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Gadgets Guide 2014

To call, to wear, to see, to do at home and beyond.

Published: 06th April 2014 06:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 05th April 2014 06:40 PM   |  A+A-

Mankind has been dreaming about the future since it has learned how to make fire. If these millenniums of human existence have taught us anything it is that the future is like a villain in a B-grade Bollywood movie from the eighties. Just when we think we have it all figured out, future has this particularly nasty habit of sneaking up behind us with a bit of lead piping. We could be dreaming about a future filled with jet packs, hover boards and power lacing shoes never suspecting that the future has drones, talking toasters and self driving cars in store for us.

Just 10 years ago we never imagined that by 2014 our refrigerators will mail us when we run out of milk. That there will be very powerful computers in billions of people’s pockets. That those computers will talk to us. Will obey us like faithful servants. That we will put sensors everywhere and anywhere. That there will be virtual reality head mounted displays on our heads.

In 2014, the future is our present. As we look towards singularity when our phones will be more intelligent than us, take a moment to look at the latest, greatest and the weirdest gadgets we have now.

  • Remember your first computer? That big clunky grey box on a desk with wires coming out of it like a creature from an alien planet? The small piece of glass in your pocket that you don’t seem to be able to keep your hands off is a hundred times more powerful than that. It also happens to make phone calls.

    iPhone 5S

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    Apple designer Jony Ive explains the essence of iPhone 5S in one sentence. “It is not rampant technology for technology’s sake”. That explains why the iPhone 5S is the best smartphone in the market. Like any new model of the iPhone it is better, smarter and slimmer than the previous model. This time around it is also more secure. The iPhone 5S features Touch ID integrated into the home button using which you can securely unlock your iPhone or buy content from iTunes without ever having to enter a password. Inside you will find the A7 chip which is the first 64-bit desktop class chip on a mobile phone which makes the iPhone blazing fast and also an M7 chip, a motion sensor which is also a first for a mobile phone. Running a completely revamped iOS 7, the iPhone 5S is available in a tasteful gold along with the usual black and silver. With an excellent ecosystem of apps and the iCloud, and a camera that is as good as point and shooters, the iPhone 5S is the best smartphone that you can buy today.

    Sony Xperia Z2

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    Sony’s latest flagship, the Xperia Z3 shows us why the company is the best Android phone maker. In a beautiful aluminium body is the central attraction of the phone, a 5.2-inch full HD Triluminous display running on the Sony BRAVIA engine with Live Color LED technology which promises the best display ever seen on a mobile phone. Another feature that sets the phone apart from the rest of the Android flock is the 20.7-megapixel Exmor RS camera on the back that is capable of recording 4K video. Inside it has the latest top-of-the-line specs like the Snapdragon 801 processor and to top it all up is water and dust proof.

    Moto G

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    The Moto G is the iPhone of budget phones, if you can call Rs 12,000 budget. For the price you get a 4.5-inch HD display, a 5 megapixel primary camera, and Indian’s favourite feature, the ability to have two GSM SIM cards. Available in a bevy of beautiful colours with a well made body, it gets the latest Android 4.4 KitKat update and since it came out when it was a Google company, you get an Android experience that is very close to pure.

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    Fifty years from now, as we get closer to singularity, there won’t be phones to look at and tablet computers to poke at. The most powerful computer then would be the small chip-embedded one in your head. Until then we have to wear our computers on our faces. And our phones on our wrists.

    Google Glass

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    Google glass is the marmite of technology products. You can either love it or hate it, but Google believes it is the future of the wearables. At it’s simplest, the Glass is a small piece of glass mounted onto a strap that you wear on your face and which puts a display in front of your eyes. Working either through voice commands or through a small touch pad on the side, Google glass lets you do many things. Take pictures, record video, share what you see through Google’s chat app Hangouts, get transit directions, search on Google’s search engine etceteras…

    Fitbit Force

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    Among dozens of fitness trackers on the market, the Fitbit Force stands out. This sleek wristband available in black and grey acts as a watch and shows you the time on a small OLED display and acts as a silent alarm through vibrations. All the activities that it has tracked, like active minutes, hours slept, and distance travelled along with the usual suspects like steps taken and stairs climbed can be analysed through the personal app and dashboard to which the band will sync wirelessly. If you are feeling competitive you can share your stats with your friends on leaderboards and compete.

    Pebble Steel Smartwatch

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    The Pebble smart watch is the best smart watch in the world and it gets even better with the Pebble Steel. Available in Brushed Steel or a Matte Black along with a free leather strap, the Pebble Steel does everything that a good smart watch should do and more. You get texts and other notifications, hundreds of customisable watch faces and a Pebble app store with apps for music, sports and games. Since the watch uses an e-paper display it is very readable in bright sunlight, is waterproof and runs for five to seven days on a single charge. Works with both iOS and Android.

    Prio-VR

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    One of the biggest stereotypes of gaming is the fat guy sitting in front of a huge TV with his gaming console. Prio-VR, a full body suit that allows for motion sensing for gaming and virtual reality is going to change that. It is available in three different versions with 8,12 or 17 sensors that are placed all over your body to capture your motion and translate them onto the characters in a game. Combined with the virtual reality headsets like Occulus Rift, Prio-VR takes you into whichever environment you are playing in.  As they say, ‘Suit up. Game On.’

  • Investment bankers in Mumbai. Divers exploring life in the depths of the Pacific Ocean.Three year olds in a kindergarten in Munich. Climbers atop the Mount  Everest. Bored drivers in a London cab rank. There is only one device that is letting them all work and play. The tablet computer.

    Samsung Galaxy Note Pro

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    The Galaxy Note Pro is at the the extreme end of the spectrum of tablet size spectrum with it’s huge 12.2-inch TFT LCD display. Bringing the design language of it’s popular Galaxy Note 3 phablet to tablet computers, the Note Pro also sports a faux-leather back. To make use of that huge screen, the Samsungized Android KitKat 4.0 allows you to run four different apps in four different windows. Using the hover feature of the S-Pen, you can do many tasks like annotations, grabbing screenshots, scrapbooking, opening new windows and finding any content at the touch of a button. Powerful internals like the 1.9GHz quad-core processor and the 3GB of RAM mean you always get powerful performance, be it for playing games or working on a spread sheet.

    Nexus 7

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    Tired of OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) like Samsung messing up its vision of Android, Google releases a Nexus line of devices to give the so called vanilla version, the purest Android experience to the users. Nexus 7 , the 7-inch tablet is the latest among those Nexus devices. Weighing just 290 grams and price starting at a little over Rs 20,000, the Nexus 7 is the best small Android tablet in the market. One advantage of buying Nexus devices is that your device is also up to date with the latest software from Google giving you the most optimal experience of Android.

    iBall Slide 6318i

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    The race to the bottom, where devices are available at very economical prices is not just confined to the smartphones. It has come to the tablet computers and from iBall comes the Slide 6318i. Available for a little less than Rs 5,000, the iBall Slide has a 7-inch capacitative touchscreen and runs on Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. With it’s 1.2GHz Cortex A9 processor and it’s 1GB RAM it may not be the fastest or the best tablet PC in the market, but will make do for those who are very price conscious and for those with very limited needs like watching movies.

    iPad Air and the iPad Mini with Retina Display

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    The iPad Air is a prime example of the industrial design that has made Apple the industry leader. At 7.5 millimetres, it is thinner than a pencil and weighs a little over 400 grams, and yet manages to pack some very powerful internals behind that beautiful  9.7-inch retina display. The A7 chip that powers the iPhone 5S makes a leap into the iPad Air making it the most powerful tablet computer ever made. The iPad Mini with it’s 7.9-inch retina display is also super compact and is super powerful with the A7 chip. Both the models run iOS 7 and are hugely benefited by the Apple ecosystem with it’s iCloud and the hundreds of thousands of apps specifically made for a tablet computer.

    ASUS Transformer Pad TF701T

    The Transformer Pad TF701T looks pretty straight compared to ASUS’s other products. At it’s heart it is just another Android tablet. But when docked into it’s keyboard it transforms into a laptop, hence the name ‘Transformer’. So when you are not tapping away on that impressive 10-inch display, you can dock it into the keyboard and start tapping away there. Docking also gives you a cool battery life of up to 17 hours.

  • As I got on the Metro my phone buzzed like a bee. I’ve got a text message. ‘Don’t forget milk’, it said. ‘Miss you’ it added. I smiled.  ‘Will get milk. Miss you too’, I’ve sent a reply to my new smart refrigerator.

    Goji Smart Lock

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    While there are a number of competitive smart locks on the market, the Goji Smart Lock offers the best functionality. Looking like something out of 2001: A Space Odyssey, the Goji Smart Lock is easily installable and you can operate it using pretty much any smartphone. While locking and unlocking the doors using the app on your phone is pretty standard, Goji goes much farther. You can set it up to unlock the door when you are near it. Using the inbuilt camera you can see the person when you have visitors. You can also email virtual keys to your visitors with a specific date and time. Other features like access alerts and a complete activity log make it a compelling smart lock.

    Sleep Number x12 Bed

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    Bed manufacturers Sleep Number tell us that we are not sleeping enough. Or we are not sleeping properly. So they came up with the x12, which they call the smartest bed in the world. Embedded throughout with sensors, the bed scans your movements 500 times a second to determine how well you are sleeping and will give you a detailed report on your tablet. Since it is clever enough to know who is sleeping on which side of the bed it will try to help you sleep better by either making the bed firmer or softer. The flagship feature, if you can call it that, is that if you find your partner snoring you can just press a button on the remote control provided so the bed can gently move the snorer up or down to open up their airways. Now it is up to you. Either give a nudge to your partner, or get an $8,000 bed to stop them from snoring.

    Chromecast

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    You can get a 4k TV or a 110-inch TV that bends at the touch of a button, but they are all useless if all you have are saas-bahu serials to watch. If all the interesting content you want to watch is on your tablet or smartphone, all you need is this simple dongle from Google to get it onto the big screen of pretty much any HDTV. All you need to do is plug it into your TV, connect it to WiFi and then use the dedicated button on Google apps on your iOS/Android smartphones and tablets or on your Chrome web browser on your Mac/Windows laptop to stream the content onto your TV.

    ChefJet Pro 3D Food Printer

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    Charlie Chaplin ate a shoe in The Gold Rush. To pull off that stunt he reportedly got a shoe made of liquorice. He would have loved the new 3D food printer from ChefJet. 3D printing is all the rage now and is being used to print everything from toys to shower heads. ChefJet brings the same concept to your food. Want a chocolate shaped like a shoe? Candy in your name? Cutlery you can eat for dessert? All you need to do is get the 3D food printer, plug it in, feed it with the chocolate or candy and voila!

  • What is weird? Is a toaster that tweets weird? A self-propelled suitcase? Drone waiters? Edible phone cases? The iPotty? A mind-reading faucet? As they say, ‘one man’s weird is his grandson’s gizmo’.

    Sen.Se Mother

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    If you open the website of the ‘internet of things’ company Sen.Se, you will see a big picture of a cute doll under the caption: ‘we reinvented mothers’. The doll is not named Mother because it nags you, but because it represents a ‘noble caring figure’. Mother comes with four cookies you place on anything you like and which talk with Mother. On a cup, on a door, in a garden, or even on yourself. The cup cookie will tell Mother how many cups of coffee you are drinking. The one on the door will alert Mother when someone opens the door. The one in the garden will tell Mother if you are watering the plants. Mother then processes the information and uses it’s creepy glowing eyes to stare at you to make you do things. Drink less coffee, water the plants on time. In the end you will be left crying for your real mother.

    Yellow Jacket iPhone Stun Gun Case

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    You are walking home at night. It is pitch dark. You hear movement behind you. You turn around. You see a stranger with a knife. Depending on if he had chow mien for dinner or not he either wants to steal your phone or do something worse. You quickly get your phone out. He laughs hysterically thinking you are calling the police. But his laugh fades as he sees that you are indeed not calling anyone and that the case on the phone is built like a tank. Then you laugh hysterically and press the button on the case. 950,000 volts of electricity hits the man in his chest. You slowly walk away smiling like the hero you are.

    Phonesoap

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    Phonesoap’s pitch involves bombarding you with what they call some ‘fun facts’. They range from ‘1 in 6 mobile phones is contaminated with fecal matter’ to ‘your cell phone is more filthy than a toilet seat’. You get the drift. Phonesoap’s solution to this problem does not involve NOT taking your mobile phone to the toilet. Instead it, predictably, involves buying a $ 60 phone sanitiser cum phone charger. All you need to do open the phonesoap box and put your phone on charge. Using two UV lamps inside the box sanitises your phone by killing all the germs using UV-C rays. Phonesoap even provides you with a easy to use six step procedure to clean your phone. The most interesting is the sixth step. “Tell everyone how happy you are that your phone is clean.

    Kolibree Smart Toothbrush

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    Kolibree calls this the ‘World’s First Connected Electric Toothbrush’. True to its name, the toothbrush does just that. Brushes your teeth. But since you have paid your life savings to buy the toothbrush, it does a little more than that. It tracks details like total brushing time, frequency, brushing zones and then syncs the data it collects wirelessly through bluetooth with your phone. Oh! if it finds you are doing well you can earn badges you can share with friends. Start calling yourself Brush Ratna for example.



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