Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Glass galaxies, water levitators, ink on demand

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 the best intentioned — can fail, so do your homework before cutting a check for the gadget of your dreams.

March 11th

Picolor — digital pigment mixer

When you draw or make art on a computer, you have access to practically any color you could ever want. The only downside? Drawing on a computer isn’t nearly as intuitive and free as drawing with old-fashioned pens, pencils, and markers. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to blend the best attributes of both computer-aided and freehand drawing? Well, if this recently-launched Kickstarter project meets its goal, there might soon be a way.

Picolor, as it’s called, is a “small cube with five different pigment colors which include Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black and White.” By mixing these pigments together in different quantities, it’s allegedly capable of creating over one million different colors. These can be mixed into paint or ink, and used inside special refillable markers. And best of all, you can customize the colors you create with a smartphone app.

LeviZen — water levitating desk toy

We’ll let DT reporter Luke Dormehl give you the scoop on this one:

“Whether it is gravity-defying phone chargers or human-floating tractor beams, we’re suckers for levitating technologies. A new Kickstarter campaign therefore hits our sweet spot with an ‘executive novelty’ (read: a high-priced desk toy) that levitates water droplets entirely for your viewing pleasure.

“Called LeviZen, the retro-styled device doesn’t have any practical applications, but it certainly promises to be an attention-grabbing conversation starter. Unlike the majority of levitating gadgets we’ve written about in the past, LeviZen doesn’t use magnetic levitation to achieve its effect, due to the fact that this would not work with a liquid like water. Instead, it opts for sound-based acoustic levitation, which adds an unusual element to a product that’s joining a crowded levitating marketplace.”

Milky Way in a Sphere — scale model galaxy

Remember that scene from Men In Black? The one that zooms out to reveal that our entire galaxy sits inside the marble on a cat’s leash? If that scene stuck with you, there’s a good chance you’ll appreciate this new desktop trinket that recently popped up on Kickstarter. The Milky Way in a Sphere is exactly what it sounds like — a desk ornament that contains a tiny scale model of the cosmic neighborhood that we live in.

With the help of an ultra-precise laser etching machine and a heap of astronomical data, creator Clemens Steffin managed to shrink the Milky Way and fit it inside a beautiful glass desk ornament that’s no bigger than an orange. In his model, there are over 200,000 individual dots — each of which represents a star (or cluster of stars). It’s arguably one of the coolest desk ornaments of all time.

Iris — futuristic trash can

We covered this on earlier in the week, so here’s an excerpt from our full article:

“Call it form over function if you want, but the Iris, a new high-tech trash can, looks like something out of a 1960s science fiction movie. The idea is this: it’s a shiny trash can with a sealed top. Approach it with some piece of debris, however, and you will be detected by an infrared sensor beam when you’re within a few inches. At this point, its iris diaphragm lid slowly opens like an airlock or futuristic spaceship door so you can carefully place the object inside without having to touch the can. The sensors then cause the mechanism to close again as you walk away.”

“The idea came to me when I was helping my wife prepare dinner,” creator Everett Belmont told Digital Trends. “After cutting some vegetables, I had to throw some debris into our bin that was located inside a cabinet under the sink. The bin was one of those with a stepper that propels the lid open. The lid kept bumping into the undersink so I [started thinking about whether it was possible to build] a trash can with a closing mechanism that didn’t lift up like most trash cans in the market, but one that could retract within itself.”

I’m Back Pro — digital back for film cameras

As you may or may not have noticed, film photography has enjoyed a resurgence as of late. As it continues to claw back some of its former popularity, inventors are finding more ways to blend classic photography with digital convenience. I’m Back is the latest such invention to hit the crowdfunding scene. After finding success with a 3D-printed, Raspberry Pi-powered film camera, the creators of the device are back with a clever new gizmo that transforms old film cameras into digital shooters.

Here’s how it works. Rather than popping a roll of 35mm film into your old camera, you open up the back and attach the camera to I’m Back. The device’s 16 megapixel sensor will then pick up light that passes through the cameras lens, and save it to an SD card. If you’d like to see the photo afterward, you can even connect your smartphone and use it as a display screen.

March 3rd

Stapp One — smart insoles

We covered this one earlier in the week, so here’s an excerpt from our full article, written by Luke Dormehl:

“Developed by health experts in Austria, Stapp One insoles fit into your regular shoe, where they use state-of-the-art textile sensors to collect information about your posture, distribution of weight, movement, and location. Through this approach, its creators claim the insoles can gather details including your weight, calorie burn, posture, activity, and skeletal deformities. This information is then sent to a connected smartphone app and presented to you in a manner that’s understandable, helpful, and easy to use.

“While a lot of these metrics can be measured through other fitness trackers, Stapp One’s big claim to fame is the fact that it can hone in on postural problems. In particular, it says it can recognize and help correct back pain, foot pain, neck pain, restricted movement, foot deformities, misalignment of the spine, and musculoskeletal weakness. It’s like having a tiny physiotherapist in your shoe!”

Snoozle — snooze-proof alarm clock

People have had a hard time getting out of bed ever since — well, probably ever since beds became comfortable. And ever since the invention of the snooze button, sleep-loving procrastinators around the globe have been struggling to wake up on time. Part of the reason the snooze button is so easy to abuse is that, oftentimes, you don’t have to do much more than roll over and flop your arm onto your clock to make it shut off. To remedy this issue, the creators of the Snoozle alarm clock have designed a simple and effective new system.

If you’re the type who can’t resist the allure of your mattress even after standing up, perhaps an alarm that forces you to leave your bedroom altogether is the best choice — and that’s precisely what Snoozle does. Once activated, the alarm won’t turn off until you pick it up and place it atop an accompanying pad — which would ideally be placed in your bathroom, kitchen, or somewhere else far, far away from your bedside. Not a bad idea, right? How much easier would it be to wake up on time if your snooze button was right next to the coffee maker in your kitchen?

NASA Exoplanet Travel Bureau Posters — awesome wall art

A couple years ago, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) commissioned a team of artists to design a series of travel posters that depict exotic locales in our solar system. They were (and still are) absolutely awesome, and are illustrated in a way that makes them resemble classic travel posters. All in all, JPL’s artists created a total of fourteen posters — and since the artwork was funded with taxpayer dollars, NASA went ahead and made all of it available for free. You can actually download and print them yourself right now if you want to.

The only downside? Unless you have access to a large format printer, putting NASA’s artwork on a full-fledged poster is a bit of a pain. So, to make it more accessible, German graphic designer Tim Hippmann is currently running a Kickstarter to raise funds for some full-size reprints.

“The posters are free for download and reprinting, so I wanted to print them in a printer studio for my working place,” Hippmann explains on his campaign page. “But they were not that size I needed, so I decided to retouch the posters and fit them to international standard sizes in Europe and the U.S.: 70 by 100 centimeters, and 24 by 36 inches.”

Orbiform — solid of constant diameter

This is a weird one. It really serves no purpose other than to just sit on your desk and look cool — or maybe act as a paperweight. Still, it’s undeniably cool. It’s called the Orbiform, and it’s what’s known as a “solid of constant width.” What this means is that, despite the fact that it’s shaped a bit like an acorn, it actually has a constant width no matter how its oriented. If you put a bunch of these underneath a board, the board would roll around as if it was sitting atop a series of spheres.

“An Orbiform,” the creators explain, “is a little-known, unintuitive geometric shape, with fascinating mathematical properties. Orbiforms were unwittingly used by polymath Leonardo da Vinci in 1514, mathematically discovered by mathematician Leonhard Euler in 1771, and placed in application by engineer Franz Reuleaux in 1876. We are Kickstarting a 3D Orbiform derived from a triangle to spread our enjoyment of mathematics and design with math lovers, designers, creators, educators and students.”

Movpak — backpack skateboard hybrid

DT’s Lulu Chang covered this one earlier in the week, so we’ll let her give you the rundown:

“Two years ago, the folks behind Movpak managed to raise over $250,000 to bring their electric skateboard and backpack combination to life. Now, the team is ready to ship a new-and-improved version of the electric skateboard that takes portability to a whole new level to eager backers around the world. You see, once you’re finished riding the Movpak, you won’t need to pick it up and tuck it under your arm. Rather, you’ll be able to simply fold it up into a backpack and go about your merry way. So whether you want to consider it a backpack you can ride or a skateboard you can wear, it seems like the perfect tool for your urban commute.

“Riding the Movpak is as easy as pulling a dedicated handle. From there, the board easily slides out, and using a companion remote, you’ll be able to control your speed and braking as you cruise down streets. In order to recharge the Movpak, just plug the charger into any standard outlet for a couple hours. The deck of the eboard is constructed with a combination of wood, metal, and Kevlar compounds, which promises to make the board simultaneously strong and flexible.”

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