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.
Beam — Light socket projector
Designed by LA-based startup Beam Labs, this gizmo straddles the line between light bulb and projector. It’s basically a network-connected, app-enabled pico projector stuffed inside a stylish lamp casing. Just screw it into any light socket, sync it with the device of your choice, and you’re off to the races. Under the hood, Beam is equipped with a veritable boatload of tech. It’s got a microcomputer that runs Android, a 1.3GHz dual-core processor, 8GB of built-in storage, a pair of speakers, and even an LED ring that lets you use it like a normal light bulb.
There’s also Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity built in, so you can link it up to just about anything you want. And because it runs Android, it can run any app available in the Google Play Store. Want to watch Netflix on your kitchen countertop? Display some digital art on your wall? Stream music from your network drive? Play Angry Birds on your floor? It’s all possible with Beam.
Fly12 — Cycling camera/light
Almost a year a go exactly, we wrote a brief bit about a rear-facing cycle light and HD camera called Fly6. This week, the company behind that gizmo, Cycliq, is back with a new device — the Fly12. Conceptually it’s the same idea: it’s a bike-mountable camera/light combo designed to make bike commuters safer. The main difference is that this one is designed to face forward instead of back, and it shoots in 1080p instead of 720. It’s also equipped with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity, so you can sync it with your smartphone or other connected devices.
The accompanying mobile app even allows you to share recorded video right after you’ve finished recording, so you can show off all the sweet scenery you drove past. The project has already crushed its $245K funding goal, and is currently sitting at well over half a million bucks with two weeks left in the campaign.
Rhino — Affordable industrial grade 3D printer
Not all 3D printers are created equal. There are the big, fast, and extremely expensive type used by professionals, and the smaller, slower, and more affordable type used by hobbyists and people with limited resources. Rhino is basically the best of both worlds. It’s built like a tank and boasts some seriously impressive specs, but is also drastically cheaper than other printers of its pedigree. If you back the project, you can currently lock one down for around 500 bucks. Some early birds even got their hands on an unassembled version for just 430. That’s outrageously cheap, even for a run-0f-the-mill 3D printer with half the print volume and a lower resolution.
It’s definitely not the prettiest printer we’ve ever laid eyes on, but at this price, it doesn’t matter. If the campaign manages to reach its 50K funding goal before the latter half of March, Rhino’s creators will supposedly be ready to ship to backers by April or May.
iTraq — Cellular item tracker
Generally speaking, there are two kinds of item trackers you can get right now. There’s the GPS type that have great range but lack pinpoint accuracy, and those of the Bluetooth variety that are extremely precise, but only work over small distances. iTraq is something different. It’s a cellular tracking device, so instead of using satellites or Bluetooth radios to locate your stuff, it uses a cellular network. This basically makes it the Goldilocks of item trackers. It’s got the range and reliability of a GPS-based tracker, but with more precision and accuracy.
And the best part? It won’t require a monthly fee or subscription. All communication expenses are included in the price, so there is no additional charge for tracking. The project has already blasted past its modest $35K funding goal, and expects to ship sometime in August.
Pigeon — Smart digital photo frame
Digital picture frames aren’t particularly complicated for most of us, but to elderly folks who aren’t technologically savvy, using them can be a daunting task. It’s not necessarily the frame itself that’s difficult — it’s usually the part where you’ve got to use a computer to download pictures, load ’em onto a flash drive, and get them to display correctly in the frame. That’s where Pigeon comes in. Designed to save your elders from hours of confusion (and save you from frustrating hour-long phone calls trying to explain), the Pigeon Frame basically removes all the complicated steps from digitally displaying photos.
Instead of forcing Grandma to load up the frame with new pictures, Pigeon puts that power in the hands of you and your family. Once it’s on granny’s Wi-Fi network, the frame can be synced to your smartphone, allowing you to wirelessly update the pictures that show up on her display, no matter where you are in the world.