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Awesome tech you can’t buy yet: Smart workbenches, cosmic fidget toys, and more

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.

Nexus Workbench — compact, high-tech worktable

Are you a maker, tinkerer or some other word that ends in “-er,” who requires a garage workstation to do your thing?  Do you occasionally look at existing workbenches and find yourself wishing they would borrow a bit more of their design language from the 1982 film Tron?  If you answered yes to both of these questions, you will probably fall head over heels in love with the Nexus workbench, a new Kickstarter project which launched on Tuesday.

“The Nexus workbench is a game-changer for the home garage, solving these problems with unique storing capabilities and a plethora of features,” Zeb Fish, founder and CEO of Garage Mastermind, told Digital Trends in an interview. “Using linear actuators, the Nexus effortlessly transforms from its generous 3-foot by 8-foot workspace position into its storage position, sitting less than six inches from the wall. This means when you’re not working on a project, you can tuck the Nexus out of the way with just the flip of a switch.”

The foldaway element is not the only exciting aspect of the Nexus. As well as space issues, most garages also lack adequate lighting and electrical outlets — which is where the workbench’s bright LED lights on its flex arms come into play. There are also eight integrated electrical outlets and the same number of USB charging ports, so you can charge batteries, power devices, and run your assorted power tools without having to stop to switch cords.

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Moondrop — gravity-defying fidget toy

Fidget toys are all the rage right now. Ever since Fidget Cube took Kickstarter by storm and raised a bajillion dollars, it seems that a veritable plague of similarly-focused fidget-oriented desk toys have flooded crowdfunding platforms. The latest addition to this booming category is Moondrop, a gravity-defying fidget gizmo that leverages an interesting physical quirk known as Lenz’s Law to simulate how gravity works on Mars and the Moon. Digital Trends’ Senior Fidget Gizmo Reporter, Luke Dormehl, got in touch with the creator to get the scoop on how it works:

“Moondrop is made from a pure copper or aluminum ring, aluminum body, and strong neodymium magnets inside the thin aluminum tube,” creator Kristaps Krisjans told Digital Trends. “Copper and aluminum are nonmagnetic materials, however they are great conductors of electricity, while each magnet is surrounded by its own magnetic field. When the magnet moves through the conductor its magnetic field induces an electric current in the copper.

“According to Lenz’s law, that current creates an opposite magnetic field which adds a certain resistance to the moving magnet,” Krisjans continued. This makes the slider move slower than it would normally do if made from other materials. Depending on the proportions between magnet and conductor, different sliding speed can be achieved.”

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MOAR — folding fat tire bike

Fat tires are, without a doubt, one of the best things to happen to bikes since the invention of clip-in pedals. Fatter tires provide more traction, better shock absorption, and really just make you feel like you can ride over anything standing in your path. The only downside? Fat tire bikes are even bigger, heavier, more cumbersome than bikes typically are, which means if you want to take them anywhere, you’ll need to invest in some sort of rack system for your car, which drives the price up even more. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to fit your fat-tire bike in your car?

Enter the MOAR bike. Not only does this beast sport fat tires and full suspension, but it’s also equipped with a folding frame. That means when you’re not riding it, the bike can be collapsed for easy transport. Hell, it’ll even fit in the trunk of your car. But the fun doesn’t end there either. As if it wasn’t already packed to the gills with neat features, the MOAR bike also comes with an electrically-powered pedal assist system. It’s not fully motorized, but it’ll give you more power in each pedal, helping you mash through just about any kind of terrain you might encounter.

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Ollie Chair — collapsing, flat-pack seating

Created by Brooklyn-based engineering and design firm RockPaperRobot (RPR), the Ollie chair  is described a as “space-saving, lumbar-supporting, weather-resisting, personality-enhancing, and mechanically marveling.” And on closer inspection, it seems these are indeed all valid highlights. Aside from its stylish good looks, Ollie’s standout feature is its ability to quickly flatten down to under 2.25-inches thick, making it convenient to transport and easy to store. It can do this thanks to its “tambour” slatted wood seat, while its articulated aluminum base helps to keep it light at a reasonable 16 pounds.

But a collapsible design and lightweight construction aren’t the only tricks that Ollie has up its sleeve — it’s also designed to be used outdoors, and can even be customized to better suit the aesthetics of your home. Thanks to its aluminum and teak construction, the chair is entirely rust- and warp-resistant, so you don’t have to worry about leaving it outside in the rain for a few days.

“We salt-tested, immersion-tested, froze, and thawed to make sure your Ollie Chair could brave the elements,” RPR says on its Kickstarter page. Oh, and those wooden slats can be swapped out for new ones if you ever wear them out or feel like switching up the chair’s look.

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Skycamp –hardshell rooftop tent for your car

A rugged four-season tent is an outdoorsman’s best friend, but with a dizzying array of poles, stakes, and tie-downs, they’re not always the most convenient thing in the world to set up. If you’d rather skip the “some assembly required” part, you could always get yourself a trailer, but that option is far more expensive, and trailers can’t always go wherever your car can by itself. What if there was a portable shelter that lies somewhere in the “Goldilocks zone” between tent and trailer?  Enter the Skycamp from iKamper — an innovative popup shelter that lives on top of your car.

The entire apparatus affixes to your roof racks, and can be unfolded or packed up in just a few minutes. With this shelter, worrying about rocky, uneven, or damp terrain is a thing of the past. You’re pretty much guaranteed to stay high, dry and comfy no matter where you go. No need to lug around sleeping pads anymore either — inside the tent’s durable waterproof walls, you’ll find a built-in two-inch high-density foam mattress.

And thanks to a sturdy baseplate, the platform can handle unsupported loads of over 700lbs. iKamper plans to sells these tents for about $2,000 apiece – considerably more expensive than your average four-season tent, but still just a fraction of what you’d pay for a tow-behind camper.

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