Awesome tech you can’t buy yet, for the week of December 28, 2014

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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 there’s 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.

Zano — Autonomous mini drone

Mini drones certainly aren’t a new thing, but Zano can do something most others cant. By virtually tethering to a users’s smartphone, the drone can automatically follow a user and take pictures or shoot high definition video. Specifically, the user can set a hold position and the Zano will automatically maintain that distance from the user’s smartphone, as well as avoid obstacles while in follow mode. The creators of the device, Torquing Group, have also included a manual control mode in the mobile app interface. Simply tilting the phone in a specific direction will cause the Zano to travel in the same direction. Inside the app, a scroll bar will control the altitude of the Zano, which will also display on the screen. There’s even a 360 degree rotate function that will allow a user to line up a specific shot for a photo or a short video.

Polyes Q1 — Light-based 3D printing pen

If you think you’ve seen this before, think again. True, it’s definitely not the first 3D printing pen that’s ever been invented, but the way that it works is completely different than anything you’ve seen before. Other 3D printing pens, like the 3Doodler or Lix Pen, work by heating and extruding ABS or PLA filament, which then cools and quickly becomes rigid. Polyes takes a different approach. Instead of thermoplastic, the pen extrudes a special light-reactive polymer that hardens when it’s struck with UV light. This essentially means that the pen can function without the help of a heating element — a part that reduces both the safety and efficiency of other devices. Because it uses light to cure the polymer instead of heat, the Q1 consumes drastically less power, so you can use it for longer periods of time between charges. It’s also got a broader range of colors for you to create stuff with.

Stethee — Smart wireless stethoscope

Listening to your heart and lung sounds is a fairly easy process — all you really need is a regular old stethescope. Press that sucker against your chest, put in the earbuds, and voila! You can hear everything going on inside your chest. The hard part, however, is making sense of all those noises. That’s why you see a physician and let him/her do the listening — up until now, there hasn’t been a way to easily monitor and track this information on your own. That’s where Stethee comes in. It’s essentially a wireless, network-connected smart stethescope that allows us non-doctors to easily capture and understand the sounds inside of our chests. Finely-tuned listening algorithms detect things that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to, and the accompanying Stethee smartphone app displays all the data in a simple, easy-to-understand format.

101 Keyboard — Customizable touchscreen keyboard

The 101 keyboard is fairly straightforward. It’s a giant, keyboard-sized touchscreen that can be reprogramed and customized for virtually any layout you could ever want. Want to switch from QWERTY to the Dvorak layout? What about getting rid of a few keys you don’t use and replacing them with ones you do? (a dedicated hashtag button, anyone?) 101 Keyboard would make switching keyboard layouts a snap. It’d be crazy useful — graphic designers, film editors, and creative people of all types could ditch the num pad in favor of special sliders and knobs, and essentially create a custom dashboard specifically suited to their needs. In theory, it’s great — but it remains to be seen how good it is in practice. The Kickstarter project makes no mention of haptic feedback, which is essential if you want to type without looking at your fingers. It’s still in the very early stages of development though, so new features could still be added.

MOCAheart — Heart monitoring device

Consumer EKG devices have been around for a few years now, helping to detect cardiac arrhythmias in everyday situations, but now there’s a new device on the rise that aims to provide an altogether different assessment of your heart and peripheral vascular health. The MOCAheart device measures a person’s heart rate, blood oxygenation, and a special proprietary MOCA Index that’s derived from the velocity of blood moving through the body. Pulse transit time, or the time it takes for a waveform to travel from one part of the body to another, is indicative of a person’s blood pressure. Yet, it has never been used to accurately deduce the blood pressure, but the MOCAheart device doesn’t try to do that. Instead, the device uses the pulse transit time to indicate a reading on the MOCA Intex that roughly correlates with whether a person’s blood pressure is normal or not. Brilliant!

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