Awesome tech you can’t buy yet: Floating party platforms, pottery printers, and more

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.

Soundfloat — Floating lounge chair

It doesn’t matter where you live or what body of water is nearby — we can all agree that a lazy float in the river/lake/pool is quite possibly the most glorious leisure activity on planet earth. If done correctly, it involves all of the good things in life: being outside, being comfortable, listening to music, and (if you’re doing it right) drinking beer.  But if you want to enjoy all of these things at the same time, you need the proper equipment.

It’s basically the Coolest Cooler of floatie tubes.

In addition to a durable float tube, you also need a waterproof Bluetooth speaker and a dry bag to protect your phone/mp3 player — not to mention a floating cooler for your booze. And once you’ve rounded up all this gear, you’ll need to figure out a suitable lashing system to secure everything to your tube.

Soundfloat offers an alternative to all this madness. Rather than forcing you to cobble all your float gear together like a hobo, the Soundfloat incorporates all the gear you need into one tricked-out flotation device. Built into the inflatable body, you’ll find a waterproof Bluetooth speaker, a dry bag for your electronics, and a removable cooler. It’s basically the Coolest Cooler of floatie tubes.

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ClayXYZ — Desktop 3D clay printer

Clay-like ceramic filament for 3D printing has been around for a few years, but truth be told, the stuff that they sell right now isn’t really clay. In its normal form, clay isn’t particularly printer-friendly, so the product that filament shops sell is usually a clay/thermoplastic composite that’s more predictable and easy to work with. Most printers just aren’t properly equipped to handle gobs of wet clay, but ClayXYZ isn’t just any old printer. This bad boy was designed from the ground up to print pottery.

In terms of operation, ClayXYZ works a lot like a traditional filament-based 3D printer. It takes raw material and extrudes it, layer by layer, to create a 3D object. The only difference here is that instead of a plastic filament, ClayXYZ pushes a block of wet clay through a nozzle — kind of like how you force toothpaste out of a tube. Then, when the object is finished, it must then be fired in a kiln. This hardens the clay and activates any glaze applied to the model.

When all is said and done, you’ll have a fully-functional ceramic object in your hands. So if pottery classes aren’t your thing, at least now you have an alternative!

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HushMe — Wearable voice muffler

Ever had to take a private call in a not-so-private room? If you have, you know how awful it is. Everyone within earshot can eavesdrop on your conversation, which can make you feel self-conscious and awkward while on the phone. But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if there was some sort of magical device that allowed you to speak freely in an open office, but only be heard by the person on the other end of your call? It sounds ridiculous, but that’s exactly what this new gizmo called HushMe is designed to do.

“You can use ‘active’ mode and get almost 100 percent privacy.”

“We have created the world’s first voice mask for smartphones, called Hushme,” CEO Roman Sakun told Digital Trends. “Hushme is a Bluetooth hands-free device, with the additional features of voice masking. You connect it to your mobile and can listen to a music or use as a traditional hands-free, but if you are in open space office and need to make a private call, you just put it on and speak.”

Hushme has some impressive muffling qualities to go with its Bane-like look. “Due to insulating materials, your voice is decreased by 60 percent in ‘passive’ mode, and [people at a distance of three feet cannot] understand what are you speaking about,” Sakun continued. “If you are in a crowded noisy place like a railway station or airport, then you can use ‘active’ mode and get almost 100 percent privacy.”

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Ploota — Anti-drowning wearable

When you drive a car, you put a seat belt on. When you go cycling, you wear a helmet. But not counting goofy-looking water wings, there’s not really an equivalent when you go swimming. That’s precisely what the team behind Ploota wants to change. The device is essentially a high-tech necklace that deploys airbags filled with CO2, designed to keep a person’s head upright, if they’re under water for more than 30 seconds. Just don’t forget about it and decide to challenge your buddy to a breath-holding contest!

“Back in 2014, two close family members of mine almost drowned in the ocean during a holiday in South Africa,” creator Rainer Fakesch told Digital Trends’ Luke Dormehl in an interview. “Only with luck and a huge effort did they manage to reach the shore after 30 minutes of struggling. The next year, I read in a German newspaper that during the first two summer weeks, nine people drowned in a lake. They were mostly good swimmers, but they didn’t make it back to the shore. That was the initial spark that made me start developing Ploota.”

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Heatworks Model 3 — Advanced tankless water heater

Tankless water heaters (the kind that provide an endless stream of hot water) are arguably one of the best inventions ever — but they’re far from perfect. Generally speaking, tankless water heaters rely on a resistance heating element to warm up the water. In order to get it to a reasonable temperature in just a few seconds, these elements need to get extremely hot, and it’s not uncommon for them to reach temperatures well over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit on the surface.

This method is undeniably effective at heating water, but it comes with one big drawback: this massive heat difference between the water and the coil causes minerals in the water to plate to the heating element, which over time can build up and make the coil inefficient — or even cause it to fail completely.

Heatworks circumvents this problem with its patented “direct electric resistance” technology that uses two graphite electrodes and the water’s own resistance to directly energize and heat it. This apparently ensures no plating effect, superb temperature control, reliable operation, and a significantly longer lifespan compared to traditional water heaters.

In independent tests, ISI has determined that the Model 3 is up to 40 percent more energy efficient and 10 percent more water efficient than the average tankless heater. All this, and it’s still only a bit larger than a toaster.

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