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 homeworkbefore cutting a check for the gadget of your dreams.
Here’s a quick cut from our full article on Vector, which ran earlier this week. “Sure, home robots such as the Roomba vacuum cleaner are pretty useful, but it’s still a long way from the characterful, interactive droids we were promised by a misspent youth watching Star Wars and Short Circuit. Fortunately, those dark, lonely days without the company of a droid buddy are about to be over — and we’ve got the Kickstarter campaign to prove it.
Called Vector, it’s a diminutive always-on, fully autonomous, cloud-connected home robot bursting with personality. Capable of performing around 1,000 different animations, Vector can react to his environment in a way that’s disarmingly lifelike. That includes recognizing individual people courtesy of an in-built HD camera or responding to their touch via a capacitive touch sensor in his back. Oh, and did we mention that you can use Vector as a moving Google Home, Amazon Echo or Apple HomePod-style smart speaker by asking him questions with the prefix, ‘Hey Vector’?”
Laser keyboards have been floating around for years now. If you’re not familiar, they’re the super futuristic-looking suckers that project a keyboard onto your desk via a low-power laser, then use sensors to detect when you’ve tapped one of the projected keys. They’re straight from the pages of science-fiction, and believe it or not, you can already get one of them on your desk for just a few bucks. Unfortunately, the idea has fizzled out somewhat in recent years due to a lack of practicality, but now there is a group of creators hoping to revive the laser keyboard and take it to the next level.
The MasterKey 4.0, as it’s called, is essentially a laser keyboard fused with a projection-based computer. It has a projector on the front that projects your screen onto the wall, while a laser projector on the back beams a virtual keyboard onto your desk. Pretty awesome, right? We have our doubts about how useful this gizmo would be in practice, but in theory, it’s just too cool to pass up. If you back the project now on Kickstarter, you can lock one down for about $180. Just don’t be surprised if the delivery date gets pushed back a bit. From what we can tell, the team doesn’t have a ton of manufacturing and production experience.
Straws might not be the most obvious perpetrators of environmental damage, but despite the fact that they keep a pretty low profile (compared to oil spills and people who drive Hummers), they’re a fairly big contributor to the world’s growing plastic waste problem. Think about it: People in the United States use about 500 million plastic straws per day, and practically all of them are disposed of after use. That’s a hell of a lot of plastic waste. But what if there was an alternative?
That is precisely where Viablestraw comes in. The mission of the team behind it is to reduce plastic straw use by giving people a convenient, reusable alternative. In doing so, they hope to make the public more aware of the devastating effects of plastic pollution and use that awareness to pressure restaurants to stop using straws. According to recent estimates, one reusable straw like Viablestraw can save 584 plastic straws from entering the world’s oceans and landfills each year.