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 Pebble clones and janky iPhone cases to round up the most unusual, ambitious, and exciting projects out there this week. Keep in mind that any crowdfunded project — even the best intentioned — can fail, so do your homework before cutting a check for the gadget of your dreams.
Rescue Me Balloon — Airborne rescue beacon
Flares are all well and good, but a rescue device that only increases your visibility for a few minutes isn’t ideal. To remedy some of the problems faced by traditional flares, the RescueMe Balloon takes a different approach. Rather than relying on combustible chemicals that burn out after a while, the RescueMe system deploys a large helium balloon into the air. The bright orange balloon can stay aloft for up to seven days, and is outfitted with flashing LED lights for extra visibility at night. The amazing part is that this whole system fits inside a pocket-sized capsule, so it takes up just as much (if not less) room as normal flare gun would. Inside the capsule you’ll find a canister of pressurized helium, a compressed SOS balloon, a small LED/battery assembly, and a length of lightweight cordage you can use to anchor the balloon to yourself.
Plan V — Emergency phone charger
We’ve all experienced it at least once: You’re on the go, your phone is dead, and you need to urgently call your friend or navigate to a meeting — or even worse, get out of a dangerous situation. Plan V is a failsafe device you don’t need to charge and is so small you can take it everywhere (on your keyring). It works much like a car jumper cable. You simply connect a 9-volt battery to Plan V and then hook it up to your phone. And since 9 volts are the square batteries you find in smoke alarms, they’re about as widely available as chocolate bars. The project has already blasted past its funding goal, gathering up over $50,000 (and counting) from more than 1,800 backers. Back the project now during the early stages and you can get one of these gizmos on your keyring for just $15. If everything goes as planned, the creators expect to ship the first units to backers as early as February 2015.
Brewie — Automated homebrew machine
Sometimes your latest batch of homebrew turns out great, and other times it’s absolutely disgusting. When you screw it up, you just pour your concoction down the drain and head back to the drawing board. But when you nail the recipe, it’s a whole different game. Instead of just starting over, the new challenge is recreating the chaos that resulted in your award-winning brew — a feat easier said than done. Hungarian startup Brewie aims to change all that. The company’s eponymous contraption, which just recently surfaced on Indiegogo, is designed to make homebrewing easier and more consistent than ever by automating the entire process. Users are given full control over 23 different brewing parameters — everything from when ingredients are added to what temperature they’re kept at. As you brew, all of your settings are recorded, so if you ever want to make that exact same brew again, Brewie knows the recipe.
Chips — Adaptive Bluetooth headphones
An icy whirlwind threatens to throw you off the lift as the chair swings back and forth. The temperature has just dropped below zero. You’re thanking your sweet stars for remembering to bring your industrial mittens when … your mom calls. Do you answer and risk frostbite, or ignore the woman that put you on this Earth? With Chips you won’t have to choose. Chips are a Wireless Bluetooth Helmet Audio system that fits inside any helmet with an audio liner. Each headphone sports a large button easily pressed from outside the helmet. These buttons can answer a call from your Bluetooth device; pause, play, raise, or lower the volume; and skip tracks of your music. Able to operate in -4 degrees, these wireless monsters go up to 120 decibels and feature A2DP transmission for high-quality stereo sound. A USB charger, back-up cable, and carrying pouch are included as well. In addition to freezing temperatures, Chips can handle sweat and water without flinching. Warm hands, warm head, music control, and talking to your mama.
Cobi — All-in-one bicycle dashboard
There’s no shortage of bike tech in the world right now. Take a look at cyclist’s handlebars these days and your eyes will be met with a slew of different gizmos — smartphone mounts, distance trackers, headlights, turn signals, navigation systems, and just about everything in between. That’s all well and good, but with a different control interface for each device, managing all your bike tech can be a pain. Cobi aims to fix that. How? By mashing all those gizmos together and integrating them into a single device. Cobi is an all-in-one dashboard for your bike that uses your smartphone as a brain, so all the information you’d ever want — navigation info, performance data, music, phone calls, and more — are all right at your fingertips. It also functions as a headlight, brake light, and turn signal system, making you more visible to cars while you ride.