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.
As 3D printing tech quickly becomes cheaper and more accessible, the list of sub-$500 printers just keeps getting bigger. The only downside is that with such a drastic drop in price you also typically get a noticeable drop in quality. Take our word for it — we’ve tested a handful of ultra-affordable printers and have been left disappointed each time. They just can’t match the accuracy — or more importantly, the reliability — of more expensive (ie, higher quality) machines.
At least not yet, anyway. Sooner or later, somebody is bound to hit the sweet spot between affordability and reliability, and this new printer from Kodama looks like it could be the one to do it. Unlike most of sub-$500 printers, this thing isn’t made with flimsy plastic parts. Trinus, as its called, is made with premium aluminum and steel parts. Not only does it have a metal frame, it also has metal internal components. No loose belts or plastic gears — which ultimately translates to a better, more reliable performance and fewer technical failures.
Ever crashed a drone and found yourself wishing you could just print a replacement part for it? Well, thanks to a Barcelona-based startup called Bonadrone, your dreams might soon come true. The company has recently taken to Indiegogo in an effort to jumpstart the launch of a new drone called the Mosquito: a modular quadcopter that — aside from the motors, batteries, and control electronics — is made almost entirely from 3D printed parts. If you ever break the chassis or just feel like upgrading to a new design, you can seriously just download a file and print it yourself (as long as you’ve got a 3D printer, of course).
And that’s not all. The drone’s creators are also building a platform that will provide access to a community of users that (in theory) will help design future versions of drone technology. Basically, Bonadrone needs a little help getting this modular design out into the world, but once that happens, it’ll be completely in the hands of the user community. If you need a new part or feel like upgrading your drone’s design, you can just log in and shop around through other user-submitted designs.
About two years ago, booze-loving entrepreneur Steve Young turned to Kickstarter to launch an innovative new craft beer dispenser. The Synek, as its called, was an instant hit with the crowdfunding community — gathering up more than $640,000 during its campaign. Now, after successfully bringing the Skynek to market, Young is back on Kickstarter with yet another booze-dispensing creation. This time, however, his focus is on wine.
The Somm smart wine dispenser takes the same winning concept and applies it to the big, wide world of fermented grape juice. Synek’s accompanying app gives you access to a wide range of wines from all over the world, which you can order with just a few taps. When they arrive, you simply insert the wine pod into the Somm and let the machine handle the rest. It’ll immeidately recognize what kind of wine its holding, chill it to the appropriate temperature, and aerate the wine as it pours. Over time, the machine will even begin to learn your preferences, and suggest new wines for you to try.
So in all fairness, this one isn’t necessarily something you’ll ever be able to buy (unless you’re an eccentric billionaire), but it’s still pretty damn cool, so we felt compelled to include it in this weeks roundup. Here’s the idea: Yellowstone has been a national park for more than 100 years now, but while practically every inch of its forests have been explored now, there’s still one part of the park that scientists don’t know very much about: the depths of Yellowstone Lake. They just haven’t had the resources or funding to explore down there, so the Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration (GFOE) has turned to Kickstarter for some help.
GFOE’s plan is pretty straightforward. It needs $100,000 to build a high-tech robotic submarine that can be operated remotely from the surface. With this sub, scientists will be able to examine the deepest reaches of Yellowstone Lake, and gather precious data on what might be hiding (and living) inside of it. Researchers hope to make some exciting discoveries, as similar lakes around the world house a diverse community of thermophilic bacteria, hydrothermal vent plants, and other heat-loving organisms that have proven to be of interest to science and medicine.
Laser cutters/engravers are arguably one of the most versatile tools you can have in your workshop. With the right laser diode, they can do everything from etching patterns into leather, to cutting super-precise shapes in wood. They can handle a massive range of materials and can be used in a wide variety of different ways — but unfortunately there aren’t many on the market that are designed for the casual tinkerers and novice DIY types among us. If you want to fiddle with laser cutters, you typically need to know your way around all kinds of complex software and calibration procedures.
Not so with the Mr. Beam II. This beast has been designed from the ground up to be ridiculously simple to use. Simply connect your PC, Mac or tablet via Wi-Fi, choose the design you’d like to cut/etch, and hit go. The software makes it nearly foolproof, and the machine has presets for just about every material under the sun. Wood, leather, fabric, and even mirrors or anodized aluminum are no problem at all. The integrated software allows for pictures to be engraved directly onto your material, no matter what picture or material you choose.