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Awesome tech you can’t buy yet: Biometric bike locks, roll-up solar cells, and more

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.

PowerUp FPV — RC paper plane with FPV camera

If you dig the idea of flying a first person camera drone, but don’t have the money or piloting skills to get a high-end quadcopter, then you should definitely check out PowerUp FPV. It’s basically an RC paper airplane kit that comes with motors, Bluetooth, and a first-person camera. Once you’ve got it assembled, you connect it to your smartphone — at which point you can pilot the plane by simply tilting your device in the desired direction. The built-in Bluetooth transceiver allows the plane to transmit real-time video back to your phone for FPV flying. In the future, you’ll even be able to use Google Cardboard with it.

The FPV stuff is all well and good, but to be honest, the best part about this system is that the body of the plane is made up of nothing but construction paper. If you crash it into the ground, the plane presumably won’t have enough weight or momentum to cause significant damage to itself. The camera module is designed to be incredibly durable, so in most cases you’ll just need to replace the paper after a few flights.

Read more here.

HeLi-on — Ridiculously compact solar charger

Portable solar chargers have a bit of a dilemma right now. They’re either too small to generate a useful amount of power, or too big to be truly portable. There’s not really a happy medium, and you can’t really get the best of both worlds — but this gizmo called Helion might change that. It’s basically a sheet of ultra-thin ultra-flexible solar cells, designed to roll up neatly inside a tube, like a solar scroll. Better yet, it’s also got a battery inside, so you don’t have to have it plugged into a device in order to store the power. You can just unroll it whenever you find yourself in a patch of sunlight, collect some solar energy, and roll it up when you’re done.

In terms of specs, the HeLi-on roll features a 2,600mAh rechargeable lithium-ion battery, and a 3-Watt solar panel that’s just two micrometers thick. The panels are also encapsulated by two layers of waterproof foil, so while the device as a whole isn’t waterproof, you definitely wont have to worry about unexpected raindrops or spilled beers ruining your charger. As long as you don’t take it scuba diving or run it through the washing machine, it should last.

Read more here.

Pulse — Smart DSLR remote shutter

Smartphone-controlled remote camera shutters definitely aren’t a new idea at this point, but this one from Alpine Labs offers a few features that you wont find anywhere else. First and foremost, it connects to your camera via Bluetooth low-energy instead of Wi-Fi, allowing for quicker pairing and seamless setup. Furthermore, unlike other remote triggers, the Pulse device plugs into a camera’s USB port — so it can adjust parameters like shutter speed, ISO, and aperture; offer a live view; and pick video settings. The app will also warn you about potential problems before you shoot, such as low camera battery.

The easy-to-use app lets you adjust the duration of a time-lapse or how long the shutter stays open for a long exposure, for example. For beginners, the app makes the functions easy to understand, while experienced users get some extra convenience, rather than having to adjust in-camera settings. The camera also has Exposure Ramping, which lets you adjust the ISO and shutter speed for day-to-night transitions, such as sunrises and sunsets; it also notes the transition info in the EXIF data.

Read more here.

Grasp — Fingerprint-sensing biometric bike lock

Bluetooth bike locks are a dime a dozen these days. They offer an improvement on the traditional bike lock by pairing with your smartphone, and then unlocking automatically when your phone comes within range — the idea being that this scheme allows you to forego traditional keys and key rings. The only downside is that you’ve still got to carry a different key (your smartphone) that isn’t guaranteed to work. Phones can get lost or lose battery power — so they’re not necessarily the most ideal candidate for a key. A better key would be something you have with you all the time, and that also doesn’t rely on battery power: your fingerprint.

That’s where Grasp comes in. It’s basically the same exact thing as the Bluetooth and traditional bike locks you know and love, but instead of a metal or digital key, it uses a super-secure fingerprint reader. So unless you get your fingers chopped off, you’ll always be able to open the lock. And on top of that, it’s also got a super slick clamp design that saves you from having to reach over your bike to snap the lock together. Just shove it into the part you’re trying to lock, and the two sides will open, slide over your bike, and snap together on the other side. It’s super slick.

Read more here.

Silent Partner — Anti-snore device with active noise canceling

Most anti-snoring devices reduce snoring by opening your airways and allowing air to flow more freely through your nasal cavities — but Silent Partner takes a different approach, letting the snorer snore all he or she wants, but using active noise cancellation to silence the sound. Instead of curing the disease, it treats the symptoms — which allows it to features a radically different and drastically more comfortable form factor.

Aesthetically, Silent Partner is a triangular-shaped device with two speakers that are connected by a thin, flexible wire. The device also contains two resonance chambers, a sensor with a microcontroller, and two small watch batteries that power the noise cancellation. The two speakers attach comfortably to the sides of the nose using a reusable medical-grade and hypoallergenic adhesive, which holds the device firmly in place while the user sleeps. Once the Silent Partner is adhered to the user’s face, they simply turn it on and let the device do its work. When the wearer starts snoring, the Silent Partner senses the amplitude and frequency of the snoring sound and emits a countering sound wave in an inverted phase. This destructive interference effectively cancels out the sound of the snores and creates a 23-centimeter wide silent zone that makes it possible for the wearer and their partner to sleep without disturbance.

Read more here.

Drew Prindle
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Drew Prindle is an award-winning writer, editor, and storyteller who currently serves as Senior Features Editor for Digital…
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