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.
Aerial Bold — typeface created from aerial shots of buildings
So this one isn’t necessarily a tangible product you can pre-order through Kickstarter, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome. The idea here is that two dudes, Benedikt Groß & Joey Lee, are going to develop a special program that scans satellite imagery to pick out letterforms created by buildings, neighborhoods, and a variety of other landmasses. Once they’ve gathered up a collection of different letters, they plan to create a custom typeface — cleverly named Aerial Bold — and distribute it online so you can download it and install it on your computer. But it’s not just about making a new font; the project is just as much about developing new methods of mapping features on the earth’s surface as it is about generating the first map and typeface of the planet. The project is already about two thirds of the way to achieving its $10K funding goal, and still has the better part of a month left to raise the rest.
TinyScreen — thumbnail-sized color display
TinyScreen is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: an ultra-miniature color display that plugs into the TinyDuino platform, and can be configured to serve as a smartwatch, smart glasses, a tiny game console, and just about anything else you can imagine. Measuring just 25.8 x 25 mm (1.02 x 0.98-in), TinyScreen sports four integrated buttons and a 96 x 64 pixel OLED screen that’s capable of delivering 16-bit color depth and contains a controllable backlight. And it’s not just for geeks and tinkerers either — the display ships with a handful of default applications that will work right out of the box. Arguably the most compelling and useful of these is the smartwatch app, which allows you to interface with iOS or Android smartphones via Bluetooth LE, and display things like notifications, phone calls, texts, and tweets. There’s even a 3D-printable watch design you can download or purchase to use with the display.
Keecker — robotic butler/home entertainment system
Aesthetically, Keecker looks like the misshapen egg that would be laid if R2D2 ever traveled back in time and impregnated a brontosaurus, and the functions it performs are pretty much what you’d expect from such an unholy union. In addition to a veritable boatload of sensor tech, the bot is equipped with a self-adjusting HD projector and a 360-degree sound system under the hood, so it’s mostly intended for use as an entertainment hub.
On top of that, Keecker sports over a terabyte of local storage for movies, music, and games; and can also connect to the Internet to play content from websites and streaming services. But it’s more than just an egg-shaped projector/media center. Keecker is also outfitted with a set of wheels, a camera, and special navigation software that allows it to follow you around the house. The idea is that, instead of you getting up and physically moving yourself to wherever your home theater might be, you can use your smartphone to summon Keecker to the spot you happen to be in. Lazy people, eat your heart out.
VeloLoop — traffic sensor trigger for your bike
You know those traffic sensors they put underneath the asphalt on busy intersections? The ones that are hooked up to the lights, help manage traffic, and can give you a green right away if there’s nobody else at the crossing? They’re awesome, and much better than timed lights in most situations, but they also have one big drawback: because they rely on electromagnetic feedback to detect vehicles instead of weight or pressure, they typically can’t detect you when you’re on a bike. VeloLoop aims to solve this problem.
Using an embedded accelerometer, a 7×7-inch square antenna, and a bit of clever programming, the device is able to tell when you stop at an intersection — at which point it will use the antenna to scan for any traffic sensors under the pavement. If it detects there’s one beneath you, it’ll send out a signal at the exact frequency that the sensor happens to be looking for, effectively tricking it into thinking you’re a car. Pretty brilliant, right?
Mad Genius — motion-based controller for consoles
The Mad Genius Controller is a split-apart universal gaming controller for use across all consoles and PCs. So what makes it special? The controller uses a revolutionary new location tracking technology to offer the user a different way to interact with the game they’re playing. A dedicated motion capture system enables each controller-half to know exactly where it is in the room. It uses this information to add motion play to unmodified consoles and PCs, while also preserving the use of standard buttons and sticks. In other words, if you get tired of using buttons and joysticks, you can just snap the controller apart and start using each half like a Nintendo Wii remote.
The only difference is that The Mad Genius Controller uses a new patented technology to know where you are down to 1/100th of an inch, as opposed to other motion controllers that use cameras or accelerometers. We haven’t tried one out for ourselves just yet, but apparently it’s ridiculously accurate.