Awesome tech you can’t buy yet: Morphing keyboards, salt guns, and more

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.

Phorm — Morphing tactile keyboard case

PhormTablets are awesome, but their keyboards? Not so much. Touchscreen keyboards are fine for little tasks like entering in passwords, but when it comes time to enter in a big chunk of text, they’re not exactly ideal. The problem basically comes down to their lack of tactility. Your fingers can’t feel where one key ends and another begins, so you’ve got to rely on your eyeballs to keep track of each button. Phorm is the solution.

Instead of forcing you to attach a new keyboard altogether, the Phorm case creates an array of raised bumps on your screen — providing just enough tactile feedback for you to type without looking. Furthermore, these bumps can be raised and lowered at the push of a button, so you can have bumps when you’re typing, and go back to smooth screen when it’s time to play Fruit Ninja. Oh yeah, and it doesn’t use any electricity either.

Bug-A-Salt 2.0 — Housefly annihilator gun

Bug-A-Salt 2.0Anti-fly technology has progressed in leaps and bounds over the past couple years, and now, thanks to artist Lorenzo Maggiore, there’s a better way to rid your home of unwelcome, winged intruders.  You might remember Maggiore’s first invention from a couple years ago: the Bug-A-Salt gun. It’s essentially a plastic shotgun that fires concentrated bursts of table salt. It’s not powerful enough to break through skin (or even a plastic bag), but to a fly, the hail of Morton’s is as effective as a blast of hot lead.

The first generation made a huge splash on Indiegogo when it was first released, and now, roughly two years later, Maggiore is back with version 2.0.  This new-and-improved fly blaster, dubbed the Camofly, is better in just about every way. It’s more powerful, has a longer range, and uses less salt per shot than its predecessor.

PicoBrew KegSmarts — Smart kegerator

PicoBrew KegSmartsPicoBrew, the startup behind the Zymatic — a machine that lets you brew beer with a click of a mouse — is bringing its love of all things barley and hops to Kickstarter once again, this time for a smart craft beer kegerator, KegSmarts. If you already have a beer fridge, you can attach it and learn more about what you’ve got on tap.

Outfitted with an OLED display and controlled by a microprocessor, the device can find the latest kegerator-ready craft beers, maintain the perfect temperature for your brew, let you see the number of servings remaining, and give you information on the beer — including how fresh it is and details on its style and alcohol content. And make sure you tidy up the bathroom; it’ll alert your friends that you’ve installed a new keg ( but only if you want). PicoBrew has already blasted past its $100,000 funding goal, and still has nearly a month left in the campaign.

Voltera V-One — Circuit board printer

Voltera V-OneBreadboards and cheap microcontrollers like Arduino have given rise to something of an electronics renaissance in the past few years. Along with technologies like 3D printing, they’ve made it possible for inventors to develop prototypes at an unprecedented pace. But they’re far from perfect. Despite their usefulness, breadboards can quickly become messy and disorganized, which makes transforming your design into a mass-produced printed circuit board (PCB) much more difficult. That’s where the Voltera V-One comes in.

This badboy can create a high-quality two-layer circuit board right from your work bench. No sending designs off to a fab house and waiting weeks for your board to arrive — just print, test, and try again if something went wrong. It basically helps streamline the prototyping process even further, which is a crazy thought. We don’t use the phrase “game-changer” a lot, but this feels like an appropriate time.

YikeBike — Collapsible electric bike-thing

YikeBikeFor the past few years, two things have been happening: Electric motors have steadily gotten smaller and more powerful, and batteries have become drastically more capacitous and long-lasting. Lately, these two trends have begun to coalesce and blend together to create a sort of renaissance in personal mobility devices.

Now more than ever, there are all manner of cool little wheeled gizmos hitting the market. Electric scooters, gyroscopically-stabilized unicycles, motorized skates that strap onto your shoes — they’re absolutely everywhere these days, and each one is different than the last. YikeBike is yet another entry into this burgeoning category, and it’s unlike any rideable we’ve seen before. It looks like a child’s tricycle, but with the seat positioned up near the handlebars. A hub motor whips it around at 14 miles per hour, a range of 8.7 miles, and the ability to fold down to the size of a briefcase. Crazy.

Emerging Tech

‘Rogue medicine in a bathtub’: 4 experts on the vice and virtue of pharma hacking

A biohacker, pharmahacker, and two bioethicists walk into a bar. We ordered them a metaphorical round and had a chat about the risks and rewards of DIY medicine — from unsanctioned gene therapy to medication made on the kitchen counter.
Emerging Tech

Sick of walking everywhere? Here are the best electric skateboards you can buy

Thanks for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, electric skateboards are carving a bigger niche than you might think. Whether you're into speed, mileage, or something a bit more stylish, here are the best electric skateboards on the market.
Emerging Tech

Don’t get burned! How to back crowdfunding projects the smart way

In the world of crowdfunding, there’s no such thing as a sure thing. There's a million reasons why a project might fail. But with this handy guide, you'll be able to spot the signs of a sketchy project and decrease your chances of getting…
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robo sidekicks, AC for your bed, and more

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Los Angeles subway to become first in the U.S. to use body scanners

Los Angeles is set to become the first city in the U.S. to use body scanners on its subway. The machines are portable and quick to set up, and can check around 2,000 people an hour without causing lines or delays for passengers.
Gaming

How to connect a Nintendo Switch controller to your PC

Nintendo's Switch controllers, including the Joy-Cons and the aptly titled Pro Controller, use Bluetooth, which makes them compatible with your PC. Here's how to start using them for PC gaming.
Emerging Tech

Regular Wi-Fi can accurately detect bombs, chemicals, and weapons in bags

Surveillance cameras and bag searches have become commonplace when it comes to security in public venues. But researchers may have found a different way to detect suspicious items: regular Wi-Fi.
Emerging Tech

Buying on a budget? Here’s all the best tech you can snag for $25 or less

We live in a world where you can get a cheeseburger for $1, a functioning computer for $5, and thousands of HD movies for $10 -- so it stands to reason that you should be able to pick up some pretty sweet gear for $25.
Emerging Tech

Science says waste beer could help us live on Mars

Scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder have developed a new super-insulating gel, created from beer waste, which could one day be used for building greenhouse-like habitats on Mars.
Emerging Tech

Engineers have made a new type of lithium battery that won’t explode

While statistically rare, the lithium-ion batteries used in mobile devices have been known to burst into flames. Researchers from University of Michigan have been working to change that.
Emerging Tech

Genetically engineered bacteria paint microscopic masterpieces

By engineering E. coli bacteria to respond to light, scientists at the University of Rome have guided it like tiny drones toward patterns that depict Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, the Mona Lisa.
Emerging Tech

Elon Musk’s Boring Company wants to dig a tunnel to Dodger Stadium

Elon Musk's Boring Company wants to build a high-speed transportation tunnel connecting Dodger Stadium to a nearby Metro station. The system would run 150-mph passenger pods between the stadium and a terminus to the west.
Emerging Tech

Watch as a ‘lifeguard drone’ rescues a swimmer struggling at sea

These days, drones are finding a range of roles in a myriad of fields. Lifeguards, for example, are making use of the drone's ability to quickly deploy flotation devices while also offering an eye in the sky to survey the scene.
Emerging Tech

Wish you could fly? Here are the best drones on the market right now

To help you navigate the increasingly large and ever-changing landscape of consumer UAVs, here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now