News
5/25/2007
09:53 AM
David  DeJean
David DeJean
Features

The InformationWeek 2007 Summer Gadget Guide

Find sitting on the beach boring? Can't tear yourself away from technology? Here are some great new gadgets that can make your summer fun.



Summer
Gadget Guide
This summer, technology is dedicated to the proposition that you can take it with you. From a grill that plays your iPod on the patio to a hardware firewall that works in hotel rooms, there are gadgets galore to help get you there in fine digital style.

Computing isn't just about work, either. Increasingly, it's about play, and the current crop of gizmos reflects the reach of technology into your off-duty life. Whether you go to the beach on vacation this summer, or to the ends of the earth, you'll take more digital gadgets than ever before -- cell phones, GPS devices, cameras, toys, and media players.

We've divided this year's crop of fun, useful, or just plain weird devices into six different categories:

  • Media That Moves. Here's the mobile, wireless, take-it-with-you stuff that lets you go to that cabin in the woods without leaving it all completely behind. You want your music with you on that scuba dive? You can do that, too.

  • On The Road. Take to the highways or the skyways with a happy heart and no worries. You can sit in your hotel room in Fredonia and confidently use their power, protect your data, and make sure no strangers are prowling through your home.

  • For Photo Fans. Why even bother to go abroad if you don't have any pictures to post? These gadgets let you snap faraway vistas, track your photos, and put yourself in the picture.

  • Take A Hike. If you're the more energetic type, these gadgets will keep you connected. They include a GPS unit built for hard traveling, solar panels for tenting trips, and a camera that will let you shoot while snowboarding.

  • Techie Toys. OK, we all know that tech is fun. So pull out your USB-powered fridge and have a cool one while you check out the stars in the summer sky and prepare to meet the aliens with your Sonic Screwdriver.

  • Coming Attractions. Sorry, but there are some summer releases out there that aren't available -- yet. But you'd better pay attention, because once these devices hit the shelves, they're going to go fast.

    What follows is a collection of the year's best devices to amplify and extend, capture, enlarge, preserve, locate, transport, correct, empower, enhance, educate, entertain, protect, and serve. Don't leave home without them.



    Media That Moves

    OK, you're out in that cabin in the woods, sitting on the porch, listening to the birds, watching the shadows fall on the tall trees -- and totally, utterly bored. What do you do? Well, you can pull on your Myvu Video Goggles and take in a flick, grab your SwiMP3 audio player and go jump in the lake, or hook your iPod into your Outdoor Wireless Solar Speakers and treat the birds to the Shop Boyz.

    Myvu Video Goggles
    (click image to see larger view)
    View the image gallery

    Summer
    Gadget Guide
    For Your Eyes Only
    Vacations are all about taking it easy, so carry your Video iPod. Connect your iPod (30 GB, 60 GB, or 80 GB) to the Myvu video goggles, dip yourself in cocoa butter, lay back, and enjoy. The lightweight eyewear contains built-in video screens and ear buds, and the thin battery pack is (according to the company) good for up to eight hours of video watching -- and doubles as a protective case for your iPod. Playback and brightness controls are built into the connector cable, and AC and car adapters for charging come in the box. (The iPod, needless to say, is not included.)

    OtterBox (For The Treo 650/700w/700p)
    (click image to see larger view)
    OtterBox
    (For The Treo 650/700w/700p)
    $129.95
    View the image gallery
    Seal Up Your Smartphone
    You can take your smartphone to the office in your pocket, but would you take it unprotected up a mountain or down a river? Of course not. You'd get an OtterBox. These cases seal smartphones away from water, dust, and dirt, and protect them from bumps and drops while providing full access to phone, keypad, and function buttons. The OtterBox 1920 for the Treo 650/700w/700p, for example, allows you to use the phone, e-mail, Internet, media, and camera functions through the case. There are OtterBoxes in a variety of sizes and shapes for iPods, GPS units, and tablet and notebook PCs -- even an OtterBox that adds a protected keypad to an iPaq 1900 series device. Take it with you, and bring it home safe and dry.

    Outdoor Wireless Solar Speaker
    (click image to see larger view)
    View the image gallery
    Let It Blast
    Summer is the time to move outdoors, but all the stuff that plays your music loud is indoors. What to do? Get this Outdoor Wireless Solar Speaker. Plug your tunes into the AC-powered transmitter piece -- an iPod, or your stereo system, or whatever -- and leave it inside. Then carry the tune-blaster part (it's about 9 inches in diameter and 13 inches high) outside and put it wherever you want it, up to 150 feet away from the transmitter. According to the company, the 900-MHz radio runs for up to eight hours on a charge, and it's solar powered so it recharges itself (there's also a charger included). You can even buy multiple speakers and run them from your music source.

    SwiMP3 v2
    (click image to see larger view)
    SwiMP3 v2
    $199
    View the image gallery
    Music In Your Bones
    Here's a science question for you: If you want to hear high-quality audio while your head is in the water -- like when you're, maybe, swimming -- how would you do it when there's no air to vibrate (which is how regular audio speakers work)? It's obvious -- you'd use bone conduction. The SwiMP3 underwater MP3 player lets you clip the transducers into the strap of your goggles so they press against any bone of your skull (like the cheek bones or the mastoid tip), and listen to your favorite tunes while you're wet. The SwiMP3's rechargeable battery and 256-Mbytes of memory provide up to four hours of music, and it plays MP3 or WMA files. When you come up for air, you can connect it via USB to a PC or Mac; it comes with software to manage your music files.

    George Foreman GIPOD200
    (click image to see larger view)
    View the image gallery
    Grill To The Beat
    You've got an iPod dock in your car, an iPod dock in your alarm clock, an iPod dock in your stereo, an iPod dock that clamps to the baby's stroller. Think you've got an iPod dock just about everyplace you could put one? Think again. The George Foreman GIPOD200 puts an iPod dock, a 10-watt amplifier, and speaker on, that's right, an indoor/outdoor electric grill. The dock (which also handles other MP3 players), amp, and downward-firing speaker is installed in the pedestal base. The 200-square-inch grill's nonstick coating makes cleanup easy, and the center channel drains fat away from food (and, presumably, your iPod).



    On The Road

    You don't want to spend your vacation staring at the same four walls, right? You want to get out, see the world, experience the highway! But you want to do that knowing that, wherever you go, your devices will work, your data will be safe, and nobody will be "borrowing" your home entertainment center while you're gone. Here are some gadgets that can help.

    Summer
    Gadget Guide
    Adapt To Any Power
    If it's been a couple of years since you traveled overseas, you should know that things have changed -- like the number of USB-connected gizmos you're carrying this summer. Which is why your old universal power adapter is now closetware. Leave it where it lays and get one of these. This compact (3 x 2 x 2.5 inches), lightweight (3.33 ounces) adapter is probably smarter than your old one, too. It automatically detects incoming voltage and converts it to 120-volt AC power, and it's plug-compatible with more than 150 countries on six continents including Australia (if you're going to Antarctica, you're apparently on your own.) But best of all, it has a built-in USB port that allows you to leave chargers for cell phones, digital cameras, iPods, and other devices at home. It even lets you charge via AC and USB simultaneously, and there's an integral surge protector that protects electronics from power spikes.

    AT&T Remote Monitor
    (click image to see larger view)
    AT&T Remote Monitor
    $99 / $9.99 per month
    View the image gallery
    Keep An Eye On Your House
    The AT&T Remote Monitor is an easy-to-install remote package that lets you watch and control your house while you're gone. For $9.99 a month you can view live video from up to eight cameras, monitor doors and windows, control lights, and more through a secure Web connection using a PC (no Macs need apply) or a Web-enabled Cingular phone. The $99 starter kit includes a gateway controller that that plugs into your home router, an IP camera with pan and tilt that connects to the gateway over your household wiring, a wireless door/window sensor, and two powerline transmission modules that eliminate the need to run cable. Sensors are available that monitor doors and windows, temperature, water, and motion detection. You can also buy wireless power controls that turn lights and appliances on or off, and repeaters that extend the wireless range, just in case your house is so big the rumpus room and dining salon are in different counties.

    Yoggie Gatekeeper Pro
    (click image to see larger view)
    View the image gallery

    Put A Firewall In Your Pocket
    Even if your vacation takes you and your laptop through the valley of the shadow this summer, you need fear no evil if you've got Yoggie. Yoggie Gatekeeper Pro is a tiny hardware firewall that eliminates all your usual excuses for not being fully protected. It fits in your hand, requires no wall outlet, and provides enterprise-level firewall protection for your computer. Plug it into a USB port and it can work with wired Ethernet or wireless connections (it does packet filtering for your computer's own WiFi adapter through the use of a virtual bridge). Yoggie provides a stateful inspection firewall with transparent e-mail and Web proxies, intrusion detection and prevention. You configure and monitor it through a browser-based console.

    qStart International
    (click image to see larger view)
    qStart International
    Approx. $22 (£11 UK w/shipping)
    View the image gallery
    The Right (Left?) Side Of The Road
    There is a gizmo for everything, and this proves it: If you are going to drive a car overseas, it's important to drive on the correct side of the road -- which may not be the right side. How to remember? Get the qStart Automatic Reminder. Plug it into the cigarette lighter, select the correct side for the country you're in, and every time you start the car the qStart will speak a reminder to "drive on the right" or "drive on the left." Don't forget and leave it in the rental either, because it will come in handy when you get home, too -- amazing how quickly we can form subconscious habits. It comes from Great Britain, where they know a thing or two about driving on the wrong side of the road.

    Driv-N
    (click image to see larger view)
    Driv-N
    $849 up
    View the image gallery


    A PC In Every Car
    Here's the ultimate solution to the problem of leaving your PC behind: Don't. Install it in your car instead. HIPe PC's line of Driv-N PCs puts a computer in your car so you can play DVD movies, browse the Web, and stay connected to your home or office PC. You put the CPU under a seat or in the trunk and install the screen in your dash. It comes with voice-recognition software for hands-free operation, and the Driv-N's power supply is designed to cope with under-voltage conditions and power spikes. Driv-N PCs support Bluetooth, GSM, Edge, wi-fi, and Wireless G connectivity, so you don't have to copy files -- just connect to your home media server while you're on the road.



    For Photo Fans

    Why even bother to go on vacation if you don't have any photos to prove that you were having fun? And just having a digital camera isn't enough -- you need to be able to put yourself in the picture, figure out exactly where you were when you snapped that Ivory-billed woodpecker, and use the latest devices to show them to your friends.

    Quik Pod digital camera handheld support
    (click image to see larger view)
    Quik Pod
    $24.95 / $29.95 with tripod
    View the image gallery






    Summer
    Gadget Guide
    Say Cheese
    So you spent thousands of dollars on a fabulous vacation, and when you get back and look at your pictures, where are you? You've got lots of pictures of other people, but you might just as well have been left at home. This extendable handheld support for your digital camera is a clever way to get yourself into your vacation pictures. Open up the Quik Pod, attach your camera to the tripod head, set the self-timer, and line yourself up in tiny mirror. Works for video, too, and you can use it to elevate your camera over the heads of crowds, as well. The Quik Pod with a storage bag and carbiner clip for fastening to your pack is $24.95; a deluxe edition that includes a set of little tripod legs is $29.95.

    A Digital Scope For The Birds
    If the mountains are your destination this summer, take along this spotting scope with integrated digital camera for bird-watching and nature photography like you've never done before. Made by Celestron, a long-respected maker of telescopes, the VistaPix IS70 combines a spotting scope's 70mm multicoated optics and an integrated eyepiece with a built-in 3-megapixel digital camera. The result delivers magnifications up to 14x to the camera's 2-inch LCD viewing screen (or, with the included video cable, on a TV screen). The IS70 is powered by two AA batteries, comes with a rotatable mount to fit camera tripods or Celestron computerized mounts, an aluminum hard case, and weighs 3.5 pounds.

    Momento Digital Picture Frame
    (click image to see larger view)
    Momento Digital Picture Frame
    $199 (7-inch), $299 (10.2-inch)
    View the image gallery
    You've Been Framed!
    There are digital picture frames that read images through USB cables and from memory cards, but the Momento is something more. It's also wireless, and it communicates not just with your PC, but with the Web. You can sort your pictures on your computer using folders, keywords, tags, ratings, and playlists, then stream them to your Momento. And then there's the the Momento Live Online subscription service that lets you upload pictures from anywhere -- you can send pictures to other Momento Live users (or several at once) and they can send pictures to yours. You can send from your camera phone, and stream public photo galleries or RSS feeds from online photo sharing sites like Flickr, Google Picasa, Windows Live Spaces, and Yahoo News.

    GiSTEQ PhotoTrackr
    (click image to see larger view)
    View the image gallery
    Track Your Pix
    Where did you take those pictures of the surfers? Was it Waimea or Pipeline Beach? Or the great panoramas with the railroad trestle -- was that Italy or Switzerland? If you'd taken the GiSTEQ Photo Trackr with you, you'd know exactly where all your pictures were taken. The Photo Trackr is a GPS unit that syncs with your digital camera's clock and logs where you were and when. When you get back, load your photos and the Photo Trackr log data into your PC (sorry, no Mac version) and you'll know where and when each picture was taken. Even if you don't take photos, GiSTEQ's mapping software and the PhotoTrackr allow you to record and review exactly where you have traveled. The Photo Trackr comes with USB cable and software, and chargers for AC and 12-volt systems.

    Brica Viewart 1000
    (click image to see larger view)
    Brica Viewart 1000
    $265 plus $15 shipping
    View the image gallery



    All In One And One For All
    Sure, it's just a toy, but what a great toy -- just the thing to keep a cranky geek occupied for days, in a package so small it can go anywhere -- even into your shirt pocket. It's a video recorder/player with TV input/output. It's a video camera. It's a PC webcam. It's a digital still camera. Want more? OK, it's an MP3 player, audio recorder, FM radio. More? Use it as an e-book reader. And if you run out of anything else to do, it has four built-in games. It records from a TV, DVD player, camcorder, whatever, to 320x240-pixel ASF files, and its camcorder function uses the same format. (Playback on the 2.5-inch LCD screen may be a little choppy, but this is a toy, remember.) It records to an included 2-Gbyte SD card (which gives you 6.5 hours of video), and there's an additional 512 Mbytes of internal memory for music, photos -- or another hour and a half of video.



    Take A Hike

    Some of us don't just sit around and relax during summer vacations. Some of us recover from all those hours in front of a monitor by hiking, camping, biking, or snowboarding off an Alpine mountainside. But just because your body is moving doesn't mean you can't use the latest tech devices to make your experiences even better -- like a rugged GPS unit to make sure you don't get lost, and solar panels to keep that GPS powered.

    Digital Hero 3
    (click image to see larger view)
    Digital Hero 3
    $139.99
    View the image gallery


    Summer
    Gadget Guide
    Action Pix
    On your vacation you surf, ski, skateboard, and mountain bike. And when you get back to the office nobody believes you. Well, why should they? Where's the video? You didn't take the Digital Hero 3. With this three-megapixel wrist-mounted waterproof digital video camera for capturing your exploits, you can turn scoffers into fans. The camera housing is waterproof, and the wrist strap can also be used to attach the unit to handlebars or helmets. It shoots 2048 x 1536 still images, or 640x480 video, and saves to 16 Mbytes of internal memory or removable SD cards up to 2 Gbytes (not included). The Digital Hero runs on two AAA batteries, comes with USB and RCA cables, weighs just 4.5 ounces and is warranted for a year -- which is more than your doctor would give you if you tried some of the stunts shown on the Web site.

    Earthmate GPS PN-20
    (click image to see larger view)
    View the image gallery

    Off-The Road GPS
    Most GPS units are like most Mercedes -- they're built for paved roads. DeLorme's Earthmate PN-20, on the other hand, is a GPS built for off-road use. It's built tough, with a waterproof housing that's designed to fit your hand, not a dashboard. It comes with U.S. topographic and street maps on DVD to export from your PC as needed. It includes certificates for $100 worth (400 sq. km) of DeLorme Aerial Data Packets showing your U.S. areas of interest -- black & white aerial imagery (DOQQs), SAT 10 (10-meter resolution) colorized satellite imagery, and scanned United States Geological Survey 7.5-minute quadrangle maps. And just to get you to where you're going there's a built-in highway-level world base map. If the 75 Mbytes of internal memory isn't enough to hold all the map data you want to carry, there's also an SD card slot.

    Sunlinq Folding Solar Power Panels
    (click image to see larger view)
    View the image gallery

    Solar Panels For Summer Days
    If you're going off the grid this summer, you might want to take a little piece of the grid with you -- just enough solar-panel technology to charge up your cell phone, GPS, MP3 player, or flashlight. And of course you'll want to carry it conveniently. The Sunlinq folding solar panels are flexible, foldable solar panels that produce enough power to power just about anything that can be charged through a standard car cigarette lighter adapter. Sunlinq panels are available in capacities from 6.5 to 25 watts, along with accessories and cables (including, of course, an iPod connector).

    The Gadget Bag
    (click image to see larger view)
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    Four Bags Are Better Than One
    If you are searching for just the right bag for carrying your techie gear, consider the possibility that there may simply not be one right bag. Maybe four would be better. Here's a bag that keeps your cell phone, PDA, music player, and digital camera from interacting in bad ways. There are four individual compartments for storing your stuff, and all the stuff that goes with your stuff -- cables, chargers, extra memory cards, batteries, cartridges -- and they've got lots of pockets and compartments and passthroughs for headphone cables. You can zip and strap all four of them together into satchel about the size of a hardback book -- altogether they enclose 258 cubic inches of cosseted space -- or you can carry just the one you need at the moment.

    SkyCaddie SG2
    (click image to see larger view)
    SkyCaddie SG2
    $259.95
    View the image gallery
    A GPS For Golf Balls
    It won't fix your problems with your backswing, but the SkyCaddie SG2 may be a way to get a little technological edge on the golf course. This unit from SkyGolf is more than a rangefinder, it's a GPS for golf balls. With its downloadable Course Management data it can tell you the distance to hazards, and lets you measure the depth and shape of the green from any angle of approach. It weighs a mere 4.6 ounces and is powered by a rechargeable lithium battery. You can download course data or map your own course.



    Techie Toys

    Sometimes, you want to get a new tech device simply because, well, it's cool. Neat. Really fine. Or whatever adjective you like to use. So stick a can in your USB fridge, check out the hidden universe with a digital microscope, and take a few secret notes with your Sonic Screwdriver. It's all good.

    USB Mini Fridge
    (click image to see larger view)
    View the image gallery
    Summer
    Gadget Guide
    One Cool Gadget
    If your idea of a vacation is taking your laptop to the beach, then this is the perfect USB accessory. This cool USB gadget plugs into USB power and cools exactly one can of your favorite beverage. And because no fridge is complete without a light that comes on when you open the door it has an internal LED. Sorry, no ice tray.

    Meade MySky
    (click image to see larger view)
    View the image gallery
    Look To The Stars
    Who would have suspected that a GPS, magnetic sensors, and accelerometers could make you one with the universe? The Meade mySky embeds all this science in a multimedia device that draws on a database of 30,000 celestial objects to lead you on a guided tour of the night sky. Point and click to identify planets, stars, and constellations. The MySky displays images and plays multimedia presentations on its 480 x 232 screen that includes astrophotography, videos, mythology, folklore, and science. Four AA batteries operate the mySky for up to seven hours.

    USB Digital Microscope
    (click image to see larger view)
    View the image gallery
    Digital Magnification
    Some digital toys are toys, and some are as serious as the purpose you put them to. This one can go either way. The digital microscope connects to your computer via USB, and with its included software lets you zoom in on the world around you. It magnifies objects up to 200x and takes snapshots and time-lapse movies. Seashore scientists and vacation hobbyists will appreciate its 640 x 480 resolution, three magnification settings (20x, 50x, 200x), and built-in LED illumination. It's a USB 1.1 device, and the software works with either PCs or Macs.

    VoIP At The Ready
    If you're carrying your laptop and connecting to the Web at a Wi-Fi hotspot, why not make some phone calls while you're at it -- or even receive calls no matter where you are? Because you left your headset and microphone at home, that's why. Who wants to carry equipment like that around? Good point. So get this, and you'll forget you're even carrying it around. The Kensington Vo200 is a Bluetooth handset -- speaker and microphone -- that flips open for use, folds flat and stores in the PC slot in your laptop, and charges while it's docked. If you've got a VoIP service like Skype or Vonage, why not always have a phone handy? All you need is Bluetooth support or a Bluetooth adapter on your laptop and $89.99 for the V0200.

    Dr. Who Sonic Screwdriver
    (click image to see larger view)
    View the image gallery
    When The Doctor Is Out, Try This
    If you're a follower of Doctor Who, you know that he uses his Sonic Screwdriver to open locks, amplify sound, stun enemies, and even occasionally to drive screws. Because you are not a Time Lord, the version of the Sonic Screwdriver you can be trusted with will not do that many things for you, but it still has the authentic Sonic Screwdriver sounds and lights. It includes a standard ink pen for grocery lists and a UV pen for writing secret galaxy-saving messages -- messages that are revealed by the blue UV light on the pen's top. This Sonic Screwdriver is seven inches long closed, 8.25 inches extended, and it runs on three AG13 button cells. (The Wikipedia's history of the Sonic Screwdriver notes that this toy is a case of reality imitating art -- the producers were so impressed by it they asked for and received molds to use on the show.)



    Coming Attractions

    Not every blockbuster summer gadget debuted before Memorial Day. There are some great things still in the pipeline. Here are three in particular that we wanted to include in the Gadget Guide, but they just aren't available right this minute. So we'll just have to wait.

    Apple iPhone
    (click image to see larger view)
    Apple iPhone
    $499 / $599
    View the image gallery




    Summer
    Gadget Guide
    I Wanna iPhone
    The Übergadget for Summer 2007 isn't expected to appear until... Well, "late June" is all Apple is saying, but Web sites like the Boy Genius Report have been buzzing with speculation that the iPhone will go on sale June 15th via AT&T (formerly Cingular). At any rate, the iPhone promises to be not just one insanely great gadget, but three: an innovative mobile phone, the next step in iPod technology with touch controls, and a handheld WiFi device with the first truly creative approach to wireless e-mail since the BlackBerry. Summer may be over before you can get your hands on one, though. Advance orders have been heavy, even at the anticipated price -- $499 or $599, depending on the amount of memory -- and that's with a two-year contract.

    Parrot PMK5800 Car Kit
    (click image to see larger view)
    Parrot PMK5800 Car Kit
    approx. $120
    View the image gallery
    Bluetooth Direct To Your Radio
    Two-piece is for swimsuits. When it comes to Bluetooth car kits, one-piece is the way to go. Later this summer, Parrot, the French company that is all things Bluetooth, will roll out a one-piece Bluetooth car kit. The PMK5800 will plug directly into your car lighter socket and transmit via FM to your car's sound system, streaming your tunes and phone conversations from your handset wirelessly, no installation required. Its microphone uses DSP, echo and noise cancellation, and the unit provides full duplex sound. It employs voice recognition so you can dial calls by name, and it wraps it all up in a package that can go in the glove compartment when you get to the beach -- or in your pocket when you switch cars. You'll be able to buy it from Parrot and other online retailers for about $120.

    HTC Shift
    (click image to see larger view)
    View the image gallery
    The Smartphone Grows Up
    The ultra-mobile PC (UMPC) is the traveler's dream: lots of PC functionality and connectivity packed into a small, lightweight package. Most UMPCs look like shrunk-down PCs or off-the-wall keyboard-less concepts. But the HTC Shift looks more like a grown-up smartphone -- the screen lays flat and slides up to reveal the keyboard, just like a lot of smaller smartphones. Then it makes another move its siblings haven't got: The screen flips up so you can set it on a desk and work on its QWERTY keyboard like you would on a larger PC. The bad news: The Shift won't be available until the third quarter, according to HTC.

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