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.
ORII — bone conduction smart ring
The concept of a “smart ring” isn’t exactly new at this point. Nor is the idea of bone conduction headphones. But what about a smart ring with bone conduction tech built in? That, as far as we can tell, is a fresh idea. It’s also a pretty good description for ORII, a wearable device that recently landed on Kickstarter. Rather than forcing you to plug a set of headphones into your smartwatch or mobile phone, ORII allows you to take calls and interact with applications by simply pressing your finger to your ear and speaking normally. It’s basically like having an invisible phone.
The technology behind the device is fairly straightforward. Instead of pumping sound to your eardrums via a set of small transducers, bone conduction headphones send signals directly to your cochlea by vibrating the bones around your ear. ORII works exactly like bone conduction headphones — it just transmits vibrations through your finger rather than through a vibration pad. With this configuration, you’ll allegedly be able to hear phone calls just by pressing your finger against your ear temporal bone. Pretty nifty, right?
Color Notebook — reusable, app-enabled coloring book
At first glance, the Color Notebook might not look very out of the ordinary. It’s a standard coloring book that comes with eight blank pages for free-form art, two dot-grid pages for structured drawings, and two lined pages for handwriting. But it’s much more than that. The kicker is that it’s also infinitely reusable and comes with a mobile app that lets you save all your children’s artwork into the cloud, or send it via email or text.
The writing surface of the Color Notebook works with markers, crayons, and colored pencils alike, but can be wiped totally clean in just seconds. But before you wipe it clean, you can archive all your kid’s masterpieces. To save your kid’s work, simply pull out your smartphone and open the Rocketbook app. Using its patent-pending image-capture technology, the app accurately and quickly photographs the artwork (or note or anything else) and sends it to your contacts or to Dropbox, Google Drive, or other cloud storage service.
At the bottom of each page of the notebook are magic “buttons” that control the Rocketbook app’s cloud access. Just assign each button to a specific destination, be it a phone number, an email address, or cloud drive. Then, when your child marks a button on a page and scans the page’s contents, that processed image is automatically sent to the right person or place.
Chameleon Pack — backpack/chair hybrid
After a long day of backpacking, there’s nothing better than sitting down and getting off your feet. Unfortunately, when you’re in the backcountry, your choices are often just rocks and logs near your campsite, which aren’t particularly comfortable. Sure, you could pack along one of those nifty camp chairs, but they’re expensive, bulky, and take up precious space in your pack. This means you typically have to choose between comfort and convenience — but that might soon change if Utah-based company Trailform has its way.
The company has recently taken to Kickstarter to fund the production of its new Chameleon Pack — a versatile, lightweight backpack that can transform into a camp chair when not in use. After the pack’s Sit-System frame is removed and expanded, the pack fabric can then be attached to the frame’s corners, effectively transforming it into a lounge chair. And if you’re worried about weight, don’t be. The Chameleon Pack’s frame is made from ultralight aluminum, yet rated to hold 300 pounds. As if that wasn’t cool enough, the pack’s interior includes a water bladder holder, laptop storage, and two removable 16-liter stuff sacks.
Steer — drowsy driving prevention wearable
Drowsy driving may not be as frowned upon as drunk driving, but it can be just as dangerous. Drowsy drivers may cause as many as 6,000 fatal crashes each year in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control. And although coffee, energy drinks, and loud music can help keep drivers awake, they’re temporary fixes rather than solutions. The creators of a new wearable think they’ve found a better fix with Steer, a wrist-worn shocking device that vibrates and shocks when it detects a driver dozing off.
Under the hood, Steer uses two different sensors to detect changes in heart rate and sweat secretion — biometrics that signal when someone is getting drowsy. When the device is first put on, it records the wearer’s heart rate and skin conductance level. If a wearer’s heart rate lowers by ten beats per minute and skin conductance by one unit from baseline, the device gives a slight vibration. When skin conductance decreases by another unit and heart rate falls by three more beats, Steer delivers a gentle shock. The team has taken this shocking device to Kickstarter to drum up support, and it has already doubled its pledge goal with nearly 100 backers and a week to go in the campaign.
WGEDC Grill — ultracompact grill grate
Compact cookstoves are all well and good, but if you’re planning on building a fire at your campsite anyway, isn’t bringing a stove a little unnecessary? If you’re looking to cut pack weight and don’t mind starting a fire the old-fashioned way, then wouldn’t it just be smarter to bring a long a grill grate and some matches? That’s precisely the idea behind the WGEDC Grill — an ultralight, ultracompact grill grate from Canadian upstart Wolf and Grizzly.
Comprised of just two parts, the WG Grill features a frame and a cooking surface — and that’s it. A swiveling stability rod sits under the grill’s surface and locks it into position for added weight support, so even though the grill looks rather dainty, it can apparently handle quite a load. The grill is also adjustable so that it can accommodate a number of different heat sources. The highest position stands at 8.5 inches, which the WG team says is perfect for cooking over a small wood fire. A 6.5-inch configuration will allow for a charcoal BBQ on your driveway or in your backyard, whereas the grill’s “flat” mode allows you to expand the frame fully and either rest it directly on top of some flames or use whatever is around you for stability.
Each and every component of the WG Everyday Carry Grill is made of stainless steel, which means that it won’t melt under high temperatures. It also means that it will resist corrosion, so even if you take this grill out on all your adventures, it ought to stay as good as new. Best of all, the WGEDC weighs in at just over two pounds, which makes it supremely easy to transport.