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.
Some of the greatest inventions in the world were created by combining two already awesome things. Just look at cookie dough ice cream, the Cronut, and pot brownies — all of these are shining examples of the fact that when you mix two amazing things together, the resulting concoction can be greater than the sum of its parts. This week, the world has been gifted with yet another one of these inventions. Oregon-based entrepreneur Benjamin Frederick has recently taken to Kickstarter to fund a glorious new contraption he calls the Hydro Hammock — which is essentially the bastard child of a hammock and a hot tub.
Could there be anything more relaxing? At first glance it just looks like an extra beefy hammock with watertight walls — but it’s more than just a sling you can fill with water. The system actually comes with a portable pump and gas/electric heater, so once you’ve hung it up and filled it up (it can hold up to 50 gallons, by the way), you can connect it to the heater by dropping in a couple tubes. One draws in cool water from the hammock bed and heats it up, and the other pumps the warm water back in to the hammock pool.
Custom frames are often too expensive for the average Joe, so most people tend to stick with the mass-produced, standard-size frames that may or may not fit their faces properly. It’s not exactly ideal, but thankfully, Amsterdam-based startup Boulton Eyewear has cooked up a solution. These guys know that our heads, noses, ears, and personal style preferences are unique, and they’ve developed a manufacturing process that takes all that into account. The company uses a combination of facial scanning software and advanced 3D printing technology to make custom-tailored eyewear that’s both cheap and durable.
The process basically goes like this: Instead of dropping by an eyewear boutique, you start by simply snapping a few pictures of your face and uploading them to the company’s website. From this series of photos, Boulton is able to extract hundreds of data points and create a detailed digital replica of your mug. Advanced algorithms then generate a set of frames that are perfectly designed to accommodate your unique nose bridge, eye width, and overall facial structure. Once the design is finalized, it’s sent to a 3D printer for manufacture.
Baseballs, footballs, and Frisbees are what most people grab for a quick game of catch, but pretty soon the world will have another toy to toss around. The ZipChip, as it’s called, is essentially a palm-sized rubber puck that flies through the air like a Frisbee; but it’s quite a bit different than your average disc. For starters, you don’t throw it like a traditional Frisbee. ZipChip is designed to be thrown forehand, similar to how you’d throw a rock you’re trying to skip across a pond.
It’s also considerably smaller than a Frisbee — or even a baseball for that matter. Stretching just a couple inches long at its widest point, ZipChip is compact enough to slip into a pocket — yet somehow it’s still capable of stable flight. Generally speaking, smaller discs aren’t as steady as larger ones, but ZipChip’s unique shape apparently gives it a high degree of aerodynamic stability. In the video, the chip’s inventors are shown tossing it across distances over 200 feet, but still catching it easily due to its reliable, predictable flight path.
In the past couple years, luggage has experienced a technological revolution. Sensor-studded smart suitcases have been popping up all over the place lately — but this one from Planet Traveler USA just might be the most impressive yet. The Space Case 1, as it’s called, is equipped with a laundry list of high-tech features — including digital biometric locks, GPS, a digital lift-less weighing system, a power bank, Bluetooth, speakerphone, motion sensors, and anti-theft alerts. It even comes with a personal assistant that works through your smartphone. The suitcase of the future has arrived.
Here’s how it works. To open the suitcase up, you’ll first need to run your finger over the biometric scanner or use the accompanying smartphone app to scan your prints. Next, just pack up your case. But don’t go overboard and get stuck paying those overweight luggage fees. Planet Traveler implemented a Digital Self Scale into the Space Case –with integrated sensors right in the wheels– that weighs your suitcase without even placing it on actual scale. Just fire up the accompanying smartphone app to see the weight.
While it’s certainly not the first bluetooth earbud we’ve ever see, the Dot is without a doubt the most promising take we’ve seen yet. In a nutshell, it’s really just a simple and well-designed Bluetooth in-ear headphone that’s available in a mono or stereo. The single-bud mono version would make a good replacement for that Bluetooth bar of a headset you’ve been meaning to replace — it’s super comfortable (we actually got a chance to try it out) and folks can hardly detect you’re wearing it, so you get to add the creepy “guy talking to himself” factor, to boot. A stereo version is also available for those who would like to use the Dot for music listening or taking hands-free calls.
Central to the Dot’s design is a charging device that looks like a metallic tube of Chapstick. The tube holds a rechargeable battery that is said to charge a single Dot up to six times, in as little as 30 minutes per charge. The Dot is rated to last for 1.5 hours of talk time, or about 1 hour of music time, depending on the volume. With those kinds of times, the Dot probably isn’t a good solution for long-term commuters or travelers, but could work great through the workday or for short trips.