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.
Remember Case of Bass? That Portland-based startup that hit it big on Kickstarter with a line of boomboxes that were made out of old suitcases? The project was a massive hit with the crowdfunding community, and the project was a resounding success — but the creators didn’t just stop there and call it good. After more than a year of making badass suitcase boomboxes, they’re finally back with a new product: A Touch of Bass.
It’s honestly a bit of an oddity. Touch of Bass is essentially a picture of a boombox, but instead of painted speakers, it actually has real speakers that can legitimately play your tunes through. Unlike its more portable predecessors, Touch of Bass is designed to hang on your wall like an unassuming piece of odd, nostalgic artwork. But under the hood, it’s equipped with Bluetooth connectivity, which means you can stream music directly to it from your phone or computer, and completely blow the minds of all your houseguests.
You’ve probably never heard of Kopin before, but despite the company’s general lack of name recognition, it was way ahead of the wearable curve. Back in 2007, it unveiled the Myvu Solo: a transparent heads-up display that mirrored a connected iPod. That was nearly 10 years ago. Google Glass, perhaps the best-known heads-up display, was released in 2013. But like Google Glass, the Myvu Solo didn’t gain much traction — largely because it didn’t have a “killer app.” That’s why the company’s newest pair of electronic eyewear, the Solos, was designed from the get-go with a very clear niche in mind: cycling.
Now on Kickstarter, Solos takes the “world’s smallest heads-up display” and pairs it with performance tracking, precision training tools, and tons of other useful features. Whether you’re a bike commuter, a weekend warrior, or professional athlete, Solos will help you track your activity, improve your endurance, and help you get the most out of your bike.
Air conditioning is one of man’s greatest achievements — but it’s also an expensive one. If you’ve ever seen your electric bill after a month of running the AC at full blast, you know firsthand just how much juice (and money) keeping cool can cost. But what if there was a way to stay cool during the summer months without using an abundance of extra energy and running up your electricity bill?
That’s where Geizeer comes in. It’s basically a little insulated ice-pack that helps you cool down with the help of an appliance that you already own: your freezer. Just pop Geizeer’s little gel core into your freezer, let it sit for an hour or so, and then pop it into the insulated wooden case. Once activated, the box blows a gentle breeze of air over the frozen core and out toward you — and because it’s sitting inside an insulated box, it stays chilly for hours before you need to re-freeze it.
Losing your wallet is one of the worst, most annoying things that can happen to you — but thankfully there’s a number of innovative startups that have developed solutions to this horrible first-world problem. Take the Walli wallet, for example. On the outside, it looks like your average compact wallet. It’s slim, its’ sleek, and it’s made out of high-quality leather — but it’s more than just that. Underneath the stylish exterior, it has a bunch of helpful tech built into it.
For starters, it has a Bluetooth transceiver, so it can connect to your smartphone and send you alerts whenever your wallet goes out of range. This feature is designed to prevent you from leaving your wallet behind — but that’s just the first line of defense. If your wallet is legitimately stolen or missing, you can use the accompanying app to track down the wallet’s location via GPS. Pretty handy, right?
If you’ve ever tried to capture the night sky with a point-and-shoot camera or smartphone, then you know it’s pretty pointless. That super blood moon lunar eclipse that’s coming up? It will look brilliant if you have a good camera and some nice lenses, but it is damn near impossible to photograph if you have a camera with a small sensor. But Tiny1 is different. The camera, which recently landed on Kickstarter, is purpose-built for celestial events, and makes astrophotography as easy as clicking a shutter button.
According to the creators, Tiny1’s sensors “detect extremely dim lights, allowing the camera to capture images of the Milky Way and stellar bodies barely visible to our naked eyes at night, within a short exposure time of about 30 seconds. It is also capable of capturing time-lapse videos of the night skies at a resolution of 2.5K. The camera uses patent pending, state-of-the-art calibration techniques to automatically process the captured images, stacking the images to reduce noise in low light environments in half the time of traditional cameras.”
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