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 there’s no shortage of weird, ambitious, and downright stupid projects out there – far too many for any reasonable person to keep up with. But here at DT we are not reasonable people. We spend an inordinate amount of time poring through crowdfunding sites and product blogs in search of the next Oculus Rift or Pebble Watch, so we’re here to bring you a quick roundup of the best projects that are currently up and running.
Kolibree — Smart toothbrush
In the words of creator Loic Cessot, Kolibree is designed to help you “outsmart your dentist.” It’s a toothbrush that’s outfitted with an array of sensors that track the areas of your mouth that you’re hitting. It’ll measure how long the brushing lasted, how rigorous it was, what teeth you’re cleaning well, and the areas that need a little bit more attention. It’s even got some nifty gamification features that challenge you to do a better job next time you brush, and Kolibree has even developed an API in hopes that third-party developers will devise additional apps that will encourage users to brush more often and more effectively. We actually spotted this at CES back in January, and even gave it an award – but it wasn’t until late last week that it hit Kickstarter to gather up funds for production.
Altergaze — Smartphone virtual-reality goggles
Now that crowdfunded VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and Avegant’s Glyph have proven consumers are interested in virtual reality, dozens of clever little startups are popping up with innovative new takes on the idea. Altergaze is the latest one to surface on Kickstarter, but unlike other headsets, it’s designed to use your smartphone as its screen, computer, and motion sensor. Both iOS an Android devices can be slipped into a slot in front of two lenses, which are strapped onto the wearer’s head. Once it’s plugged in, the phone’s screen is split into two images, which are then passed through the lenses before reaching your eyes. It’s probably not as high-res or accurate as Occulus, but it’s far simpler, and only costs about 70 bucks.
The Micro — Affordable 3D printer
Despite all the hype surrounding it as of late, 3D printing hasn’t gone mainstream quite yet for one simple reason: printers are still just too damn expensive for the average consumer. Unless you’re a designer of some sort and need a way to rapidly fabricate things, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to fork over a bunch of cash for a plastic thing-making machine. Even MakerBot’s miniature model will run you more than $1,300, so it’s easy to see why adoption has been slow. But that’s all about to change. Earlier this week, the Micro hit Kickstarter with a ridiculously low early-bird price of just $200. That’s insane. That’s cheaper than a used iPhone 5, and will likely (hopefully) force other manufacturers to lower their prices to stay competitive.
TinkerBots — Robot building blocks
TinkerBots is a toy building set with easy-to-add robotic pieces that make it possible for both children and adults to create a virtually endless number of toy robots simply by snapping together different modules — no wiring or programming required. Think of it like living Legos. The centerpiece of each TinkerBots kit is a 1.5-inch red cube dubbed the Power Brain—and it’s pretty much exactly what it sounds like. Each tiny power center packs a battery, Arduino microcontroller, Bluetooth module, accelerometer, and USB port. That is a hell of a lot of tech for a toy that’s meant to be banged around by kids as young as five, but that’s the whole point. The idea is that these toys are a fun way to expose kids to STEM concepts, without them feeling like they’re learning.
Mini Mobile — Compact robotic inkjet printer
Pocket-sized printers aren’t exactly a new concept, but Mini Mobile offers a fresh new take on the idea. Instead of using an old-fashioned paper feed, this little Roomba-like bot runs over the page and lays down grayscale ink. This approach isn’t just a party trick, either. Besides leading to a very portable design, it lets you print on any size page you like — if you need to print out a legal form or a poster while you’re at the coffee shop, you totally can. It’s definitely not as fast as a traditional printer, but would also be far more convenient for anyone who doesn’t work in a traditional office environment and still needs to print things occasionally. All the early bird slots have been snagged up already, but you can lock one down for $200 if you back the project now.