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 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 even the most well-intentioned crowdfunded project can fail. Do your homework before cutting a check for the gadget of your dreams.
Codex Silenda — Puzzle book
Have you played The Room? It’s a popular mobile game featuring a series of mechanical puzzles tucked inside an intricate box. Codex Silenda is basically a tangible, physical version of that game. It’s a five-chapter mechanical puzzle book wherein the reader must solve each chapter before moving on to the next. And the best part? The entire thing is made out of laser cut wood, so it’s fairly inexpensive when compared to puzzles of similar craftsmanship and complexity.
“Since my passion lies in the realm of toys and games, I decided to focus on puzzles,” creator Brady Whitney told Digital Trends. “Through my research I found that most tend to fall into one of two categories. [There are] those that are cheap and simple, that once you’ve solved them they lose their mystery and you never play with them again. Or you have those that are made by master puzzle makers [who] only produce them in limited numbers due to their handcrafted quality. It was my solution to address this huge gap by designing a puzzle that could combine the best of both categories.”
Crua Hybrid — All-in-one tent/hammock/sleeping bag
Tired of researching every campsite you head to and wasting a bunch of time figuring out what gear to bring along? If so, the Crua Hybrid might be just what you’re looking for. Designed by Irish outdoor gear company Crua Outdoors, the Hybrid is essentially an all all-in-one camping solution that you can just toss in your pack before hitting the road — no matter where you’re headed. It’s built to adapt to practically any type of terrain, and can be used as a ground tent or hammock, depending on how you set it up. It also has a built-in sleeping bag, so you don’t need to worry about bringing one along separately.
Sure, it’s not as lightweight or compact as gear that’s specifically suited for the type of weather and terrain you’re likely to encounter, but what the Crua system lacks in compactness, it makes up for with convenience and versatility. With this all-in-one option, you can just stuff everything in your pack, wander until you find a place that looks suitable, and then set up — without worrying about the presence of trees, even ground, or inclement weather.
Toasteroid — Messaging toaster
Most toasters just do one thing: toast bread. That’s their purpose, and that’s pretty much all we use them for. But what if your toaster could do more? That’s precisely the idea behind Toasteroid. Unlike an ordinary bread browner, this gizmo also wants to be your “personal weather forecaster, private messenger, and doodle pad.” Seriously. It connects to an app on your phone, and allows you to burn pictures, messages, and even weather forecast information into the bread.
To create your custom piece of toast, choose an image from a collection of templates, or come up with one of your own. Then adjust the toaster to your desired darkness, insert the bread, and wait for it to pop up — image/message and all. It’s incredibly simple, which means that, assuming the Kickstarter campaign is a success and manufacturing goes smoothly, you’ll finally be able to start your dream business of burning Jesus pictures into toast slices and selling them on eBay for thousands of dollars.
KickStick — Motorized skateboard paddle
In short, the KickStick is basically a motor at the end of a stick — or to be more precise, a 3 horsepower, direct drive, in-hub brushless motor at the end of a staff. Functioning a bit like an oar, the stick features a motorized wheel on the end and a pressure-based throttle capable of pushing your skateboard up to 30 mph. To use it, you simply place the roller on the ground, hop on your board (or other wheeled contraption) and hit the throttle. So long as you maintain contact with the ground (and keep your finger on the trigger) the stick will propel you forward.
In essence, its an alternative to buying an expensive electric skateboard with motors and batteries already installed in the deck. Instead, KickStick puts the motor in your hands, which allows you enjoy the benefits of a propulsion system without going through the trouble of bolting one onto your board or spending half your paycheck on a pre-built electric skate. Plus, you can use it with anything. Skateboards, longboards, rollerblades — you name it and this thing can probably push it.
ULIO — 3D printable 3D printer
Ever since 3D printers made their way into the mainstream, enthusiasts have been using them to print other 3D printers — or at least parts of them. The RepRap Project, for example, is an ongoing effort to produce machines that are capable of self replication. But while the project has produced a wide variety of DIY 3D printers, the fact of the matter is that most of them aren’t 100 percent 3D printable. You can print connectors for the frame and drag chains for holding the wires and such, but at the end of the day, most RepRap printers still require a large amount of non-printed parts, such as threaded rods, gantry rails, and stepper motors.
Ulio isn’t 100 percent 3D printable either, but as far as we can tell, its constructed from the highest amount of 3D printed parts of any printer in existence. Sure, you’ll still have to bring your own stepper motors, wires, and hot end to the party, but just about everything else can be printed. It’s not particularly large, and doesn’t boast a ridiculously high resolution or massive build volume, but what it lacks in high specs it makes up for with affordability. The whole system — which is self-replicating, mind you — will only set you back $300.
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