Awesome tech you can’t buy yet, for the week of October 19, 2014

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At any given moment there are approximately a zillion different crowdfunding campaigns happening on the WebTake a stroll through Kickstarter or Indiegogo and you’ll find there’s 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.

Aerial Bold — typeface created from aerial shots of buildings

Aerial BoldSo this one isn’t necessarily a tangible product you can pre-order through Kickstarter, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome. The idea here is that two dudes, Benedikt Groß & Joey Lee, are going to develop a special program that scans satellite imagery to pick out letterforms created by buildings, neighborhoods, and a variety of other landmasses. Once they’ve gathered up a collection of different letters, they plan to create a custom typeface — cleverly named Aerial Bold — and distribute it online so you can download it and install it on your computer. But it’s not just about making a new font; the project is just as much about developing new methods of mapping features on the earth’s surface as it is about generating the first map and typeface of the planet. The project is already about two thirds of the way to achieving its $10K funding goal, and still has the better part of a month left to raise the rest.

TinyScreen — thumbnail-sized color display

TinyScreenTinyScreen is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: an ultra-miniature color display that plugs into the TinyDuino platform, and can be configured to serve as a smartwatch, smart glasses, a tiny game console, and just about anything else you can imagine. Measuring just 25.8 x 25 mm (1.02 x 0.98-in), TinyScreen sports four integrated buttons and a 96 x 64 pixel OLED screen that’s capable of delivering 16-bit color depth and contains a controllable backlight. And it’s not just for geeks and tinkerers either — the display ships with a handful of default applications that will work right out of the box. Arguably the most compelling and useful of these is the smartwatch app, which allows you to interface with iOS or Android smartphones via Bluetooth LE, and display things like notifications, phone calls, texts, and tweets. There’s even a 3D-printable watch design you can download or purchase to use with the display.

Keecker — robotic butler/home entertainment system

KeeckerAesthetically, Keecker looks like the misshapen egg that would be laid if R2D2 ever traveled back in time and impregnated a brontosaurus, and the functions it performs are pretty much what you’d expect from such an unholy union. In addition to a veritable boatload of sensor tech, the bot is equipped with a self-adjusting HD projector and a 360-degree sound system under the hood, so it’s mostly intended for use as an entertainment hub.

On top of that, Keecker sports over a terabyte of local storage for movies, music, and games; and can also connect to the Internet to play content from websites and streaming services. But it’s more than just an egg-shaped projector/media center. Keecker is also outfitted with a set of wheels, a camera, and special navigation software that allows it to follow you around the house. The idea is that, instead of you getting up and physically moving yourself to wherever your home theater might be, you can use your smartphone to summon Keecker to the spot you happen to be in. Lazy people, eat your heart out.

VeloLoop — traffic sensor trigger for your bike

VeloLoopYou know those traffic sensors they put underneath the asphalt on busy intersections? The ones that are hooked up to the lights, help manage traffic, and can give you a green right away if there’s nobody else at the crossing? They’re awesome, and much better than timed lights in most situations, but they also have one big drawback: because they rely on electromagnetic feedback to detect vehicles instead of weight or pressure, they typically can’t detect you when you’re on a bike. VeloLoop aims to solve this problem.

Using an embedded accelerometer, a 7×7-inch square antenna, and a bit of clever programming, the device is able to tell when you stop at an intersection — at which point it will use the antenna to scan for any traffic sensors under the pavement. If it detects there’s one beneath you, it’ll send out a signal at the exact frequency that the sensor happens to be looking for, effectively tricking it into thinking you’re a car. Pretty brilliant, right?

Mad Genius — motion-based controller for consoles

Mad GeniusThe Mad Genius Controller is a split-apart universal gaming controller for use across all consoles and PCs. So what makes it special?  The controller uses a revolutionary new location tracking technology to offer the user a different way to interact with the game they’re playing. A dedicated motion capture system enables each controller-half to know exactly where it is in the room. It uses this information to add motion play to unmodified consoles and PCs, while also preserving the use of standard buttons and sticks. In other words, if you get tired of using buttons and joysticks, you can just snap the controller apart and start using each half like a Nintendo Wii remote.

The only difference is that The Mad Genius Controller uses a new patented technology to know where you are down to 1/100th of an inch, as opposed to other motion controllers that use cameras or accelerometers. We haven’t tried one out for ourselves just yet, but apparently it’s ridiculously accurate.

Emerging Tech

Meet NASA’s climbing robots, able to move through the slipperiest environments

When it comes to exploring far off planets, robots need to be able to tackle all sorts of environmental challenges. NASA has been working on a series of climbing robots to take on different tasks in inhospitable environments.

Amazon drops Prime Day deal on Kasa Spot Indoor Security Camera, now just $35

The Kasa Spot Indoor Camera is a reliable and budget-friendly way to add extra protection to your home. For Prime Day, Amazon made it even more affordable for only $35. Hurry and take advantage of this limited-time offer.

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Drone lens, laser synth, and more

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Lua uses animated emotions to help you keep your plants happy and healthy

The Lua Smart Planter is currently seeking funding on Indiegogo to make this smiling plant pot a reality. The device helps you take care of your plants by showing their needs through a series of animated faces.
Smart Home

The best Instant Pot for each household size and price range

Instant Pots are perfect home cooks who love versatility in the kitchen, and for those who like to prepare quick and easy meals. Cooking for one or for a crowd, there's a model for everyone. Check out our picks for the best Instant Pots.
Emerging Tech

Bouncing robot for low-gravity space missions has a spring in its step

The European Space Agency has created SpaceBok, a robot inspired by the springbok designed for low-gravity dynamic walking. On the moon, SpaceBok could potentially jump as high as two meters into the air.
Emerging Tech

Impossible Foods looks to make another splash with fishless fish

Impossible Foods is currently developing fishless fish, in response to the growing demand for plant-based food. The product will include heme, a protein from genetically modified yeast that was also used in the Impossible Burger.
Emerging Tech

Professional poker players no match for A.I. in six-player Texas Hold ’em

Poker AI Pluribus destroyed professional players in Texas Hold 'em. The bot won an average of $5 per hand with winnings of $1,000 per hour, with strategies that were very different to how humans played the game.
Emerging Tech

Russia launches X-ray observatory capable of locating thousands of black holes

Russia has finally launched its powerful X-ray observatory, Spektr-RG, after a delay caused by faulty batteries on board the spacecraft. The launch took place at 5:30 a.m. PT on Saturday, July 13, taking off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Emerging Tech

See a gargantuan dust storm covering the north pole of Mars

A dust storm around Mars' north pole has been imaged by the Mars Express orbiter. Localized dust storms are common on Mars, but occasionally one expands into a planet-wide event like the one which caused the demise of the Opportunity rover.
Emerging Tech

The Very Large Telescope captures the beautiful remnants of a dying star

The VLT has captured a beautiful cosmic object, the planetary nebula named Abell 24. Located in constellation of Canis Minor (The Lesser Dog), it is a swirl of dust and gas which is illuminated by the core of a dead star.
Emerging Tech

Astronomers have spotted a moon forming around a proto-Jupiter

Astronomers have spotted a young planet with a disk of gas and dust around it which is similar to the one from which the moons of Jupiter were born. The planet PDS 70 b is in the process of forming and is located 370 light-years away.
Emerging Tech

Stallone in Terminator 2? How one deepfake prankster is changing cinema history

Ever wanted to see The Shining with Jim Carrey instead of Jack Nicholson? How about Stallone in Terminator 2: Judgement Day instead of everyone's favorite governator? Thanks to deepfakes, it's now possible -- just ask YouTuber Ctrl Shift…
Emerging Tech

NASA thinks 3D-printing spacecraft parts in orbit will help Moon to Mars mission

NASA funded the demonstration by a small spacecraft named Archinaut One to manufacture and assemble parts while in space. NASA believes that the technology will change future space exploration, including its Moon to Mars initiative.