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.
PSDR — Portable software-defined radio
This one is a bit of an oddity, but that’s part of what makes it so cool. It’s also a bit difficult to explain, but here goes nothing. PSDR is a pugged, pocket-sized, software-defined HF/shortwave transceiver designed for people who like to stay connected when they venture out into the middle of nowhere. More specifically, it’s designed to pick up on shortwave radio frequencies — waves around the 30mHz level that bounce between the earth’s surface and the upper atmosphere. It won’t work very well in a crowded city with lots of noise in the airwaves, but when you’re out in the boonies, it’ll allow you to hear and communicate with people from all over the world. Furthermore, since it’s designed with backpackers and hikers in mind, the PSDR is also outfitted with a GPS transceiver. Check out the campaign video to get the full details — its got a lot going on under the hood.
NanoArcade — tiny cusomizable arcade
Arcade machines are not generally known for their portability, but Nanoarcade pushes those notions aside by scaling a traditional cabinet down to one tenth the size. It’s able to play any J2ME games — Java-based titles that were popular before the advent of iOS and Android. They’re definitely not the most advanced or exciting games on the planet, but there are some good titles in there, and their age may help recreate some of that old-school retro feel that arcade cabinets are supposed to evoke anyway. Users can load new games onto the machine simply by plugging it into a computer and downloading J2ME games from the Web. You can get your hands on one for a pledge of just 50 bucks, and even if you’re not into handheld arcade gaming, we highly suggest you check out the project’s pitch video.
FishBit — connected aquarium monitor
Fishbit is a network-connected, app-enabled smart aquarium monitoring system. It’s certainly not the first tank monitor that’s ever been created, but it’s one of the first to bundle water composition measurement tech with network connectivity and a super-slick user interface. The accompanying Fishbit smartphone app allows users to check tank stats from anywhere in the world and get detailed information on water chemistry. The device measures everything from pH balance to nitrite levels. Those states aren’t exactly new or groundbreaking, but unlike other products, Fishbit’s app presents this data in a simple and easy-to-digest way. Instead of spewing out raw data and basic graphs, Fishbit pulls all this data together to provide you with an overall “Stability Score” for your tank. This allows for easy, at-a-glance monitoring, while also keeping detailed stats available and accessible whenever you need them.
Atlas 3D — 3D-printed 3D scanner
The 3D-printing revolution was supposed to fling open the doors of creativity and allow anyone to make any object they imagined. For the most part, this dream has come true. If you know your way around 3D-modeling software, you can build and print practically anything you desire. But therein lies the problem: 3D-modeling software is often complex and confusing — especially to the uninitiated. That’s where Atlas 3D comes in. It’s a 3D scanner that allows you to digitize normal everyday objects, and then reproduce them on your 3D printer with ease. These things have existed for a few years now, but unlike others 3D scanners, Atlas is designed to be 3D printed itself. Kits include all the hardware you need to build the scanner, as well all the 3D schematics necessary to print the body of the device. If you’ve already got a 3D printer, this should be your next project.
Pianu — Piano-song tutorial game
Remember Guitar Hero? That’s pretty much what Pianu is, except you play it with a keyboard instead of a guitar, and the keyboard is full-fledged 88-key instrument — not a watered-down version with four buttons and a flapper. That’s really the only difference though; gameplay is practically identical. Players choose a song to play, and notes stream down from the top of the screen, indicating which keys to press and for how long. Users can choose between tutorial and game modes, so it’s fun for beginners and virtuosos alike. The coolest part is that it’s already up and running on playpianu.com — all you’ve got to do is plug a MIDI keyboard into your computer and log in. The Kickstarter project is actually aimed at raising funds for the production of a roll-up keyboard that works with the game, presumably allowing you to play Pianu anywhere with an internet connection.