Roll up, one and all, for the three-ring circus of Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, the column that thrusts the week’s best gadgets into the spotlight and fires the terrible ones from a cannon.
On our trapeze this week are a robot mop, smart lightbulbs said to enhance your sleep, and a video doorbell.
As always, these are not reviews. The ratings reflect only how much I’d like to try each item, and are not an indicator of much I’d love to see the clowns. That score is forever a zero. I despise them.
On with the show!
Can you imagine a time before robot vacuum cleaners? The world was a messier place, certainly in the homes of those with too little impetus to pick up a broom or vacuum cleaner once in a while. Thankfully, for those of us who don’t mind sweeping but are less enthused about using the mop, robotic help is on its way in a more affordable model.
The Braava Jet from iRobot is a smaller version of the Braava, and has an attractive price tag: US$199. Since it is more compact than the Braava, it should be more likely to find its way into the darker corners of your kitchen and bathroom.
It uses cleaning pads for mopping and sweeping. Braava Jet sprays water onto a section of the floor, and then the pads take care of the actual cleaning. It will take two or three passes to fully clean a section. It cleans around 100 square feet per hour.
I feel there might be slightly more of a leap for me to accept Bravaa than Roomba. Of course, manually cleaning a floor isn’t the most enjoyable of tasks, but doing the work myself means I have more confidence the surfaces are properly clean in the rooms where it matters most.
You’d have to put a lot of faith in a robot to make sure your floors are fully disinfected — or, like me, be willing to live a little dangerously.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stylish Slides
Until now, Phillips’ Hue smart lighting system has been known mostly for its capacity to set moods on a whim with custom color configurations. The latest incarnation has users’ health in mind, as it seeks to aid them in getting a better night’s sleep.
The white ambiance lights ape natural light cycles to help you sleep better. The sleep mode dims lights slowly to help you drift off, and gradually brightens when it’s time for you to rise from your slumber.
There are plenty of sunrise-mimicking alarm clocks on the market, though I suspect those already with a Hue system will find this more appealing.
Youngsters aren’t forgotten, with a nightlight mode to help them drift off after finally convincing themselves there are no monsters under the bed or in the closet. Of course, you’ll still have the option to create mood lighting with a pseudo dimmer switch, albeit with far fewer colors than a regular Hue.
I tend not to sleep very much or all that well. I try to push myself into a healthier, more regular sleep schedule, but darn if there isn’t just too much information out there for me to discover, leading me to spend long hours gaping at a screen when I should be resting.
If I had a Hue system that would gradually dim lights all over my home when it’s time to go to sleep, I might be more encouraged to hit the hay. And the light-based alarm system has to be a lot more appealing to wake up to than a favorite song that grows tired after a couple of days.
Rating: 4 out of 5 No More Late Nights
My building has outside steps, a locked door, and a set of stairs before you get to my apartment. It makes the place feel somewhat secure, in that would-be intruders have a lot to contend with if they should want to enter the building. However, it’s also a pain to answer the door when I have callers. What I’d give for a way to see who’s at the door without having to go all the way outside.
Ring’s new Video Doorbell Pro is the most subtle version of the device to date — at first glance, it doesn’t look as though it houses a camera. It snags footage in 1080p-resolution video, which should make it easier to read a caller’s credentials. It also can notify you when there’s movement around your doorway.
I’m not especially enthused about the latter feature, since I truly don’t care to know all the comings and goings of my neighbors. But I’m lazy, so seeing who’s at the door from the comfort of my couch is a welcome prospect.
In the meantime, I’ll likely go on ignoring unexpected callers. Answering the door when you’ve just awakened from a nap, even one enhanced by a natural light-mimicking smart light bulb, is never enjoyable.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Ding Dongs