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Awesome tech you can’t buy yet: Wearable subwoofers, gigantic Legos, and more

At any given moment, there are approximately a zillion crowdfunding campaigns 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. In this column, we cut through all the worthless wearables and Oculus Rift ripoffs to round up the week’s most unusual, ambitious, and exciting projects. But don’t grab your wallet just yet. Keep in mind that any crowdfunded project can fail — even the most well-intentioned. Do your homework before cutting a check for the gadget of your dreams.

Basslet — Wearable subwoofer

Headphones are great, but no matter how high you crank the volume, they never seem to make you feel sound the same way a gigantic set of speakers and subs can. So, to make your headphone listening experiences more engaging, immersive, and similar to what you’d experience at a live concert, a team of designers and engineers from Berlin invented the Basslet: a wearable tactile feedback device.

Think of it as a miniature silent subwoofer that lives on your wrist. Just plug in any kind of audio output device into the Basslet’s headphone jack, and instantly you’ll be able to feel the vibes of your music — even without turning your cans up to max volume. It’s designed to vibrate at the exact same frequency as whatever song you’re playing.

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Cascadia Candles — Hyperrealistic 3D mountain candles

Normally, candles wouldn’t have any place in our weekly roundup of crowdfunded technological gizmos — but these aren’t your average piles of wax. While the candles themselves don’t have any circuits or computer chips in them, they actually required a staggering amount of technology to create. They’re not just mountain candles — they’re true-to-life, geometrically accurate miniature models of real mountains in Oregon and Washington.

To make such stunningly accurate candles, creator Brad Swift actually got his hands on high-resolution USGS aerial lidar scans of each mountain. He then had a friend stitch the data together to create a digital 3D model of the mountains, and then used those to 3D print them in plastic. These physical 3D models were what Swift used to make the candle molds, which he then filled with molten beeswax. The end result is a set of perfect miniature mountains that you can light on fire.

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Edo — Enormous LEGO-style cardboard building blocks

If you’ve got a kid that loves building forts, you’ll definitely want to check out this project. Edo blocks are basically giant Lego bricks that allow your kid to build a virtually unlimited variety of forts and play structures — all without stealing your dining room chairs and bedsheets to use as building materials.

The blocks themselves are made of nothing more than thin corrugated cardboard, and they fit together in the same way as Legos. The great thing is that, because they’re just cardboard, your kids are free to cover the blocks in spray paint, glitter, googly eyes, and pretty much anything else. The final product is completely up to the builder — something that will likely appeal to adults just as much as children.

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Bagel — Smarter, more useful tape measure

Measurement is a tricky thing. Depending on what you’re trying to measure, you typically need a specific tool for the job. For things like length and height, you can use a tape measure. For longer distances, a laser rangefinder might be necessary. And if you need to figure out the circumference of something, you need a tape measure that can be wrapped around your object. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a single tool you could use in all of these situations?

Enter: Bagel. It’s a smart new take on the traditional tape measure that’s designed to find distances in a variety of clever ways. First and foremost, it uses a digitally measured cord instead of a numbered piece of tape — which allows you to bend it around curved surfaces and irregularly shaped objects. On the bottom, there’s also a roller wheel, which will track distances digitally as it runs along a certain path. There’s even a laser rangefinder on the front, and the device will store all of your measurements for later reference. Pretty nifty, right?

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Bird Photo Booth 2.0 — Motion-activated bird feeder camera

Face it; nobody is going to believe that you spotted a bay-breasted warbler or a golden-crested bushtit if you only install a normal bird feeder in your backyard. If you want to make all your bird-watching friends jealous at your next Thursday night bridge game, you’ll need hard evidence of all the rare avian species you’ve spotted. Only problem is, there’s not really an easy way to record all the feathered friends that drop by your feeder for a visit — until now.

The plainly named Bird Photo Booth is basically a motion-activated, camera-equipped, app-enabled bird feeder that allows you to watch and record birds from that iPad your grandkids gave you for Christmas. With this newfangled whatchamacallit installed in your back yard, you’ll be able to easily capture footage of all the wild and exotic birds that stop by. Now if only Kickstarter accepted checks …

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