Gadget Ogling: Cute Robots, Secure Tablets and a Conscientious Can
Mar 21, 2015 5:00 AM PT
Greetings, fair traveler, and welcome to a springtastic edition of Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, the column that smiles on excellent gadgets in full bloom and swiftly extracts the terrible choking weeds.
In our garden of wonders this week are a new BlackBerry tablet, a printable humanoid robot, a powerful portable charger, and a smart watering can.
As always, these are not reviews. The ratings relate only to how interested I am in using each item, and have nothing to do with my opinion of how likely each product is to go haywire.
Print This Robot
PLEN2 (pictured above) is simply adorable.
A robot to seemingly fix all the world's problems, if its Kickstarter project is anything to believe, PLEN2 is possibly the most joyous humanoid machine I've seen in years.
Maybe I'm swayed a little by the infectious theme song in the pitch video.
The idea is to sell the basic robot and let customers get creative using open source tools and 3D-printed parts to customize PLEN2 any way they like.
What's most compelling, beyond the innate charm of the thing, is the multitude of control options the owners promise.
Certainly, you could tell PLEN2 what to do by tapping your smartphone, but why do that when you can give it orders through facial expressions or brainwaves?
I have an immediate soft spot for PLEN2 and even though I don't see it becoming a mainstream smash success, I'd love to see it in classrooms everywhere to help kids understand the fundamentals of machines and robotics.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Deaths by Cuteness
Berry Secure Tablet
At first glance, the announcement of a new BlackBerry tablet is an enormous surprise. The PlayBook didn't set the world on fire so much as fail to light a candle.
However, scratching beyond the headlines, there's something a little more interesting. BlackBerry has taken a Samsung Galaxy Tab S and gussied it up with its renowned security measures to create the SecuTablet.
This version of the tablet, which BlackBerry created in tandem with Samsung and IBM, aims to protect sensitive data while still making sure owners can check Facebook and watch YouTube videos.
It's aimed at public sector markets and enterprise customers, and with a price tag of US$2,380 it's certainly difficult to imagine parents giving one of these to their kids to stream their favorite cartoons. It's more likely that this will stay in the hands of big businesses and governments.
It's encouraging to see BlackBerry trying something new, even if it's just licensing its security systems and integrating them with other platforms and devices. I appreciate its efforts to help protect data. I just wish it weren't so expensive and were more accessible to all.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Try Spying on My Netflix Watch List Nows
Device battery life and portable chargers are increasingly important to me. It's essential to make sure one has enough power to get through the day.
So LithiumCard Pro -- a portable charger that fits inside my pocket and can reenergize an iPhone quicker than a wall power supply -- sounds almost too good to be true.
LithiumCard Pro looks horribly industrial, like its case is made from the discarded steel of a suit of armor. Still, if it does as promised on the tin, I'll have few other complaints.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Adrenaline Shots
Smart Plant Care
I'm not the best at taking care of my plants. It's devastating to see one die after it's been a part of the household for a long time. A smart watering can is on the surface a good idea, but sadly Freiya is a leaky one.
I don't really understand the point of having a smart watering can that connects to my smartphone, only for the latter to do all of the work. If I need to scroll through an enormous list of plants to find the right one and add it to my watering schedule, I'm less likely to do that than if I could use image recognition of leaves to determine the plant type.
If Freiya is supposed to make things easier, why can't I connect it to sensors in the soil that tell me exactly when it's time to give my plants some H2O?
I appreciate the ability to account for the temperature, but I just need more from this to justify considering a purchase. Oh, and the watering can looks ridiculous.
Rating: 2 out of 5 Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head