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Awesome tech you can’t buy yet: Gladiator suits, float tubes, and a giant robot

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 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.

Tubular — Tricked-out float tube

It doesn’t matter where you live or what waterway you ride — I think we can all agree that a lazy float down the river is quite possibly the most glorious leisure activity on planet earth. If done correctly, it involves all of the good things in life: being outside, being comfortable, listening to music, and (if you’re doing it right) drinking beer.

But the thing is, if you want to enjoy all of these things at the same time, you need all the proper equipment. In addition to a durable float tube, you also need a waterproof Bluetooth speaker, and a dry bag to protect your phone/mp3 player — not to mention a floating cooler you can store beer in. And of course, once you’ve rounded up all this gear, you’ll need to figure out a suitable lashing system to secure everything to your tube.  Tubular offers an alternative to all this madness. Rather than forcing you to cobble all your float gear together like a hobo, the Tubular Tube incorporates all the gear you need into one tricked-out flotation device. Built into the inflatable body, you’ll find a waterproof Bluetooth speaker, a dry bag for your electronics, and a removable cooler. It’s basically the Coolest Cooler of floatie tubes.

Read more here.

OnWheel — retrofittable e-bike motor

If you’re looking to upgrade your ride to an e-bike, then you generally have two options: Either install a complicated retrofit kit, or ditch your analog bike altogether and buy a ready-made electric one. Wouldn’t it be nice if there were an easier option? Well, thanks to Austrian startup Go-e, there finally is.  Unlike most of other retrofittable e-bike kits out there right now, the OnWheel is designed to be installed in just a few minutes. Using just two screwdrivers, the device can be affixed to just about any bicycle.

Once you’ve got the mounts on, the electric drive module can be clipped on or off in seconds.  This unique clip-on motor system is made possible by OnWheel’s clever design. It’s basically like a scaled-up, repurposed version of the hot shoe on your DSLR, so you can clip on the drive unit in the same way you’d slide an external flash onto your camera. Once it’s there, it draws power from the rechargeable battery (which you mount inside your bike’s frame), and allows you to boost up hills or along straightaways.

Read more here.

MegaBots Mk.II — Giant melee robot

Remember a few months ago when a team of Japanese roboticists challenged a team of American ones to a giant robot duel? Well, team USA needs some help. MegaBots (the U.S. team) is hoping to raise $1.5 million in order to make the necessary upgrades and adjustments to Mk.II — the enormous metal mech that’ll be competing with Japan’s Kuratas robot. The team has taken to the crowdsourcing platform where it will depend upon the good graces and loyalty of the people to send it to victory.

According to its project page, the Mk.II is going to require a rather serious (and seriously expensive) facelift. Because Japan insisted on hand-to-hand combat when it accepted the American’s challenge of a duel a couple months ago, the “long range paintball combat” that Mk.II is currently equipped for won’t do much good. Instead, team MegaBots is asking for the addition of heavy duty armor plating, “some serious firepower,” and upgrade to Mk.II’s hydraulics “to handle the heavier armor and firepower,” and increase in its top speed, and an upgrade to its “power unit to keep up with our new hydraulic system and speed.”

Read more here.

Unified Weapons Master — high-tech gladiator fighting

Remember that crazy Australian startup that wants to resurrect gladiator fights by equipping martial artists with high-tech body armor? We came across the group, dubbed Unified Weapons Master, a little over a year ago, and back then their suits were just barely past the prototype stage. Last week, however, the company took a big step toward making its dream a reality, and launched an Indiegogo campaign to jumpstart mass production and finally bring its new full-contact, weapons-based combat sport to the world.

If you haven’t already heard of UWM, allow us to fill you in. Basically, the company’s founders are on a mission to bring back weapons-based fighting, and have spent the last few years developing a special suit called the Lorica. In addition to carbon fiber plating and impact resistant foam, the suit sports an array of sensors that cant tell where/how hard a fighter gets hit. This information is beamed in real time to a ringside scoring system — so fights basically end up looking like live-action Mortal Kombat. Organized fights are scheduled to start next year, and if you back the project now, you can lock down tickets.

Read more here.

Sensel Morph — Pressure-sensitive multitouch pad

On the most basic level, the Morph is a touchpad — but it’s unlike any other touchpad you’ve ever seen. This one packs over 20,000 sensors under the hood, and is therefore capable of tracking not only multiple touch points, but also the pressure of each of those presses. This allows users to do things like grab a standard paintbrush and ‘paint’ in photoshop, with each bristle being detected, or control 3D objects with pressure from different fingers all at the same time.

That’s all well and good, but it’s not even the coolest part. It’s the overlays that have the Morph’s Kickstarter backers particularly excited. Adding a piano layout, a synthesiser pad, or even a traditional keyboard makes it possible to use the Morph in more intuitive ways. As a piano, it can play tunes, as a synthesiser it can have sounds that respond to pressure as much as touch; and as a keyboard, you can type much more naturally than on the membrane boards of old, as the pressure on each key is tracked. Check out the video!

Read more here.