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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.”

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.

November 11

Magnic Microlights — Battery-free contactless bike lights

Back in 2012, a guy by the name of Dirk Strothmann headed to Kickstarter with an awesome invention. Magnic light, as he called it, was an innovative new bike light that seemingly runs on magic. Instead of relying on batteries, or friction-inducing dynamos, Strothmann devised a unique new system that captures electromagnetic eddy currents, which are created as your bike rim spins past a small magnet. These currents spin a small dynamo, which transforms the energy into electricity to power and illuminate an LED.

The device was a massive success on Kickstarter, and now, afteseveral years and a handful of newer iterations, Strothmann is back with yet another Magnic light. This time, the device is smaller than ever before — so small, in fact, that he’s managed to fit the entire apparatus into a standard brake pad. Presumably, this means you’ll have more room on your handlebars to mount other tech — like GPS systems, digital compasses, or laser projectors that keep you safe while riding in the blind spot.

FT Aviator — One-handed drone controller

Dual-joystick controllers have been the go-to control system for drones for as long as the flying machines have been around. Thing is, this isn’t necessarily because two joysticks are the best way to control drones — it’s more because the two-stick layout was popular with the RC aircraft community, and when RC aircraft evolved autonomous capabilities, it made sense to stick with a controller layout that people were already familiar with. The only problem, of course, is that because most drones are equipped with cameras, pilots now have much more than just two joysticks to worry about. In addition to flying, there’s now a slew of buttons, knobs, and other inputs to worry about.

FT Aviator is an attempt to alleviate this issue. Thanks to its clever design, it allows drone pilots to fully control their crafts with just one hand. Whereas dual-stick controllers assign pitch/roll to one stick and yaw/acceleration to the other, FT Aviator assigns pitch/roll to the main joystick, and yaw to the twisting motion of that joystick, while allowing you to control acclereation/deceleration with your thumb. Essentially, this frees up your other hand and allows you to use it exclusively for camera control. In theory, this should make it easier to control panning/tilting/zooming functions while you fly. Pretty neat, right?

Mastersous — 8-in-1 smart cooker

Here’s a quick excerpt from the full article we ran earlier this week: “Sous-vide is a fast-growing trend, but most sous-vide appliances can only do that one thing — they’re uni-taskers. MasterSous bucks that trend with an innovative approach as an all-in-one multicooker. Its unique design allows it to sous-vide, simmer, sear, saute, boil, steam, slow-cook, and deep-fry. The MasterSous is designed with a six-quart, non-stick pot. Using an electronic dial, users can choose the cooking method, time, temperature, and several preprogrammed settings. For instance, MasterSous can heat up oil just below the smoking temperature of eight mainstream oils to perfectly deep fry food.

What separates MasterSous from the competition is its patent-pending, variable-speed stirring mechanism. It secures itself to the pot with a powerful magnet, offering a hands-free experience. Depending on the need, there are interchangeable attachments, as well as the ability to switch between constant stir and other preset intervals. By combining the stirring mechanism with an insertable food rack, this multicooker can easily sous-vide without the need for additional appliances.”

Unobrush — Fully automatic toothbrush

Tired of all the squeezing, scrubbing, spitting, rinsing, gargling, and flossing required to keep your pearly whites clean? For decades now, your only recourse from this mildly laborious task has been the electric toothbrush. But while these automatically oscillating tooth scrubbers are definitely a step in the right direction, they still don’t remove all the tediousness and time consumption from the act of brushing your teeth. What if there was a way to get the same job done, achieve the same level of cleanliness, and do it in a fraction of the time?

Enter the Unobrush, the latest fully automatic toothbrush that (allegedly) does the job in just a few seconds, giving you more time to do well, anything else. Here’s how it works. The device itself is essentially a big foam mouthpiece. You start by shoving it in your mouth, biting down on the foam, and switching it on — at which point it will blast your pearly whites with ultrasonic pulses that knock plaque loose. The whole process is said to take just a few seconds, and cleans your teeth just as thoroughly as normal brushing.

Rover Speed — Auto-follow suitcase

Believe it or not, artificially intelligent suitcases that automatically follow you around the airport aren’t a new idea. Thanks to crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, they already exist in various forms, and can be purchased online right now. The only problem? Most major airports have issued a blanket ban on “smart” suitcases because they typically contain lithium ion batteries that could potentially explode. So while you could hop on Amazon right now and buy an A.I. suitcase, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t be able to take your luxury luggage with you on the plane.

Rover Speed aims to change that. In addition to a slew of sensors and motors that enable the suitcase to follow you autonomously as you walk, Rover Speed is also equipped with a Transportation Security Administration -approved battery pack. For added convenience, this battery pack is also completely detachable, so you can snap it off and throw it in the bin when you go through security. Hell, it even has proximity alarms that’ll beep and cause a ruckus if somebody tries to steal your suitcase.

November 4

Aqua Dew — Alexa powered shower speaker

We covered this one earlier in the week, so here’s a quick cut from our full article: “The wake-word activated Aqua Dew speaker works much like an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot. On your command, the shower speaker can read the news, manage your smart home, call or message people, or make announcements in other rooms. The Aqua Dew’s IPX5 waterproof rating means it can withstand spray from water jets from any angle, but you can’t immerse it. You shouldn’t have a problem with the device in the shower, but don’t drop it in a bathtub.

You can set the Aqua Dew flat on a table, but it also comes with a hanging strap and a suction cup and mounting plate so you can hang it on a wall or loop it around a shower door handle. The Aqua Dew supports both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections. In addition to power on/off, volume up, volume down, and mute buttons, there’s a WPS button for secure Wi-Fi connections. Two holes for the Aqua Dew’s far-field microphone are also on the top surface of the device, along with four six-color LED light indicators.”

Snowfeet — Snow skates

Here’s DT’s Kraig Becker with the scoop: “At first glance, Snowfeet look an awful lot like a pair of sandals on steroids. Upon closer inspection however, you’ll soon notice that Snowfeet’s straps look a lot more like a ski binding than anything you’ve ever seen on a flip-flop. Those bindings allow Snowfeet to accommodate any type of shoe or boot, and expand to accommodate larger footwear including snowboard boots then contract down to hold the footwear squarely in place.

Snowfeet also feature a metal ski edge on either side of the bottom of the sole. That edge is what allows the wearer to glide along on snow and ice so smoothly. An integrated heel brake provides a method for slowing down and stopping, which will not only prove useful in controlling the wearer’s speed but also avoiding obstacles, as well as other skiers and snowboarders, on the slopes. And since Snowfeet are far smaller than any skis on the market, they are much easier to carry around, slipping easily into a backpack for easy transport.

By combining both skating and skiing into a single activity, Snowfeet promise to give wearers a whole new level of control and performance. According to the Indiegogo page, not only will users be able to glide down the slopes as if they were skiing, they’ll be able to pull off stunts and tricks that would typically be associated with figuring skating. This unique set of footwear can also be used for cross-country skiing , providing a good aerobic workout on flat trails.”

Raylier — Light-up motorcycle jacket

Here’s a quick excerpt from the full article we published earlier this week: “Motorbike leathers are there to protect riders from injury, as well as to keep them warm while riding in colder climates. But darker leather jackets, which are some of the most popular available, also have an obvious downside: They make bikers difficult to see in the dark. This poses a clear safety risk for riders, which a new Kickstarter campaign wants to help lessen. Manufactured by French company Raylier, the ‘first luminous jacket for bikers’ promises to make bikers more visible on the road — courtesy of various embedded LED strips. These can be switched on with the simple press of a button on the jacket’s belt.

The aim is reduce the number of fatalities on the road, of which bikers currently represent around 18 percent. ‘More than 60 percent of bikers’ accidents are due to a lack of visibility,’ Baptiste Rosay, one of the co-founders of Raylier, told Digital Trends. ‘Thanks to our jacket, we improve their visibility in order to avoid crashes and save their lives. More than visibility, we improve the communication with the road users. A warning mode will make the jacket blink and improve visibility in risky situations. A brake light works autonomously, thanks to an on-board accelerometer. It intensifies the rear lights when slowing down.’”

Loftek adventure jacket — Water repellent insulated jacket

Generally speaking, insulated jackets come in two varieties: those that use traditional down, and those that use synthetic. Each style has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. For example, regular down is super lightweight, warm, and compressible — but it doesn’t handle moisture very well. Once it gets wet, it loses many of its best properties. Conversely, sythentic down has great water repellency, but isn’t quite as warm or compressible. It used to be that you had to choose between these two sides, but now, thanks to Utah-based upstart Outdoor Vitals, there’s finally a happy medium. The company has created a completely new type of insulation that offers the best of both worlds.

“LoftTek insulation is a hollow-filament polyester fiber that’s about 2.5 denier, so it’s a very small fiber, which also helps with its thermal efficiency,” founder Tayson Whittaker explains on his website. “It’s actually been rated. We sent it in to the IDFL (International Down Laboratories for Testing), and they typically test down. However they tested our LoftTek as if it were down, and it was rated as a 525 fill-power by them. Essentially LoftTek is rated as a little bit of a lower quality down, but does that while retaining all the properties of a synthetic. The fibers have been siliconized so that as it comes in contact with water, the water won’t stick to it, but kind of just drains out.”

Inflatable travel jumpsuit — Air travel onesie

If you spend a lot of time on airplanes, you definitely need to give this project a look. It’s essentially a onesie that’s been designed from the ground up to be the most comfortable, convenient thing you could possibly wear on a flight. Despite the fact that it looks relatively normal from the outside, it’s absolutely stuffed with clever features and design elements that make it an ideal garment for both the airport and the plane. Here’s a quick rundown of what’s under the hood — both literally and figuratively:

In addition to a nifty pull-down “snooze cap” that helps you shield your eyes when its time for a nap, the jumpsuit’s hood can also be zipped closed completely, or even inflated when you need a pillow. There’s also an inflatable neck pillow built into the collar. Lower down, the onesie is equipped with a myriad of different pockets — two of which are designed to be detachable, so you can just tear them out and throw them in the TSA tub when you go through security. And that’s just the beginning. There’s also an integrated headphone management loop, a set of earplugs, and even a “rear exit solution” zipper for when nature calls. They seriously thought of everything!

October 28

Footloose — Automatic litter box

We covered this one earlier in the week, so here’s a cut from our full article: “Footloose is a litter box that promises to be the most cutting-edge way imaginable for your kitty to take a dump. After using this sci-fi-style litter tray, your beloved Mr. Bigglesworth won’t be able to so much look at your neighbor’s lawn without turning its nose up in disgust.

‘Footloose is the first smart cat potty that cleans itself automatically, and also monitors the wellness of felines,’ Byron Fan, founder of Footloose manufacturer Petato, told Digital Trends. ‘The patent-pending self-cleaning mechanism is a nifty and efficient way to dispose of cat waste. The tech can distinguish litter from cats, recognize multiple cats, and detect any motion such that human intervention is reduced to a minimum. These features are possible thanks to onboard computing cores embedded with a dimensionality-reduction algorithm which fuses data from a dozen sensors. Footloose is also the first litter box integrated with a proactive deodorizing unit. The result is a box that requires little owner maintenance, but delivers information including a cat’s body weight, waste volume, toilet frequency, and duration.’”

Mui — wooden smart panel

Once again, we covered this gizmo a few days back. Here’s the scoop from our previous post: “Are you so immersed in technology that you long for a touch of nature in your home? You could get some potted plants — or you could invest in Mui, a wood panel that is also an internet-connected smart display. ‘Mui lets you adjust the lighting and temperature of your home, check news and weather, play music, send and receive voice and text, and is programmable by developers to do even more,’ Mui Labs said in a press release. ‘When in sleep mode, Mui regains its original natural look, in a nod to calm design principles.’

A Mui Kickstarter campaign is now live, with the goal of raising $100,000 to fund development of the device by December 7. Available in either sycamore (light) or cherry (dark), Mui looks like a slim and stylish wood panel until you swipe its touch-sensitive surface, which then glows to display information such as time, date and temperature. Out of the box, you can use it as an alarm clock, timer, voicemail reader, and message display.”

TourBox — controller for photo editing

Photo and video editing software has come a long way in the decade or so. The stuff you do in Photoshop these days is nothing short of incredible — but unfortunately, despite how advanced this stuff has become, it’s still a bit of a chore to work with. Why? Because in order to change what you’re doing with your mouse, you typically have to navigate through menus, move sliders, uncheck boxes, and generally just waste time switching between tasks. It only takes a few seconds, but over the course of a multi-hour edit, those seconds really start to add up. Thankfully, TourBox is here to fix that problem.

“TourBox is the most advanced creative controller for Photoshop, Lightroom, SAI, and other image processing software,” the creators explain on Kickstarter. “It is specifically designed for photographers and designers who want to improve their work efficiency and experience a new state-of-the-art method for editing content. It frees users from endless repetitive tasks such as drawing, editing and retouching using a new, intuitive approach that is ergonomic and natural. Customize your creativity, simplify inputs, and optimize your work. TourBox is a fully customizable device, users can assign different functions for Photoshop, Lightroom, or SAI. And you can also adapt TourBox to suit any software. Personalize your TourBox to best adapt to your own personal workflow.”

The Every Day Calendar — Habit-forming calendar

We ran a story about this one earlier in the week, so here’s a quick excerpt from the full post: “As with a lot of the projects which capture the public’s imagination on Kickstarter, the Every Day Calendar has a simple premise. It’s essentially a big printed circuit board which uses capacitive touch and LEDs to light up the individual days as you achieve your goal. For instance, if your goal is to go for a jog every day or eat five portions of fruit and vegetables each day, you tap the date as you complete the task and illuminate that section of the calendar. The idea is that this kind of visual reward system will make you more likely to stick to your goal, particularly as the year goes on and you don’t want to ruin your winning streak.

‘Hang the Every Day Calendar in your home, office, workshop, cavern, laboratory, castle, barn or boat,’ Giertz writes on the Kickstarter page. ‘Just make sure that it’s someplace where you see it every day. The Every Day Calendar is 0 percent internet connected, so no apps, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or computer programs are needed to set it up. Just plug it into the wall and you’re ready to go.’

The Crunch Cup — portable cereal vessel

If you’re at home, cereal is arguably one of the simplest breakfasts you can prepare in the morning. You just dump some in a bowl, splash some milk on it, and voila — time to grub. However, if you’re on the go, cereal suddenly becomes the most inconvenient breakfast you could possibly eat. In addition to all the sloshing around and inevitable spillage, you also have to use both hands in order to get the food into your mouth. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a better way to eat your Lucky Charms on the go? Well, thanks to an enterprising startup from Los Angeles, we might soon have one.

“We couldn’t believe there wasn’t a viable option to eat your cereal on-the-go, so we made one, and it’s awesome.” the creators explain on their Kickstarter campaign page. “It’s called **drumroll** The CrunchCup. The Crunch Company (that’s us). Set out to create a portable cereal cup that does not mess around. We don’t play that soggy cereal nonsense. Which is why it’s a two cup system; one for the cereal and the other for the milk. The cereal and milk don’t meet until they hit your mouth.”


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