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.
Near Field Communication, otherwise referred to as NFC, is one of the coolest technologies on the planet. It’s like magic. By some brilliant manipulation of physics, these little tags are able to store and transmit information without using a battery. Sure, the transmission distance isn’t very big (like 10 centimeters max), so you’ve got to get close to whatever device is receiving the signal, but still — the fact that a passive, power-free tag can send information and manipulate electronic devices is mind blowing.
Kerv is a beautiful application of NFC technology. It’s essentially a super burly and durable ring with NFC under the hood. The idea isn’t new, but Kerv takes the concept to a completely new level with its accompanying application. With the help of the app, the ring is able to store encrypted payment information — so you can use it to pay for things as though it were a contactless credit card. You don’t even have to bring your phone along for it to work. We’re not sure how, but the ring is able to work independently from your mobile device, which means you can take it absolutely anywhere.
Projects like this one are exactly why Kickstarter — and the concept of crowdfunding in general– is awesome. Basically, there’s a group of engineers from London who want to build a three-stage liquid-fueled rocket, fill it with data and digital information from planet Earth, blast it into space, and then crash it into the moon. The payload is a little spike filled with all the digital info, which is designed to embed itself into the moon’s surface upon impact — effectively becoming a lunar time capsule. And they want to fund the whole thing on Kickstarter.
If it sounds ambitious, that’s because it is — but it’s not necessarily out of the question. The guys behind the project previously held key roles within the Copenhagen Suborbitals project — one of the most successful and widely regarded amateur space projects ever. So they definitely know a thing or two about putting a rocket into orbit with a shoestring budget. If there’s anybody that could pull this off, it’s probably them. They just need some help with the funding, so they’re hoping to raise about a million euros ($909,000 US) to make it happen. If you pledge your support, they’ll save you some space in the digital time capsule.
Solar cookers are awesome, but unfortunately, most of the ones available right now aren’t particularly portable. They’re large, unwieldy affairs that aren’t designed to go anywhere but your backyard — which totally sucks when your neighborhood is mired under a gloomy patch of clouds. Ideally, you’d be able to pack up your grill and head to wherever there’s sunshine. That’s where PhotonGrill comes in. Rather than using a set of rigid glass mirrors to focus light onto your cooking surface, this beast uses a lightweight, reflective plastic.
To start grilling, simply inflate the solar collector until it becomes rigid enough to hold its concave shape, attach it to the expandable tripod mount, and then direct the sunbeam at your cooking platform. After that, all you’ve got to do is wait — and if you’ve got decent sunlight you don’t even have to wait long. According to the grill’s creators, the PhotonGrill can reach a temperature of 500 degrees Fahrenheit (260 Celsius) in just five minutes with full sunlight. When it’s all said and done, simply deflate the dish, fold up the legs, and pack everything up. PhotonGrill even comes with a backpack carrying case, so you can take it along on backpacking trips, picnics, and any other sun-soaked adventure you’ve got planned.
If you missed the news about Tempescope when it first broke about a year ago, here’s the deal. Tempescope is a tabletop gizmo that displays weather forecasts and current conditions by actually recreating them inside a sealed enclosure. If the forecast says it’s going to rain, it rain inside the box. If it’s going to be cloudy or foggy, the enclosure fills with mist. The idea is that with the help of this realistic, always-on weather display, you won’t have to fire up an app to see what the weather’s going to be like tomorrow; you can just glance over at your Tempescope and instantly know what to expect.
Here’s how it works: Tempescope consists of a water pump, mist diffuser, a set of colored LEDs, and an Arduino microcontroller inside a clear acrylic box. By syncing wirelessly with a computer or mobile phone, the device can hook up to the Internet and grab hourly weather forecast data. The app then takes this data and plugs it into the system’s various output devices. The LEDs will shift from red to blue to reflect the temperature, whereas the diffuser will fill the box with mist to match the level of cloud cover outside. If it happens to be raining, the pump will pull water from the lower reservoir and drip it down from the Tempescope’s ceiling. It can even recreate lightning during a storm.
Ever wished you could pull a George Bailey, toss a lasso around the moon, and pull it down into your living room? Well thanks to Japanese design firm Acorn Studio, you might soon be able to do so. Not literally of course — but the company has designed an incredibly realistic moon lantern that you can use to illuminate your house, so it’s pretty damn close.
The Luna Lamp, as it’s called, is constructed of glass fiber and non-toxic latex. The design comes in a total of seven different sizes — ranging from a 3.2-inch diameter to 23.6 inches — and has a luminosity that ranges from LUX1 to LUX5. It’s also water-, heat-, and crash-resistant, and the durable design can rest on a tabletop or hang via the included hook for added versatility. Eat your heart out, space geeks!