Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robo sidekicks, AC for your bed, and more

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 fidget spinners and janky iPhone cases to round up the most unusual, ambitious, and exciting new crowdfunding projects out there this week. That said, keep in mind that any crowdfunding project — even those with the best intentions — can fail, so do your homework before cutting a check for the gadget of your dreams.

August 12

Vector — A.I. home robot

Here’s a quick cut from our full article on Vector, which ran earlier this week. “Sure, home robots such as the Roomba vacuum cleaner are pretty useful, but it’s still a long way from the characterful, interactive droids we were promised by a misspent youth watching Star Wars and Short Circuit. Fortunately, those dark, lonely days without the company of a droid buddy are about to be over — and we’ve got the Kickstarter campaign to prove it.

Called Vector, it’s a diminutive always-on, fully autonomous, cloud-connected home robot bursting with personality. Capable of performing around 1,000 different animations, Vector can react to his environment in a way that’s disarmingly lifelike. That includes recognizing individual people courtesy of an in-built HD camera or responding to their touch via a capacitive touch sensor in his back. Oh, and did we mention that you can use Vector as a moving Google Home, Amazon Echo or Apple HomePod-style smart speaker by asking him questions with the prefix, ‘Hey Vector’?”

MasterKey 4.0 — laser projection computer

Laser keyboards have been floating around for years now. If you’re not familiar, they’re the super futuristic-looking suckers that project a keyboard onto your desk via a low-power laser, then use sensors to detect when you’ve tapped one of the projected keys. They’re straight from the pages of science-fiction, and believe it or not, you can already get one of them on your desk for just a few bucks. Unfortunately, the idea has fizzled out somewhat in recent years due to a lack of practicality, but now there is a group of creators hoping to revive the laser keyboard and take it to the next level.

The MasterKey 4.0, as it’s called, is essentially a laser keyboard fused with a projection-based computer. It has a projector on the front that projects your screen onto the wall, while a laser projector on the back beams a virtual keyboard onto your desk. Pretty awesome, right? We have our doubts about how useful this gizmo would be in practice, but in theory, it’s just too cool to pass up. If you back the project now on Kickstarter, you can lock one down for about $180. Just don’t be surprised if the delivery date gets pushed back a bit. From what we can tell, the team doesn’t have a ton of manufacturing and production experience.

ViableStraw — telescoping, reusable straw

Straws might not be the most obvious perpetrators of environmental damage, but despite the fact that they keep a pretty low profile (compared to oil spills and people who drive Hummers), they’re a fairly big contributor to the world’s growing plastic waste problem. Think about it: People in the United States use about 500 million plastic straws per day, and practically all of them are disposed of after use. That’s a hell of a lot of plastic waste. But what if there was an alternative?

That is precisely where Viablestraw comes in. The mission of the team behind it is to reduce plastic straw use by giving people a convenient, reusable alternative. In doing so, they hope to make the public more aware of the devastating effects of plastic pollution and use that awareness to pressure restaurants to stop using straws. According to recent estimates, one reusable straw like Viablestraw can save 584 plastic straws from entering the world’s oceans and landfills each year.

Bedjet V3 — HVAC for your bed

When Mark Aramli appeared on Shark Tank to pitch the original BedJet, it didn’t go well. Mark Cuban said he didn’t hear enough about the technology of the climate-control machine designed specifically for beds, while investor Barbara Corcoran was concerned it wouldn’t fit under her luxury, quilted mattress — the same market Aramli was planning to target. Later, on Twitter, Lori Greiner called him “rude” for ignoring her question, which caused her to drop out. In the end, no one bought in.  But that didn’t stop Aramli from succeeding. Since the Shark Tank appearance, thousands of BedJets have been sold to customers around the globe — and now the company is back with its third iteration.

Here’s a quick explanation of how it works from Jenny McGrath: “The system isn’t meant to replace your existing HVAC but merely warm up or cool down your sheets in three minutes or 10 seconds, respectively. It sort of looks like a vacuum cleaner but it actually blows air into your bed. It puffs up the sheets and blanket, so the air can flow to the whole mattress. The system is also smart, controlled by an iPhone or Android app (and now via Alexa voice commands), and will make a temperature profile for you based on sex, age, and body type. Sensors track your sleep and the ambient temperature and the system kicks on and off accordingly.  The dual-zone works with an AirComforter, a washable top-sheet replacement with two separated cavities. The nozzle fills the chambers with either warm or cold air, depending on how hot or cold you and your partner sleep.

Trident — underwater scooter

Luke Dormehl covered this one earlier in the week, so we’ll let him explain: “It used to be that a day at the beach required a pair of swim trunks or equivalent, a picnic, and maybe a shovel and bucket if you really wanted to go the extra mile. That was before the recent wave of underwater jet packs, drones, and assorted other gadgets that turn a day lying on the sand into some kind of high-tech James Bond mission. (Remember to watch out for the suspicious villainous henchmen who are sunbathing in full clothing, and likely sport some sartorial flourish like an eye patch, hook hand, or very unhappy white cat.)

Adding to this growing genre of water-based gizmos is the so-called Trident, an “underwater scooter” which lets scuba divers, snorkelers, and secret agents propel themselves through the depths with a maximum of 26 pounds of thrust. This translates into your choice of either 2.2 or 4.3 mph. The top speed isn’t significantly faster than the average person’s swimming speed (supposedly around 3.7 mph), but it does mean that you won’t have to worry about the strenuous activity of actually swimming. Also, thanks to an hour’s charge, courtesy of Trident’s 24V/6,000-mAh lithium battery pack, you should be able to keep up the pace for a lot longer than your average swimmer.”

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