Neil Barron, an engineering professor at Queen Mary University of London, boasts the strength of Boaflexicore, a material he and his team invented for their LiteLOK bike lock. Cable cutters and hacksaws cannot penetrate the stuff, and yet a bike lock made of it is flexible and weighs less than 2.2 pounds, compared to D and U-locks, which can be more than four pounds. The creators recently raised $352,201 on Kickstarter.
Here are five other quirky ideas that were recently funded:
Potato clocks are out, mud batteries are in. Two engineers from Palo Alto have created a clever new kit for kids to learn about science and energy by doing something they already love: playing in the dirt. With their product, MudWatt, kids can build their own batteries, powered by everyday bacterial colonies present in soil.
Each MudWatt kit contains an anode, cathode, gloves, a container and a hacker pack. Kids can grab dirt from the backyard and put it into the container, add some type of food for the microbes' sustenance (ketchup works!) and follow instructions to connect the wires that make up the battery and hook those wires to an LED light. The bacteria generate energy as they consume nutrients, which then powers the light and other devices.
A user can keep tabs on the amount of bacteria present and the energy generated by the battery—a value that grows with each day when the microbes multiply—with a smartphone app. After a week, the MudWatt is able to power a digital thermometer or clock.
Building on the Little Free Library movement, engineer Matt Hirsch is starting the first ever Little Free Museum in his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. He hopes the rotating exhibitions in the itty museum, slightly larger than a mailbox, will spur curiosity and answer everyday questions. What makes ice so slippery? How do magnets work? And why do leaves of aspen trees turn yellow while maples' turn red? Hirsch's goal is to start conversations with those who walk by the 1900 block of East Mifflin Street and, ultimately, spread the concept to other parts of the country.
From the promo video, Aivvy Q looks pretty wild. The WiFi-enabled headphones operate completely independently, no smartphone or streaming service necessary. Once a user puts them on, the headphones start playing music that is pulled from the Aivvy cloud's library of millions of songs. Listeners can spin a dial on the side of the headphones to select a themed music channel, tap it to show they like a song and swipe to skip one; the more they use them, the more Aivvy Q learns their taste and can customize upcoming selections. If a wearer wants more control, the headphones come with a mobile app. The app allows users to create playlists they'd prefer to hear.
To make freshwater potable, backpackers usually boil it, treat it with iodine tablets or run it through a filter with a hand pump. But with a new filtration system, it's now possible to drink water directly from a stream. Alameda, California company, Liquidity, has crafted the Naked Filter, a pharmaceutical-grade water filter made up of nanofiber membranes that traps 99.99 percent of contaminants, including bacteria and microbial cysts, without any wait. Placed inside a water bottle, the filter works immediately, and it's inexpensive, making it a tool that could effectively provide clean drinking water to millions of people in the developing world where, as the makers say, "drinking a glass of water is a daily roll of the dice."
There is now a simple solution for dealing with a limited number of USB ports. San Francisco company, Vojotech, has developed a set of magnetic USB drives, capable of forming an interconnected chain of ports that could literally go on for, well, forever. Much like strands of lights, where each subsequent strand can plug into the one before, one side of each InfiniteUSB looks like a standard USB drive while the back has an opening that allows the next one to connect.