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Awesome tech you can’t buy yet: Smelly locks, holograms, a hydration wearable

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.

LVL — Wearable hydration monitor

Measuring your body’s hydration is no cakewalk. “Smart” water bottles can tell you how many ounces of liquid you’ve consumed in the course of a few hours — but not how much your body has actually absorbed. That level of granularity usually requires a trip to a medical lab or emergency room. But now, thanks to a burgeoning health startup called BSX Technologies, that might soon change. The company’s new product, the LVL, is the first wearable device that promises to measure your hydration levels in real time.

To achieve this, The LVL uses an advanced infrared sensor that penetrates far beneath the surface of the skin — up to 10 times as deep as the standard green light sensors found in, say, the new Apple Watch or latest Fitbit. This depth allows the LVL to capture spectroscopic images of blood, which can then be used to accurately determine the percentage of water content and heart rate. Perhaps more importantly, though, infrared lets LVL do so more accurately than your average wearable. While most trackers deviate anywhere between 14 to 40 beats per minute from your actual heart rate, the LVL’s measurements are accurate to within 3.

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Holovect — Holographic display generator

3D hologram generators are something scientists have been trying to nail down for decades now, presumably in hopes of ushering in a utopian future where everyone communicates with each other like the Jedi Council in Star Wars. But unfortunately nobody has really been able to create a true 3D hologram generator yet. Most just rely on cheap illusions like Pepper’s Ghost — but a new gizmo called Holovect might soon change that, and finally bring legit 3D holograms into the mainstream.

Currently raising funds on Kickstarter, the “self-contained, laser-based, volumetric display system” will comfortably fit on your lab bench or desk, and boasts the ability to draw 3D objects in midair using light.

“This is an idea I’ve had for a long, long time,” Ruiz-Avila told Digital Trends. “At university my thesis had to do with holographic chambers and lasers. However, the technology to make this accessible and cheap didn’t exist until very recently. It was only recently that I came back to focusing on this project and, last year, was able to build the very first prototypes.”

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Aer — Throwable GoPro system

Do you want to get awesome aerial footage with your GoPro without spending hundreds of dollars for a suitable camera drone? Not to worry — a group of enterprising young college students has created a much more affordable product that’ll help you capture creative aerial shots on the cheap. Their invention — called Aer — is essentially a protective foam case with four giant fins on the end. When thrown in the air, the fins create drag that keeps the device facing forward — sort of like a nerf football. To use it, just hit the record button on your GoPro, stuff it inside Aer, and then toss it.

“During a previous project I did last year, we decided to make a small video series using creative cinematography,” Aer co-creator Nick Schjivens said in a video. “We didn’t have the money to buy a professional drone, but we both owned a GoPro. Using a lot of foam padding, duct tape, and cardboard wings to keep it steady, we managed to throw our GoPros through the air. When we looked at the footage, we saw potential for a great product. Two friends joined, we created a real company, and the following year we devoted all our time to developing a durable, consumer-friendly version.”

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Skunk Lock — Scent-based theft-deterrent bike lock

Believe it or not, there are some thieves in this world that are bold enough to stroll out into the street with an angle grinder and cut through the U-lock on your bike. It’s certainly not a common thing, but some people are just a-holes — so inventor Daniel Idzkowski decided to build a bike lock that could deter even the most brazen criminals from stealing your ride. How? Well, let’s just say the Skunk Lock draws a lot of inspiration from its namesake animal.

Currently seeking funding on Indiegogo, the ingenious design comprises a hardened medium-carbon steel U-Lock that Idzkowski says “comes with a surprise.”  Break, cut, pierce or saw the SkunkLock and you’ll be blasted with a “disgusting” noxious chemical deterrent. Idzkowski claims the odor is so vile it can make you barf, but returning to a vomit-spattered bike should be a small price to pay if it means you’ll still have a bike to pedal home on. In most cases, the would-be thief — shocked by the nastiness of the smell and the attention the chaotic scene is certain to grab — is likely to high-tail it in the opposite direction and leave your bike behind.

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Invisible Solar — Concealed photovoltaic panels

Despite all the awesome clean energy they provide for their owners, there’s one thing that solar panels are lacking in a big way: aesthetic appeal. They aren’t very inconspicuous when sitting atop the roof of a home — which is a big problem for people and communities that value the aesthetic appeal of their city. So in an effort to alleviate this issue, and make solar power less garish and unattractive, a small Italian company named Dyaqua has developed what it is calling Invisible Solar panels

While they’re not technically invisible, Dyaqua’s panels are cleverly camouflaged to look like wood, concrete, slate, terracotta, or stone — thereby helping them blend in with your home. In addition to being highly inconspicuous, the panels are also quite versatile, and can be installed on a roof, as accents in a front yard, built into a breezeway, or installed as siding. Each piece’s top layer appears opaque to onlookers, yet solar rays still have the ability to seep through to the cleverly disguised photovoltaic cells underneath.

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