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Gadget Ogling: Floating Speakers, Neckbrace Audio, and Charming Caffeine Fixes

Welcome, dear friends, to another incarnation of Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, the column that occasionally peels its eyes from Super Mario Run to cast its gaze over the latest gadget announcements.

In the Mushroom Kingdom this time around are a levitating speaker, a speaker to hang around your neck, and an adorable coffee machine.

As ever, these are not reviews. The ratings reflect only how much I’d like to try each item with my own hands, tired as they may be from tearing apart wrapping paper.

Phonically Flying

LG features twice in this edition of the column with two very different but similarly strange speakers. The “Levitating Portable Speaker” (pictured above) has as descriptive and accurate a name as the “Small Transparent Speaker” from last month’s edition of this column. You can call it “PJ9” if you prefer the duller moniker.

Yes, through the magic of electromagnets and a base station, this speaker will levitate and pump out audio in every direction. LG’s Dual Passive Radiator system is designed to provide strong high- and mid-range tones.

The base station houses the subwoofer, and naturally doubles as the charger for the floaty part of the set up. The Levitating Portable Speaker has a reported battery life of 10 hours, which is impressive, and the speaker automatically sinks back down to the base station to recharge when need be. You can play audio while the speaker’s charging, but it’ll lose a little in form if not function during that period.

The PJ9 is IPX7-compliant, which will help it stand up to a sudden downpour if you’re using it at a picnic, and there’s an option to connect two Bluetooth devices simultaneously via multipoint technology.

The feature set of the Levitating Portable Speaker shows it’s far more than just a party trick. As with any speaker, it’s difficult to ascertain exactly how much I might want this as part of my everyday life without hearing the audio firsthand. However, I admire the graceful design and would enjoy impressing a guest or two with my latest technology party trick.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Air on the G Strings

Hanging Out to Dry

The other LG speaker we’re taking a look at this time around is the LG Tone Studio. This is even stranger than its stablemate and no doubt has raised some eyebrows at CES. This is no ordinary speaker, friends. This is one you wear around your neck.

LG Tone Studio speakers

This futuristic neckbrace employs four speakers to direct surround sound toward the wearer’s ears. It includes a vibration function, and it aims to provide theater-style sound wherever you might be. That’s all well and good if you watch a lot of movies at home, don’t mind looking silly, and don’t really have the capacity for a complex speaker system or a soundbar — or if you want to hear the movie’s audio just as well while you’re fixing some mid-film snacks or beverages.

However, I dread the day I ever run into someone using one of these on public transport. People playing music through their phone speaker on a bus or a subway deserve the type of punitive measures reserved for the worst war criminals. Boosting their capacity to annoy everyone with a quartet of speakers thumping out surround sound sounds exactly like the kind of future I want no part of.

Thanks, LG, for potentially ruining everything for everyone should certain people actually buy this trifling gizmo.

Rating: 2 out of 5 Horseshoe Horrors

Captivating Brews

If you’re a manufacturer (or part of a manufacturer’s marketing department) and want to convince me to buy the thing you’re trying to sell, the simplest, easiest way to boost your chances is to plonk a pair of googly eyes on it and tell me it’s cute.

A pair of students went one further when they affixed a pair of arms to a coffee machine and allowed people to control the system using Alexa. One arm grabs and inserts a filter, while the other grabs some grounds to brew delicious java.

If you’re so inclined, you can ask this glorious creation to provide you with weather updates and any other information you might wish Alexa to deliver.

Sadly, the creators haven’t figured out a way to make the machine brew coffee through voice instruction. That still requires manual operation. Still, it’s neat that you can get the coffee ready for brewing (assuming the water tank is filled), so all you have to do is tap a button.

Let’s get real, though. It could be the most useless hunk of junk on the planet, and I’d still want it thanks to those adorable googly eyes. What is it they say about suckers and births every minute, again?

Rating: 3 out of 5 Fresh Pots

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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