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Awesome tech you can’t buy yet: Eye-tracking VR headsets, folding 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 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.

Sprite — Ultraportable canister drone

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Generally speaking, existing drones just aren’t that portable. You can’t put them in a backpack, and you can’t fold them up.  Sprite wants to change all that. It’s durable, water-resistant, and uses a coaxial rotor design (that’s two rotors stacked one atop the other), making it more compact than competitors. The entire cylindrical aircraft is just 3.8 inches in diameter, 13.2 inches long, and weighs 2.6 pounds.

The basic model Sprite will contain an onboard GPS, programmable autopilot controls, and a gimbal-stabilized HD camera capable of capturing 1080p video and still images (2,304 x 1,536 resolution). For those of you who already own action cams, the drone’s onboard camera can be interchanged for a GoPro or any compatible small camera purchased separately. The basic model doesn’t offer a video-audio transmitter for streaming live first-person video, but the platform is designed so that pilots can integrate their own transmitters if desired.

Electroloom — Clothing printer

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Ever since Electroloom popped up on Kickstarter, people have been calling it a “3D printer for clothing.” That’s a decent description, but it also doesn’t give you the full picture. Electroloom is unlike any 3D printer you’ve ever laid eyes on. Rather than creating garments with a series of snap-together plastic parts, the machine uses a process it calls Field Guided Fabrication — which looks less like 3D printing and more like a cotton candy machine that’s gone haywire.

Basically, the machine employs a technique called electrospinning to convert a liquid solution into fibers, which are squirted out of a nozzle and guided onto a 3D mold by the machine’s internal electric field. Once there, they bond together to form a non-woven fabric that can flex, drape, and fold just like the fabrics you’re wearing right now.  The process is still a little rough around the edges, but the team’s latest prototypes are already capable of producing things like tank tops, skirts, and beanies. The team is also working to develop new liquids that can be spun into fabric, so users will have more options on color and fabric type.

Fove — Eye-tracking VR headset

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Though most devices haven’t actually hit shelves yet, no one would fault you for calling the head-mounted display market a bit “overcrowded” already. First, there was Oculus. Then came Samsung’s Gear VR. Not long after that we got a glimpse at Valve’s Vive, and now a new company on Kickstarter claims to have an even better device — one which will reportedly feature eye-tracking technology to incorporate a unique set of controls into upcoming games.

The Fove headset, as it’s called, will come equipped with a 2,560 x 1,400, 5.8-inch screen that runs at 60fps, with a 100+ degree field-of-view. On top of that, the addition of eye-tracking will supposedly allow you to aim at enemies, “make eye contact,” and shift the amount of focus on a particular object just by changing where you look. This is made possible by incorporating an array of tiny infrared sensors inside the headset. “These sensors bounce light off the retina to register how the eyes are angled,” the Kickstarter page explains. “Our unique algorithms can calculate the parallax between the eyes to track and measure depth-of-field focus.”

Focus — Foldable, portable 3D printer

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We have absolutely no idea why a 3D printer would ever need to be portable, but that doesn’t make Focus any less amazing. It’s basically a fully-functional, multi-material 3D printer that’s designed to fold flat and be carried around like a briefcase. And somehow, despite the fact that it’s completely collapsible, it’s actually more capable than most fused-filament fabrication printers currently available.

In addition to being portable, Focus features an interchangeable extruder system — which allows it to print in a massive range of different materials. It can handle standard ABS and PLA, bio-rubber, bronze, and even edible substances like chocolate or cream cheese. And as if that wasn’t crazy enough, the machine also doesn’t require any kind of calibration, since the print platform is stationary. Move over, MakerBot — there’s a new sheriff in town.

MyoWare — Muscle-reading sensors

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Last week, we were lucky enough to get our hands on this amazing muscle reading armband called Myo. Using a technique known as electromyography, the device is able to read electrical signals from the muscles in your forearm, map them to gestures made with your hand, and control other devices with those gestures. It’s an amazing piece of technology, and when it first surfaced a couple years ago, it was one of hte first consumer-oriented devices to use electromyography — but now it’s not the only gizmo on the block that can read your muscles.

MyoWare is basically a different application of the same technology. Just like Myo, MyoWare uses EMG sensors to detect muscle movement in your arm — the only difference is that, instead of being purpose-built for gesture control, MyoWare is designed to be open and programmable, so you can do whatever you want with it. To demonstrate what’s possible with such a kit, MyoWare’s creator used it to make an Iron Man “blaster glove” that lights up when you flex your forearm, and even a set of Wolverine claws that are triggered by muscle tenses.

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Drew Prindle
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Drew Prindle is an award-winning writer, editor, and storyteller who currently serves as Senior Features Editor for Digital…
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