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June 5, 2018

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: AR globes, laser cutters, autonomous luggage

by John_A

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

June 3rd

Earth — Interactive AR globe

Spherical scale models of our planet have existed for centuries. Ever since we discovered the Earth is a sphere (which it most definitely is) back in the 3rd century B.C., humans have been building globes and using them to make sense of this pale blue dot we call home. But despite the fact that globes have existed for so long, they haven’t received a significant design update for quite a long time. This Kickstarter project aims to change that.

Earth, as it’s called, is essentially a high-detail physical globe with augmented reality superpowers. Fire up the accompanying smartphone app and you can access information about the planet — in real time — as you hold it in your hands.

“Beyond the physical globe of EARTH, the AstroReality App contains a wealth of scientific knowledge selected to show our planet as a dynamic and interconnected system,” the creators explain on Kickstarter. “This knowledge was developed by researchers from around the world and made public for us to share with you. AstroReality’s developers are working with our science advisor, J.R. Skok, PhD, a planetary scientist at the SETI Institute, to put the stories of EARTH into your hands.”

RaceYa — STEM-teaching RC cars

Robots that teach kids STEM skills are a dime a dozen these days. Most are just a slightly different take on the same exact idea, but RaceYa is special. Of all the coding/STEM skillbuilding toys we’ve ever seen, it’s arguably one of the best. Why? Well, in addition to being a fully functional RC car, RaceYa is also designed to teach kids STEM principles in a very hands-on and interactive way — a function that doesn’t require them to gaze unblinkingly into a screen for hours on end.

“Tons of studies have shown kids get excited about STEM when they get to do science, not just look at science,” creator Abigail Edgecliffe-Johnson explains on her Kickstarter campaign page. “RaceYa is all about hands-on learning through play. Our activities were designed with Next-Gen Science Standards in mind and have been tested by incredible teachers at science camps, schools and hack days.”

Zen Float — inflatable float tank

Sensory deprivation float tanks are awesome. If you’ve never used one before, or haven’t heard some new-age hippie talking about them, here’s a quick rundown. Essentially, the idea is that you lie down in reservoir of very salty water inside a small pod that’s sealed shut so that no light or sound can enter. As you float there in complete darkness, suspended in the salty water, you’re essentially weightless — which means that your muscles don’t need to stabilize you, and suddenly your body has all these extra resources it can direct back to your brain. With all that extra energy, and no external stimuli to analyze and process from your eyes and ears, your brain gets a chance to relax.

After about 40 minutes into a float, your brain stops producing its normal Alpha waves, and begins to pump out Theta waves — lower-frequency waves that generally only occur during deep meditation or just before you fall asleep. This state is where your mind’s most deep-seated programs are — the state where people often experience vivid visualizations, great inspiration, and profound creativity.

The only problem? Float tanks are notoriously expensive, and generally take a ton of effort to set up and maintain. Zen Float aims to change that. It’s a fully-capable float tank that also happens to be inflatable, making it a breeze to set up.

“Since this is for the home, we wanted to make sure it looks great in any room.” the creators explain on Kickstarter. “Our new inflatable design is a breeze to set up and looks fantastic right out of the box. We’ve used the same tried and true inflatable technology that can be found in popular stand up paddle boards. When inflated, the tent is completely rigid like solid walls. The barrier of air in the walls also acts as a natural insulator, making the tent extremely efficient.”

Beambox — desktop laser cutter

Laser cutters/engravers are arguably one of the most versatile tools you can have in your workshop. With the right laser diode, they can do everything from etching patterns into leather to cutting super-precise shapes in wood. They can handle a massive range of materials and can be used in a wide variety of different ways. Unfortunately, there aren’t many on the market that are designed for the casual tinkerers and novice DIY types among us. If you want to fiddle with laser cutters, you typically need to know your way around all kinds of complex software and calibration procedures.

Not so with the Beambox. This beast has been designed from the ground up to be ridiculously simple to use. Simply connect your PC, Mac or tablet via Wi-Fi, choose the design you’d like to cut/etch, and hit go. The software makes it nearly foolproof and the machine has presets for just about every material under the sun. Wood, leather, fabric, and even mirrors or anodized aluminum are no problem for Beambox. The integrated software allows for pictures to be engraved directly onto your material, no matter what picture or material you choose.

ForwardX Ovis — auto-follow suitcase

Here’s DT’s Brandon Widder with the scoop: “CES 2018 brought with it a deluge of smart appliances, larger-than-life screens, and a bevy of notable tech that will begin rolling out throughout the course of the year. (Suit)case in point? The recently unveiled ForwardX CX-1, an autonomous piece of luggage that’s designed to follow you around as you make your way from point A to B, and everywhere in between.  Now, four months after its Las Vegas debut, this autonomous suitcase has launched on Indiegogo, with early bird pricing beginning at $399.

Ovis has been branded as the ‘world’s first self-driving carry-on,’ and features an array of advanced tech, including a 170-degree wide-angle lens and built-in facial recognition software, which allow the device to follow you at up to 7 miles per hour throughout the terminal. Other nifty features — namely those tailored toward obstacle avoidance — work in tandem with the suitcase’s tracking algorithms, while a smart wristband works to keep would-be thieves at bay. If the suitcase happens to wander out of range, the bracelet will let you know. When production is complete, the suitcase will allegedly weigh in at just under 10 pounds, and be made of polypropylene and carbon fiber. It’ll also be waterproof and carry an IP56 rating.”

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