The popular crowdfunding site Kickstarter has given the world some incredible things, like the Pebble smartwatch and The Oatmeal's card game "Exploding Kittens." At the same time, Kickstarter was also responsible for projects like the Ouya, the ill-fated Android console, and the Peachy Printer, a 3D printer that never came to be, due to massive embezzlement. When it comes to an intriguing mix of surefire ideas, iffy promises and outright snake oil, few sites provide as much entertainment as does Kickstarter.
If a Kickstarter campaign isn't a sure thing, it can at least be a fun thing. Here are some projects that we're most excited about.
Smartphone cameras are pretty good at capturing casual photos of you and your friends, but they can't capture the fine detail of an unusual insect or a gorgeous dewdrop. BLIPS aims to solve this problem for every smartphone on the market by providing two tiny lenses that can help you take photos at a microscopic level. Simply stash the lenses in a credit-card-sized holder, then stick them on top of your phone's camera when the need arises. They work for both still photos and video, provided that you can follow a tiny object closely enough.
Any mobile charger can give your cellphone a boost, but it takes a monster to power laptops, game consoles and even full-size vehicles. The GoldEye Bar is a large power bar, complete with a solar panel mounted on top to draw energy right from the sky. With the ability to output at 12, 16 or 19 volts, the device lets you charge your laptop or camera just by going outside. And, in theory, you could even jump-start a drained car or small boat. The GoldEye Bar is one of the more outlandish Kickstarters we've seen, but nothing in it violates the laws of physics, so we'll give this one a "maybe."
Pebble launched its line of innovative smartwatches on Kickstarter, so it's only fitting that the company should return to the crowdfunding site for a follow-up. The Pebble 2 is a smartwatch with either a black-and-white or color electronic-ink display, complete with a heart monitor and microphone. Run with this smartwatch, swim with it or even stream music with it. There's also the Pebble Core, a tiny, hackable computer that you can use as a fitness tracker, a smart-home controller, a pet tracker or almost anything else you can program. It's even compatible with Amazon's Alexa assistant. Most encouraging, perhaps, is that Pebble has successfully pulled this off before.
One of the oddest devices on Kickstarter's technology page is the Knocki, a smart-home peripheral that can turn almost any flat surface into a controller. The Knocki is a small cylinder that sits on a table or attaches to a wall. From there, you can use a mobile app to program gestures to control the peripheral. Simply tapping and dragging your fingers across, say, a wall or a tabletop can control a thermostat, a phone or the lights in a room. While it's debatable whether this is any easier than actually just using a phone, it's definitely more likely to impress party guests.
The O6 is a perfect example of technology that was pioneered for an underserved, disabled population but that might also have benefits for the everyday consumer. This Bluetooth dial resembles a tiny fan that you can keep pinned to your shirt or on a backpack strap. Originally designed to help blind or visually impaired people access smartphone apps, it allows total control of a mobile device with only a few taps and presses. Since the O6 app can render text as audio files, it's not hard to see how it could save a lot of tedious screen-checking, particularly in conjunction with some wireless headphones.
Want to get into classic literature, but don't know where to start? iClassics undertakes the sometimes thankless task of getting a new generation interested in the greatest books of yesteryear by turning them into mobile-friendly apps. With a focus on horror stories, iClassics brings the works of Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle to life with full texts accompanied by illustrations, animations and music. Each title is available in English, French and Spanish, for fans all around the world.
If you're sensitive to smells and particles in the air around you, the Wynd seems like a reasonable alternative to carrying around a full-size air purifier. The company claims that its filter is fine enough to take pollen, spores, mold, dander and bacteria out of your immediate vicinity, not to mention locational hazards like coal dust, sawdust and auto emissions. A small stand helps users aim the Wynd to ensure that clean air comes toward their noses. What's more, the device can constantly monitor the air quality around you, and either leave it alone or work overtime, depending on what the filter detects.