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This week in awesome tech you can’t buy yet: Inside-out umbrella and the MoonRay

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 there’s 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.

Axel — Modular headphones


Musical tastes are different. Most headphones are the same. This is a problem — one Axel Audio aims to fix. To address this issue, the company has built a set of modular, customizable headphones with hardware that can be adjusted to better fit the user’s musical tastes.

Users can choose between three specifically engineered speaker units (called “Soundscapes”) in these headphones: Pure (which has an extremely refined and open sound great for ambient, jazz, classical and indie), Deep (which has reverberating lows for full deep sounds that are best for hip hop, dance, and electronic), and Core (which has a sweet mid-range best for pop and rock). After users choose their Soundscape, they choose whether they prefer on-ear speaker units or over-ear speaker units, and then customize the headband with one of three inserts (classic, spikes, and waves).

Nexpaq — Modular smartphone case


Dont feel like waiting around for Google to drop it’s modular Project Ara phone? Check out Nexpaq. It’s the same idea, but instead of being a standalone phone, it’s designed as a case — allowing you to add stuff to your existing device and expand/augment its capabilities. Designed to fit flagship phones from Apple and Samsung, the case has a built-in 1,000mAh battery, along with six module slots, each using a customized connector that can be plugged and unplugged thousands of times.

The creators already have a wide range of modules to offer: a 400mAh battery, an amplified speaker, a powerful flashlight (with six multi-color LEDs), a MicroSD card reader, a temperature plus humidity sensor, a pair of customizable hotkeys, a 32GB USB flash drive (with built-in USB plug), an air quality sensor, a breathalyzer, a laser pointer, and a 32GB backup memory module. Because they’re on the case, these modules are OS-agnostic, so you can swap them between the Samsung cases and the iPhone 6 case.

Tales From The Loop — Badass sci-fi art

Tales From The Loop

Okay, so technically this isn’t a piece of tech, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome, so we just couldn’t resist including it in our roundup. In case you haven’t heard of him before, Simon Stålenhag is this badass artist from Sweden that makes digital paintings set in a strange cyberpunk version of the 1980s and 90s. His retro-Scandinavian sci-fi images have spread like wildfire across the internet in the last few years — The Verge, Wired, iO9, Scientific American, and The Guardian have all praised his work. But until late 2014, the only place you could check out Stålenhag’s art was in digital form on the Internet.

Now, he’s looking to change that. Stålenhag has turned to the crowdfunding community on Kickstarter in an effort to raise the funds needed for two physical books. The first has already been sent to the printers and is ready to go, and Stålenhag is still working to complete the second one. The project is already a huge success. It blasted past its initial 10K fundraising goal, and is currently sitting at well over $100K with nearly a month left to go in the campaign.

KAZbrella — Inside-out umbrella


There are numerous umbrellas that claim to solve one or more problems of the traditional design. The Rainshader, for example, is meant to be windproof. The Sa, on the other hand, is designed to bounce back from being blown inside out. Now, thanks to designer and inventor Jenen Kazim, there’s soon to be yet another unothodox umbrella in the world. The Kazbrella, as Kazim calls it, is said to eliminate drips and fold away less awkwardly.

To do this, it performs a pretty nifty trick. Unlike traditional umbrellas that fold down at the outside, Kazbrella folds down at the center using a double-spoke mechanism.  The center-collapsing design means that drips are contained inside the folded umbrella, avoiding wet floors from storing it after use and wet trousers from brushing against it. It also means that the Kazbrella opens in an up-and-over motion rather than an out-and-up motion. As a result, it’s apparently easier to open and close when entering or exiting a building (or car), and is less awkward to open and close when in crowds.

MoonRay — Awesome DLP SLA 3D-printer


When you hear the phrase “3D printer,” the image that pops into your head is most likely that of a traditional filament deposition modeling (FDM) printer. These are the ones that take a spool of thermoplastic, heat it up, and squirt it through a nozzle to create objects layer-by-layer. This technology has progressed in leaps and bounds over the past few years, and continues to improve today — but there’s a different 3D printing technique out there that’s slowly (but surely) overtaking it.

Instead of melting plastic to create objects layer-by layer, DLP SLA printers use a light projection system to “grow” objects out of a pool of UV-curable resin. This technique has it’s own set of advantages and disadvantages, but generally speaking it’s able to produce higher quality prints in a shorter amount of time than traditional FDM printers do. MoonRay is the latest entry into this burgeoning category of 3D printers, and it’s arguably one of the most affordable of the bunch we’ve seen yet.

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