This week’s gadget issue got Team Humidor’s robot parts all a-twitter, and after a heated debate (which was liquid-cooled, thank you very much!) our cybernetic hive mind is happy to introduce to you six of our best loved and/or most coveted gadgets going into the new year.
Here, in no particular order, is what makes our emotion chip go into overdrive.
Bose’s QuietComfort 2 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones – Julianne Greer
These are, far and away, my favorite gadget. They live at work beside my desk, and travel with me on long trips. Even as I write, I’m enjoying the musical stylings of Kanye West minus the hum of my computer, the whir of the space heater and the low sound of office din. Why? My Bose noise canceling headphones.
In a couple of weeks, spring conference season starts and I’ll be flying around the country a bit more often. In the past, this would’ve been a source of anxiety and exhaustion – I was never able to sleep on airplanes. But I’ve suddenly become one of Those People who fall asleep before take off and wake up when the plane touches down. Why? Largely, my Bose noise canceling headphones.
The drone of jet engines – you know, that sound that takes up residence in the form of a headache just behind your right eye – fades into the white noise produced by the headphones. Flipping the switch creates an almost eerie silence in which the user can almost hear her own heartbeat, and more importantly, think more clearly.
Bose Corporation was founded by professor of electrical engineering at MIT, Dr. Amar G. Bose. The reason? Bose was searching for the best sound technology to reproduce the experience of a live performance. And due to his success in his endeavor, the name Bose has become nearly synonymous with quality audio technology.
And so, these headphones are great not only for removing unwanted sounds from your acoustic environment, but adding those you do want. Bose’s unparalleled audio technology lives in miniature in the ergonomically designed headset. That along with gold-plated attachments to fit pretty much any headphone jack, including those annoying two-pronged ones in airplanes, ensures that you can have the best audio experience anywhere.
Amazon’s Kindle – Russ Pitts
The single most exciting piece of technology I’ve yet to get my hands on is the Amazon Kindle. Priced about the same as a set of good tires (which I still need to buy), the Kindle, if you read and/or travel, is basically the answer to every prayer you’ve ever had.
The device is roughly the size of a large paperback book and weighs less than a pound. So if you already carry a book wherever you go, the Kindle won’t seem out of place. How it trumps practically ever book ever made, however, it its ability to store over 200 books worth of information and run for up to a week without charging.
The screen, however, is where the Kindle really shines. Or doesn’t. The Kindle uses electronic paper technology to display text using minimal power. It’s not a backlit LCD, like on a laptop. The Kindle screen doesn’t reflect light back into your eyes, so it’s easier to stare at for long amounts of time, and some folks claim it’s easier on the eyes than regular paper.
But wait, there’s more. You can fill the thing with books without ever having to connect it to your computer. From anywhere. And I don’t mean “anywhere” as in “wherever there happen to be Wi-Fi hotspots.” I mean “anywhere” as in “anywhere.” If you can get a cell phone signal, Kindle can connect to Amazon and download new books as close to instantly as matters. And this feature you don’t have to pay for. Amazon foots the bill for the wireless internet connectivity. All you pay for is the books. And the Kindle. Which, if you need tires, might have to wait.
Garmin’s zumo 550 – Joe Blancato
We all have our expensive hobbies. My motorcycle happens to be mine. While the dudes rolling $40,000 Harleys wouldn’t deign to call my erstwhile investment into the road warrior lifestyle anything more than enthusiasm, when I do have cash lying around (and even when I don’t) it usually goes into my bike.
Funny thing, though: The Blancato Sense Direction Skill skips generations. Like my grandfather, I can get lost on streets I travel every day. I like to call this “going on adventures.” Other people call it “annoying and scary.”
That’s why the next $1,000 I get is going straight into the Garmin zumo 550 GPS system. This thing is just tops. It’s got your maps, your special touch screen designed to pick up gloved fingers, your trip information including gas readouts, your voice prompts, your XM Radio compatibility and even connects your cell phone to your in-helmet speaker system. With this thing, I may never get lost again, but I won’t ever want to be found.
The Dyson Vacuum Cleaner – Julianne Greer
I want it, but I don’t have it.
The Dyson Vacuum Cleaner was actually born as an air filter. James Dyson created his cyclone technology first to clean the air his factory making a … fancy wheelbarrow. Yeah. But, somewhere along the way, Dyson wondered if the cyclone technology could be adapted and put into the most powerful vacuum cleaner ever.
And five years and more than 5,000 prototypes after this thought occurred, a vacuum cleaner based on the air filter unit using centrifugal forces over 100,000 times gravity’s power was born. Yes, in the early 1980s, a vacuum cleaner stronger than Earth was created. And the world rejoiced.
Now, 20 years later, and multiple iterations, improvements and upgrades, Dyson makes some of the highest end, most powerful vacuums on the market. And I have two large dogs, a collie and a white German shepherd, who shed everywhere like it’s their jobs. And I’m a gamer and creative person, whose unstated, yet required uniform is black. You see where I’m going with this?
I really need a great vacuum. Yes, it’s pricey, but I think I’ve come close to spending the purchase price on those little tape lint rollers over the past few years. Someday …
The Nike+iPod – Russ Pitts
As far as technology I’ve been able to get my hands (and feet) on, Nike+iPod takes the cake. Away from me actually, because after using this thing for a month or so, I’ve become so health conscious I hardly do anything fun anymore. I don’t drink, don’t smoke and don’t eat pie. What I do do is run. A lot. And my Nike+iPod is there with me.
The Nike+iPod is a multi-part invention. The first part, the sensor, fits snugly in a specially designed receptacle inside certain Nike Shoes. I bought mine, the Air Pegasus, for about $80. The second part is a receiver that plugs into the iPod Nano. The sensor sends out signals telling the receiver how often your foot strikes the ground, and how long it stays there. The receiver transmits this information to the iPod Nano, where the Nike+ software decodes the signals to tell you how fast you’re going, how far you’ve gone and how many calories you’ve burned. The iPod then stores this information and tells you if you’ve improved. Then Lance Armstrong tells you you’re doing great. I’m not kidding. The folks at Nike (or Apple – it’s all very mysterious) recorded the voices of celebs like Armstrong to enhance the experience, urging you on and reminding you how awesome you are. It’s like having a personal trainer who fits in a shoe and plays music. Jillian can suck it.
After you’ve logged some runs, the iPod automatically transmits your run data (if you want it to) to the Nike website, where you can map your runs, compare them, track them, set goals, challenges and even share your highs and lows with the entire Nike+ community. It’s like having a support group in a tiny, little music player. Plus, the idea my shoes are talking to my iPod just never stops being cool. I strap mine to my upper arm and feel like the bionic man whenever I’m running. Gives me that extra oomph. Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na.
Sony’s Reader – Joe Blancato
I love moving. I’m the guy everyone likes to have around on hot summer days when they’ve got 100 cardboard boxes filled to the brim and a freshly signed lease. In my white-collar world, there are few things that bring me a sense of physical completion other than picking up shit and moving it somewhere else. Whether it’s a sectional couch, a 36-inch CRT TV or a seized engine block, I love to relocate it.
But the last time I myself moved, I threw about half my burgeoning book collection into one of those waterproof-ish plastic bins you can buy at Target. Dimensions: 40″x24″x24″; weight: a gazillion pounds. I managed to wrestle the goddamn thing up a flight of stairs and into the truck, but for the first time ever I thought about using hired muscle to get my stuff to Point “B.” That’s when I thought I might have a problem.
Enter: Sony Reader. It’s sleek, with a bit of jiggering it’s open and it pays for itself when I don’t undergo hernia surgery in 20 years. It can hold up to 2 GB of files, grab RSS feeds, display comic books in all the popular image formats, read PDFs and other obscure formats, and even play MP3s. And thanks to electronic paper technology, it even reads like the real thing. The Reader isn’t the next printing press, but it may just be the next novel, which is to say it won’t change what we read, but it’ll change the way we read it. How can I resist?
Other than the fact one Reader isn’t nearly as cool looking as my giant library …
Now It’s Time for a Binary Solo
There you have it, fellow androids. Team Humidor hopes we tugged on your technophile motherboard-strings with this most ambitious (and expensive) of lists. Before you go, enjoy some vitals:
Word count: 1,740
Total cost of gadgets: $2,794
Average cost: $465
Total man-hours that went into this article: 5
Time spent drooling over gadgets: [processing error]