Scanbox: Turn Your iPhone into a Scanning Platform

May 30, 2012

Scanbox: Turn Your iPhone into a Scanning Platform

Another successful Kickstarter project in its funding infancy, Scanbox has already achieved full funding with almost $70 thousand raised of its $12,500 goal. With 38 days left, it's clear that backers think this product will be a useful tool.

Scanbox, designed by Australian Phil Bosua, Ben Hillier, and Luke Allen, offers a highly portable and utilitarian function—it easily unfolds from a flatpack and snaps together with high-strength magnets to form a scanner platform for the iPhone. The idea was borne from the fact that scanners today—for many people—are not used often, gather dust, take up space, and often require more effort than they are worth.

The box promises to rid users of clunky machines and provide them with a useful and portable version that gets the job done in an arguably better way. The basic version is dependent upon surrounding light conditions, but the "Plus" model offers thin, LED lights to counteract unfortunate lighting situations. The box allows users to "scan" documents and receipts, photograph 3d objects, copy photos and provides a platform for video feed.

Phil agreed to answer a few questions about the Scanbox journey...

What originally motivated you to create Scanbox—any specific problems or challenges?
While we were working on another project, one of our team members—Ben Hillier—brought in a simple polystyrene box with a hole cut into the top. He said “I needed to scan some documents and email them to someone, so instead of buying a scanner I cut a hole in the top of this box and put my phone on top of it. What do you think?” I instantly said it was awesome and that we should put our other project on hold to see if we could come up with a working prototype built around this spark.

What are the biggest obstacles you have faced in bringing the design from concept to product?
It took about 3 months to get a prototype in our hands that we were happy with. The biggest problem was probably knowing how far to push the design. Two months in, some of the team were thinking we should just release it and “get it done,” but deep down I knew that until we were 100% proud of what we had done, we should keep working on it. That doesn't mean it’s a perfect design, but it does mean after three months of intense development we were proud of what we had achieved and ready to show the world.

Finding the time was also difficult. One team member had a baby in the middle of the project, and the amount of time each team member could dedicate to Scanbox varied. It took a lot of pushing and driving to finish the Scanbox prototype as well as the Kickstarter video and project profile. Although Scanbox was a real team effort, I did realize early on that it was important for someone to assume the “driver” role. It’s very easy to let these things drag on indefinitely, which makes it even more important for someone to take on the responsibility for finishing it.

Design, scanbox, iphone

Why do you think designers are turning to platforms like Kickstarter to bring ideas to market? What are the pros and cons of such an experience?
I think Kickstarter is a revolution in economics. It is simultaneously a launch platform, marketing platform, pre-order system, distribution system, retail store, product testing platform, focus group... I could probably keep going, but what I really love is that Kickstarter achieves all this while retaining its grassroots feel. It forces you to be honest and vulnerable but also rewards innovation and great design. Maybe Kickstarter is the YouTube of manufacturing.

As far as cons go, I guess there must be some but it would take quite a critical brain to really find the negative in such an awesome concept. Maybe for us specifically the postage costs have been a real problem, but thats not really a Kickstarter issue, just the reality of shipping individual products all around the world.

What was your reaction to Scanbox's quick funding success and the surpassing of your goal (x5+!)?
I was blown away. The response from the Kickstarter community in the first week was amazing, then we got picked up by a couple of press agencies and big blogs—including Wired’s Kickstarter of the week, and it just blew up! We started refreshing the Kickstarter page every couple of minutes and new orders were coming in everytime we hit reload. Super exciting.

On Kickstarter, the project received some criticism for being a glorified box and even a bit frivolous, but you argue that it provides a stable and parallel surface for better and accurate "scans," can give more consistant lighting and a neutral background. You talked about the thought and iteration that went into designing the right structure, achieving durability, portability, a proper parallel surface, etc. Anything else you would add?
Thats a good question. Maybe I’d say that it’s not for them. For me, the simple “I wish I’d thought of that” ideas are the best ideas. My hope is that the design we have come up with has done the concept justice.

Where did you find inspiration in designing Scanbox, both stylistically and formally?
Many years ago my creative mentor, Geoff Bentley, taught me the “Form Follows Function” design philosophy. I purposefully took that approach for the Scanbox design from the beginning and made a point of not including anything in the design that did not add to the function of the product.

Design, scanbox, iphone
Design, scanbox, iphone

Anything else you'd like to add or share about yourself or Scanbox?
The importance of a video when doing a Kickstarter project cannot be underestimated. The video and project page of a Kickstarter campaign should be considered part of the actual product. I tried to take the same design philosophy and attention to detail with these elements as I did with the actual Scanbox.

Apparently, your care in building the project payed off. Best of luck in production, and thanks for speaking with us Phil!

Some other hand-picked posts you might enjoy on our Design Blog:

Kickstarter's $4.8 Mil Project: Pebble—A Watch Companion for iPhone and Android
Tallywag: An Intelligently Small, Simple Tally and Record-Keeping App
JETSET: A Nostalgic Travel Tracking App Concept

Ward Andrews

Ward Andrews

Hi, I'm Ward Andrews. I started in 2009, you can read about why here. Thanks for participating in the Community. I also run an interactive agency called Drawbackwards. I love basketball, electronic music and creating experiences that improve daily life. You can follow me on Twitter @wardandrews.

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Senior Footwear Model Designer / Portland, OR, US

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