At any given moment, there are approximately a zillion crowdfunding campaigns 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. In this column, we cut through the worthless wearables and Oculus Rift ripoffs to round up the week’s most unusual, ambitious, and exciting projects. But don’t grab your wallet just yet. Keep in mind that even the most well-intentioned crowdfunded project can fail. Do your homework before cutting a check for the gadget of your dreams.
Water is one of the most precious resources on Earth, and also one of the most frivolously consumed. The average American household goes through roughly 100 gallons a day, through activities that often use more water than necessary. Faucets in particular are a source of waste, as most of the water used runs off hands, dishes, or whatever else one might be washing. This has an environmental cost, but also a monetary one as well. Imagine the hundreds or even thousands of dollars a year going down the drain as you wash your hands!
The Altered:Nozzle promises to save 98 percent of the water you use every time you turn on a tap, without reducing the utility of the faucet. The nozzle — which fits onto the end of a faucet — does this by atomizing the water, breaking it into tiny droplets which still shoot out at a high enough velocity to clean. If the high-intensity mist is not quite enough to do the job, users can twist the nozzle to convert it to a thicker stream which still consumes less water than an ordinary faucet. Whether you care about the environment, your water bill, or both, the Altered:Nozzle seems like a great tool to cut down on waste.
Cardboard is having a bit of a resurgence these days; no longer mere storage material, it has been used to build VR headsets, giant building blocks, and now pinball machines. The Pinbox 3000 is a tabletop pinball machine made entirely of cardboard. With functioning flippers and sturdy parts, it provides pinball fun in a compact form.
All the parts can be assembled by hand, and the creators estimate that the setup process will only take 30-40 minutes. Users can decorate and add various parts to the basic table, allowing for thousands of table configurations. The makers of the Pinbox 3000 have even teamed up with professional artists to create a series of attractive table layouts. Although it may not have the heft or glitz of an actual pinball machine, the Pinbox 3000 is a lot more affordable, and much easier to transport. Lastly, assembling the table is fun unto itself.
Whether you are learning the basics of programming or in need of a hobby, playing around with robots is fun. The Hobby Hand 2.0, developed by Biomechanical Robotics Group, offers a chance for you to assemble and program your own robotic hand, learning about programming and bodily mechanics in the process.
The Hobby Hand is modeled on that of a human, with servos in the palm and fingers that allow it to simulate the movements of an actual extremity. The hand is modular and can be connected to various sensors, so users can program the hand to respond to light, sound, or other stimuli. While you probably cannot wear this robot hand as a prosthesis a la Luke Skywalker, it is a cool toy for those who want to learn more about robotics.
Roughly 71 percent of Earth is covered by water, and that can pose a bit of a problem for humans, what with our lack of fins or flippers. If you like exploring the watery parts of the world, but feel limited by a body suited for life on land, the Bixpy Jet might be for you. A small, lightweight propulsion system, the Bixpy can attach to to kayaks, paddle boards, and other such devices, allowing users to glide through the water with no paddling required. Even better, you can grab onto it via the handheld battery pack and fly around underwater.
Weighing roughly 2 pounds, the Bixpy looks innocuous, but according to its creators it can push 100 gallons of water per second. This allows for a speed of up to 7 mph when attached to a kayak. For those who want to do some extended swimming, the Bixpy promises 40 minutes of continuous swim at full power. All of the components in the jet are apparently corrosion-resistant, so you can use it in fresh or salt water.
For audiophiles, the current market for portable music players must seem dire — iPods and smartphones are everywhere and most of them are unable to play lossless audio formats. Unfortunately, high-res players are typically expensive, not to mention ugly; one is hard-pressed to find a device that supports FLAC but does not look like an ’80s Walkman. Chinese electronics company Hifiman, which has a long history of designing headphones and speakers for audiophiles, hopes to create an affordable, svelte hi-res player with the MegaMini.
With a slim profile and minimalist facade, the MegaMini would not look out of place on a shelf with the iPod Touch or the dearly departed Zune HD. Unlike more mainstream devices, however, the MegaMini can support formats like FLAC and DSD, offering listeners pristine sound quality. It can also hold up to 256GB of music, and has a battery life of up to 15 hours. Audiophiles who want to listen to music on the go but do not want to be limited by their phone’s audio quality should keep an eye on the MegaMini.