone lockup screen?

A hot air balloon that says Samsung on it. I'm sorry.

Your favorite personal item of clothing:

Hunting cap lined with rabbit fur. I know it's wrong to buy fur but I got it secondhand. That's not as bad, right?

What do you carry with you every day?

A fishing license. I have to go fishing for my job sometimes. I hate it. It's so boring.

Favorite place to eat:

My apartment. I live with two friends who are Asian American and there's always a hot pot going or homemade spring rolls or a buttload of seafood.

Place you wish everyone could visit:

I'm taking Amtrak to LA from Philly in a couple months, but the long way. Through the Rocky Mountains and like up in Montana and North Dakota then down the coast through Washington and Oregon. I haven't done it yet, but I'm already recommending it.

Person in your field whose career/life/work you admire:

I like going to comics and zine festivals. I always end up being surprised by someone really talented that I'd never heard of.

Who did you learn the most from?

My mom told me, "If there's nothing you're passionate about then be passionate about finding a passion." Nobody wants to hear their mom use the word "passion." I really wish her word choice was different. But it was great advice and I've learned a lot from her.

Favorite thing about the place you live:

I grew up out in the country so I love being in a big city (Philly).

Favorite time of day and why:

Lunch time. Sometimes I eat my lunch before 10:30 because I can't wait.

Favorite thing to work with:

Watercolor pencils

What is the last thing you made?

I'm working on a little animated project. I made some promotional drawings for that yesterday. It's called E Coli High and Episode 1 is ready to drop any day now -@EColiHigh

20 Questions With The Field Guide to Nachos' Derek Sotak

When people say that Derek Sotak wrote the book on nachos, they mean it literally. Sotak is the author of the recently completed Field Guide to Nachos, an exploration of the dish's rich history, containing recipes, cryptozoa and more. The handbook is now available at Nachonomics, where Sotak contributes as a Nacho Correspondent.

We asked him a few questions, and you won't believe what he had to say about penguins.

Tell us about the last great meal you had:

I had some beef bulgogi and spicy pickles at this Korean restaurant that was truly off the hook. Amazingly delicious.

First movie you saw in the theater:

As far as I can remember it was Ghostbusters with my parents at the drive in, although when I actually checked to see when it was released I would have had to have been 1 or 2 at the time so that may just be something I made up in my head and now believe it to be true.

Small thing you can’t live without:

The Kingdom of Loathing. It's a little browser based adventure game that has gotten a few minutes of my day, every day, for the past ten years.

Music you loved as a teenager:

The album Regular Urban Survivors by the British band Terrorvision, billed as a soundtrack to the greatest movie that never existed. It's possible I was their number one American fan while in my teens, and maybe I still am...

An experience you’ll never forget:

There was one time when I was a kid there was a power outage in town some night and I got to walk around in the middle of the street with no lights on anywhere and for some reason no cars driving around. It was the closest thing I'll probably ever experience to a zombie apocalypse or Omega Man scenario.

First book you remember being really affected by:

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski. Prior to that the most non-linear book I could imagine was those of the Choose Your Own Adventure variety, but HoL was such a spectacle it blew young Derek's mind as to what a book could be.

How do you start each morning?

Roll over and check the cell phone, which is either a sad Pavlovian response or comment on the society we live in these days.

Person in your field whose career/life/work you admire:

Werner Herzog. That guy is an absolute lunatic but I would follow him into Hell.

Favorite app:

I've got to say that I use Shazam the most because being able to tell what a song is without having to scour the internet for lyrics you thought you heard is the closest thing to magic we'll experience as humans. Also, Ridiculous Fishing is just the right length to play during a trip to the bathroom.

What’s your computer desktop/phone lock screen?

It's a John Kenn Mortensen picture I believe called "Room 237". That guy is amazing and that picture is like a Where's Waldo with monsters. Every time I look at it I find something new.

Your favorite personal item of clothing:

Either my Tillamook Dairy "Baby Loaf Cheese" shirt or my "No Cheese Till Cleveland" Grilled Cheese Tour Shirt from the restaurant Melts. Basically shirts related to cheese are my wheelhouse.

Place you wish everyone could visit:

Las Vegas. It's like the lowest common denominator of America and our ideas of other cultures distilled into one city.

What do you carry with you every day?

A ring that states "NACHOS". My finger is turning colors because of it but I never want to take it off.

Favorite place to eat:

Big Foot Food and Spirits at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Almost worth missing a plane for.

Last idea or factoid you came across that stayed in your brain:

Some episode of The Venture Brothers taught me that penguins have an organ above their eyes that converts seawater into freshwater. I'm just waiting for that one to come up in bar trivia.

Favorite thing about the place you live:

Seasons, and that in a few hours of driving I can get to all my favorite biomes.

Who did you learn the most from?

My parents are the obvious answer, but I would say Hunter S. Thompson and Bruce Campbell influenced me a lot growing up.

Favorite time of day and why:

When you wake up on a morning fully rested and know you have nothing to do for the day, man do your possibilities feel endless.

Favorite thing to work with:

Legos.

Last thing you made:

Beans on Toast. Do yourself a favor and make some Beans on Toast.