Tuesday 26 April 2016

My 'gadget guru' list for TRE Talk Radio Europe in April 2016

Here's the new technology that I've been talking about on the radio today:

Amazon Kindle Oasis

A couple of weeks ago Amazon announced a new eBook reader called the Kindle Oasis, which it’s calling the “thinnest and lightest Kindle ever”.

It’s actually around eight years since Amazon introduced Kindle – and since then Kindle has pretty much become a standard for reading electronic books.

We’ve already got the basic Kindle, the Kindle Paperwhite (which has a backlit display) and the Kindle Voyage, which is slim and light.

Now comes the Oasis, which is even slimmer and lighter. It’s also asymmetrical – one edge is wider than the other – which makes it easier to hold because the centre of gravity is moved towards the palm of your hand. You can turn pages either by touching the screen or by pressing buttons on the edge.

As well as that, it’s got a brighter screen and a longer battery life that previous devices. It's helped by a clever leather cover included in the price; that cover has a built-in battery, which works alongside the Kindle’s own battery.

The Kindle Oasis goes on sale tomorrow: priced from £269.99 in the UK and €289.99 in Spain.


People sometimes talk about technology being 'all-singing' and 'all-dancing': this little robot really is. It moves, it plays music and it shoots lasers – which is something Justin Timberlake never did.

It’s from a company called MakeBlock, a Chinese company that’s been making DIY robot kits for a few years now.

So… Codeybot is a wedge shape with wheels on one side. It either runs around with the pointed end at the front or can balance on its wheels with its pointed end in the air. It’s 163mm tall (or long) and is powered by a rechargeable battery that’ll keep it going for two or three hours.

What does it do?

Well, quite a bit – but you need to learn how to program it, which is the point. The manufacturer reckons it’ll encourage youngsters to learn coding skills.

Codeybot has an LED display, which you can put messages on. You can teach it how to travel on a certain route – or you can just make it dance on the spot – and it’s got loudspeakers as well, which can either play music or your own messages. You can remote-control it using WiFi. And there’s an optional laser for robot battles if your friend’s got one.

You program it using Codeybot’s own language. This language is based on a system called Blockly, which is supported by Google, so you're learning something that’s got more applications than just playing with a toy. It can either be programmed on an app for iPads or via Android devices, and there’s a basic voice programming mode as well.

Delivery is expected in August if all goes according to plan; current pricing is 129 US Dollars plus another $20 if you want the laser.

Lifepack backpack

Lifepack is a gadget for your other gadgets

At first glance it’s just a decent-sized backpack with a waterproof cover: 46cm tall (18 inches) and 15cm (6 inches) deep.

But it's got an assortment of clever features. None of them are unique… but putting them all together is a particularly good idea.

To start with, inside there are plenty of compartments and pockets to keep things separate – perhaps if you’re going away for a weekend but still need to do some work.

There are two pockets hidden in the straps and another two pockets hidden in the back.

There’s a built-in cable lock, so you can fasten it to something without worrying that a thief might try to run off with it – and the zippers are all designed to be lockable as well. Incidentally, the cable lock can also be used as a bottle opener.

As well as all this, it’s got some built-in technology. On the top is a solar-powered charger that can be used to recharge your phone or your tablet – and on the other side from the solar panels is a Bluetooth loudspeaker for music or even hands-free phone calls.

Right now it’s on Kickstarter: assuming all goes well, it’ll be available from October. The regular price is expected to be $249 but you can get it for $100 less if you’re prepared to invest now.

Nike HyperAdapt self-lacing shoes

Nike HyperAdapt 1.0 is - to quote the company - “the first performance vehicle for Nike’s latest platform breakthrough: adaptive lacing.”

In the film Back to the Future part II, our hero Marty McFly wore a pair of trainers that laced themselves when he stepped in to them. Now, just over 25 years later, Nike is actually making them. This isn’t a promotional gimmick but an actual working training shoe. They’re expected to go on sale around Christmastime this year, although pricing hasn’t been confirmed.

When you put your foot in the shoe, sensors at the bottom react to your weight and the positioning of your foot. A rechargeable battery then powers tiny pulleys on the top of the shoe that tighten the laces. It doesn’t actually tie them like a traditional lace, instead it tightens the loop that’s already there. If the fit isn’t quite right, you can push a button on the side of the shoe to adjust it. Better still, the shoe will learn from your adjustments so it’ll get better at working things out each time you wear them.