10 fascinating tech projects that crowdfunding has made possible

10 fascinating tech projects that crowdfunding has made possible

Summary: A look at some of the most promising and novel tech projects to come out of crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

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TOPICS: Hardware
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  • Open Hand Project

    The Open Hand Project is a project to build a robotic hand that offers much of the functionality of a human hand for less than $1,000 (£630) — up to 100 times cheaper than commercial alternatives.

    The project is building the Dextrus hand, a robotic hands that uses electric motors instead of muscles and steel cables instead of tendons. 3D-printed plastic parts work like bones and a rubber coating acts as the skin. These parts are controlled by electronics that allow the user to handle a variety of objects.

    The user controls the fingers by flexing muscles in the forearm. Electrodes attached to the user's arm capture electomyographical signals transmitted in the muscles and use those to control the device.

    As well as the Dextrus being made for amputees, the hand is also being pitched at researchers looking into control systems for telepresence robots or hobbyists making humanoid robots.

    A full working prototype of the Dextrus hand has been built, with the core electronics running on a breadboard — a board for prototyping electronics — and the software on PC.

    The next step in the project is to design and prototype electronics and build printed circuit boards.

    Project backers need to pledge £460 to receive a Dextrus, although to receive a Dextrus plus power supply, batteries, charger, electrodes, cables and EMG board a pledge of £700 is required.

    The £39,000 target for the project is less than the cost of one hand from commercial manufacturers of robotic prosthetic hands and with five days to go before its funding drive runs out on Indiegogo, the project has raised £40,950.

  • Fuel3D

    With 3D printing on the cusp of becoming mainstream, finding a way to scan real-world objects for printing is increasingly desirable.

    The Fuel3D is a handheld 3D scanning system capable of capturing high resolutions images of items, which, according to its makers, accurately reproduce both colour and fine details like the rivulets in a flower petal.

    To capture a 3D image with the system a small tag is first attached to the person or object that is to be scanned. The Fuel3D can then be used to capture images by pointing and clicking the scanner, in a manner similar to a taking a photo with a camera.

    Once scans are captured they can be viewed from any direction, edited and used as the basis for 3D printing. The image can then be exported into a variety of formats.

    As well as generating models for 3D printers the scanner will help capture 3D models for use by game developers, artists and for use in industrial applications — say the system's makers.

    Commercial 3D scanners can cost more than $15,000, whereas the Fuel3D is priced around $1,000. Backers of the Kickstart could get a scanner for $990, while the scanners can be ordered from Fuel3D for $1,250.

    The system can scan objects to capture high resolution mesh images and maps of the colour of objects. Fuel3D can capture a variety of textures, including: skin, fabrics, organic matter, stone and masonry. According to the product's technical specs the finest resolution captured by Fuel3D is a 250 microns sampling.

    The Kickstarter for the project raised more than $325,000, far more than the project's $75,000 goal. Scanners are now available for order through the Fuel3D website. The first devices will be delivered to Kickstarter backers in May next year.

    The Fuel3D scanner technology was originally developed at Oxford University for use in a 3D medical imaging system.

  • Meta

    The Meta glasses will be a wearable 3D display and computer that can be controlled using gestures or voice.

    The glasses, being developed by startup Meta, will pair a 3D headset with a depth-tracking camera that can place objects in 3D space, allowing it to track hand movements in a manner similar to Microsoft's Kinect sensor.

    Meta is designed to provide an augmented reality or head-up display, meaning users looking through the glasses see virtual objects on the display, giving the effect of overlaying digital objects and information onto the real world.

    Unlike Google's augmented reality headset Glass, Meta will offer a 3D image. Being 3D capable will allow the Meta to be used for playing 3D games, or for overlaying 3D virtual objects in the user's view, which the headset's creators anticipate could have applications in the fields of architecture, engineering, medicine, film and other industries.

    The Meta headset is available to order as part of a developer's kit for $750, which is due to ship in January next year. The headset that ships with the developer's kit has a resolution of 960x540 per TFT LCD screen and needs to be tethered to a Windows computer to function. Sensor and camera-wise it includes a 720p RGB camera and 320x240 infra-red depth imaging, as well as an accelerometer, gyroscope and compass to track movement to nine degrees of freedom. Meta plans for the consumer version of the display, due to be released at a later date, to work as a standalone device.

    The developer's kit also ships with various software: including a chess game, 3D sculpting software and MetaCraft, a Minecraft simulator, and a Unity 3D game engine framework for managing gestures and tracking control.

    According to an interview with Meta's founders the company plans to model itself after Apple, selling its own hardware and operating system, and working with app developers to build out an ecosystem.

    The Kickstarter project raised more than $190,000, almost double its $100,000 goal.

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Topic: Hardware

About

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

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2 comments
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  • The Narrative Clip

    The stupid thing is $280! That's more than a 32GB Nexus 7 tablet!
    I am really into tech and love to buy new stuff. I expect the new tech to be expensive since it takes a lot to get things off ground. But the price point of $280 is ridiculous. At half that, it may make sense to get one or two.
    Cain69
  • Crowd funding open hardware

    The latest campaign I'm finding interesting is to create an open source GPU: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/725991125/open-source-graphics-processor-gpu
    timothyja