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Gadget Ogling: Custom Kicks, Heartbeat Tricks, and Office Picks

Welcome, one and all, to Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, the column that probes the latest gadget announcements through the lens of slightly too much eggnog. Yes, even this early in December.

In our sleigh this week are sneakers with a customizable display, a paper recycling system, a way for distant lovers to feel closer to each other, and a different method of making ice cream.

As always, these are not reviews, and the ratings indicate only how much I’d like to try out each item.

Hot Stepping

I’m hardly the most stylish gent around town, but even I would consider wearing a pair of sneakers I could adorn to my liking at any time through their customizable display.

ShiftWear’s sneakers allow you to choose from myriad colorful or even animated designs through an app. Since the display is E-Ink-based, battery consumption is low, and a charge lasts around 30 days — though animated looks are more power hungry. Batteries charge with each step you take.

You can create your own designs and sell them in a marketplace for others to enjoy. The shoes are apparently sturdy — they’re waterproof up to 5 meters and have soles coated with Kevlar fibers. If the crowdfunding campaign reaches US$3 million, ShiftWear is even adding waterproof speakers.

I tend not to spend much on fashion. I pride comfort over style, and there’s always something else I could do with my money, so I opt for basic, functional apparel.

Yet there is a part of me that wishes I were a fashionista. I wouldn’t buy new sneakers every month, but having a pair that could look different every day is something I’d really enjoy. Plus, I’d really get satisfaction from sending a somewhat clandestine message to the selfish folks who insist on keeping their backpacks on in public transit — if they should happen to look down.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Flashy Footwears

Beat Dreams

One of the Apple Watch’s more intriguing functions — or creepier, depending on your perspective — is sharing your heartbeat. Pillow Talk is a device that allows users to do the same, though more passively.

The idea is that it will let couples who are apart share their heartbeats to foster a sense of intimacy while each lies in bed alone. It’s not quite the same as sleeping in the same room, but it may be better than nothing.

Each partner wears a wristband synced to a smartphone app, and wearers can also adorn headphones to listen to their partner’s cardiac rhythms. It’s more cost effective than a pair of Apple Watches, with a set of a speaker and a single band running $78 at the lowest crowdfunding tier.

While I can appreciate wanting to feel more connected while one’s partner is away, does it really have to be through sharing heartbeats? It’s a little unnerving, and I don’t think I would be comfortable transmitting my heartbeat.

Whatever happened to the idea of resting laptops on each partner’s respective side of the bed and leaving the webcams on all night? We do have to keep up the traditional forms of Internet communication somehow.

Rating: 3 out of 5 Powered Pulses

Paper Power

Epson’s PaperLab is a system for offices that turns old paper into fresh sheets by breaking down and repurposing fibers. It can output up to 6,720 sheets per typical eight-hour workday, and it can adjust the size, weight and density of the paper as needed.

It’s a welcome move from Epson, particularly as this is an environmentally friendly system. Unlike traditional methods, it doesn’t require water to recycle paper.

I’d feel far less guilty about crafting ever-so-slightly obscene doodles during office meetings if I knew the paper wouldn’t go to waste.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Bad Drawings

Ice Cream Dream

One of my favorite things of this last summer was busting out the ice cream attachment for my stand mixer for the first time and creating some delectable frozen treats. There’s an issue with it, though, as the large attachment has to spend at least a day in the freezer before it’s ready for use. As someone with a modest-sized freezer, this causes some complications.

IceBella is both small and ready to use at any time. Instead of having to, say, place my frozen peas inside the bowl of the stand mixer attachment, I can place my ice cream mixture in IceBella and place it in the freezer for around 30 minutes to let it work its delicious magic without it taking up too much space for too long.

What’s strange here is that IceBella needs to plug into an outlet to work, meaning you’ve got an unsightly cable trailing from your freezer to the nearest socket. If there were a way to make this a battery-powered system, I’d be much more open to it. Plus, I love seeing the ice cream churn in my current setup, and wondering exactly how much I might be able to scarf down in my first tasting.

Rating: 3 out of 5 Mint Choc Chips

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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