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Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Tennis ball bots, eco-straws, smart swear jars

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By Drew Prindle


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At any given moment, there are approximately a zillion different crowdfunding campaigns happening on the web. Take a stroll through Kickstarter or Indiegogo and you’ll find no shortage of weird, useless, and downright stupid projects out there — alongside some real gems. We’ve cut through the fidget spinners and janky iPhone cases to round up the most unusual, ambitious, and exciting new crowdfunding projects out there this week. Keep in mind that any crowdfunding project — even those with the best intentions — can fail, so do your homework before cutting a check for the “gadget of your dreams.”

December 9

Phrozen Transform — large format SLA printer

SLA printers are amazing. Rather than pushing plastic filament through a hot nozzle and depositing it layer by layer onto a substrate, SLA/DLP printers work by shining light into a pool of UV-curable resin, which hardens a layer of the object. This technique allows them to create objects with far greater detail than FDM printers can. The only problem? They’re also super expensive, and typically have minuscule build envelopes. But thankfully, that’s beginning to change.

Case in point? The new Transform printer from Phrozen. In addition to printing objects with astonishing detail and dimensional accuracy, this beast also has a monstrous build area. With a 29.2cm by 16.5cm footprint and 40cm of freedom on the Z axis, this machine has one of the biggest build areas you can get on a consumer-level SLA printer. Yet somehow, despite the fact that it dwarfs other resin-based printers, it’s also relatively affordable. Back the project now and you can get one for just $1,300 — nearly a third of the price of the Formlabs Form 2.

Rocketboard — cloud-connected whiteboard kit

Whiteboards are incredibly useful for getting ideas out of your head and communicating them to other people — but they’re far from perfect. If you your scribblings are worth saving, your only option is to snap a photo before the board inevitably gets erased by the next person who comes along. But what if there was a better way? What if there was a whiteboard that allowed you to save all your diagrams, doodles, and lists in the cloud, where they can be stored and shared with other people?

Enter the Rocketboard — a set of stickers you can use (along with an accompanying smartphone app) to transform your analog whiteboard into a cloud-connected wonderboard. Just place the stickers on the corners of your board, snap a photo using the app, and your doodlings and diagrams with instantly be scanned, digitized, color-corrected, and filed in the cloud storage platform of your choosing. Check out the video to see it in action

Onak 2.0 — origami canoe

Here’s an excerpt from our full article, which ran earlier in the week: “A few years back, Oru Kayak became the darling of the crowdfunding scene when it introduced a lightweight, collapsible boat that could be stored in a closet and easily transported to and from the water. The company’s innovative design was heavily influenced by the Japanese art of origami, which served as the guide for how it transformed from a flat piece of plastic to a fully functional kayak. Now, it seems Oru has a bit of competition in the origami-inspired watercraft market as the new Onak 2.0 looks to apply a similar formula to a foldable canoe.

The canoe recently launched on Kickstarter and, at first glance, it resembles the Oru kayak in many ways. Both are made from translucent white plastic with a similar shape and design. The origami influence is easy to spot on both boats as well, giving them a unique look that supports both form and function. However, while Oru’s model is a kayak to the core, complete with a closed cockpit and a traditional low seating position, the Onak 2.0 features the look and feel of a classic canoe, including raised seats that help paddlers sit above the water.

Billed as “the canoe for everyone,” the Onak 2.0 is designed to be lightweight, easy to transport, and even easier to store. It tips the scales at just 33 pounds and when not in use it can be folded up and wheeled around on an included trolly. In this form, the boat measures just 48.4 inches in length and 16.9 inches in width, making it easy to transport in the trunk of a car and hide away under a bed when you get back home.”

Grayl Geopress — ultrafast water purifier

Backcountry water purification systems come in a wide variety of different shapes, sizes, and styles these days. You can get chemical drops, squeeze-through filters, gravity-fed bag filters, pump filters, and even filter straws that let you drink straight from the source. Each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Drops, pumps, and gravity bags, for example, are notoriously slow. Squeeze filters and straws, on the other hand, are faster, but don’t allow you to drink large amounts quickly. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to get the best of both worlds?

Enter: the Geopress from Grayl. It’s designed from the ground up to address all of the major pain points that come with other filters. Instead of pumping or squeezing or treating your water with chemicals, the Geopress allows you to purify water quickly by using your bodyweight to force water through an ultra-fine filter. Using this method, it’s capable of cleaning 24 ounces of water in about 8 seconds — meaning you don’t have to sip slowly like you do with squeeze filters. On top of that, it’s also one of the few filter-based purifiers we’ve ever seen that’s capable of filtering out not just bacteria and protozoa, but viruses as well. All that, and it still costs less than 80 bucks.

Wayzn — semi-automatic door opener for pets

Smart home devices are getting crazy these days. It’s not just video doorbells and IoT security cameras anymore. Now that all the low-hanging fruit has been plucked, we’re moving beyond the era of smart plugs, smoke detectors, appliances, and other staples of the home. Nowadays, designers are dreaming up smart home gear and gadgetry that never existed in analog form. The latest example of this trend is Wayzn: a ridiculous, super-niche, internet-connected door opener for your pets.

Here’s how it works. You start by installing the piston-like device on the base of your sliding door, and attaching it to the door that moves. Once activated, Wayzn will then use its built-in sensors to detect when your pet is standing near the door and waiting to be let outside. It will then send you an alert through the accompanying smartphone app. Tap the button, and the device’s motors will kick in, pulling the door open and freeing your furry friend from the house. It’s essentially an alternative to installing a doggie door.

December 2

Podoon — auto-adjusting pillow

Pillows are one of those things that were invented ages ago and haven’t gotten a significant design update since they first entered the world. Whether the humble pillow actually needs a redesign is debatable, but regardless of your stance on the issue, a Japanese startup has already taken it upon itself to rethink the pillow. The result of this effort is a gizmo called the Podoon Pillow — and it’s actually pretty brilliant.

Here’s the deal: when you transition from sleeping on your back to sleeping on your side, your head changes height. If your pillow doesn’t close the gap and rise up a bit, your head ends up lower than your body, and your neck ends up bent. To ensure that your neck stays in perfect alignment with the rest of your spine, Podoon is designed to inflate and deflate depending on your sleeping position. Check out the video to see how it works!

Unagi — high-end electric scooter

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Humanity is living in the golden age of rideable technology. In the past few years, electric motors have become smaller and more powerful, and batteries have begun to last longer — two trends that have coalesced and kicked off a renaissance in personal mobility devices. There are almost too many rideables to keep track of, and they seem to get crazier and more advanced with each passing month.

Case in point? This awesome new electric scooter that goes by the name Unagi. It’s essentially a scooter designed from the ground up with ultra high-end components. For example, the body is made from strong but lightweight aircraft grade aluminum, and the tires are designed to be puncture-proof. Hell, there’s even a headlight built into the handlebars. If those scooters from Bird and Lime are Cadillacs, then this thing is a Lamborghini.

Cerambot — ceramic 3D printer

Over the past several years, the number of materials it’s possible to 3D print with has exploded. Gone are the days of being stuck with PLA and ABS; makers today have access to a huge variety of filament and material types, including (but not limited to) nylon, glass, wood, and even chocolate. However, one material that isn’t quite so common yet is clay — but if the folks behind Cerambot have their way, that might soon change.

Cerambot, as you’ve likely guessed, is a 3D printer designed to work specifically with wet clay. The idea is that once your printed object is complete, you can fire it in a kiln to harden it. Furthermore, since finished prints are still wet and malleable, you’re free to manipulate them and smooth out any ridges or imperfections as you see fit, before you bring it to the kiln. And the best part? Since it doesn’t require a heated bed or a high-temp hot end like normal 3D printers do, it’s also ridiculously cheap. You can snag this thing for just $200 bucks on Kickstarter right now

Lenco MD — 3D printable record player

Here’s Luke Dormehl with the scoop: “A collaboration between Swiss hi-fi manufacturer Lenco and Dutch 3D-printing company RepRapUniverse, the Lenco-MD claims to be the world’s first 3D-printed record player. It’s an attempt to bring together the worlds of vinyl lovers and tech tinkerers and makers to create what its designers clearly hope will be the start of something beautiful. The first functional prototype of the Lenco-MD was shown off at this year’s IFA consumer electronics event in Berlin, where it ranked as one of the top-three inventions.

The innovative modular part of the concept refers to the fact that each Lenco-MD boasts two empty slots. These can be used to upgrade a turntable by adding features like speakers and Bluetooth wireless streaming in the form of plug-and-play modules. These are currently in development, although the idea is that users will also be able to design and create their own, which can then be shared with the rest of the community. It’s a pretty original idea, and one that could certainly add to the device’s functionality provided Lenco-MD takes off.”

Jarvish — AR motorcycle helmet

Here’s a quick excerpt from our full article, which ran earlier in the week: “Are you a motorbike rider in want of a bit of Iron Man tech in your life? If so, then intelligent helmet systems manufacturer Jarvish has your back. Or, perhaps more appropriately, your head. Launched on Kickstarter this week, Jarvish is offering a “launch special” for its Jarvish X and X-AR helmets — boasting a plethora of features including voice control, interior speakers, noise-canceling tech and, in the case of the pricier X-AR, an augmented reality head-up display offering visual navigation information. All of this is packaged up in a protective pure carbon fiber shell.

In what may be the most high-tech bike helmets available, the X-Series helmets connect to existing artificial intelligence assistants including Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Google Assistant, all of which can be activated through voice. The voice control can also be used to provide turn-by-turn navigation instructions, along with traffic and weather conditions, either exclusively through audio or audio and visual. On top of this, there are 2K cameras, which can record footage to a memory card or stream it live via social media.”

November 25

Rhino ARC 2 — 4-axis robotic camera assistant

If you’re a photographer or videographer looking for something that’ll take your shooting to the next level, look no further. Rhino’s latest gadget, dubbed the ARC II, is essentially a little robotic box that can automatically pan, tilt, zoom, focus, and move your camera along a slider. But that’s not all. Thanks to some slick software, it also allows you to use these abilities in tandem to create fully automated sequences, where the camera does all the movement by itself after you press the “go” button. Just check out the video to see what we mean.

“When we looked at our workflow as filmmakers, we realized that we do a ton of different things,” Rhino’s creators explain on their Kickstarter campaign page. “We shoot narrative docs, interviews, weddings, YouTube content, and endless b-roll and time-lapses to make it all cohesive. Our goal with Rhino Arc II is to automate your camera movement so you can focus on telling your story.”

Constellation sphere — astronomical desk ornament

Here’s a quick excerpt from the full post we published earlier in the week: “In 2016, designer Clemens Steffin launched his ‘Universe in a Sphere’ project on Kickstarter, creating a glass orb containing 380,000 perfectly lasered dots, each one representing an entire galaxy. His next project aimed to re-create just our very own galaxy, the Milky Way, with every dot representing its own sun. Now he’s moved onto re-creating the night sky as viewed from Earth — with the goal of helping us learn the 88 star constellations.

‘Many of us tried to learn [these] when they were younger, but most stuck with three or four in the best case,’ Steffin told Digital Trends. ‘Who doesn’t want to shine with knowledge about Arcturus, Aldebaran, Prokyon or Deneb Kaitos? These sound like Harry Potter spells. When my wife and I visited a planetarium, we got to know Dr. Susanne Hoffmann. She is an astroscientist, who specializes in the naming and connecting the star constellations. She was so inspired by our idea that she instantly agreed to design the constellations for us.’”

BIP — ultralight portable seat

Camp chairs (much like backpacks) can be divvied up into two distinct categories. There is the big and bulky but easy to set up kind, and the kind that are tiny and lightweight but a massive pain to assemble. Both have their benefits — but unfortunately you can’t really get the best of both worlds in a single product. You either get a small one and suffer through five minutes of assembly/disassembly every time you need to use it, or you haul around a big, bulky one that folds and unfolds in seconds.

But not to worry! If you’ve been waiting patiently for someone to design a chair that’s both compact and convenient to assemble, then we’ve got good news for you: The wait is finally over. Or at least it will be if the creators of BIP have their way. This sucker is essentially an ultracompact camp chair that, thanks to its clever design, can be assembled in just a few seconds. It also happens to weigh under a pound, yet is capable of holding over 300 pounds. Pretty sweet, right?

Mundo trail board — binding-free backcountry snowboard

There’s nothing quite like blasting down a snowy slope that, mere minutes ago, you trudged up using your own two legs. Sure, ski lifts are a much more convenient way to get up the hill — but there’s something to be said for “earning your turns” and hoofing it to the summit before you slide down. The only problem, of course, is that hauling your board up on your back is a massive pain in the ass. Weight aside, you also have to wear your snowboard boots for the entire ascent, which isn’t particularly convenient. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a better way to snowboard in the backcountry?

Enter the Mundo trail board. It’s essentially a lightweight, binding-free snowboard designed specifically for backcountry boarding. Thanks to its aggressively concave deck, the board can easily be rocked heelside and toeside without requiring any special footwear or bindings. In other words, it’s like Jeremy Jones’ mountain surfboard, but designed for snow that isn’t waist-deep powder. Sounds fun, right?

EyeQue — automated eye test

Here’s DT’s Dyllan Furness with the scoop: “One out of every 90 people in the the world suffer from correctable eye conditions that could be fixed by a pair of spectacles, according to a study published in Optometry and Vision Science, the official journal of the American Academy of Optometry. And many of these conditions go undiagnosed. Lucikly, the EyeQue Visioncheck is here to help. The device lets users test their eyesight with an app, a simple tool, and a standard smartphone.

‘Some time ago, we became aware of an enormous proportion of the world who needs corrective eyeglasses but who, for either economic or geographic reasons, have little or no access to eye care,’ John Serri, EyeQue’s chief technology officer, told Digital Trends. As smartphones grew more common and more advanced, the team behind EyeQue realized they could develop a low-cost solution for a basic vision test. To take the EyeQue test, users attach the small microscope to their smartphone and use the touchscreen to line up a red and green bar. This enables the app to make refractive error measurements, which are used to identify vision conditions like nearsightedness and farsightedness. After each session, the app offers a score that can be tracked and compared to previous trials.”

November 18

Hover 2 — auto-follow selfie drone

Here’s DT’s Simon Cohen with the scoop: “When we reviewed the Hover Camera Passport, a selfie drone with a unique folding design, we really liked what we saw. It had all the makings of a great selfie drone, including 4K videos, impressive autonomous flight modes, and a carbon fiber safety cage that completely protects people from its propellers. But there were a few drawbacks too. Flight time, operational distances, image stabilization, and a lack of framerate options were all identified as areas for improvement. The Hover 2 addresses all of these critiques, and goes even further. On paper, it looks like it’s not only a worthy successor to the Passport — it might just be the best selfie drone on the planet.” Backers of the Hover 2 Kickstarter campaign are scheduled to get their drones by March of next year, and here’s what they can expect:

The Hover 2 preserves the iconic, folding carbon fiber prop cage, but now it’s removable, and can be swapped out for a more aerodynamic set of “blastoff” guards. The camera is now mounted to a 2-axis gimbal and uses electronic image stabilization for the third axis, much like DJI’s Spark. There’s no more integrated flash, but the new CMOS sensor is HDR-capable and adds a burst-shooting mode for stills. There’s an abundance of video options too, with resolutions that run from 720p at 60 or 120 frames per second, all the way up to 4K at 30 fps, with stops along the way at 1080p and 2.7K.

Archon — invisible wireless charger

In theory, wireless chargers are amazing. Using the magic of physics and electromagnetism, they promise to free you from the tedium of fiddling with cables every time you want to juice up your phone. In practice, though, wireless chargers are a huge letdown. First of all, they look like crap on your desktop. Since they still need to be plugged in, they don’t really live up to the promise of banishing wires from your workspace. Second of all, practically all of them aren’t powerful enough to charge your phone unless it’s laying directly on top of the charging pad. If you have a thick case or a Popsocket on your phone, then you’re screwed.

Archon is an attempt to alleviate these issues. It’s basically just a more powerful wireless charger that can juice up your phone from a greater distance. In fact, it’s designed to work at such a great distance away from your phone that you can actually just attach it to the underside of your desk or countertop.

Pivo — robotic smartphone dock

Over the past decade or so, as smartphones have become ever more accessible and their cameras have become ridiculously advanced, it’s become easier than ever to record good video. The only problem? Even with the rise of selfie sticks and stabilizer gimbals, taking video of yourself is still somewhat tricky. If you hold the camera yourself, you’re left with just one hand to do whatever it is you’re doing. If you mount the camera on a tripod, you can’t move outside of the frame. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a better way to film yourself?

That’s where Pivo comes in. It’s essentially a little robotic dock for your smartphone that allows it to pivot. With the help of some awesome computer vision algorithms baked into the accompanying app, Pivo can lock onto you and pivot your smartphone to follow you around. It also has a number of awesome still photography modes, like Double Take, Panorama, ManyMe, and a host of others you likely won’t find elsewhere. If you’re a vlogger and you film with your smartphone, this is most definitely a gadget that you should check out.

Kuvrd 2.0 — universal lens cap

Lens caps are essential. Without them, your expensive lenses can get scratched, scuffed, and covered in dust/debris. They’re also one of the only parts of your camera that hasn’t gotten a significant design upgrade in a couple decades. Most of us still use the same pinch-and-place caps that come standard on most DLSRs. But what if there was a better way to protect your lenses? What if you didn’t have to worry about which cap goes with which lens, or about dust and debris sneaking their way onto your favorite piece of glass.

That’s precisely the idea behind Kuvrd’s new-and-improved Universal Lens Cap. Instead of the typical plastic disc design, Kuvrd’s lens caps are basically swimmer caps for your camera. They’re elastic cylindrical covers designed to be stretched over your lens — and as a result, they can accommodate a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and lens configurations. Thanks to this design, they can also be placed on the back of the lens, protecting it from both sides when it’s not attached to your camera.

Wake V2 — intelligent alarm clock

Generally speaking, when one person’s alarm goes off, the person sleeping next to them has no choice but to wake up too. Most alarm clocks have no way to selectively wake up one person and leave the other person undisturbed. Wake, an innovative alarm clock that’s now in its second generation, is here to change that.

Here’s how it works. After it’s mounted to the wall or your headboard, the device uses an infrared temperature sensor and special body-tracking software to discern where each person is lying (without a camera, mind you). When it’s time to wake one person up, Wak silently takes aim, rotates into position, and then directs a tight burst of light and sound at their face.

To keep from rousing the other sleeper, the device uses a set of parametric speakers capable of focusing sound into a narrow beam. Think of it as a spotlight for noise. If Wake is pointed straight at your head, you’ll hear it loud and clear, but if you’re outside of the beam’s small radius, the sound will be extremely faint.


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