At any given moment, there are approximately a zillion different crowdfunding campaigns happening on the Web. Take a stroll through Kickstarter or Indiegogo and you’ll find no shortage of weird, useless, and downright stupid projects out there – alongside some real gems. We’ve cut through the Pebble clones and janky iPhone cases to round up the most unusual, ambitious, and exciting 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.
Colorspike — dynamic set lighting
A few years ago, a small NYC-based startup called BitBanger Labs released a gizmo called the PixelStick: a programmable LED rail designed to take light painting photography to the next level. It was a huge hit with the crowdfunding community, quickly gathering up over $620,000 from more than 2,000 backers. It’s been nearly four years since the project went live on Kickstarter, and now the creators are back with yet another device aimed at photographers and videographers.
The Colorspike is a lot like the PixelStick in terms of operation, but is intended for a completely different purpose. Just like the PixelStick, ColorSpike is essentially just a row of programmable LEDs. The difference, however, is that ColorSpike’s lights are more powerful and customizable, since they’re meant to light up sets with a splash of color during video shoots.
The idea is that, rather than swapping out films and gels on their set lights, filmmakers can just change the color (or brightness, or pattern) of the ColorSpike through an accompanying smartphone app. If you’re an indie filmmaker, this is for you.
Treepod — hanging lounge tent
You know those suspended tents from companies like Tentsile and Treez? They not only provide a super-comfortable platform to sleep on while you’re in the great outdoors, but also a superior view of your surroundings. The only downside is that they’re a bit cumbersome to transport, and their multi-strap setup is far more laborious than erecting your average ground tent. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could enjoy all the benefits of a hanging shelter, but without all the extra effort and setup they generally require?
Enter the Treepod. It’s a suspended tent that’s not only durable and easy to transport, but also outrageously easy to set up. The key here is that the Treepod is suspended by only a single line, rather than multiple tension straps like you’ll find on most other hanging shelters. On top of that, Treepod tents also break down and pack up into reasonably-sized packages for easy transport.
That means you don’t need a six-man crew and a flock of pack mules just to haul it out into the woods. You can easily toss it over your shoulder and bring it along on a solo adventure.
Firefly — fire-starting accessory for Swiss Army Knives
It’s tough to improve on an outdoor product as revered as the Swiss army knife. After all, this iconic multitool has been around for more than 120 years, and has achieved legendary status due to its simple, utilitarian design. But a new product called the Firefly, which recently launched on Kickstarter, delivers a handy new feature that does the impossible: it improves your Swiss army knife in a big way. How? By giving it the ability to start a fire! It’s a sparking tool that fits neatly into your existing pocketknife, so you’ll always have it handy when you need it.
Made from a custom sparking material developed by Tortoise Gear, the Firefly is essentially a flint/steel rod that fits snugly into the toothpick slot of your Swiss army knife. Unfortunately, that means you’ll have to ditch that flimsy plastic toothpick that you use so much in the backcountry — but we’re willing to bet that if you had to choose between freezing to death or having an annoying piece of beef jerky stuck between your molars, you’d probably choose the latter. Really, if you think about it, couldn’t you just use the corkscrew as a toothpick anyway? It’s a wonder that Victorinox didn’t think of this decades ago.
Goliath CNC — robotic milling machine
3D printers may hog the limelight, but CNC mills, which cut materials with extreme precision, have also come a long way in the past few years. It used to be that these devices could only be found in machine shops, but over the course of the past decade or so, the technology has largely been democratized. You can now get your hands on a user-friendly desktop CNC mill for less than $1,000, but size remains a major restraint. Unless you shell out a lot of money, you can’t really find a machine that will mill parts larger than a foot in any dimension, so you’re fairly limited in terms of what you can create.
Goliath CNC is one attempt to change that. This beast can mill shapes up to four feet wide and eight feet long — and it only costs a hair over $1,400. The machine’s creators at LA-based startup Springa designed it from the ground up to be simple and affordable, so it’s a complete reimagining of the concept of a CNC milling machine.
In place of rails, the Goliath CNC uses multidirectional wheels and sensor pylons that tell the robot precisely where it is on the cutting surface. Plus, since it’s really no bigger than a fat Roomba, Goliath won’t take up a ton of space in your garage like a traditional CNC machine would.
WT2 — real-time in-ear language translator
In the iconic Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series, author Douglas Adams introduced the world to the Babel Fish: a “small, yellow, leech-like” creature that lives inside the ear of a host and “feeds on brainwave energy received not from its own carrier, but from those around it. It absorbs all unconscious mental frequencies from this brainwave energy to nourish itself with. It then excretes into the mind of its carrier a telepathic matrix formed by combining the conscious thought frequencies with nerve signals picked up from the speech centres of the brain which has supplied them.”
A Babel Fish allows the user to understand anything anyone says to them, no matter the language. While Adams’s creation was somewhat whimsical and far-flung when the book was released in 1979, the real world might soon be filled with devices that function much like the fictional creature. Case in point? The WT2 in-ear translator. Promising natural, hands-free communication, the WT2 seeks to enable conversations in two different languages via two earphone translators and one app.
Simply remove the earphones from their charging case, done one of them and give the other one to your friend. Speak in your language, and your interlocutor will hear it in their language. The earbuds will automatically pair with an iOS app, and begin listening for your communication. If you’re speaking in Spanish to an English speaker, your friend will hear your Spanish words in their native tongue after a short delay. And when your friend replies in English, you’ll hear said response in Spanish. Pretty cool, right?