Cat and dogs are lovely, aren’t they – but they do cost a bit, and they need walks, and smell. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if you could get all the love and attention, comfort and warmth from something that didn’t demand scooping unidentifiable meat from a tin to make them happy? The Qoobo pillow is a bizarre invention from Japan, which has a robotic tail that responds to your strokes like a pet would – perfect for healing your heart and relieving stress apparently. That is, we guess, unless you accidentally sit on it and fear you may have squished poor Tinkles the kitten.
¥10,000 (approx £70), kickstarter.com
While we’re thinking about replacement pets, Sony’s robot dog was an instant hit when it launched in 1999, and went on to sell over 150,000 units. Production ceased in 2006, but now it’s back – with greatly improved robotic movement, enhanced 21st Century AI smarts and a camera in its nose. It goes on sale in Japan from January.
¥198,000 (£1,300 approx), aibo.sony.jp
nCube smart home hub
What do Albert Einstein, Marie Curie and Watson & Crick have in common? Nope, not Nobel Prizes (although they do all have them), but brians! Yes, it comes as no surprise that smart people have brains, and the same goes for a smart house. The nCube is one such smart brain, which supports over 100 devices and connects over Wi-Fi, LAN, Z-Wave and Bluetooth. Once everything is plugged in, you control your devices from your phone and automate them using simple commands. Best of all, because it acts as its own server it works offline, so if the internet goes down your house will still pop into life when it needs to.
Razer are particularly good at making top-end computer rigs packed to the gills with features and components that make your gaming buttery smooth and graphically glorious. So it makes sense that they have put the same ethos into their first foray into mobile gaming. The snappily titled Razer Phone has a 120Hz, 5.7-inch screen screen with Dolby ATMOS and THX certified audio, all powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 with a whopping 8GB RAM – this is not a phone you would want to limit to Candy Crush.
Gaming aside, it also comes with all the other wizardry you would expect from a modern phone including dual 12MP cameras, expandable storage and a monster 4,000 mAh battery. Still no headphone jack though…
Studio19 SOLO 600XEQ premium Wi-Fi speaker
Portability and premium-quality sound rarely go hand in hand when it comes to speakers, but the Studio19 SOLO are about as close as you can get. Aside from looking like it would fit comfortably in the chicest Bauhaus flat (it even has a physical EQ built into the top!), the 600XEQ 200w speakers offer Dual Pressure Air Compression super-bass technology for, well, super bass, and Enhanced 360° Optimised Sound, which will spread your music not only 360 degrees from left to right, but also top to bottom giving you a glorious globe of superior spherical sound.
Want a cheap and lightweight phone to take on your travels in place of your smartphone? The tiny, slimline Jelly runs on Android 7.0 Nougat, and packs in 4G reception, up to 2GB of RAM, a 2.45-inch screen, dual cameras, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS.
From $79 (£60 approx), unihertz.com
Amplifi HD WiFi Router
It wasn’t that long ago that we were running cables around our house if we wanted to be hooked up to that there high-speed internet, but thankfully wi-fi has sorted out the problem of potential trip hazards. But along with it comes another, potentially even more perilous concern – wi-fi dead spots. Ok, it might not be as serious as a sprained ankle but the thought of buffering during Star Trek: Discovery is enough to make any of us throw our laptop out the window.
This AmpliFi’s router pumps out a 802.11ac signal at speeds up to 867 Mbps, almost as fast as the zippiest of ethernet cables, and paired with the AmpliFi Extenders means no corner of the house should be spared from the battle between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. It also has an LCD screen to show you the strength of the signal – and the time, which is nice.
The euphoric highs of knowing you’re off on a short weekend break are swiftly crushed when the thought of packing all your shirts, pants and socks in a carry-on sized bag kicks in. Rather than uncomfortably jamming everything in, the GoBag 2 solution is to pack it all in a special vacuum-compression bag, so you can suck out all of that pointless, space-hogging air that collects around your undies. Once you’ve squished out all the air you’ll have plenty of space left over for the integrated wash bag and 15-inch laptop pocket – you might even be able to bring a souvenir home!
From £125, kickstarter.com
Vespa Elettrica electric scooter
Mamma Mia, now that’s a nice scooter! It’s taken a while for the iconic Vespa to join the electric revolution but now it’s here we’re giddy about getting on this one. With a peak power of 4kW, the new electric Vespa should easily out perform your gas-guzzling 50cc and can get 100km on a four-hour charge. Should you want to go further the hybrid Elettrica X can take you a full 200km before running out of puff.
Buzzfeed Tasty One Top
Buzzfeed’s first foray into hardware is a Bluetooth-enabled hotplate that links to their Tasty app, enabling even those who’ve been known to burn a tin of beans to cook over 1,700 dishes to perfection. Perfect for students heading off to uni!
$149 (£115 approx), tastyonetop.com
Amazon Kindle Oasis 2017
It’s hard to believe that the Amazon Kindle is 10 years old now, which makes it even more staggering that it is only on its ninth generation that it finally has waterproofing (IPX8 to be precise, good for two metres of fresh water for up to 60 minutes). That said, the new premium Kindle Oasis looks worth the wait, with an aluminium body toting a 7-inch, 300 ppi screen. As you expect from the Kindle, it has a huuuuge book library, of which you can cram on 32GBs-worth, and with Audible you can pair with bluetooth speakers for audiobooks.
From £229.99, amazon.co.uk
The fully autonomous Travelmate robotic suitcase will happily roll along behind you through the airport (no more lugging bags for you!). It navigates crowds, and comes with a built-in weighing scale, LED lights, fingerprint security and GPS tracking.
From $499 (£385 approx), travelmaterobotics.com
SteelSeries Arctis 3 Bluetooth headset
We love the fact we can play Zelda on the way to work with the Nintendo Switch, but we’re less enthusiastic about the lack of Bluetooth headset support. If only there were a way to play and use our commute time to speak to mum…
Fortunately gaming accessory specialists have released the Arctis 3 Bluetooth headset, which as well as having ultra-low distortion sound, class-leading microphone audio and a ski goggle headband for comfort, can play Bluetooth and wired sound simultaneously! No excuses for not making that call anymore…
Nuki Smart Lock
Smart home gadgets can live or die by their simplicity to set up and their effectiveness. You would hope that the Nuki smart lock is suitably effective at keeping your house locked when you’re not there, but its setup is one of the easiest we’ve seen yet – you simply mount it over your existing key, tighten a few bolts and you’re good to go (quite literally).
Once you’ve installed the battery-powered lock (lasts about six months) and downloaded the app, it’ll automatically detect when you’re home or away and unlock accordingly, as well as connecting to Alexa or Google Assistant for completely hands free interaction. If you buy the Nuki Bridge you can unlock the door via the internet.
LG K7i mosquito repelling phone
One thing we’ve always felt missing on our modern smartphones are mosquito-repelling cases. Praise be that LG have heard our prayers and furnished us with the K7i. It’s only available in India, where disease-carrying mosquitoes are actually a problem, and the science behind it is dubious at best, but hey, LG are thinking outside the box when it comes to new smartphone features…
Rs.7990 (approx £90), lg.com
We live in a world where our mobile phones consider the humble headphone socket redundant, but alas, not all of us have caught up with such a modern trend and are still toting practically prehistoric headphones with, horror of horrors, a wired cable. Gooseberry’s chief goal is to rejuvenate old tech, and the funky little Poppins is a Bluetooth receiver that wirelessly connects to your phone (or other audio device) and physically connects to your headphones. It comes in four groovy colours and attaches to your closes using a magnetic clip, and two Poppins can connect together to listen from the same audio source.
Shipping from Feb 2018, $19, indegogo.com
HTC Vive Focus
There is little that we can say about the HTC Vive Focus, other than it exists, but then a wirefree VR headset from the people that give us the excellent Vive is always welcome. It’s going to be available in China, and there is no indication of cost or even specs other than having a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip, an AMOLED screen and uses inside-out positional tracking. Sadly HTC have abandoned all hopes of having a Daydream branded headset, raising the pressure on the Focus to be a success. On a personal level, we’re already fans of the name…
ZTE Axon M
Flipping heck, is that a new smartphone with a genuinely novel and potentially useful feature? The ZTE Axon M is a flip phone with a difference (because we’re not in the 2000s any more, perhaps?), in that it flips out horizontally to give you two full HD screens, which you can either extend to one 6.75-inch screen, mirror what’s seen on both or simply use with two different apps. It’s not going to blow away other Android phones from the likes of Samsung or Google, but in terms of specs, but they are decent enough for a phone of this calibre – but then that’s not why you’d buy this one is it…
Mui smart wood
Out of sight until needed, out of mind until utilised. Nope, these are not the thoughts of a Victorian headmaster about children, but the way more zen mantra of this glorious mix of tech and nature. This Internet of Things connected block of timber has all the appearance of an elegant piece of wood, until you caress the front, at which point it comes alive and controls your lights, reads your mail, sends you messages and tells you the weather. A welcome return to the elements in a world where we’re surrounded by screens.
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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