Luna personal robot juggles affordability, an open platform, your breakfast

Countless pieces of literature, television shows, and films have all hinted of a future where human beings live side by side with robots. For the most part, robotics of this kind are currently either too simple, or far too advanced and exuberantly priced as a result. As a result, there isn’t much of a middle ground, unless the something like Luna personal robot is considered.

Honda’s AISMO is a great example of a human-sized personal robot that has been attempted, but that was ultimately a dud in its potential for real-world applications. Luna differs in that its sole purpose is to exist as a personal, completely open, and affordable robotics platform for the home. Being that Luna is based on Linux, it presents developers with a familiar platform for creating applications for Luna’s app store. In addition to expanding Luna’s capabilities with apps, easily upgradeable internals along with its seven USB ports make it so that Luna can easily grow.

The Luna lasts about eight hours, making it useful throughout the day for a variety of purposes. With its movable arms and HD camera, Luna can watch over the elderly, provide light security, and even provide nursing assistance in a hospital setting. All of these functions are only limited by the community’s imagination in the kinds of apps it creates. Backers can enjoy a $300 discount on Luna’s $1,499 retail price with a reservation of $199, while a developer model can be reserved for $999. Luna is expected to ship in December 2015, should the campaign’s reach its $500,000 goal.

Applying the same apps, services, and accessories model for other smart devices to a robotics platform is a smart way to go in this category. Though its price will have to go down to get it as mainstream as it would like to be. The device is sleek and charming, but will face the same challenges most technology like this faces in its integration with the rest of people’s lives.


Mini-E camping stove folds up, out into different shapes

Creating a campfire and cooking hotdogs or a meal can be a great deal of fun, especially when one has the right equipment. A good camping stove makes mealtime easy and inspires enjoyable conversation. TATO Gear Mini-E is a type of camping stove that is certainly easy to bring on a camping trip.

The titanium firebox weighs about 2.6 ounces and folds up to fit in a backpack compartment or pocket. It can be formed into several shapes, depending on one’s needs at the time of usage, including expanding large enough to support a full size skillet or stew pot to cook a meal.  The stove can be fueled with wood or even alcohol.

TATO seems like a very convenient item to have on hand for cooking meals when camping, though it doesn’t seem suitable if more than two people were going to need to be fed. Camping and hiking loving backers might also want to check out CampCaddy and GrillOven.  This campaign seeks to raise a modest $1,000 on Kickstarter. For $40, backers get one stove with an expected delivery of April 2015.


The Right Lock door block protects against unwanted visitors

Not knowing who’s knocking on the door when one isn’t expecting any visitors can leave a person hesitant to answer. And if no intercom system is available, trying to hear what the person on the other side is saying is often a challenge.

The Right Lock allows the user to open the door about two inches or so, and the solid metal-looking design is touted as preventing an easy forced entry. It appears that installation is fairly easy with a drill and screwdriver bit.

The idea seems to have some good potential, but it’s doubtful that this item alone would really prevent a forced entry if an intruder where determined to gain entry. In addition, many have chain locks which really serve the same purpose. Interested backers might also like to check out McChi lock and Burglar Blocker. This campaign seeks to raise $15,000 on Kickstarter. Backers get one lock for $30 with an expected delivery of May 2015.


Save face with the ShaveFace disposable razor raw denim strop

The modern man has to contend with many difficulties during the day, but getting a clean, crisp shave shouldn’t be one of them. Disposable razor companies do their best to make sure that isn’t the case, though, with blade that quickly becoming dull and out of alignment, forcing the purchase of another, overpriced set.

The ShaveFace raw denim and leather strop is designed as if for a professional barbershop, but is to be used inside of the bathroom with disposable razors instead. Using the strop lengthens the life of any razor and, as a result cuts down on razor waste, saving most users at least $100 a year on razors alone. On the go, ShaveFace rolls up into a compact, portable size to easily stow away somewhere.

The product tackles the problem of razor usage in a more traditional way when compared to something like the RazorPOD, and looks more attractive doing it. For $29, backers can expect a ShaveFace strop in their homes in June 2015. The campaign is looking for $24,000 in funding.

Apparel Health and Wellness

Cold Shoulder vest burns calories with cold exposure, gives fat the heave-ho

As those winter pounds have stuck themselves to many waistlines, everyone wishes they could lose some weight. Ideally, that weight could be lost by sitting around and watching TV.

The Cold Shoulder promises to do just that. This vest uses NASA cold exposure techniques in order to burn calories. While it looks like any normal vest, it lives in the freezer, not the closet. To use, put it on when in a room where the temperature is comfortable. It’s only meant to be used in times of rest, not while exercising. However, if it’s hot or if one is exercising, the vest won’t burn calories, but will serve to cool the wearer down.

The basic premise behind cold exposure is that the body produces heat in order to stay warm and the only way to produce heat is by burning calories. In the Kickstarter campaign, the creators compare the effects of their vest to swimmers. Swimmers burn more calories than other athletes because they are in the water and, therefore, have lower body temperatures while they work out. Their bodies burn extra calories to keep them warm and comfortable.

Cold Shoulder is an interesting concept and one that does seem to be backed by actual science. Its claim that it burns one pound of fat per week seems a little far-fetched, but, who knows, it may actually work. The vest isn’t the most attractive thing around, especially for women. However, the campaign acknowledges that and aims to produce vests that flatter the female figure as a stretch goal. One will cost backers a donation of $100 for an estimated delivery month of April 2015. Cold Shoulder is looking to raise $13,500 on Kickstarter.

Cell Phone Accessories Connected Objects

Bluewire Bluetooth headset recorder puts the “call” in “recall”

Recording conversations on a smartphone, tablet, or a computer can be an awkward process filled with all kinds of programs that need to be installed and run in a very specific way. While one method may indeed work well enough for one platform, it won’t always work for another. In this space, the need for a one-size-fits-all solution is apparent.

The Bluewire smartphone and VOIP recorder are looking to streamline the process of recording conversations with their Bluetooth-enabled headset from up to 33 feet away. With this device, a user can pair any Bluetooth device capable of making a call and have both sides of a conversation recorded and stored onto its 16GB internal memory. If a user has their own Bluetooth headset they’d rather use, Bluewire can be used as an intermediary instead.

A companion smartphone app unlocks even more functionality. For example, a quick double-tap on the headset or tap of the headset onto an NFC-enabled phone will instantly sync the conversation to the device and email the file. When synced, the app allows users to manage their recorded calls, enables a tracking feature for both keys and device, and activates the BlueGuard burglar alarm. When Bluewire isn’t being used, it supports wireless Qi charging. Early birds can score a Bluewire headset for $149, a significant portion off of its $269 retail price. The $40,000 Indiegogo campaign is looking to ship the product in July 2015.

Bluewire is a promising product that offers tons of functionality in an attractive package for professionals, journalists, and business types looking to make sure they never miss a single detail. It provides a great service for those who may have to keep detailed accounts of calls such as salespeople, interviewers and journalists. While apps exist that can record conversations on smartphones, they aren’t universal solutions like Bluewire, a trait that will ensure Bluewire’s success on the market.

Maker/Development Smart Home

Personal Robot combines home automation with facial recognition, other technologies

editors-choiceHaving a device in the house that can function as a personal assistant, while also serving as a home automation system would come in handy. Especially when it combines far-field voice recognition with emotion, facial and object recognition. Introducing the Personal Robot, one such device, from the New York-based company Robotbase.

Personal Robot features a 3D depth camera and noise canceling microphone array technology, and it can communicate with the user’s connected devices via wireless Z-Wave Plus, Zigbee, BLE and Wi-Fi. The far-field voice recognition enables the device to hear the user’s commands all the way from the other side of the room. The user can ask Personal Robot for information including the local weather, news, sports scores and recipes, as the video on its Kickstarter campaign shows. The device can also be used to play music, schedule meetings, set alarms, and control the temperature in a home to save energy and money. Backers who pledge $995 will get one when it ships in December. Its maker set a goal of raising $50,000 on Kickstarter.

Other devices on the market have attempted some of the same functionality. But Personal Robot’s advanced software, which incorporates deep learning algorithms, give it an advantage over some competing products. Some consumers might find the computer-animated female character that is featured on the device’s screen a bit creepy, although the device’s maker says the user can change how she looks.

Health and Wellness

P-flector makes training wee ones a dryer experience

One of the biggest parental challenges in life is helping little ones to become potty trained. The messy…um…adventure includes plenty of wet bathroom floors and extra laundry due to a highly annoying gap that often lurks between the toilet seat and bowl. P-flector was created by a dad who was inspired by his toddler son to find a solution to this messy reality.

The device attaches to the underside of the toilet seat and acts as a shield that keeps urine from escaping through the gap between seat and toilet bowl. This product is made of a flexible material that can conform to most commercial toilet seats.

Seems like this item has some potential, though it’s not entirely clear exactly how it attaches and stays in place without eventually falling into the bowl. This campaign seeks to raise $60,000 on Kickstarter. Backers get one P-flector for $10 with an expected delivery of June 2015.


Sugr Cube wireless speaker plays music, offers sweet touch functionality

There are many Wi-Fi speakers on the market, but other than doing away with wires, they tend to work very much like old-fashioned wired speakers.

The China-based creators of the Sugr Cube Wi-Fi speaker have designed their product to directly stream online music, while also offering intuitive touch control functionality. The user just has to tap the speaker to play or pause a song, tilt it left or right for the next or prior song, double tap it to share the current song with those who have paired their own Sugr Cubes, and touch it and leave the hand there to share the current song with Facebook friends

The companion iOS app enables easy Wi-Fi setup, multi-room control, sleeping mode and alarm, and the ability to keep updating the speaker with new features. Android and other unspecified devices will be supported soon. Sugr Cube, which comes in wooden housing, currently supports iTunes music, Pandora and BBC radio. Other services may be added later. Backers who pledge $119 will get the speaker when it ships in June as part of an early bird Kickstarter discount. Its maker is looking to raise $50,000.

The speaker has a lot of promise. Although there are other Wi-Fi speakers that offer some degree of touch control, like the Aether Cone, Sugr Cube uses the feature more extensively. But it faces the same problem as any other speaker sold online by a new company: There is no way to gauge how good it sounds without hearing it in person.

Apparel Health and Wellness

Revive Tank shirt holds hot or cold pack where you need it most

Back pain can be a debilitating problem that really hinders one’s quality of life. Many people with back pain choose to see a chiropractor. But in between visits, it’s sometimes necessary to take steps to manage pain and swelling.

Revive Tank is a product that allows the user to use heat or ice therapy and continue moving around and going about their day. The tank shirt has slot for hot or ice pads making it easy to move about while getting relief. It works even if one is experiencing sciatica, which is pain that radiates from the back and down one or both legs, and chronic back pain.

Revive Tank is an interesting idea, albeit slightly awkward. Still, it holds promise for those with chronic pain who simply can’t lie around all day feeling badly. This campaign seeks to raise $30,000 on Kickstarter. Backers get one tank for $100 with an expected delivery of May 2015.