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Fluffy ear startup Emoki faces stiff competition

Your rating: None Average: 5 (2 votes)

Emoki logoEmoki hopes to make a splash with custom ears for the Necomimi EKG-triggered headsets first sold this May.

The Californian startup's foam ear fittings come in bear, fox and rabbit forms, while the faux-fur sleeves come in a variety of colours – including a limited-edition "pika" variety for those willing to throw in an extra $10.

But at $12,416, the Kickstarter project meant to raise initial orders is only a third of the way to its goal, with less than ten days to go. [tip: Nathaniel Hahn]

Update (3 Nov): Emoki cancelled their Kickstarter project and restarted it on Indiegogo with a $3500 goal.

Emoki's founder Nick Hoffman used to work for NeuroSky, which developed the technology behind the ears. He reportedly left "with their blessing" after internal resistance to his ideas, turning into a licensee.

One sticking point may be that the "reward" price for a pair of ears plus the headset is $129 – $19 more than the original offering, including shipping. Only two people have backed the multiple headset packages to date, and nobody has yet sprung for a custom-designed set of ears (outside of those currently offered by Emoki).

The budding company had more luck earlier in the month, drumming up gushing blog posts on Dvice, Make and Forbes.

Emoki ear designs

Not all Necomimi customers are feeling the groove, as eleke comments:

A friend of mine got them and she's having serious buyer's remorse. Each ear is mounted on a rotor so they more 'spin' than any other movement. That would be fine, but they need a full battery charge to get decent movement out of them - about an hour in and they just sort of... twitch slightly. Then you have a HUGE HONKIN' battery pack attached to the head band, and with her light colored hair the battery pack sticks out like a sore thumb - she's modifying a hat so she could wear them without looking like a cyborg. Finally, in order for them you 'read' you properly, they need to pretty much squeeze your head like a pimple. I was looking in to getting a set for myself, but I think I'll wait until the technology improves a bit more.

Another fur mentioned that custom ear-covers are also available from Etsy and eBay sellers, in some cases for significantly less than Emoki's Kickstarter offerings.

Meanwhile, at Thinkgeek, you can buy the original Necomimi and get an extra pair of ears. Others are available from the original equipment manufacturer.

Emoki appears to have picked up one dedicated fan, however, in the form of Marcia Anderson:

Emoki was in attendance at Los Angeles Decom 2012, with a couple headsets and ears for attendees to try out - talk about fangirl geeking on my part! I got to try on a headset and apparently my inner feelings were obvious, as the ears began their own little dance of joy atop my head. Entirely too much fun, so when I discovered that the Kickstarter had been launched, I immediately ordered a headset of my very own.

The headset is very lightweight and comfortable, including the clip sensor worn on your earlobe. Note that you should not wear metal earrings on the same lobe as the sensor, as it will interfere. I highly recommend these super-cute interactive ears, and they will absolutely be going with me to Burning Man 2013.

If the Kickstarter project fails, backers will have to make separate arrangements - or hope that it is restarted, presumably with a smaller goal.

Regardless of Emoki's success, the underlying technology looks to be moving forward, with a tail (shippou) in active development.
The companies involved also appear to be participating in promotional media tie-ins, such as the sets of ears for Ame and Yuki.

Read more: Neurogadget interviews Emoki co-founder (and former NeuroSky channel salesman) Nick Hoffman

Comments

Your rating: None Average: 4.5 (2 votes)

From a businesses standpoint I am very skeptical; it is lot of money for and ear covering company.

It make me wonder Kickstarter will fuel dot bomb 2.0.

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

I'd love to have the ears and tails but I don't really have an income at the moment. Still this idea really doesn't sound that great. It's cool, yes, but a company basing it's existence on accessories for a product which is unlikely to have a substantial customer base seems destined to fail. If Necomimi themselves were selling the different covers then that would be different but a third party...

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

Emoki cancelled their Kickstarter project (at $14,623) and restarted it on Indiegogo with a $3500 goal (1/10th the original).

When we launched on Kickstarter, we had 3 foam shapes, one for each of the three animal types, bear, bunny, and fox. Our manufacturing partner quoted $8050 for the tooling for each animal type, which comes to $24150, and then there's the minimum order quantity, shipping, and a safety margin, so we chose $35,000 as our funding goal.

With a considerable amount of redesign, we've made one foam that fits all three animal types, and gotten a quote for $1500 for the mold from a more suitable manufacturer. $1500 + the new minimum order quantity and shipping yields a $3500 funding goal. Exceeding this goal will drastically help us achieve better margins so that we can create a thriving business from our initial project launch.

They have also added MVP Panda ears and LED lighting.

Your rating: None

I find that a bit unsettling. Bears, rabbits and foxes all have very different ears. If you're using the same mould for all of them then they probably won't look as good. As it was the the fur style they were using was too messy to really define the shape of the ears, particularly between bear and fox.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

Your rating: None

Well, they ended up raising $9,108. Let's hope they can do more with that than the 50% more than they didn't get.

They also exhibited at a youth technology showcase last month.

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GreenReaper (Laurence Parry)read storiescontact (login required)

a software developer and Norn from London, UK, interested in wikis and computers

Small fuzzy creature who likes cheese & carrots. Founder of WikiFur, lead admin of Inkbunny, and Editor-in-Chief of Flayrah.

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