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.
Want a pair of smart glasses, but don’t want to suffer through the inevitable chuckles and snide remarks you’ll get if you wear Google Glass? Not to worry — Vue has you covered. Instead of a gaudy, geeky piece of headware that makes you look like a tool, Vue is a set of smart glasses that are indistinguishable from normal spectacles. Under the hood, however, they’re stuffed with a myriad of different technologies that help them do more than just correct your vision.
They’re different than most other smart glasses, though. Unlike Google Glass, Vue glasses have no display. Users communicate with the device through voice, and receive auditory notifications via bone conduction headphones. This essentially means you can get information delivered to your ears without having to wear earbuds all day, so you’ll still be able to hear the world around you without issue. And that’s not all — Vue spectacles also boast a microphone and a variety of different sensors, which allow you to make calls, track your activity, or even retrieve your glasses if they get lost.
Hate making your bed? SmartDuvet is exactly what you’ve been waiting for. It’s an app-controlled inflatable insert that makes your bed at the touch of a button — so no more toiling with your comforter before you leave for work in the morning. With this gizmo, you can walk out the door, tap your phone a few times, and then come back to a perfectly-made bed. It’s a lazy person’s dream come true.
Here’s how it works: SmartDuvet is essentially a grid-shaped network of inflatable tubes that you slip inside your duvet cover. When deflated, you can hardly notice that it’s there — but when inflated, the inflated tubes will become rigid, thereby forcing your comforter to unfurl and return to its original position. After that’s done, the tubes deflate again, and your comforter goes back to looking normal. It’s absolutely brilliant, but there is a catch. You’ll need to dish out more than $300 for a queen sized model, and 400 for a king. For that kind of moolah, you could really just hire a maid.
High speed video cameras are awesome, but unfortunately, any camera that shoots over 10,000 frames per second seems to cost an arm and a leg. You know the SlowMoGuys on YouTube? They shoot their videos with cameras that cost anywhere from $50,000 to $250,000. They’re so expensive, in fact, that most people don’t buy them — they just rent them for a single shoot. But even renting can get expensive, so Kron Technologies set out to make a high-speed camera that anyone could afford.
Chronos 1.4 is the fruit of that labor. It allows you to capture incredibly detailed slow-motion video at up to 1,280 x 1,024 pixel resolution. Frame rate ranges from 1,057 fps at full resolution up to a whopping 21,600 fps — and the whole package costs less than $3,000. “We started on the journey that lead to Chronos because we believe high-speed imaging should be for everyone, not just scientific research labs and TV productions with massive budgets,” creator David Kronstein said on his Kickstarter page.
Crowdfunding has done a lot of great things for the world, but one area where it’s had a particularly big impact is citizen science. Thanks to platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, small scientific organizations can now gather funding for highly ambitious projects. We’ve seen crowdfunding campaigns to send rockets to the moon, build solar sails, and even put a live streaming VR camera in orbit — but this latest one, dubbed Project Blue, might be the most ambitious yet. These guys want to put a telescope in orbit to search for habitable planets.
Project Blue estimates its mission will cost $30 million and hopes to raise its first million via Kickstarter. That may seem like a lot of money to crowdfund, but it’s a fraction of the cost of the Kepler mission ($600 million) and the upcoming James Webb mission ($8.7 billion). That’s because the washing machine-sized telescope planned for Project Blue will be built to do just one thing — find another Earth.
If you’ve ever wanted an automated assistant similar to Tony Stark’s JARVIS robot, you should probably stop whatever you’re doing right now and go check out Dobot on Kickstarter. In contrast to robotic assistant devices geared specifically towards makers and designers, Dobot is a robot arm that can serve virtually any purpose around the home, from artistic projects to stirring just the right amount of sugar into your coffee.
It’s not just a robotic arm. It’s also equipped with computer vision and visual processing technologies, so it can be used for an absolutely massive range of different tasks. In addition to 3D printing, laser etching, painting, and drawing, it can also do things like precision soldering and visually sorting small objects. There’s even a mobility attachment that allows the arm to move around autonomously. You’ll need to program it for whatever task you’re hoping to complete, but once you figure out the programming interface, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination.