SA's 2015 Gadget Guide: 10 Technologies That Have Your Life Covered [Slide Show]
These devices teach you new things, monitor your health and protect your property
Credits: Courtesy of Spin Master
EDUCATION: Robotics is a rapidly growing area in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education, but the classroom isn’t the only place to learn necessary engineering and computer programming skills. Meccano’s Meccanoid personal robots bring robotics education into the home, allowing kids to build their own automatons and program those devices to respond to voice-activated and gesture-based commands. Mecconoids come in two models: the pint-size G15 and the child-size G15KS.
G15 KS: $250
Courtesy of Spin Master
HOME: Indoor air-quality monitors earn their stripes by sampling the air inside your home and reporting the levels of pollutants such as CO2, volatile organic compounds and dust. Although many of these monitors can be controlled wirelessly via a smartphone, Bitfinder’s Awair system is designed to communicate with and regulate the use of other wi-fi-enabled appliances in the home, including humidifiers, fans and thermostats. The success of this smart-home capability will depend on how many appliance makers end up supporting Awair, although the device is already compatible with the Phillips Hue wireless lighting system.
Courtesy of Bitfinder, Inc.
ACCESSORY: The Apple Watch debuted in 2015 with much fanfare and, unfortunately, very limited battery life—typically about 24 hours. For those unable to charge their watches on a regular basis, there are a number of portable wireless devices that can do this on the go, including Apple’s own charging pad. Another, less expensive, option is the puck-shaped Nomad Pod, which runs on a lithium ion battery that can fully recharge an Apple Watch four times before the pod itself needs to be recharged.
Courtesy of Nomad Goods, Inc.
FUN: With a few clever modifications to its original mobile device-controlled ball, Sphero joined the
merchandising bonanza. The company’s BB-8 droid, designed to look like its namesake in
The Force Awakens
, is about 7.6 centimeters in diameter and features an R2-D2-like head attached via a magnet.
Courtesy of Sphero © & ™ Lucasfilm Ltd. Advertisement
CONTENT: One of the biggest complaints about Google’s Glass was that people could use the headset to surreptitiously record and upload video. Google mothballed Glass in 2015, but there are still plenty of headsets on the market with embedded cameras. Many of them come in the form of sunglasses that look pretty normal except for the tiny camera mounted above the nose. Pivothead’s SMART Glasses go further than most, offering the ability to live-stream HD video and connect to other devices via Bluetooth.
Pivothead SMART Glasses: $300 (available for pre-order)
Courtesy of Pivothead
CONVENIENCE: Gesture control has become a big part of gaming over the past five years, and several carmakers have said that drivers will soon be able to control their vehicles using hand signals. Thalmic Labs wants to make gesture control universal via its Myo Armband, designed to wirelessly connect to any number of devices, including PCs, smartphones and drone helicopters. The armband features a gyroscope, accelerometer and magnetometer to measure the movement of the hand and arm. It also contains several electromyographic sensors that allow it to issue additional commands based on muscle movement.
Myo Gesture Control Armband: $200
Courtesy of Thalmic Labs
SAFETY: Sartori Bikes’ BTrack Safe Light looks like a normal rear-mounted red taillight but contains a GPS tracker that can send alerts to a bike owner’s smartphone if their bike is moved from a particular location without permission. As long as the thief doesn’t know to remove the Safe Light, it will map the bike’s whereabouts as it moves.
BTrack Safe Light: $175 (converted from 160 Euro)
ENTERTAINMENT: Mastery of a musical instrument often takes years of practice and dedication. Fortunately, the learning curve for Artiphon’s eponymous all-in-one instrument is significantly less steep, thanks to the device’s versatility. The Artiphon can be programmed to play and sound like a guitar, violin, piano or any number of other instruments. Scheduled for availability in mid 2016, the Artiphon responds to a variety of different gestures—whether a player is strumming, tapping or waving a smartphone over it like a bow.
Artiphon: starts at $400 Advertisement
WORK: This year researchers confirmed something that most of us have long suspected—sitting with poor posture for long periods of time is very bad for you. Studies have linked excessive sitting to muscle degeneration, heart disease, diabetes and even cancer. Upright seeks to address this problem via a contoured sensor worn on the lower back that wirelessly communicates information about your sitting habits and posture to a smartphone app and will vibrate when you begin to slouch. Upright is one of several gadgets available for posture monitoring, another notable device being the Lumo Lift, which attaches to a shirt or jacket via a magnetic clasp.
Lumo Lift: $50
Courtesy of UpRightTechnologies Ltd.
SECURITY: How “smart” is your smart-home if you’re still using a key cut at the local hardware store to lock and unlock the door? Several companies have sought to solve this conundrum by offering so-called smart locks that operate at the behest of an app installed on a smartphone. One advantage of the August Smart Lock is that it can be used with an existing dead bolt, making it fairly easy to install. If a smartphone using the Smart Lock app is lost or stolen, the owner can disable access to the lock by reporting the incident on the August Web site.
August Smart Lock: $200 Advertisement
In 2015 Apple invaded the
smartwatch market, Google dramatically changed its plans for Glass and Samsung heralded the return of consumer virtual reality, courtesy of the smartphone. Consumer tech companies invested heavily in AI, although it’s debatable just how much more intelligent this made their products. Meanwhile hobbyist drones hovered onto the radar—or, some might say, into the crosshairs—of several government agencies, leading to tighter restrictions.
In all, this year’s crop of high-tech consumer toys followed last year’s trend of integrating more closely with the smartphones that many people have within reach at all times. As a result most of the gadgets on
Scientific American’s list this year are app-enabled, whether they connect into the smart-home (to provide keyless home entry or monitor indoor air quality), allow you to keep tabs on your health or make music. There were also app-enabled droids—in honor of the new film—and even sensor-packed armbands that promise Jedi-like abilities. Star Wars Read More About this Slide Show