It’s good to be reminded of cool stuff you’d almost forgotten about. Like the awesome Lifeplayer, which won the SAB Foundation’s innovation award in 2011 but has been little heard of since.

We bumped into the Lifeplayer at Maker Faire Cape Town over the weekend. The sturdy unit comes with a lot of features. Its main draw is audio abilities: AM/FM radio, three short wave radio bands, voice recording, playback and broadcasting, and the ability to load whatever is needed via microSD. Although perfectly able to function alone, the Lifeplayer can be connected to other speakers to increase its claimed hundred-person range. You’ll also find a carrying handle and an LED light.

What makes the Lifeplayer much more interesting is the ways you can power it. It accepts traditional DC that can be provided by the mains or a car battery, but when they’re in short supply (as they always are), you can use the solar panel at the top of the unit.

If there’s no power and it’s an overcast day, there is a hidden crankshaft that can be extended in order to wind up the clockwork generator using good old-fashioned elbow grease.

The Lifeplayer isn’t available to buy as it’s meant for the humanitarian and aid sector, so count yourself lucky if you never have to use one. We’re glad we got to play with one without being at risk. attended Maker Faire Cape Town as a guest of CAD House and Sahara Systems, two of South Africa’s leading suppliers of 3D printers and maker gear.


This story was edited on 24th Aug – we originally stated that Lifeplayer is made of cardboard. That would be silly.