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Gadget Ogling: Baring Souls, Soaking Up Sound, and Tracking Babes

Welcome to Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, the column that sips a warm cocoa while delving through the latest gadget announcements and recovering from the CES barrage.

It seems most manufacturers went back into hibernation after revealing myriad new gadgets at CES, so here’s a look at some of the other gizmos that caught my eye from the event: a tracker that counts the time you spend with others, an all-in-one soundbar, and a baby monitor you can check using a smartphone.

As always, the ratings denote only how much I’d like to try each. They are by no means reviews, as I haven’t laid eyes on any of these items in the physical world.

Body and Soul Together

As time advances, more responsibilities seep into our lives. We get wrapped up in our own worlds, and don’t necessarily make enough time to spend with the friends and family members who’ve been important parts of our worlds for decades.

Concepter’s Soul time tracker (pictured above) seeks to make us more conscious of the time we spend with those who matter most to us. It comes as a wristband or keyfob with Bluetooth connectivity, which is simple enough.

The real essence here is in the accompanying app, which tracks the time you spend with other people who use Soul. Thankfully, you don’t need to persuade anyone to buy a wristband for this to work, as there’s a free app that connects to other Souls over Bluetooth.

I’ve found myself getting more intrigued by hyperfocused, single-purpose wearables — especially in the activity tracker field for specific sports — but one whose function could be fulfilled by a stopwatch (or, indeed, a free mobile application) seems inconsequential.

I’m uncertain this is something we need to quantify, as the total number of hours and minutes we spend in proximity to someone doesn’t matter unless we spend that time making meaningful memories or actively engaging with that person.

Still, I’m tentatively on board, as most of us could use a little more time with those important to us, and if Soul can push us toward that, who am I to argue?

Rating: 3 out of 5 Not a Soldiers

Sound Un-Barrier

I readily admit I have little experience with soundbars, but I do know good design when I see it, and Bang & Olufsen’s BeoSound 35 sure is pretty. Its construction lends itself well to intelligent speaker placement, with a larger loudspeaker in the middle and tweeters at the ends.

That means it can project sound 180 degrees around a room, so you should get a clear audio profile anywhere in a space if you mount this on a central wall and you are not somehow behind it.

Bang & Olufsen is positioning this as an all-in-one system, so it has Spotify and Deezer integration, and you can connect to it using Airplay, Chromecast and Bluetooth. You can control it using an app or the system’s own touch controls.

I typically enjoy the rich tones of Bang & Olufsen’s products, so I’ve little doubt I would find satisfaction in the audio output. Yet for me, the real selling point here is that striking, stretched-out design. It commands attention — but it also seems as though it could fit seamlessly into one’s home entertainment setup with relative anonymity. It’s the most beautiful jack of all trades I’ve seen in an age.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Meat in the Middles

Better Booties

I do not have children, so I’m not privy to the worries I assume many parents face on a daily basis. Baby monitors to help keep an eye on little ones from afar have been available for a long time, but Owlet’s version elevates the baby monitor.

The technology is packed into a washable booty that does more than listen for sounds of distress. It monitors the tot’s heart rate and blood oxygen levels. Bluetooth connectivity means you’ll have access to the data on your smartphones, and the base station changes color if something seems amiss.

The crowdfunded monitor also comes in a three-size pack to make sure the early warning system fits over your tot’s foot until he or she is 18 months old.

I dismissed this at first, thinking there can’t be too many parents eager to strap wearable technology onto their young child. As I say, I’m also not attuned to parenthood — but if it is indeed helping save lives, it’ll be worth every penny.

The lack of a newborn in my vicinity means I can’t give this a high rating, but I am eager to see how it shapes out, and whether monitoring kids’ health is an increasingly prevalent direction for wearable technology.

Rating: 0 out of 5 Tiny Sneezes

Kris Holt is a writer and editor based in Montreal. He has written for the Daily Dot, The Daily Beast, and PolicyMic, among others. He's Scottish, so would prefer if no one used the word "soccer" in his company. You can connect with Kris on Google+.

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