While many of the most well-known startups develop innovative apps and other useful pieces of software that you can find by exploring your smartphone or computer’s app store, many other up-and-coming companies are creating innovative gadgets that aren’t as easy to find, or available in one central location. So we’ve done the research for you and compiled a list of startups to watch.
While some people think of “gadgets” as a category of superfluous, one-purpose devices — hardly what people want in the age of the all-powerful smartphone — the startups that made our list are creating tools, devices, and technology that’s useful, fun, and adds value to the existing array of devices that most users already own.
These startups are developing innovative improvements of and applications for a range of technologies, such as 3D printing or wearable technology. Others are reimagining what devices like cameras look like and are capable of, and many leverage the availability of small and efficient components of computing devices to build new products that help you keep track of your possessions or enjoy the best art on the Internet.
Many aim to help you live a healthier, fitter, calmer life by leveraging the power of connected devices and wearable computing. Others make common tasks like paying for purchases or collaborating with friends and coworkers a more streamlined and natural process. And others offer alternatives to the devices that most people purchase from larger tech giants, offering you the choice of a more open and customizable smartphone or a better WiFi network, built on the power of mesh networking. So check out our list of startups making cool gadgets. Explore the devices that these up-and-coming companies offer now, and be sure to keep an eye on your favorite startups to stay tuned to the innovations they introduce in the future.
Artiphon offers a music-making device called Instrument 1, which you can strum like a guitar, tap like a piano, bow like a violin, or pluck like a bass. The device enables you to play with music apps beyond the touchscreen of a phone or tablet. Instrument 1 is fully MIDI-compatible and works with hundreds of apps, and connects with your Mac or PC to control desktop software. The device was funded via a Kickstarter campaign, which raised more than $1 million.
2. Beam Labs
Beam Labs makes a smart projector and LED light that fits into any socket, called Beam. Beam can turn any flat surface into a large screen, and enables you to play games, watch movies, or share content from your smartphone on your wall, ceiling, or desk. The device was funded via a Kickstarter campaign that raised more than $750,000, and you can interact with Beam via Android and iOS apps or via the web on any device with a browser and Internet connection.
3. Circle Garage
Circle Garage‘s first product is HIRIS, a wearable computer that aims to be ideal for any situation and any lifestyle. Circle Garage refers to HIRIS as the “most advanced wearable in the world.” It offers a library of apps that enable you to customize it for your interests — from tracking your workouts to managing your smart home devices to controlling your drone. You can wear just the core unit or add additional tracker units, and add modules called expansion cards for new capabilities. HIRIS was funded via a campaign on Indiegogo, where it raised almost $85,000.
CliniCloud offers “the medical kit of the future” with a digital stethoscope and non-contact thermometer for the home. Parents can monitor children’s fever, coughs, and colds, and even get a medical consultation at home through the iOS or Android app. The app guides you through a quick or full checkup, tells you exactly where to place the stethoscope and thermometer, helps you identify trends over time, and enables you to store records for the whole family.
Eero claims to offer the world’s first “WiFi system,” which provides fast and reliable WiFi throughout your entire home with multiple small devices, called eeros, which create a mesh network. A set of three eeros covers the typical home, and you can set up and manage your network from your smartphone. Eero’s mesh network delivers WiFi to even the hardest-to-reach corners of your home, and optimizes connections so that you get the best possible speed.
6. Electric Objects
Electric Objects helps you to bring art from the Internet into your home with an Internet-connected screen that reimagines the digital picture frame as a platform for displaying great art. You can change the artwork displayed from your iOS or Android smartphone, explore and display thousands of pieces of art, and even upload your own artwork so that you can earn money for your work and connect with people who love your art.
Electroloom is developing a 3D printer for fabrics, which it envisions making creations, like clothes, able to be shared, downloaded, and printed around the world. Fast Co Design reported last year that Electroloom, founded by entrepreneur Aaron Rowley, wants to print basics, like tee shirts and sweaters, reducing the amount of energy that goes in to a single article of clothing.
Formlabs makes a high-resolution 3D printer that can fit on your desktop. The Form 1+ 3D printer uses a printing method called stereolithography. Its high-precision optical system directs a laser across a tank of liquid resin to solidify layers as thin as 25 microns. The build platform pulls the model upward, out of the tank, as it’s constructed. The Form 1+was designed to match the print quality of large, industrial printers at a much lower cost.
Jolla is an independent developer of mobile devices, built on its own open operating system, called Sailfish, which features live multitasking, the ability to run Android apps, and gestures based on the natural movements of your hand. Jolla’s smartphone also lets you select the apps and services you want, and the smartphone can be accompanied by the patented “Other Half” smart cover that uses NFC to detect what’s on the back of the phone and adapt the look and feel of the back cover to the front. Jolla also recently funded the development of a tablet on Indiegogo, raising $2.5 million.
Lytro makes cameras and software for light field photography, a kind of imaging that captures information about the intensity and direction of light in a scene. In 2012, Lytro released the first consumer light field camera, and in 2014 began selling the professional-grade Lytro ILLUM camera, Lytro Desktop, and the Lytro iOS app. The second-generation platform enables you to adjust aperture, use selective focus, tilt, focus spread, animation, and even create 3D images with a single exposure from the light field camera.
MakerBloks offers toys designed to inspire children to build the next generation of hardware. Its color-coded magnetic blocks enable children to build their ideas with real components and create real electronic circuits without any prior technical knowledge. (The MakerBloks website notes that “instructions are optional!”) The educational toy is safe for children ages 6 and up, and encourages them to experiment.
Misfit makes a variety of wearables, activity trackers, fitness and sleep monitors, and other connected devices, including the Shine wearable fitness and sleep monitor, the Bolt smart lightbulb, the Beddit sleep monitor and smart alarm, and the Flash fitness and sleep monitor. The Shine lets you monitor your sleep and track your steps, calories, and distance, and you can wear it on your wrist, shoes, waist, pocket, neck, or elsewhere.
Moov offers a wearable fitness tracker that uses three sensors to form a nine-axis motion-sensing system. Paired with Moov’s software, the data collected by this hardware can reconstruct your movements in 3D and guide you on how to improve your workout and how to prevent injuries. The Moov app is a destination for your workouts, and each month a new sport is added to the platform to keep you busy with new activities.
Narrative provides wearable cameras, like the Narrative Clip 2, which automatically captures photos throughout your day, enabling you to keep your hands free and your focus elsewhere while still collecting photos. The Narrative Clip 2 features both WiFi and Bluetooth connectivity, and the Narrative Service algorithm automatically sorts your photos into collections of moments and highlights. Narrative’s apps let you browse, organize, and share your photos.
Navdy is developing a heads-up display for your car. The system will let you view and respond to critical information — like turn-by-turn navigation, car diagnostics, current speed, music playback, safer text message display and response, and calling — using gesture control and without taking your eyes off the road. The display works by projecting an image onto a plastic lens, which magnifies it and makes it appear to float outside the windshield.
Neumitra makes connected tech to address the effects of stress on the health and performance of your brain. It makes a biowatch, called the Neuma, that can measure the autonomic nervous system as accurately as clinical equipment, and enables continuous measurements throughout your day. Learning algorithms provide daily insights, personalized alerts, and risk assessments.
Nymi offers a wearable that lets you use your heart’s unique signature to unlock devices and remember passwords. With the Nymi Band, devices and services will recognize you, making cards, long passwords, and hard-to-remember security questions easier to use without sacrificing security. Nymi’s biometric authentication technology is patented, and its ecosystem includes smartphones, computers, and websites, and will soon expand to payments and more.
Olio is a new company that just introduced a smartwatch that combines connectivity with classic style. The Olio Model One is built of high-quality materials, including cold-forged stainless steel and ion-exchange glass, features battery life of two days of full functionality, and an efficient high-resolution display with an ambient light sensor. The watch visualizes notifications, offers time-saving suggestions, and information on your schedule, the weather, and traffic.
19. Orion Labs
Orion Labs makes wearable devices that enable users to collaborate in real time. The startup’s products include Onyx, which packs the capability of group communication into a small wearable. With the companion app, you can create, manage, and communicate with groups and see the position of all the members, as well as their status. Orion also recently introduced Ruby, another connected accessory worn on the lapel, blouse, necklace, or bag strap.
Pebble is famous for its crowdfunded smartwatches, including its most recent device, the Pebble Time, which will soon be available to pre-order on Pebble’s website. The other smartwatches in its lineup include the Pebble Classic, the Pebble, and the Pebble Steel. The smartwatches get up to seven days of battery life from a single charge, and are customizable inside and out, and the Pebble Time features a color e-paper screen.
Prynt has developed a smartphone case that enables you to turn your phone into an instant camera. You plug your smartphone into the case, snap or choose a photo, and print the photo with the case. The Prynt case doesn’t require ink, which is embedded in the paper, doesn’t require Bluetooth or WiFi pairing, and features an internal battery so that it doesn’t pull power from your phone.
Spire aims to turn “science-fiction into product,” starting with a wearable device that you clip to your pants or bra to measure your breathing patterns. Spire measures your breathing throughout the day and notifies when you’re tense, guides you toward greater calm, and helps you discover what makes you focused. It also tracks steps and calories, is wash-proof, and is equipped with a battery that lasts seven days.
Stratos set out to change the payments industry and created the Stratos Card, which enables you to consolidate your credit, debit, loyalty, gift, and membership cards into a single device. The Stratos Card is equipped with Dual Stripe technology, which enables it to be accepted by the POS systems at stores, coffee shops, ATMs, parking meters, and more. It uses bank-level encryption and never displays your card numbers, and Stratos membership includes an annual card upgrade, so that you gain access to the newest technology and features.
24. Thalmic Labs
Thalmic Labs is a startup working on wearable computing, and recently introduced the Myo gesture control armband. The device reads the electrical activity of your muscles and the motion of your arm to enable you to wirelessly control technology. A growing community of Myo developers is creating apps, and the armband detects five distinct hand gestures to wirelessly control tech like music, games, and presentation slides.
Tile offers a small connected device to help you keep track of the items you often misplace and the things you can’t live without. Tile is small and lightweight, and when you attach it to an item, like your keys, you’re really tethering it to your phone so that “when your stuff gets lost, it has a buddy that knows what to do.” Tile casts a Bluetooth signal up to 100 feet, and since every phone with Tile helps find your stuff, your search range is “potentially limitless.”