Awesome tech you can’t buy yet: Smart soccer balls, vibro razors, drum rings

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 new crowdfunding projects out there this week. That said, keep in mind that any crowdfunding project — even the best intentioned — can fail, so do your homework before cutting a check for the gadget of your dreams.

Specdrums — light-sensitive music creation platform

If there’s one thing crowdfunding sites are good for, it’s helping crazy new musical instruments come to life. Over the years, kickstarter and indiegogo have acted as springboards for just about every oddball noise-making device you could ever imagine: drum pads built into pants, motion-sensitive synthesizers, and even an all-in-one guitar/bass/piano/drum kit. The trend isn’t going away, and the latest addition to the growing list of offbeat insruments is arguably one of the strangest (and most intriguing) yet.

Specdrums, as its called, is a freeform music creation system that relies on programmable, light-sensitive actuators that translate color into sound. To make music with Specdrums, you start by slipping one or more of the system’s Bluetooth-equipped rings onto your fingers (or drumsticks, if that’s more your style).

When the rings tap on a surface, they shine a light on the surface, and a small sensor picks up the color. This color is instantly translated into a corresponding note — which plays through a connected speaker. The sound a given color creates can be assigned with the accompanying Specdrums smartphone app — meaning you can basically turn anything into an instrument that makes any sound you desire. Pretty nifty, right?

Luna Display — Wireless display extender for Mac/iPad

Ever wished you could use your iPad as a wireless second display for you Mac? Well, good news! There’s finally a decent way to make it happen. It’s called Luna Display, and it’s basically a tiny dongle (roughly the size of your thumb nail) that plugs into your computer’s Mini DisplayPort, USB-C, or USB 3 port. Once installed, it works through an app on your iPad, and connects the tablet display to your Mac via Wi-Fi.

Now, truth be told, this kind of thing has been possible for quite some time, but most Mac-to-iPad display extenders are software-based solutions, not hardware-based like Luna. The dongle approach has a couple big advantages though. Because it’s plugged into your Mac, Luna can tap into its graphics processor capabilities — something no app can do. Essentially, this means that Luna can offer super high image quality, despite the fact that it’s completely wireless.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Luna Display is actually a two-way extension to your Mac, allowing you to interact with your computer directly from your iPad. It literally turns your Mac into a touchable device, allowing pinching, panning and tapping, making it much more than just a second screen.

New Nine — Size-adjustable 3D printer

3D printers have come a long way in the past few years. It used to be that they were only found in well-funded engineering labs and the basements of uber-geeky enthusiasts — but now they’re available to anyone with $150. On top of that, the range of materials we can print with has greatly expanded in recent years. It’s not just ABS and PLA anymore; 3D printers can make stuff with wood, clay, nylon, and even metal these days.

Despite all the advances we’ve seen lately, there’s still one big limiting factor that’s holding 3D printers back: build envelope. Right now, if you want to make an object that’s bigger than your printer, you’re out of luck — but what if that wasn’t the case?

That’s precisely the idea behind the New Nine — an adjustable, scalable 3D printer that can be resized to accommodate bigger parts, when the job calls for it. We’re not just talking more width, either — the printer’s dimensions can be expanded along all axes, meaning you can make it wider, longer, taller, or any mix of the three.

As if that wasn’t awesome enough, it also has a boatload of high-end features, such as a heated bed, a mass damper to eliminate wobble, and a magnetic screen that can be re-positioned in seconds. Oh, and it’s also completely open source, which is pretty awesome.

DribbleUp — Smart soccer ball

Smart sports equipment is everywhere these days. We’ve got swing analyzers for golf, tennis and baseball; sensors that measure reps for weightlifters, and a veritable boatload of fitness trackers that analyze your daily activity. But oddly enough, soccer (or football, to anyone reading this outside the U.S.) has largely been ignored in this trend, despite the fact that it’s arguably the most popular sport on the planet. But that might soon change if DribbleUp’s latest Kickstarter campaign finds success. The company, whose first product was a stat-tracking basketball that launched a few years ago, is now working on a stat-tracking soccer ball.

“We’ve reinvented the soccer ball for the digital generation,” Eric Forkosh, CEO of DribbleUp, told Digital Trends. “Our ball connects to an augmented reality app on your phone so you can train anytime and anywhere — in your home, on the field, wherever. The virtual trainer on the app guides through interactive drills with live audio feedback and gives you a drill-by-drill graded breakdown so you know what you need to improve. Even when it’s raining or too dark outside, you can always practice in your room with the virtual trainer and take your game to the next level. Most importantly, our match-ball quality soccer ball has no batteries, so you never need to charge it and costs less than a standard match ball. Why buy a dumb ball when you can get a smart ball for the same price?”

Shaveman — Vibrating razor attachment

Ever since the practice of shaving has existed, inventors have been trying to re-invent the razor. First it was disposables, with cheap, mass-produced, and easily swappable blades. Then somebody decided to add multiple blades for more cutting power. After that came electric shavers, and now that Kickstarter and Indiegogo exist, there’s arguably more innovation in shaving technology than ever before.

In the past few years alone, we’ve seen everything from laser-powered razors that burn the stubble off your chin, to shavers with sapphire blades that never rust. And now, we can add another one to the ever-expanding list: the Shaveman.

The idea behind this gizmo is pretty straightforward. It’s basically a little vibrating puck that you can attach to any razor you own. Once activated, the Shaveman will vibrate at a super high frequency, which allegedly boosts the cutting power of your blades, and also makes the hairs on your face stand up straighter, thereby making them easier to chop down. We’re not entirely convinced that this scheme will work, but conceptually it’s a pretty cool idea, and is definitely worth bringing to life through crowdfunding.

Product Review

Razer just made our favorite gaming laptop even more powerful than before

The Razer Blade, our favorite gaming laptop, is now more powerful than ever before. That’s thanks to the new Nvidia RTX graphics cards inside. Do they help Razer retain its edge over the competition?
Outdoors

This feature-packed parka includes a Wi-Fi hot spot to keep you plugged in

The Norrland Parka is a winter jacket that offers more than 20 features, including pockets for storing smartphones, tablets, and earbuds, as well as a USB battery pack and a Wi-Fi hotspot for staying connected on the go.
Emerging Tech

Kickstarter campaign aims to help make 3D-printed space habitats for Mars

Mars X-House is an ambitious project that's intended to create a prototype future Mars habitat using 3D printing. And, thanks to a new Kickstarter campaign, you can be a part of it.
Gaming

From fatalities to new characters, here's what we know about Mortal Kombat 11

Mortal Kombat 11 releases April 23 for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. Here is everything we know about NetherRealm's latest fighting game, including its characters.
Emerging Tech

Bees can do arithmetic, setting the scientific community abuzz

A new study has found something remarkable: Bees can do basic arithmetic. Researchers showed that bees could use colors as representations for numbers and then use those colors for addition and subtraction.
Emerging Tech

DeepSqueak is a machine learning A.I. that reveals what rats are chatting about

Want to know what rats are squeaking about? You'd better check out DeepSqueak, the new deep learning artificial intelligence developed by researchers at the University of Washington.
Health & Fitness

Immune cell discovery takes us one step closer to a universal flu vaccine

A group of international researchers have made a discovery which could take us one step closer to the universal, one-shot flu vaccine that people around the world have been dreaming of.
Photography

NASA celebrates Earth’s incredible natural beauty with free photo book

NASA has published a fabulous new book featuring stunning imagery captured by its satellites over the years. A hardback version is available for $53, though it can also be downloaded to ebook readers for free, and enjoyed online.
Deals

This new all-in-one flashlight is a power bank, lighter, and screwdriver

The Pyyros modular flashlight can perform numerous field tasks, from hammering to starting fires. If you back it on Kickstarter now, you can score some savings on this innovative flashlight and multi-tool, but act fast: This early-bird…
Movies & TV

Hilarious new Kickstarter aims to fix Scorcese’s last scene in The Departed

A fan of The Departed and apparent hater of rat-as-symbolism imagery has launched a Kickstarter campaign to digitally erase the rodent from the end of Martin Scorsese’s 2006 movie.
Emerging Tech

Baristas beware, Bbox cafe uses robots to brew your morning coffee

Want your morning coffee and pastry prepared by robot? Bbox, a new coffee shop in downtown Berkeley, California, lets customers place their order by app and then uses automation to take care of the rest.
Emerging Tech

This ridiculous new flamethrower makes Elon Musk’s look like a cigarette lighter

The XL18 Flamethrower is a flame-shooting beast on steroids, capable of firing off bursts of flame more than 110 feet in length. The best part? You can order it over the internet today.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX just nailed its most challenging Falcon 9 rocket landing to date

If you've been following the SpaceX launch calendar, you know this week marks the first launch from Cape Canaveral in two months. We have the details on where you can watch the launch live.
Emerging Tech

Touchdown! Japan successfully lands its Hayabusa2 spacecraft on asteroid Ryugu

Japan's space agency has just completed the latest stage of its extraordinarily complex mission, successfully landing its Hayabusa2 spacecraft on an asteroid millions of miles from Earth.