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.
Droneball — shock-absorbing drone
Drones are fun, but anyone who has flown them knows has easy it is to crash into things. Given how expensive they can be, this is a problem. The creators of Droneball Go aim to build a sturdier drone, surround by a cage of flexible wires, so users can dart around recklessly, with no fear of breaking their pricey toy.
The Droneball functions in many ways like an ordinary drone. It has multiple propellers, and can be equipped with a camera to take aerial photos and videos. The cage surrounding the drone is the most notable part. The cage is attached to a running track that allows it to move independently of the drone. This means that even if you crash, it will remain stable as the cage absorbs the shock.
MiniRaceWing — Sturdy flying wing
A different take on invincible flying devices, the MiniRaceWing is a flying wing designed to survive impacts thanks to sturdy fuselage and wings that pop off when it undergoes a particularly forceful collision. The fuselage is made of carbon fiber, so it is lightweight yet strong, and you can mount a camera onto it for first-person viewing. The slim profile means the MiniRaceWing can also reach high speeds.
A recurring problem with flying devices is that they can get stuck if they crash into trees. The MiniRaceWing avoids this because the wings separate from the fuselage in the event of a crash. This also means that users can disassemble the device and pack it into a backpack for easy transportation.
Qube Light Strip — Smart lighting system
Is there anything in a home that cannot be made “smart” these days? The list is probably small, and lighting certainly is not on it, thanks to the Qube light strip. These strips are slim enough to be installed in a variety of tight spaces through one’s home, and you can control them via a smartphone app.
What sets these light strips apart from typical forms of lighting? You can program them in various ways, setting them to automatically dim at night or slowly turn on to wake you up in the morning. You can also adjust the color of the lighting, adjusting it to suit certain moods (making the room blue while you listen to Miles Davis, for example?)
Beelinguapp — language instruction app
Although its name may roll clumsily off the tongue, Beelinguapp seeks to help users learn new languages. How exactly does it accomplish this? Through the power of reading. Beelinguapp provides an assortment of ebooks — classic literature, children’s books, and more — and shows you the text in multiple languages, side by side.
If you are an English speaker who wants to learn Spanish, for example, and you can see the text written in both languages, with highlights to show you precisely which line is which. Even better, there is an audiobook component, allowing you to hear the book read in any of the languages the app supports. Currently, the app is design for Android, though an iOS version may be on the way.
Earnotz — 3D-printed earphones
Earphones can be really a really convenient way to listen to music on the go, but they have one glaring flaw. Unlike headphones, which fit snugly on your head, earphones have to sit inside your ear. And if the fit is not right, they can be uncomfortable, or even fall out. The makers of Earnotz have proposed a solution: 3D-printed earphones, designed specifically for the dimensions of the your ears.
The process appears easy. You simply use the companion app to take a picture of your ear, along with a scale that you can print out. You send this data to the manufacturer, and they will print out a pair of earphones, tailored to you. It is an intriguing premise; hopefully the sound quality is good as well.