The Coolest Tech Projects from Kickstarter

The Coolest Tech Projects from Kickstarter

February 23

There are a few websites I avoid when I need to get work done because they draw me in and don’t let go for a few hours. I’m talking about sites such as Lifehacker and 500px where I can stop by for a quick look and end up losing an hour or two. The Wirecutter is my latest addiction, but at least I can tell myself I’m learning about technology.

When Kickstarter came on the scene I couldn’t go a day without visiting the site to see what crazy new projects were waiting to be funded. I’m sure most of you are familiar with the site, but if not, it’s a crowdfunding platform for creative projects ranging from crafts to technology. The Pebble smartwatch was the product that introduced me to Kickstarter, and remains the second most successful project, having raised over $10 million from nearly 69,000 backers in 2012.

I decided to take a look at what’s going on at Kickstarter this week and write up a few of the coolest projects I could find. A number of projects go viral and soar past their financial goals, like Pebble did. But for this article I’m more interested in finding cool products that haven’t been featured in the media and may still be short of their financial goal.

Hive: Smart home, security and entertainment device

This is a company out of Salt Lake City that’s created a smart home, security, and entertainment device that looks so polished, it could have been created by the Nest design team. Hive combines a number of products into two sharp looking and small devices (Hub, Speaker) that would feel at home on a wall or table in your home. Hive can control your lights, locks, and electronic devices while also acting as a high fidelity speaker system. In many respects, it’s like a Sonos on steroids that you control with a smartphone.

I really enjoy controlling my Nest thermostat from my phone when I’m in the home as well as away. I would love to have that same control over my home’s security while maintaining compatibility with devices I already own.

Hive is a few thousand dollars short of its $100,000 goal, but with 24 days left, there’s little doubt it will be successfully funded.

OpenPi: Wireless computer for inventors, makers and coders

OpenPi met its goal while I was writing this article, but I’m including it anyway because it’s such a cool little device. While OpenPi looks like a mini computer, its intentions are more grandiose: it aims to be a low-cost platform that gives developers the tools they need to create smartphone-controlled appliances or act as an Internet of Things (IoT) hub.

OpenPi runs Linux which means it can also be used as a mini webserver, media player, or Bluetooth beacon. It includes Wi-Fi and a USB port, but no Ethernet connection because that would draw twice the power.

What I love most about OpenPi is that it encourages developers to tinker without breaking the bank. Need a cheap development platform? You can even run VB.NET apps on the OpenPi.

One last note: There are many Raspberry Pi projects on Kickstarter which could be a sign this innovative platform is resonating with developers around the globe.

Phantom One: A desktop computer made for the desk

When I first saw the Phantom One, I thought it was a fancy speaker and didn’t realize it contained a modern computer, but it’s not a low budget computer running moldy technology. It’s running some of the latest hardware including a fast Intel i7 quad-core CPU, 16 GB of RAM, and NVIDIA GTX 970. That’s plenty of power to run the latest games, crunch spreadsheets and render video.

The case itself is made of lightweight bamboo and has small holes along the back of the case to draw and exhaust heat from the CPU and GPU. It’s one of the best looking computers I’ve come across and one I’d want to keep on top of my desk instead of underneath.

This project has collected only $2800 of its $50,000 goal with 13 days to go, so there’s a chance this project won’t be funded.

YikeBike: An electric folding bike for hipsters

When I worked in downtown Seattle, I zipped around the city on a Xootr scooter and loved every minute of it. Except for the couple of times I got going too fast and ran into pedestrians, but no harm, no foul, right?

Maybe that’s why I can’t stop checking out the YikeBike that’s closing in on its $100,000 goal. Not that it needs much of an introduction, but the YikeBike is an electric, folding bike that turns anyone into a hipster. I love how the designers came up with a way for the rear wheel to fold up in to the front wheel.

With a starting price of nearly $4000, it could end up being the next Segway. And I don’t know that the business commuter is going to like how he or she looks on what is basically an expensive tricycle that hits 14.3 mph.  One thing it does have that my Xootr did not is a horn to warn those pesky pedestrians.

These are a few of my favorite Kickstarter projects. What are your favorites?