Business Technology

Wednesday 27 August 2014

Adrian Weckler on Technology: the latest gadgets

Adrian Weckler

Published 18/01/2014 | 02:30

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Logitech Ultrathin Apple Keyboard Folio for iPad Mini Priced at 80 Euro
Panono 360 Camera
A Parrot Mini Drone - parts of a drone were delivered to a college student.

Logitech Ultrathin Apple Keyboard Folio for iPad Mini

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Price: €80

Rating: ****

I've gone a little cold on iPad keyboard cases in recent times. It's not that they're not slick or functional, it's just that with five-inch phones and 11-inch slim laptops, I'm using iPads less and less. Nevertheless, whenever I use a tablet for work, a keyboard is near-essential. And Logitech's keyboard case is one of the best you can get.

Aside from the nice design and pleasant-to-touch keys, it has built-in shortcut keys that actually work. It also doesn't double the size of your tablet, which some iPad cases manage to do.

The Keyboard Folio, which comes in a number of colours, connects to the iPad wirelessly via Bluetooth. This means it needs to be recharged (via mini-USB cable). There are a few decent keyboard cases out there, but this is probably at the summit.

FORGET GOOGLE STREET VIEWS - GET YOUR OWN UNIQUE OVERVIEW

Panono 360 camera

Price: €550 from Panono.com

Rating: ***

Ever wonder how Google photographs its environs to get its 'street view' photos on Google Maps? It mounts about 15 different high-resolution cameras, all facing different directions, on top of a slowly moving car. Its mega-servers then stitch all of the resulting images together to make an apparently flawless landscape.

Panono has come up with a slightly quicker solution. It has jammed 36 cameras into a ball which is tossed up into the air. When the ball reaches its highest point, the cameras all snap. The images are then processed online, with a resulting high-resolution 360-degree panoramic photo.

It's undoubtedly a clever way of getting this kind of an image and I can see its appeal, especially in large crowds when you want to snap an overview of stuff happening around you.

The only limitation is that the camera lenses being used with the Panono are so wide that everything (and everyone) looks a little bent and distorted. But this is a fun way of getting a shot that no one else will have.

HI-TECH 'MOTHER' MONITORS YOUR EVERY MOVE

Sense Mother

Price: €200

Rating: *****

There are two common themes when discussing the 'internet of things'. The first is to pick slightly ridiculous examples (such as web-connected forks that tell you you're eating too fast).

The second is an ethereal discussion about the 'home of the future' with vague, not-yet-made concept gadgets. Sense Mother cuts through all the baloney to give a clear demonstration of what the internet of things can mean.

It's a base unit with several small sensor gadgets (called 'cookies') that are designed to be deployed around the house or on your person.

The sensors measure movement and temperature.

They're designed to tell the wifi-connected base unit (which can be accessed by your phone anywhere) what's going on.

So if you stick one on a door, you'll know whether it has been opened (or how often). If you stick one near the hot press, you can tell whether the immersion has been left on. And it can deliver alerts on things like medicine cabinets, too, in case you need a reminder.

It also does the established stuff, like track motion (for fitness and walking) or monitor movement within sleep.

It's called 'Mother' because its variety of alerts and reminders apparently simulate the admonitions of a mum who only wants the best for you, and demonstrates this by constantly letting you know what you need to do.

The pack comes with one base unit ('Mother') and four separate sensors ('cookies').

GET SNAP HAPPY WITH A CAMERA AGAIN

Canon SX170

Price: €120 from Argos

Rating: ****

IN an age of 20-megapixel smartphones, compact cameras are an endangered species. Nevertheless, there are still reasons to get a decent standalone camera. One of the main ones is zoom: no cameraphone on the market has a proper zoom -- all they do is artificially dilute the image so that you appear to be looking closer at one part of it.

Up until recently, competent 'superzoom' compacts cost over €250. But as Canon's decent 16-megapixel, 16x zoom SX170 model demonstrates, they've crashed in price. This means that you can get a creditable zoom camera that beats mobiles for weddings, christenings and sports occasions for around €100, far less than the €400 that larger DSLR cameras start at.

The rechargeable SX170 shoots from an equivalent of 28mm to 448mm, which is easily enough to snap someone 50 yards away. The limitations to this snapper are ones you might expect: it's slower than pricier rivals and it's not as great in low light as high-end models.

GADGET DRONES LEAVE ME DEFLATED

Parrot Mini Drone

Price: not yet announced

Rating: **

Can you be a real tech fan if you don't like Parrot's drones? If not, I'm in trouble. The small flying gadgets, which can be controlled via an iPhone or iPad, have been the toast of the gadgeteering tech community for almost two years.

But having played with them on several occasions, I just don't get the appeal -- they remind me of the sort of novelty gadget you used to get on Christmas morning and were finished messing about with by lunchtime.

The French company's latest revelation -- to be released later this year -- is the Mini Drone, a small wheeled device with a couple of rotary blades. Being Bluetooth-controlled, your controller needs to be within around 25 feet of the device to maintain contact.

Having mucked about with it last week in CES, I can see how those who are fascinated by remote-controlled model planes would get lots of pleasure from such a machine. But I'm just lacking the requisite propellor-head inspiration.

Irish Independent

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