It’s time once again to delve into the world of mad and marvellous crowdfunding, unearthing amazing gadgets, tiny robots, cracking coding tools, and — we kid you not — a smartphone-controlled LED dog vest. Don’t say we never give you anything.
1. Artiphon INSTRUMENT 1 (from US$349)
Presumably having come to the realisation that tablets and smartphones are great for creating music on but lousy for actually playing, Artiphon has designed the INSTRUMENT 1. The MIDI-compatible unit has a decidedly retro aesthetic: all white plastic, a chunky volume knob, and an optional hardwood back.
But the elongated shape and ‘digital strings’ combine to make a versatile instrument that can be a tiny guitar, an oddball piano, an impromptu set of drum pads, or even a virtual violin, played with an iPhone bow. And if you’re still thirsting for musical goodies this month, check out the Jambé digital bongo (US$499) and Jamstik+ SmartGuitar (US$229).
2. PLEN2 (from US$82; US$499 for ‘full kit’)
Owning a PLEN2 is, according to the blurb, “like having a twin”. Given that PLEN2 is a tiny robot that ambles about in comical fashion, we think that’s a stretch; but this project nonetheless showcases how mad the world’s become, in that you can now *print your own robot*. PLEN2 somewhat resembles the Honda Asimo, only its problem with stairs would be lacking the stature to be able to clamber up even a single step.
Still, this printable, open-source ‘humanoid’ can communicate with people, perform basic tasks, help you learn, and, judging by the Kickstarter page, be dressed up in a manner that absolutely won’t lead to the PLEN2 deciding it’s had enough and then eradicate humanity while it sleeps.
3. Podo (from US$89)
Point-and-click is so last year. With Podo, it’s all about point-and-*stick*. That’s right, you stick this wireless camera to a surface and control it with your smartphone. You can then revel in hundreds of 8 MP pics and 720p 30fps videos of you controlling a Podo from a distance. Alternatively, stick it to your hat, your car, or a smartphone-controlled LED dog vest, which we totally promise is coming up very soon.
4. CodeBug (from £12)
Another programmable robot thing, but this time it’s a wearable. Aimed at kids and beginners, you create programs online via drag and drop blocks, and upload them via USB to CodeBug. The five-by-five LED grid can then display messages, simple games, and even notifications from the web. CodeBug can also detect switches, measure voltages and turn things on and off, all by connecting alligator-clips to CodeBug’s ‘legs’.
Double up your pledge (to the still very affordable 24 quid) and you’ll get the full ‘experimenters and wearables’ kit, including clips, switches, thread and sewable components.
5. Retro Lindo (from €25)
There’s probably a very good chance this crowdfunder will get smacked really hard with a lawyer stick, but we hope not, because Retro Lindo turns a Raspberry Pi 2 into a really nice and extremely tiny gaming and media hub. For €25, you get access to the software, which resembles XBMC smashed into a bunch of emulators; that option’s there purely for people who fancy building their own system.
But splash out €120 and above, and you’ll get a Retro Lindo in a tiny case that looks like a certain popular 1980s home console, along with a couple of controllers that resemble those that attached to a certain *other* popular home console that was out a bit later. No, Lawyer Mario! Stay away!
6. Jackie (from US$199)
OK, we’re going quite heavy on robots this month, but this one can *fly*! It would be slightly terrifying if the robot wasn’t called Jackie, and look like it could be swatted away by a nonchalant kitten. But what Jackie lacks in bulk and built-in lasers, it makes up for in versatility. Controlled across the web via a smartphone, it can be used to hover about your home, confirming you’ve not left the gas on, and that no-one’s broken in to pilfer your stash of far too many gadgets you’ve crowdfunded already this year.
With a mic and speaker, the flying smartcam can also interact with pets and babies, although the project description’s suggestion to “talk to your dog and hear what he/she has to say” may well be met with disaster should said dog actually say: “And now I kill you, strange flying thing. For this, my master will clearly reward me!”
7. WonderCube (US$49)
This one isn’t exactly a gadget at the cutting-edge of innovation, because we’ve seen loads of all-in-one smartphone ‘helpers’. But this one is *so tiny* and has the amusing slogan “Found peace of mind in one cubic inch”. The little doohickey attaches to a keyring and includes a built-in cable for charge/sync, a Flash memory slot, an emergency battery charger connector, and the always superfluous — but always included anyway — LED torch.
For an added bonus, it can be used as a stand, even if the WonderCube looks like it might become WonderFlat when faced with one of today’s gargantuan smartphones.
BONUS: Disco Dog (from US$300)
If there’s one thing we’ve always thought when walking a dog, it’s “Man, I wish it was wearing some kind of LED vest that when activated would work perfectly alongside a cheesy 1970s disco soundtrack”. And here we are, living in the future! Using Disco Dog, you can run vibrant patterns across your dog’s vest and make your canine pal look at least 500 per cent more futuristic than irritating hound-like toaster K-9.
And if your dog gets out of range, the vest automatically displays a ‘Lost Dog’ message (or if your dog’s had enough and learned to program the thing itself, ‘Get me out of this hideous contraption’).