Tuesday 31 May 2016

My TRE Talk Radio Europe gadgets for May 2016

Here's the technology that I've been talking about in my role as TRE Talk Radio Europe's 'gadget guru' this afternoon:

Wherecom S3 smartwatch

Smartwatches are starting to become pretty standard technology: generally they connect with your mobile phone and let you check messages, look at directions, monitor your session at the gym… that kind of thing. Some of them even have their own mobile connection, so you can make calls from them without needing to have your phone with you.

This one – the Wherecom S3 – is designed for older people. In fact, you could even say it’s designed for the children of older people.

At first glance it’s pretty much as you might expect: this looks like a chunky digital watch with a 1½-inch colour display.

As well as being able to make calls and send messages, it includes an SOS button that the wearer can press if they’re in trouble. This then automatically contacts their chosen person (or people) and sends them a message via a special Wherecom app with your location, so they know the wearer needs help and they know where to find them. It can use the mobile network or WiFi to send that message, whichever is available, and works out where the wearer is by a combination of GPS, mobile network signals and WiFi hotspots. As well as this, there’s an alarm reminder for people who take regular medication and a pedometer.

It all runs on a version of the Android operating system and has a rechargeable battery that lasts for up to two days on a single charge,

Pricing without a connection is expected to be 149 Euros from September; it’s also likely to be offered as a package by European retailers.

Dyson Supersonic hair dryer

Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld was in some newspapers at the weekend because he’s been promised one of these for his cat.

That very much makes the point that the Dyson Supersonic hairdryer is quieter than conventional machines and – perhaps more importantly to most people – it’s also less damaging to hair.

This is from James Dyson, who’s previously produced vacuum cleaners, hand dryers and fans – so perhaps it’s no surprise that he’s started making hairdryers. In fact, the company says it’s invested £50 million in developing the product.

That, perhaps, is one of the reasons this is so expensive: it’s priced at £299 (around €400).

So what do you get for your money?

Well, there’s an air pump in the handle, which is the same basic theory as the Dyson desk fans. Apparently the motor is eight times faster than some other dryers, but it’s quieter because it’s surrounded by acoustic silencers. Instead of a pointed nozzle, the air is propelled out of something that looks more like a tube – and that means the back of the dryer won’t get clogged up with fluff.

As well as all those advantages, it’s designed to eliminate one particular hair-related problem: having your hair next to the dryer slows down the airflow… and that means your hair overheats, with the water in your hair expanding, damaging the fibres and making it look dull. The Dyson is regulated with four precision temperature settings and three speed settings.

You can order it online now; it should be available in the UK from the end of June.

ROAM-e flying selfie camera

That description pretty much sums up this device, which means it’s either an inspired piece of technology or the kind of thing that precedes the four horsemen of the apocalypse, depending on your perspective. I can’t help but notice that the manufacturers aren’t using the word ‘drone’, which has negative connotations to some people. Mind you, so does the word ‘selfie’.

Today isn’t the first time I’ve talked about this kind of thing – last year there was the launch of a flying camera called Lily – but the ROAM-e camera is different, not least because the company behind it has signed a deal with one of the big consumer electronics distributors in the United States. It’s going on sale in June and, depending on how things go, could be one of the big Christmas presents of this year.

So… it looks around the same size as a 660ml bottle of water, but it’s white and has two sets of rotor blades on top, like a helicopter. These blades fold down, so you can put it in a bag and carry it around.

It runs from a rechargeable battery that will keep it flying for 20 minutes and can recharge in just two hours.

In simple terms, you can show it your face and then it remembers who you are and follows you around. It can take 5 megapixel photos, 360-degree panoramic pictures and can even stream live video.

As well as staying relatively close to you for selfies – there’s something like a five-metre range – you can also use it as a conventional drone up to 25 metres away.

The ROAM-e flying selfie camera is currently available online for $499 Australian dollars (approximately £250), with delivery due 12 weeks after ordering.

Omnio Stroller

Gadgets don’t all need to be about microtechnology. This is about making life easier for the parents and grandparents of young children.

The Omnio Stroller is what some people would call a ‘stroller’ and I’d call a ‘pushchair’. It’s designed for toddlers but can be carried like a backpack when you’re not using it.

This has actually been quite a while in the making: it won ‘British Invention of the Year’ at the Gadget Show in 2015 and is due to be available from autumn this year. Right now you can preorder it from crowd-funding site born.com.

So – it weighs 7.2kg, that’s 16lbs, it’s rainproof, it’s sunproof and there’s room for a bit of shopping. It’s got a padded seat, a padded safety harness and an adjustable handle. If you look closely at the design you’ll see it’s got rollers instead of tyres on the front, which means you can push it forwards like a conventional buggy but you can also easily move it sideways.

When your toddler is walking, the Omnio stroller folds down small enough to meet most airline cabin baggage standards – there’s even a bag to put it in – and it’ll suit children from 6 months upwards until they weigh 48lbs (22kg; over 3 stone). Rather neatly, the padded safety harness transforms into the shoulder harness when you’re wearing it. But don’t think it’s only for airlines or hiking across the hills – something that folds down this much is also great for the boot of a small car.

Pricing at the moment is £273.72, which is 25% off the proposed retail price.