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Best Buy is known for carrying a huge selection of the latest and most popular products from your favourite consumer electronics companies, game publishers, appliance manufacturers and more. If I’m looking to try out a new Google Pixel Phone, I want to view the picture on Sony’s latest 4K Ultra HD TVs, I want to see the Touch Bar on the new MacBook Pro in action, or I need a replacement ink cartridge for my HP printer, I know where to go.

What many people don’t realize is that Best Buy isn’t just about those big brand names. The company partners with and supports a variety of Kickstarter projects, helping entrepreneurs turn their visions into reality.

In addition, Best Buy carries a wide range of popular Kickstarter products. As a result, you and I have easy access to the latest cutting-edge tech, while some of the world’s most ground-breaking startups gain a whole new level of exposure.

Here’s a look at some of the Kickstarter projects that became popular choices at Best Buy this year.

petcube-playPetcube Play

As someone with two dogs and a cat, this was a Kickstarter project that I could identify with. A standalone streaming camera that lets pet owners interact with their favourite animal, remotely. Petcube Play went far beyond being a basic Wi-Fi streaming camera, offering a wide angle lens with 4x optical zoom, motion detection, night vision and two-way audio so you can talk to your pet. It also incorporates an app-controlled laser for remote play.

With this clever gadget, you can not only keep a close eye on how your pets are doing while you’re at work, you can interact with them instead of it being merely a passive experience.

The original Petcube more than doubled its Kickstarter funding goal, and it quickly became popular at Best Buy—check out Shelly Wutke’s review on Plug-in for all the details.

ilumi-smart-bulbIlumi LED Smartbulb

Ilumi blew past its $25,000 Kickstarter funding goal, hitting pledges of over $145,000.

So why would people be so interested in another smart LED lightbulb? Don’t get me wrong, they’re very cool. I’ve been running multiple systems in my home (including the Philips Hue) since 2012 and I wouldn’t go back to “dumb” lighting. But most LED smart lighting systems—like Hue—connect to your home’s Wi-Fi and require their own hub.

That’s where the entrepreneurs who developed Ilumi saw an opportunity.

Ilumi is a smart LED bulb that does all the cool stuff you expect. It can change colours (with millions of variations on tap), you can turn it on and off with your smartphone, you can set up schedules so the Ilumi bulb automatically turns on and off based on your programming—there’s even a vacation mode that flips the light on at random intervals for enhanced home security. You can program a collection of Ilumi bulbs (up to 50 in total) to create a house-wide smart lighting system and you can even synchronize the lighting with your music.

Where Ilumi offers a unique approach compared to the other systems is that everything is done via Bluetooth. The light bulbs have a Bluetooth 4.0 radio and Bluetooth meshing capability with a 30 metre range. That means no having to connect the bulbs to Wi-Fi and no standalone hub is required. Operation is greatly simplified and each bulb is literally a standalone product—you can buy one to see what you think and have it up and running with the ease of screwing in a lightbulb.

Plug-in’s Steven Hill recently reviewed Ilumi Smart LED bulbs if you’d like to learn more.

PLAYBULB Rainbow

The MIPOW PLAYBULB Rainbow is another smart LED bulb that became a Kickstarter success story, then grew in popularity when it was carried by Best Buy.

mipow-rainbow-smart-led

 

The PLAYBULB Rainbow is positioned as a more affordable, simpler to use version of systems like Hue. It’s a multi-colour LED bulb (16.7 million colour palette) that uses Bluetooth connectivity instead of Wi-Fi for control. One app can be used to control multiple PLAYBULB lights, including other lights in the series and it includes some cool pre-set modes including Rainbow Fade and Pulsing.

Last fall, Plug-in’s Graham Williams spent time with various MIPOW smart LED lights, including the PLAYBULB Rainbow.

Nanoleaf Aurora Smart LED Light Panel

Nanoleaf got its start on Kickstarter with a 2014 project for an unusual looking LED replacement bulb (the Bloom) that let owners dim their lighting without a dimmer. It was also the most energy-efficient 75W LED replacement bulb on the market.

The Bloom was interesting and ended up attracting over $192,000 in pledges—far more than its $30,000 goal.

After the success of the Bloom, Nanoleaf has introduced a new smart LED lighting system and I think it’s safe to say this one—the Nanoleaf Aurora Smart LED Light Panel—is like nothing else out there. It’s also a Best Buy exclusive.

nanoleaf-aurora startups

We’re not talking bulbs anymore; the Nanoleaf Aurora is a modular flat panel lighting system, sold in packages of nine panels. Instead of bulbs screwed into light fixtures, you arrange the panels on your walls (they snap together and easy-mounting adhesive tape is included) so you can easily create your own customized lighting installations. The panels are smart LEDs, so you get the expected features like individual colour control with 16 millions colours and a temperature range of 1600 to 6000K on tap. Of course you use your smartphone and an app to take control. And you can have up to 30 Aurora light panels on your Wi-Fi network.

To see these next generation smart LED lights in action, check out the hands-on review from Plug-in’s Erin Lawrence. Leonard Bond also has some ideas for using Nanoleaf Aurora light panels as part of your smart home holiday decorating.

Keep checking Best Buy for more creative products that got their start on Kickstarter. And keep reading Plug-in to see more of these cool products used and evaluated in hands-on reviews.

Brad Moon
Editor Computing solutions
I’m a long-time electronics and gadget geek who’s been fortunate enough to enjoy a career that lets me indulge this interest. After 13 years as a product manager with a leading Canadian tech company, I transitioned into a full-time career of writing about technology. I’ve contributed to a range of publications and websites including Forbes, Wired, Gizmodo, Lifehacker, About.com, MSN Money, the Winnipeg Free Press, InvestorPlace Media, Shaw Media and—combining technology and my three kids—I’ve been a Core Contributor to the award winning GeekDad blog since its launch in 2007.