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, useless, and downright stupid projects out there – alongside some real gems. We’ve cut through the Pebble clones and janky iPhone cases to round up the most unusual, ambitious, and exciting projects out there this week. Keep in mind that any crowdfunded project — even the best intentioned — can fail, so do your homework before cutting a check for the gadget of your dreams.
Bunch-o-Balloons — Multi-balloon filling system
There’s nothing quite like spending an hour filling up water balloons (and working your fingers raw in the process) just to destroy them all in battle that only lasts five minutes. Frustrated with this lopsided work-to-fun ratio, Josh Malone, founder of Tinnus Enterprises, set out to create something that streamlined the filling process. After testing out a handful of different prototypes with his kids, Bunch O Balloons was born. Comprised of an array of straws with balloons pre-attached to their ends, this ingenious hose attachment lets you fill up 37 water balloons at a time. Once they’re all full, a quick shake detaches them from the straws, while a set of tiny rubber bands holds the balloons closed. Translation? No more tying balloons the old fashioned way and taking the skin off your fingers just to have a water fight. The project, has absolutely crushed its initial $10,000 funding goal, and is currently on track to gather over $1M before the campaign is over.
Vocca Light — Voice-activated bulb socket
Armed with a small microphone and some on-board voice-recognition software, this clever little light socket adapter can recognize natural language — allowing you to turn your lights on/off with practically any voice command you like. That may not sound particularly groundbreaking, since voice recognition is already built into all kinds of devices, but what’s different about Vocca is the fact that all of this voice recognition and natural language processing takes place inside the device itself. Unlike systems that tap into the cloud to crunch and process incoming voice data (like Siri or Google Now), Vocca does everything independently. This means that, in contrast to nearly every other smart lighting system on the market, Vocca doesn’t require a network connection of any sort to function. By extension, that also means no complicated setup/pairing process, and near-instantaneous operation thanks to the fact that it doesn’t outsource its language processing.
The Ice Chest — Ice ball maker
There are dozens of different ways to serve up a glass of whiskey – on the rocks, neat, on some whiskey stones, or even on those nifty little “balls of steel.” Each method has its merits, but if you enjoy just a slight bit of dilution (just a tiny bit!), we highly recommend you snag yourself an ice baller. Because big spheres of ice have less surface area than a set of separate cubes, they melt more gradually, leaving you with the ideal water/whiskey ratio. Most ice ballers typically require you to smash cubes into a spherical shape, but this one from Wintersmiths is different — it creates perfectly-clear ice balls by freezing water directionally, from bottom to top, with the help of a cleverly-designed silicon insert. It also makes them four at a time, which is a huge improvement over their first product, which only made one ice ball per batch.
TouchPico — Portable touch-responsive projectorSo back during CES this past January, we came across a little projector that nabbed our attention with a big feature: interactive, touch-responsive projections. Back then, TouchPico was merely a prototype, but now, after seven months of tweaks and refinement, it’s finally ready for crowdfunding. The device is basically a miniature handheld projector that runs on Android and lets you interact with the projected images via a special stylus. In a lot of ways, it’s like a giant Android tablet that fits in your pocket and can be beamed onto any flat surface (854 x 480 pixel resolution image up to 80 inches, diagonally). Because it’s so small and portable, it’s ideal for impromptu meetings, presentations, or entertainment. Back when we demoed it at CES, it wasn’t quite as responsive as a traditional touchscreen, but based on the video on Indiegogo, it appears that TouchJet as worked out all the kinks and made it much more snappy.
Miops — Smartphone controlled high-speed camera trigger
High-speed photography can be daunting if you’re not a seasoned pro. You may have a fast camera and flash, but you probably don’t have the gear (or people) you’d need to get that frozen-in-time look in most situations. MIOPS’ new camera trigger might make it easier to take high-speed shots all by your lonesome, though. By itself, it can tell a DSLR to take a shot and fire your flash when it detects light, motion or sound; you can capture lightning the moment it strikes, or your cat the moment it bolts across the room. The device supports external sensors like pressure pads, too. It really comes alive if you pay for the Ultimate variant, which adds remote control from a Bluetooth-equipped Android or iOS device. Unlike most trigger apps, MIOPS’ mobile software lets you set up capture scenarios that only take pictures under very specific conditions. You can set it to take time-lapse photos as soon as it gets dark, and snap additional lightning pictures if a big storm brews; in short, you shouldn’t have to keep a close watch over your camera.