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.

TOPICS: Hardware

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  • 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.

  • Parallella

    While low-cost computers like the Raspberry Pi are becoming more common, budget massively multi-core boards aimed at supercomputing are relatively rare.

    Adapteva has created the Parallella, a Raspberry Pi for parallel programming, with the 16- and 64-core Epiphany Risc chip on the board providing a cheap parallel programming environment for developers to experiment with.

    The 16-core board is only the first step, the ultimate goal of the project is to create PCIe boards with multiple 1024-core chips and 2048 GFLOPS of double precision performance per chip.

    As engineering challenges force chipmakers like Intel and AMD look to increase the performance of processors by piling in more cores, rather than ramping up clock speeds, getting more developers used to designing programs to run in parallel across multiple cores is becoming increasingly important.

    Each Parallella board pairs a dual-core ARM A9 processor with a 16- or 64-core Epiphany Multicore Accelerator chip along with 1GB of RAM, a MicroSD card, two USB 2.0 ports, 10/100/1000 Ethernet and an HDMI connection. In addition to the hardware, each board will ship with a set of open-source development tools for the Epiphany chip and the Ubuntu operating system.

    The low-power boards should consume around 5W and theoretically deliver 45GHz in equivalent compute performance, if all the chips on the board are maxed out.

    Adpateva was looking for $750,000 in Kickstarter funding but raised $898,921. The 16-core boards are available for $99 through Adapteva's website and are expected to start shipping next month. 64-core boards will be available at a later date.

Topic: Hardware


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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  • 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.
  • 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