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 projects out there this week. Keep in mind that any crowdfunded project — even the best intentioned — can fail, so do your homework before cutting a check for the gadget of your dreams.
Lumo — LED-studded cycling gear
It used to be that cyclists didn’t have much of a choice — either drape yourself in neon colors and reflector stripes, or dress like a normal person and run the risk of becoming roadkill on your way back from work. There wasn’t much of a middle ground before, but now, thanks to up-and-coming London-based startup Lumo, you’ll no longer have to sacrifice fashion for the sake of safety, or vice-versa. Lumo gear was built from the ground up to give cyclists the best of both worlds. During the day, the company’s jackets and bags look like normal everyday apparel — no reflective seams or bright, gaudy colors that assault your eyes. But despite their unassuming appearance, the jackets and bags are outfitted with rows of high-brightness LED strips on the front and back, subtly hidden within the construction of the design. Almost completely concealed until they’re switched on, these lights are visible from over a quarter mile away, and are placed in such a way that they’re visible regardless of your riding position.
Somabar — Automated drink dispenser
This definitely isn’t the first automated bartending machine we’ve ever seen, but it’s definitely the fastest. Unlike other cocktail-concocting contraptions, this one can mix and dispense a drink in under five seconds. To pump out craft cocktails at such a blistering pace, the machine uses some seriously innovative techniques. As soon as you order a drink, Somabar measures and extracts the necessary ingredients from its pre-filled pods. Liquids are drawn out with specially engineered positive-displacement pumps, so the extraction is both fast and precise. Immediately after being pumped out of the pods, all of the liquids are channeled through Somabar’s static mixing tube, which agitates and blends everything together as it passes through. Next, bitters are added to the mixture just before it flows out through a downspout and into your glass. The entire process happens within just a few seconds.
Hemingwrite — Modern digital typewriter
There’s no denying that modern word-processing programs are drastically more advanced and convenient than using a typewriter, but despite all their newfangled technologies, computers aren’t always the most ideal tools for writing. They just have too many distractions. With movies, music, games, and the entire Internet just a few clicks away, buckling down and focusing on putting words on paper can be a big challenge at times. That’s where Hemingwrite comes in. It’s designed to give you the best of both worlds — all the helpful functions of a PC (digital display, mechanical keys, saving to the cloud) but with none of the distractions that typically come with them on a laptop. This way, you can actually focus on the task at hand: Writing something down. You know, instead of checking your email, scrolling through Facebook, or watching cat videos on YouTube, which are things we’ve heard can distract writers less professional than us.
Parrot — Ultracompact teleprompter for DSLR
If you’ve ever tried memorizing lines for a video, you know how much time goes into filming multiple takes, and then going back to edit out all the little screw-ups. To avoid this problem, professionals often use teleprompters, which allow the subject to look directly at the camera and simply read the prompts instead of memorizing everything beforehand. The only problem is that currently-available teleprompters are often too expensive and bulky, so filmmakers with limited budgets often turn to other methods — which result in a lack of genuine eye contact and warmth. That’s where Parrot comes in. It fits onto the front of your DSLR, and with the help of an accompanying smartphone app, reflects your script off of a mirror so your subject can easily read it. Parrot is also ridiculously compact and simple to set up — something that both professional and indie filmmakers can appreciate.
Mars — Portable levitating speaker
It’s hard to say if it’s because we’re all now officially living in the future, or the fact that the wireless speaker market is now more saturated than a Twinkie factory, but portable wireless speakers just don’t raise eyebrows like they did in days past. So what does turn our heads? How about an aluminum disc that dishes out 360 degrees of sound while floating above its base stand like a flying saucer plucked straight out of “War of the Worlds?” Such is the design of Mars, an aptly-named speaker on Indiegogo. Though its powers of flight may appear unique, we’ve actually seen this audio wizardry before in the OM/One, also a crowdfunded project. Like the OM/One, Mars’ astonishing defiance of gravity can be attributed to a clever application of the good ol’ magnetic force, matching the polar opposite sides of two magnetic fields between the saucer speaker and its base stand, creating enough push to keep the saucer air-bound.