Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Magnetic bike pedals, undersea scooters, 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 the best intentioned — can fail, so do your homework before cutting a check for the gadget of your dreams.

March 18th

Urban Rivers Trash Robot — river-cleaning bot

Like most bodies of water that run through densely-populated urban areas, the Chicago River has a serious pollution problem. Now, to be fair, it’s currently much cleaner than it’s been in the past. There are more fish in the river, and more people use it for recreational purposes than ever before.

Unfortunately, the famous river also home to a massive amount of plastic waste, which comes from a vast array of different sources and interacts with the ecosystem in a myriad of different ways, most of which are negative. What’s more, efforts to clean up this plastic have largely fallen short thus far — but a newly-launched Kickstarter project aims to change that.

Urban Rivers’ trash robot is essentially an internet-connected, remote controlled, interactive trash collecting boat. When complete, the device will allegedly be controlled by internet users, who log in to the trash bot’s web platform and take control of it for a specified amount of time. To aid navigation, the bot is equipped with a live streaming video camera that allows users to spot trash in real time, and then pilot the boat toward it. Sounds like a fun game, no?

Gigabot X — pellet-based 3D printer

3D printing has progressed in leaps and bounds over the past few years. In addition to massive improvements in the quality, availability, and price of 3D printers, users today also have access to an incredibly broad range of materials. It’s not just PLA and ABS anymore — 3D printers can make stuff with wood, clay, nylon, and even metal these days.

The only problem? It’s still fairly expensive. Depending on the type and quality of the filament you buy, you can expect to pay anywhere from $20 to $60 for a single spool of plastic. If you do a lot of printing, the cost of filament can get out of hand quickly. But what if there was a better way to achieve the same result? That’s precisely what the Gigabot X aims to do. Instead of filament, this beast prints with plastic pellets.

“There are some major benefits that come from printing with pellets,” the creators explain on Kickstarter. “It eliminates the need for extruded plastic filament, which tends to be about 10x more expensive than pelletized plastic. Direct pellet extrusion also allows for faster printing — we’re currently experimenting with print times up to 17x faster than the filament-fed Gigabot. And while pellet printers are currently commercially available, they typically are used in larger manufacturing systems and are cost-prohibitive to many potential users. Our goal, much like with the first-generation Gigabot, is to increase 3D printer accessibility and bridge the gap between cost and scale by creating an affordable, large-scale pellet printer.”

Aquajet H2 — underwater propulsion device

Here’s DT’s Lulu Chang with the lowdown: “You may not have fins, but that doesn’t mean you can’t glide through the water with the grace of an aquatic creature. Thanks to Hoverstar Flight Technology, a company dedicated to water sports equipment, you will soon be able to fly across or underneath the surface of the great blue ocean (or any other body of water) with ease. Meet the AquaJet H2, a motorized underwater scooter with wings dedicated to improving the experience of divers and snorkelers the world over.

“The scooter, which looks something like a flattened shark head, features aircraft-style wings that are claimed to reduce water resistance, leading to greater balance and less friction and drag. Adventurers need only grab onto the front of the wings and either dive underwater or skim across its surface. Powered by a “smart internal motor,” the AquaJet H2 can carry up to four people at once, and features three variable speeds. Top speed is 5.6 miles per hour, which is almost certainly faster than you can swim (though Michael Phelps is said to reach speeds of six miles per hour).”

QSun — UV exposure tracker

We covered this one earlier in the week, so here’s a quick excerpt from our full article: “A new wearable device that’s just hit Kickstarter promises to help you keep track of harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, courtesy of some smart artificial intelligence technology. Called the QSun, the gadget not only aims to protect you from sun-induced skin damage, but also make sure that you’re still getting a healthy amount of vitamin D, which comes from sun exposure.

“To do this, the clip-on QSun wearable uses advanced sensors to measure UV rays in real time and track your sun exposure. It then calculates how long you can stay outside before getting a sunburn and sends an alert to your smartphone when it determines you need to seek protection from the giant burning ball in the sky. While it’s doing this, it also calculates how much vitamin D you’ve produced from your sun exposure. Both of these metrics can be checked from the QSun app, thereby allowing you to keep tabs on your long-term sun exposure and vitamin D history. The app also claims it can work out how much sunscreen you need to wear, and uses advanced image processing technology to analyze your facial skin health.”

Magped — Magnetic bike pedals

You know what’s more frustrating (and certainly more painful) than having your foot slip off your bike pedal when you’re cycling? Being clipped into the pedals, and finding yourself unable to remove your foot in time to protect you from a nasty spill. That’s what a new Kickstarter campaign hopes to solve with an innovative bike pedal which uses magnets to attach rider’s feet to their bicycle pedals. Made of an inexpensive, lightweight plastic composite, the Vault Magped works thanks to magnets built into the pedal body, while riders connect via a steel clip attached to their biking shoes.

“The Magped safety bike pedal is a true innovation for mountain bikes and ebike,” the creators explain on Magped’s Kickstarter campaign page. “Our patented magnet mechanism makes quick and easy release of the foot possible at any time. In comparison to standard click in pedals the risk of crash and injury is reduced to a minimum — and your head stays free for a hassle free biking experience without fear.”

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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