Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: DIY ebikes, bionic chairs, and toilet targets

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 those with the best intentions — can fail, so do your homework before cutting a check for the gadget of your dreams.

SureKey — Smart key

Forgetting whether you locked your front door is the worst. You’ve probably been there. When it happens, you have two choices: Either go home and check so you can be sure that your house isn’t open for thieves to pillage, or spend the whole day worrying about thieves might potentially be pillaging your house right now, because you were too stupid to lock the door. But what if it didn’t have to be that way? What if there was a device that could tell you, definitively, whether your door is locked or not?

Technically speaking, such devices already exist. Most internet-connected smart locks can let you know if your door is locked or not — but the downside is that smart locks require a relatively arduous installation process. SureKey, on the other hand, doesn’t require any more than snapping a piece of sensor-laden plastic onto your key. After that, it’ll use a slew of accelerometers and

Sterka M1 — customizable electric bike

Electric bicycles come in an absolutely massive variety of shapes, sizes, and configurations these days. The technology that powers them has really exploded over the past few years, so now it’s fairly easy to find a bike  that’s perfectly-suited to your particular riding style — unless of course your “riding style” requires constant tuning, tweaking, and upgrading your bike. Despite the fact that today’s bikes are super high-tech and amazing, very few of them allow you to easily get under the hood and make modifications.

The Sterka M1 is an attempt to change that. Instead of tucking all the components inside a sleek and mostly inaccessible frame, the creators of the M1 designed the bike to be easy to work on. Using little more than an allen wrench and a few screwdrivers, you can completely disassemble this entire bicycle and fiddle with its guts to your heart’s content. Want to install a bigger battery? A more powerful motor? A smoother crank? Just bust out your toolset and get to work — the only thing standing in your way is a few bolts.

Lex — wearable bionic chair

We ran a story about this one earlier in the week, so here’s a quick excerpt from the full post: “How awesome would it be if, any time you started to feel tired, you could just kick back and relax on a chair that appears seemingly from out of nowhere? What if this miraculous chair also happened to be one of the most ergonomic sitting devices you’ve ever encountered, promising a seat that ensures you maintain the best possible posture? That is the mission statement of a fancy new Kickstarter campaign for Lex, a pair of wearable, folding exoskeleton legs that just so happen to transform into an ultra-versatile portable seat.

‘You can lead a better life and prevent a lot of injuries by maintaining the correct posture, caring for your shoulders, and finding a chance to relax your body more,” Lex team member Don Plooksawasdi told Digital Trends. “If you find that hard to do in your daily life, the Lex is here to help.’

The lightweight, 2.2-pound exoskeleton legs retract when they’re not in use, giving you the ability to move around easily and without any restrictions. (You can even jump while wearing it!) It attaches to your body just like a belt, requiring only three straps. When it’s in folded mode, the Lex is hardly visible from the side.”

Tempo — adjustable hourglass

Tempo is essentially an adjustable analog hourglass designed to help you better manage your time. “The three time settings built into Tempo were chosen to optimize both your work and play,” the creators explain on their Kickstarter campaign page. “Pair different times together depending on your task and activity. Set a timer for a 25 minute focused work sprint. Journal for 15 minutes or meditate for 5 minutes. Or break down an hour-long activity into four 15 minute blocks.  To set a time, simply turn the dial to the time you want.”

Do you need an adjustable analog timer? Probably not. You could likely achieve the same result with an app on your smartphone — although doing so likely introduces more potential for distractions. With an analog solution like Tempo, you’d ostensibly be insulated from all the attention-stealing notifications, alerts, and updates that bombard your phone throughout the day. If your focus wasn’t constantly disrupted by the bright colors, sounds, and vibrations of your mobile device, how much more productive could you be with your time?

WhizBang — Toilet target for training toddlers

Here’s a quick cut from our full article, which ran earlier in the week: “No one likes to walk into the bathroom and discover evidence of poor marksmanship on the toilet seat. For parents and spouses sick and tired of cleaning up someone else’s mess before doing their own business, there’s Whizz Bang.  Instead of allowing a bathroom goer — be it a child who is just learning how to use the toilet or an adult who should know better — to shoot from the hip, Whizz Bang turns every trip to the toilet into a game. The device installs with a simple, universal mount. Once in place, it creates a target to aim at with an LED light. That bull’s eye not only helps kids maintain their focus on the process of peeing, it helps people of all ages cut down on the splash back that can come from poorly aimed bathroom trips. It doesn’t quite turn your toilet into a fully functioning smart toilet, but it does the trick for its specific task

When a person going to the bathroom manages to hit the LED target projected into the toilet bowl, they are rewarded with arcade sound effects that encourage them to stay on target. The product doesn’t go all the way with gamification—there are no scores or long-term tracking of any sort. That’s probably for the best, though. Unlocking achievements for going to the bathroom may be a step too far (and it may even have the accidental side effect of encouraging people to drink more water so they can play more).”

September 2

Spry Drone — Submersible UAV

Here’s DT’s Hillary Grigonis with the scoop: “The Spry looks like a typical quadcopter — until you flip it upside down and toss it in the water. Designed by waterproof drone company SwellPro and Urban Drones, the Spry can navigate both in the air and in water with its (also waterproof) controller. Launching on Kickstarter and fully funded in a day, the Spry crosses both aerial and aquatic categories. The Spry and its controller float in the water, allowing the drone to take off and land in water. Flip the drone over, and the props can help the drone navigate the water, though the company hasn’t yet detailed how fast or how long the drone can maneuver like a boat.

While the company has launched air-to-water drones before like the Splash 3, the company says the Spry is the first that can also temporarily navigate underwater like a submarine using the propellers. (once the propellers stop, the floating drone returns to the surface). In the air, the Spry is a mix between a racing drone and a camera drone. The drone uses a 4K 30fps camera with 12-megapixel stills, but with the GPS disabled, the drone can hit top speeds of more than 43 mph. With the GPS, the drone offers flight patterns like auto follow and object orbit, along with options like returning to the pilot’s position and holding the drone’s position in the air. The mobile app also allows pilots to pre-set a flight path using waypoints.”

Nopixgo — Mosquito repelling wearable

We covered this one earlier in the week, so here’s a quick cut from Luke Dormehl’s full article: “Anyone who has been caught in a summer storm knows that it kind of sucks. Evidently, mosquitoes think the same thing, as they apparently choose to seek shelter when they sense an approaching storm, rather than risk hanging out and biting people. Who can blame them, right? Well, maybe no one can blame them, but smart engineers can certainly jump on that evolutionary quirk to find a new way of fending off everyone’s least favorite blood-drinking insects.

That’s where the Nopixgo wristband comes into play. According to its creators, it emits very weak electromagnetic signals, which essentially convince mosquitos that a storm is brewing and they should probably be packing their bags to leave. It’s a smart solution that protects users without the use of chemicals. ‘This is a revolutionary new way to approach mosquito bites. In a way, the mosquitoes’ own genetics is used against them; something they cannot adapt to and avoid.’  Johan Niklasson, chief business development officer at NopixGlobal, told Digital Trends. ‘It goes deeper than just repelling with bad smells or irritating sounds. No one has ever tried this before, and the technology has not existed to make this possible until just recently.’”

Purtrek — Trekking pole water filter

One of the hottest trends in outdoor gear right now is multipurposing. We’ve sorta hit a ceiling with how light materials can get, so instead of dumping a bunch of RD into developing stuff that’s just a fraction of an ounce lighter than before, many gear manufacturers are cooking up ways to build gear fulfills multiple needs. This trend has resulted in all kinds of awesome stuff — everything from blankets that double as ponchos, to hammocks that can fold up to become backpacks.

The latest addition to this burgeoning category of gear is the PurTrek: an innovative new trekking pole that has a built-in water filtration system. To use it, you simply insert the included hose into the top of the pole, unscrew the handle, and start pumping. The pole will draw in water through the bottom, push it through a hollow-fiber filter, and deposit it into your vessel of choice. Pretty nifty, right? If you get yourself one of those tents that use trekking poles for support, then this thing could cut some serious weight from your setup!

Feel Three — VR gaming cockpit

This is another one we covered earlier in the week. Here’s an excerpt from the full article: “Are you a virtual reality fan who wishes the whole VR experience could be made even more immersive than it already is? Do you have the cash to throw down for a gaming chair that looks like something a Star Trek captain or James Bond villain would sit in? If so, you may be interested in the new “3 Degree of Freedom Motion Simulator” that’s just launched on Kickstarter.

Created by U.K. entrepreneur Mark Towner, the cockpit-style motion simulator takes the form of a hemispherical platform, seated on an array of omni-wheels. It’s similar in concept to the kind of motion-simulator rigs usually reserved for large VR arcades, but intended for home use. The three degrees referenced in its name describe the device’s ability to yaw, pitch, and roll; essentially giving users the ability to quickly (but silently) rotate in any direction. For extra verisimilitude, built-in tactile transducers add immersive surround vibration. This makes it the perfect accompaniment to VR experiences like racing or flight simulators.”

Mag iCreatum — 3D printer, laser engraver, and CNC

Slowly but surely, 3D printers are getting cheaper. Drastically cheaper, in fact. In the early days it wasn’t uncommon for even the most basic printer to carry a price tag upwards of $3,000, but in just a few years time, the average price has plummeted. Nowadays there are dozens of printers you can get for under 500 bucks, and some are even cheaper than that.

iCreatum is the latest addition to the ultra-affordable club. Priced at just 99 euros (about $120) on Kickstarter, it’s easily one of the most affordable printers we’ve ever laid eyes on. But affordability isn’t the only selling point, either. In addition to being super cheap, this sucker also comes with a swappable toolhead system, which means that it can also function as a laser engraver and a CNC machine.

Sounds pretty rad, right? Well don’t bust out your wallet too fast. In our experience, crowdfunded 3D printer projects have a woefully high failure rate compared to most other things. We’re not sure why, but we’ve seen quite a few flops over the past few years — so definitely do your homework before you back this one.


3D zoetrope

Zoetropes are awesome. If you’re not familiar, they’re a precursor to modern film that create the illusion of motion by displaying a sequence of still pictures in rapid succession. They’re basically wheel-shaped flipbooks, or the Victorian-era equivalent of animated GIFs. However, despite the fact that zoetropes are ancient compared to modern animation techniques, they’re certainly not a dead technology. In fact, there are tons of artists and animators out there today who use zoetropes to create amazing things.

Case in point? These insane 3D zoetropes from 4-Mation. Thanks to a healthy helping of modern technology (namely 3D printed parts, CNC cut frames, electric motors, and strobe lights), 4-Mation’s zoetropes display amazing 3-dimensional animated sequences right before your eyes. But that’s not even the craziest part. What’s really wild is how, through a technique they call “animation multiplexing,” these zoetropes are able to fit a three-second animation into a one-second loop. Check out the Kickstarter to get the details.

Logic Ink

UV sensitive temporary tattoos

Here’s Luke Dormehl with the lowdown: “From smartphone apps to smart wearables, there are a variety of high-tech ways we can make sure we’re not being exposed to too many harmful ultraviolet wavelengths by being out in the sun. A new creation from San Francisco-based LogicInk promises to make things even easier, however. Instead of asking users to whip out their phones to check information about UV exposure, LogicInk has developed a small temporary tattoo, worn on your skin, that changes color as it’s exposed to sunlight. What could be simpler than that?”

‘“Based on medical research, LogicInk UV is calibrated to change in shape and color to alert you when you got too much [sun] for the day,” Carlos Olguin, co-founder and CEO of LogicInk, told Digital Trends. “We are initially focusing on people with very sensitive skin. By precluding electronics, we also preclude the need for bulky devices — bulky compared to ours — that tend to be expensive, have a high learning curve, and yet require another device as the only way to understand your exposure to UV.’”

Sparkmaker FHD

Affordable DLP 3D printer

Back when 3D printing was just beginning to make its way into the mainstream, the only printers available to consumers relied on more or less the same technique to create parts — a process known as filament deposition modeling, or FDM. It’s the type of 3D printing you’ve probably seen before — a printer feeds a strand of plastic filament through a hot nozzle, then carefully deposits the molten goo onto a build plate, layer by layer, to create a 3D object. This is by far the most popular kind of 3D printer, but lately, a technology known as stereolithography has moved in to steal some of the spotlight.

Stereolithography, or SLA, creates objects by flashing a laser up into a pool of photo-reactive resin, which hardens when struck by UV light. Due to the precision of this technique, SLA printers typically create much better parts than FDM printers do. The only problem, however, is that these kinds of printers have been prohibitively expensive for the past few years, so most people haven’t had access to them — but that’s beginning to change. Right now, you can get the SparkMaker FHD (which is a higher-resolution version of the original SparkMaker)  for around $250 on Kickstarter, which is pretty amazing.


Portable ultrasonic washing machine

If you’ve ever done any long-term traveling (be it for business or for pleasure), you know firsthand just how annoying and inconvenient it can be to wash your clothes in a foreign place. If you can’t find a laundromat nearby, your only option is to wash your garments by hand in a sink or bathtub, which is both time consuming and laborious. But not to worry — there might be a solution to this problem soon.

Soaclean, as it’s called, is a portable ultrasonic washing machine that promises to supercharge your sink-bound laundry sessions. So how does it work? First, fill your sink with water, detergent, and your soiled clothes — then just drop in the Soaclean. The device’s transducer sends out ultrasonic vibrations, creating tiny cavitation bubbles in the water that violently agitate the dirt on your clothes and help break it loose from the fabric. Essentially, these little bubbles do all the cleaning so you don’t have to. This exact same technology is used at a larger scale in chemistry laboratories, where it’s known as sonication.

Doggy bag

Sleeping bag for dogs

If you need a sleeping bag for your dog, you can find one quite easily online. Just head over to Amazon and you’ll find no shortage of pads, bags, and other sleeping solutions designed to keep your furry friend warm while you camp. However, if you intend to take your dog backpacking and get a bit deeper into the woods, then you’ll likely have a bit more trouble finding a suitable canine sleeping bag. The issue is that very few (if any) dog sleeping systems are designed to be compact and portable. They’re typically made with thick padding that doesn’t deform or compress very easily, so they don’t fit nicely into a backpack.

The Doggy Bag is an attempt to fix this issue. It’s essentially a canine sleeping bag that’s built to perform much like a high-end human sleeping bag does. In other words, it’s filled with lightweight but highly compressible down insulation, and can easily be stuffed into a small carrying sack that fits neatly into your backpack. It also weighs next to nothing, and provides a high level of warmth for your pooch — even when the temperature dips down near the freezing point at night. If you’re an adventurer with a four-legged sidekick, the Doggy Bag should definitely be on your radar.

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