Kickstarter projects that will change your life in 2013

Mike Wehner
Tech It Up!

2012 was a big year for the crowd-funding site Kickstarter. Overall, the site generated more than $274 million for startup projects that otherwise might not have had a chance at success. Many of the best Kickstarter projects get a great deal of exposure when they first hit the website and begin collecting pledges, but now that the lucky entrepreneurs have had a chance to build their dreams, Kickstarter-funded products are set to make a big splash in 2013.

Here are some of the top gadgets, accessories and other oddities that were paid for with the help of digital donors.

Pebble Smart Watch
Price: $150.00
Public Launch: April-May 2013
Original Goal: $100,000
Total Pledges: $10,266,845

These days it seems like everyone has a smartphone in his or her pocket, but intelligent gadgets don't stop there. Pebble is the first truly full-featured smart watch. With a collection of apps capable of everything from tracking your workout to relaying Twitter messages, the project quickly became one of the most successful Kickstarter stories of 2012.

Pebble monitors your social network accounts, alerts you to important emails, and syncs with your smartphone, allowing you to use the watch as a smaller secondary screen to control music and other features. It’s a remarkably powerful little gadget and is capable of performing just about every task you’d normally use your smartphone for, short of making calls.

Those who got in on the ground floor of the Pebble revolution have already received their watches, but don't expect the Pebble to simply fade into obscurity. The company is working hard to make its gadget a retail success as well. Don't be surprised to see the Pebble in 2013, either at your favorite electronics store or on a friend’s wrist.

Ouya Game Console
Price: $99
Public Launch: June 2013
Original Goal: $950,000
Total Pledges: $8,596,474

When you think of a video game console, you typically envision a large, bulky box like the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360. The Android-powered Ouya could change all that, and its Kickstarter campaign remains one of the most popular of last year. Developers already have their Ouya units in hand, and those who pledged in the original campaign can expect to receive their consoles starting in March 2013.

But how is the Ouya different? Well, for starters, it's tiny and can easily be held in the palm of your hand. It features a full-sized game controller, with a layout similar to that of the Xbox 360. All of the titles available for the device will be download-only, so you’ll never see a physical copy of a game on a store shelf. In short, it’s the most affordable new gaming experience in years, and its futuristic approach to content could very well shake up the game industry.

The console is Android-powered, which makes game development an easy affair for those familiar with the smartphone world. Also many of the most popular mobile game companies have already promised to bring their work to the diminutive console. Oh, and every game on the Ouya will be free to try, so you never have to worry about dropping cash on trash ever again. If you're a gamer, there may be no escaping the Ouya in 2013.

Safecast Geiger Counter
Price: $400
Public Launch: Not available
Original Goal: $4,000
Total Pledges: $104,268

After the Fukushima nuclear disaster in early 2011, a company called Safecast launched a campaign to distribute small, affordable Geiger counters throughout the country to monitor radiation from coast to coast. After the success of its initial fundraiser, Safecast returned to Kickstarter in 2012 with plans to create a pint-sized radiation-monitoring device that just about anyone can use. The project was an immediate success, and hundreds of supporters paid for their own ultraportable Geiger counters.

But as cool as the devices themselves are, the most innovative thing about Safecast's project is that all the data collected can be uploaded to a central database and explored for free. Now, the company bills itself as a "global sensor network," and hopes to empower individuals of all countries with the information they need to detect dangers faster than ever before. If a radioactive event occurs in 2013, you can bet Safecast's handheld monitors won't be far behind.

Luminae Multitouch Keyboard & Touchpad
Price: $499 (keyboard), $249 (touchpad)
Public Launch: Summer 2013
Original Goal: $50,000
Total Pledges: $143,583

Yes, it may look like something out of the Starship Enterprise, but the Luminae multitouch desktop accessories are indeed the real deal. Featuring see-through touch surfaces, the multitouch keyboard and touchpad combo was originally offered on Kickstarter in late 2011. After successful funding in 2012—and many unforeseen production delays since—the futuristic input devices look to finally land in customers' hands in 2013.

The peripherals feature an ultraclean design, color LED accent lighting, customizable overlays and rechargeable batteries. Of course, the most important feature of the accessories is that you can spill a few drips of your morning coffee on them and not end up with sticky keys.

SLXtreme Waterproof Solar iPhone Case

Price: $129.99
Public Launch: Available Now
Original Goal: $75,000
Total Pledges: $164,603

If you have a nasty habit of accidentally destroying your gadgets with drops, spills or any other environmental hazard, the SLXtreme iPhone case was made for you. The project was successfully funded in March 2012 under the name Aqua Tek S, but it has since been renamed and is currently shipping to supporters worldwide.

Unlike other protective cases, the SLXtreme can take just about whatever you can throw at it. For starters, it's waterproof—not just water-resistant. The case is designed to be able to withstand water up to 20 feet deep, so feel free to use it as an aquatic camera the next time you're on a short dive. The case also has a built-in solar panel that can recharge your iPhone even when you're nowhere near a power source. If you're a lover of the outdoors, there's really no other iPhone accessory to consider.