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Looking for something a little different? Want the kind of stuff Silicon Valley types lust after? Where do they find the best, most interesting gear on the Internet?
One of the best not-so secret communities in technology is the collection of entrepreneurs, engineers and investors that contribute to the website ProductHunt.com. Its sole purpose is to introduce you to some of the "best new products" out there, with a decidedly digital emphasis (they usually recommend apps and software tools for designers and coders). Users can submit products, then this small Product Hunt community will vote the item up or down (as they do on Reddit) to let the crowd weigh its relative value.
The result is essentially a "most wanted" list of strange or cool stuff that the people who make technology appreciate and desire. We've collected a list of some of the most interesting items, whether for usefulness, ingenuity, humour or a combination of all three, because sometimes there are things you can only find on the Internet (and rightfully so).
If you’re like us, you laugh out loud at some of the Internet’s many animated GIFs (pronounced “jifs,” President Obama says so). If only there was some way to move that digital fun into the tangible real world.
Rest assured, now you can with GifBook. Simply upload any animated GIF file of your choosing and the company will print you a physical flipbook, plus ship it anywhere for absolutely free. Keyboard Cat and Nyan Cat never looked so good.
Long boarding may be cool and all, and skateboards seem to be making a comeback (did they even leave?), but both have a common problem for many people: They are too much work.
Boosted Boards, in California, hears that cry and has made a board with an electric engine built-in (they call it a “light vehicle”). It is being advertised as something to help with your commute, with 18 to 22 MPH speeds, wireless hand-held control and smooth braking, among other features. We just think it looks cool, and will do the hard work of getting you up hills.
There is also a bunch of scary safety warnings that include the board possibly losing power or braking at any moment due to radio interference, plus a reminder that cars can kill you.
There are much cheaper options, but with those you have to push with your legs on an engine-less set of wheels just like your grandparents did.
The recent trend of minimalist industrial design has lead to some pretty incredible objects in technology (pick an example from your favourite fruit-themed computer company). A Nashville-based company called Cardinal has made the very simple desk organizer Lifta to match that aesthetic, which aims to reclaim the space beneath that monitor or all-in-one PC and can be made from your choice of wood: Oak, ash or baltic birch plywood. Though it is advertised for use with the iMac and its wireless accessories, it really can be used for any desktop setting. Though it is pricey, it should hopefully help make your desk look sleek while making it a little more organized.
Available: Now (takes three to four weeks for delivery)
My Year Printed
Have you ever taken an Instagram photo of your lunch with just the right combination of filter and sunlight to make you say, “You know what, that deserves to go on a wall”? Good news! A Montreal-based company has created My Year Collection, a service that lets you connect your Instagram account to make a poster from all of your Insta-moments from 2014. And yes, you are able to de-select photos you don’t want included on the poster -- which can be either 18”x24” or 25”x36”in size -- but why wouldn’t you want to include that photo of your pizza slice taken with the Lo-Fi filter turned on?
The Internet is a strange and bewildering place. Someone has gone out of their way to create five masks based on the little Emoji characters used in your smartphone messages. For those days when you don’t feel like smiling, let this mask do it for you? Maybe you just want an amusing mask for your bank heist (we do not endorse the robbing of banks or persons).
It is also unclear what a person would use a poop Emoji mask for exactly, but the price is relatively cheap at $5 each (or five for $15). For that price don’t expect high quality, the masks are thin and quite bendable. Nonetheless the company promises, “it will be the most LOLZ you’ve ever had for $5.”
Available: Back-ordered to a four-week delivery time
Raspberry Pi Model A+
A registered U.K. charity called Raspberry Pi has a very colourful and cute website that blends fruit with math to sell a do-it-yourself computer motherboard at a very low cost. Essentially, this is a computer for the same price as 4 gingerbread lattes. The idea is to try to get people, especially younger computer users, to fall in love with tinkering and computer programming, something that helped boost the original computer boom.
The small Model A+ can load an operating system through an SD Card slot, has HDMI output, USB inputs for a keyboard and mouse and can handle all of your basic computer needs. Raspberry Pi also offers a hefty catalogue of training models to get you started in your programming ways.
Peel iPhone cases
So you just got a shiny new iPhone after watching the promotional videos that touts its beautiful design and attention to detail. You bring it home and the first thing you do to it is… Put a case on it.
Cases made by Peel are advertised as being so thin that the owner forgets it is even there. It also has no branding, is mostly see-through and still supposedly protects from bumps, dirt and scratches. That’s a lot of claims, but the price is relatively cheap and it may be as close to naked as your iPhone will get. Obviously, do not expect any shock- or water-proofing, but it should do the trick for scratch resisting.
Lumi Printing Kits
You may or may not remember those fun (and inexpensive) sunlight photo kits from the 1990s, which allowed you to place objects on a special blue sheet of paper which you then left in the sunlight for a few hours. Eventually, there was a shadow negative-like piece of art in the shape of the object.
A small company by the name of Lumi is bringing the same idea back, but in a better way. With a special inkodye as its core innovation, the company has three techniques to create your own items that use the sun to “print” designs onto purses, scarfs, gloves, shirts and more. Very cool.
Dot Grid Books
Dot Grid notebooks are designed more for technical sketching than shopping lists or note-taking, but are prettier to look at than graph paper. Though geared toward the U.K. market, Dot Grid will still ship worldwide and produces a high-quality grid notepads, notebooks and more. For some it may be hard to justify importing a product from the U.K. when Moleskine is so readily available here, but it is a unique brand. Plus there are limited edition covers not available anywhere else and there is an option to custom-make your own.
By now, we all have heard about the benefits of having a standing desk in the workplace. There are plenty of products out there that try to offer a solution for employers, such as pricey desks that raise up or down, stands that can be flimsy or even the inexpensive do-it-yourself stack of books. ZestDesk is not only attempting to solve the problem, but in a convenient, sturdy and affordable way.
ZestDesk folds in half and has a carry handle for portability. It also has an adjustable table for a variety of monitor sizes and is built out of a lightweight aluminum for sturdiness. There are also extra accessories such as a carrying bag and additional monitor stand. Finally, to help sweeten the deal, if you pre-order now, you can save up to 51 per cent. (Note, almost everything on this list is available to order right now, but ZestDesk comes from a recently completed Kickstarter. That said, they made their funding goal so you should be reasonably confident that your pre-order will come through.)
Available: Expected delivery in May/June 2015
It’s very tempting to want to drink from the lakes, streams or puddles you come across during your outdoor adventures without worrying about water quality. But now, with LifeStraw, you can. This lightweight tube-like device can filter up to 1,000 litres of contaminated water, making it safe enough to drink. The product has been apparently tested in “the harshest conditions” and has a pretty impressive list of filtering features.
A straw that filters water as you drink from any source not only sounds like a great idea for survivalists, preppers or weekend warriors, but the company behind it also makes donations to developing communities with each purchase. Yes, the Internet can be used for good too.