Apr 10th 2015

Gadgets and Gizmos

Last week the weird and the wonderful of the technology world descended on Birmingham for The Gadget Show Live, showcasing everything from a synthetic pancreas to heated butter knives.

I am a sucker for gadgets. My house is full of things that at the time I ‘couldn’t live without’, now exiled to the back of cupboards as they are either too fiddly, don’t really work or I have absolutely no need for them.

Looking at some of my more unwise purchases it seems gadgets fall into two camps: fads and must haves. With this in mind, here are 10 examples of great technologies split into those that will go the distance and those which will have their moment of glory before the novelty wears off and they join the Teasmade as great ideas with limited shelf life.

Top Five Fads

  1. Powered paper planes – As someone who never mastered the perfect paper plane as a child this gadget it tempting; the PowerUp 3.0 fits onto a basic paper plane and transforms it into an app controlled flying machine making origami aeroplanes fly in a way my 10 year old self could only dream of. However just as children lose interest in the traditional paper plane, this invention is unlikely to capture their attention for very long.
  2. Heated butter knives – The science behind this is very impressive, but really who needs one of these?! Waiting for butter to soften or even using a little elbow grease to spread it straight out of the fridge is hardly difficult. This is a prime example of nifty tech that serves no real purpose. (However, although I scoff at heated butter knives, on discovering the same company offers an ice-cream scoop utilising the same technology, it took all my willpower not to order one on the spot).
  3. Musical fruit and veg – Without the hyperlink you just wouldn’t believe it existed (in fact I’m not sure I do even now). This is brilliantly bonkers but with purpose. Demonstrated at the Gadget Show Live last week, Makey Makey offers an invention kit which allows children (and adults) to develop their understanding of science and technology beyond how to use it, but also how to make it. It allows you to do almost anything, from connecting fruit to your computer and using it instead of a keyboard, to creating a robotic arm. I’m not sure if this technology has longevity, however, as a tool to drum up enthusiasm for computer programming it has the potential to have a long term impact on IT skills.
  4. Smart stove knobs – This Kickstarter project automatically controls stove temperature, making burnt pan bottoms a thing of the past. Although the tech is undoubtedly nifty, I can’t see it becoming a kitchen must have anytime soon.
  5. Connected toothbrush – A list of fads would not be complete in 2015 without an IoT gizmo. Really? Toothbrushes? I’m all for connected devices, but only when it adds value. For me there isn’t enough benefit for this technology to go on and thrive.

While I admit this list represents technology that may not stand the test of time, this is the stuff I love. Yes it is utterly frivolous; who needs a gizmo to let them know if their dinner is burning, yet wonderful; who doesn’t want a remote controlled paper plane.

Now on to the gadget that will go the distance.

Top Five Must Haves

  1. Driverless cars – There are undoubtedly hurdles to overcome when it comes to driverless cars, but if all goes to plan they are seriously cool. Imagine being able to drive anywhere whilst reading, eating or even sleeping. In 2015 the concept is a hot topic and with pilot schemes set to run in the coming months it is the technology of the not too distant future.
  2. Artificial pancreas – The team behind this was named ‘Inventor of the Year’ at The Gadget Show Live and no wonder! Developed by Dr Joan Taylor, it is implanted into the body of a diabetic, monitoring sugar levels and releasing more insulin as required. It uses cutting-edge science to fulfil a need and is a near perfect example of tech with a long life span.
  3. 3D printing – The motivation behind this technology is that it will revolutionise the way in which things are made. Once refined, this represents the future of manufacturing. Following all the 3D printing hype, this is a tool finally finding its feet and the appetite for it means it is here to stay.
  4. Wearables – As a wearables sceptic, it pains me to admit I was wrong as this technology goes from strength to strength. The introduction of the Apple Watch is a big part of this. For all its faults, Apple is good at getting it right and in creating an attractive looking smart watch they have done just that. As for the future of wearables, where Apple goes, others are sure to follow.
  5. Smart keys – As one of the most well-funded Kickstarter projects, there is certainly a market for this. It slots on top of a normal lock and is controlled via smartphone, meaning you are never locked out again. The most frivolous on the ‘must have’ list but in an ever more tech centric world one that could potentially become the norm?

The gadgets that seem to be here to stay are the ones that aren’t just cool, they serve a real purpose. Technology for the sake of technology seems to have a limited life span and the trick is using technology to solve a real world problem. Although I don’t doubt I will be the proud owner of many of the listed fads before 2015 is out!


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