Have you come across any interesting gadgets that you would like to put on your wish list for Christmas? Not the latest smartphone, laptop, camera or tablet because new models and upgrades are by and large variations on an old theme.
I’m talking about innovation—something outside the box. Frankly, it’s been a while since I saw a piece of technology that made me say, “Nice. I want.”
Recently, I came across a gadget that made my head turn. It’s a “smartwatch” called Pebble. There’s nothing quite like it on the market, and I won’t be surprised if it becomes the next big trend. Slightly larger than your regular watch, Pebble connects to your Android device or iPhone wirelessly. You can use it to control music, check your phone calls, emails, text messages, or Facebook and Twitter alerts. It can be customized to function as a stand-alone monitoring device for your fitness activities.
When the team behind the idea of this smartwatch put up its proposal to raise funds on Kickstarter (a website where individuals can pledge small amounts of money to fund their dream projects) their target was $100,000 (Rs.53 lakh now). Instead, they raised over $10 million in just five weeks.
This great-looking watch was supposed to be in the market in time for Christmas, and I had decided to buy the cherry red model for $150, but the website where they are taking pre-orders now (www.getpebble.com) says they “will ship in early 2013”. To give you an idea of the demand, they have 85,000 pre-orders, and the priority will be the 68,000-plus donors who have invested in the project.
Pebble will not be the first smartwatch on the market; Sony has one (about $100 on Amazon), but it’s Android-only, and the reviews are somewhat critical. There are reports on techie websites that Google, too, may be planning to come out with a smartwatch, but as things stand, the buzz is about Pebble.
There’s another piece of technology that I would like to get hold of if only to play with it. I say “play” because its creators, David Merrill and Jeevan Kalanithi, call it “an interactive game system”. As ideas go, it’s cutting edge, quite unlike anything I’ve seen so far. I remember watching a fascinating TED Talk by Merrill, one of the co-founders, in 2009 when they were working on the idea at the MIT Media Lab.
This game, called Sifteo, consists of matchbox-size programmable interactive cubes that can communicate with each other wirelessly. Each of these 1.5-inch cubes has a clickable colour screen. A bunch of three cubes placed side by side can become a fun game, a musical instrument, a calculator and many more things. Each cube takes its cue from the other. You shake, tilt or rotate the cubes to perform different functions. You have to watch the video (www.sifteo.com) to grasp the full potential of this brilliant device.
Sifteo is not exactly a 2012 gadget. It came out last year but they have now introduced a major upgrade: The new cubes, which the company will ship next month, don’t need to be tethered to a computer. The package includes a programmable base unit, which eliminates the need to be near a computer. You connect it to the computer to download games for a fee. A three-cube basic set comes for $129.95; you can add up to 12 cubes at $29.95 each, or a six-cube set for $199.95.
Shekhar Bhatia is a former editor, Hindustan Times, a science buff and a geek at heart.