Welcome to Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, the column that burrows through the mountains of discarded wrapping paper to search out the best and brightest of the latest gadget announcements.
In our festive holiday edition, we take a look at connected socks with a Netflix focus, a hoverboard with a short flight time, and a robot vacuum cleaner that’s also a home security system.
As always, these are not reviews, and the ratings reflect only how much I’d like to use each item. And, before I forget, I hope you’re enjoying the holidays!
Finally, a pair of socks I would not be ever-so-slightly disappointed to find among my gifts on Christmas morning.
Netflix has released some designs for socks that can stop streaming the show or movie you’re streaming if you should nod off. The socks detect when you’ve stopped moving for a long period and hit the pause button. When they’re about to turn off your show, there’s an LED light that flashes — so if you’re still awake, you can wiggle your big toe to halt the action.
Truly, there’s little worse for streaming addicts than to miss a few episodes of a show or the end of a movie, potentially spoiling plot twists during the subsequent search to find their place.
I do wish Netflix saw enough of an opportunity here to sell the socks itself rather than posting the instructions for them online as a DIY project. The plans are somewhat complex for a complete novice at engineering (and knitting, if we’re completely honest).
Then too, if you’re someone who rolls around often in your sleep, there’s a chance the socks won’t detect your lack of consciousness and will fail to halt what you’re streaming.
There’s a lot of value here, though, especially for someone like myself, a heavy Netflix viewer. I just hope the socks are comfortable with all those electronics tucked in.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Are You Still Watchings?
Hover for a Moment
One of the hottest gifts this holiday season, by many accounts, is the hoverboard — not one that actually levitates, but one that’s essentially a self-balancing powered skateboard that you ride like a Segway. If you want an actual hoverboard, you’ll need to dig deep.
We’ve seen conceptual hoverboards that use magnets to “levitate,” but ARCA Space Corporation offers one that stays in the air. The US$19,900 ArcaBoard has 36 fans that output 272 horsepower to keep you afloat.
However, your ride ends in just 6 minutes, when the ArcaBoard needs a recharge, which takes six hours (unless you buy a US$4,500 accessory to reduce that to 35 minutes). The ride time drops to 3 minutes for heavier users, who will need a version of the system with extra thrust. You use a smartphone to steer, or you can disable it and use your body weight instead. Top speed is 12.5 miles per hour.
At its steep price point, the ArcaBoard doesn’t offer enough return on investment.
However, I do think that eventually we’ll have hoverboards that work for an extended period of time, with safety and elegance factored in. The future is coming, and it’s one worth waiting for if it means we don’t have to do something as prehistoric as use our legs to get around.
That said, I absolutely want to hop on one of these. I’d be crazy not to at least want to try out an actual working hoverboard.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Marty McFlys
Roaming ‘Round the House
If you’re a manufacturer and want your new robot vacuum cleaner to succeed, you have to bring something new to the table. LG is trying just that with the Hom-Bot Turbo+.
Along with functionality you’d expect as standard in a robot vacuum, it has an augmented-reality feature called “Home-Joy,” which, like almost everything else these days, functions through a smartphone app.
When you aim your smartphone’s camera at a certain area of your floor, Turbo+ will go to that spot and clean up. That is a much faster way of getting a robot vacuum to take care of a trouble spot, and I can see myself making great use of it when flour falls on the floor as I’m baking.
Thanks to the three onboard cameras, you can watch a cleaning cycle take place when you’re not at home. Meanwhile, Turbo+ can operate as a security camera. If it detects movement when you’re elsewhere, it can send you pictures from inside your house.
LG hasn’t disclosed a price for Turbo+ as yet, because it’s showcasing the system at CES 2016. Nevertheless, it’s a robot vacuum with enough bells and whistles to help it stand out, and one that I’d like keeping an eye on my apartment when I’m away.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Farewells to Spills