5 great gadgets for Mother’s Day 2014

mothersday

This Sunday it’s Mother’s Day, so we thought we would recommend a selection of some interesting gadgets that you could give your mum to make her feel special!

Headonizm Head Massager

Perfect for: Stressed out mums

It’s stressful being a mum, so if you can’t promise to stop being the main cause of this stress you can at least provide her with something to ease the pain. The Headonizm Head Massager is designed to massage your scalp, sending “a sensual feeling across your head, down your spine and through your body”. It helps to release feel good endorphins and create a sense of calm that can’t be achieved purely by a bubble-bath and some scented candles, though it might not hurt to double-up with these as well, just to be on the safe side.

Available for £6.49 from IWOOT

Luminara Flickering Flame Candles

Perfect for: Mums who love a bit of ambience

Artificial candles are all the rage, and modern designs do an excellent job of recreating the real thing without the fuss of cleaning up after. Red5 claims that these are “the most realistic we have ever seen”, being coated with real wax and shaped to mimic a partially burnt candle for added authenticity. You will have to replace the batteries every now and then, but that’s a small price to pay for a gadget that your mum might actually use.

Available at varying prices from Red5

Baseball bat rolling pin

Perfect for: Mums who like sports (and baking)

If you’re lucky enough to have a mum that loves sports and cooking, you can marry the two together quite nicely with the novelty Baseball Bat Rolling Pin. Perhaps not the most thoughtful of gifts (with a clear implication of “bake me some cookies”), it should at least raise a smile, if for no other reason than providing good old mum with another object to threaten a misbehaving child with.

Available for £12.95 from Genie Gadgets

Koubachi Wi-Fi Plant Sensor

Perfect for: Connected mums

For mums with green fingers who have also mastered the Smartphone we give you the Koubachi Wi-Fi Plant Sensor, a device designed to allow up to 27 house plants (there is an outdoor version available as well) to communicate via an app that summarises exactly what they need in terms of plant care. With regular reports on light intensity, temperature and moisture, wilting leaves and dead branches will become a thing of the past, though she may not appreciate having even more opportunities to be nagged for attention.

Available from £79.99 from Amazon

Glo to Sleep – Sleep Therapy Mask

For: Worried mums

Mum may never have truly recovered from those sleepless nights that were a by product of raising a child to an age where it’s reasonable to kick them out of the house. For those with a penchant for burning the midnight oil, the Sleep Therapy Mask aims to slow down brain activity to the “alpha wave state”, where mind and body are relaxed, eliminating those worrying thoughts that can keep poor old mum awake long into the night, or raise her from a slumber at the crack of dawn.

Available for £29 from WeLoveSleep

 

Image courtesy of Shardayyy / Flickr

5 Unusual “Back to School” Gadgets

No sooner had it began, it’s coming to a close, much to the relief of worn-out parents everywhere. Yes, the summer holidays are drawing to an end, with shops now heavily laden with essential back to school clobber. Every year school children’s possessions seem to get more and more sophisticated with the likes of iPhones, MP3 players and Hex Bugs now littering playgrounds across the country. While the more ‘obvious’ school gadgets need little introduction, there is a more unusual throng of devices that are worthy of a ‘best of’, if not only because of their inventiveness.

Take a look at five unusual back to school gadgets that your children might not necessarily thank you for:

3D Drawing Pad

3d-drawing-pad

All the cool kids go and see the 3D movies and even have a 3D silver screen in their living room. Would the 3D Drawing Pad be held similar esteem? Simply draw on the pad, view the creation through the specs and watch the drawing jump out of the page. Perhaps sketch pads aren’t the hippest things in the playground but it may earn your child a few points with the art teacher.

What’s more the 3D Drawing Pad costs less than a fiver!

Rubber Band Shooter Supreme

rubber-band-shooter

Technology in the classroom may have reached unprecedented new heights in recent years but the mischievous pastime of the class clowns haven’t altered a bit. Shooting rubber bands at a teacher’s bottom when her – or his – back is turned, is guaranteed to generate a room full of sniggers.

Look out teachers because the next generation of rubber band shooters is here with the arrival of the Supreme Shooter. Loop one end of the rubber band around the device’s base, grip the gripper area, aim, fire and then wait for the laughs.

This fun and highly amusing gadget can also be picked up for under a fiver.

3D Mirascope

3d-mirascope

A slightly more tantalising 3D device for children is the 3D Mirascope. This gadget creates a realistic 3D holographic image from smaller objects. Could come in handy for wet playtimes when the kids are confined to the classroom?

This unusual desk toy costs £15.98 on Amazon.

Syringe Shot Ink Pens

syringe-pens

Pens are always going to be needed at school even though we’re now in the digital era. So we may as well let our kids be seen with an ultra-cool pen. The Syringe Shot Ink pens contain colourful blood red, green, yellow, purple or blue liquid and looks like a syringe in an eccentric scientist’s lab. And no they don’t shoot out the liquid as the name misleadingly suggests, which is a bit of a shame.

You can buy a pack of five for £3.49 on Amazon.

Evernote Smart Notebook

evernote

Definitely a more sophisticated unusual back to school gadget, the Evernote Smart Notebook turns anything you scribble into an instantly digitally saveable scribble. Whether it’s notes from a lesson, a sketch in an art class or doodles to relieve the boredom in an assembly, write it down, search it and share it with the world.

For approximately £16, the Evernote Smart Notebook’s got to be a popular back to school gadget.

 

Top 5 Gadget Flops

Creating a new piece of technology requires years of research, painstaking development, numerous product designs and a great deal of testing. Vast teams of engineers with boundless experience work tirelessly to produce the latest gadget that aims to revolutionise the way we go about our daily lives. However, not every product is a success, with even the most esteemed tech aficionados getting it wrong. So for your viewing pleasure, here is a run-down of the five most futile and fruitless gadgets ever:

Apple-Newton

1. Apple Newton MessagePad

A vision of the future? Ahead of its time? Or just a terrible product? Apple’s Newton MessagePad has been heralded by some as the initial inspiration for the iPad, however this early tablet variant ultimately failed to secure any notable success.

The Newton received a great deal of ridicule for its handwriting recognition feature. The technology had to learn the user’s handwriting over a long period of time and struggled to detect common dictionary words. An episode of The Simpsons even made light of this infamous shortcoming.

Too big to be carried around in the user’s pocket but lacking the computing power for serious work, the Newton struggled to find a niche in the market. Apple’s ambitious promises and optimistic marketing campaign couldn’t attract consumers either.

Sony-MiniDisc

2. Sony MiniDisc

In theory, the MiniDisc player had the potential to be magnificent – a compact data storage device with the ability to play high quality audio. Unfortunately for Sony, its arrival came too late to make an impact on the CD market and then suffered from the emergence of MP3 players towards the end of the nineties.

Despite popularity in Japan, a high price point meant MiniDisc players were out of reach for a vital teenage market. What’s more, the major record labels did not give support to a format introduced by music industry rivals Sony.

Virtual-Boy

3. Nintendo Virtual Boy

Promoted as the first video game console capable of producing 3D graphics, the Nintendo Virtual Boy promised a virtual reality experience. However in the real world, the head-mounted display delivered basic depth-of-field imaging and in some cases, nauseating side effects.

The monochromatic display and awkward ergonomic design left gamers with dizziness and headaches. It’s hefty price tag left consumers feeling sick to the stomach as well.

Some critics praised the consoles novelty, while others felt the Virtual Boy was a gimmick without much substance.

Nokia-NGage

4. Nokia N-Gage

A mobile phone lacking coherent design for day-to-day use combined with a portable games console devoid of any immersive visual stimulation, the Nokia N-Gage was doomed from the start. The phrase ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ seems most appropriate here.

Humorously described as a ‘taco’ by several commentators, Nokia’s poor design also required users to remove the battery to insert a game. The keyboard layout was difficult for entering text and even worse when it came to interacting with a poor selection of content.

Sony-BetaMax

5. Sony Betamax

One of the greatest consumer electronics companies of our time, yet Sony manages another product flop with its ill-fated Betamax video cassette player. Once again, Sony was the victim of its own success, as it chose not to license the technology to other manufacturers, believing it could conquer the market alone.

Even though the format was released a year earlier than JVC’s VHS alternative, the longer recording times of its rival saw Beta lose an established film studio and home video market share.

Gear yourself up for a summer of camping

If you want to get away from it all, take yourself off in a tent (or a camper or caravan if you prefer).

Whether you’re off with the kids, heading to a music festival or just looking for the cheapest holiday option, there are a few new gadgets designed to make your camping adventure that wee bit more civilized.

TomTom-Camper

First off, to get you to your chosen destination, TomTom has launched the GO LIVE Camper and Caravan sat nav. This nifty introduction offers routes tailored for your vehicle and includes pre-installed points of interest so that you can stop off and find suitable sites and services easily. The software also adjusts routes and arrival times depending on our vehicle’s weight, size and maximum speed. It also includes maps of 45 countries in Europe and a year’s free Live services.

Price: £349.99.

From: www.tomtom.com

If you’re taking your precious iPad away with you, you won’t want it to get wet will you? And while the sun has managed to break out in the past few days, the sad truth is that you are likely to encounter some water at some stage if you’re camping in the UK, so it’s best to be prepared. The waterproof iPad case has been developed by marine electronics specialist Scanstrut (it was launched at the London Boat show this year, so is really made to keep the water away from our precious device). The iPad case is IP66/IP67 waterproof and shockproof, with models available to fit both the iPad 1 and iPad 2 in a range of bright colours. Full touch screen usability is available at all times, as are volume, on/off and home buttons, and both front and rear camera functionality is provided for the iPad 2.

Price £99

From: www.lifedge.co.uk

Once you get on site, if you like your home comforts, how about a tent with built-in power?

Camping specialist Eureka! has launched its N!ergy collection of tents, which have their own in-built power. The N!ergy Grand is top of the range but all the tents come with three easy-to-find outlets that glow blue when powered ON – they can even double as night lights.

The living area has seven ‘Clearvu’ windows, and a recreational zone offers enough space for a camping table with chairs and a kitchen area. The tent sleeps four in two rooms, and can be extended to sleep six people in three rooms. It packs into one bag, weighs 28kg, and the makers claim it can be erected in 10 to 15 minutes.

Price: £1,099

From: www.eurekaeurope.com

If little pests spoil your camping trip – and I’m not talking about other people’s children, but midges and mossies – Craghoppers may have the answer. The outdoor clothing specialists have come up with what they say is the world’s only permanent insect repellant clothing, which it claims give 90% protection against bites from ticks, midges, mosquitoes and so on. The Craghoppers NosiLife leisure suit is designed for men and women and can be used for lounging or as pyjamas. The top is £25 and the bottoms £35, which might seem pricey for a pair PJs, but if you react badly to insect bites we reckon it’s a price worth paying.

Price: From £25

From: www.craghoppers.com

Fed up with carting our camping chair about at festivals, outdoor concerts and picnics? Here’s a chair that folds up to the size of a shoe and weighs just 2lbs (about the same as a bag of sugar).

Dac, the makers of the Helinox Chair, claim it can hold up to 160 times its weight and is the world’s most compact folding chair. It should be a good choice for walkers and cyclists, as it can fit in a rucksack.

Dac are one the leading manufacturers of tent poles.

Price: £69

From: www.helinox.eu

Vaude-Gravit-LG

If you’re brave enough to face the elements, you might want a little extra protection from Vaude, who have the extremely tough yet lightweight Gravit jacket. The wrinkle-proof jacket has a dense fabric construction, which makes it 80% wind proof, breathable and water resistant. It also comes in a range of nice, bright colours and is in Vaude’s Green Shape clothing range so it’s enviromentally friendly to boot.

Out now for £125 from Vaude

If you’re off to a festival, you might want to pack one of Rohan’s Canopy Capes – this cape doubles up as a pitch-able canopy. It is mud, rain and wind resistant (useful for an English summer) and also doubles up as a shelter! It’s useful for walkers as well as festival goers if they get caught out when camping or walking in the wet weather.

In a classic dark green colour, the cape includes adjustable drawstrings, poppers which can be fastened as much or as little as required, and a hood complete with visor for rain or sun protection.

Price: £80

From: Outdoor retailers

Best Fun & Unusual USB Powered Gadgets

If you’re looking to fill-out Christmas stockings with some inexpensive, highly useful and fun presents, then look no further than the following few USB gadgets, which will guarantee to put a smile on the face of the receiver on Christmas Day and possibly help keep them smiling all through the year.

USB-Gadgets

USB Foot Warmer

Cold feet, like an annoying colleague persistently humming throughout the day, or a mouse that seems to make an extra-loud ‘click’, can seriously distract us from working. In fact, as I am writing this, I am now conscious of a draft underneath my desk and my feet becoming progressively colder. Eliminate cold feet syndrome immediately the USB foot warmer. One size fits all with these safe, cosy and slip-free foot warmers.

The slippers come equipped with a 1.25m USB cable, giving you ample room to stretch those cosy feet!

For £14.95 the USB Foot Warmer has to make a great stocking filler.

USB Negatives Photo Film Scanner

My parents have a fantastic collection of slides from the 80s, 70s and even 60s, and many a Christmas they come out and the whole family huddles around them, squinting to make the images. Well squint no more I tell myself as this handy USB-operated device enables you to share antiquated images the modern way.

For £59.95 you can simply scan those classic images at high resolutions and then convert them into jpegs, or a range of other useful digital formats. Compatible with Windows and Mac, the USB Negatives Photo Film Scanner could be the perfect activity to fill an empty moment in between the turkey and the Queen’s speech.

USB Voice Recorder

Looking uncannily like your average USB memory stick, this clever little device enables aspiring James Bonds to discreetly record conversations and sound. Hmm, why would we want to do that you may ask? Well we’re not sure really, perhaps if you’re a tabloid journalist looking for an alternative way to record conversations other than phone hacking. Or maybe to take down notes in lectures without having to scribble away?

Either way, for £29.95 this “great covert voice recorder”, which has 4GB of flash memory that equates to 80 hours of total recording, would make a great stocking filler.

Lamborghini Memory Stick

For any sports cars enthusiasts in the family the Lamborghini Memory Stick would make a fantastically fun stocking filler. Officially licensed by Lamborghini, this 1GB memory stick certainly stands out from the crowd and, being fun, novel and sleekly designed, may, just may, help ease the transition from the festive season back to work.

And for £19.95 the Lamborghini Memory Stick, unlike the real thing, will hardly break the bank.

Unventions: The coffee table book to cure gadget fatigue

Christmas is fast approaching and with it comes our old, much-beloved friend, the coffee table book. Whilst I’ll happily trade most paperbacks for a Kindle version in a heart beat (I read all of John Schwartzwelder’s amazing Frank Burley detective series on e-screens and loved the experience) coffee table books are still very much a thing of paper beauty, although I’m sure lots of iPad apps will be heading my way soon, all trying to convince me the exact opposite. But what’s a great coffee table book for the gadget lover?

Unventions

Unventions, a new coffee table book from Cléon Daniel (who as you will have guess from his wonderful name is from Dorset) seems to fit the bill exactly. Subtitled “alternative uses for everyday objects”, Unventions is a clever use of lampoon, spoof and satire when looking at modern technology. If like me you spend hours of each day on gadget blogs, it’s a welcome respite from the Sisyphean pursuit of the latest and greatest. And almost every invention has an equal and opposite unvention.

Possibly the best thing ever conceived on a train from Cheltenham to London Paddington, Unventions features page after page of charming low-tech sketches re-examining a number of everyday objects with what can only be described as a quirky eye. Like any good observational comic, Daniel has the ability to view the mundane and reimagine it from fresh and exciting angles. Images of checkerboards as places to store penguins, first drafts of cats eyes with candles or the sandwich mark (useful for marking your place in a sandwich to pick up where you left off) are all fun creations. If they manage to crack the smallest of smiles then I’d recommend getting a hold of the book.

Unventions is launched on Friday 11 November and if you are the sort of person that loiters around the Gower Street Waterstones with all the bright young things of the University of London, you’ll be pleased to know Cléon Daniel will be there in the flesh signing copies.

Want to see more? Check out his blog at www.unventions.co.uk

Toys for boys (and girls) of all ages

It doesn’t seem to matter what age you are – the Nerf gun definitely seem to be the ‘toy’ of choice – I’ve seen them hidden away from 30-somethings in offices where they are supposed to be working, not messing about – and my five-year-old spends ages mooning over them in the Argos catalogue.

Red5-tings

So whatever your age, if you’re a Nerf fan you’ll be pleased to see the appearance of the Raider CS-35, which has a big drum magazine that holds 35 darts – so you can take out most of the office, or your whole class, depending on your age. A window allows you to see if your ammo is running low, it’s a rapid-fire device and the pump-action handle allows you to adjust your rate of fire. And when you lose all the darts (which you will, believe me!) you can buy refill packs. Not the cheapest of the Nerf guns at £34.95, but an essential piece of kit for your next office bonding day!

If you’d rather destroy your colleagues by boggling their minds, challenge them to complete the Perplexus Epic Puzzle. It’s a step up from those ball bearing mazes we all played with as kids. This is a 3d puzzle marathon, with a total of 125 barriers to get that little shiny ball through, as you guide it around the tracks, steps, levers, tubes and falls to reach the end of the puzzle. The price of frustration? £19.99.

Finally, if you need to relax with a good book after all that action and brain work, the Tiny Tim book light is a nifty little piece of kit that will let you read your book in bed, even if your other half wants the light out. It measures just 13cm high and can either standalone or clip on to your book. Battery powered, it comes in red or black and costs a neat £7.95.

All the gizmos featured here are available from red5.co.uk

Camping? Festivals? A few little extras to make life easier

When I headed off to Suffolk to test out Vango’s Airbeam tent, I also took a few little extra goodies to try out.

We’re quite keen on recycling in this house, so I always like to take a look at anything that suggests it is ‘eco’. The Eco-Can is an amusing little number. Not only does it look like the sort of can fizzy drinks come in, but it’s actually a useful drinks holder. You screw off the top to hold the liquid – it holds about the same as a can, so won’t last you all day but is handy for a trip out in the car. You drink though a ‘ringpull’ that actually pushes down and then clicks up to seal. (This managed to hold the drink in despite a lot of shaking, and proved a hit with the five-year-old, who isn’t allowed fizzy drinks so enjoyed the novelty of being allowed to have drink out of a ‘can’).

The Eco Can is made from PLA (a kind of corn starch), is BPA-free and non-toxic. Its makers also claim it creates 40% less carbon emissions than its petroleum-based counterparts. It costs £13.99, which is pricey compared with the kind of metal water bottles with the plastic sports tops, but then you are doing your bit for the environment. Plus, if you have a ‘chewer’ for a child, let me tell you, it is really hard to make a dent in!

Camping-Gadgets

Another drinks container that found favour with us on holiday was the Brugo. This is a really good-looking version of the ‘travel’ mug that you see so many commuters carrying on the train in the morning. The Brugo not only comes in some fantastic colours (I had to forego the fabulously pink one as I was outvoted by the men in my household!) but also has a little secret.

The top section of the cup is separate – it allows you to tip up your hot drink, have it at a drinkable temperature as you sip, while ensuring the rest of the drink stays hot.

This proved invaluable to us. Our five year old loves hot chocolate, which is always too hot if we buy it when we’re out. He also usually runs out of steam halfway through, especially as hot chocolates only seem to come in ‘massive’ size, and then I have to drink the rest. I’m not a fan of lukewarm ‘hot’ chocolate so the Brugo is the ideal solution for us.

It should also go down well with commuters who like to make their coffee last all the way from home to the office! It holds 350ml and costs £13.99 – see www.brugomug.co.uk for more.

Next up was the Proporta TurboCharger 5000 . We’re very much back-to-basic campers – we don’t do electric hookups or anything, so we always have a bit of an issue when it comes to keeping our phones charged. So this speedy charger was the perfect solution for us – we also managed to use it to get some juice in a DS Lite, which proved vital when small boy found a friend with a DS and they wanted to team up and play together. Bear in mind that if your device has a mini or micro USB port for both charging and data connections, the Proporta cable can only be used for charging input only. It’s a nicely made piece of kit, which comes in a little drawstring bag and with a selection of charging connections. An LED systems shows you how much charge is left. Now, I guess the question is, why would you carry around a second device rather than a spare battery – the answer is that because it can charge a number of devices, you don’t have to include a spare battery for every device you carry. Nor do you have to turn your phone off to change the battery – which can be an issue on some mobiles.

Handy if you’re away for a day or two without any mains access – but whether you want to pay £42.95 for it will be a matter down to your wallet.

Now, normally when we go camping, the heavens open, which is why I took the Proporta BeachBuoy Waterproof Case to try out. As it happened, we were very lucky and barely saw a drop of rain, but I still got to test out the case on the beach and at a theme park on the log flume.

Before you entrust your precious electricals to the case, read the instructions as it tells you to use tissue paper to ensure the seals are watertight. You can then entrust your phone or ‘very’ compact camera to its two seals.

There’s not much to say about a waterproof case, as long as it proves waterproof – it feels like it is really well made, and solid, which is comforting when you’re putting several hundreds of pounds’ worth of gadget inside. The top seals don’t open terribly wide, so make sure your camera fits before buying, but if all is well you’ll be able to operate it through the see-through section of the case.

The case is waterproof up to 16ft (5m) and is just £9.95 – a small price to pay to keep expensive pieces of kit dry.

Last but not least, if like us you take a trailer when you go camping, you should bear in mind that “trailer sway” – a phenomenon where the trailer swings from side to side and compromises vehicle control – can be a cause of accidents for vehicles which are towing. Trailer sway can quickly escalate and can be difficult to counter, potentially leading to serious accidents. (The wheel fell off our trailer on the way home, but that’s another matter!)

Trailer Sway Control continuously monitors the yaw rate of the vehicle and compares this to the steering angle. If swaying is detected without the driver making the necessary adjustments, the vehicle is designed to react accordingly to correct any instability.

Ford this summer announced that the Trailer Sway Control technology that debuted on the Kuga will now be featured on new Focus, C-MAX and Grand C-MAX models, as well as the Ranger pick-up late this year and next-generation Kuga in 2012.