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 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.
Tul Suitcase — Luggage with built-in scale
Self-weighing suitcases aren’t a new idea. In fact, they’ve been available in stores for years now. But in order to actually weight the contents of your luggage, you typically need to zip the suitcase up and then lift the whole thing by the handle. To make things a whole lot easier, the TUL suitcase gives a running total of its weight as you throw things in, so there are no surprises. To sweeten the deal, it’s also equipped with a weatherproof outer hard shell, ample zip-shut pockets lining the interior, and a TSA-approved combination lock for protecting what’s inside once the bag leaves your custody. And to protect the LCD display on the outside of the case, it includes a soft-side velcro-secured protective cover that easily slips on and off. The project is currently seeking $95K to kickstart the first production run, and if you back the project now during the early stages, you can lock one down for around $230.
Scrobby Solar — Solar panel cleaning robot
Gunk that inevitably gets caked on your panels is the mortal enemy of solar power. One tiny spec of dust won’t affect performance that much, but over time, as more and more tiny specks accumulate on the surface, they collectively block enough light from reaching the photovoltaic cells below, and thereby reduce the amount of power your solar panels can produce. This means that, for best results, you need to clean your solar panels periodically — which is often a daunting task, since panels are commonly located on rooftops. But not to worry — inventor Stefan Hamminga of the Netherlands has come up with a solution: a little robot that cleans them for you. Scrobby Solar is essentially a tiny little solar-powered Roomba that lives on your solar panels and autonomously cleans them with collected rainwater. Once installed, it’s completely hands-off, and apparently won’t require any outside power or water.
Totem — virtual reality headset
Now that crowdfunded VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and Avegant Glyph have proven consumers are interested in virtual reality, dozens of other hardware startups have started popping up with innovative new takes on the same idea. Totem is the latest one to surface on Kickstarter, but despite the fact that it’s a little late to the game, it might just have a shot at stealing some of Oculus’s thunder with it’s impressive specs. Described as a “premium” VR headset, Totem will reportedly offer a 90-degree field of view, a 1080p OLED screen, and the ability to connect to any HDMI source (computer, console, tablet, and so on). Setting it apart from competitors like Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus are its two onboard cameras, a patent-pending hardware acceleration feature, and “reverse AR,” which lets you see a virtual representation of your hands. Totem also features 3D passthrough vision so you can see your real world space without having to take off the headset.
BeatBalls — Turn music into meatballs
I know I’ve said this before, but this legitimately might be the weirdest Kickstarter project I’ve ever seen. Conceived by a group of 54 students from the Interactive Art Director program at Hyper Island in Stockholm, Sweden; BeatBalls is an attempt to translate music into taste. The team has apparently analyzed how various music attributes can be expressed through tastes, taking into consideration the social, cultural, and historical associations of both food and music. Every song has its own DNA — a unique blend of tempo, cadence, mood, and key, among other attributes. With this in mind, the group has built a machine that translates musical attributes into their corresponding flavors, and then uses that unique recipe to make a customized meatball. Right now the contraption is about the size of a room, but the team hopes to shrink it down and develop a version that fits on your countertop. They’re currently seeking $350K, which is a pretty ambitious goal, but considering how awesome their pitch video and backer rewards are, we think they’ve got a pretty good shot.
Fever Smart — Next-gen thermometer
About 18 months ago, when inventor Colin Hill was undergoing chemotherapy treatments, he had to take his own temperature every so often because he was more susceptible to infections. One night, after going to bed with a normal temperature, he awoke just a few hours later with a raging fever that took him to the ER. Even with regular periodic readings, he still didn’t see the spike coming. After speaking with a few of his fellow students at the University of Pennsylvania about the experience, it dawned on Hill that there must be a better way to monitor your body temperature. So now, about a year and a half after hatching the idea, Hill and his co-conspirators are on the verge of launching Fever Smart — an intelligent, app-enabled thermometer designed to keep a constant, unbroken watch on your (or your child’s) temperature. Rather than going under your tongue, the device sticks to a secure adhesive patch placed under your armpit. Using Bluetooth, it then beams temperature data to a nearby device (tablet, smartphone, or laptop). If your fever begins to rise sharply or reach potentially dangerous levels, the app can send you push notifications to let you know.