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Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Magnetic bike pedals, undersea scooters, and more

Drew Prindle

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. That said, keep in mind that any crowdfunding project — even the best intentioned — can fail, so do your homework before cutting a check for the gadget of your dreams.

March 18th

Urban Rivers Trash Robot — river-cleaning bot

Like most bodies of water that run through densely-populated urban areas, the Chicago River has a serious pollution problem. Now, to be fair, it’s currently much cleaner than it’s been in the past. There are more fish in the river, and more people use it for recreational purposes than ever before.

Unfortunately, the famous river also home to a massive amount of plastic waste, which comes from a vast array of different sources and interacts with the ecosystem in a myriad of different ways, most of which are negative. What’s more, efforts to clean up this plastic have largely fallen short thus far — but a newly-launched Kickstarter project aims to change that.

Urban Rivers’ trash robot is essentially an internet-connected, remote controlled, interactive trash collecting boat. When complete, the device will allegedly be controlled by internet users, who log in to the trash bot’s web platform and take control of it for a specified amount of time. To aid navigation, the bot is equipped with a live streaming video camera that allows users to spot trash in real time, and then pilot the boat toward it. Sounds like a fun game, no?

Gigabot X — pellet-based 3D printer

3D printing has progressed in leaps and bounds over the past few years. In addition to massive improvements in the quality, availability, and price of 3D printers, users today also have access to an incredibly broad range of materials. It’s not just PLA and ABS anymore — 3D printers can make stuff with wood, clay, nylon, and even metal these days.

The only problem? It’s still fairly expensive. Depending on the type and quality of the filament you buy, you can expect to pay anywhere from $20 to $60 for a single spool of plastic. If you do a lot of printing, the cost of filament can get out of hand quickly. But what if there was a better way to achieve the same result? That’s precisely what the Gigabot X aims to do. Instead of filament, this beast prints with plastic pellets.

“There are some major benefits that come from printing with pellets,” the creators explain on Kickstarter. “It eliminates the need for extruded plastic filament, which tends to be about 10x more expensive than pelletized plastic. Direct pellet extrusion also allows for faster printing — we’re currently experimenting with print times up to 17x faster than the filament-fed Gigabot. And while pellet printers are currently commercially available, they typically are used in larger manufacturing systems and are cost-prohibitive to many potential users. Our goal, much like with the first-generation Gigabot, is to increase 3D printer accessibility and bridge the gap between cost and scale by creating an affordable, large-scale pellet printer.”

Aquajet H2 — underwater propulsion device

Here’s DT’s Lulu Chang with the lowdown: “You may not have fins, but that doesn’t mean you can’t glide through the water with the grace of an aquatic creature. Thanks to Hoverstar Flight Technology, a company dedicated to water sports equipment, you will soon be able to fly across or underneath the surface of the great blue ocean (or any other body of water) with ease. Meet the AquaJet H2, a motorized underwater scooter with wings dedicated to improving the experience of divers and snorkelers the world over.

“The scooter, which looks something like a flattened shark head, features aircraft-style wings that are claimed to reduce water resistance, leading to greater balance and less friction and drag. Adventurers need only grab onto the front of the wings and either dive underwater or skim across its surface. Powered by a “smart internal motor,” the AquaJet H2 can carry up to four people at once, and features three variable speeds. Top speed is 5.6 miles per hour, which is almost certainly faster than you can swim (though Michael Phelps is said to reach speeds of six miles per hour).”

QSun — UV exposure tracker

We covered this one earlier in the week, so here’s a quick excerpt from our full article: “A new wearable device that’s just hit Kickstarter promises to help you keep track of harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, courtesy of some smart artificial intelligence technology. Called the QSun, the gadget not only aims to protect you from sun-induced skin damage, but also make sure that you’re still getting a healthy amount of vitamin D, which comes from sun exposure.

“To do this, the clip-on QSun wearable uses advanced sensors to measure UV rays in real time and track your sun exposure. It then calculates how long you can stay outside before getting a sunburn and sends an alert to your smartphone when it determines you need to seek protection from the giant burning ball in the sky. While it’s doing this, it also calculates how much vitamin D you’ve produced from your sun exposure. Both of these metrics can be checked from the QSun app, thereby allowing you to keep tabs on your long-term sun exposure and vitamin D history. The app also claims it can work out how much sunscreen you need to wear, and uses advanced image processing technology to analyze your facial skin health.”

Magped — Magnetic bike pedals

You know what’s more frustrating (and certainly more painful) than having your foot slip off your bike pedal when you’re cycling? Being clipped into the pedals, and finding yourself unable to remove your foot in time to protect you from a nasty spill. That’s what a new Kickstarter campaign hopes to solve with an innovative bike pedal which uses magnets to attach rider’s feet to their bicycle pedals. Made of an inexpensive, lightweight plastic composite, the Vault Magped works thanks to magnets built into the pedal body, while riders connect via a steel clip attached to their biking shoes.

“The Magped safety bike pedal is a true innovation for mountain bikes and ebike,” the creators explain on Magped’s Kickstarter campaign page. “Our patented magnet mechanism makes quick and easy release of the foot possible at any time. In comparison to standard click in pedals the risk of crash and injury is reduced to a minimum — and your head stays free for a hassle free biking experience without fear.”

March 11th

Picolor — digital pigment mixer

When you draw or make art on a computer, you have access to practically any color you could ever want. The only downside? Drawing on a computer isn’t nearly as intuitive and free as drawing with old-fashioned pens, pencils, and markers. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to blend the best attributes of both computer-aided and freehand drawing? Well, if this recently-launched Kickstarter project meets its goal, there might soon be a way.

Picolor, as it’s called, is a “small cube with five different pigment colors which include Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black and White.” By mixing these pigments together in different quantities, it’s allegedly capable of creating over one million different colors. These can be mixed into paint or ink, and used inside special refillable markers. And best of all, you can customize the colors you create with a smartphone app.

LeviZen — water levitating desk toy

We’ll let DT reporter Luke Dormehl give you the scoop on this one:

“Whether it is gravity-defying phone chargers or human-floating tractor beams, we’re suckers for levitating technologies. A new Kickstarter campaign therefore hits our sweet spot with an ‘executive novelty’ (read: a high-priced desk toy) that levitates water droplets entirely for your viewing pleasure.

“Called LeviZen, the retro-styled device doesn’t have any practical applications, but it certainly promises to be an attention-grabbing conversation starter. Unlike the majority of levitating gadgets we’ve written about in the past, LeviZen doesn’t use magnetic levitation to achieve its effect, due to the fact that this would not work with a liquid like water. Instead, it opts for sound-based acoustic levitation, which adds an unusual element to a product that’s joining a crowded levitating marketplace.”

Milky Way in a Sphere — scale model galaxy

Remember that scene from Men In Black? The one that zooms out to reveal that our entire galaxy sits inside the marble on a cat’s leash? If that scene stuck with you, there’s a good chance you’ll appreciate this new desktop trinket that recently popped up on Kickstarter. The Milky Way in a Sphere is exactly what it sounds like — a desk ornament that contains a tiny scale model of the cosmic neighborhood that we live in.

With the help of an ultra-precise laser etching machine and a heap of astronomical data, creator Clemens Steffin managed to shrink the Milky Way and fit it inside a beautiful glass desk ornament that’s no bigger than an orange. In his model, there are over 200,000 individual dots — each of which represents a star (or cluster of stars). It’s arguably one of the coolest desk ornaments of all time.

Iris — futuristic trash can

We covered this on earlier in the week, so here’s an excerpt from our full article:

“Call it form over function if you want, but the Iris, a new high-tech trash can, looks like something out of a 1960s science fiction movie. The idea is this: it’s a shiny trash can with a sealed top. Approach it with some piece of debris, however, and you will be detected by an infrared sensor beam when you’re within a few inches. At this point, its iris diaphragm lid slowly opens like an airlock or futuristic spaceship door so you can carefully place the object inside without having to touch the can. The sensors then cause the mechanism to close again as you walk away.”

“The idea came to me when I was helping my wife prepare dinner,” creator Everett Belmont told Digital Trends. “After cutting some vegetables, I had to throw some debris into our bin that was located inside a cabinet under the sink. The bin was one of those with a stepper that propels the lid open. The lid kept bumping into the undersink so I [started thinking about whether it was possible to build] a trash can with a closing mechanism that didn’t lift up like most trash cans in the market, but one that could retract within itself.”

I’m Back Pro — digital back for film cameras

As you may or may not have noticed, film photography has enjoyed a resurgence as of late. As it continues to claw back some of its former popularity, inventors are finding more ways to blend classic photography with digital convenience. I’m Back is the latest such invention to hit the crowdfunding scene. After finding success with a 3D-printed, Raspberry Pi-powered film camera, the creators of the device are back with a clever new gizmo that transforms old film cameras into digital shooters.

Here’s how it works. Rather than popping a roll of 35mm film into your old camera, you open up the back and attach the camera to I’m Back. The device’s 16 megapixel sensor will then pick up light that passes through the cameras lens, and save it to an SD card. If you’d like to see the photo afterward, you can even connect your smartphone and use it as a display screen.

March 3rd

Stapp One — smart insoles

We covered this one earlier in the week, so here’s an excerpt from our full article, written by Luke Dormehl:

“Developed by health experts in Austria, Stapp One insoles fit into your regular shoe, where they use state-of-the-art textile sensors to collect information about your posture, distribution of weight, movement, and location. Through this approach, its creators claim the insoles can gather details including your weight, calorie burn, posture, activity, and skeletal deformities. This information is then sent to a connected smartphone app and presented to you in a manner that’s understandable, helpful, and easy to use.

“While a lot of these metrics can be measured through other fitness trackers, Stapp One’s big claim to fame is the fact that it can hone in on postural problems. In particular, it says it can recognize and help correct back pain, foot pain, neck pain, restricted movement, foot deformities, misalignment of the spine, and musculoskeletal weakness. It’s like having a tiny physiotherapist in your shoe!”

Snoozle — snooze-proof alarm clock

People have had a hard time getting out of bed ever since — well, probably ever since beds became comfortable. And ever since the invention of the snooze button, sleep-loving procrastinators around the globe have been struggling to wake up on time. Part of the reason the snooze button is so easy to abuse is that, oftentimes, you don’t have to do much more than roll over and flop your arm onto your clock to make it shut off. To remedy this issue, the creators of the Snoozle alarm clock have designed a simple and effective new system.

If you’re the type who can’t resist the allure of your mattress even after standing up, perhaps an alarm that forces you to leave your bedroom altogether is the best choice — and that’s precisely what Snoozle does. Once activated, the alarm won’t turn off until you pick it up and place it atop an accompanying pad — which would ideally be placed in your bathroom, kitchen, or somewhere else far, far away from your bedside. Not a bad idea, right? How much easier would it be to wake up on time if your snooze button was right next to the coffee maker in your kitchen?

NASA Exoplanet Travel Bureau Posters — awesome wall art

A couple years ago, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) commissioned a team of artists to design a series of travel posters that depict exotic locales in our solar system. They were (and still are) absolutely awesome, and are illustrated in a way that makes them resemble classic travel posters. All in all, JPL’s artists created a total of fourteen posters — and since the artwork was funded with taxpayer dollars, NASA went ahead and made all of it available for free. You can actually download and print them yourself right now if you want to.

The only downside? Unless you have access to a large format printer, putting NASA’s artwork on a full-fledged poster is a bit of a pain. So, to make it more accessible, German graphic designer Tim Hippmann is currently running a Kickstarter to raise funds for some full-size reprints.

“The posters are free for download and reprinting, so I wanted to print them in a printer studio for my working place,” Hippmann explains on his campaign page. “But they were not that size I needed, so I decided to retouch the posters and fit them to international standard sizes in Europe and the U.S.: 70 by 100 centimeters, and 24 by 36 inches.”

Orbiform — solid of constant diameter

This is a weird one. It really serves no purpose other than to just sit on your desk and look cool — or maybe act as a paperweight. Still, it’s undeniably cool. It’s called the Orbiform, and it’s what’s known as a “solid of constant width.” What this means is that, despite the fact that it’s shaped a bit like an acorn, it actually has a constant width no matter how its oriented. If you put a bunch of these underneath a board, the board would roll around as if it was sitting atop a series of spheres.

“An Orbiform,” the creators explain, “is a little-known, unintuitive geometric shape, with fascinating mathematical properties. Orbiforms were unwittingly used by polymath Leonardo da Vinci in 1514, mathematically discovered by mathematician Leonhard Euler in 1771, and placed in application by engineer Franz Reuleaux in 1876. We are Kickstarting a 3D Orbiform derived from a triangle to spread our enjoyment of mathematics and design with math lovers, designers, creators, educators and students.”

Movpak — backpack skateboard hybrid

DT’s Lulu Chang covered this one earlier in the week, so we’ll let her give you the rundown:

“Two years ago, the folks behind Movpak managed to raise over $250,000 to bring their electric skateboard and backpack combination to life. Now, the team is ready to ship a new-and-improved version of the electric skateboard that takes portability to a whole new level to eager backers around the world. You see, once you’re finished riding the Movpak, you won’t need to pick it up and tuck it under your arm. Rather, you’ll be able to simply fold it up into a backpack and go about your merry way. So whether you want to consider it a backpack you can ride or a skateboard you can wear, it seems like the perfect tool for your urban commute.

“Riding the Movpak is as easy as pulling a dedicated handle. From there, the board easily slides out, and using a companion remote, you’ll be able to control your speed and braking as you cruise down streets. In order to recharge the Movpak, just plug the charger into any standard outlet for a couple hours. The deck of the eboard is constructed with a combination of wood, metal, and Kevlar compounds, which promises to make the board simultaneously strong and flexible.”

February 25th

The Rogue — ultralight packraft

We covered this one earlier in the week, so here’s DT’s Amanda Ellis: “Kokopelli has been designing packrafts for the past five years, and the Rogue Packraft is its latest addition. The Rogue weighs just 5 pounds and rolls up to the size of a roll of paper towels — so you can take it with you anywhere the trail might lead. The Rogue series encompasses the standard Rogue and the Rogue-lite. The Rogue is designed for performance and durability, while the Rogue-lite is for the minimalist at heart, boasting the smallest size and lightest packed weight.

“The Rogue measures 90 inches in length and tips the scales at 7.5 pounds, including a seat and a backband. The Rogue-lite measures 85 inches in length and weighs in at just under 5 pounds, including the seat. Both products are constructed with a Kevlar- reinforced floor and feature V-tape reinforcement. There is double reinforced seam tape on the outside seam, ensuring the packraft will remain afloat even through the harshest of rapids and contact with sharp rocks or other debris. Both products include the diamond ripstop seat, but the kayak-style backband is unique to the standard Rogue. The Rogue and the Rogue-lite include a Leafield D7 valve for inflation. The best part? No pump is required — the Rogue series includes a nifty inflation bag.”

Bivypack —  two-in-one bivouac backpack

Thanks largely to the ultralight movement, outdoor gear has gotten ridiculously sophisticated over the course of the last decade or so. The first wave consisted mostly of advances in lighter, stronger, more high-performance fabrics and materials that allowed outdoor enthusiasts to pack lighter and go further. But now, designers are pushing into completely new territory and designing gear that’s not only ultra-lightweight, but also serves multiple functions, thereby allowing you to carry even less gear on your back when you go on adventures.

Case in point? The Bivypack. It’s a fully-functional backpack that pulls double duty as a single-person bivouac shelter. The idea is that, instead of carrying a backpack and stowing your tent inside, you can carry this dual-function piece of gear and cut down on your pack weight. What’s more, the Bivypack itself only weighs about one pound, making it lighter than most comparable ultralight backpacks or bivy shelters on the market right now. All you have to pack along is a sleeping bag and pad.

Siesta2 — heat blocking tent

Remember all that stuff we said earlier about how outdoor gear is entering a new era, and how designers are pushing past the “lightweight” mantra and embracing the idea of multi-purpose designs? Well, the Nomad is yet another example of that burgeoning trend. Much like the aforementioned Bivypack, the Nomad is a backpack, but it also pulls double duty as a hammock. Unfold this badboy, strap it between a pair of trees, and boom — you’ve got yourself a comfortable spot to take a trailside nap.

According to the product’s creators, the Nomad’s design is “inspired by the art of origami: an intuitive folding system that makes it easy to convert it from backpack to hammock and vice versa. The Cordura material lends resistance to wear — ideal for everyday city life or for outdoor activities. Back and shoulder straps in mesh provide ventilation, while adjustable straps and zip pockets help you configure the backpacking as you like. With a capacity of about 20L, you can take everything you need for your outdoor nomadic experience or, more simply, the backpack can accompany you throughout your work or study day in the city.”

Mulibex — ultralight camp chair

Camp chairs are a tricky thing to justify. On the one hand, they make hanging out at the campsite a much more comfortable and enjoyable experience, since you aren’t forced to sit on a log and pretend you’re all tough and rugged. But on the other hand, they also take up a fair amount of space in your pack, and add more weight to it — weight that you have to carry on your back during all the hours you don’t spend lounging around at the campsite. It’s a give-and-take situation, which makes it hard to choose — but what if you didn’t have to? What if there was a comfortable, lightweight camp chair that didn’t take up a ton of space in your pack?

That’s precisely the idea behind the Mulibex camp chair. Thanks to its ultralight and ultra-minimalist design, which cleverly uses your trekking poles as part of the chair frame, it’s considerably lighter than most camp chairs currently on the market. Weighing in at just 1.2 pounds, it’s only slightly heavier than the Helinox Chair Zero (the lightest camp chair that’s currently for sale) — but with a much roomier seat and more stable footprint. If you don’t hike with trekking poles, you’ll want to consider other options.

February 18th

Ravean heated gloves — electronic hand warmers

A good, warm pair of gloves is a must for the colder months, but if you need more warmth than normal insulation can provide, you should check out this toasty Kickstarter project. Ravean’s line of high-end heated gloves and mittens are made from durable leather and feature YKK waterproof zippers, adjustable cuffs, and an elastic leash that prevents them from getting lost.

Powered by a 7.4-volt rechargeable battery, Ravean’s gloves and mittens feature three different warmth settings — low, medium, and high. The company claims that the gloves can provide heat for up to 6.5 hours on their lowest setting. On medium heat, battery life slips down to 3.5 hours. If you crank the heat to its maximum setting, the gloves can keep your fingers warm for around 2.5 hours.

To add extra protection from the elements, the gloves also include 150 grams of Thinsulate synthetic insulation, which can provide warmth even when the batteries are depleted. The gloves’ goatskin leather is also treated with a Hydro-Tex shell, which makes them both windproof and waterproof.

Snow-C — wireless charging jacket

We covered this one earlier in the week, so we’ll let DT reporter Kraig Becker give you the scoop. “At first glance, the Snow-C looks like just about any other down jacket you might find someone wearing outside in cold weather. It features 90 percent down insulation to provided added warmth and it is designed to be lightweight and highly packable, making it easy to stuff into a backpack or suitcase when traveling. It is also wind-resistant and features a durable water-resistant coating to help keep moisture at bay.

“But take a look inside the jacket and you’ll find some useful technology too. For instance, the Snow-C actually has a pocket that is compatible with smartphones that support wireless charging, including the iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X, as well as all Nexus and Samsung phones released after 2012. The wireless charging pocket is located on the chest of the Snow-C. It includes a flexible charger embedded right in the fabric which is activated automatically when a compatible phone is placed inside. The charger connects to an included 3,000 mAh battery pack., although customers can plug in their own larger models. The battery is stored in a small pocket that is designed to make it as unobtrusive as possible.”

Lucnt SRL1 — intelligent brake light for bikes

Thanks to the rising popularity of bicycles as a mode of transportation in the United States, bicycle lights now come in just about every shape, size, and configuration you could ever want. There are ultra-bright lights, laser-powered lights, and even lights that let you display animated gifs on your wheels. But even in world filled with seemingly every option and feature you could ever want, Lucnt SRL1 still manages to stands out.

Designed and made in California, the Lucnt SRL1 makes use of multiple sensors and smart algorithms to determine when you’re slowing down or speeding up. In response, the light will illuminate or return to its normal pattern, all without any additional input from you. Rather than fiddling with a power switch or remembering to turn your blinkers on when you want to turn or make a stop, the Lucnt SRL1 does all the work for you. With this gizmo, riding your bike is a lot more like driving a car. The brake lights come on automatically when you slow down, which help to keep other drivers/riders from smashing into you.

Pocketstar — keychain-sized gaming device

In a world where smartphone owners have an endless library of games at their fingertips, it’s increasingly difficult to justify buying a handheld gaming console like a Game Boy or PlayStation Vita. That said, standalone gaming devices still have some distinct advantages. If you’re in the market for something that’s portable, has physical buttons, and won’t bombard you with app notifications while you play, then Pocketstar might be worth looking into.

Put simply, Pocketstar is a keychain-sized gaming device that can be loaded with a variety of bootlegged retro games like Pac-Man, Tetris, and Space Invaders. It can also run versions of more modern games like Flappy Bird and Doodle Jump, and even display pictures. Physically, the device resembles a tiny version of Nintendo’s original GameBoy, and features two buttons and a 4-way directional pad. According to its creators, it’s the smallest gameboy-style device in existence. The current Guinness World Record holder for World’s Smallest GameBoy (because of course there’s a record for that) is a device that’s 54 millimeters tall. Pocketstar is just 50 millimeters tall.

Arara — magnetic bike lights

When it comes to bike lights, cyclists today have a wider range of buying options than ever before — but unfortunately, most lights on the market still suffer from the same set of drawbacks: they run on battery power (and therefore need to be recharged or have their batteries swapped out periodically), don’t automatically turn on, and often only provide forward and backward illumination. As such, while most lights make you visible to drivers/riders driving behind or in front of you, there are very few that boost your visibility from the sides. Arara aims to fix all these issues.

First and foremost, these lights don’t require batteries. They’re wheel-mounted, totally contactless, and powered by the spinning of your wheels. As you ride, neodymium magnets whip past a coil and generate electric energy, which is stored in a capacitor. Once this capacitor reaches a certain level, the lights blink to life, and will remain illuminated as long as the bicycle is moving (don’t worry — the system stores enough juice to keep the LEDs lit for several minutes after coming to a stop). Best of all, due to the unique configuration of the lights, they make your bike visible from all sides.

February 11th

Nomad — tankless diving system

If you’ve always wanted to try scuba diving but have been scared off by the high cost of gear and the prolonged certification process, this new Kickstarter gizmo just might be your dream come true. The Nomad, as it’s called, promises to deliver a full diving experience, but with the ease and simplicity of snorkeling. It’s essentially a diving apparatus that doesn’t use a back-mounted tank, thereby making it easier and more accessible for beginners and pros alike.

The Nomad uses an air compressor that floats on the surface above the diver, pumping fresh air through a flexible tube that’s connected to a mouthpiece regulator. The device can reportedly run for over an hour on a single charge, allowing the diver to descend as far as 40 feet below the surface without being encumbered by heavy equipment in any way. Pretty nifty, no?

Box3D — fume control hood for 3D printers

3D printers are undeniably awesome. With little more than a spool of plastic and some stepper motors, they allow you to create practically any object you imagine — including stuff that would be damn near impossible to fabricate via traditional manufacturing methods. That said, they also have their fair share of downsides as well.

In addition to being noisy (the motors typically give off an annoying, erratic whine), some FDM printers also release odors and fumes. In some cases, depending on the material you’re using, these fumes can cause serious health problems.

Box3D offers a solution to these problems. It’s essentially a ventilation hood designed to enclose your 3D printer in an airtight cocoon, and filter the fumes it emits. This prevents plastic microparticles from dispersing into the air inside your home or workshop, thereby mitigating negative health effects your printer might cause. As an added bonus, the contraption also serves as a noise dampener, and helps soften the sharp electronic sounds that likely emanate from your printer. So, in other words, Box3D makes your 3D printer less annoying and less toxic.

Claw — ridiculously small multitool

Everyday carry devices are great, but finding the right balance between compact and useful is often easier said than done. The vast majority of multitools on the market are either too bulky to be convenient, or ultra-lightweight and filled with tools that you’ll probably never use. Don’t get us wrong — those multi-purpose cards that fit in your wallet and have 15 different wrench notches are neat and all, but they aren’t very practical. Let’s be real here: how often do you really need a wrench?

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a multitool that offered a wide range of uses while still being lightweight and ultra-minimalist? Well, that’s exactly what the Claw aims to provide. It’s essentially a tiny claw-shaped hunk of metal that you can slip onto your keychain. It can then be used as a bottle opener (its primary function), a screwdriver, a prybar (or paint can opener), a keyring wedge, a battery remover, a flint striker, and a range of other things. Sure, you’ll probably only use it as a bottle opener, but it’s nice to have options — especially when they don’t take up any extra space.

Suvie — meal-cooking robot

Sous vide is arguably one of the coolest cooking methods to hit the home chef scene in decades. If you’re not familiar,  sous vide is a technique that involves placing food in an airtight, vacuum-sealed bag and cooking it in a controlled low-temperature water bath. The benefit of this method is that cooking at lower temperatures generally prevents the food’s cell walls from bursting, which helps make it more succulent while retaining nutrients.

Sous vide also makes it possible for tough collagens in meat’s connective tissue to be hydrolized into gelatin without overheating the proteins, which is generally what causes meat to lose moisture and develop a tougher texture.

The only downside? It also takes a long time. For your average medium rare steak, you’re looking at least an hour and a half, and you’ll still have to sear the outside when you’re done with the sous-vide process. It’s not the most convenient cooking method, but those problems are exactly what Suvie aims to fix. It’s an internet-connected cooking robot paired with a meal delivery service.

Pre-packaged meals arrive on your doorstep, and you pop them into the machine before you leave for work. You can fire up the machine remotely before you get home. When you arrive, your entire meal will be cooked to perfection. It even has a broiler that can sear your meat!

Bellcycle — front-wheel drive bike

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: humanity is living in the golden age of rideable technology right now. Thanks to growing demand for urban transportation solutions, as well as platforms like Kickstarter that empower creators to bring crazy ideas to life, the last few years have given rise to a renaissance in personal mobility devices. There are almost too many rideables to keep track of anymore, and they seem to get crazier and more advanced with each passing month.

Case in point? This folding front-wheel drive bicycle called the Bellcycle. “Its a bicycle,” creator Alex Bell explains on the device’s campaign page. “But we moved the pedals to the front wheel. We shortened the whole bike and added a pivot in the center to make it more responsive. We built the Bellcycle because we want a bicycle ecosystem that has more experimentation and originality. Not just people consuming but creating.”

February 4th

The Rocket — Ferrofluid lava lamp

Ferrofluid is one of the best things to happen in the desktop toy scene in years. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s a magnetic liquid that arranges itself into a spiky geometric pattern when in the presence of a magnetic field. NASA engineers originally developed it in an effort to solve the problem of pumping rocket fuel in zero gravity, but because it was so damn fun to play with, it quickly found its way into an array of different toys and gadgets. Ferrofluid toys are everywhere these days, and The Rocket is the latest one to hit Kickstarter.

It’s a bit different than most of the other ferrofluid gizmos currently out on the market. It’s not just a puddle of ferrofluid suspended in water and enclosed in a capsule. Instead, the fluid sits inside a lava lamp, so it will rise and fall naturally without any interaction from the user. If you feel like playing with the floating black globs of goop, however, you can manipulate the fluid with magnets. Sure, you probably don’t need this thing on your desk, but if you’re in the market for a desk toy to fiddle with, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Livin — Smart shower

We covered this one last week, so I’ll let DT’s Lulu Chang give you the lowdown.

“Your kitchen and living room are smarter than ever thanks to connected ovens, refrigerators, and televisions. But now, the brains of your house are no longer relegated to these rooms — you can enjoy a smart bathroom, too. Meet Livin Shower, a novel digital shower solution that lets you start (or end) your day with nothing but a touch of a button or a voice command. Rather than fiddling with overly sensitive knobs or faucets, the Livin Shower promises a straightforward shower experience that requires just one touch.

“By integrating new-age technology with classic design, this new bathroom solution just may be the redesign your bathroom needs. Compatible with both Google Home and Amazon Echo devices, this smart shower will turn on the water when you say, ‘Prepare my morning shower.’ Then, once the water has reached its optimal temperature, the Livin Shower will pause the stream until you’re ready to begin your washing routine. Moreover, Livin Shower claims that its ‘unique temperature control algorithm finds the shortest amount of time to reach the target temperature,’ thereby further reducing water waste.”

Flyte Arc — Edison-style LED bulb

Edison bulbs are awesome. They look cool, they give off a lovely warm glow, and they’re way less boring than your average, run-of-the-mill LED bulb. The only problem? They use a boatload of electricity, and are outrageously inefficient compared to LEDs. Thankfully, light bulb manufacturers have tried to remedy this issue in recent years by releasing LED bulbs that feature Edison-style designs — unfortunately, the vast majority of them look awful. The good news is that somebody finally made one that looks good enough to hang in your house. It’s called the Arc.

In addition to its clean, minimalist design, the Arc’s efficient light emitting diodes have a life expectancy of 30,000 hours. That means that if you were to use this bulb for six hours every day, you’d be able to get 14 years out of a single Arc light. Meant to beautify just about any interior, the Arc fits into any E27/E26 socket and is fully dimmable. Thanks to its shatter-proof polycarbonate shell, this should be quite the sturdy light fixture as well. Even at stratospheric altitudes, the bulb can withstand the elements.

iMicroscope — smartphone microscope

For all those moments when you wish you could examine an object in excruciating detail, it’s a shame that you can’t just whip a microscope out of your pocket. But lament no longer, friends. With the iMicroscope, you can finally carry around a professional microscope that fits in your wallet. The very niche (but very cool) device is about the size of a credit card, and connects wirelessly to your smartphone, allowing you to “discover the microcosm in all its facets wherever you are.”  If you’re ready to discover the tiny, creepy, crawly organisms that inhabit the world around you, iMicroscope is all you need.

As with most any device these days, the tiny microscope pairs with an Android or iOS app. To use it, just fire up the app, align your phone’s camera with that of the microscope, and stick them together using the included gecko pad. From there, you’ll be able to adjust lighting and zoom level by tapping buttons on your phone’s screen. According to the device’s creators, iMicroscope produces clean, undistorted images of your subject by leveraging an aspherical lens designed for aberration correction. And the beset part? It works with any smartphone.

Sustain Sport — heated scarf

Thanks to recent advances in battery technology, it’s now possible to put a heater in just about everything. If you’re looking to keep warm, you can buy heated blankets, heated socks, heated insoles, heated jackets, and even heated pants. And now, thanks to the magic of crowdfunding, we can add another option to the list: heated scarves. Taiwanese company Homi Creations has developed a high-tech scarf that not only heats up and warms your neck, but also keeps germs from accumulating in the fabric.

“Sustain Sport Heated scarf is a soft and lightweight scarf with an ultra-efficient graphene fiber heating core providing almost instant warmth,” the creators claim on their Kickstarter campaign page. “The scarf’s nano processed anti-bacterial fabrics, quick drying, and breathable properties keep your neck comfortable at all times. Silver nano is an effective agent in defending against bacteria. Since scarves are worn close to the mouth and nose area, it’s crucial to make this scarf anti-bacterial and allergen-free.”

January 28th

Papier Machine — interactive electronics kit

These days, there’s no shortage of toys, apps, and videos that aim to teach kids how electronics work. On Kickstarter alone, there’s usually about half a dozen of them actively running campaigns at any given moment. The only problem, of course, is that most of these gizmos require your kid to stare into a screen during some (or all) of the learning process. Papier Machine aims to change that. It’s a totally analog book that not only teaches you the fundamentals of electronics — it shows you. The book contains a series of different electronics kits, which the user completes by cutting out pieces, assembling items, and completing projects.

“There is no knowledge needed,” Agnes Agullo, one of the project creators, told Digital Trends’ Luke Dormehl in an interview. “It’s designed for everyone curious. Anyone can interact with paper. Even someone not attracted by electronics can find it interesting. To adults, it should remind you of some old games you played when you were little. To children, it will stimulate curiosity and help [them comprehend] the world without having to touch a screen. To teachers, this should be what you’d use to have your students like electronics.”

Fitneck Pro — neck posture rehab device

It’s no secret that phones and computers are wreaking havoc on our posture. Spending so much time hunched over a phone, or slouched down in front of your work desk, can lead to serious health problems down the road. Some of the most important nerves in your body run along your spine, and when you hunch over a screen for an extended period of time, not only do you weaken your neck muscles, but you also you stretch out those nerves to a certain degree. Over time, this can contribute to declines in motor function, coordination, and a wide range of other abilities.

Luckily, there’s a way to fight the slow onset of smartphone hunchback syndrome. It’s called FitNeck Pro, and it’s a neck exercise device that’s designed to correct forward head posture and neck pain caused by using cell phones and laptops all day. It does this by strengthening the neck and back to pull the head back in line with shoulders, using a cervical retraction device with a resistance hinge to add extra intensity. The result, its creators claim, releases tension on the spinal cord to reduce pain and inflammation.

Dusk — shade shifting clock

If you’re a fan of minimalist design, you’ll probably love this clock. It doesn’t have any numbers, or even any tick marks to guide you, but it does boast a neat trick: it syncs with the sun and changes color from light to dark depending on the time of day. Sure, it’s not as precise as a traditional clock, and you probably won’t be able to tell the exact time by looking at it, but what Dusk lacks in clarity it makes up for in style.

“Inspired by the simplicity of Mother Nature, there are no unnecessary decorative elements in this clock,” Dusk’s creators explain. “Only clean, monochromatic aesthetics that are both soothing and easy on the eyes. The clock’s face changes its shade from transparent to opaque depending on the time of the day. Looping from dark to transparent, the Dusk brings variation in its minimalist design. The Dusk’s minimalist design hides a sophisticated mechanism that allows the whole clock face to change its shade from transparent to opaque, representing the color of the sky. Throughout the day the Dusk will loop from dark to transparent and dark again as the sun rises, reaches its highest point and sets again.”

Mynder — snail mail notification system

Ever since the advent of the internet, the traditional postage system has never been the same. Since most of us do our billing/mailing via electronic means these days, many of us don’t think to check our physical mailboxes unless we know something is coming. On top of that, our current mailboxes – those rusty roadside vestiges of a dying era – aren’t equipped to transition to humanity’s changing mail habits. They aren’t connected, and therefore can’t alert us when a letter (or package) has arrived — but what if they could?

That’s precisely the idea behind Mynder. It’s a sleek little IoT device designed to bring your dumb, analog mailbox into the 21st century. Here’s how it works. To start, you sync it with your smartphone. Next, you mount it inside your mailbox. After that, it’ll use sensors to detect whenever something new hits your inbox, then send you a text message with the date and time of arrival. It’s super simple — so simple, in fact, that it’s kind of surprising that gadgets like this aren’t already common. It’s about time somebody gave snail mail an upgrade!

Mycroft Mark 2 — open-source voice assistant

Voice-controlled digital assistants like Alexa, Google Home, and Apple’s new HomePod are all well and good, but only if you don’t care about privacy. These devices are always on, always listening, and constantly gathering data about you and everyone else in your home. You have absolutely zero control over how this data is collected, when it’s gathered, where it goes, who uses it, or what it’s used for. Sure, you get a neat A.I. assistant out of the deal — but if you’d rather not trade your privacy for convenience, then you don’t really have any other options.

Mycroft aims to change that with it’s latest product, the Mycroft Mark 2. “AI and voice technology are too important to our collective future to remain the property of the Silicon Valley giant,” the creators explain on Kickstarter. “The Mark II by Mycroft is the device challenging them. Driven by community development, it’s the only voice assistant that respects your privacy, is entirely transparent in how your data is processed, and is customizable. It’s the voice assistant for the people by the people, doing all the things you’ve come to expect from a voice assistant, but in a transparent and open way.”

January 21st

Yaw — VR gaming chair

Despite the fact that virtual reality has progressed in leaps and bounds over the past few years, gaming in VR still isn’t the most polished experience. Case in point? Locomotion. Save for a few notable exceptions, your in-game movement is typically activated with joysticks, while you actually sit still and swivel your head in the real world. This disconnect often makes virtual reality feel less realistic. But what if there was a way to change that?

Enter the Yaw VR gaming chair. It’s essentially a motorized bucket seat that syncs with your VR headset and attempts to replicate your in-game movements in the real world, thereby making the game more immersive and realistic. With three degrees of freedom, it’s best for replicating movement in games where the player sits in a cockpit of some sort — like Eve: Valkyrie, for example. The Yaw chair’s best feature, however, is its ability to collapse and fold up into a neat little dome when you’re done playing.

Luminiser — candle-powered LED lantern

When it comes to outdoor gear, lights are a staple. Whether its headlamps, flashlights, or lanterns, having a rugged and reliable light source is a crucial part of your kit. Luckily, thanks to the rise of LEDs, you have no shortage of options in this category. There are lights that run on rechargeable batteries, lights that adapt to your environment, and even lights that run on saltwater. Now, we can add another one to the list: a lantern that’s powered by tea candles.

The lantern, called the Luminiser, collects thermal energy from a simple tea candle and converts it into electricity, which is then used to illuminate an array of LED bulbs. A single candle will allegedly create enough juice to keep the lantern going for five to six hours, while also creating 15 to 20 times more light than the candle could on its own. Better yet, the Luminiser tips the scales at less than one pound and measures 5.5 inches tall — meaning you could easily stash it away in a backpack.

Uniz UDP line — ultrafast DLP 3D printers

Stereolithography (SLA) 3D printers have become increasingly common over the past few years — and for good reason. Thanks to the unique way they work (shining light into a pool of light-reactive resin, selectively solidifying it layer by layer), they’re capable of producing extremely detailed objects. But they do have one downside: they’re not particularly fast. Why? Well, after each layer of the object is finished, the printer has to “peel” it from the build plate before starting on the next layer.

To circumvent this issue, California-based company Uniz has developed a clever new technique called “uni-directional peeling,” which drastically reduces the peel time of the SLA/DLP printing process. As its creators note, “by reducing the up-and-down peel to one-directional peel action, UDP sets a new world record of 3D printing speed to over 700mm/hour z-axis speed, without the necessity of pure oxygen or exotic separation materials.” In other words, these printers are blisteringly fast.

MyLiFi — LiFi-emitting desk lamp

We covered this one last week during CES, so I’ll let my colleague Lulu Chang give you the rundown:

“Li-Fi, or Light Fidelity, is a new technology that connects mobile devices and other internet-enabled objects by way of LED lights. Li-Fi transmits data by modulating light signals emitted by an LED light bulb — in essence, providing the internet through light. Said to be far faster than traditional Wi-Fi, Li-Fi has no need for radio waves, and claims to be supremely secure due to its imperceptible signal.

While Li-Fi has apparently been around since 2005, it’s never been made widely available to the public. Instead, Li-Fi has been mainly applied in the public realm, helping blind people navigate transportation systems, transmitting medical information in hospitals, and even measuring wait times in supermarkets. But now, MyLiFi is bringing the technology to the home.”

Moki Doorstep — aluminum stirrup for your car

If you have an SUV and you mount stuff on its roof, you know firsthand how awkward and annoying it can sometimes be to reach your gear and fiddle with tie-down straps — especially if you’re short. Oftentimes, the only way to make it happen is to pop open a door and use your car floor as a step, and sometimes that isn’t enough. If you keep a kayak or a skybox on top of your rig, you probably know what I’m talking about. Don’t you wish there was a solution to this minor inconvenience? Well lucky for you, there finally is.

The Moki Doorstep, as it’s called, is a compact, lightweight device designed to give you easier access to the top of your car. It’s essentially a metal step that hangs on the U-shaped slam latch on your vehicle’s door. Just hook it through the latch, and boom — you have a stable, reliable stepping platform somewhere between your car’s floor and ceiling. That extra step will presumably give you easier access to all the goodies and gear you’ve stashed up top.

January 6th

MyFirst Fone — wrist-borne communicator for kids

In addition to being a solid contender for 2018’s Worst Product Name of the Year Award, MyFirst Fone is the newest addition to the growing category of kid-friendly smartphones. Now before you lose your mind and go into an impassioned rant about how young kids shouldn’t have cellphones, take a deep breath, rub your earlobes, and hear me out. This is actually a pretty decent idea. I too agree that young children shouldn’t have cellphones — especially those of the “smart” variety. Spending so much time staring wide-eyed at an LED screen, texting, and playing games all day removes kids from the real world, robs them of meaningful social interaction with other people, and screws them up developmentally. That being said, having a way to communicate with your kids no matter where they are is a huge plus, and can help keep them safe.

MyFirst Fone is a little wearable device that aims to reconcile these problems. It’s essentially a minimalist wearable smartphone designed to be worn on a child’s wrist, thereby giving kids a direct line to their parents, and giving parents the ability to check up on their kids’ whereabouts via GPS. It does this while keeping games, internet browsers, and other distractions out of the equation — so your kids can focus on being kids, and enjoy the world around them.

Hudly – HUD for your car

It only takes a glance at distracted driving statistics to drive home the fact that smartphones were not designed for the car. The apps that run on these devices tempt drivers to take their eyes off the road, which is dangerous, even if it’s just a glance. So how do you help drivers stay focused on the road, but still give them access to essential navigation and communication apps? Hudly thinks it has the answer. The company’s newest product is arguably one of the most advanced dashboard HUDs to date, and boasts a unique set of features that aim to solve the problems that other HUDs suffer from.

Instead of forcing you to look directly at your smartphone map (and away from the road), the Hudly app beams your smartphone nav info to the Hudly HUD, which projects it onto a reflective (but still transparent) piece of glass. This allows you to see navigation info without taking your eyes off the road ahead of you. Plus, since the HUD itself is a standalone unit that relies on a wireless connection to your smartphone, you don’t have to surrender your device to a dock every time you go for a drive. Just hop in, fire up the app, and hit the road.

Yeti Touch — quick defrosting tray

Defrosting your food is a lot like saving for retirement. If you plan ahead, it’s not a big problem — but if you don’t think about it until the last minute, you’re screwed. Generally, you have two options if you forget to pull the steaks out of the freezer: you can toss them in the microwave and turn them into rubber with a quick defrost cycle, or you can leave them on the cutting board, let them thaw naturally, and have dinner at midnight. Neither of those options are ideal. But what if there was a better way? What if you could thaw food quickly without compromising its flavor or texture?

That’s precisely where the Yeti Touch defrosting tray comes in. Thanks to some brilliant design and smart materials choices, the tray is able to defrost a frozen steak (or whatever you’re trying to cook) in a fraction of the time it would take to thaw on a normal cutting board. For example, while an ice cube typically takes about 20 minutes to melt completely while sitting on a cutting board at room temperature, the same ice cube will be reduced to a puddle in under four minutes on the Yeti. The key is the raised aluminum tray and vented lower chamber, which work together to draw the cold out and away from your food.

Dygma Raise — ergonomically optimized gaming keyboard

Keyboards and mice weren’t originally designed with PC gaming in mind, and despite the fact that gaming-focused keyboards and mice are widely available these days, many of them still suffer from the same drawbacks and shortcomings that their non-gaming counterparts do. So Luis Sevilla created a solution. The Dygma Raise, as it’s called, was designed from the ground up with professional gamers in mind.

First of all, it addresses ergonomics. “A normal keyboard forces the wrists to bend towards the pinky side of our hand,” Sevilla says on his Kickstarter campaign page. “Rotating Raise’s halves lets you keep your wrists at a neutral angle, decreasing pressure and strain over time. You can also adjust the width between the [keyboard’s] two halves, placing them in front of your shoulders to reduce internal shoulder rotation.”

The Raise is also completely customizable, and features additional buttons that normal keyboards don’t have. “The giant space bar is one of the things that we’ve inherited from the typewriter that doesn’t make sense any more,” says Sevilla. “We’ve divided the spacebar into 4 and added 4 extra keys under it. They are comfortable to use because they are in the area where our thumbs naturally rest.”

Vinci 2.0 — smart wireless headphones

We covered this one a few weeks ago, so I’ll let DT’s Nick Hastings give you the scoop.

“Leonardo da Vinci was the original Renaissance man, a brilliant polymath whose expertise in various arts and sciences often outclassed even the leaders of those fields. New York-based Inspero Inc.’s Vinci 2.0 smart earphones hope to offer enough versatility and flexibility to live up to their inspirational namesake. Following up on the company’s crazy Vinci over-ear headphones that impressed us at the 2017 Luxury Tech show and received nearly $1 million in Kickstarter funding last year, the Vinci 2.0 pack an impressive array of features into a unique, angular-neckband design. The band itself is pentagonal, featuring a small OLED touchscreen — we’re not entirely sure why — and the whole package weighs a shade over three ounces (90 grams).”

“The Vinci 2.0 are equipped with onboard flash storage — 8GB for the Lite model, 16GB for the Pro, and 32GB for the Super — so you can leave your phone in your bag while working out. Baked-in support for not one but two virtual assistants, Amazon’s Alexa and Inspero’s proprietary Vinci, means you can rely on voice commands to do just about anything, including controlling your music playback, calling an Uber, or checking the weather forecast. The Vinci 2.0 support both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, allowing you to utilize Alexa and Vinci without an anchor device. If you’re out on a run — and therefore outside of Wi-Fi range — the headphones even support 3G (something we’ve never seen before), so you can access voice assistants or even streaming services from virtually anywhere.”