Crowdfunding sites yield unique, cutting-edge gifts

From leather gloves that you can wear while operating your iPad to a $100 3D printer kit, crowdfunding sites offer unique gift ideas. Here are some options along with some tips for buying crowdfunded gifts.

A guide to buying high-tech gifts on the verge of existence

For the early adopter who has everything, something that doesn't yet exist might just be the perfect gift.

From leather gloves that you can wear while operating your iPad to a portable 3D scanner, crowdfunding sites offer unusual gift ideas from Canadian creators. And at the time they're delivered, they're often the very latest technology.

Since the popular crowdfunding site Kickstarter officially opened to Canadian projects in September, thousands of backers from around the world have pledged millions of dollars to launch hundreds of new products, ranging from films to innovative technology such as a smartphone-independent smartwatch called the Neptune Pine.

Other crowdfunding sites such as Indiegogo also have a range of interesting projects.

"With crowdfunding, there's a lot of uniqueness on offer," says Christopher Charlesworth, co-founder of, a Toronto-based company that sells technology platforms for crowdfunding sites and provides crowdfunding research and consulting services.

Often, as a reward for taking a risk and supporting a project, backers get first dibs on pre-orders of the product, sometimes at a discount price.

As a bonus, he said, anyone who backs a crowdfunding campaign, either on behalf of themselves or someone else, has the satisfaction of knowing that they helped make the product a reality in the first place.

Some risk involved

The downside is there is some risk involved. Only 40 per cent of crowdfunded projects reach their funding target and go ahead, Charlesworth said.

Because of that, it may be less risky to choose projects that have already blown past their fundraising goal.

Another challenge is that crowdfunding products typically can't be manufactured until the fundraising target is reached, so backers may need to pre-order months in advance in order to get the product delivered in time for Christmas. And it's not uncommon for projects to be delayed relative to the estimated delivery date, said Asier Ania, the other co-founder of

That's not to say that the gift recipient will get nothing in time for the holidays. Some projects offer rewards such as sneak peaks, previews or special updates that let backers become "part of the experience."

But many recipients may have to wait for a "second Christmas" months from now, when a package of brand-new technology may surprise them.

On the flip side, that may be a great opportunity for anyone looking to buy a present online at the very last minute — and a passable excuse for why the physical object didn't arrive in time.

Gift givers who want to give a crowdfunded gift without the risks that come with crowdfunding may have an option to do so. Many projects continue to accept pre-orders after their campaign is over but before the first products ship.

In those cases, Ania said, delivery is typically more timely.

The downside is that many projects raise the price of the product at that point.

Whether you choose to buy during or after the campaign, here are some creative crowdfunded Canadian products to consider. Those whose campaigns have ended are still taking pre-orders. Prices are in Canadian dollars unless otherwise stated.

Note: CBC does not endorse the following products.

1. Palette

  • On mobile? Click here for the video.

Palette is a kit that allows you to control software such as Photoshop using sliders, dials and buttons.

Creator: Calvin Chu, Waterloo, Ont.

Price: From $99 for aluminum starter kit with one button, one dial, one slider to $599 for professional wooden kit with one power, four buttons, five dials and six sliders.

Estimated Delivery: June 2014

Campaign ongoing? Yes, until Jan. 6, 2014.

Where to order:

2. Bubl Cam

  • On mobile? Click here for the video.

Bublcam is a 360-degree camera that captures stills and video. It is WiFi equipped, allowing real-time streaming.

Creator: Bubl Technology Inc., Toronto

Price: $579US

Estimated delivery: May 2014

Campaign ongoing? No, it ended on Dec. 14.

Where to order:

3. Neptune Pine smartwatch

  • On mobile? Click here for the video

​The Neptune Pine is billed as an "independent" smartwatch. Unlike other smartwatches, which connect wirelessly with your smartphone, the Neptune Pine can do things such as make calls and send text messages without connecting to a phone.

Creator: Neptune Computer Inc., Montreal, Que.

Price: $289

Estimated delivery: January 2014

Campaign ongoing? Yes, until Dec. 21.

Where to order:

4. Matterform 3D scanner

  • On mobile? Click here for the video

This portable, fold-up device bills itself as the "world's first truly affordable 3D scanner." It allows 3D objects to be scanned into a 3D computer model that can later be printed out using a 3D printer.

Creator: Matterform, Toronto, Ont.

Price: $579 US

Estimated delivery: February 2014 (Indiegogo backers would get theirs in December or January.)

Campaign ongoing? No, it ended on April 30.

Where to order:

5. Howler Open Source Arcade Controller

  • On mobile? Click here for the video

The Howler open-source arcade controller is a board that allows you to connect joysticks, buttons, trackballs and spinners lit up with LED lights to your computer or console in order to build an arcade cabinet "that would be the envy of any man-cave," its website says.

Creator: Josh Wolf, Calgary, Alta.

Price: from $99 for just the board to $309 for controller plus four joysticks, 26 buttons, LEDS, power supply and required wiring

Estimated delivery: March 2014

Campaign ongoing? No, it ended on Dec. 8.

Where to order:

6. Touchpoint Glove

  • On mobile? Click here for the video

The Touchpoint Glove is described as a stylish "premium" leather glove that you can use touchscreen devices such as tablets and smartphones while wearing.

Creator: Patrick Lum, Toronto, Ont.

Price: $74

Estimated delivery: January 2014

Campaign ongoing? No, it ended on Dec. 8.


7. Peachy Printer

On mobile? Click here for the video

The Peachy Printer is a kit that allows people to put together a 3D printer for just $100, using software, their computer's sound card and an acrylic resin that solidifies when hit precisely with a laser. The design is completely different from that of typical 3D printers, which rely on motors and sophisticated electronics and cost hundreds to thousands of dollars.

Creator: Rinnovated Design, Yorkton, Sask.

Price: $100

Estimated delivery: August 2014

Campaign ongoing? Sort of.

Where to order: While the Indiegogo and Kickstarter campaigns are officially over, would-be customers who sign up on the website to find out when the company's store will open will be invited to join the crowdfunding campaign before Christmas via the pledge management service Backerkit.


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