Awesome tech you can’t buy yet: Folding kayaks & gravity-powered lamps

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.

Oru Coast — Foldable, ultraportable kayak

Oru Coast

Back in 2012, a relatively unknown company by the name of Oru unveiled a crazy new product — an origami-inspired kayak capable of folding down to the size of a suitcase. It was a huge hit on Kickstarter, and gathered up nearly half a million dollars before the campaign ended. Now, three years later, Oru is back with a new and improved version.  The company’s original kayak, the Bay, was 12 feet long; its upcoming Coast series stretches to a full 16 feet. This makes it considerably faster and more efficient to paddle, as the extra surface area allows it to sit higher on the water, thereby reducing drag and helping the boat fly across any rippling aquatic surface.

The amazing thing is that, despite being four feet longer and considerably more spacious, this new version still folds down, origami style, to the same size as Oru’s first-generation kayak. So you can fit a full-sized boat inside the trunk of your car, and therefore don’t need to spend a bunch of extra cash on specialized roof racks to transport the kayak from place to place.

Yeair — Gasoline-powered drone

Yeair

If you buy a modern remote-controlled aircraft, it will probably run on batteries. This is because electric motors are far simpler and considerably more efficient than combustion engines — but they also have their own set of problems. The low energy density of a battery means even the best electric quadcopters can stay aloft for only about 20 or 25 minutes at a time. So German inventor Holger Willeke took a different approach with his Yeair drone, unveiled on Kickstarter earlier this week.

Instead of relying solely on batteries and electric motors, it uses a mixture of battery power and good old-fashioned combustion engines. The result? A quadcopter that can do 60 mph, carry nearly 12 pounds, and stay airborne for 60 minutes straight. A combustion engine allows it to harness the incredible energy density of hydrocarbon fuel, while an electric component keeps the craft light and responsive. And when you do run out of power, you don’t have to twiddle your thumbs for hours while you wait for a battery to recharge — just fuel up and start flying again right away.

Mellow — Electric skateboard retrofit

Mellow

Mellow is the latest entry into the burgeoning category of personal mobility devices, but it’s a little bit different than the boards we’ve seen before. In fact, it’s not actually a board at all, but rather an attachment designed to fit onto your existing board — which is a brilliant idea. Pop Mellow onto the deck you’ve already got and it’ll transform your boring old push board into a motorized monster. To use it, you basically just remove the rear trucks of your board, screw in Mellow, and start riding.

The retrofittable module includes dual in-wheel motors capable of zipping you around at 25 miles per hour, and a high-capacity lithium-ion battery that’ll keep you going for about 10 miles per charge.  You might be able to squeeze some extra range out of it, too. Mellow is equipped with a regenerative braking system that recharges your battery ever so slightly whenever you decelerate, which helps extend the board’s range. Mellow’s batteries are also designed to be swappable, so you can just pop in a new cell and keep riding once your first pack runs dry.

GravityLight — Gravity-powered lamp

GravityLight

You might not realize it if you live in the developed world, but there are still more than 1.1 billion people on Earth without access to electricity. That means when the sun goes down, they can’t just flip a switch and carry on — they usually have to burn something to provide light. Most households rely on kerosene lamps for their nighttime lighting needs, which are expensive to use (often consuming 30 percent of a family’s income) and spout off fumes that can cause serious health problems over time.

GravityLight offers a solution to this problem. Invented by London-based designers Jim Reeves and Martin Reddiford, it’s essentially a low-cost lighting solution designed for homes in the developing world. Instead of using a traditional power outlet or expensive solar panels for electricity, the lamp uses a cheap and effective gravity-powered system to provide light. To use it, you simply attach a 25-pound weight to one end, hoist it up into the air, and let go. The weight spins a series of drive sprockets as it descends, generating enough power to illuminate a low-power, bright white LED.

HeavyM — Projection mapping software

HeavyM

The term “projection mapping” is horrendously vague and nondescript, but the technique itself is nothing short of amazing. If you’ve never seen it before, you’re missing out. Projection mapping is an emerging type of digital performance art that uses one or more choreographed projectors (like those used in theaters and conference rooms) to beam video onto real-world 3D surfaces. You may have seen it before if you’ve ever been to a rave or music festival — it’s commonly done at concerts these days, and if executed properly, it’s absolutely mesmerizing.

The only thing is, it’s incredibly complex. To make compelling projections, you need to animate effects and adjust them to fit the surface you’re projecting onto. It’s much easier said than done — so a team of French dudes decided to make it more accessible. Heavy M is a dead-simple projection mapping software application that allows you to draw out the geometry of your screening area, choose your desired animations and effects, and start projecting right away.

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