Awesome tech you can’t buy yet: Waterproof drones, robotic pancake printers

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.

Noke U-Lock — Bluetooth-enabled bike lock

Noke U-LockRemember that nifty Bluetooth-enabled padlock that popped up on Kickstarter a few months back — the Noke? Well Fuz Labs, the startup that made the device, is now back on the crowdfunding scene in hopes of funding its latest creation: a Bluetooth U-lock for your bike.  Aesthetically, the new lock looks almost exactly like the old-school U-lock you know and love — just without any  keyholes or combination dials. Instead, it uses its Bluetooth brains to communicate with your smartphone and detect when you’re close by. To open it, just click the lock shaft once and it’ll automatically look for a phone with a compatible Bluetooth key, and then unlock when it finds one. You don’t even need to take your phone out of your pocket. For the most part, it retains the original’s features, but Fuz Labs has also introduced a few new features in the new lock. The U-Lock also sports an integrated alarm system designed to scare off would-be thieves, and GPS tracking to help you remember where you locked your wheels up.

Splash — Waterproof autofollow drone

Splash DroneFlying a drone over solid ground is one thing, but flying it over water is a whole ‘nother ball game. With all manner of electronics on board, an unexpected aquatic landing is almost always a death sentence for your drone, which makes flying it much more stressful. That’s not the case for the Splash Drone, however. Recently launched on Kickstarter, this hardy little quadcopter is encased in a buoyant waterproof shell, so it can safely land and float on water without being damaged. But waterproof components aren’t the only trick Splash has up its sleeve. Even without the watertight hull, it’s still got an impressive list of features. On its underbelly, the Splash is outfitted with a gimbal, allowing you to mount a GoPro on it and shoot super-stable video. This gimbal is also completely waterproof, so you can shoot while either airborne or submerged, and it’s also got an auto-follow function, so it can shoot video autonomously while you play in the water.

Rocketbook — Microwaveable digitizer notebook

RocketbookDo you burn through notebooks and find yourself constantly having to buy new ones? Rocketbook might be just what you need. Freshly launched on Indiegogo, the notebook is designed to be completely reusable — paper and all. Once you fill up all the pages, the Rocketbook is able to digitize all your notes and store them in the cloud, and then clear all the pages so you can write on them again. The pages of the notebook (which are just regular-ol’ paper, by the way) feature a set of seven different symbols, which can be mapped to different cloud storage services. Mark one of the symbols on the page, and when you scan it with Rocketbook’s accompanying smartphone app, a digitized copy of the page will instantly be sent to the cloud storage platform of your choice. After you’ve scanned, digitized, and saved your notes, you can just pop Rocketbook in the microwave for 30 seconds and it’ll erase all your notes — so long as you use a Pilot FriXion pen.

PancakeBot — Robotic pancake printer

PancakeBotIt’s been nearly a year since we last heard anything about PancakeBot, but now the creator is back with a new-and-improved version that’s ready for mass production. PancakeBot 2.0 boasts a number of big improvements over the original, the most notable of which is definitely the accompanying software application. To make your own pancake design, you can now either freehand it, or upload an image and trace over the lines. Either way, the program will track every line you make with your mouse and then recreate the design with pancake batter on the skillet. In other words, you don’t need to have crazy CAD skills to design a cool pancake. The batter extruder has also been updated and now features onboard controls that allow you to adjust how quickly batter gets squirted onto the skillet. This is a pretty big deal, as it allows you to adjust PancakeBot so that it can handle batters of varying viscosity. Without these controls, you’d basically have to make batter exactly the same way every time you make breakfast.

BoXZY — 3D printer, CNC mill, and laser cutter

BoXZYAdditive manufacturing (aka 3D printing) gets all the attention these days, but despite the feverish pace at which the technology is advancing, traditional manufacturing processes still carry certain advantages — namely, the ability to work with materials other than plastic. They’re coming along, but 3D printers that print anything other than PLA or ABS are ridiculously expensive, so if you want to make something out of metal or wood, your best bet is to go with a traditional CNC mill. The only downside, however, is that mills generally can’t make many of the exotic “impossible” shapes that 3D printers can. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a machine that could give you best of both worlds? Enter: the BoXZY Rapid Change FabLab. It can do it all — printing in plastic, milling wood or metal, and even laser cutting/engraving. Each tool exists as a rapid-change attachment, so you can swap from mill, to 3D printer, to laser cutter in a matter of seconds.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: camera with A.I. director, robot arm assistant

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

3D printers are finally affordable. Here are the best models under $500

3D printer prices have dropped dramatically over the past few years, but just because something is cheap doesn’t mean it’s worth buying. Here, we’ve rounded up all the cheap 3D printers that are actually worth spending your money on.
Emerging Tech

Hexbot is a modular robot arm that does everything from drawing to playing chess

Who wouldn’t want their own personal robot arm to do everything from laser engraving to competing against you in a game of chess? That's what Hexbot, a new modular robot, promises to deliver.
Computing

Printing to PDF in Windows is easy, no matter which method you use

Microsoft's latest operating system makes it easier than ever to print to PDF in Windows, but there are alternative methods for doing so, even if you want to forgo Adobe Acrobat. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

How long is a day on Saturn? Scientists finally have an answer

The length of Saturn's day has always been a challenge to calculate because of the planet's non-solid surface and magnetic field. But now scientists have tracked vibrations in the rings to pin down a final answer.
Emerging Tech

Google’s radar-sensing tech could make any object smart

Computer scientists have shown how Google’s Soli sensor can be used to make dumb objects smart. Here's why radar-powered computing could finally make the dream of smart homes a reality.
Emerging Tech

Tiny microbots fold like origami to travel through the human body

Tiny robots modeled after bacteria could be used to deliver drugs to hard to reach areas of the human body. Scientists have developed elastic microbots that can change their shape depending on their environment.
Emerging Tech

Dinosaurs never stood a chance after asteroid impacts doubled 290M years ago

The number of asteroids pummeling Earth jumped dramatically around 290 million years ago. By looking at Moon craters, scientists discovered that d the number of asteroid impacts on both Earth and the Moon increased by two to three times.
Emerging Tech

Saturn didn’t always have rings, according to new analysis of Cassini data

Saturn's rings are younger than previously believed, according to new data gathered from the Cassini mission. The rings are certainly less than 100 million years old and perhaps as young as 10 million years old.
Emerging Tech

Water-based fuel cell converts carbon emissions to electricity

Scientists from Korea's Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology have developed a system which can continuously produce electrical energy and hydrogen by dissolving carbon dioxide in an aqueous solution.
Emerging Tech

Scientists investigate how massive stars die in dramatic hypernova events

Our Sun will gradually fade before expanding into a red giant at the end of its life. But larger mass stars undergo extreme explosive events called hypernovas when they die which outshine their entire galaxies.
Emerging Tech

Pilotless planes are on their way, but would you fly in one?

Airbus says advancements in artificial intelligence can help it toward its goal of building a plane capable of fully autonomous flight, though whether passengers can be persuaded to travel in one is another matter entirely.
Emerging Tech

‘Tech vest’ prevents Amazon workers from colliding with robot co-workers

Amazon workers at its fulfillment centers are using "tech vests" to help protect them from collisions with their robot co-workers. The robots already have obstacle avoidance sensors, but the belt offers another layer of safety.
Mobile

T-Mobile 5G rollout: Here is everything you need to know

2019 will be a huge year for T-Mobile. Not only is a merger with Sprint likely, but T-Mobile is also in the midst of building out its next-generation mobile service. Here's everything you need to know about the T-Mobile 5G rollout.