It’s always interesting to make my yearly visit to the Gadget Show, a large tech show by British standards, held at the NEC in Birmingham. There weren’t many big names there this year: no Microsoft, Sony, Canon or Panasonic to name a few.
But the show does provide a useful indication of what’s hot, and a nice opportunity to discover interesting new (to me) products.
This is meant to be the year of the VR headset, and there were plenty around. Samsung had their Gear VR which turns its flagship smartphones into a VR headset. It’s very similar to other headsets like the Homido, but since it works only with specific Samsung smartphones, it should be a more optimised experience.
I also tried out the Ricoh Theta S 360° camera which is great fun. It has two fisheye lenses that automatically capture and stitch fully immersive photos and videos:
At The Gadget Show in Birmingham. Lots of VR headsets, drones and smart home gizmos. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA
A great way to experience the output is with a VR headset – especially with 360° video. The camera is also one of Google’s recommended cameras for its street view app.
Drones were bigger than ever, both in their presence and physical size. Of most interest was the Follow Me foldable drone from Simtoo, one of many companies jumping on the bandwagon of the hugely popular crowd funded Lily drone – which is still yet to make an appearance. It comes with a watch that offers basic flying controls, or you can purchase an optional advanced controller. You can also wear a GPS tracker which will enable the drone to follow you whilst running, cycling or anything else. There’s no obstacle avoidance, although you can set the height to clear trees for instance – but you’d still need to be pretty careful where you enabled this feature. I wouldn’t want this crashing into me or anyone else – it’s heavy at 1.2kg!
Parrot had 8 of their Bepob 2 drones in synchronised flight which was impressive. This isn’t a feature of the drones, but had be programmed specially for the event. I managed to stop filming just as 2 drones had a spectacular crash!
Home automation was also well represented with Hive having the biggest stand, and even more VR headsets to experience life in a Hive enabled house. Hive focuses on heating, with a receiver that needs to be hardwired into your boiler (£250 with installation). Belkin’s Wemo offering is a more casual and cheaper affair, with smartphone controlled smart plug sockets, webcams and light bulbs starting from £25. I’m yet to embrace home automation, but watch this space!
A product that stood on its own, but looked interesting was Boosty. Invented by another former BT researcher, this minute device connects directly to your router and combines your broadband connection with your phone’s 3G/4G data connection. It cleverly bonds the two connections, allowing you to boost your connection speed when needed – for example when the broadband drops, or if you’re downloading a large file. Sadly not something useful to me personally, since at home I have a fast fibre connection, and at work I have a slow ADSL connection but no decent 3G/4G coverage!
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