Awesome tech you can’t buy yet: Record-playing robots, a universe you can hold

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.

Universe in a Sphere – Glorious desk ornament

Remember that scene from Men In Black? The one that zooms out to reveal that our entire galaxy sits inside the marble on a cat’s leash? Well if that scene stuck with you, there’s a good chance you’ll appreciate this new desktop trinket that recently popped up on Kickstarter. The Universe in a Sphere is exactly what it sounds like; it’s a desk ornament that contains a tiny scale model of the cosmic neighborhood that we live in.

“What I did was is to take a catalog of galaxies, including our home supercluster called Laniakea, converted the XYZ coordinates and selected all of the 675,758 galaxies in a radius of 125 megaparsecs,” creator Clemens Steffin told Digital Trends in an interview. “One megaparsec stands for about 3.2616 million light years, so the cloud in my glass sphere represents a diameter of 815,400,000 light years.” Steffin next searched for (and found) a company capable of lasering in each one of these 380,000 dots, each representing an entire galaxy, into a glass sphere. After that, he launched his Kickstarter.

Read our full coverage here.

NexD1 – Multi-material, circuit-making 3D printer

3D printing has progressed by leaps and bounds over the past few years, but regardless of all the advances we’ve made, the vast majority of printers can still only print parts. If you want to create a functional electronic objects, you generally have to print multiple separate parts, add wiring/electronics, and then fasten everything together at the end.

The NexD1 aims to change all that. The printer features an innovative multi-material printing system that allows you to not only print plastic parts, but also print functional circuits directly into the parts you’re printing. In essence, this allows you to create electronic objects that are fully functional and ready to use right after you pull them off the print bed — no wiring, no soldering, and no assembly required. This could very well be the future of 3D printing.

Read our full coverage here.

RokBlock – Portable vinyl record player

Normally, if you want to play a record, you place your album on a turntable, which spins it and reads the tunes with a needle. RokBlock turns that method on its head. Rather than spinning the record itself, RokBlock is designed to drive around your vinyl like a little car going in circles, read the songs with a needle, and beam the audio to a Bluetooth speaker. Pretty clever, right?

And for those of you who are worried about scratching up your vinyl, don’t be. “RokBlok has been engineered to prevent damage to your records when in use,” the company states on its Kickstarter campaign page. “We do this by carefully balancing and distributing the weight of the player (3.2oz) across it’s scratch-proof rubber wheels and not the needle. This makes it so the needle does not take the brunt of the weight out on your record’s grooves.”

Read our full coverage here.

ComPod – Compostable coffee pods

You know those single-serving coffee pods that let you make precisely one mug of coffee instead of brewing an entire pot? Well, despite the fact that they’re outrageously convenient (or perhaps because of it), they’re also pretty bad for the environment. According to one study, all the little plastic K-cups produced in 2013 alone could encircle the Earth 10 times if they were stacked end to end.

ComPod wants to put an end to this pollution — but without putting an end to the glorious convenience of single-serving coffee. How? By making the cups biodegradable, of course! “ComPod capsules brew just like your favorite Nespresso-compatible capsule,” the creators explain on Kickstarter, “but they help the environment instead of hurting it. Simply brew a delicious cup of coffee like any other Nespresso-compatible pod and when you’re done, throw your used coffee capsule in your compost, garden, or worm farm. The capsule will completely biodegrade within six months.”

Read our full coverage here.

Heimplanet Motion Series – Anti-back-sweat backpacks

Does the name Heimplanet ring a bell? No? Well, even if you don’t remember its name, there’s a good chance that you remember the company’s flagship product: that crazy inflatable, geodesic tent that popped up on the web a couple years ago. The Cave, as it’s called, was the company’s first big product release — but now its back with something new on Kickstarter.

This time around, Heimplanet decided to rethink the backpack and continue its geodesic design theme with the Motion Series — a pair of innovative packs that aim to do away with the dreaded “sweaty back syndrome” that plagues most backpacks. Heimplanet built these suckers with a clever 3D foam backing that promotes airflow and keeps your back dry while you hike, but without adding any extra bulk or weight to the pack itself.

Read our full coverage here.

Emerging Tech

The Great White Shark’s genome has been decoded, and it could help us end cancer

In a significant step for marine and genetic science, researchers have decoded the genome of the great white shark. The genetic code revealed a wealth of insight into what makes these creatures so successful from an evolutionary standpoint.

This list of PlayStation 4 exclusives puts its competitors to shame

The PlayStation 4's game library and incredible selection of exclusive games could make anyone with an Xbox One or Nintendo Switch think twice. Here's our list of the latest and greatest PS4 exclusives.

These Xbox One exclusives are the definition of quality over quantity

Xbox One has a prestigious collection of handpicked titles that you can't play on other consoles. Here are the latest and greatest Xbox One exclusives, including some that are also available on PC
Emerging Tech

The 10 most expensive drones that you (a civilian) can buy

OK, these drones may be a bit beyond your budget: Check out the most expensive drones in the world, from industrial giants to highest-end filming tools.

Wage war on a budget with these fun and free first-person shooters

We all know about Halo and Call of Duty by now, but what about quality titles that won't cost you upward of $60? Check out our picks for the best free first-person shooter games from Paladins to Quake Champions.
Emerging Tech

‘Guerrilla rainstorm’ warning system aims to prevent soakings, or worse

Japanese researchers have created a "guerrilla rainstorm" early-warning system aimed at preventing severe soakings, or worse. The team hopes to launch the system before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Emerging Tech

We tried a $500 electronic dab rig, and now we can’t go back to normal vaporizers

Induction heating is the future of cannabis vaporizers. Loto Labs wowed us with what likely is the best concentrate vaporizer on the market today. With a $500 price tag, it's expensive, but it should definitely be your next dab rig.

Barbie’s Corvette ain’t got nothing on Sphero’s fully programmable robot car

Sphero is known for devices like the Sphero Bolt and BB-8 Star Wars toy, but now the company is back with another addition to its lineup -- the Sphero RVR. The RVR is a fully programmable robot car that can be expanding with different…
Emerging Tech

Japanese spacecraft will collect a sample from asteroid Ryugu by shooting at it

The Japanese spacecraft Hayabusa 2 will soon touch down on the asteroid Ryugu, where it will collect a sample by shooting a bullet into the soil. The sample will be returned to Earth in 2020 to learn about the formation of asteroids.
Emerging Tech

Hong Kong’s vision for a smart prison is a full-blown Orwellian nightmare

Hong Kong wants to bring prisons up to date by introducing new location-tracking wristbands for inmates, and a robot arm whose job is to comb through poop on the lookout for contraband.
Emerging Tech

No faking! Doctors can now objectively measure how much pain you’re in

Researchers at Indiana University School of Medicine have discovered the blood biomarkers that can objectively reveal just how much pain a patient is in. Here's why that's so important.
Emerging Tech

SeaBubbles’ new electric hydrofoil boat is the aquatic equivalent of a Tesla

What do you get if you combine a Tesla, a flying car, and a sleek boat? Probably something a bit like SeaBubbles, the French "flying" boat startup which offers a fresh spin on the hydrofoil.
Emerging Tech

Israel will launch world’s first privately funded moon mission tomorrow

This week will see the world's first privately funded lunar mission launch. Israel's first mission to the moon will be launched aboard SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket on Thursday, February 21.
Emerging Tech

FDA warns about the dangers of anti-aging blood transfusions

It turns out injecting old people with blood from healthy youngsters may not be the answer to health rejuvenation. That’s according to the FDA, which says such claims are dangerous junk science.