Awesome tech you can’t buy yet: Supercharge your iPhone photos and air pollution ink

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.

Air-ink — ink made from air pollution

Let’s be honest: Unless you’re the heir to the Bic fortune, there is nothing overly exciting about the way ink is made —  unless, of course, you ask the folks behind Graviky Labs. This group of creatives found a way to recycle air pollution (which causes more than 7.2 million deaths each year) and transform it into something you can write with. The single fluid ounce of ink needed to fill a pen can be gathered from 45 minutes of car emissions. This comes courtesy of Graviky’s proprietary collection process, which was developed while the founders were studying at MIT.

The team created five different grades of Air-Ink for the project, all of which can be used for everything from fabric and outdoor painting to screen printing, and even oil painting.  It functions as both a neat science exercise and a provocative statement on pollution. As co-founder Anirudh Sharma notes in the campaign, “Each stroke made with Air-Ink arrests particulate matter, which would have otherwise ended up in the lungs of common people. Scaling this is saving lives.”

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Senstone — wearable AI stenographer

Remember the Home Stenographer skit from Chappelle’s Show? The one where Dave carries around a stenographer to record and transcribe everything he says, just in case he ever needs something to be read back for legal purposes? Senstone is basically the same concept, but instead of using a living person, it comes in the shape of a small, lightweight, and discreet wearable.

The idea behind the device is fairly simple. You start by attaching the gizmo to your body somehow — which is pretty easy, because it’s no bigger than a pair of nickels stacked on top of each other. Then, when it comes time to record something, you simply tap on the device’s face and speak. Not only will the Senstone record what you say, but it’ll also use natural language processing to transcribe everything word for word. It also organizes your notes based on time, location, and other contextual cues. All of this is accessible online for your perusal.

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Moment for iPhone 7 — Smartphone lens kit

Moment is a Kickstarter veteran. We first encountered the company about three years ago, back when it was launching its first smartphone camera lens. Now the crowdfunded photography phenom is back with a new product — an iPhone 7/7 Plus case that supercharges your smartphone’s photographic capabilities. Each case sports one of Moment’s amazing lenses (which won’t leave you with any image distortion, chromatic aberration, or blurring around the edges of your photo) as well as a few other features that make it easier to use.

The Moment team added a new quick-attach lens system to this case, as well as improved software and a special shutter button that supports both half and full presses. The latter addition is particularly innovative, since it allows you to lock focus and exposure as you shoot — just like a DSLR. The project is well on its way to meeting its ambitious $500,000 goal, and expects to ship the first units to backers as early as June.

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Tex-Lock — ultra-lightweight bike lock

Bike locks come in just about every shape, size, and configuration these days. There are locks that fold, locks with Bluetooth, and even locks that scare away potential thieves with foul odors. Despite all this diversity, most bike locks suffer from the same drawback — they’re heavy as hell. Because locks by definition should be hardy and tough to break, the vast majority of them are made out of metal, which is inherently rigid and heavy. But what if there was a lightweight, flexible option that still offered the same level of protection against thieves?

That’s precisely the idea behind Tex-Lock. It’s totally unlike any bike lock you’ve ever seen. Instead of bolts, chains, or braided cables, Tex-Lock is made from a variety of high-tech textiles — each with a different purpose. One layer is cut/slash proof. Another is impervious to fire, and others protect it against smashing. There’s even a layer that protects it against acid, so no matter what tools a thief brings along, TexLock has a way to thwart the attack. Despite all this, it’s still super lightweight and flexible. If you don’t already own a bike lock, this one is definitely worth looking into.

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Force Fluid — ferrofluid desk toy

Ferrofluid is one of the best things to happen in the desktop toy scene in years. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a magnetic liquid that arranges itself into a spiky geometric pattern when in the presence of a magnetic field. NASA engineers originally developed it in an effort to solve the problem of pumping rocket fuel in zero gravity, but because it was so damn fun to play with, it quickly found its way into an array of different toys and gadgets. Ferrofluid toys are everywhere these days, and Force Fluid is the latest one to hit Kickstarter.

To be completely honest, it’s really not that much different from the other ferrofluid gizmos currently out on the market. It’s basically a puddle of ferrofluid suspended in water and enclosed in a capsule; but what sets this one apart is the fact that it comes with two neodymium magnets for you to manipulate it with. With two magnets, you’re free to  juggle the fluid between two different magnetic fields, which makes it even more fun and engaging. Sure, you probably don’t need this thing on your desk, but if you’re in the market for a desk toy to fiddle with, it doesn’t get much better than this.

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