Ah Nintendo, you brought out a smile to our faces when we first put our hands on the Switch and it looks like are going to do it again with the latest accessory for the portable console. Unbelievably, in this era of ones and zeroes, Labo is made pretty much entirely of cardboard sheets! After pressing out and folding these sheets into shapes, you slip in a Joy-Con and, all of a sudden, you have a fully functioning cardboard Toy (called a Toy-Con) that interacts with your Switch.
Nintendo have announced two kits at launch, a Variety Kit, where you can make a remote controlled car, fishing rod, house, motorbike and piano, and a Robot Kit, where you build a full robot suit and interact with games on the TV. It all looks likegood, wholesome family fun – we can’t wait!
Available 27 April, nintendo.co.uk/Nintendo-Labo
COTODAMA Lyric Speaker
We all love a good sing song, but sadly not all of us know the words. Fortunately, the Lyric Speaker’s “Lyric Sync Technology” is here to save the day for all of us (yours truly included) who dread the thought of the TV screen going down during karaoke. By connecting to PetitLyrics, Japan’s largest lyrics database, the speaker will work out what song is playing and shows the words (in a mood-appropriate font and movement) on a translucent screen. It looks very cool, and sounds pretty marvellous as well by all accounts, capable of playing 96khz/24bit FLAC files with a range of 40Hz to 40kHz from its four speakers.
In general, bar the occasional wind, watches are pretty reliable when it comes to powering themselves. Smartwatches on the other hand (or wrist, perhaps), are not, rarely lasting the day. PowerWatch, which smashed its indiegogo funding target by nearly 1,000 per cent, harnesses the energy released by your body heat to keep this timepiece ticking while you’re wearing it, and goes to sleep when you’re not. Plus, because it measures how much energy your body is giving off it also makes it a much more accurate guide to calories burned compared to fitness bands that just measure your steps (which the PowerWatch does as well for good measure). As well as being water resistant up to 50m, it will also track sleep and stay synced with your time zone – looks pretty solid too.
There is also another model, the PowerWatch X, which is more rugged, waterproof up to 200m and can receive notifications.
RIVA Arena multiroom speaker
Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant are going to be everywhere in 2018, especially if the device in question has a speaker. Riva Audio are no different, with Google Assistant (and a slight redesign) coming to their Arena speakers later this year, so that you can chat away to these multiroom speakers to your heart’s content. The units themselves use Riva’s patented Trillium technology to pump out stereo sound from just the one unit, and connects to all your regular standards like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Chromecast and AirPlay (it even has a line in).
And if you’re sitting on the fence between this and the rivals, these units have a special trick up their sleeve – they will help you get their High Resolution Audio playback in your bathroom. Thanks to the splashproof design and an external battery pack, you’ll be able to circumnavigate the need for a plug for around 20 hours, which in our books is plenty of time for discoing while one performs their ablutions.
Available from Selfridges for £225 + £90 for the battery, selfridges.com
Hasselblad H6D-400C MS
How many megapixels do you really need? Well if you have a spare €48,000 the 400MP Hasselblad H6D-400C MS should do the trick. The medium format camera achieves such voodoo levels of resolution by taking six images, with a one pixel shift each time so that each differently coloured pixel is captured by the sensor, and is then stitched together in one mega image. This image of a beetle made the BBC Focus picture editor squeal with delight when he saw it. We made similar noises at the price…
DJI Osmo Mobile 2
DJI are probably best known for the drones, but they also make a very good camera stabiliser in the DJI Osmo. Well now they’ve made a better one. Not too much has changed but as well as being lighter, it has a longer battery life (up from 4.5 to 15 hours), improved button positions and you can mount the camera in portrait mode. Probably most significantly though, it’s a heck of a lot cheaper – almost half the price!
HTC Vive Pro
The HTC Vive is a very good VR headset, but it could be better. Luckily for us that’s exactly what HTC have gone and done with the Vive Pro, ironing out some of the major issues and producing what looks like the next generation in virtual reality hardware. The screen resolution has been bumped up to 1440 x 1600 pixels per eye, headphones have been built into the unit pumping out Hi-Res audio, a redesigned face mask improves comfort and blocks out more light, and, most excitingly, it has cut the cable and gone wireless (no more lugging a thick cable around with you).
Good news as well HTC if you are the proud owner of the original HTC Vive, you can also give this unit a bit of a boost with the VIVE Wireless Adapter, untethering you from your computer.
LG SIGNATURE AI OLED TV Picture-on-Wall W8 Series
Last year LG thrilled us with their ultra-thin wallpaper TV, so what do you do to top that? Make it smarter of course. But rather than just relying on adding Google Assistant and Alexa support, LG have their own ThinQ smart platform built in to handle a number of voice requests and connecting with other smart devices. How they will work together in practice is yet to be seen, but when you’re dropping probably north of £5k (prices are yet to be announced), you’d hope it would be seamless. Other improvements in the TV department are higher frame rates and a suped-up processor.
Amazon Echo Spot
Google aren’t the only ones vying for your eyes as well as your ears, the Amazon Echo Spot, which has been available in the US for a while is making its way over to the UK. This diminutive device (somewhere between the Dot and the Echo) is packed with Alexa goodies, but adds a 2.5-inch screen for a visual display for whatever you ask Amazon’s personal assistant to do, for example it’ll show lyrics to songs, or show the video feed from your home security system. It also has a front facing camera if you fancy having a video chat with your mum once in a while (note to self: call mum).
Magic Leap One
Magic Leap have been floating around the VR world since 2011, almost taunting us with their huge levels of investment and distinct lack of anything to show for it, but they have finally lifted the lid on their first VR headset. Packed to the gills with special sensors and cameras, the goggles will project light directly into the users’ eyes to help built an augmented reality world around them. The unit itself comes with a pair of goggles, hand controller and a wearable computer pack powering everything.
This first model is designed for creatives and producers rather than end users, so the design will probably change, but hey, we have something that is (virtually) real!
Release 2018, £TBA, magicleap.com
Zanco tiny T1 mobile phone
It’s pretty much accepted now that bigger is better when it comes to smartphones, and we’re not convinced that the world is ready return to Zoolander levels of comedy phone size. But then who are we to judge – the Zanco tiny t1 absolutely smashed its Kickstarter goal, suggesting there are enough people out there who yearn for a 46.7mm blower that weighs only 13g. It works over 2G, so it’s limited to just calls and texts (at least if you’re on Vodafone, who have committed to operating the service up until 2025), and there’s no sign of Snake on it, only a voice changer to prank your mates with.
JBL LINK View
Like the Lenovo Smart Display before, JBL are also bringing out a Google Assistant-enabled display, but given it is from a brand famed for doing decent speakers, we expect this one will pack a bit more of a punch in the sound department. It might not be as aesthetically pleasing on the eye but the 8-inch display is bookended by a pair of stereo 10w speakers giving it twice the oomph.
Available in the US this summer and in the UK at a later date, $TBA
Sony WF-SP700N true wireless ear buds
Sony have released seven new headphones that work with Google Assistant, the most interesting of which are the pill shaped WF-SP70Ns. Aside from the joy of speaking to Google, the stand out feature is that these are both noise cancelling and splash proof, so you can sweat on the treadmill to your heart’s content. It also features NFC and quick selection of your favourite sound settings without having to dig into an app. We’ll have to wait until May before we can see how they fare against the competition.
Available May, £190, sony.com
LG HU80KA 4k projector
Not many of us have space for a 150-inch screen in our living rooms, but you can bet your bottom dollar that if we did we’d be itching to get out the new 4K UHD projector LG introduced at CES 2018. Although it looks like something you would use to prop open a heavy door with (or a bin), your eyes should be firmly planted on the 2,500 lumens of light it kicks out through its “mirrorless I-shaped engine”. Whatever wizardry that is, it does mean you can plant it on the ceiling as well as the floor, and it has two seven-watt speakers and LG’s webOS 3.5 smart TV interface for wire-free streaming on the go (of course you’ll still need to plug the thing in).
Milo Smart Home Speaker
If your house is anything like most of ours, despite all the wire-free devices scattered around the place, there is probably one part that resembles a pile of spilt spaghetti – where all your smart hubs are hooked into the router. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was once device that packaged them all up into one unit? Oh, and one that doubles as a speaker. And you can use Google Assistant to carry out all your smart tasks. That’s pretty much what the Milo does, supporting devices that use Z-Wave Plus, Zigbee, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth to communicate with each other, and can be controlled by your voice or traditional (almost retro now?) touch buttons on the top.
Available Q1 2018, $149, hogarcontrols.com/milo
JBL Everest headphones
Up until now if you want GA on your headphones you have been limited to the Bose QC35 II or Google’s own Pixel Buds – not anymore. CES 2018 has seen GA built into a slew of new cans, an obviously natural place for it given their proximity to your ears and mouth. The wireless Everest range from JBL will have you spouting commands like “play heavy metal” or “switch on the heating” as you wander past fellow commuters and pack in either 8 or 25 hours of battery life depending on whether you choose the earphones (110GA) or headphones (710GA) respectively.
Available Autumn 2018, Everest 710GA, €249 and Everest 110GA, €99.99, jbl.com
Heatworks Tetra Dishwasher
A vital household appliance or an unnecessary luxury – wherever you stand on the dishwasher debate, there is one eternal truth about life, dishes must be cleaned, and washing them is boring. So, to avoid all the domestic arguments about whose turn it is to give the pans a scrub, the Heartworks Tetra is a smart countertop-dishwasher that can fit up to two full place settings (or 10 plates/12 pint glasses). That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it can get the whole thing done in only 10 minutes and uses significantly less water than regular dumb smartwashers. It can also steralise your baby bottles and even sous-vide your dinner in it if you’re into that sort of thing.
Available late 2018 for under $300, myheatworks.com
Hori Onyx PS4 controller
Don’t you ever wish your PlayStation controller was a bit more, well, Xbox? Any gamer will have a preference as to where they like to rest their left thumb, and not all PS4 owners favour the position of the left analogue stick. You’re also out of luck if you want a wireless third-party controller, but the Onyx by Hori frags these two birds with one stone. It might not have a speaker or a lightbar on the back, but at least if hours of Uncharted are giving you an RSI this game pad might help.
Anything that comes between a Brit and their cup of tea is a bad thing in our book, and one of the biggest obstacles is time. Yes, there is no excuse for under brewing a cup of tea, but if you can shave off a few minutes without having to wait for the kettle to boil we’re all for it. The iKettle is smart, so you can set it to boil at a specific time or ask Alexa/Google Assistant to switch it on, set it to a specific temperature and get your Hue lights to blink when it’s done. Milk and sugar?
We have loads more gadget news in the Innovations section of BBC Focus magazine, where we look for even more novel and unusual tech that could change the world we live in – find out what is in the current issue here.
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