GADGET DREAMS AND NIGHTMARES

Gadget Ogling: Unobtrusive Audio, Connected Flora, and a Water Jet Cleaner

Welcome one and all to a new edition of Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, the column that wades through new gizmo announcements looking for the rare gems, while recovering from too many holiday cookout indulgences.

On the grill this week are a tiny in-ear headset, a smart flower pot, a rear-view system for cyclists, and a water-powered bathroom cleaner.

As always, these are not reviews. The ratings only reflect how much I’d like to actually test each with my own hands, ideally on a porch on a balmy summer’s eve.

On the Dot

Dot is billing itself as the world’s smallest Bluetooth headset. That might be mere marketing claptrap, but there’s no doubt it’s an impressive piece of kit.

It runs for six hours of playback and nine hours of call time before it needs to recharge, and it has an 80-hour standby time. When Dot does need more power, you can simply plug it into the protective case, which doubles as a portable charger — perhaps the smartest idea Dot offers.

It also promises crystal clear sound, and while that quality is in the ear of the beholder, I’ll give Dot the benefit of the doubt since it does so much else right.

One drawback, though, is that there don’t seem to be volume controls on Dot. That’s a problem for me, since my phone’s volume buttons are obliterated from one too many accidental drops. If I can’t control the volume levels from the headset itself, I’m less inclined to own it.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Ellipses

Editor’s Note: Another drawback — which may turn out to be a lot more consequential — is that Kickstarter suspended funding for this project late Friday afternoon. At the time of its suspension, Dot had attracted 3,085 backers who had pledged US$291,225. The project’s goal was a modest $30,000.

Ivan Kan, cofounder of So Special Labs, said in a comment on the Kickstarter page that the company would be explaining “the entire situation” about the suspension on its website. However, the site only offered the opportunity to provide an email address in order to receive the full scoop, and as of press time, TechNewsWorld had received no response.

Dot will be relaunching soon on IndieGoGo, according to a post on the So Special Labs website.

Pot Shots

It’s really not difficult to grow plants and flowers. But Biom apparently thinks it’s helpful to bring the world a smart flowerpot.

It tracks moisture, temperature, fertilizer and UV levels, notifying you when your plant needs more or less of any of those. Yet if a not-so-green-fingered person like myself can learn to tend to flora with a certain degree of success, minus the need for a smart flowerpot, anyone can.

Sure, if Biom can encourage more people to grow their own flowers or produce, that’d be great, but I’d like to see developers solve more pressing problems, like a humane way to deter those pesky squirrels so I can grow strawberries again, or a way to automatically water everything if I’m not home. My basil needs a lot of care, you know.

Rating: 2 out of 5 Overripe Tomatoes

A Rear View

In cities with narrow streets and traffic everywhere, it’s not always easy for cyclists to keep track of vehicles moving around, especially those behind them.

With its Varia Rearview Bike Radar warning system, Garmin is trying to make life on two wheels a little safer.

It scans for traffic up to 140m (459 feet) behind the rider and displays that information on a handlebar-mounted unit or a Garmin Edge, with a series of lights that show how far away vehicles are and how fast they’re moving.

The display seems simple and effective, which is important when you’re on the road and don’t have time to process a lot of information quickly. It should help cyclists immediately register the dangers of cars at their rear and take appropriate action.

I’m not a cyclist (I’ve never learned), so I can’t in good faith give it a high mark under the Gadget Dreams and Nightmares rating system, since I’d never use it. Rest assured, this is a fine idea — and if it works as suggested, it could help save lives.

Rating: 1 out of 5 Wish I Could Ride a Bikes

Power Washing

I am so pleased inventors are working on things that are actually useful to our lives — like the Loogun device for cleaning toilets solely with water pressure.

The water jet seems powerful enough to take care of stubborn stains, and while you might not want to use it for cleaning in many other areas, thanks to the lack of disinfectant, it seems a solid alternative to the toilet brush.

As a regular visitor to a subreddit dedicated to power washing, I know there’s great effectiveness in using water pressure to clean — and then there are the environmental benefits of not having to dump as many chemicals into the water system.

The compartment for holding water seems a little slight, at just 300ml of water. It seems easy enough to refill, but I feel I’d scoot through that capacity a few times while cleaning my toilet (and probably the bath and the gunk from my balcony too).

Then again, I’m not sure it’d be that easy to swing around a water jet holding a liter or two of H2O, so the small tank is perhaps not a bad thing.

All I really need to do is resist the temptation to adopt it as my new water gun.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Clean Commodes

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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