SDN Blog

Gift season highlights cool, creepy, fun, and practical gadgets

Posted on Monday, December 21, 2015

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Gadgets for the techie

At a practical level, the TV remote control remains one of the greatest technological advances of modern time, in my view. Electronic garage-door openers rank right up there, too. And microwave ovens. You can’t dismiss the time-saving benefits of microwaves.

Old-fashioned, mainstream products such as those get taken for granted – understandably - in these days of rapidly evolving mobile devices and short-lived apps. Some of the new and emerging gadgets being promoted now probably will have a life span shorter than a QR Code. Still, gadgets are a lot of fun to check out.

In the spirit of the gift-giving and gift-receiving Christmas and holiday season, staffers at SDN Communications offered suggestions, and I spent some time exploring what’s new and developing on the high-tech gizmo scene. Let’s start with my favorite category.


Cool, But Is This Necessary?Sippo smart hydration cup

I thought smart toothbrushes had this category locked down indefinitely, but there is a new contender: smart cups.

The Sippo is just one example of the latest in “hydration technology.” It’s a container that will tell you how much water you’ve had to drink and remind you when you should drink more.  An alarm sounds when you’re overdue for a sip.

Like a lot of new devices, the Sippo is programmed and operates through a smartphone. (Maybe I could program one to ration daily sips of Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi.)

Development funds for the Sippo still were being sought recently on the crowdsourcing site, but orders were being taken. The retail prices was listed at $88, plus shipping.


Impressive, But Kind of Creepy Mappo smart mask

The uPeek could have won this category. It’s a microscope about the size of a credit card that connects wirelessly to a smartphone and lets users examine all the tiny, creepy, ugly organisms that constantly are crawling all over and all around us. Yuck.

The uPeek remains in the development phase, too, however. Funds are being raised on So, let’s give top recognition to an old-school product with unsettling surveillance capacity: A Spy Camera Tie that comes with an audio recorder, remote control and hidden, pinhole camera. It’s available for $34.15 on Amazon.

It’s a good fit, especially for male journalists of questionable ethics who still wear ties. It also might be a good fit for investigators and law-enforcement agencies that operate on a tight budget.

For women, you might want to consider a Mapo, a product under development by Wired Beauty in France. The company is developing a personalized mask that serves as a skin coach by monitoring factors such as facial moisture. It could double as a bland Halloween mask.


Goofy and Fun Sphero's BB-8

The popularity of the movie, “Star Wars – The Force Awakens,” skews the toys in this category a bit, but that’s O.K. Nothing is more susceptible to pop trends than electronics.

Two companies are offering little, robotic balls inspired by the BB-8 character in the movie. Sphero is selling one about the size of a baseball for about $150. It’s controlled by a smartphone. A Hasbro  model for Target, which sells for about $200, is slightly bigger and comes with a controller.

Timmy’s Toy Box, an online review program, suggests that the sturdier Hasbro model might be best for playing children, and the more high-tech Sphero model might be better for nerdy grown-ups. The reviewer didn’t actually use the word nerdy to describe adult collectors. I just threw that in.


Almost a Necessity Shuttr smartcamera remote

Price affordability has got to be a significant factor in this prestigious category, so let’s go with the Muku Shuttr, which sells for about $40. It’s a remote control camera shutter that’s small enough to carry around on a key chain. It uses Bluetooth technology to allow users take selfies from up to 30 feet away.

So, photo ranges no longer have to be determined by the length of a person’s arm or a selfie stick. More importantly, the person with the remote never has to be left out of a photo.

Let’s give an honorable mention to the Circle with Disney, a useful smart device that enables parents to control the content and time their children spend on connected devices. It sells for $99. Mom or Dad can set a wake time or sleep time for specific devices, for example.

Incidentally, similar results can be achieved using Meraki wireless business-oriented products from Cisco Systems, which are carried by SDN Communications. But that’s a subject for another day.

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