Gadgets for Geeks

How to Keep (Connected) Track of One's Cigars

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How to Keep (Connected) Track of One's Cigars

Another day, another connected gadget with a use as specific as it is unusual-- the Blume is a device able to update users on the status of their cigar collection via companion smartphone app.

For those not in the know, the best way to keep cigars fresh is inside a container with a constant humidity, or humidor. Maintaining said constant humidity depends varies, but either way if the humidor gets dry the cigars inside are essentially ruined. Which is where the Blume enters the frame. The device monitors the air inside the humidor, and releases water vapour to maintain required levels.

A companion app allows users to set a preferred humidity, and also lets one know when the built-in 250ml water supply is running out, something maker Cigar Zen says is required around once a month. The Blume runs on a rechargeable battery, and a backup is included to keep the device running during recharges.

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A Gadget for the Scanning of Wine

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A Gadget for the Scanning of Wine

French startup MyOeno presents a means for customers to check a bottle of wine without actually tasting it-- the MyOeno Scan, a connected tester able to send the characteristics of a wine to a companion smartphone app.

First seen in Paris at the CES Unveiled 2016 event, the MyOeno Scan promises to objectively analyse a wine's oneological characteristics without sampling or chemical interactions. Once the device scans the wine, the companion app provides a description complete with tasting notes, food pairings and even a list of similar wines.

In addition users can rate the wine, and in turn the app using such ratings to both keep a record of wines tasted and suggest new future purchases. A final function is social, as users can share tastings with friends.

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Happy 15th Birthday, Apple iPod!

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Happy 15th Birthday, Apple iPod!

Tech industry followers with longer memories should remember a rather special 23 October 2001 Apple event-- the launch of the iPod, arguably the device that moved Apple away from PCs ahead of the smartphone era.

The iPod was the device that helped Apple regain its fortunes, even if its first appearance was not too impressive. It was a Mac-only portable media player with all of 5GB of storage and a $399 price tag. And the first couple of years validated the sceptics, since the device failed to find an audience aside from the true Apple faithful.

As such, the iPod's true watershed moment happened with the 2003 release of an iPod designed for Windows users-- not to mention the launch of iTunes for Windows and the iTunes Music Store. The result was not only a simple means for the syncing of the music player with PCs (especially when compared with the clunky interfaces employed by Creative and Rio devices of the time), but a secure means for the online purchase of music, no CD ripping or piracy required.

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Tile Shrinks Bluetooth Tracker

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Tile Shrinks Bluetooth Tracker

Tile announces a shrunken down version of the Bluetooth-connected lost item finder sharing its name-- the Tile Mate, a tracker 25% smaller (34 x 34 x 4.65) than the original.

While a bit bulkier than the recently revealed Tile Slim, the slimmer version of the Tile, the Tile Mate has a loop allowing users to easily attach to valuables such as keys, purses and suitcases. It is also water resistant up to IP5 standard, and the smaller dimensions ensure it does not act as too much of a bump when stuck to tablets or laptops.

Like the Slim, the Mate has 4 ringtones-- Bionic Birdie, Classic Call, Pep in your Step and Blues for Slim-- and can be used to help find phones if these are kept on silent. All Tile products work be connection with a companion smartphone app, and leverage on other Tiles in the vicinity (the company says sales so far total 6 million units in 200 countries) to create a sizable mesh network.

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A Candle for a "New Mac" Scent

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A Candle for a

Accessory maker Twelve South has an unusual offering for the most ardent of Apple fans-- a candle scented as a "New Mac," allowing one to enjoy the smell of a freshly unboxed Mac product whenever they want.

The candle is made from soy wax, and combines notes of mint, peach, basil, lavender, mandarin and sage to recreate the fragrance of a new Mac. Or so Twelve South insists, at any rate. And it seems to have convinced potential customers, since the candle is already (temporarily) sold out from the company's online store.

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The Foldable DJI Mavic Pro Drone

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The Foldable DJI Mavic Pro Drone

GoPro is not the only company selling a foldable drone-- DJI has a similar product, the Mavic Pro, a small and slim drone promising many of the advanced features from the larger DJI Phantom drones.

The Mavic Pro does not exactly qualify as palm-size, but is small enough to fit in a backpack or purse when folded. Sensors on the front and bottom provide obstacle avoidance, subject tracking, autonomous landing and indoor stability, while a 12MP camera sensor shoots 4K video at 30fps and HD video at 96fps.

DJI claims the battery allows for 27 minutes of flight on a single charge, and the drone's top speed is around 65km per hour (in comparison the top speed of the larger Phantom 4 is 72km/h).

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Connected Smarts Reach the... Candle

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Connected Smarts Reach the... Candle

Is anything safe from the power of app-powered smarts? Probably not, as revealed with the LuDela-- a real candle with a real flame inside a sensor-packed shell.

The actual candle is a refillable wax insert (promises up to 30 hours of flames) users place inside a battery-powered exterior shell. The shell connects to smartphones and an obligatory companion app via Bluetooth, and allows one to remotely light and extinguish the candle, all without need to bother with matches and the like.

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GoPro Puts Hopes on Foldable Karma Drone

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GoPro Puts Hopes on Foldable Karma Drone

Action camera maker GoPro announces its long awaited entry in the drone market-- the Karma, a quadcopter with a foldable design for easy storage and transport via included backpack.

The Karma features no camera, since it instead has a removable 3-axis stabilising gimbal for the attachment of a number of GoPro cameras. The gimbal is positioned in the front, a design decision GoPro says eliminates the appearance of rotors from shots where the drone is flying at top speed.

Control promises to be easy through a gamepad-style clamshell controller complete with touchscreen, 2 joysticks and a single button for takeoff, landing and returning home. It also offers 4 preprogrammed shots, dubbed dronie, cable cam, reveal and orbit, while a "passenger app" allows another person to check a live video feed and control camera position through smartphone.

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A Glove to Touch the Virtual World

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A Glove to Touch the Virtual World

Chinese startup Dexta Robotics proposes a means to further add immersion to VR experiences-- the Dexmo, a force-feedback exoskeleton allowing users to "feel" the physical properties of virtual objects.

The Dexmo fits the hands like a glove, and tracks 11 degrees of freedom of motion. It applies force to the fingers when one is manipulating a virtual object, imitating the different levels of pushback provided by different objects in real life. As such, picking up a rubber duck in VR should feel different than, say, grabbing a brick.

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Intel Presents Alloy All-in-One VR

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Intel Presents Alloy All-in-One VR

Intel is not a company to be left out of the virtual reality arena-- not when it announces the Project Alloy all-in-one self-contained VR solution at the 2016 Intel Developer Forum.

Described as "the future of merged reality," the headset carries all components required to power VR experiences, meaning users can "cut the VR cord." Intel adds the headset allows a free range of motion with 6 degrees-of-freedom across a large space, while collision detection and avoidance enables users to physically explore a virtual space.

The headset also supports augmented reality (AR) through Intel's RealSense technology. Chipzilla says the result allows users to use their hands to interact with virtual objects, essentially "merging realities," without need for additional external sensors or cameras. An IDF demo had Intel engineer Craig Raymond go around a virtual room set within the stage. He opened virtual doors with his hands and walked towards Brian Krzanich... before stopping just in time, since the CEO's face appeared in the mixed reality space.

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Xiaomi Intros VR Headset

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Xiaomi Intros VR Headset

Xiaomi clearly does not want to be left out of the virtual reality game as it announces the Mi VR Play, an "entry-level" Google Cardboard-style smartphone-powered VR headset.

Designed to "bring the VR experience to a much wider audience," the Play has a lycra-built body and fits smartphones between 4.7- and 5.7-inch in size. Content comes through a Mi VR app replete with content from select partners such as Conde Nast Traveler and YouKu. Future content is somewhat guaranteed, since last year Xiaomi pledged a $1 billion investment in video content (including VR).

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