Let me just say that the PIX animated backpack is a hoot. I’m a sucker for fun display gadgets, so when they offered me one of these packs to review in advance of their Kickstarter campaign (launched today), I had to give it a try. I had my expectations moderated, because up until now, the displays on things like smart watches, or the Pins Collective pin I picked up on KS were… okay. They did the job, but they didn’t do it really well.
So, when I opened up my sample PIX backpack with my 18 year-old son, plugged in a portable charger/battery to the internal USB connector, and fired it up with the app, both my son and I had the same reaction: “Woah!”
Basically, the back of the PIX is a 16×20 matrix of color LEDs that will display still images or short animations – basically animated gifs – that you upload from an app on your phone. What we were blown away by is how bright the LEDs are, both in intensity and vibrancy of color. And the reactivity of the pixels is quick and crisp. It really is like watching an 8-bit animated gif, in color, running on your backpack.
The PIX runs off any USB charger that puts out 2.0amps. There’s a type-A USB plug built in that you connect power to, and then slip the battery into one of the pockets. According to the makers, “a 20,000mAh powerbank… will power PIX for about 12 hours.”
The app is pretty basic at this point. There is an available collection of 8-bit images and a couple dozen animations which you can individually load into the backpack. The process is pretty quick, taking about 15 seconds in most cases. There is also a drawing tool that lets you create your own images or animations, but it’s pretty rudimentary. Hopefully in the future they’ll let users load their own image files and adjust them in the app to work on the pack.
But here’s another crazy feature – beyond images and animations, you can also play games on the pack. There is a fully-playable version of Tetris that you can load and play on the pack. It looks really good, too!
The pack itself is a straight-forward open case with a few internal pockets. It’ll hold books, laptops, or other gadgets easily, though with less organizational ability than some dedicated gear bags. Of course, durability is a concern – you are, after all, carrying life electronics on your back. They state that it is shock and water resistant. And the whole thing feels pretty solid and well-built. I wouldn’t want to put it through airline baggage handling, but for daily use, I feels perfectly sound.
At $199 for the Kickstarter special, PIX is not an inexpensive gadget, but the quality of both the display, and the pack itself, make it more than a gimmick. It’s a fun, and practical, wearable that will be a delightful head-turner for anyone who picks one up. The project is live now; check it out!