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Awesome tech you can’t buy yet, for the week of January 4, 2015

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.

Proto Pasta PLA — Electrically conductive 3D printing filament

Proto-Pasta-PLA3D printing has come a long way in the past few years. Not only have printers become faster, easier to use, and more affordable, they’re now capable of printing objects in a wide variety of different materials. You might not have noticed it, but there’s been just as much innovation in 3D printer filament as there has been in the machines that use it. It’s not just ABS and PLA anymore — you can print in dissolvable plastic, flexible plastic, and now, thanks to a startup by the name of ProtoPlant, electrically conductive plastic. In other words, you can now print circuits directly inside of your creations — not just build the housing for a PCB that you buy from somewhere else. It’s not as ideal as metal circuits, since the material has a higher resistance, but even so, conductive plastic could make rapid prototyping easier than ever for experimental electronics.

Phenol — Patchable analog synthesizer

PhenolIf you like playing with soundwaves and creating new noises, you’ll definitely want to check out Phenol. Basically, the company that created it, Kilpatrick Audio, designed it to be super simple, and bring the fun and creative potential of a modular analog synthesizer to more people by making one that’s more intuitive and approachable than traditional synths. Phenol is 100 percent compatible with modular systems because it uses the same voltages and banana connectors as the Kilpatrick Format and similar modular synthesizers. Modulating the wave and changing the sound is as easy as swapping a few plugs and spinning a few knobs, so whether you already love modular synthesizers and want a smaller instrument for portability, or whether you’ve heard about modular synths and want to get your feet wet, Phenol is for you.

Flic — Wireless smart button

Flic-Apparently tapping screens of various sorts and sizes is becoming too arduous for the human race, so we need to revert to tactile buttons to make it even easier to accomplish everyday tasks. That’s the proposition of the Flic, a smart button that can be set up to do just about anything (within reason) you want to do on a day-to-day basis – from snapping photos, to making calls, playing music, snoozing your alarm, and beyond.  At first glance, the Flic is a soft, pleasant-looking button that sticks to various surfaces. However, once a user sets up functions for their Flic via the accompanying app, the true power of the smart button shines through. Each Flic can execute three actions – one by clicking, another by double-clicking and yet another by holding.

Carbon Flyer — Carbon-fiber RC plane

Carbon-FlyerQuadcopter drones, RC planes, robotic birds, and flying machines of all kinds have experienced a boom in popularity in the past few years. But despite the fact that there are more models to choose from than ever before, most of them still suffer from the same big drawback: they’re still pretty fragile. If you botch the landing, or the auto-pilot fails to recover after a strong gust of wind, you’re screwed. The Carbon Flyer is different though. This little flyer is basically a motorized paper airplane that’s made from carbon fiber instead of paper, so not only is it insanely light — it’s also incredibly durable. If you crash this thing into a skyscraper and it plummets 50 stories to the ground, it’ll still be intact when you recover it. Oh, and did we mention it also has an onboard camera, and connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth so you can pilot it around? It does all that too — on top of being virtually indestructible.

WorldPenScan X — Scanner and translator pen

WorldPenScan-XHeaded to a foreign country, but don’t have enough time to learn the language before you depart? WorldPenScan X will help with that. It’s a mobile translator tool that you’ll can use to scan and decipher things written in foreign languages. The tool sort of resembles a box cutter, and features a scanner that you can run over any text in front of you — be it a book, newspaper, magazine, restaurant menu, map, or any other printed material. WorldPenScan X can recognize and translate more than 30 frequently-used languages, including English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. On the desktop PC or Mac, nearly 200 languages can be recognized and translated.