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Awesome tech you can’t buy yet: Whale snot, space suits, and giant 3D 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 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.

Reboot the Suit — Restoring Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit

As part of a recently-established partnership with Kickstarter, the Smithsonian has recently launched a crowdfunding campaign to help conserve Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 spacesuit –the one he wore during the first-ever moon walk, which happened exactly 46 years ago today — and showcase it at the National Air and Space Museum.

A replica of the spacesuit is currently on display at the Smithsonian Museum in, but the actual suit that Armstrong wore on the moon (along with the rest of the spacesuits in the Museum’s collection) is currently being stored offsite in a special climate-controlled room that isn’t accessible to the public. It’s been in storage for the past 46 years, and in order to come out of safekeeping and into a public display, the suit requires special treatments to ensure that its fabric and components won’t deteriorate more than they already have. The goal is to get everything preserved and ready to go on display before the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, which will take place in 2019.

Find out more here.

E3D BigBox — Massive 3D printer

On the spectrum of additive manufacturing, there are consumer-level 3D printers at one end, and industrial-level 3D printers at the other — and very little in between. Consumer printers are cheap, compact, and can produce relatively small parts, but if you want to print something bigger, your only option is to upgrade to an industrial printer — which are oftentimes more expensive than your average sports car. 3D printing has become fairly common in the past few years, but even so, printing big parts (say, over a one cubic foot in volume) is still largely out of reach.

E3D wants to change that, and has built a badass new printer to make it happen. The BigBox, as they call it, boasts a massive 17-liter build area — making it possible to print a wide variety of objects that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to. It’s also got an impressively high print resolution, an extrusion system capable of almost every material on the market, and a forward-thinking design that allows for expansions. And the best part? Even with all these awesome features, it still costs less than 900 bucks.

Find out more here.

Z Camera E1 — 4K action cam with interchangeable lenses

If you’re a video hobbyist or even a pro filmmaker, imagine the scenario: You want to shoot aerial footage from a drone, record a wedding from overhead, or shoot a short film in a tight spot. You want something that’s flexible and more powerful than a tiny action cam, but a movie camcorder, DSLR, or mirrorless camera is too big and heavy. That’s the spot a startup camera company, called Z Camera, is trying to fill with its new E1, which is being called the world’s smallest 4K interchangeable lens camera.

The E1’s mount works with most Micro Four Thirds lenses from Olympus and Panasonic, as well as some third-party makers like Sigma. The camera doesn’t have any built-in image stabilization, but you could use one of Panasonic’s OIS lenses. The E1 will autofocus any attached lens, however.  The A9 chipset handles 4K at 30 frames per second (UHD/3,840 x 2,160) or 24 fps (cinema/4,096 x 2,160), but can shoot Full HD 1080 at 60 fps and 720p slo-mo at 120 fps; it captures photos at 16 megapixels.

Find out more here.

CydeKick — Frictionless dynamo charger for bikes

The hassle with biking gadgets is they draw energy. Even if you’re running everything off of your phone (Strava, music, GPS, video, the occasional pic, message, or phone call), the serious worry is that your battery will die before you get where you’re going or shortly after you arrive. There are battery packs, yes, but that’s yet another thing you have to remember both to charge and to carry with you. Cydekick takes a different approach, and has thrown all that out the window.

If you ride a bike, Cydekick turns the very motion of pedaling into a charge for USB devices. The Cydekick creates energy via electromagnetic induction created by a system of spinning magnets, which basically means no tire-rubbing. One portion of the device is fixed to the frame, the other to the rotor, and the spinning action of these opposing magnets creates energy. Unlike other bike dynamos, CydeKick is almost completely frictionless — so it doesn’t require any extra pedal power to get charged up.

Find out more here.

SnotBot — Drones for whale research

So get this. As it turns out, Patrick Stewart (or as you might know him, Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Starship Enterprise) is good friends with this guy Dr. Ian Kerr — CEO of a conservation group called Ocean Alliance. Recently, Kerr had his celebrity pal appeared in a Kickstarter video to help pitch a crazy new way to gather biological data about whales. Currently, we do this by harpooning them with tracking devices, scaring the bejeezus out of them to measure stress levels, and just generally harassing them in the name of science.

But Kerr and Picard Stewart have a better plan. What they want to do is use a fleet of modified drones to collect biological data. But these aren’t just any old drones.  Snotbots, as they call them, are custom-built drones created in partnership between Ocean Alliance and Olin College of Engineering. They hover in the air above a surfacing whale and collect the blow (or snot) exhaled from its lungs. Snotbot then returns that sample back to researchers, who then analyze it to retrieve a wealth of biological data. Pretty brilliant, right?

Find out more here.

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