Insert Coin: PhaserTape turns your smartphone into a rangefinder (video)

In Insert Coin, we look at an exciting new tech project that requires funding before it can hit production. If you'd like to pitch a project, please send us a tip with "Insert Coin" as the subject line.

You've scoped that little laser dot on the cabinet at the far end of the room, right? Well, don't worry, you're not about to see an innocent stationery cupboard get perforated by a sniper. Nope, this episode of Insert Coin is actually about measuring distances using PhaserTape -- a peace-loving iOS- and Android-compatible peripheral that needs your help over at Makible. We think it could be a sweet little investment, and you only have to click past the break to discover why.

Of course, there are plenty of laser rangefinders in your local hardware store for DIY-ers, realtors, architects and anyone else who wants to measure distances accurately. However, none of these products is especially smart or easy to use -- particularly at the budget end of what's available. You have to take a measurement, jot down the result in a notebook, and then do a bit of math if you want to calculate, say, the volume or area of a room.

With PhaserTape, you point the peripheral at an opposite wall, load up the accompanying app on your smartphone and then snap a picture of the laser dot. This brings up the distance on your screen, up to a maximum range of about 30 feet, and allows you to record it or share it with others. The software is pretty simple at this point, but the device's inventor, Andrew Leyden, promises that future updates will deliver more functions, such as figuring out how much paint you'll need to coat a wall.

Best of all is the price: the minimum contribution is just $35, which, if the project is successful, will net you one sparkly PhaserTape by Christmas, including worldwide shipping. That's not a bad outlay for a rangefinder, not to mention the warm fuzzy feeling you'll get from helping to make something happen.

Previous project update: Romo, that lovable smartphone robot, now has 645 backers on Kickstarter, who have pledged a total of $64,000 -- that's double the original goal.