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.
Phorm — Morphing tactile keyboard case
Tablets are awesome, but their keyboards? Not so much. Touchscreen keyboards are fine for little tasks like entering in passwords, but when it comes time to enter in a big chunk of text, they’re not exactly ideal. The problem basically comes down to their lack of tactility. Your fingers can’t feel where one key ends and another begins, so you’ve got to rely on your eyeballs to keep track of each button. Phorm is the solution.
Instead of forcing you to attach a new keyboard altogether, the Phorm case creates an array of raised bumps on your screen — providing just enough tactile feedback for you to type without looking. Furthermore, these bumps can be raised and lowered at the push of a button, so you can have bumps when you’re typing, and go back to smooth screen when it’s time to play Fruit Ninja. Oh yeah, and it doesn’t use any electricity either.
Bug-A-Salt 2.0 — Housefly annihilator gun
Anti-fly technology has progressed in leaps and bounds over the past couple years, and now, thanks to artist Lorenzo Maggiore, there’s a better way to rid your home of unwelcome, winged intruders. You might remember Maggiore’s first invention from a couple years ago: the Bug-A-Salt gun. It’s essentially a plastic shotgun that fires concentrated bursts of table salt. It’s not powerful enough to break through skin (or even a plastic bag), but to a fly, the hail of Morton’s is as effective as a blast of hot lead.
The first generation made a huge splash on Indiegogo when it was first released, and now, roughly two years later, Maggiore is back with version 2.0. This new-and-improved fly blaster, dubbed the Camofly, is better in just about every way. It’s more powerful, has a longer range, and uses less salt per shot than its predecessor.
PicoBrew KegSmarts — Smart kegerator
PicoBrew, the startup behind the Zymatic — a machine that lets you brew beer with a click of a mouse — is bringing its love of all things barley and hops to Kickstarter once again, this time for a smart craft beer kegerator, KegSmarts. If you already have a beer fridge, you can attach it and learn more about what you’ve got on tap.
Outfitted with an OLED display and controlled by a microprocessor, the device can find the latest kegerator-ready craft beers, maintain the perfect temperature for your brew, let you see the number of servings remaining, and give you information on the beer — including how fresh it is and details on its style and alcohol content. And make sure you tidy up the bathroom; it’ll alert your friends that you’ve installed a new keg ( but only if you want). PicoBrew has already blasted past its $100,000 funding goal, and still has nearly a month left in the campaign.
Voltera V-One — Circuit board printer
Breadboards and cheap microcontrollers like Arduino have given rise to something of an electronics renaissance in the past few years. Along with technologies like 3D printing, they’ve made it possible for inventors to develop prototypes at an unprecedented pace. But they’re far from perfect. Despite their usefulness, breadboards can quickly become messy and disorganized, which makes transforming your design into a mass-produced printed circuit board (PCB) much more difficult. That’s where the Voltera V-One comes in.
This badboy can create a high-quality two-layer circuit board right from your work bench. No sending designs off to a fab house and waiting weeks for your board to arrive — just print, test, and try again if something went wrong. It basically helps streamline the prototyping process even further, which is a crazy thought. We don’t use the phrase “game-changer” a lot, but this feels like an appropriate time.
YikeBike — Collapsible electric bike-thing
For the past few years, two things have been happening: Electric motors have steadily gotten smaller and more powerful, and batteries have become drastically more capacitous and long-lasting. Lately, these two trends have begun to coalesce and blend together to create a sort of renaissance in personal mobility devices.
Now more than ever, there are all manner of cool little wheeled gizmos hitting the market. Electric scooters, gyroscopically-stabilized unicycles, motorized skates that strap onto your shoes — they’re absolutely everywhere these days, and each one is different than the last. YikeBike is yet another entry into this burgeoning category, and it’s unlike any rideable we’ve seen before. It looks like a child’s tricycle, but with the seat positioned up near the handlebars. A hub motor whips it around at 14 miles per hour, a range of 8.7 miles, and the ability to fold down to the size of a briefcase. Crazy.