The perfect rep’lace’ment!

Alas, the bunny-rabbit shoelace story is no more! Remember the story we’d say to remind ourselves how to tie those laces in the bunny rabbit style? Well, we won’t need to remember that story because we won’t need to tie shoelaces again. Ever. And that’s because we now have Hickies. (I said that right)

Probably not the best name for any product ever, these little things are shoelace replacements. Think of them as zip-ties but for your shoes. They’re stretchable, universal, and essentially convert your shoe-lace sneakers or boots into slip-ons. They also present to us another rather utopic scenario. A world where shoelaces never come undone and/or trip you up!

The Hickes 2.0 come in adult and child sizes but irrespective of how big or small your feet are, they fit you. With different techniques to tie them so that they don’t seem loose or tight, the Hickies (someone stop me please) strap to your shoes, never to be ever removed again. Currently in their second iteration (the original Hickies were launched as early as 2012 and have been changing our lives ever since), these shoelace-killers are said to help you work your foot muscles better, while giving you the added convenience of never having to bend down to tie your laces again ever in your life. To sweeten the deal, they come in a wide varieties of styles and colors, and even in multicolored sets, to make those shoes pop and grab attention even more!

Designers: Gaston Frydlewski & Mariquel Waingarten.

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Find me a sleeker speaker

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Titled the LG Beats Tag (obviously it’s a concept, given the clash of brands), these may just be some of the thinnest portable speakers we’ve seen.

Wrapped in loosely woven fabric (a trend everyone seems to be following from JBL to UE to Vifa) (and I love it), these speakers pack a 3w driver and have a flexible form that can be made to rest flat against any surface or even be bent to form a triangular shape that can stand. Better still, you can even fold it all the way and make it clip to anything from your clothes to your curtains!

Designers: Hyungju Do & Jihye Lee.

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A room with a view!

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All of us love homes with views. You crack open a window to be kissed by the sun, and a bit of a summer breeze. Ah, perfect! Well, the Wind Pecker was designed to give you that exact feeling. Set amidst a windmill farm, the Wind Pecker are a series of conceptual residential spaces that are literally mounted on windmills, turning functional energy-harvesting machinery to residences. Opt for a plot on a farmland/pasture, or something a little more adventurous… off shore!

The Wind Pecker’s individual house units rotate gently with the breeze, and even draw energy from the windmill. How rather convenient! For obvious reasons, the Wind Pecker residential units don’t have balconies or even opening windows, but I’m a simple ventilation system could give you some fresh natural breeze!

Designer: Goetz Schrader

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Making your smartphone smarter

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I still live with a 16gb phone. It isn’t impossible, but it’s difficult. The world isn’t moving towards adapting to low storage, it’s increasing it. So what do you do when you run low on storage? Delete photos and apps? NO! Back everything to the cloud? You could, but you’d need constant access to it to retrieve data. What else can you do? Transfer it to your laptop via cable? Sure, but who’s got the time for that. You could maybe use an OTG pen-drive… but not many people have those.

With Type-C USB ports becoming increasingly popular, there’s one more solution. The Hyperdrive Type-C connection kit. It easily fits in your pocket, and expands your phone’s possibilities. Plug it in, and you’ve got a regular USB port, and two card-readers for SD and MicroSD cards. You can now literally plug any USB drive into your phone and either transfer data to it, or retrieve data from it. Or you could use the SD card reader to pull photos off your DSLR. What’s better is that the Hyperdrive’s Type-C works with laptops too. With most new laptops having a Type-C port for fast transfers and faster charging, the Hyperdrive plugs into your laptop too, not just expanding the number of ports on it, but even allowing you to easily transfer data between your laptop and phone. Without a cable!

Designer: Sanho

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Warrior robots bring your video-games to life!

We’re a month away from August, which means just a handful of days before the big USA vs Japan mega-robot fight… which is an absolutely legit thing. It also mean we’re a month away from the Mayweather McGregor boxing showdown!

Anyway, with the giant robot duel just ahead of us, what better way to up the hype than with miniature robot warriors! The Ganker by GJS are honest-to-goodness fighting robots, built to tough it out and battle each other.

The robots aren’t just electronic sparring equipment. They’re serious warrior tech. They fight, swing swords, deflect shots with shields, and even move around pretty adeptly with their mecanum wheels that allow them to walk, strafe, and rotate. However, the most impressive thing about these rogue robots is the eco-system around them. They don’t come with remote controls. They connect to your phones. Using Wi-Fi, the Gankers pair with your phones, allowing you to control their movements… and get this. The robots come with contact sensors that know when they’ve been attacked by weapons. So every time they take a hit, their “health” reading on your smartphone screen takes a drop. The minute you’re out of health, you lose and the other robot wins.

No robot has been designed with something as elaborate as Ganker’s gameplay. The phone works not as a remote, but as an experience, letting you actually battle opponents and even win or lose… allowing you to literally relive all your arcade-game fantasies in real life!

Designer: GJS

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The world’s first phone-based AR headset!

Remember when the Oculus Rift was announced?? We went crazy at the prospect, however the biggest breakthrough for us, the consumer, came when Google announced the Cardboard, a makeshift device that used your phone (the very gadget in your pocket right now!) as a medium to view VR content. The cardboard spawned millions of copies, in paper, plastic, neoprene, etc… bringing VR to the consumer.

The Mira Prism is the Cardboard of Augmented Reality. Bringing AR to consumers, not through the phone’s camera but rather in the form of a headset, the Mira Prism uses your phone’s screen to project content on a visor sitting in front of your eyes. While a rather rudimentary solution, the better your phone’s screen (brightness, contrast), the better the hologram.

The Prism works purely on an ingenious idea, and reflection. The visor isn’t flat, but rather has two curves, allowing the content to be projected without distortion. The app which runs on your phone uses it accelerometer, along with the front-facing camera for image-recognition and gauging distances (it works using tracking graphic, instead of mapping your environment). It then creates a projection with a black background on the screen which gets picked up by the visor. You see only the object, and not the black part of the screen. Objects move in real-time based on their location and adapt to your viewing angle, as would be expected of an AR headset.

The Mira is up for pre-order at just $99, that’s 30 times lower than the Microsoft Hololens, and it even comes with a remote for controlling projections, scaling them up/down, or rotating them. We’re basically literally one app-update away from playing Clash of the Clans on our coffee tables!

Designer: Mira Labs

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Circular? More like Cir’cool’ar!

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I don’t watch much anime, but I’m sure there’s an Airbender/DragonballZ reference you could throw in here! The O-Fan (named aptly) powers itself via MicroUSB and instead of looking like a fan on the end of a USB stick, looks more traditional, with a dash of fresh and quirky.

The entire fan fits right into a spherical housing that sits independently, or can be placed on a cylindrical stand to give it the appearance of a standing fan. The sphere resting in the cylinder can be rotated and faced in any which direction, given that it’s essentially a ball-socket sort of arrangement.

Clean, and very geometric, the O-Fan gives out a strong Muji-inspired vibe. It comes in flat colors with no branding and just one simple knob hidden away at the back, making you appreciate every aspect of the product’s otherwise minimal design!

Designer: Cloudandco Design Studio

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The Unbeatable $99 3D Printer!

The 3Doodler pen is a rather fun toy. I say toy because while it’s an extruder, it isn’t capable of industrial-grade printing. However, it’s cheap, fun-to-use, and retails at $99. Kodama’s Obsidian 3D printer is a rather capable printer. It prints at a minimum resolution of 50 microns, and works with a wide range of materials. It also costs the same amount as the 3Doodler pen.

Kodama has constantly wowed us with how far they can push the boundaries of 3D printing. Their first machine, the Trinus, was designed to be a DIY printer that literally was made of 11 components that snapped together easier than an IKEA bookshelf. However, their second machine, the Obsidian, is the one worth talking about. Designed to be used out of the box, this plug-n-play printer works like a dream. It can print in a wide range of materials, comes with a ‘resume’ function for power-cuts, and even with its own “dashcam” that streams progress to your phone or tablet while allowing you to check and modify prints from miles away.

The Obsidian printer is conveniently sized (perfect for the creative), and comes in three tiers. The basic model is capable of incredibly detailed prints and costs just twice as much as the filament you use. The Plus and Deluxe tier introduce innovative new features to the model while keeping the price still ten times cheaper than post 3D printers. Obsidian’s Deluxe comes with the resume function, in case of power failure, and even has a heated bed module, giving you the freedom to work with materials like ABS and Nylon. It also comes with a mounted camera that live-streams your print to you if you’re away and can even make a time-lapse video of your print taking place. The control panel is a Smart LCD touch-screen (with a quad-core ARM running Android) paired with a refreshing UI that allows you to work the printer like a charm, and it even extends functionality to your smartphone or tablet with a native app, allowing you to pause/resume prints on-the-go!

3D printing and crowdfunding are more interconnected than you’d think. They’ve both helped each other grow as big as they have and honestly, I was sitting here thinking that we’d hit saturation point. However Obsidian pushes the ceiling a little higher by delivering a printer that you can use literally out of the box, and costs less than your smartphone. Universal in every sense, the Obsidian can work with almost any type of 3D model you make, whether in a software on a computer, or even sculpted in VR. The print quality, from what we’ve seen, is exquisite, and the fact that you can monitor/stream your prints from wherever you are is something everyone needs, but no printer company ever anticipated. With the Obsidian, Kodama is definitely onto something big!

Designer: Michael Husmann of Kodama

BUY NOW: $99 $199

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Not your average dual-lens camera

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Don’t let its toy-ish exterior fool you. The Bonzart Ampel is regarded as one of the finest cameras of its categories and got sold out in Japan mere weeks after it was launched. What Ampel specializes in is tilt-shift photography, a style that makes grand scenery look a lot like toys, with humans, cars, and buildings looking like miniature playthings. Most software allow you to mimic tilt-shift photos with linear blur, but none are as accurate as cameras made explicitly for the task, like the Ampel.

Capable of taking HD photos and videos, the Ampel looks like an analog camera, but in fact it is completely digital. Running off three AA batteries, the camera comes with a screen on the top, visible only after lifting the upper flap… something that’s highly reminiscent of vintage cameras. Knobs on the side allow you to toggle between photo and video modes, and even set color settings for your recorded media. A lens toggle switch and a shutter button on the front allow you to operate the camera, while viewing everything via the screen on top.

Regarded as one of the most capable yet reasonable cameras in the tilt-shift category, the Ampel accurately uses two lenses to calculate depth, but rather than using that to create 3D content, it creates mesmeric, retro-style tilt-shift photos with the capabilities of a DSLR lens five times its price!

What we especially love is how Ampel uses color to trick us into thinking landscapes are miniature toys. Color settings allow you to saturate colors in your images, making everything look instantly Lego-ish, along with a slight hint of chromatic aberration which just adds more pop to your images!

Designer: Bonzart

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The future of mp3 players

The more and more I think about it, the more and more I wonder whether Apple played their cards right. iTunes and the iPod shook the music industry a little over a decade ago, and now Apple’s focused all its efforts on Apple Music, but there isn’t any dedicated audio playback device to back it. As we made the transition from music storage and playback to music streaming, Apple just assumed the iPhone would fill the gap… but what they forgot is that the iPhone is least of all, a music player.

In steps Mighty, an iPod Shuffle-esque Music Streamer (not player). This little square gives you all your audio, and I mean ALL of it, in a tiny plastic square, allowing you to stream music to your ears. The Mighty works in partnership with Spotify, allowing you to wirelessly access all your Spotify music on the player without a phone. While phones come with battery woes, fragility, and most importantly, a massive price tag (plus maintenance costs), the Mighty just simply connects to your Spotify and allows you to play back all your music directly from its petite device. Think of it as a dedicated Spotify player. It can access an unlimited amount of musical data, comes with all the playback controls you need, and it’s small enough to clip onto your collar. Not to mention a battery life of up to 10 hours… and an audio jack input (ooh burn!)

Mighty, although small and rather plasticky (it’s the first of its kind), changes the music industry yet again by giving Spotify, arguably the most popular music streaming service, a product to rally its services around. Directly plugging you to the web, it presents itself as the next product to change the way you listen to music!

Designer: Anthony Pu

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