Tuesday 13 December 2016

My 'Gadget Guru' list for TRE Talk Radio Europe December 2016

Here's the technology we discussed in my TRE Talk Radio Europe 'gadget guru' conversation today:

Leica Sofort instant camera

I’m old enough to remember when instant cameras were cool the first time round and Polaroid ruled the roost. These days, we can print our own photos at home, so there’s less novelty in having an instant camera, but they haven’t gone away completely. Fuji is one of the big names these days – and now Leica is after a share of the market.

The camera itself is quite a square, retro-looking design. There’s a choice of three colours: orange, white and what they call mint (pale green). It’s just under five inches wide and four inches high. It’s got the trademark Leica red dot on the front, has a built-in flash and there’s a viewfinder window rather than an electronic viewfinder. It’s also got a little mirror on the front for selfies.

However, don’t think this is entirely mechanical. There’s a little LED display on the back telling you how many photos remain in your film and letting you see the camera settings. It’s all powered by a rechargeable battery.

You can choose a special sports setting for movement, or another for portraits, there’s a timer you can use and you have three choices for setting the focus: Macro, Standard and Landscape. You can also override the automatic settings if you want to change the brightness of the picture, for example, or turn the flash off. You can buy Leica’s own film or use Fuji film instead. Developing each picture takes around 1-2 minutes.

The Leica Sofort has the equivalent of a 34mm lens (towards the wide-angle end of things but actually made by Leica themselves, so I understand), it has an f/12.7 aperture, which will help keep stuff in focus, and it offers of between 1/8th of a second to 1/400th of a second.

Pricing is £229 (around €265), which is a lot more than a similar Fuji camera, but this is as much an emotional purchase as a practical one.

Hypnolight LED lights

Twinkly lights aren’t just for Christmas but it’s very much the time of year when these things are especially popular. Hypnolight is effectively a 12 foot long string of lights (that’s over 3½ metres) with 50 separate LEDs.

What colours are they, you may ask? Pretty much any colour you want. That’s the clever thing. Each of the LEDs can shine red, green and blue – and you can mix these together. It means you get 16 million colours with 33 different patterns of making them light up.

You can also slow down the speed of the pattern or can have all the LEDs the same colour for mood lighting. They’re mains powered but are waterproof, so as long as you’re careful you can use them outside.

And as though all that wasn’t enough, you can synchronise up to four sets together for an even bigger display.

The price is £49.99, which includes the controller and the power unit.

Paulig Muki coffee-powered smart mug

This is a reusable coffee cup for takeaway coffee and, as the name suggests, it’s come from a coffee company in Finland. Paulig is the coffee supplier and 'Muki' means 'mug'.

What’s so smart? It’s got an electronic ink screen. That’s a bit like a Kindle or other eBook readers. It’s a monochrome display that only really needs power when it changes.

You buy your mug then download a free application to your phone. When you’ve done that, you can send pictures and messages to your mug. In fact, here’s the lovely thing, you can send messages to someone else’s mug if they’ve given you its unique code. So friends, family, couples, you can communicate over a distance.

The mug links to the user’s own phone via a wireless Bluetooth connection – and the power comes from the heat of the drink. As long as you’re drinking coffee (or tea), the thermal energy provides enough electricity to update the screen. That picture then stays on, even if the cup runs out of energy, until it gets updated with the next one. Each hot drink gives you enough power for around five updates, which is pretty impressive.

Paulig Muki is €59 plus postage and is available in three different colours.

Oneadaptr Flip power bank

At Christmas, you’re probably using your phone quite a bit; for photos, for Twitter, for Facebook, for messages, maybe even for talking to people.

What you need is a spare battery. So, if you’re like me, you may well carry a little power pack with you to recharge your phone. That’s all very well until the power pack needs recharging as well.

That’s where the Oneadaptr FLIP Power steps in. It combines a UK three-pin plug with a power bank. You can plug it into the mains to charge up, check the LED display to make sure it’s full, then it’s got two USB sockets for charging phones and tablets.

Fair enough – but what about carrying it around? Here’s the neat bit. The plug folds away, so the pins won’t damage anything. So you get a mains charger and a powerbank in a slim package that’ll fit in your bag. Now, the power bank is just 2000 milliamp hours, which won’t completely recharge every phone, but combined with the mains part I reckon that’s pretty neat. Price is £34.99.

And if you think just having a folding charger sounds cool, take a look at a rival product called Mu. They make a folding UK charger that’s much smaller and also a folding international charger that can be used in the UK, Europe, the USA, China and Australia. It’s the kind of design that’s so clever, it makes you smile.