This $99 box transforms any smartphone into a 3D printer. No, seriously

If you’ve spent the last few years holding out for a 3D printer that costs under a hundred bucks, then we’ve got good news for you: The printer you’re waiting for is finally here, and it goes by the name of OLO. The device, which first popped up at last year’s Maker Faire in New York, has finally found its way onto Kickstarter — where it obliterated its $80K funding goal in just a few hours.

For those of you who might’ve missed the product’s debut, here’s the lowdown: OLO is designed to take your smartphone and transform it into a fully functional 3D printer. No joke — you seriously just fire up the app, choose the object you want to print, pop your phone into the device’s base, and pull out a completed part a few minutes later. It’s like magic, and the whole thing costs less than a pair of Nikes.

Here’s how it works: The printer consists of three main parts — a reservoir, a special photopolymer resin that you pour into it, and a mechanized lid that contains the build plate and control electronics. At the bottom of the reservoir, there’s a piece of polarized glass which you place your phone underneath, facing upward.

Basically, once you place the lid on top and the printer starts going, the app makes your phone’s screen light up with a specific pattern. The polarized glass then takes all this light (which shines outwardly to give your phone a wider viewing angle) and redirects it so that all the photons are traveling straight upward. So as your phone’s screen beams light up into the reservoir, the directed light causes a layer of resin to harden onto the build plate, which slowly moves upward as each new layer is created. It’s basically a tiny DLP printer that uses your phone’s screen instead of a projector — which is absolutely brilliant, because doing so replaces the single most expensive part of a stereolithography printer with something cheap and very common.

Pretty clever right? I mean, OLO probably isn’t going to steal too much thunder from more serious 3D printers like Ultimaker and Makerbot, but it could be a boon for democratizing 3D printing technology — especially since the whole thing retails for just $99. That brings down the barrier to entry considerably, although you’ll still need a smartphone for it to work. Also, depending on the size/complexity of the object you’re printing, you’ll likely have to surrender your smartphone for anywhere from one to four hours at a time — which is likely out of the question for most people.

Unfortunately, by the time you read this, most of the “early bird” backer rewards will have already been snatched up — but even if you’re late to the party, you can still get your hands on an OLO for a $99 pledge. If all goes according the plan, the creators expect to finish up production and begin shipping to backers as early as September.

Wearables

Focals succeed where Google Glass fumbled (but do we really need smartglasses?)

It’s been seven years since Google took the wraps off Google Glass. Now, we’re finally getting a modern-day equivalent we want to wear. North’s Focals combine subtle style with an intuitive interface to craft smartglasses you’ll…
Mobile

The best Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus cases to keep your titanic phone safe

The new Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is a gorgeous device, with one of the best dual-lens cameras we've ever seen. Keep your titanic device safe and scratch-free with the best Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus cases.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s ‘Refabricator’ lets astronauts recycle 3D-printed tools to make new ones

The International Space Station just received a fancy new gadget in the form of a Refabricator, a machine capable of 3D printing using recycled plastic materials. Here's how it works.
Mobile

Avoid scratches and dents with the 20 best iPhone 8 Plus cases

So you've got a new iPhone? Congrats! But with a glass design, and looks to die for, you'd best keep it safe. Not sure about the best case choice? Check out our guide to the best iPhone 8 Plus cases for some great ideas.
Emerging Tech

Ant-inspired walking robot navigates without GPS by using polarized light

What do you get if you cross Boston Dynamics and Ant-Man? You get Antbot, a robot from the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) which uses ant-like navigation to move around without the aid of GPS.
Emerging Tech

InSight’s heat probe will dig 16 feet beneath the surface of Mars

New images from NASA's InSight mission to Mars have confirmed that the lander succeeded in setting the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package instrument onto the surface, from where a self-hammering spike will burrow downwards.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

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!
Emerging Tech

White spots on Ceres are evidence of ancient ice volcanoes erupting

Scientists are pouring over data collected by NASA's Dawn mission to learn about the dwarf planet Ceres and the bright white spots observed at the bottom of impact craters. They believe that these spots are evidence of ice volcanoes.
Emerging Tech

NASA to launch SPHEREx mission to investigate the origins of our universe

NASA is launching an ambitious mission to map the entire sky to understand the origins of the universe. The Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) mission will launch in 2023.
Emerging Tech

Probes exploring Earth’s hazardous radiation belts enter final phase of life

The Van Allen probes have been exploring the radiation belts around Earth for seven years. Now the probes are moving into the final phase of their exploration, coming closer to Earth to gather more data before burning up in the atmosphere.
Emerging Tech

How can digital art created on obsolete platforms be preserved?

As the lines between art and technology continue to blur, digital art experiences become more commonplace. But these developments are raising an important question for art conservationists: How should digital artworks be preserved?
Emerging Tech

Statistician raises red flag about reliability of machine learning techniques

Machine learning is everywhere in science and technology. But how reliable are these techniques really? A statistician argues that questions of accuracy and reproducibility of machine learning have not been fully addressed.
Emerging Tech

Chandra X-ray telescope uncovers evidence of the universe’s missing matter

Where is all of the matter in the universe? NASA's Chandra telescope has uncovered evidence of hot gas strands in the vicinity of a quasar which could explain the missing third of matter which has puzzled astronomers for years.
Emerging Tech

Wish you could fly? You totally can with these top-of-the-line drones

In just the past few years, drones have transformed from a geeky hobbyist affair to a full-on cultural phenomenon. Here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now, no matter what kind of flying you plan to do.