Each new week brings with it an abundance of new gadgets -- whether devised by tech giants like Google and Samsung or pushed by hopeful entrepreneurs to Kickstarter, they run the gamut from useful to niche to tech that nobody really needs. This week we're looking at gadgets that wouldn't be out of place in a high-tech sci-fi -- though some of them should have stayed a fiction.
Gadget image via Shutterstock
Dyson -- the British company famous for its vacuum cleaners and Air Multiplier fans -- has invested almost $95 million, enlisted 103 engineers, built 600 prototypes, and has over 100 patents pending, all into the creation of a hairdryer.
It's one of those things that doesn't seem to make sense -- and then, suddenly, it does. And it's not just because vacuum cleaners were once the only option for drying hair.
It turns out the design of the hairdryer hasn't changed much since its first re-invention for household use in the early 1900's. The brains behind the brand, Sir James Dyson, is a man known for finding a problem to fix -- and the modern hairdryer presented one such problem.
Imagine a gadget that is loud, bulky and difficult to manoeuvre. You are pointing it at your head while it blasts your scalp and hair with high temperatures, treading the fine line between shiny locks and extreme heat damage. Oh, and at any moment your hair can be sucked into the filter, breaking and knotting it.
Don't you reckon the humble hairdryer deserves a rethink? Sir James Dyson certainly did. And the result is the Dyson Supersonic.
3D Print Perfect, Consumer-Ready Parts With Polysher
To anyone who's never used one, 3D printers sound like magic. You can print out anything you want, come up with perfect 3D items with little more than the press of a button (and maybe a couple hundred hours spent 3D modelling but that's not important). People seem to forget, however, that 3D printers still have to print in layers, meaning that round objects aren't always round, and most surfaces are going to have at least a little ridging on them. Objects can of course be finished by sanding or filling the gaps, but that makes the process suddenly become a lot of work.
This is the problem the Polysher seeks to solve -- a device and material system that automatically polishes your 3D object to a glossy shine, with no hint of the telltale lines that come from 3D printing.
The idea actually comes in two parts -- the PolySmooth filament and the Polysher machine. PolySmooth is made up of a type of plastic that is soluble to certain types of chemicals. When a part printed from PolySmooth is put in the Polysher, the machine sprays a fine mist of isopropyl alcohol or ethanol, evenly distributed so that the top layer melts and forms again smooth.
The Polysher was recently launched on Kickstarter, and quickly reached its funding goal. It's currently sitting on $US300,000 of a $US100,000 goal, with 20 days still to go in the campaign.
The Amazon Echo was a clumsy implementation for what ended up being an idea with legs. People have an appetite for a seamless voice-controlled assistant. The Star Trek Computer! Jarvis! Hal! Except not evil! It's legitimately cool how easy it is to ask this gadget something and get answers. Yet the Echo didn't do much, and the unvarnished tubular design that required outlet power didn't seamlessly slide into your life like a voice assistant ought to.
But it's always-on listening trick turned out to be quite compelling, and so Amazon's at it again.
With the Alexa-enabled Echo Dot and Tap devices, Amazon explores how exactly its voice assistant might more conveniently fit into our lives. The $US90 ($116) Dot is a hockey puck-sized version of the Echo (sans giant speaker), which needs outlet power and is always listening for your commands. You can use it on its own, or plug it into your existing sound system. The Tap is a variation on a cylindrical portable Bluetooth speaker, like the UE Boom, with Alexa powers built in. The catch is that the Tap requires that you activate the Alexa's listening by touching a button -- no always-on listening here.
Are 3D Printed Running Shoes The Way Of The Future?
This April, New Balance was the first to release a 3D printed running shoe, with 44 pairs of the new Zante Generate shoe being released online.
The shoes feature a honeycomb grid-like sole which would be incredibly difficult to manufacture without the technology of 3D printing. It's not the kind of 3D printing you may be thinking of, however -- New Balance has used a process called Selective Laser Sintering, or SLS, a technology that uses a laser to harden sections of raw powder into a flexible material. The hundreds of small cells provide 'cushioning and structure', they say.
The technology comes at a price, however -- the Zante Generates sold for a whopping $US400 each. It's unknown whether New Balance will be releasing more 3D printed shoes, or whether the Generates will remain a one-of-a-kind.
Smart mirrors aren’t new. But this is the very first one where I reflexively reached into my wallet and threw money at the screen.
Ryan Nelwan, a software engineer, designed this mirror to do way more than previous builds. It shows the time and weather of course. The reflective touchscreen surface also appears to also be capable of playing music, launching a few Mac apps, adjusting home temperature through Nest and even hailing an Uber through the company’s public API.
The wildest part of all is that the mirror seems to work like a giant iPad, capable of distinguishing between one- and two-finger gestures. We see Nelwan tap to open a YouTube video, but slide two fingers up and down to adjust volume. (The smudges must just get out of control, though, right?). He also claims in a Reddit post that window scaling is possible with two fingers.
But is this an elaborate hoax? There’s always the possibility, and his Twitter video makes me wary. It’s also strange that a software developer wouldn’t have mentioned a single thing about the how this mirror works. Nelwan says he’s logged the build process and will be posting updates about it to his Medium, though the page is currently empty. We reached out to Newlan but did not hear back by time of writing.
If it’s real though, this mirror is like something out of Minority Report, except set in a future where everything doesn’t suck. The important question is: when can I buy it?
Because a thermite-blasting cannon isn’t crazy enough, Colin Furze used a pair of motors and propellers designed for parasailing to build himself a fully functional flying hoverbike. It’s easily one of the mad scientist’s most dangerous builds to date, but seeing how manoeuvrable it is almost makes us want to build one too.
That being said, even though Colin is about the farthest thing you’ll find from a trained professional, you might want to think twice about attempting this build. But just in case you were to try this risky task at home, here’s a series of videos outlining how Furze’s latest project came together.