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 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.
Seattle-based startup PicoBrew is on a mission to democratize beer making, and as part of its ongoing effort to make homebrewing easier and more accessible, the company has recently unveiled a new micro-brewer dubbed Pico — a smaller, simpler version of the company’s original homebrew machine. The first generation brewer, dubbed the Zymatic, was one of the first automated brewing machines ever made, and the new Pico brewer takes this automation process one step further, bringing the convenience of the Keurig K-Cup to home brewing.
Similar to the Keurig coffee brewer and its associated K-cups, the new Pico brewer uses prepackaged PicoPaks that include all the ingredients necessary to brew beer. To make a batch of beer, you simply place a single PicoPak into the machine, set it to brew, and come back in two hours when the brewing process is complete. But of course, the brewing is only part of the process of making beer. Once the brewing is done, it still takes a few weeks of fermentation before the beer is ready to drink. Each batch will make about five liters of beer — all of which fits in a tiny little pony keg that doesn’t require it’s own refrigeration system.
What if you could take the same “sharing economy” concept pioneered by companies like Uber and Airbnb and apply it to bicycles? That’s a pretty brilliant startup idea, right? With the right technology, you could create a distributed bike sharing platform that’d potentially revolutionize intra city transportation — and that’s exactly what Donkey Republic is hoping to do with AirDonkey. It’s like Airbnb for bicycles.
At the heart of the company’s AirDonkey system is the Donkey Kit, an adaptable bike lock system that can be retrofitted onto any existing bicycle. The idea is that with this kit, any bike in the world can become an AirDonkey, so unlike city-based bicycle rental systems like Citibike in New York or Capital Bikeshare in Washington, DC, any personally owned bicycle can become a part of the bike-sharing platform. The Donkey Kit mounts onto the back wheel of your bicycle, and is designed to protect against theft, rain, and frost with a battery that should last for up to a year before requiring replacement.
At first glance, the AuraVisor headset may look a lot like other VR options already popular on the market, but unlike existing headsets, this bad boy is completely self-contained — so you don’t need to be tethered to a PC, gaming console, or smartphone in order to use it. Powered by an Android-based computer, the headset’s 5-inch display runs on 1080p per eye with a 100-degree field of view. The 1.8GHz quad-core Rockchip RK3288 processor has been seen more commonly in tablets and notebook computers up until now, but since it’s equipped with high resolution/UHD video decoders and Mali graphics capabilities, it could very well be enough to power a proper VR experience.
Existing virtual reality options typically require either a gaming console, PC connection, or smart phone held within the headset. AuraVisor doesn’t need any of that nonsense. It has all the processing power and motion sensors needed to create a full-fledged VR experience without being plugged into anything else. With the onboard Android OS, users could presumably just log into Google Play Store, download a VR game that looks like fun, and fire it up right away. No thethering, no scyncing, no motion restrictions — it’s just a seamless, uninterrupted VR experience.
Induction cooktops are awesome. If you’re not familiar, they’re the ones that use magnetic induction to heat up the pan directly — instead of using an open flame or a heated coil. They’re not super common in the U.S. yet, but they do exist, and they’re amazing to cook with. Not only do they use less energy — they also give you a finer degree of control over the temperature you cook at. Rather than a knob with heat settings from 1 to 10, most induction hobs allow you to choose the exact temperature you cook at — right down to a single degree.
Oliso is an upcoming kitchen gizmo that uses induction technology — but that’s not the only trick it has up its sleeve. Armed with such precise temperature control, the burner can also be used with an accompanying water tank to cook sous vide. If you’re not familiar, sous vide is a new-ish cooking technique wherein food is placed in an airtight bag and cooked in a bath of hot water. It sounds weird, but it actually helps the food retain more flavor, moisture, and nutrients — and there’s also practically no chance of overcooking. Oliso offers this functionality AND the ability to cook via induction, which is an undeniably awesome combo to have in your kitchen.
Gesture controls are clearly the next step toward the futuristic computing interfaces of tomorrow, but in their current state, they’re lacking. We’re still not at that Minority Report style gesture control we’ve been chasing since 2002 – but we’re getting closer. The problem is that the most advanced gesture-control systems still detect movements with cameras, which isn’t ideal. The effectiveness of these systems hinges on extremely sophisticated gesture-recognition algorithms, which often have detection problems at large distances or varying light conditions.
Gest approaches the problem in a different way. Rather than detecting motions and gestures with cameras, Gest uses a glove-like wearable array of accelerometers to sense movement in your fingers and hands. Using this information, the glove can reliably discern what position your hand is in, giving it a huge advantage over camera-based gesture recognition systems, which often struggles with detecting the position of individual digits. Further more, since Gest is designed to be worn on the hand and carried around, it allows you to interface with a wider range of objects – not just ones that have gesture-recognizing cameras built into them.