Gather around, friends, for another edition of the column that holds up just-announced gadgets to scrutiny, Gadget Dreams and Nightmares.
In the stocking for our pre-holidays edition are a smartphone-controlled lock, an inexpensive fitness tracker, a red-hot wearable and much more.
As ever, please note these are first impressions and not reviews. The ratings only relate to how interested I am in trying out each item.
While I’ve looked before at smartphone-enabled door locks, Sony’s take on the idea, the Qrio, stands out because of its ease of setup. Instead of having to remove existing locks to fit these devices, one need only place it over a door’s current lock and attach it to the door (pictured above).
I am on the whole skeptical about the need for smart door locks, especially when it will do little to deter would-be burglars with a strong boot, yet there’s something elegant and compelling about Sony’s version that makes it stand out.
It’s an intangible attribute that pulls me towards so many of Sony’s products, but I guess I’m a sucker for a well-made item with a touch of style.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Key Holes
If the goal of fitness trackers is to have as many people as possible working out more often, manufacturers would be forgiven for lowering prices on their wristbands to make the entry point as accessible as possible.
Movo’s budget tracker will set owners back US$30.
The data users get from Movo might not be as detailed or granular as from a Fitbit or Jawbone Up. However, if it can get me and everyone else moving a little more, it’ll be a relatively small amount of money well spent.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Daily Targets
Here’s a wearable I can truly get on board with, even though it’s ostensibly for magicians.
Pyro is a wristband that shoots fireballs up to 10 feet. It’s supremely dangerous and terrifying, and I’m desperate to get my hands on one. Mostly so I can disprove the theory that dry matches are the best way of starting a fire to keep warm while camping.
Admittedly, Pyro scratches the childhood itch one has from watching too many Saturday morning cartoons and playing a lot of Street Fighter as a boy. Until someone can create properly working Spider-Man web shooters, Pyro will have to do for me.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Firestarters
Type the Day Away
Like many people who write words for a living, yours truly must grapple with the distractions of the entire Internet. Just a simple button press away, it is often a struggle to set them aside.
Hemingwrite is a distraction-free writing tool that promises to keep wordsmiths’ eyes on the target. It looks much like a typewriter but with an e-ink screen. While it does connect to WiFi, it’s only so you can back up your work to Google Drive, Evernote and Dropbox.
It’s a clever idea, and one that seems far more useful than distraction-dispelling tools that easily can be circumvented on a more complex computer.
Leave your smartphone at home and take this to the coffee shop instead of your laptop, and you’ll surely get far more done, you budding Hemingway. That’s at least better than the nuclear option of throwing your home router in the trash.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Backspaces
As someone who wears prescription glasses almost every waking minute, the prospect of smart glasses has seemed unworkable for me, at least not without shelling out much extra for a customized Google Glass set.
Sony’s trying a strategy that differs from Google’s, with a headset that can attach to an existing set of eyewear. I like the idea that Sony will offer contextual information in the display to users participating in outdoor sports like golf and cycling.
I also appreciate the spy-like feature of using a smartphone for remote viewing — perfect for peeking around corners or, more practically, keeping tabs on kids playing in another room.
I can’t quite grasp how someone who does not wear spectacles might use this attachment. They could wear sunglasses, of course, though I can’t imagine that’d be the most comfortable option when trying to use the attachment in low light.
Certainly, this is just a concept and may be years away from hitting the market, but if the price is right and the product is solid, it might well make its way onto my Christmas wishlist for 2017.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Heads-Up Displays