Awesome tech you can’t buy yet: Art lenses, tankless diving, Shazam for birds

1175836 autosave v1 3 neptune swappable lens bag
At any given moment, there are approximately a zillion crowdfunding campaigns 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. In this column, we cut through all the worthless wearables and Oculus Rift ripoffs to round up the week’s most unusual, ambitious, and exciting projects. But don’t grab your wallet just yet. Keep in mind that any crowdfunded project can fail — even the most well-intentioned. Do your homework before cutting a check for the gadget of your dreams.

MC Hammie — 3-in-1 hammock/tent/blanket

awesome tech you cant buy yet airbuddy neptune at mc hammie

Over the past few years, many backpackers have taken to replacing their traditional tents with a hammock, and it’s easy to see why. Hammocks are often lighter to carry, faster and less complex to set up, and offer better all-around comfort to boot.

Hammocks are not without their drawbacks, however. For starters, they require properly spaced and sized trees to be useful, and most can only hold one or two people. Additionally, they tend not to be especially adaptable, mainly serving only one purpose. But a company called Wildish is looking to change that with the introduction of the M.C. Hammie: a hammock it promises will be the most versatile ever made.

The M.C. Hammie launched on Kickstarter last week. It’s made from rugged ripstop nylon that has been treated with a durable water-resistant coating. It functions just like a standard hammock, allowing users to sling it up between a pair of trees and relax in comfort both at home or while in the backcountry.

But, unlike most other hammocks, M.C. Hammie can also serve as a waterproof ground blanket with enough room for up to eight people. In a pinch, it can also be converted into an emergency shelter, not unlike a traditional tent.

Read more here

AirBuddy — tank-free diving apparatus

awesome tech you cant buy yet airbuddy neptune at

If you’ve always wanted to try scuba diving but have been scared off by the high cost of gear and the prolonged certification process, this new Kickstarter gizmo just might be your dream come true. The AirBuddy promises to deliver a full diving experience that offers the ease and simplicity of snorkeling. It’s a diving apparatus that doesn’t use a tank, thereby making it easier and more accessible for beginners and pros alike.

Weighing in at just 17.2 pounds, the AirBuddy is allegedly the smallest and lightest diving device ever created. The unit is able to cut a considerable amount of weight by doing away with the traditional scuba tank. Instead, it employs a unique design, which includes an air compressor that floats on the surface above the diver, pumping fresh air through a flexible tube that’s connected to a mouthpiece regulator.

The device can reportedly run for up to 45 minutes on a rechargeable battery, allowing the diver to descend as far as 40 feet below the surface without being encumbered by heavy equipment in any way.

Read more here

WarblrGA — Shazam for birds

awesome tech you cant buy yet airbuddy neptune at warbler

Ever found yourself wondering what bird you just heard on your morning stroll through the park? There’s an app for that — or at least there will be soon. Recently launched on Indiegogo, the Warblr app can identify bird species by listening to their chirps.

Similar to song-identifying apps like Shazam and SoundHound, Warblr uses your smartphone to record a nearby bird song and then analyze it in real time with sophisticated machine learning algorithms to determine the species of the performer.

That might sound fairly straightforward, but deciphering bird chirps is a bit more complicated than identifying a song. Unlike a song you hear on the radio, bird songs aren’t sung by just one artist. Tweets and chirps are sung with varying speeds and cadences, so even among birds of the exact same species, identifying a particular song can be tricky.

Warblr’s algorithms have to account for all this — not to mention the fact that individual birds often have large repertoires of different songs and calls — an impressive feat.

Read more here

NeoLucida XL — tracing tool

awesome tech you cant buy yet airbuddy neptune at neolucia tracer

Ever heard of the camera lucida? It’s an old 19th century optical tool that artists utilized to help them draw things that they saw — kind of like tracing an object in the real world. It’s centuries old, but has now been updated for the modern age by two university art professors.

Pablo Garcia, an assistant professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Golan Levin, an associate professor at Carnegie Melon, devised an inexpensive, portable version of the camera lucida, which allows the user to “draw from life,” as the creators put it.

The NeoLucida XL is “ … a prism on an adjustable stand. When an artist looks down through the prism, they see the world in front of them, plus their hand on the page, combined in perfect superimposition. In short, a camera lucida allows you to trace what you see.”

Highly popular in the 1800s, it’s an effective method in portraitures. In Garcia and Levin’s modern version (shown above), the NeoLucida XL is highly portable, with a large prism attached to flexible stand with clamp. There’s no electricity required, nor are there any computer components reproducing the image, so you can take it anywhere and use it without any prior experience.

Read more here

Neptune — swappable art lens system

awesome tech you cant buy yet airbuddy neptune at swappable lens2

Interchangeable lens cameras offer incredible versatility, but what if you could also swap out the individual pieces inside that lens? What kind of crazy, beautiful, and outrageous photos could you create? If you want to find out, we highly suggest you check out the Neptune from Lomography: a convertible art lens system that’s essentially three prime lenses in one. Both launched and fully funded on Kickstarter last week, the system uses an unusual but historically inspired modular design.

The Neptune consists of three parts. The first is the lens base or mount. Most photographers will only need one, but creatives that shoot with multiple brands can use the same lens on their Canon, their Nikon or their Pentax by swapping out the base.

The second piece is a swappable aperture plate. As an art lens, the plate sits inside the camera’s usual diaphragm to alter the shape of the background bokeh from stars to teardrops.  The final piece is the front lens, the section that determines the lens’ focal length.

The project is expected to launch with a 35mm f/3.5, a 50mm f/2.8, and an 80mm f/4, though Lomography is already designing additional parts to expand the system from 15mm to 400mm.

Read more here

Emerging Tech

This fully autonomous $400 drone folds like a book, follows you like a paparrazzo

Having a drone that could follow you everywhere while taking high-quality images without crashing has been a flight of fantasy. With ZeroZero's Hover 2, not only can you have a fully autonomous 4K selfie drone, you can have it for $400.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in November, from 'The Witch’ to ‘Dracula’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Emerging Tech

These Alexa-stuffed retro phones don’t listen until you take them off the hook

Looking for an Amazon Echo with a cool vintage touch? Los Angeles-based Grain Design is taking old, non-working antique phones and transforming them into amazing Alexa smart speakers.
Smart Home

This alarm clock uses targeted light and sound to wake you, but not your partner

The Wake v2 isn't like your typical bedside alarm. Instead, it wakes you by shining a soft light directly into your face, thereby not disturbing the person sharing a bed with you. Pretty smart, huh?
Emerging Tech

Believe it or not, this fire-proof exoskeleton isn’t designed for space marines

A company called Levitate Technologies has developed a fire-resistant upper body exoskeleton that’s capable of lowering exertion levels by up to 80 percent when you carry out manual work.
Emerging Tech

Intel’s new ‘neural network on a stick’ aims to unchain A.I. from the internet

To kick off its first developer conference in Beijing, Intel unveiled the second generation of its Neural Compute Stick -- a device that promises to democratize the development of computer vision A.I. applications.
Emerging Tech

Frogs regrow ‘paddle-like’ limbs when placed in a bioreactor

Frogs have partially regrown amputated limbs thanks to a bioreactor at Tufts University. By jump-starting tissue repair, the bioreactor helped the amphibians regenerate a bigger, more complete appendages than they usually do.
Emerging Tech

Prepare for liftoff: Here are all the important upcoming SpaceX rocket launches

From ISS resupply missions to a host of communication and scientific satellite launches, SpaceX has a busy year ahead. Here's a rundown of some of the company's most important missions slated for the next year.
Emerging Tech

China says it has developed a quantum radar that can see stealth aircraft

Chinese defense giant China Electronics Technology Group Corporation claims that it has developed a quantum radar that's able to detect even the stealthiest of stealth aircraft. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

Glass orb packs all the constellations in the night sky into fancy desk ornament

Ever wanted to know more about the star constellations? A stunning new Kickstarter campaign, taking the form of a fancy desk ornament that re-creates the night sky in a glass orb, aims to help.
Emerging Tech

Stronger than steel, thinner than paper, graphene could be the future of tech

Since its discovery, graphene has set the research world on fire. What exactly is it, though, and what could it mean for the future of tech? Here's everything you need to know about what could be the next supermaterial to take center stage.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX makes rocketry look easy, sticks yet another Falcon 9 landing

SpaceX is due to perform its latest Falcon 9 rocket launch and landing on November 15 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Here's how you can watch the proceedings live.
Emerging Tech

In a weighty decision, scientists prepare to redefine the kilogram

Metrologists are meeting at the General Conference on Weights and Measures in Versailles to vote on whether to redefine the kilogram as a constant that can be observed in the natural world.