SciAm's 2009 Gadget Guide: 10 Tech Toys You Deserve after a Tough Year [Slide Show]
This year will be remembered for the federal economic stimulus package, Wall Street bailouts, and just possibly a fun new gadget or two
BRANDO CREDIT CARD LIGHT The next time you're in a dimly lit restaurant squinting to see the menu or in a darkened movie theater unable to see your watch, you might want to pull out a credit card–size LED bulb to shed some light on the situation. Don't have one? Not to worry. Brando Workshop sells what looks like a flat incandescent lightbulb surrounded by a rectangular plastic card just the size to fit into one of your wallet's credit card slots. Pop the bulb up into the perpendicular position and it lights up your life—or at least the immediate surroundings.
Cost: $10 © BRANDO WORKSHOP
THANKO HEATED GLOVES Sometimes, no matter how much typing you do, you just can't get your hands to acclimate to a chilly office. Japanese gadget-maker Thanko has a possible solution: heated gloves. The heat comes from plugging in the gloves' mini heaters via USB connection to your computer (or an outlet via an AC adapter). The gloves actually come in three different styles (two of which feature the heating element in the palm of the hand, whereas the third places the heater on the back of the hand).
Cost: about $28 © THANKO CO. LTD.
MANDYLION PASSCODE MANAGER With so many passwords to manage (for work, banking, e-mail, social networking, etcetera) a lot of people resort to reusing rather than remembering the pass codes designed to protect important information, not to mention their privacy. Mandylion Research Labs, LLC, offers a token small enough to fit on key chain that generates and stores up to 50 pass codes. Worried about losing the token if you lose your keys? The password manager is activated by entering a unique button sequence defined by its user. Pass codes are viewed on the token's LCD display, which has a limited viewing angle to prevent shoulder surfing.
Cost: $50 © MANDYLION RESEARCH LABS LLC
JOBY BENDABLE CAMERA TRIPOD/FLASHLIGHT Joby, Inc., makes a variety of products that share the common theme of having bendable legs so that cameras, flashlights and other gadgets can be positioned properly. Rubberized ring and foot grips provide stability so the legs can be wrapped around poles, tree limbs, bike handlebars, etcetera.
Cost: At the low end, the original Gorillapod starts at $22; at the high end, the Gorillapod Focus sells for $100 © JOBY INC. Advertisement
FLO TV PERSONAL TELEVISION Tired of being pushed out of their rightful place in living rooms everywhere, televisions are staging a comeback with the help of FLO TV's Personal Television with live mobile TV service. The device receives live and time-shifted content over the FLO TV dedicated multicast network with no buffering, downloading or waiting to view content. With the swipe of a finger, consumers can channel surf through the FLO TV service's programming lineup. The FLO TV service is already available for some cell phones, and the company is planning to offer it for cars (Chryslers, for example) next year.
Cost: $250 (for the FLO TV device)
Service Cost: $9 per month © FLO TV INC.
ZEROFOOTPRINT TALKINGPLUG Ever wonder how much energy your hair dryer or toaster oven uses? Well, wonder no more. Zerofootprint, Inc., a company that offers services and software for people and businesses who want to lower their carbon footprint, says it can provide the answers via its TALKINGplug. After inserting the TALKINGplug into a wall outlet and plugging your appliance into this device, it wirelessly transmits the energy output to software on your computer. It works both ways: you can also shut down anything that's plugged into TALKINGplug via your computer. Zerofootprint, which developed the TALKINGplug with electric receptacle–maker 2D2C, says it's working with utility companies, appliance manufacturers and technology resellers to bring the product to market globally. (TALKINGplug is in the pilot stage and is expected to be made generally available to the public within the next few months, the company says.) P3 International Corp.'s Kill-a-Watt plug is similar in principle, but it offers an LCD directly on the plug and is not Internet accessible.
Cost: $50 (estimated) © ZEROFOOTPRINT INC.
FAIRY DEVICES'S STELLARWINDOW All you need is a tablet PC. Fairy Devices, Inc., provides the celestial mapping software and a USB plug-in sensor that will turn that PC into a portal to the stars. By holding the StellarWindow up to the sky and adjusting viewing angle and distance of your eyes from the screen you can get an accurate map of the stars. The sensor can even provide a sky map if used indoors (kind of like using x-ray vision to see through your ceiling into space).
© FAIRY DEVICES INC.
KOHJINSHA DUAL SCREEN NOTEBOOK The Kohjinsha Dual Screen DZ Series notebook lets users double the width of their video display by sliding apart the device's two overlaid 10.1-inch LED backlit screens. It comes with a low-power CPU (to save on battery life), Windows 7, up to four gigabytes of RAM, a fingerprint reader, an optical mouse, and weighs about 1.8 kilograms.
Cost: about $1,100 © KOHJINSHA CO., LTD Advertisement
ZEO PERSONAL SLEEP COACH The Zeo Personal Sleep Coach is designed to help wearers understand how they are sleeping and discover habits and behaviors that may be helping or hindering slumber. The product comes with a headband to be worn while sleeping that wirelessly sends brain-wave information to a bedside display. Info includes a summary of the wearer's sleep pattern for a given night; a score that quantifies the amount, quality and depth of sleep; and the amount of time it takes the user to arrive in dreamland.
Cost: starts at $250 © ZEO INC.
BHEESTIE BAG Anyone whose cell phone, digital camera or iPod has gone for a swim in a puddle, sink or toilet will appreciate this one. Bheestie Bag is a low-tech approach designed to dry out personal electronics with the help of moisture-absorbing beads. As the name implies, it's a bag into which you slip your soggy gadget. Once sealed inside, the beads desiccate the device over a period of 24 to 72 hours.
Cost: $20 © BHEESTIE.COM Advertisement