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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  • 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.

  • Pixy

    Teaching computers to recognise objects is getting even easier, thanks to devices like the Arduino Pixy.

    The Pixy is a fast vision sensor that can be taught to find objects in the real world and report its findings via simple interfaces. The device is a small camera, about half the size of a business card, attached to an Arduino board that handles the image recognition.

    Teaching Pixy to identify objects requires users to place an item in front of the Pixy and press the button on top of the device. Pixy then generates a statistical model of the colours of the object that it stores in flash and later uses to identify the item.

    Software in the Pixy detects objects using a hue-based colour filtering algorithm. Pixy calculates the hue and saturation of each RGB pixel from the image sensor and uses these as the primary filtering parameters for detecting objects. The hue of an object remains largely unchanged with changes in lighting and exposure, making it an effective way to detect objects.

    The makers of Pixy claim it can identify hundreds of objects in a scene at a time, using its connected components algorithm, and then report back on each object's size and location through one of its interfaces.

    The device consists of an Omnivision OV9715 0.25–inch image sensor with 1280x800 resolution and an NXP LPX4330 microcontroller with a dual-core ARM processor, which can process images at 50 FPS. The Pixy has interfaces for UART serial, SPI, 12C, digital and analogue I/O.

    An application called PixyMon allows users to see what Pixy sees, outputting either raw or processed video, and allowing users to configure Pixy, set the output port and manage color signatures.

    The Pixy is a joint development between Carnegie Mellon University and Texas-based Charmed Labs.

    The Kickstarter campaign for Pixy raised more than ten times its target of £25,000 and the first 3,500 Pixy cameras are expected to ship on 14 January next year. The camera is still available to order for $75.00, including shipping.

  • Twine

    While we wait for washing machines that Tweet at us when the laundry's done or homes that text you to let you know the basement's flooded there's Twine.

    Twine is pocket-sized box of sensors with a wireless internet connection built in, that can be configured to keep you updated about what's happening in the world.

    Twine is configurable using a simple web app, which allows you to set rules about when and in what situation Twine should message you, for example 'WHEN'+'moisture sensor is wet' then 'SEND'+text message: 'The basement's flooded'. Messages can be sent via Twitter, email, text message, or as straight HTTP GET or POST requests to feed data into a web app. Once Twine has been configured it functions as a standalone device.

    The box has sensors to detect its temperature, orientation and vibration, and can be expanded with a moisture sensor, external thermometer, a magnetic switch (which could be used for detecting if a door is ajar), and an Arduino Shield or breakout board to work with more complex electronics projects.

    Twine is small, just 2.7 inches square in size, and can keep running for months on two AAA batteries.

    On Kickstarter the project raised more than $555,000, far more than the $35,000 originally asked for. Twine is available to buy now for $124 through the project website.

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