Big tech from little companies: Here's the best Kickstarter campaigns from 2016

best kickstarters 2016 vue glasses 2
When you look back on 2016 in the years to come, what will be the overriding memory you have? Great Kickstarter projects, of course.

From unimaginably popular “Fidget Cubes” to some impressive gadgetry and a tremendous survival horror board game, a rundown of the year’s hottest crowdfunding campaigns is sure to bring a smile to your face.

And, if you weren’t a part of them, some plans for the best way to spend any money you receive for Christmas!

Vue Smart Glasses

The problem with Google Glass wasn’t that the concept was bad, so much as that no-one wanted to walk through life looking like the world’s worst undercover agent in a bad espionage movie.

That’s where Vue smart glasses come into play with the revolutionary decision to offer some of the functionality of smart glasses, while looking… well, like a regular pair of specs. Now why didn’t we think of that?

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Kingdom Death: Monster 1.5

Board games are kind of a niche thing, aren’t they? So what better way to dilute your potential target audience than by combining one niche with another: in this case the horror genre?

In fact, the resulting horror board game turns out to be one of the year’s biggest Kickstarters — surpassing the $1 million funding mark in just 19 minutes and currently trending toward $16 million.

In this massive cooperative board game, survivors fight for their lives against an “onslaught of bizarre and fearsome creatures.” Although if you’re one of the 14,967 (and counting) backers, you probably knew that already.

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Fidget Cube

Has there been a greater underdog Kickstarter success this year than Fidget Cube? An all-in-one desk toy solution that allows fidget-afflicted users to click, roll, flip, glide, spin and any number of other fiddly verbs to their heart’s content, Fidget Cube racked up a staggering $6,465,690 on Kickstarter from 154,926 eager users.

Most amazing of all? They only asked for $15,000. To put that in perspective, that’s a bit like asking for a paper airplane kit for Christmas and getting a Gulfstream V.

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Sisyphus — The Kinetic Art Table

One of 2016’s most beautiful Kickstarter projects was creator Bruce Shapiro’s stunning “Kinetic Art Table,” a kinetic sculpture/table in which a two-motor robot moves a magnet to pull a steel ball through a field of sand.

The result? An ever-changing automated tabletop pattern. It’s jaw-dropping stuff — and well deserving of the $1,924,018 it received from backers.

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Levitating Nixie Clock

You know that expression “time flies”? Well, it seems that Scottish electronics whiz Tony “Lasermad” Adams wasn’t content to leave it as a metaphor.

Instead, he went out and created a steampunk-inspired levitating clock using nixie tubes and magnets. Now you can look like a mad Victorian scientist and keep an eye on the time. What could be better than that?

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Desktop Waterjet Cutter

So levitating clocks, silicone cat tongues, a robot table which constantly changes its design and… a water cutting machine? Oh, ye of little faith! It may sound a little dull compared to some of the other items on this list, but Wazer’s amazing desktop cutter is anything but dry. No pun intended.

Using nothing more sinister than high-pressure water, combined with sand-like abrasive particles, it can cut through any material from glass to titanium. Perfect for any makers out there — or anyone who takes their water fights way too seriously.

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LICKI Brush

One of the great things about Kickstarter and crowdfunding in general is that entrepreneurs get to throw crazy ideas out to the public and see who bites, without a middleman to shoot them down before they reach an audience.

One of these projects, which may never have seen the light of day in a previous age, is LICKI: a tongue-like, silicone-brush which lets users bond with their feline friends by “licking” them. It sounds, frankly, insane — but the company claims that owners will quickly “ease into the soothing and mutually beneficial licking behavior of cats.” Apparently 2,022 backers were convinced.

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Universe in a Sphere

Some Kickstarter projects offer practical solutions to problems we face in our own lives, like faster ways to lace shoes, for example. Others are just there to give us something amazing to gawp at. This second category is where the “The Universe in a Sphere” sits.

A glass sphere, containing 380,000 perfectly lasered dots representing a 3D reproduction of much of the observable universe, this is breathtaking stuff. The campaign is still running, but already it’s cleared its funding target thanks to contributions from 2,586 backers.

“At first I felt a little overwhelmed by the huge success of the campaign,” creator Clemens Steffin told Digital Trends. “It would be quite stressful — were it not for the lovely comments, heartwarming messages and uplifting words from backers all over the world.”

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Maslow CNC

Imagine a 3D printer for things made from plywood. That’s the high concept pitch for Maslow CNC: a machine which lets you design things on the computer and then autonomously cuts them out of a 4×8-foot sheet of plywood.

CNC machines aren’t new, but at just $350 per kit, this costs a fraction of the $20,000 – $300,000 price tag comparable factory kits come with.

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SPUD Collapsible Monitor

Describing itself as the world’s first collapsible high-resolution monitor, SPUD (that’s short for “spontaneous pop-up display”) is perfect for people who travel for work or don’t want to reveal to their spouse that they spent the food budget on a 24-inch computer monitor.

In all seriousness, provided it has the resolution and color accuracy claimed, this should be a dream come true for photographers and creatives who want more than a tablet or laptop screen when they’re on the go.

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