The cool gadgets list – December 2018

Tis the season to be jolly, especially when you have oodles of new gadgets and gizmos to play with - here's our pick of the best tech we've found this month.


Airbubbl in-car air purifier


TESTED: According to the folks at Airbubbl the average commuter passively smokes 180 cigarettes worth of nitrogen dioxide a year in their vehicle, which is why their in-car air purifier fits on the back of your headrest and filters out toxic gas ozone, VOCs, PM2.5 and PM10 particles, bacteria and even odour.


If you don’t quite know what that all means, rest assured it’s not good for your heart and lungs (listen to our Science Focus Podcast episode about air pollution to discover its true horrors), so a device like this will come as a breath of fresh air.

So, does it work? Well, probably. It’s not the easiest thing to give a fair go without having the right equipment in the car to actually test the levels of nasties floating about (one of these might have helped), but let’s just assume it does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a big device, that comes on loud for five minutes when you want a boost of fresh air in the car, something my toddler found highly amusing sitting in the back staring at it. But size and sound aside, it’s simple enough to use, and can be controlled via the app or with the easily findable button on the side that you can switch on by reaching around the back of your headrest without taking your eyes off the road.

I’m pretty sure my lungs were thankful for the whole experience.





A smartphone strapped to your handlebars pinging with WhatsApp messages while you avoid potholes and white vans is, perhaps, a wee bit distracting. They are also pretty alluring to those with quick fingers. All in all not the best option.

The Blubel on the other hand, sounds a lot safer. It’s a bell, which connects to your (now in pocket) smartphone, and once you have set your route gives you audio cues when it’s time to turn, and lights point the way to your final destination so you can keep your bearings. You can also ring the bell when you see to a hazard, classify it in the app when you get off your bike, and share it with the community.



Howz / EDF smart home monitoring kit


If you’re anything like us your smart thermostat will be hooked up to your smart lights, all controlled by your smart home hub in the kitchen. How very smart you must feel, but what about grandma and grandad? Even if they are still think the Teasmaid is the hottest tech since they saw the actual invention of sliced bread (1928, don’t you know), adding a little bit of smart tech to their home could give everyone a little piece of mind.

Together with EDF Energy, Howz have created a smart home monitoring kit that is designed keep a non-invasive eye on your family by building up a profile of their daily behaviour (such as when they put the kettle on in the morning or what the temperature is), and alerting you if there are any significant changes in the pattern. This could just be them deciding to do something different on a whim, but it could also suggest there is an underlying health issue or that they have been involved in an accident.

Now that does sound smart.

£199 with monthly £6 subscription,


Nanoleaf Canvas

Nanoleaf Canvas _kid_hires

TESTED: Remember the funky Nanoleaf lights we featured last year? Well they’re back, and this time even groovier than ever, and by that I mean not only are they bigger (and square rather than triangle), but they also respond to music.

With the starter pack, you get one control square and eight add ons, which you can plug into all manner of different shapes depending on how many you have. I went for an imaginative rectangle, but it all depends on how much space you have to fill (I had a rectangular space to fill, natch), and then it’s just a case of plugging them in. And oh boy, these light are BRIGHT!

Nanoleaf Canvas
Very festive!

In the app you can set up different scenes and colourways, or you can shuffle through the preinstalled ones using the control panel. And all of the panels are touch sensitive, so you can prod away at them and make the colours ebb and evolve. There is also the option to play games like Simon or a simple memory game. Being the season to be jolly, I set mine up with IFTTT so whenever i said “Happy Christmas” to my Google Assistant, the Nanoleaf Canvas would shimmer in all manner of festive colours.



Evoko Groupie

groupie on iphone

Unless you happen to be sporting one of the newest crop of phones, like the Google Pixel 3, chances are your selfie cam is, well, a little limited in scope. By that, we mean if you want more than just your mug in frame you need to get everyone to squeeze uncomfortably close or suffer the ignominy of using a selfie stick (shudder).

The 35-gram Evoko Groupie spares you any blushes by sticking over the lens and boosting your field of view to a wide 151-degrees, while using the inbuilt LEDs to brighten up your shot. Very snappy.

Around £72,


Sphero BOLT

Sphero BOLT

The Sphero is probably the most fun you can have with a little robotic ball, which rolls around at your beck and call (we’ve got a little BB-8 Sphero as our office pet), but the new model looks like it belongs in the hit movie Tron thanks to the 8×8 LED matrix nestled in the middle.

This displays shows real-time data and graphics, which you can program in the new Sphero Edu app, designed to let children, parents and teachers share their projects with each other. That will not only make it fun, but a great educational toy for anyone looking to toy around with the STEM subjects. Other fun new features include infrared sensors for BOLT-to-BOLT communication, an ambient light sensor  and an extended battery life, for more than two hours of continuous play.


Skullcandy Venue wireless headphones

Skullcandy Venue wireless headphones

On-ear headphones tend to be on the big, which makes them pretty hard to mislay – but then all of us have the capacity to do silly things at times. That’s why these new headphones from Skullcandy have built-in Tile technology, which means if you if you do happen to forget where you left them you can see where you last had them in the accompanying app. Now if only they would put the same tech in these little blighters



Shadow cloud-based PC

Shadow, the high-end, cloud-based PC

TESTED: How does having a £1,500 gaming rig on your mobile sound? Pretty sweet, we imagine, and indeed, that’s the same response we had firing up this cloud-based gaming service. Once you’ve downloaded the Shadow app on your phone or your computer, so long as you have an internet connection above 15mb/s you’re basically hooked into a Windows 10 gaming setup with 12GB RAM and a beastly NVIDIA GTX 1080 graphics card. That powerful enough to throw pretty much any game at it.

Being cloud based you can’t install any physical games, but who does that any way these days with the likes of Steam and GOG, and you’ll need a bluetooth controller to actually play the games on mobile, but once that’s done you’re ready to get blasting. Play games on my wheezy old 2013 MacBook has always been a chore (or any MacBook for that matter), but playing every game in my Steam library on max settings for everything is a joy to behold.

£26.95 a month,


MekaMon V2

MekaMon V2

Reach Robotics debuted the world’s first gaming robot in 2017, and this year they’re back with their updated version. It’s a real-life video game character that can be used in augmented reality battles; against hoards of virtual enemies or against your friends’ MekaMon in the real world.

Their new version is more responsive, reacting to its owners movements, and has a ton of character; if you lose a battle, your MekaMon will turn red and stomp around. If you win, it’ll turn green and bob with enthusiasm.



HiMirror Mini Premium


This Alexa-enabled smart mirror uses an image-processing algorithm to check your skin for spots, fine lines, wrinkles, pores, roughness, dark spots and undereye circles. It then compares those results to a baseline image to give you daily marks out of 100 for texture, firmness, clarity, brightness and overall healthiness.

The Hi Mirror could help you remember to drink more water and get more sleep, and give you an indication of whether that £20 pot of anti-wrinkle cream is working, but aside from that, it sounds like a fast-track to neuroticism. It can tell you the weather though, so that’s something.


Sometimes we actually get our grubby little mitts on some of these gadgets, so when we do we’ll let you know and give you our honest opinion on them. Needless to say, if it’s cool enough to make this list, we’re probably going to be fans.

Scribit Wall-Writing Robot


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