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June 19, 2017

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Weed-killing robots, mini scuba tanks, and more

by John_A

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 all 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 any crowdfunded project can fail — even the most well-intentioned. Do your homework before cutting a check for the gadget of your dreams.

Tertill — Roomba-like weed killing robot

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Despite the fact that the Roomba has been eclipsed by newer, more advanced robotic vacuums in recent years, the premise it was built on — automating mundane tasks with specialized robots — has lived on. Today, there are tons of single-purpose chore-bots on the market, designed for everything from cleaning your grill to sanitizing your countertops with UV light. And now, the company that kicked off the trend, Franklin Robotics, is back with a fresh new addition to the family: a weed-fighting robot called Tertill.

Broadly speaking, Tertill is almost exactly like Roomba. It roves around your space in a random pattern, and performs its job until it runs out of power. But that’s where the similarities end. Unlike vacuum bots, which rely on a charger dock to power themselves up, Tertill gets all its power from the sun. Once it runs out of power, it’ll just hang out and collect solar energy until its ready to go on another weed killing spree.

Additionally, Tertill doesn’t use suction to get the job done, instead relying on a miniature weed-whacker to obliterate newly-sprouted weeds.

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Radical Moov — Practical hoverboard

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The hoverboard craze may have gone up in flames both literally and figuratively, but now that the smoke has cleared, a new generation is beginning to rise from the ashes. Startups are revisiting the hoverboard concept, and developing innovative new takes on the trendy, two-wheeled transportation device. The latest addition to the bunch? A gizmo called Radical Moov.

Moov differs from regular hoverboards in a couple of ways. At 9 inches in diameter and 3 inches in thickness, its wheels are bigger than those found on rival products. The result is greater stability, which is helped by a lower center of gravity for the section of the rideable that the user stands on. That’s a good thing because the Moov can travel faster than many hoverboards — around 15 miles per hour — and is also designed for performing a number of sport-style tricks.

The other big change are special sensors embedded in its floor mat, which let users control their ride by subtly shifting their weight. That’s a different approach to normal, but one that its creators hope will provide a more enjoyable riding experience.

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Micro — ultracompact universal travel adapter

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If you ever plan to visit different countries in a single trip, bringing along a universal travel adapter is crucial. Depending on where you land, the outlets are likely to be completely different than what you’re used to — which means you’ll need an adapter to juice up your electronics.

Luckily, there are tons of universal travel adapters on the market right now. You can pick one up for under $20 on Amazon right now — but the thing is, most of them suck. Most of them aren’t equipped with fuses, and virtually all of them are bulky and inconvenient for travel.

Micro is an attempt to change that. Unlike most universal travel adapters, this one is designed to be slim, sleek, and travel friendly. In addition to a super clever form factor, it also features a swappable fuse system. This means that if you plug into an outlet with a load that’s too high for your device, it it’ll blow the adapter’s replaceable fuse instead of frying your expensive electronics.

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Zenbivy — comfortable, non-restrictive sleeping bag

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If you’ve ever gone camping or backpacking and spent the evening in a mummy bag, you know just how awful they can be. Sure, they’re great when it comes to providing warmth and keeping your pack light, but when it comes to comfort, they’re a bit lacking. Most are shaped in such a way that they severely restrict your range of motion and bundle your feet together. But what if it didn’t have to be like that? What if there was a sleeping bag that was just as warm and lightweight, but that also didn’t restrict your movement while you sleep?

Enter the Zenbivy. It’s a fresh new take on the traditional sleeping bag, and has been redesigned from the ground up with comfort in mind. Instead of using the mummy bag design, the Zenbivy system separates the bag into two distinct pieces: a base layer and a down comforter. Much like the layering system worn by hikers on the trail, these two pieces work in conjunction with one another to deliver warmth and comfort, essentially maintaining the same level of performance found in a traditional sleeping bag.  The difference is that Zenbivy offers far more wiggle room, so you’re not stuck in a cocoon all night.

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Scorkl — ultracompact respiration tank

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If you’ve always wanted to try scuba diving but have been scared off by the high cost of gear and the prolonged certification process, this new Kickstarter gizmo just might be your dream come true. The Scorkl, as it’s called, is designed to provide a scuba-like experience with the ease and simplicity of snorkeling.

In a nutshell, Scorkl is a compact and lightweight scuba system that comes with a miniature air tank, an always-on regulator, and a pressure gauge. This system allows users to dive in relatively shallow waters and stay submerged for up to 10 minutes at a time. Scorkl’s designers say that it’s safe for use down to 20 meters below sea level, provided the diver is scuba certified — although they recommend that most users stay above the 10 meter mark just to be safe. And the best part? You can refill it with a bike pump.

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