A new startup launching today called eVr1 has a slightly kooky, kind of awesome idea at the intersection of the digital and physical worlds.
In the words of co-founder Brandon Peele, eVr1 has tried to answer the question, “What does it mean to be human being in the context of 16 gigs?” So the team selected what it saw as the most important aspects of human knowledge and literature — the entirety of Wikipedia, the CIA World Factbook, and a literary canon that includes authors like Plato, William Shakespeare, and James Joyce (to name just a few — you can see the full list here). That’s supplemented with instruction manuals and documents from personal development website Trans4mind. Everything gets copied onto a 16 gigabyte Micro SDHC card, which is then wrapped in several layers of protective covering (Peele says the material has been tested to survive 500F, 8,000V, and 950 psi), then packaged in a leather container with a key ring. The leather also comes with a hand-stitched image of your choice — you can choose from things like the double helix and the infinity symbol.
To be clear, this probably isn’t something you’re going to be whipping out for casual reading. In fact, the design of the eVr1 codex discourages that, because you actually have to cut the leather open in order to extract the SDHC card. Nor does reading a giant, unorganized text document of Wikipedia articles sound like fun. Instead, it’s more about the symbolic value. Peele says you can look at the Codex and ask yourself how you want to contribute to the larger human story.
It sounds like there are a several possible audiences here. There’s the human potential movement, something that Peele himself identifies with. There are also survivalist types who might want to keep a blueprint of human civilization handy in case the apocalypse comes. More broadly, this should appeal to some hippies, some techies, and some hippie-techies (we have at least one of those in the TechCrunch office). Personally, I do think there’s something powerful and compelling about holding an object in your hand that symbolically represents the scope of human accomplishment and ideals.
But is it powerful and compelling enough to be worth $140? That’s what eVr1 is charging for the initial batch of 300. Peele says the price will likely go down, especially as the company moves away from hand-stitching. eVr1 could also make partnership deals with outdoor equipment companies or consumer electronics manufacturers to create or embed their own version of the Codex — it’s tricky, though, since most of the content is in the public domain, so it’s not like anyone really needs eVr1′s approval. The key, Peele argues, is to make a splash with the product, so that any competing products feel like insincere imitations.
Peele says that on the big criticisms so far has been the fact that the Codex includes a very Europe-centric canon (with a few notable exceptions, like The Mahabarata and the writings of Confucius). He says that’s largely a reflection of the material that’s in the public domain and available online, but he wants to expand that canon over time. eVr1 is also building a password-protected web experience, so that someone who buys the Codex can also browse it online.