At any given moment, there are approximately a zillion crowdfunding campaigns on the web. Take a visual 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.
Remember Guitar Hero? That gloriously simplified version of playing the guitar that made you feel like Eric Clapton on steroids? It was a great game, primarily because it was simple enough to learn that practically anyone could pick up the plastic guitar and start shredding. But wouldn’t it be sweet if learning to play real guitar was as easy as pressing the colored buttons on a Guitar Hero controller?
That’s precisely the idea behind Fret Zeppelin — a clever new gadget for guitar players of all skill levels. It’s basically just a strip of LEDs that fit just above the frets on your guitar. Once you’re all set up, you simply choose the song that you’d like to learn in the accompanying smartphone app, and the frets will light up to show you exactly where to put your fingers. In other words, it’s a tutor that lives on your guitar, so you don’t have to look back and forth T chord diagrams or tabs.
Electric scooters are a great option for commuters because they allow you to get from A to B quickly, but also don’t take up a bunch of space when you hop on a bus or train. They also don’t require any special skills or techniques to ride, so they’re more approachable than electric skateboards or unicycles. But unfortunately, despite the fact that electric scooters are widely available these days, the vast majority of them are still rather bulky, heavy, and unwieldy when folded up.
GoTube aims to change that. This sucker was built from the ground up to be super sleek, compact, and lightweight. Despite only weighing 12.8 pounds, the scooter has some impressive specs. The onboard 36V battery charges in only two hours, while the 120W motor powers the GoTube at speeds up to 10 mph, with a range of just over 7 miles. There are even shock absorbers in the front and rear wheels, which ensure a smooth ride over a variety of surfaces.
After SpeedX’s first smart bike, the Leopard, became an overnight success on Kickstarter, cyclists were naturally curious as to how the company could follow up on its initial bike design. Now we’ve got our answer in the form of the new Unicorn smartbike, which, like its predecessor, breaks new ground, particularly if you’re looking to train smarter.
The Unicorn boasts a number of improvements — including a new vibration-control system, as well as a SpeedForce cycling computer. But the real innovation that sets this bike apart from the Leopard –and any other bike on the road for that matter– is an integrated power meter. This rechargeable device is attached to the bike’s crank system and can record just how efficient a cyclist is in the saddle, providing accurate measurements of how much power they produce while on a ride.
When you think about it, cooking on a stovetop is a relatively tricky affair. Aside from an arbitrary number on a dial, you really have no idea how hot your burners are getting, so unless you have a good amount of practice under your belt, you’re really just taking a wild stab in the dark and hoping that your frittata comes out okay. But what if cooking on your stovetop wasn’t such a crapshoot? What if you could control the heat precisely, down to the degree?
That’s where GE FirstBuild’s Paragon cooking system comes in. It’s an induction cooktop that’s stuffed to the gills with sensors and smart features. Let’s say, for example, that you’re making pancakes. When you pour the batter onto the pan, it actually cools down the pan a little bit. Your normal burner wouldn’t know that and wouldn’t adjust itself — but the Paragon Mat does. It constantly monitors the temperature of the pan resting on top it, and then it cranks up or lowers the temperature of the cooktop in response. The result is more precise cooking.
There’s nothing quite like a well-brewed cup of pour-over coffee. The only trick is that brewing your beans correctly requires a higher degree of control over the water temperature. Too hot, and you pull out too many tannins and acids, and your morning cup of joe ends up bitter and awful. Too cool, and you don’t pull out enough flavor compounds. You need precision if you want to do it right — which is exactly why San Francisco-based startup Fellow designed the Stagg EKG.
“Brewing coffee is like baking a cake. Sure, you can bake all your batters at 350 [degrees Fahrenheit], but you’re going to get quite a few burnt bottoms and gooey middles,” states Fellow’s Kickstarter campaign. “And sure, you can brew your coffee at ‘about’ boiling, but you’re cutting yourself short in producing the best-tasting cup of coffee. Did you know that freshly roasted coffee should be brewed at a higher temp than an older bag of beans? With Stagg EKG, you have complete control of temperature with a touch of a button.”