Making the Nomiku Wi-Fi Connected Sous-Vide

The Sous-Vide method of cooking involves slow cooking food in air-tight bags in steam or a water bath. It's been used in restaurants forever, but not so much in homes. The Nomiku Wi-Fi Sous-Vide is changing that, though. We asked creator Lisa Q. Fetterman to talk about the process of making and developing the cooking product.

To prepare for our first Kickstarter, we moved ourselves to China for three months and spent our life savings to create a fully functional prototype. This time around, just two years later, everything about our new campaign is different and it’s because the Maker Movement has changed hardware from the bottom up.

As we moved forward to rapidly prototype in Shenzhen the first time, we would spend upwards of $5,000 on functional prototypes. Designing for manufacturing doesn’t take place on the computer, something Kickstarter knows very well because they don’t allow you to launch a hardware project on renderings alone. It takes iteration after iteration of prototyping, and we went through dozens. Waiting on those models would cost us more than just the money for the physical pieces, sometimes we’d receive a part way after we’d made a change. The system was not flexible. Today with the advancement of 3D print houses right in Oakland, we can make fully functional prototypes for $600 each and the parts get back to us quickly.

We consider our experience in China as essential to bringing manufacturing back to the Bay Area. After our first Kickstarter campaign, we lived next to our factory in Guangzhou for a year. It was very intense but before long we started to regard it as normal. It was the fastest way to skill ourselves on how to make our device on a mass scale. Our biggest takeaway was we needed to make our device simpler to put together. Nomiku 1 had over 100 pieces and over six moving parts, today’s WiFi-Nomiku has eight pieces and two moving parts—it doesn’t take an engineer to understand the amazing implications of that.

Some Cool Stats on the Coolest Cooler

In the wee hours of the day after Christmas, Ryan Grepper's first Kickstarter project fell short of its $125,000 goal and quietly sputtered out. It wasn't the most promising debut. But eight months and $13.3 million later, Ryan's revamped Coolest Cooler project is sitting atop the list of the most-funded Kickstarter projects of all time. Here's a bit of context and some fun facts about the Coolest's amazing feat.

The Coolest's 52-day funding period wrapped up last Friday after a big surge at the end. We wanted to compare its progress with that of the #2 and #3 most-funded projects: the Pebble smartwatch and the Ouya game console. Those two had shorter funding periods, so we lined them all up on the same time scale, as if they had competed in an imaginary horse race.

One thing that jumps out here is the slowdown in Pebble's funding three-quarters of the way through. The Pebble's creators chose to cap the number of watches they were offering as rewards, saying they wanted to focus on making a great watch for the backers they already had. Without that cap, would the Pebble have raised enough to move beyond the Coolest's reach? We'll never know. But we do know that they made a great watch!

Ouya's climb is more typical, with a spike in pledges in the last days. But the Coolest's late gains were truly extraordinary. That's probably because of the burst of press attention it received when it topped Pebble's record. (Ryan even made vodkaritas for the folks on the Today Show.)

The Coolest's victory ended a remarkable reign by Pebble, which spent more than two years at #1. At the dawn of Kickstarter in 2009, there was a lot more turnover at the top of the list, but of course the funding amounts were relatively tiny. The Designing Obama book, which was #1 at the end of that year, raised 0.6% of the Coolest's total. In an earlier post we ran through all the #1s in Kickstarter's history. Here's a quick recap:

Project Amount Days on Top
New York Makes a Book $3,329 22
Allison Weiss Makes a Full Length Record $7,711 31
Help Polyvinyl Save 10,000 Records From Destruction $15,625 57
Release the next Five Times august album $20,546 35
The Vanderbilt Republic Foundation: "Masters" $50,264 27
Designing Obama $84,613 235
Decentralize the Web with Diaspora $200,641 162
Save Blue Like Jazz $345,992 34
TikTok + LunaTik $942,578 441
Elevation Dock $1,464,706 0.25
Double Fine adventure $3,336,371 65
Pebble $10,266,245 862
Coolest Cooler: 21st Century Cooler that's actually Cooler $13,285,226 ???

The shortest reign of all belongs to the Elevation Dock. It was the first project to top $1 million, and it ended TikTok's 441-day run, but after just six hours it was knocked off its perch by Double Fine Adventure. (That was a crazy day.)

Ryan timed his second Coolest campaign a little better than the first, rolling it out at a time of year when people in the US were most likely to have frozen margaritas on their minds. Here we've labeled the 10 states that pledged the most money to the project. California has always been a big Kickstarter state, but Texas really stands out here. One in every 4,629 Texans backed the Coolest Cooler.

The Coolest was not a big hit internationally, possibly due to shipping costs. Just 11% of backers chose the "International Coolest" reward. But the project still managed to pick up 524 backers from Australia, 89 from Brazil, and 66 from the United Arab Emirates -- all places where an icy beverage might come in handy. The Coolest's project video racked up 2.7 million views worldwide, vs. Pebble's 2.1 million.

We always like to check out which other Kickstarter projects appeal to the people who support a blockbuster like the Coolest. Here are the projects that Coolest backers went on to back the most in recent weeks.

Project Backers Who Backed Coolest
Bunch O Balloons: 100 Water Balloons in Less Than 1 Minute 860
The Stupendous Splendiferous ButterUp 608
Sense: Know More. Sleep Better. 584
Blink: Wire-Free HD Home Monitoring & Alert System 491
NudeAudio Super-M speaker 447
Noke: The World's First Bluetooth Padlock 384
Aquabot: Makes Your Water Bottle Spray 25 Feet 244
Earin - The World's Smallest Wireless Earbuds 203
The Ice Chest: Makes Crystal Clear Ice Cubes or Spheres 190
Tool Pen - Makes Everything Beautiful 181

There are lots of high-tech projects here, but also three that, like the Coolest, are about staying cool and having fun: Bunch O Balloons, which seriously escalates the water-balloon arms race; Aquabot, a turbocharged spray cap for water bottles; and the Ice Chest, a way to make clear ice spheres.

The list also includes a smash-hit butter knife. Which makes us wonder how many other everyday household items could use a Kickstarter-powered, Coolest-style reinvention. If you've got an innovative idea, we hope you'll share it with the world on Kickstarter!

Kickstarter Films at TIFF 2014

If you're thinking about heading to the Toronto International Film Festival this week, you might already have a very long list of films you want to check out. Or maybe you're just putting one together now. Or maybe you're feeling really wild, and plan on rolling the dice and drifting from screen to screen, hoping to discover some gems. Well: as is increasingly common these days, there are a few Kickstarter-funded films being shown at TIFF this year, and they're all very much worth seeing, whether you already planned to or not. May we suggest one of the films below?

Ned Rifle by Hal Hartley

Ned Rifle is the final film in Hal Hartley's Henry Fool trilogy (the previous two films Henry Fool and Fay Grim are on Netflix if you want to catch up), which concludes Hartley's look at the lives of the Grim Family, a troubled group that lives in Woodside, Queens. There's plenty of familial strife, all of it worth watching. See when and where you can watch it right here.

Do I Sound Gay?: A Documentary About Finding Your True Voice by David Thorpe

Director David Thorpe set out to explore "the gay voice." Through interviews with notable figures like Dan Savage, Margaret Cho, David Sedaris, Tim Gunn, George Takei, and more, Thorpe explores the stigma around voice and how it affects perception. See when and where you can watch the film right here

The Yes Men Are Revolting by Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno

Part comedy, part documentary, The Yes Men are Revolting is the third film in the Yes Men trilogy, exploring how we can effect social change "at a time when corporate forces have bought and sold democracy." See when and where you can watch it right here.

The History of #1 UPDATED

On March 3, 2015, at around 12:20 PM, Pebble, in its new form as Pebble Time took the top spot from Coolest Cooler as the most funded project in Kickstarter history (complete with a promotional Vine about the whole thing). While Pebble Time is the latest project to hold the crown, it's not the first. Fourteen projects have held the title of Kickstarter's all-time most funded project. Here they are in chronological order.

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A Day at the Edinburgh Fringe: Lucy Benson-Brown

Kickstarter creator Lucy Benson-Brown has a one-woman show about a girl named Cathy who discovers a box of her mother's Kate Bush records and starts listening to them. She's performing her show, Cutting Off Kate Bush, at this year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She offered to keep a little diary of what that's been like, which you can read below.

The second weekend of the Edinburgh Fringe was an absolute whirlwind. This weekend seemed perhaps the busiest out of every weekend I’ve ever experienced at the festival. This is always good news for artists, but of course with the crowds comes the competition so it was an early start with lots of flyering for the show in Bristo Square near the Gilded Balloon. Cue Kate Bush costume and lots of red balloons!

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Meet the Team: Megan and Brandon

We thought it would be nice to introduce ourselves. So every now and then, a couple members of the Kickstarter team will be saying hello, and picking out a few projects — past or present, successful or not — that they're especially fond of. (They will also be posing for GIFs. The GIFs are mandatory.)

This week, meet Megan and Brandon:

 Megan McFerren (@meganistkrieg)

Job: "I help backers, creators, and visitors with questions about using Kickstarter, and help moderate conversations between the whole community. (Can I call my banhammer Mjölnir?)"

  • Elixirs of Pain — "I'm a hot sauce junkie and have backed more of those projects than probably anything else. Habaneros? Easy. Ghost peppers? Delicious. Trinidad moruga scorpion? Now you're talking! It's always exciting to see what new flavor profiles people create to singe my tastebuds to oblivion, and Elixirs of Pain was one of the first I backed and surprised me with the best hot sauce I've ever tasted in my life. I even got to meet the creator and pick up my bottles in person, when I found out he worked right around the corner from me!"
  • Civil War Embalming Living History Demonstration — "I worked in funeral service before coming to Kickstarter, and love that Kickstarter exists to help little projects like this to come to life. The Civil War was truly the second 'golden age' of embalming and there were countless fascinating developments during that time that still influence how we attend the dead today. And the fact that this will be a period re-enactment just makes it that much better."
  • Three Day Hangover's Freaking Awesome 2014 Season — "Three Day Hangover's 'Drunk Shakespeare' productions are some of the best live theater moments I've had living in New York City. I've dueled in flip cup alongside Hamlet and Laertes, and battled by way of beer pong with the Capulets and the Montagues, so a season subscription was a must-do. Up next they're doing Drunkle Vanya and I can't wait!"
  • Jotun — "Just funded! A beautifully stylized game about a Viking warrior who has to battle her way through frost giants and monsters using magical runes and a big freakin' axe, to prove herself to the Gods and enter Valhalla. I'm covered in Norse-themed tattoos and studied Germanic literature in university, so there is not a word of that description that could make me throw money at the screen faster to support this game!"

 Brandon Williams (@mbrandonw)

Job: "I'm a recovering mathematician turned developer here at Kickstarter. I've worked on a variety of projects, such as the iOS app, Discovery, and mobile web."

  • T-Rex — "I’ve backed more film projects than any other category, and this one is my favorite. A documentary about a girl from Flint, Michigan who won gold in the first ever Women’s Boxing event at the Summer Olympics. We followed all of her matches at the office."
  • Damn Fine Coffee! — "Twin Peaks is one of my favorite shows ever, and this compilation of fan art speaks to me. I still pick it up every once in awhile and flip through it."
  • Open Well-Tempered Clavier — "A recording of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, released for free as public domain. There have been similar projects for more of Bach’s pieces, as well as Chopin."
  • Dark Side of the Moon on Cello — "I’ve listened to this dozens of times. It’s on Rdio and Spotify. You should go listen to it now."

Summer Recipes from Kickstarter Food Creators

Some congratulations are in order: this week — thanks to a whole lot of wonderful, hungry backers — our Food category reached a whopping $50 million in pledges! To celebrate, we asked a few of our favorite food creators to send us a summer recipe they think you might enjoy. We'll be doing two separate recipe posts, and by the end, you'll have a whole meal's worth of inspiration, from salad to pasta to dessert. Enjoy part one!

Summer Pasta by Angelo Garro, Omnivore Salt

No one wants to stay long in the kitchen cooking or eat a heavy meal in summer. What makes this recipe so special is that you can make it, let the sun do the work of heating it up just a bit, and enjoy it with very little prep time. All the ingredients are abundant this time of year in both farmer's markets and from your own garden.

Blanch the tomatoes and remove skin. Dice and place in a bowl; add crushed garlic, chopped basil, and all other ingredients. Set the bowl in the warm summer sun for 1/2 hour with cheesecloth over it. 

Cook your favorite pasta (Angelo likes Penne), mix, serve, and Mangiamo!

Serves 4 guests. Buona appetite!

Grilled Country Ribs with Fresh Melon Salad by David Ellner, Panna

All of my favorite recipes come from Panna and the chefs we’ve worked with. These ribs by Paul Kahan are probably one of the most delicious recipes we have. Paul is amazing and working with him was a real honor. He’s won best chef by the James Beard Foundation (their highest honor) and with all his accomplishments is one of the most down to earth, friendly, and talented chefs I’ve worked with. I’ve made these ribs a number of times and they are easy to make and an absolute crowd pleaser. And be sure to make the melon salad with it…just heaven.

Vinaigrette: Toast green coriander seeds for approximately 2-3 minutes in a dry skillet. Place the seeds on a cutting board and crush the seeds with the bottom of a skillet. Add them to a mixing bowl. 

Chop the shallots, adding salt to help with the mincing later. Using a microplane, zest the rind of one lemon over the shallots. Mince these ingredients together. Add this mixture to the coriander seeds. Add lemon juice and vinegar to the mixture. Season the mixture with a pinch of salt and pepper. Macerate for 5 minutes. Using a whisk, slowly whisk the EVOO into the coriander shallot mixture until well combined. Taste for salt, adjust seasoning as necessary, and set aside. 

Marinade: Combine the onion, garlic, scallions (using most of the white), coarsely chopped cilantro, ginger, sesame oil, chili paste, soy sauce and palm sugar in a large mixing bowl. Smear the Chinese mustard onto the ribs and cover the ribs with the marinade. Marinate the ribs the morning you plan to cook them (6-8 hours ahead). 

Light the charcoal using a chimney starter. Place real-wood charcoal into the chimney. Place several sheets of loosely crumpled newspaper under the bottom of the chimney. Ensure the charcoal is red hot, should take approximately 20-25 minutes. 

Place the grill grate about 1 to 2 inches above the coals to let it heat up. Remove the ribs from the marinade, reserving the marinade, and wiping off all ingredients from the ribs. Chargrill each rib for approximately 5 minutes per side, or until cooked medium well and caramelized. Dip each rib back into the marinade and continue grilling for an additional minute per side to enhance the charred flavor. Repeat dipping process once more. 

Tomato-melon salad: In a medium mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes and watermelon. Dress with 1/4 cup of the coriander vinaigrette and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Arrange the country ribs on a serving platter. Spoon the tomatoes and watermelon over the ribs. Top with cilantro and serve.

Grilled Tuna w/Radish Salad by Mark Usewicz, Mermaid's Garden

We think it's a perfect summer dish — it's simple, quick to prepare, uses minimal heat and takes great advantage of local tuna and radishes, both of which are abundant from late spring through the early fall.

Halve radishes, keeping their greens intact. Fill a sink or a large pot with cold water and soak the radishes to remove grit. Trim any discolored bits. Remove the radishes from the water and pat dry. Place the vinegar, anchovy fillets, lemon juice, mustard and oil in a blender and puree to emulsify. Season the tuna on both sides with salt and pepper. Sear or grill the tuna to desired temperature. For fish 1-inch thick, allow about 2 minutes per side to reach medium rare. Place the radishes and arugula in a large bowl, season with salt and pepper, add the anchovy dressing and toss. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Divide vegetables and tuna between two plates and serve.

Serves 2-3 (You may want to make extra salad if you're serving 3).

Making the Perfect Lunchbox

This week, we caught up with Lucas Menanix, who is one third of the team behind OmieBox. The OmieBox is an ingenious lunchbox that features a vacuum-sealed bowl to keep hot foods hot and compartments for everything else. We asked Menanix a few questions about his background, this project, and how he came to work on it. 

Robin, Nancy, and Lucas of OmieBox
Robin, Nancy, and Lucas of OmieBox

What's your background, and how did you end up working with Nancy and Robin?

Since I can remember I've always loved building things. After competing in robotics competitions in high school, I studied mechanical engineering at MIT and that's where I fell in love with product design. I became obsessed with how and why the things around us are made. I found myself looking at the products around me and thinking about how they could be made better. Through my classes and internships with Mixer Design Group, I learned how to use the design process to clearly define and execute design solutions. I also got first hand experience with the benefits of relentless prototyping.

I joined OmieLife after meeting Nancy through a former coworker. She was looking for an engineer who could help her and Robin finalize the design and work with the manufactures to get OmieBox into production, and I was looking for a new challenge in a new product industry. We immediately bonded over our love for good food and good design.

What are you like as a team?

Obsessive. Each of us is passionate about different parts of the process, and we pore over every detail of the company. We each have training in three distinct fields (business, design, engineering), so we come at problems from different angles. At the same time, we all understand where the other is coming from so we never truly butt heads but we do have some intense discussions. Then we all go out and demolish a huge meal.

How long did it take to get to the current iteration of Omiebox?

About a year and a half ago Nancy was so frustrated with all the lunch systems she had bought for her preschooler that she decided to make a new one. After she met Robin at a conference a year ago, they immediately began building rough foam core mockups and giving them to parents to figure out what features and sizes worked best. They asked parents what kinds of foods they'd love to send to school with their kids and used all this feedback to refine the product concept. Nancy also spent a ton of time observing kids eating at lunch and discovering all the usability problems with most lunch products. 

 When I joined six months ago, all the user research had been distilled into a very clear product concept and we went straight into CAD. About two weeks later, we had a full scale 3D print. It was super rough but super informative. Once we had something in our hands that we could hold, pack lunches in, and show to people, we were able to quickly turn around a design that was much closer to the final product. After another three months of design refinements, working with our manufacturer, and a few more rounds of 3D prints we were able to finalize our design.

Can you describe some of the edits or changes along the way?

Usability is one of the our main focus areas and it wasn't until we had done three completely assembled 3D prints that we realized the securing insert that integrates the vacuum insulated bowl into the box needed to be simultaneously fitted tightly into the box and easy to remove. We first added little bumps that would snap the insert into the box but we quickly discovered that the size of bumps that secured the container also made it impossible to remove. We iterated on the bump concept for a while; moving from four bumps to two, changing the length/shape/position of the bumps, adding a pop out feature to make it easier to remove. 

At some point, Robin took a step back, simplified the issue, and realized that all we needed to do was extend the side walls of the insert so there was enough friction between the box to securely fit the container in the box. It was one of those ideas that makes you go, "Why didn't we think of this three months ago?!" Though this was a small detail, it's a good example of our team's relentless pursuit of great design.

What's been the craziest part so far?

I think one of the craziest/most fun/intense days was the day we shot our video for Kickstarter. A week before the shoot, we met with our video team to discuss our vision for the video and set a schedule. It became clear that the only day that worked for all of us was the next weekend. So we spent the whole week prepping for the shoot, which included spending a few days in an art school painting booth learning how to paint a 3D print with a HVLP paint gun, and roping my wife (Sarah from SnixyKitchen) into creating a week's worth of cute lunches. Somehow we pulled together everything we needed and spent a full eight hours shooting all the scenes. I had no idea how exhausting filming five lines of text can be.

What's the first thing you ever remember making?

Since I can remember, I was woodworking with my Dad, making everything from birdhouses to desks. But the first thing that I ever made where I can remember putting together the whole design and engineering process, was when we built a trebuchet in physics class that launched mini basketballs into a regulation hoop. It was the first time I had been given free reign to build something to accomplish a specific task and not told explicitly how to do it or given too many constraints. We ended up building this crazy seven foot tall hybrid catapult/trebuchet with PVC pipe arms on the end that gave us a little extra shooting distance and allowed us to shoot from the free throw line as well as the three point line by varying the counter weight.

What inspires you?

As trite as it may sound, I tend to find inspiration in everything around me, but I think what inspires me most is traveling, especially traveling to really foreign places. As designers, we tend to rely on our intuition to drive most of our decisions, so I need to get out and observe how other people live to enhance my intuition. There's something about traveling that allows you to take the time to observe the world around and gain insights.