Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Plant-based shoes and a ukulele learning aid

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. 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.

June 16

Scoots — Plant-based shoes

Everyone loves a good pair of shoes, and for many people, a great she collection is a way of life. Unfortunately, the shoe industry, like the fashion industry in general, is terrible for the environment. Not only does shoe production cause a lot of pollution, but shoes themselves end up sitting in landfills for decades. The people behind Scoots want to build shoes in a better way, making their slip-on shoes out of a variety of plants. Scoots resemble espadrilles: The uppers are made of pineapple and corn, the insoles of latex, and the outsoles out of Portuguese cork. The result is a shoe that promises to be durable and comfortable, and also biodegradable.

Fret Zealot Ukulele edition — Musical learning aid

We were big fans of the Fret Zealot, a strip of LED lights that attaches to the neck of a guitar, lightning up to show players which frets to finger at any given moment. It’s a great visual aid for aspiring players who want to learn chords, scales, even songs. The makers of the Fret Zealot are back with a new model, this time built for learning that favorite instrument of the YouTube generation: The ukulele. As with the guitar model, the new Fret Zealot fits easily on the neck of the instrument, and the accompanying app is easy to navigate, so you’ll be strumming beautifully in no time at all.

Totcooly — Personal air-conditioner/drink cooler

Everyone loves summer … until the weather hits 90 degrees and your room isn’t particularly well-ventilated and no matter how many ice cubes you toss in your drink it just won’t stay cool. If you’ve got one of those old-fashioned, window-filling air conditioners, could always lug it out of storage, but wouldn’t you rather have something a bit more convenient? Totcooly promises not only a blessedly small personal air conditioner (easily placed on a desk), but one that can cool or even heat your drinks. The surface plate inside can apparently cool a drink from 77 degrees Fahrenheit to 50 degrees Fahrenheit in ten minutes. In addition to cooling your space and your beverage, Totcooly even promises to purify the air. Farewell, bulky air conditioner of ages past! You will not be missed.

Dryceratops — Solar-powered plant dehydrator

Dried herbs and veggies are a useful addition to any kitchen, and with the Dryceratop — punny product names are an enduring part of the Kickstarter experience — you can dry food quickly using the power of the sun. The Dryceratop is a simple disc with a fan in the middle and a solar panel on top. It fits on top of a mason jar, and when sunlight hits the panel it powers the fan, pushing warm air around the inside of the jar, desiccating the plants within.

Artenix — Leather charging band for Apple Watch

The Apple Watch is one of the best smartwatches on the market — we’re particularly fond of the Series 4 — but if you use yours a lot throughout the day, you may find yourself running low on battery. A dead smartwatch is just an expensive bracelet, but the Artenix band offers a solution: A wristband that charges your Apple Watch. The leather band comes in four colors, and it’s essentially a wireless charging pad that you wrap around your wrist. Fasten the Apple Watch to it, and your watch can charge while you wear it.

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