Awesome tech you can’t buy yet: Universal cables, ultraloud speakers, cheap LiDAR

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 Pebble clones and janky iPhone cases to round up the most unusual, ambitious, and exciting projects out there this week. Keep in mind that any crowdfunded project — even the best intentioned — can fail, so do your homework before cutting a check for the gadget of your dreams.

Soundboks — Ultraloud battery powered speaker

Most portable speakers require an AC adapter if you really want to crank the volume. But this new crowdfunded speaker breaks that rule. Soundboks, as its called, is designed to deliver up to 30 hours of nightclub-level decibels off a single battery charge.

Soundboks uses custom-designed amplifiers that help to enhance battery life while optimizing sound for outdoor usage. Under the hood it boasts a pair each of 96 dB low-frequency drivers, 98 dB high-frequency dynamic drivers, and 42-Watt digital amps. With its dual-phase boost function, this speaker is designed to generate up to maximum 119 dB of sound. The volume dial – quite literally – turns to an 11 for an experience similar to that of a live concert.

Read more here.

Plastic bottle cutter — Turn plastic bottles into plastic cord

Instead of sending plastic bottles off to a recycling plant, why not figure out a way to “upcycle” them and make something useful with them?  That’s precisely the idea behind the aptly-named “plastic bottle cutter” — a brilliant, pocket-sized cutting tool that can turn any plastic bottle into a strong, versatile strand of rope. It’s incredibly simple too — the entire device consists of just three parts: a wooden handle, a razor blade, and an aluminum cutting guide.

To use the device, you start by grabbing an empty plastic bottle and cutting off the bottom portion. After that, you simply insert the bottle into the tool’s slot, and give a couple twists until the tip of a strand has formed. Just pull on the strand and watch the bottle magically unspool into a strip of plastic rope! The long, thin strand of plastic can be used for just about anything — lashing bits of wood together, hanging up clothes to dry, or even (as the video shows) towing your car. As it turns out, plastic is pretty damn strong.

Read more here.

Sweep — Easy, affordable LiDAR sensor

If you’ve heard of LiDAR before, chances are you heard about it being used as part of a big, expensive project like Daimler’s self-driving Inspiration truck, or the Atlas robot from Boston Dynamics. It’s not a technology that you typically see in low-budget DIY projects — and for good reason. As far as sensor technologies go, LiDAR is typically one of the more expensive ones you can get, which means that the tech is largely inaccessible to the average joe.

Sweep aims to change that. Freshly launched on Kickstarter, Sweep is a scanning LiDAR sensor designed to bring powerful 360 degree sensing capabilities to everyone for an affordable price. “We wanted a scanning LiDAR for our projects and couldn’t find anything that was powerful enough and easy to use for a price we could afford,” the creators say. “Comparable sensors are $1,000 and up, so we set out to develop one ourselves. We’re raising money on Kickstarter to manufacture the Sweep so we can get them into the hands of makers, roboticists, drone enthusiasts, and students.”

Read more here.

Virtuali-Tee — Virtual-reality t-shirt

Everyone loves a cool t-shirt, but what if your funky new skeleton t-shirt were actually a VR anatomy lesson? A startup by the name of Curiscope has created just that: Virtualit-Tee aims to give kids a cool way to bring anatomy out of textbooks and into the real world. The t-shirt looks like a stylized skeleton design at first glance, but when viewed through the accompanying mobile app, the shirt displays everything from bones to organs and blood vessels.

The 3D anatomy experience can be viewed through the Virtuali-Tee app on a smartphone or tablet. Viewing is directionally programmed so that you can tilt, pan, and zoom just by moving your device, and dive into your friend’s virtual guts to see how the body works up close. Virtuali-Tee and the mobile app are also enabled for viewing with a VR headset to make the experience more immersive. “Too often we feel detached from learning”, said Ed Barton, CEO of Curiscope. “This kind of technology lets us interact with the anatomy and explore it in animated 3D, and this kind of learning can happen anywhere, at any time.”

Read more here.

LMcable — Universal charger for iPhone and Android

Although the video for LMCable makes it seem like more of a hassle in life than it really is, the fact that Apple and Android devices have different charge cables is a pain in the neck sometimes. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was one cord that could work for both? Someone has finally come along to fix this minor inconvenience that plagues our lives. LMCable, as it’s called, lets you charge both types of devices with a single universal cable.

So how the hell is this possible? It’s all about the unique connector design, which has two-in-one functionality. Charging a device with a Micro USB connector means turning the cable header one way, and juicing up a device with a Lightning connector only requires you to flip the cable. That’s as simple and as complicated as it gets. The other end is just a standard USB Type-A connector, so it will work with just about every USB charger ever built.

Read more here.

Emerging Tech

Meet NASA’s climbing robots, able to move through the slipperiest environments

When it comes to exploring far off planets, robots need to be able to tackle all sorts of environmental challenges. NASA has been working on a series of climbing robots to take on different tasks in inhospitable environments.
Cars

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Drone lens, laser synth, and more

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Home Theater

Kill your cable and switch to streaming with our painless guide

If you're going to quit cable or satellite for a streaming TV solution, you're going to want to get it right the first time. We've outlined exactly how to get started, step by step. Follow our lead, and you'll never look back.
Home Theater

Got a long plane ride? Here's how to download movies from Netflix

If you want to watch your favorite Netflix films and TV shows but don't have a data connection, you need to download them to view offline. Here, we show you how to download movies and TV series from Netflix in iOS, Android, or Windows 10.
Apple

Apple AirPods vs. Sony noise-canceling WF-1000XM3: Which are the better earbuds?

Are Sony's latest noise-canceling true wireless earbuds better than the best-selling Apple AirPods? We put the two pairs of headphones through their paces, determining which is better.
Emerging Tech

Bouncing robot for low-gravity space missions has a spring in its step

The European Space Agency has created SpaceBok, a robot inspired by the springbok designed for low-gravity dynamic walking. On the moon, SpaceBok could potentially jump as high as two meters into the air.
Emerging Tech

Impossible Foods looks to make another splash with fishless fish

Impossible Foods is currently developing fishless fish, in response to the growing demand for plant-based food. The product will include heme, a protein from genetically modified yeast that was also used in the Impossible Burger.
Emerging Tech

Professional poker players no match for A.I. in six-player Texas Hold ’em

Poker AI Pluribus destroyed professional players in Texas Hold 'em. The bot won an average of $5 per hand with winnings of $1,000 per hour, with strategies that were very different to how humans played the game.
Emerging Tech

Russia launches X-ray observatory capable of locating thousands of black holes

Russia has finally launched its powerful X-ray observatory, Spektr-RG, after a delay caused by faulty batteries on board the spacecraft. The launch took place at 5:30 a.m. PT on Saturday, July 13, taking off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Emerging Tech

See a gargantuan dust storm covering the north pole of Mars

A dust storm around Mars' north pole has been imaged by the Mars Express orbiter. Localized dust storms are common on Mars, but occasionally one expands into a planet-wide event like the one which caused the demise of the Opportunity rover.
Emerging Tech

The Very Large Telescope captures the beautiful remnants of a dying star

The VLT has captured a beautiful cosmic object, the planetary nebula named Abell 24. Located in constellation of Canis Minor (The Lesser Dog), it is a swirl of dust and gas which is illuminated by the core of a dead star.
Emerging Tech

Astronomers have spotted a moon forming around a proto-Jupiter

Astronomers have spotted a young planet with a disk of gas and dust around it which is similar to the one from which the moons of Jupiter were born. The planet PDS 70 b is in the process of forming and is located 370 light-years away.
Emerging Tech

Stallone in Terminator 2? How one deepfake prankster is changing cinema history

Ever wanted to see The Shining with Jim Carrey instead of Jack Nicholson? How about Stallone in Terminator 2: Judgement Day instead of everyone's favorite governator? Thanks to deepfakes, it's now possible -- just ask YouTuber Ctrl Shift…
Emerging Tech

NASA thinks 3D-printing spacecraft parts in orbit will help Moon to Mars mission

NASA funded the demonstration by a small spacecraft named Archinaut One to manufacture and assemble parts while in space. NASA believes that the technology will change future space exploration, including its Moon to Mars initiative.