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.
Sun Juicer — ultralight solar cooker
Harnessing the power of the sun and concentrating its energy to generate heat is something that humans have been doing for millennia. Back in the second century AD, it’s said that Archimedes used a giant parabolic mirror array to set approaching warships on fire, and people were likely experimenting with solar energy long before that, too. But still, 2000 years down the road, we’re still doing it the same way. Our equipment, however, has gotten considerably more advanced in recent times. The Sun Juicer, for example, is a fully-functioning solar cooking rig that weighs less than a can of soda, and packs down flatter than an average-sized notebook. The entire apparatus consists of a set of lightweight reflective sheets that snap together to form a parabolic mirror, which can be directed at a small skillet or cook pot to heat up food. It requires absolutely zero electricity to work, making it ideal for summertime camping/backpacking trips.
Petal — fan for virtual reality
Ever since Oculus Rift reignited the world’s interest in virtual reality, designers, engineers, and developers have been pushing to make virtual reality more realistic and more immersive than ever before. Oculus figured out the visual element, so now other people are tackling your remaining senses. Virtuix omni, for example, aims to make walking around in virtual environments feel more realistic, and devices like Kor FX (see below) hope to add realistic tactile feedback to the experience. Petal definitely isn’t quite as advanced as these gizmos, but even so, it aims to bring one of the most fundamental real-world sensations into the virtual realm — the feeling of wind blowing in your face as you move. It’s basically just a variable-speed fan that’s programmed to speed up or slow down in relation to how you’re moving in a virtual environment, which is a pretty brilliant idea if you ask us.
Kor-FX — haptic feedback gaming vest
Much like Petal, Kor FX is all about adding an extra layer of realism to virtual gaming experiences. It’s essentially a tactical vest that’s rigged up with a number of specially-engineered “Acousto-Haptic Transducers” that create vibrations and other haptic feedback cues. With one of these badboys strapped to your body, you can feel things in your environment — things like your enemy’s vehicles approaching, or which direction a sniper is firing from. So not only does it make virtual spaces considerably more immersive, it can also give you a bit of leg up and take your competitive gameplay to the next level. The vest is particularly ideal for first-person shooters like CoD or Battlefield, but depending on how its programmed, it could add an extra layer of realism to pretty much any type of game.
Vessyl — liquid-recognizing smart cup
The past few years alone, we’ve seen the rise of a zillion different wearable fitness devices, all of which are capable of tracking everything from the number of steps you take each day, to the number of calories you burn. But in spite of all these clever ways we’ve dreamt up to track the energy you expend, we still haven’t quite locked down an equally simple way to track the calories you take in. Sure, there are apps that help you track what you eat, and food scales that can guesstimate the calories in your food, but most of these thigns still require a lot of input from the user, which makes them relatively cumbersome and inconvenient to use. Vessyl is different. Using some kind of magical technology that the inventors are keeping a highly-guarded secret, it can recognize and identify any kind of liquid you pour into it. It can tell Coke from Pepsi, whether orange juice has pulp or not, and a myriad of other cool tricks. And of course, it all syncs with your smartphone so you can keep track of the calories/nutrients you’re drinking.
360 Cam — 360-degree HD camera
You know those giant spherical cameras that Google straps on top of self-driving Priuses in order to take its street view pictures? 360 cam is essentially the same idea, just packed into a much smaller, much simpler form factor. The tiny handheld device uses three 185-degree fish-eye lenses arranged in a triangle to deliver a massive field of view. Each of these lenses is synchronized to simultaneously capture and stitch images in real time inside the camera, and thereby produce a breath-taking all-around view in real time. As an added bonus, it also happens to be waterproof, so you can pack it along on your next outdoor excursion or strap it to the underside of a drone without having to worry about ruining it. The project has already crushed its original funding goal, so if you back the project now, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ll get one in a few months.