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.
At this point, its no secret that you can 3D print just about anything. Insoles, rocket engines, circuit boards — you name it and there’s undoubtedly somebody out there that’s figured out a way to print it. Case in point? The 3DVarius electric violin. This beauty is modeled after the infamous Stradivarius violin, but tweaked a bit to provide a more enjoyable playing experience for musicians.
In all fairness, it probably can’t match the warm acoustic tones of a wooden Stradivarius, but what the 3DVarius lacks in acoustic sound quality, it makes up for with more user-friendly features and broader functionality. Arguably its biggest advantage is the fact that its main body is constructed from a single contiguous piece. In addition to making it more lightweight and well-balanced, this also gives the 3DVarius a very unique property: it allows for smooth, optimal sound-wave flow throughout the instrument, offering the violinist greater sound control.
Priced at just $49 on Kickstarter, the 101Hero is easily one of the most affordable 3D printers we’ve ever laid eyes on. The key to its ridiculously low price? The printer’s simple construction. Like many of the more affordable printers that have surfaced in the past couple years, 101Hero is a delta-style 3D printer, meaning it uses three vertically moving parallel motors to change the position of the filament extruder. This configuration allows the machine to make accurate prints without any high-precision rails, linear bearings, or other crazy-expensive CNC components you’d find in cartesian-style printers.
Don’t let the low price tag and lack of precision parts fool you, though. Based on the specs listed on the Kickstarter page, it looks like 101Hero might actually make a worthy competitor to a few printers that are 10 times as expensive. It sports a print resolution that goes down to 50 microns, as well as a surprisingly roomy build plate (5.9 inches in diameter). As if that wasn’t awesome enough, it’s also got a passively cooled extruder tip (which is unheard of), and a removable build plate that makes it less of a hassle to retrieve your finished prints.
Un-losable Bluetooth wallets are a dime a dozen these days. Take a stroll through Kickstarter and Indiegogo and you’ll find no shortage of wallets that can connect to your smartphone and send you an alert when you’ve left them behind, or even ones that have GPS built in. But GPS and Bluetooth are only so helpful. If you leave your wallet behind in a public place, whats to stop a thief from swiping your money and ditching the wallet?
That’s where Cashew comes in. Unlike smart wallets that merely send you reminders and location data, Cashew goes the extra mile and secures your cash with a biometric lock. Once it’s all set up, the only way to gain entry to the wallet’s hard-shell enclosure is to pass a fingerprint scan. As far as we know, it’s the only wallet that combines biometric security, Bluetooth connectivity, and location tracking.
Ever felt like you could use a highly skilled opponent to improve your ping pong game? Check out Trainerbot: “the world’s first smart ping pong robot” that can simulate specific shots to help players practice and get better. Similar to how a batting cage hurls baseballs out like a pitcher, the Trainerbot sends ping pong balls at you like some sort of robotic Forest Gump. The only difference is that it’s entirely programmable through an accompanying app, and allows players pick and choose almost every aspect of the type of game they want.
The device is the brainchild of Alexander and Harrison Chen — two pong-loving brothers that left Taiwan and studied at different universities in California and Toronto. The duo hatched the idea for Trainerbot because they weren’t able to play each other while they were apart. Irritated by a lack of suitable and consistent opponents to keep improving, they figured a robot could step in instead.
For years, secret knocks have been the go-to method for gaining access to treehouses, forts, and shady underground clubs — but thanks to a new gizmo called Knocki, you’ll soon be able to use them for much, much more. Swan Solutions, the creator of the device, basically just took the secret knock idea and figured out a way to link it to all the internet-connected smart devices that inhabit your house.
Here’s how it works: Knocki starts by using a set of noise and vibrations sensors to pick up knocks on whatever surface you place it on. With a bit of help from the user, the device can learn to associate different knock patterns with different commands — which it can then execute via the magic of the internet. The accompanying app allows you to connect Knocki to a wide variety of IoT devices, so you can do just about anything with it. Two quick knocks might turn on your alarm system, while three slower knocks help you find your misplaced smartphone.