Awesome tech you can’t buy yet: Candle-powered chargers, distraction slayers

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.

Candle Charger — Thermoelectric charging hub

You might not realize it, but candles contain a boatload of potential energy. The only thing is, there’s not really an easy way to transform the energy stored in the wax into electricity that you can juice up your gadgets with — until now, that is. Candle Charger finally makes it easy. It’s essentially a compact thermoelectric charging device designed specifically to run on candle power. Just fill up the top with water, light a candle underneath the reservoir, plug in your phone, and sit back.

Here’s how it works. As the wax (or oil, or whatever) burns, the flame stretches up and heats the bottom panel of the water reservoir. As this happens, it creates a difference in temperature between the water and the bottom panel, causing electrons to move away from the hot end toward the cold end. When the electrons go from the hot side to the cold side, it creates an electrical current, which Candle Charger harnesses to charge your USB devices.  The larger the temperature difference the more electrical current is produced and therefore more power generated.

Find out more here.

Saent — Distraction eliminator button

If you work on an Internet-connected computer, you know firsthand just how difficult it can be to stay focused. At any given moment, there are a zillion different things vying your attention: emails, instant messages, app notifications, websites you shouldn’t be browsing, calendar reminders — the list goes on and on. Distractions are everywhere on your desktop, but thankfully there’s a fresh new gizmo in the works that might help you miss them.

Saent, as its called, is a physical button that stops Internet users from wandering online and succumbing to a cacophony of messages and alerts. To use it, you simply plug it into your computer and fire up the accompanying software application. The dashboard allows you to choose which apps and websites to block out, and will activate for a predetermined amount of time whenever you press the button. Saent can also be used as a hotkey for your favorite productivity apps, and even has a unique gamification element that allows you to compete against friends and coworkers for points.

Find out more here.

Helix — Wearable headphone storage cuff

If I had a dollar for every headphone cable storage gizmo that’s ever been invented, I’d probably be a millionaire. There are a countless number of “solutions” out there that are designed to keep your earbuds neatly organized and untangled in your pockets — but most of them still have one main drawback. For all their organizational capabilities, none of them actually make your headphones easier to access.

Helix aims to change that. It’s basically a Bluetooth headphone system that’s designed to fit inside a cuff you wear on your wrist, so that your headphones are always readily accessible and easy to find. No more digging through your pockets; no more rummaging through your purse or backpack — just slip your buds out of the cuff, pop ’em into your earholes, and hit play. The wristband, which vaguely resembles a JawBone Up, is designed to be worn anywhere and everywhere — though you probably shouldn’t take it swimming — the creators make no mention of waterproofing.

Find out more here.

Pearbuds — Tiny wireless headphones

Wireless earbuds aren’t anything new at this point. Dozens have been announced on Kickstarter and Indiegogo in the past couple years, but so far, none have delivered on their high-flying promises. The Earin, the Dash, and the controversial Dot projects all easily surpassed their funding goals during their respective crowdfunding campaigns, but despite a voracious public lining up to throw money at them, none of them have reached consumers. Earin and Dash supporters still don’t have anything to show for their funding and the Dot … well, that’s a complicated story.

Pearbuds are different. They might actually make it to market in a reasonable amount of time, and as far as we can tell, their creators aren’t trying to stuff them with crazy (and unnecessary) features that will complicate the manufacturing process. When Eric Tsoi, CEO of Pear Designs, set out to develop the Pearbuds, he approached the design from the inside out, carefully choosing components and figuring out where they would go within the enclosure along the way. The Pearbuds use the best rechargeable battery on the market, an excellent (and tiny) digital amplifier, a compact but highly functional Bluetooth chip, and the best transducer (speaker) they could find. We actually got a chance to hear them last week, and our AV Editor Caleb Denison was convinced that Pear Designs has cracked the code on wireless earbuds.

Find out more here.

Exploride — Automotive heads-up display

Whether they project directly onto your windshield or use a dedicated screen, head-up displays (HUDs) are undeniably cool gadgets. Inspired by military aircraft, most versions offer navigation and some smartphone capabilities, but few are as comprehensive as we’d like. Exploride wants to change that. The Maryland-based startup is launching an eponymous new product that it’s calling “the world’s first all-in-one HUD.”

Using convenient gesture and voice controls, the Exploride HUD grants drivers the ability to take or decline phone calls, access Google Maps navigation, control music, hear texts, and even monitor vehicle diagnostics like speed, tire pressure, and fuel level, all from one place. There’s also an inbuilt 3MP dash cam, cloud-storage capability, and tons of available apps including Internet radio.  All of these functions are accessed through the HUD’s 6-inch transparent screen, which is controlled with four basic hand gestures: up, down, left, and right. From there, all your in-car gadgets are consolidated in front of the driver, which Exploride says will reduce distracted driving and increase safety.

Find out more here.


Where do AirPods go when they die? The big problem with tiny earbuds

True wireless headphones are incredibly small and convenient, but they’re also some of the most ephemeral and disposable tech products available. With relatively short lifespans, true wireless earbuds range from wasteful to legitimately…

Beats Powerbeats Pro vs. Bose SoundSport Free: Which big buds are better?

Two of the world's biggest headphone manufacturers, Bose and Beats, have both taken aim at workout enthusiasts with their first true wireless in-ears. So who makes the better earbuds?
Home Theater

AirPods vs. Beats Powerbeats Pro: An Apple earbuds showdown

With the unveiling of the new Powerbeats Pro true wireless earbuds, Apple now offers two choices for those who want to completely cut the cord on their listening time. We compare the new AirPods and Powerbeats Pro so you can decide which is…
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Racing drones and robotic ping pong trainers

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!
Emerging Tech

The black hole at the center of our galaxy is flaring and no one knows why

At the heart of our galaxy lies a supermassive black hole, Sagittarius A*. Normally this giant monster is relatively docile, but recently it's been a hotbed of unexpected activity, rapidly glowing 75 times brighter than normal.
Emerging Tech

SpaceIL’s crashed lander may have sent thousands of tardigrades to the moon

When the SpaceIL craft Beresheet crashed into the moon earlier this year, it left more than just an impact mark. Thousands of micro-animals called tardigrades were along for the ride and may have survived the crash.
Emerging Tech

Wreckage, reefs, and robots: The high-tech quest to find Amelia Earhart’s plane

Over 80 years ago, American aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart disappeared while trying to fly around the world. Now an autonomous water-based robot could help find some answers. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s satellite projects will study the sun using solar sailing

Small satellites can be used for all sorts of purposes, and NASA has been searching for ideas to push ahead the capabilities of the hardware. The agency has announced two new projects to demonstrate the potential of small satellites.
Emerging Tech

Hubble captures a beautiful cosmic jellyfish made of glowing gas

A new image from Hubble might look like a deep-space jellyfish, but it's not a sign of extraterrestrial life - in fact, it's a planetary nebula called NGC 2022, located in the constellation of Orion (The Hunter).
Emerging Tech

Parker Solar Probe makes a second orbit of the sun, captures solar wind on video

The Parker Solar Probe, launched last year, has completed its second orbit around the sun. To celebrate, the team responsible for the probe has released a video showing solar winds in action.

Starman on Tesla Roadster makes first orbit around sun, braces for loneliness

Starman and his Tesla Roadster, sent by SpaceX to outer space last year, have completed their first orbit around the sun. The people on Earth may be able to catch a glimpse of the cherry-red electric vehicle on November 2020.
Emerging Tech

Bernie Sanders calls for a ban on police use of facial recognition

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders is calling for a complete ban on the use of facial recognition by law enforcement as part of the new criminal justice reform plan he introduced this weekend.
Emerging Tech

On the fence about buying solar panels? Tesla now offers them for rent

With solar rental Tesla says “customers get the best from solar power — clean, cheap energy to power homes and vehicles — without upfront costs or decades-long agreements. In fact, customers can get solar power with one click, instead…
Emerging Tech

Autonomous robot deliveries are coming to 100 university campuses in the U.S.

Autonomous robot company Starship Technologies has announced that it will expand its food delivery services to 100 university campuses around the United States over the next 24 months.