The USB port has to be the most versatile orifice on the back of your computer. Not only does it enable you to transfer your data in a jiffy, it also lets you hook up your PC with tons of other gadgets, including mice, keyboards, smartphones, tablets, music players, digital cameras, printers, scanners—you name it… The list really is almost endless. Apart from this, it can also power up peripherals and lets you charge gadgets as well.
Sure, you’d have seen many a fancy USB drive, and even USB-powered fans, lights, hubs and cup warmers, but we have a few things a tad cooler than those. We’d label this genre of electronics USB Toys, but some of them push the boundaries of innovation to such an extent that it would really be wrong to call them toys. Here, we are focusing on those that have become available in the last couple of months.
t Elecom Mpa-Abbd20Wh White USB Cable
This three-in-one cable from Elecom is such a godsend that we had to use it. It allows you to hook up your smartphone and tablet with your laptop/computer, and comes with three connectors—a 30-pin connector for your iPhone 4S or third-generation (or older) iPad, a microUSB connector for your Android or BlackBerry smartphone, and a miniUSB connector for external hard drives or digital cameras. The unique design ensures you can just use the connector you need, without the risk of losing adapter tips.
t Split Stick
The electronic equivalent of ‘The Man With Two Faces’, the Split Stick is a USB flash drive with a difference. At first glance, it’s a fairly normal-looking 4 GB flash drive, but slide its plastic tab the other way and out pops another USB flash drive offering another 4 GB of storage. It’s great for segregating work files from personal data, or keeping your significant other’s data separate from yours, for it is two 4 GB flash drives rolled into one. We would have loved more storage capacity, but that doesn’t take away anything from the fact that it’s a highly unusual little gadget.
Price: $24.99 (around Rs.1,475), shipping charges extra
t Hammacher Schlemmer USB Pen Scanner
A likely candidate for a Bond gadget, this pen can do much more than scribble notes. Its 5-megapixel autofocus camera is capable of scanning documents, letters, recipes, what have you, and stores the images in its 1 GB internal memory. What’s more, it can even capture voice memos in the WAV format, thanks to an integrated microphone. The stored data can be transferred to the computer via USB, and the same port charges the device as well. Apart from Bond, we’re sure those who specialize in sting operations are likely to find this most useful.
Price: $124.95 (around Rs.7,370), shipping charges extra
t Satechi Touch USB LED Lamp
What’s unique about a lamp powered by USB, you wonder? Its ingenuity lies not in what it is, but what it lets you do. Basically consisting of a lampshade and 1.2 watts worth of LEDs, this lamp turns any bottle into a lamp and spreads soft white light all around. There’s a cool (both literally and figuratively speaking) touch-enabled sensor for switching it on or off too. Just keep switching bottles to customize the look as and when you want. Finally, a great way to utilize all those empty bottles you haven’t got rid of.
Price: $24.99 (around Rs.1,475), shipping charges extra
t USB Squirming Tentacle
This has to be one of the coolest USB toys ever. We call it a toy because it doesn’t do anything useful. All it does is plug into a spare USB port, and squirm and wiggle like a real tentacle—great for scaring an unsuspecting colleague out of his or her mind, or as a fun accessory that’ll act as a conversation starter and get you some attention when you want. Not recommended for playing pranks on heart patients.
Price: $14.99 (around Rs.885), shipping charges extra
t USB Fish Tank
If you need something to liven up your work desk, this USB-powered aquarium is your best bet. Imagine a couple of tiny, colourful aquatic creatures greeting you every day with enthusiasm and sharing your ups and downs as you trudge through the daily grind.
Guaranteed to brighten up even the most sterile of workplaces, this fish tank includes gravel and decorative plastic plants, and comes with multicolour interior lights, an adjustable overhead light, an under-gravel filtration system, a low-voltage pump, and even nature sounds to make sure the fish and their owner enjoy each others’ company. Additionally, there’s a multifunction penholder, an LCD calendar with time/date and week/temperature functions, an alarm clock with snooze, and a countdown timer features. Now you don’t have an excuse to report to work late—you’ve got to feed the fish on time, you see. And yes, you’ll also need to change the water frequently and make sure the tiny ones are taken care of on weekends and while you’re on leave.
t Mini USB Paper Shredder
We all have secrets. Bank statements that contain sensitive information, credit card statements that reveal our vices, confidential receipts you wouldn’t want the world to see and sticky notes that don’t make sense any more. Get rid of all such documentation using this zany USB-powered paper shredder. It shreds up to A6 size paper (so you’ll need to tear those statements down to size before you send them into oblivion), and can also be powered by four AA batteries—for convenience and portability. There’s even a handy letter opener integrated on its side. Just think of the shredder as a pet you need to feed regularly and you should be safe for the foreseeable future.
t Thanko USB Neck Cooler
Got your pesky boss breathing down your neck? The summer heat getting too much to bear? Or heading out to a beachside vacation but worried about the sun? This USB-powered neck cooler is just what the doctor ordered. The plastic gadget wraps around your neck, sucks heat off your body and throws it out via exhaust vents on the back. It utilizes heat-conducting metal which is lined inside its two arms and has two internal fans that help it work its magic. The device weighs just a little under 200g and comes with a pair of rechargeable AAA batteries that are charged via USB. There are individual speed controls for both fans so you can set them to the desired level. How’s that for some out-of-this-world Japanese innovation?
Price: ¥1,980 (around Rs.1.17 lakh), shipping charges extra