It's a water bottle! No, it's a speaker! No, it's a lantern! It's -- kind of all of those things and more. Meet the Hydra, a Kickstarter that's more than tripled its funding.
Freelancer Michael Franco writes about the serious and silly sides of science and technology for CNET and other pixel and paper pubs. He's kept his fingers on the keyboard while owning a B&B in Amish country, managing an eco-resort in the Caribbean, sweating in Singapore, and rehydrating (with beer, of course) in Prague. E-mail Michael.
These days it seems everything is getting imbued with technology that makes it smarter. Pens, tool boxes, lanterns and even coolers are suddenly more multifunctional than ever before thanks to silicon and circuits. Now it seems that it's the time for even the humble water bottle to up its smarts.
Recently we took a look at the HidrateMe smart bottle that glows to remind you to get enough water throughout the day. This week, another smart bottle called Hydra has already tripled its goal on Kickstarter with over a month left -- and it's taking a broader approach.
For starters, the Hydra bottle has a speaker in the lid. You can play your tunes via Bluetooth with the speaker attached, or you can pop it off, extend the legs and rock out. The makers say that improves the sound because then the music can bounce off the tabletop. The speaker also has its own auxiliary output jack, as well as a Micro-USB port for charging.
The video for the bottle is pitching mainly at bicyclists, and it's definitely a nice feature that the bottle on your bike's rack could crank out tunes while you ride -- without the need for potentially dangerous earphones.
Speaking of safety, Hydra also has LED lights embedded in the bottom of the bottle. When the bottle is full of water and you switch it on, the entire thing glows in a range of colors, helping you be visible while cycling at night -- and maybe making it useful as a lantern on a picnic table.
The bottom of the bottle holds a couple of other surprises. There's a 4,000mAh power bank, which should be good for juicing up an average smartphone about twice, as well as a hidden storage compartment where you can stash cash and other valuables.
So what else could possibly be packed into the once-simple water bottle? How about a microphone so the bottle can double as a speakerphone. Yup, there's one of those too.
Oh, and there's also a carabiner clip that doubles as a bottle opener.
Not content with all of that, the overachieving creators of the Hydra say that the bottle will also ship with an app that'll let you use the thing as a nightlight: it can be set to fade to a soothing color and play relaxing sounds as you drop off to sleep.
With all that tech I expected the Hydra to be pretty pricey, and the early-bird option has sold out already, but you can still order for $25 (about £15, AU$30) -- which is about the price you'd expect to pay for a cheap alone. (See CNET's list of the best Bluetooth speakers here.) That makes one question how good the speaker will actually be, but if you take into account everything else the Hydra does, it still seems like a good deal even if its sound is only functional.
With the usual Kickstarter caveats, the smart bottles are expected to ship out in September of this year.
Oh, and did I mention -- the Hydra also holds 12 ounces of a beverage. How old-school!