Here's a reminder of the technology I talked about in my July 2018 TRE Talk Radio Europe 'gadget guru' chat:
A long, long time ago in the world of mobile phones – about ten years, I suppose – if you needed a phone for work, there was really only one brand to consider: BlackBerry. Not least because BlackBerry phones had a physical keyboard for writing your email messages.
BlackBerry is still around – and last month it launched the KEY2 smartphone, which it’s calling ‘the most advanced BlackBerry smartphone yet’. Actually, to be totally correct, it’s TCL Communication that’s making the phone: they’ve licensed the BlackBerry brand.
What do you get? Well, you still have a physical keyboard, now combined with a 4.5-inch touchscreen as well. In fact, this keyboard is improved even from the previous model; the keys are 20% higher is should make them more comfortable and more accurate to use. And when you don’t need a keyboard, it can function as a trackpad for scrolling though web pages.
Pricing is around €649 (£579) without a contract. If you want a smartphone for business – especially if your business involves writing a lot – it’s certainly worth looking at. If you want a phone for watching videos and taking photos, there’s plenty of competition.
This looks like a conventional chess board with wooden pieces, although it’s a bit thicker than usual and you’ll spot a charging socket and an on/off switch if you look closely. You set it up as normal - the pieces are magnetic - and then get ready to play. Each square is an inch-and-a-half across, to give you some idea of scale.
The board can connect wirelessly with your phone, turning it into a chess computer with different levels of play. But unlike most other chess computers, you don’t need to move your opponent’s pieces: the board moves them itself, using a magnetic arm that’s hidden underneath.
The manufacturers also say you’ll soon be able to play against millions of other people around the world. That’s where the mobile phone connection really comes into its own. If each of you has a Square Off board, you’ll see your opponent’s pieces move on your board. On the other hand, you’ll be able to play against people who don’t have a board as long as they’ve got the right app on their phone.
There are two versions available: the regular one is currently on sale for $329 (around €280) plus shipping; there’s also an even smarter one for $399. The dearer version includes space on the board for captured pieces and what’s undoubtedly my favourite feature: a reset button that sends all the chess pieces back to their original positions when the game is over.
Nano Cure Tent
The premise behind this is pretty simple: if you snag a regular tent on a fence or on brambles, it lets in the water. This particular tent is made from high-tech fabric that seals little holes if you rub them with your fingers.
What actually happens is that the fabric doesn’t actually break but the fibres are pushed apart when it’s pierced. Rubbing it with your fingers causes those fibres to move back into shape.
Up to four people can sleep in the tent; it's is available for $200 (around €170) via crowd-funding site Kickstarter.com and, if all goes well, they’re expecting to start shipping in December.
This is a biometric wearable that's all about focusing on your work and not getting distracted so much. And yes, there’s surely a fair amount of irony that you’re using an electronic device in order to stop being distracted by electronic devices.
Foci clips to your waist, perhaps your belt or whatever else you’re wearing. It claims to track focus, distraction, stress and fatigue, with feedback shown on your phone as a coloured ball. The device itself will vibrate when your focus drops. If this happens, the app can guide you to get you back into 'the zone'.
You’re probably wondering how Foci works. The answer is that the device monitors small differences in your breathing between when you’re focused and when you’re distracted. These readings are sent wirelessly to your mobile phone and processed by the UK-based company behind all this. As well as getting instant feedback you can also see how you’ve performed on previous days.
I’ve not used one but from the reviews I’ve seen it seems to work well although it’s (understandably) not perfect, which in itself could be a distraction.
This is another crowd-funded product: at the moment, you can order via Indiegogo for $73.