Gadgets for Geeks

The First Bluetooth Padlock

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The First Bluetooth Padlock

Fuz Designs suggests time is nigh for the end of padlocks using keys or-- with the Noke padlock, all users need to lock and unlock their belongings is a Bluetooth-equipped smartphone.

The Noke padlock pairs with smartphones via app (iOS and Android) and Bluetooth 4.0. When in range of the paired phone the Noke unlocks with a simple press of the shank, with no need to launch the app or removing the phone from one's pocket.

But what if the user forgets their phone or it runs out of power? The Noke also has a solution with "quick-click" technology. This allows the user to unlock the padlock by tapping a pre-assigned click pattern on the hook.

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Google Makes VR Goggles… Out of Cardboard

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Google Makes VR Goggles… Out of Cardboard

The Google I/O 2014 conference might have been all about Android, but it was one unusual device-plus-app combination that really stole the scene-- Cardboard, Google's paper take on the Oculus Rift. Yes, really.

Described by Google as a "no-frills enclosure that transforms a phone into a basic VR headset," Cardboard reminds of the Vrizzmo, a low-cost VR headset consisting of a head harness and a pair of optical lenses. However unlike the Vrizzmo, the Cardboard headset is strictly DIY. It is, essentially, a corrugated cardboard (thus the name!) kit and a pair of lenses held together with strategically velcro tabs, magnets and rubber bands. Once assembled, all that's left is a smartphone and an appropriate app for admittedly basic VR experiences.

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Meet the Smartphone-Connected... Cup

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Meet the Smartphone-Connected... Cup

Do you know what and how much you are drinking? Just in case in case you want to learn more about your hydration, the Vessyl might prove to be something of an app-connected "smart cup" solution.

The Vessyl is the brainchild of one Justin Lee and Jawbone designer Yves Behar. It looks like a fancy oversized (380ml) container, and carries sensors allowing it to detect what is inside. Apparently it can tell between different strengths of coffee or brands of drinks (such as Pepsi or Coke), with a tilt-activated display letting one know what they are drinking.

More impressively it also pushes the drink's nutritional data to smartphones via Bluetooth and companion app, and even tells users how much they should drink via "Pryme," a NikeFuel-style metric for overall hydration.

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Parrot Shows Off Bebop Drone

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Parrot Shows Off Bebop Drone

Parrot shows off the latest addition to its popular AR.Drone quadricopter drone lineup-- the Bebop, the first aerial offering from the company to feature an HD camera and a built-in GPS.

Designed for flights both inside and outside the house (with styrofoam bumpers providing bump protection), the Bebop carries a 14MP 1080p camera complete with 180-degree fish-eye lens. A combination of sensors and image processing ensures smooth video, even when the drone is flying through choppy airs.

Like previous Parrot drones control comes via app, with the drone connecting to mobile devices via wifi. One can also use GPS to to plot flight routes or simply press a button to send the drone back home.

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A Smart Scale for Smart Nutrition

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A Smart Scale for Smart Nutrition

Ex-Apple employee turned technology journalist Michael Grothaus proposes a tablet-powered means for customers wanting to easily keep closer track of their nutrition-- the SITU Bluetooth food scale.

The SITU shows the weight and  nutritional value of food the user plans to eat. It connects to iPads or Android tablets via Bluetooth, and a companion app calculates the nutrition value of the food in question, from calories to salt, sugars, vitamins and minerals. In other words, it promises to eliminate the need for calorie counting tables and the like.

The easy to use app even keeps track of entire meals, and provides a user history complete with nutrient limit alerts and data exporting options.

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Even the Toothbrush Gets Smart

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Even the Toothbrush Gets Smart

Mobile World Congress 2014 hosts more than smartphone and tablet launches-- Oral-B makes an appearance at the show with the SmartSeries 7000, a toothbrush with Bluetooth connectivity.

The toothbrush connects to smartphones equipped with an Oral-B app and, as the company puts it, guides users through fully personalised brushing routines. As one does.

Meanwhile the app monitors brushing progress in realtime, telling users to move to different parts of the mouth or whether they are brushing too hard. It also allows dentists program individual brushing programs according patient needs.

"It will guide you in terms of how to brush, and you will be able to fully personalize the brushing routine for you," the company tells Reuters.

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The Connected Device Cocktail

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The Connected Device Cocktail

As we all know, connected devices and the so-called internet of things are big news. But what if such internet-powered smarts took on... liquor? Enter Pernod Ricard with the Project Gutenberg smart cocktail maker.

A combination of CE, apps and alcohol, Project Gutenberg (not to be confused with the book-digitising effort of the same name) is a perhaps odd move from the Absolut Vodka, Jameson Irish whiskey and Beefeater gin producer. But interestingly enough Pernod Ricard actually has a skunkworks division in the shape of the Breakthrough Innovation Group (BIG), the creator of this attempt in "redefining cocktail culture."

"With Project Gutenberg, we are utterly committed to the conviviality of the future-- an experience that is connected, entertaining, tailored and responsible," BIG managing director Alain Dufossé says. Indeed.

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A Scream to Keep Stuff Safe

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A Scream to Keep Stuff Safe

Smartphone app-powered security gets a cute-looking addition with Sammy Screamer-- a small motion sensor users can attach to objects (via either loop or magnet) in order to keep an eye on things.

Primarily aimed at customers with children, the Sammy Screamer features adjustable sensitivity, and screams out an alarm and a smartphone notification via Bluetooth LE (around 30m range) should a specific object gets moved.

Makers BleepBleeps give the examples of doors, fridges, jar lids, backpacks and even a stroller, all tracked via motion detector and iOS/Android app.

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The Paper Plane Upgrade

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The Paper Plane Upgrade

Inventor Shai Goitein believes the humble paper plane is in need of an upgrade-- thus the PowerUp 3.0 Smart Module, a small device turning regular sheets of copier paper into app-controlled flying machines.

The device consists of a miniature motor complete with rudder attached to a "crash-proof" carbon fibre frame. A built-in battery promises up to 10 minutes of flight on a single charge (rechargeable via micro USB port), while a Bluetooth Smart radio provides signal range of around 55m.

Handling control duties is a smartphone and tablet (iOS, Android) app allowing one to control paper planes by simply tilting a device left and right.

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Virtual Reality Gets Tasty

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Virtual Reality Gets Tasty

Virtual reality might look and sound great, but what about the other senses? Taste joins the likes of smell-o-vision in sensorial experimentation, through a simulator allowing users to sample food as it appears on the screen.

As New Scientist reports the synthesiser reproduces 4 taste components (salt, sweet, sour, bitter) through a silver electrode touching the tip of the tongue. The electrode "fools" taste receptors through the combination of varying alternate current and slight temperature changes, both controlled via semiconductor elements.

"We have found noninvasive electrical and thermal stimulation of the tip of the tongue successfully generates the primary taste sensations," National University of Singapore researcher Nimesha Ranasinghe says.

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The Digital Life Gets a Physical Dashboard

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The Digital Life Gets a Physical Dashboard

Customers wanting a more physical representation of their digital lives might find the Nimbus Smart Dashboard worthy of purchase-- a 4-dial dashboard designed to display data from any number of sources via physical speedometer-style needles.

Looking like something out of a muscle car dashboard, the Nimbus connects to the Wink smartphone app and gathers data such as commute times, email volume, social media activity, calendar appointments and FitBit stats.

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