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.
Noke U-Lock — Bluetooth-enabled bike lock
Remember that nifty Bluetooth-enabled padlock that popped up on Kickstarter a few months back — the Noke? Well Fuz Labs, the startup that made the device, is now back on the crowdfunding scene in hopes of funding its latest creation: a Bluetooth U-lock for your bike. Aesthetically, the new lock looks almost exactly like the old-school U-lock you know and love — just without any keyholes or combination dials. Instead, it uses its Bluetooth brains to communicate with your smartphone and detect when you’re close by. To open it, just click the lock shaft once and it’ll automatically look for a phone with a compatible Bluetooth key, and then unlock when it finds one. You don’t even need to take your phone out of your pocket. For the most part, it retains the original’s features, but Fuz Labs has also introduced a few new features in the new lock. The U-Lock also sports an integrated alarm system designed to scare off would-be thieves, and GPS tracking to help you remember where you locked your wheels up.
Splash — Waterproof autofollow drone
Flying a drone over solid ground is one thing, but flying it over water is a whole ‘nother ball game. With all manner of electronics on board, an unexpected aquatic landing is almost always a death sentence for your drone, which makes flying it much more stressful. That’s not the case for the Splash Drone, however. Recently launched on Kickstarter, this hardy little quadcopter is encased in a buoyant waterproof shell, so it can safely land and float on water without being damaged. But waterproof components aren’t the only trick Splash has up its sleeve. Even without the watertight hull, it’s still got an impressive list of features. On its underbelly, the Splash is outfitted with a gimbal, allowing you to mount a GoPro on it and shoot super-stable video. This gimbal is also completely waterproof, so you can shoot while either airborne or submerged, and it’s also got an auto-follow function, so it can shoot video autonomously while you play in the water.
Rocketbook — Microwaveable digitizer notebook
Do you burn through notebooks and find yourself constantly having to buy new ones? Rocketbook might be just what you need. Freshly launched on Indiegogo, the notebook is designed to be completely reusable — paper and all. Once you fill up all the pages, the Rocketbook is able to digitize all your notes and store them in the cloud, and then clear all the pages so you can write on them again. The pages of the notebook (which are just regular-ol’ paper, by the way) feature a set of seven different symbols, which can be mapped to different cloud storage services. Mark one of the symbols on the page, and when you scan it with Rocketbook’s accompanying smartphone app, a digitized copy of the page will instantly be sent to the cloud storage platform of your choice. After you’ve scanned, digitized, and saved your notes, you can just pop Rocketbook in the microwave for 30 seconds and it’ll erase all your notes — so long as you use a Pilot FriXion pen.
PancakeBot — Robotic pancake printer
It’s been nearly a year since we last heard anything about PancakeBot, but now the creator is back with a new-and-improved version that’s ready for mass production. PancakeBot 2.0 boasts a number of big improvements over the original, the most notable of which is definitely the accompanying software application. To make your own pancake design, you can now either freehand it, or upload an image and trace over the lines. Either way, the program will track every line you make with your mouse and then recreate the design with pancake batter on the skillet. In other words, you don’t need to have crazy CAD skills to design a cool pancake. The batter extruder has also been updated and now features onboard controls that allow you to adjust how quickly batter gets squirted onto the skillet. This is a pretty big deal, as it allows you to adjust PancakeBot so that it can handle batters of varying viscosity. Without these controls, you’d basically have to make batter exactly the same way every time you make breakfast.
BoXZY — 3D printer, CNC mill, and laser cutter
Additive manufacturing (aka 3D printing) gets all the attention these days, but despite the feverish pace at which the technology is advancing, traditional manufacturing processes still carry certain advantages — namely, the ability to work with materials other than plastic. They’re coming along, but 3D printers that print anything other than PLA or ABS are ridiculously expensive, so if you want to make something out of metal or wood, your best bet is to go with a traditional CNC mill. The only downside, however, is that mills generally can’t make many of the exotic “impossible” shapes that 3D printers can. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a machine that could give you best of both worlds? Enter: the BoXZY Rapid Change FabLab. It can do it all — printing in plastic, milling wood or metal, and even laser cutting/engraving. Each tool exists as a rapid-change attachment, so you can swap from mill, to 3D printer, to laser cutter in a matter of seconds.