Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: This Week’s Top Crowdfunding Projects

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 fidget spinners and janky iPhone cases to round up the most unusual, ambitious, and exciting new crowdfunding projects out there this week. Keep in mind that any crowdfunding project — even those with the best intentions — can fail, so do your homework before cutting a check for the gadget of your dreams. 

October 27

Skytrek — smarter smart suitcase

Smart suitcases are all the rage these days. They come in a massive range of different shapes, sizes, and configurations, and each one addresses a different pain point that travelers often encounter. The latest addition to this burgeoning category is Skytrek — a unique smart suitcase that’s equipped with some of the simplest and most ingenious features I’ve ever seen. In addition to an innovative vertical packing configuration, it’s also designed to have a flat top when closed, so you can use it like a desk when you’re sitting in the terminal.

Ilumee — short-throw 4K LED projector

Giant TVs are great and all, but they also tend to dominate whatever room you put them in. Even if they’re not on, the big black mass of blank space practically begs you to hit the power button and fill the screen with some moving pictures. Projectors don’t have that problem though. When they’re off, they just chill there, minding their own business until you feel like watching something. The only problem? They’re a pain to set up, since they need dedicated mounting space multiple feet back from your viewing screen. The solution? Short-throw projectors like Ilumee. Check out the video — this thing looks amazing.

Incharge 6 — keychain multi-charger

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably keep a bunch of charging cables at your house, at your workplace, and probably even a couple in your backpack or purse just in case. Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to fiddle with all those cords, and could just keep one with you for every occasion? Well, that’s exactly what the Incharge 6 is designed for. It’s a 6-in-1 charging cable designed to fit neatly on your keychain, so you always have it with you. It’s equipped with USB, USB-C, MicroUSB, and Lightning connectors, and is designed in such a way that you can swap those ends to create six different configurations.

Princube — handheld color printer

We covered this one earlier in the week, so here’s a quick cut from the full article: “PrinCube is a handheld printer — rather than feeding a sheet of paper into a printer, the user moves the PrinCube across the paper one line at a time. Because the printer sits on the surface instead of using a paper tray, the PrinCube can print on more surfaces than just paper, including cardboard, leather, metal, plastic, fabric, wood, textured surfaces, and even skin for a custom temporary tattoo.”

Switchbot curtain — curtain-opening robot

Automatic curtains have been around for ages, but the vast majority of them require relatively complex installation processes before you can start using them. Switchbot is different. Thanks to its exceptionally clever design, all you have to do is clip it on your curtain rod and hit the On button. Once attached, it’ll drive left or right along the curtain rod, pushing your curtains open or pulling them closed, depending on the direction. Pretty clever, right?

October 20

Eforge — 3D printer for electronics

Over the past several years, the number of materials it’s possible to 3D print with has exploded. Gone are the days of being stuck with PLA and ABS; makers today have access to a huge variety of filament and material types, including (but not limited to) nylon, glass, wood, and even conductive materials. However, even with such an abundance of available materials, it’s still fairly difficult to print ready-made objects — especially electronics. Eforge is an attempt to change that. With six different print heads and a range of electrically conductive materials, this beast is apparently capable of printing ready-to-use electronics — albeit fairly simple ones.

Mochi Robot — screenless coding for kids

Robots that teach kids how to code are a dime a dozen these days. Most are just a slightly different take on the same exact idea, but Mochi is special. Of all the coding robots we have ever seen on Kickstarter, it’s arguably one of the best. Why? Well, in addition to being outrageously simple and intuitive to use (it’s designed for kids between 3 and 6 years old), it’s also designed to teach them the fundamentals of coding and computer logic without using any kind of screen. This way, they don’t have to stare dead-eyed into a tablet, and can learn through a more tactile and hands-on process.

Tero — countertop composting device

It sounds crazy, but believe it or not, somewhere around 40 percent of all the food produced in the U.S. is wasted. We put all kinds of time and energy into producing it, but we still end up throwing 40 percent of it away and sending it off to a landfill. It’s incredibly wasteful — but Canadian upstart Tero has developed something to help. The company’s eponymous product is essentially a countertop composting machine that takes all your food waste, breaks it down, and uses it to create nutrient-rich soil for your garden. It even has stink filters to make sure your kitchen doesn’t end up smelling like rotten food. Pretty nifty, right?

Coolair — lightweight inflatable cooler

Coolers are arguably the most cumbersome piece of outdoor recreation gear in existence. Sure, they’re easy enough to toss in the trunk of your car and fill up with beer, but what if you want to take one with you on a longer hike, or perhaps just down a short trail to the lake? That’s where inflatable coolers come in. Coolair certainly isn’t the first entrant into this category, but it appears to be one of the best — at least in terms of design. Check out the video above to get a peek at some of the exceptionally clever features on this sucker.

Solidteknics Oz — wrough-iron skillet

Cast-iron skillets are, in many ways, the best cooking implement ever. They provide supremely even and consistent heat, you can put them in the oven, and if you care for them properly, they’ll last a lifetime. But they do have some downsides, too. In addition to being a pain to maintain, they’re also ridiculously heavy. Luckily, Solidteknics has devised an ingenious solution to this problem by using wrought iron instead of cast-iron. The company’s new line of pans are claimed to cook exactly like traditional cast-iron, but without being so heavy and unruly.

October 13

Adaptalux — flexible lighting for macro photography

If there’s one thing Kickstarter is good for, it’s super-creative photography accessories. The latest addition? Adaptalux Flash Arms — a hyper-specific yet totally ingenious lighting solution designed for macro photography. It’s basically a xenon bulb flash system that lives on the end of a set of gooseneck-style flexible arms, which allows you to position them closer to your subject and theoretically get better shots. Stuff like this — exceedingly clever but too niche for any big manufacturer to chase — is precisely the kind of stuff that probably wouldn’t be possible without crowdfunding.

Legion Solar 4 — simplified solar panels

These aren’t your average solar panels. In addition to being completely plug-and-play (in other words, you don’t need professional help to install them), they also come with a super clever inverter system that allows you to use grid-tied solar energy without any special permission from your utility company. “We created SolarRegulator, an artificial intelligence computer to contain generated energy behind your meter where the utility company does not own,” the company explains. “Energy production of each micro-inverter is controlled so that energy production is less than or equal to energy consumption, allowing you to generate your own electricity unrestricted. [Your] utility company only sees less consumption from you, not a grid-tied solar system. As a result, it is not necessary to seek interconnection permission pertaining to utility company-approved grid-tied solar systems.”

Orbi Marine — waterproof, 360-degree video glasses

360-degree cameras are a dime a dozen these days, but just like most action cams, you still have to hold them or awkwardly mount them on your body somewhere. That’s less than ideal if you’re trying to film while doing something active. Furthermore, very few of them are waterproof — but Orbi Marine aims to solve both these problems in a single stroke. It’s basically a set of rugged, waterproof glasses with built-in cameras positioned at various points along their frame/body. So, in addition to allowing you to film totally hands-free, these spectacles can also go anywhere with you — including the lake. Just don’t try to wear them to a fashion show!

Whistler — self-healing windbreaker

High-performance textiles have come a long way in the past couple of decades, and now gear manufacturers have a veritable boatload of different materials to choose from when designing stuff. There’s super-lightweight stuff like Dyneema, insanely strong stuff like Spectra, and even waterproof stuff like GoreTex or Futurelight. But the material in Whistler windbreaker makes the aforementioned textiles seem like they’re from the Stone Age. This sucker is made from something called HiloTech nylon — a material that has self-healing abilities. If it ever gets punctured, all you need to do is pinch the fabric around the hole and rub it between your fingers. Due to the material’s unique construction, this slight bit of friction and heat will cause the fibers to bond with each other and fuse together again — thereby filling the puncture.

Zero Co — Low-waste household goods

Single-use plastic is going the way of the dodo. It started with plastic grocery bags, and then we moved on to plastic straws. More recently, there’s been a movement to eradicate plastic utensils. Next, if Zero Co has its way, we’ll ditch single-use containers for household goods. The company has developed a system of reusable containers paired with a subscription-based mail-in refill program. The idea is that instead of buying a new bottle of window cleaner, laundry detergent, or whatever, they send you new ones when you run out, and you simply mail in your empty containers.

October 6

Bijou — pocket-sized projector

Tiny projectors aren’t a new thing at this point, but this one is remarkably small. Like, so small that you can comfortably fit it in your pocket. Yet, despite the fact that it’s roughly the same dimensions as a deck of playing cards, it’s also equipped with some damn decent features. For example, it uses a MEMS laser beam scanning technology that allegedly allows it to project images at greater distances than DLP projection does, with better focus, and also with deeper blacks. I’m not sure how much I believe these claims, but if the creators deliver on their promises, this thing is practically guaranteed to be awesome.

Hunt23 — prybar flashlight

Flashlights are a handy thing to have with you at all times, but most people will agree that lugging around a full-sized flashlight is a bit of a pain. More often than not, it’s easier just to skip the flashlight altogether and just use an app on your smartphone. But what if there was a flashlight so small that you’d hardly even notice you’re carrying it? That’s where the Hunt23 comes in. In addition to being one of the smallest torches in the world, it’s also equipped with a fully functional prybar on the end. So now, if you ever find yourself in a situation where you have to pry staples out of hardwood flooring in the dark, you’ll be prepared!

Tetracube — sustainable smartphone

Smartphones are a crucial part of modern digital life, but unfortunately, they’re pretty awful for the environment. In addition to being filled with rare earth metals that can only be obtained through environmentally damaging mining operations, they also have relatively short lifespans, and can leech toxic chemicals when discarded improperly. Tetracube aims to address all these issues. How? With a phone that’s guaranteed to last for at least 4 years.

Shine — automatic toilet cleaner

Cleaning your toilet is arguably the worst household chore there is, and as such, there are tons of different cleaning products that aim to make it easier and less of a hassle. Shine is the latest entrant into this long-standing product category, and it’s got some neat tricks up its sleeve that help differentiate it from the rest of the pack. To clean your throne, it uses electrolyzed water — which sounds like total BS, but it’s actually legit, and was developed in Japan to sanitize high-bacteria environments like sushi restaurants, without introducing harmful chemicals. Best of all, Shine is also voice activated, so you can shout commands at it just like you do with Alexa.

Transformer Table 3.0 — expanding table and bench

This thing is brilliant. It’s essentially an expanding table that, when fully extended, can accommodate 12 people — but that also collapses down small enough to be a table for two. The secret is a super clever rail system that’s hidden underneath, and not only provides support for table leaves, but can also extend to whatever length you desire. This is actually the third iteration of the Transformer Table, and it now comes with a nifty coffee table that you can store unused leaves in, or use as a furniture piece in its own right. Be prepared though: this thing ain’t cheap!

Sepetember 29

Move — direct-to-consumer grocery service

You know how Warby Parker disrupted the eyeglass industry with a direct-to-consumer business model that cut out the middleman (eyeglass retailers) and was therefore able to sell high-end glasses for drastically less than the competition? Remember how the same thing happened to the mattress industry when companies like Tuft & Needle and Casper figured out how to ship mattresses directly to your door? Well now, a company called Move wants to apply the same idea to grocery shopping. By cutting out the middleman, the company claims it can delivery groceries to your house for less than it costs you to buy them in a store. Now that’s an idea we can get behind!

Doer — compact, portable toolshed

This thing is nothing short of amazing. It’s basically a cross between a tool shed and a Swiss Army Knife. Inside, you’ll find a cordless drill, a drill press, a scroll saw, a circular saw, a table saw, two kinds of hot wire cutter, a table sander, a mini lathe, a worklight, and a lantern. Best of all, though, thanks to either black magic or extremely advanced Tetris skills, all of these tools somehow pack up and fit into a box no bigger than an average-sized cooler — which is why its creators are calling it “the most compact toolshed ever.” Shut up and take my money!

Keychron K4 — optimized wireless mechanical keyboard

Kickstarter has hosted hundreds — maybe even thousands — of keyboard projects over the years, and of all those projects, Keychron was behind three of the best. Now, the company is back with its fourth project: The Keychron K4. In the words of its creators, it’s “ a 96% wireless mechanical keyboard. It has full-size functionality in a compact design with 100 necessary keys. It features two premium switch options enabling peak productivity, a great tactile typing experience, and a minimalist, unique, and sturdy design. With 15+ RGB backlights and a large battery capacity of 4000mAh, K4 is a power-packed keyboard for all keyboard enthusiasts.”

Mudita Pure — minimalist e-ink phone

At this point, it’s no secret that screens are bad for our health — both mentally and physically. The science is pretty definitive: Focusing on things at a fixed distance for prolonged periods of time weakens our eyeballs and make our eyesight deteriorate, while blasting blue light into our rods and cones disrupts our natural circadian rhythms. And don’t even get me started on how addicted we are to our phones. Mudita is an attempt to alleviate these problems. Instead of a bright, colorful screen, it uses an e-ink display that doesn’t emit any artificial light. In theory, this should help you avoid too much blue light exposure, and also avoid the irresistible urge to check all those colorful notification icons.

Tilt Five — holographic tabletop gaming system

When it comes to augmented reality, everyone in the consumer electronics industry seems to be racing toward the same goal: The creation of an all-powerful, all-purpose set of AR glasses. But the thing is, AR doesn’t need to be all-purpose. What if you applied augmented reality to a very specific use case? That’s the idea behind Tilt Five, an innovative and highly specialized take on AR that focuses on tabletop gaming. I won’t even try to explain any more than that — this is one where the pitch video paints a much more vivid picture than I ever could.

September 22

Printpen — handheld printer

Ever wished you could carry a printer around in your pocket? Probably not — but even though you never asked for it, somebody went ahead and created an inkjet printer that fits in the palm of your hand. Thing is, despite being so small, this printer is capable of printing things far larger than itself. Just wave it over the surface that you’d like to print on, and it will magically deposit ink onto it. It’s like one of those label-maker machines, but supercharged and not limited to printing on tiny strips of paper.

Chasing Dory — compact underwater drone

Underwater drones are fairly common these days, but despite the fact that there are dozens to choose from, the vast majority of them are big, bulky, and likely a pain to haul to the beach. The Dory drone, however, is designed to be small and portable. Don’t let its diminutive stature fool you, though — this thing appears to have all the same features and functionality as any other aquatic drone, including 1080P video capability, 8G of onboard storage, five thrusters for propulsion, headlights, and even smartphone controls.

Escape-S — self-charging smart suitcase

Practically all smart suitcases come with a built-in battery that allows you to charge your devices on the go. When those batteries run out, however, you’d better pray there’s an outlet nearby, because the vast majority of smart suitcases still rely on outside power sources to fill up their batteries. The Escape-S is different. Thanks to a clever wheel design, this suitcase is capable of capturing and storing the energy you generate by rolling it. According to the creators, 10 minutes of rolling is enough to give your smartphone an extra two hours of battery.

Bundl — self-regulating heated sleeping bag

Do you need a “smart” sleeping bag? Probably not, but somebody built one anyway — and it’s kinda awesome. Bundl, as it’s called, is a heated sleeping bag designed with built-in sensors that monitor and regulate your temperature throughout the night, thereby ensuring that your level of comfort never fluctuates, no matter how cold it gets outside. It’s more than just a heated mummy bag, though. It’s also equipped with an unzippable footbox, armholes, and a device pocket, so you can wear it around camp like a goofy-ass poncho before you go to bed.

Axibo Pan/Tilt/Slide — A.I. camera controls for DSLR

Over the past year or so, A.I.-powered cameras that automatically track your subject have been on the rise, but up until now, they’ve typically been designed to work with lower-end cameras or smartphones. If you wanted to give A.I. superpowers to your DSLR, your only option was to build your own rig. Axibo Pan aims to solve that problem. It’s basically a full-featured camera rig that gives artificial intelligence the ability to pan, tilt, and slide your camera for you — effectively turning you into a one-man video production crew.

September 15

Ecoflow Delta — battery-powered generator

We covered this one earlier in the week, so here’s a quick cut from our full article: “If you’ve been looking for a portable power station to keep all of your devices charged and powered up while on the go, but have come away disappointed with the options, allow us to introduce you to the EcoFlow Delta. This charging station, which launched on Kickstarter last week, promises to deliver not only plenty of ports, but an abundance of power too. So much so, that its designers claim it can even charge a Tesla.

EcoFlow’s latest portable power station features an astounding six AC outlets, allowing users to plug in multiple laptops, LCD monitors, televisions, small appliances, and a wide variety of other items. The unit is also equipped with six USB ports, including two standard USB-A ports, two quick-charging 28-watt USB-A ports, and two 60-watt USB-C ports. It even has a 12-volt port (aka, a car port), giving the Delta the ability to charge up to 13 devices at the same time.”

Lifesaber — multipurpose electronic survival tool

Think of the lightsaber as an electronic Swiss Army Knife for outdoor enthusiasts. It can provide light, it can charge your gear, and it can even purify water for you. Hell, there’s even a plasma arc lighter attachment that allows you to start fires in wind or rain. And the best part? It’s equipped with a hand-crank, so you can power it up manually no matter where you are — rain or shine. The only thing it’s missing is the ability to brew a hot pot of coffee

Haven — hammock/tent hybrid

Hammocks are all the rage right now in the camping/backpacking scene, but sleeping in a hammock isn’t for everyone. If you’re a side sleeper, a belly sleeper, or just can’t sleep on anything but a flat surface, hammocks aren’t ideal. That’s where the Haven tent comes in. It’s basically half tent, half hammock — so it brings the best of both worlds. It’s suspended like a hammock, so it’s easy to set up, but unlike a hammock, it’s designed to hold an air pad and provide a flat surface for you to lay on. Best of all, there’s also a built-in bug net, so you don’t have to worry about being swarmed by mosquitos while you rest.

Encompass — half-mouth toothbrush

Tired of all the squeezing, scrubbing, spitting, rinsing, gargling, and flossing required to keep your pearly whites clean? For decades now, your only recourse from this mildly laborious task has been the electric toothbrush. But while these automatically oscillating tooth scrubbers are definitely a step in the right direction, they still don’t remove all the tediousness and time consumption from the act of brushing your teeth. What if there was a way to get the same job done, achieve the same level of cleanliness, and do it in a fraction of the time?

Enter Encompass, the latest new-age toothbrush that (allegedly) finishes the job in a fraction of the time.Here’s how it works: rather than the traditional toothbrush shape, Encompass employs a j-shaped bristle module that fully envelops one half of your mouth. From there, a pneumatic air system oscillates the bristles at high speed, allowing you to brush all your teeth — completely — in about 20 seconds.

Ferroflow — ferrofluid clock

Here’s a quick excerpt from our full post, which was published earlier this week: “If everyone’s favorite Marvel symbiote Venom was a clock, what would it look like? That may sound like a riddle, but it’s not. It’s a Kickstarter campaign. Simply called Ferrofluid Clock, it’s an analog desk clock in which the hour and minute hands are made of an oily dark magnetic liquid, called ferrofluid, held in place by hidden magnets behind the face.”

“This magnetic liquid was invented by NASA in the 1960s to use as possible rocket fuel. Since then, many creative types have seized upon ferrofluid as a material due to its unusual, almost alien appearance and movement. Now you can use it to tell the time, too. (Note: the liquid used here, unlike NASA’s original version, is non-combustible.)”

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