THERE IS an obsession with smartphones and tablets when it comes to deciding which gadgets are the best in any given period, but Scientific American is the place to check when it comes to gadgets that are truly groundbreaking and useful as well. In its latest issue, it lists the top 10 gadgets for 2014, and these include:
Motorcycle riders know the dangers of taking their eyes off the road. To give them a heads up, literally, are smart helmets that will give riders all the information they need—including rear-vision cameras—without having to move their heads. As of now, these helmets are still prototypes, but what is available are heads-up displays that clip on to any helmet. The leading brand is BikeHUD, made by England-based Motorcycle Information Systems Technologies. BikeHUD’s display fits on to the helmet to give riders useful information without them needing to take their eyes off the road—including speed, fuel level, engine revs, turn signals, gear in use, time and directions. It also comes with a GPS app that helps them plan their route.
* 3D-printed earphones
The most common device for listening to music are earbuds, which now come with all smartphones and in many shapes and sizes. The problem is that many don’t fit properly or are uncomfortable to wear. Now, we have the answer in the form of 3D printed earphones which take the shape of your ear. New York-based company Normal has come out with earphones that are 3D-printed to your ears’ specific dimensions. You can get this from anywhere in the world. Just send them digital photos of your ears via a mobile app and they will print out earbuds that are a perfect match for your ears.
* Soundhawk smart listening system
There can be situations, crowded places, markets, airports, stations, malls, where you can have difficulty having a conversation. Now, there is help in the form of the Soundhawk smart listening system, which comes with a wearable earpiece called ‘Scoop’ that filters out background noise while enhancing the strongest signals. There’s also a wireless microphone that you can put closer to whomever or whatever you’re trying to hear. The mobile app lets you tune the Scoop to your particular hearing needs.
* Thermal imaging camera
The FLIR Systems’ ONE smartphone case for the iPhone 5 and 5S comes equipped with a heat-seeking camera that detects and highlights changes in thermal patterns. What this means is that you can use your phone camera to sniff out possible air leaks in your home, identify wet areas and potential leaks in ceilings, walls and floors. It can also spot overloaded electrical connections at the source.
* Levitating Bluetooth speaker
A magnetic field keeps the floating orb speaker of OM Audio’s ONE Bluetooth speaker suspended above its base by a few centimeters, giving the gadget the look of a Star Wars device. OM Audio says that ONE delivers high-quality audio because the platform on which the base rests does not absorb the sound coming out of the speaker. The base doubles as a speakerphone.
* Smart standing desk
Long periods of sitting at a desk can be hazardous to one’s health. Furniture makers have tried to combat this with standing desks. The Dutch company, MisterBrightLight, takes a high-tech approach to the problem with their workspace that serves as a wireless smartphone charger, features LED mood lighting around the edges and, if you own an iOS device, works with an app to monitor surrounding temperature and humidity.