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Wanted: Cosmonaut, An iPad Stylus That Actually Writes Well

Studio Neat, which had a breakout hit on Kickstarter with the Glif iPhone stand, is trying for another smash.

There are scads of styluses out there for the iPad, for the simple reason that writing or drawing with a pen feels a whole lot better than with your finger. But these all have one glaring problem: All those styluses are shaped like pens.

Which obviously doesn't sound like a problem, except when you consider that writing or drawing on an iPad doesn't feel like using a pen and paper—there's not much friction, so having a teeny stylus in hand feels a bit like sliding across a frozen pond in sneakers. Ergo, the stylus has to adapt.

Tom Gerhardt and Dan Provost of Studio Neat have solved the problem in a manner that's totally obvious in hindsight: The Cosmonaut, a stylus that feels more like a dry-erase marker. Dry erase markers, of course, have solved this low friction problem with a tip that has a bit of give, and a fat body that adjusts to the lack of grip you find in a "low fidelity" user situation.

To raise money, Gerhardt and Provost are turning to Kickstarter—which is interesting, because they've already had a huge breakout hit on the site, with Glif, a tripod and mounting stand for iPhone 4. (Initially, they had planned to raise $10,000 in 30 days; instead, they raised $137,417.)

If the project goes into production, it'll retail for $25. But for now, there's an interesting twist to their funding: There's only 3,000 spots but they're seeking $50K. But they're not prescribing how much you should pay. Thus, if 3,000 people donate, on average, $10, the project won't come to life. But if they all donate more than a $16.67 average, they'll meet the $50K and everyone will get a Cosmonaut.

That's a fascinating way to get some people to adjust their spending, depending on what other people pay. So far, the average is only running at about $15.26, with 2,155 slots already taken. Which means the average donation has to be over $20.25 to meet their goal. (Obviously, the best place to be in this bidding process is at the end; if the goal is met and there are slots left, you could probably get a Cosmonaut for $.01. But if you wait too long, you'll have to pay the $25 retail. What to do?!)

Our head already hurts thinking the the economics papers that could be written about how people behave in this situation. Long story short, just go here and donate at least $20.25.

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  • Jamie Mills

    Great story Cliff.

    I found this story really interesting too - but the outcome is inevitable. We will all get our stylus. Although it appears to be an exercise in game theory meets community spirit, due to the longevity of the contribution window, and the ability to change contributions, the total sought after will be met.

    Kickstarter is in part about seeding projects from the grass-roots - you help me build something brilliant, I'll give you something brilliant. Yet, nobody wants to pay more than they have to so many will bid the minimum required. That is why at one point 830 people need to between them $27k. However, when we hit 3,000 bids, everyone who has donated will commence to urge their fellow supporters to up their donations until the total is hit. They will do it themselves also.

    And this is why although it is interesting, even more interesting behavioural data would have resulted if (a) people couldn't change their contribution and (b) once all 3,000 slots were changed, it ended.

    As it stands, others, like me, who contributed a low value initially (I did it just to get in - the Kickstarter site was flooded earlier today) will increase their contribution so that they get their stylus. There is no choice.

    One further point - the last bidders can't get it for $0.01 as the minimum buy-in is $1.00.