Once new, now almost old-hat, crowdfunding efforts bring a number of new products to the marketplace which otherwise may have languished in development hell. Oculus VR's Rift Virtual Reality headset, now on to its second beta release, is the most notable example amongst many and is already influencing the expectations of gaming in the next decade. It's logical therefore that a company of relatively modest means would look to this proven funding platform to push a prototype into production, and that's exactly what Mionix are attempting this month with NAOS Quantified Gaming.
Perhaps not as widely known as some peripherals manufacturers, Swedish outfit Mionix have over the last seven years quietly engaged with the job of creating solid designs for use by gamers of all stripes. The NAOS 8200 in particular is well regarded, garnering multiple awards during its lifetime thanks to an ergonomic design and responsive sensor/on-board processor combination. They've also been drivers in innovation, integrating into every mouse a mousing surface analyser to determine the quality of your mousemat. However this new project is a step in an unlikely direction.
As a concept the NAOS QC builds on ideas brought into the public eye with new fitness devices and 'smart' watches, but into a new arena. Rather than merely an input device, the next generation mouse adds both heart rate and galvanic skin response sensors into the familiar NAOS ergonomic chassis style, generating new statistics for software (including games) to tap into. Complementing software collects the data for presentation in an on-screen overlay and analysis tools, allowing users to sync their most stressful moments with video or other recaps. Sounds pretty interesting, but that's not all.
Mionix are intent on making the NOAS QC API open and hence accessible to 3rd parties for software and game development. They envision additional augmented reality ideas, HUDs appearing fogged up as the mouse detects palm perspiration or changing soundscapes as your heart rate increases, for example. In principle it would unlock new levels of immersion in a similar manner to the Rift, but on a very different vector.
This crowdfunding campaign makes use of the Kickstarter platform, where you're either fully (or over) funded or get nothing. At $100,000 their goal is relatively modest (especially compared to other recent software and hardware initiatives) but they still need to reach this total; Mionix offer the traditional incentives to pledge ever increasing amounts, all the way up to a trip to Dreamhack for the top ($5000) tier. With over 35 days remaining they're already a third of the way there, and many of the limited number berths - including early bird ownership of the first mice off the production line - are already taken.
More challenging still however will be moving the NAOS QC from prototype to production model in such a way that it can function well with a good number of users - something already problematic thanks to the need for skin-on-sensor contact. Mionix have drawn up an ambitious summarised timeline for development which starts production in June 2015, but one can never truly account for the unforseen but may put a crimp in those plans. Furthermore, to be successful they need third party software developers to get on board; a successful Kickstarter will potentially show that there's a market, but it's by no means a guarantee.
Anyone pledging to any crowdfunding effort should be aware that there are no guarantees and be prepared for a longer than anticipated wait or for the project to fold. Thankfully Mionix appear to have all their ducks in a row thus far, and long may that remain so. However, even if you're not interested in the risks it definitely seems like a project to keep your eyes on.
You can check out more information on the NAOS QC at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/206180815/quantified-gaming-know-more-game-better