Tag Archives: gadget

Gnomedex 08 BugLabs Contest

BugLabs was a presenter at Gnomedex last week. They have decided to run a contest that is open to all of the attendees of the conference.

The 4 best gadget ideas win their own BUGbundle (value $629). The BUG is a modular consumer electronic platform (ie. the lego of gadgets). It falls within the open source hardware category. It currently ships with 4 modules (GPS, LCD, Camera, Motion Detector), but you can submit ideas that require modules that aren’t available today (laser range finder, weather module, thermal sensor, A/V modules, teleporter, etc).

To enter, people had to submit their new gadget ideas, including gadget name and description. The entry deadline was tonight, and the people at BugLabs and Gnomedex will be reviewing the entries to choose a winner! Let’s take a look at some of the entries:

  • Wifi-enabled Bathroom Scale submitted by Dave Nielsen – This is a bug that lets me step on a scale, and automatically saves my weight to a Website. I’d use this every day. I never have time to track my weight. If I could track my weight easily, I’d be more likely to pay attention to what I eat.
  • Wifi Enabled Weather Bug submitted by John – This would be a bug that alerts you of severe weather conditions, to help save lives.
  • LifeLogger submitted by Josh Bancroft – Using camera and GPS, this is a device that I can attach to my car, my bag, or anything I choose. It would log my GPS track, take pictures periodically, and either stores or uploads them to a place where I can selectively decide to share them. This would allow me to log my life – where I was at what time, and what I was seeing when I was there. I use Twitter for this, and show my “lifelog” on the side of my blog. Some people love to log what they’re doing, for posterity, for their friends, or for whatever reason. Witness the popularity of Twitter, FriendFeed, geotagged photos on Flickr, lifestreaming apps, etc. This would automate/take it to another level.
  • GPS enabled school bus submitted by Jane Roberts – GPS on a school bus alerts parents and students of impending arrival. It will keep kids off the streets, and out of the weather while waiting for the bus. It would document the routes for those districts who don’t already do it.
  • Portable Vocal Joystick submitted by Aryeh Goretskey – My bug would be a standalone device with an LCD screen and microphone that can be trained to recognize a voice (c.f. Jon Malkin’s Vocal Joystick presentation at Gnomedex), plugged into a PC (Linux, Mac, Windows) and be recognized as a standard HID class mouse device. This will allow people who need to (or wish to) use such a device for an interface to work with multiple computers without having to install software and train it on different computers.
  • Light Sensor submitted by John – My gadget would be one that would detect amounts of light. This could detect a fire, or tell between day and night. You could even make it detect if someone tries to use your computer. This could be used for so many things. It would also be very fun, just because of having so many things you could do with it. Anything that gives off light or reflects light could be used with this.
  • Accident / Bad Driver Video Recorder submitted by Sean Canton – This is a constantly-recording device that saves 15-30 seconds of video when triggered by button or accelerometer. This could hopefully make the world a better place, especially the road.
  • Kid/Baby Monitor submitted by Steve Lacey – This would use motion detectors and cameras to detect restless kids and alert via sms; send video to mac mini that is connected to my TV and embed it using picture in picture; send audio to phone, etc… Current products are all closed, and don’t do what I want them to do. Endless possibilities for parental hacks!
  • WiFi Headset submitted by Scott Campbell – You can download software to your Wi-Fi enabled phone and use the Wi-Fi headset anywhere on the same Wi-Fi network. If you were in a Wi-Fi enabled city, you could leave your phone at home while being able to walk about the city. This would minimize the risk of phone theft.
  • Location-aware information filter submitted by unknown – This would be a location and motion sensor for setting the context of RSS / SMS / etc. filters. Social media, RSS, SMS are generating a torrent of information – we’re all familiar with information overload. And of course, context is everything. When I’m walking around in my office, I want to know what’s happening, and I can consume it. When I’m in my car, don’t bother me with the irrelevant! Knowing where you are allows you to tune what kinds and how much information will be sent to you.
  • WiFi School Bus Monitor submitted by Alex Murdock – I’d make a GPS with a camera that when the bus gets to a bus stop, it takes pictures of the kids that get on at that stop and sends the pictures to the parents of the kids that get on at that stop. This would stop kids from skipping school or not taking the bus when they are supposed to go to school. I know most parents want to know where their kids are at all times. This would just notify them if their kids are on the bus.
  • Running Man submitted by Daryn Nakhuda – Use accelerometer and GPS modules to track the path and steps/rate of a run or walk, which could then be uploaded via wi-fi and mashed with Google Maps. This would be like a cross between Nike and iPods on steroids.
  • i-Doorbell submitted by Mike Koss – The i-Doorbell consists of a wall-mounted BugLabs base with the LCD, Camera, Motion Detector, Microphone and Speaker (TBD) modules. When a visitor arrives at the front door, the i-Doorbell welcomes them, and takes a photo. They are invited to announce themselves, and leave a brief audio message. If someone is home, the interior doorbell is activated. If not, an SMS message is sent to the owner, as well as an email with an embeded image of the visitor. For homes with an electric strike lock, the i-Doorbell can be used to scan a 2-D barcode (e.g. a QR Code) from the camera. When a valid
    code is presented, the door can be unlocked (codes can be activated to limited periods to allow visitors or vendors to have limited entry). One device can be used to replace conventional door camera, intercom, AND card reader. Yet allows much more flexible guest access and security to a home or business.
  • Taser Mate submitted by Kurt Padilla – This will sense electric fields from deployed Taser or stun gun device. It will send time-stamped location data to authorities. It may also connect to a heart monitor. This will get help to people using Tasers for self-defense faster, or gets help to Taser victims faster. This data, as well as data from the heart monitor may be useful in court, not to mention that an imminent heart attack as a result of Tasering can be preempted.
  • TimeLapsr submitted by Jess Martin – This is a device for creating time-lapse videos composed of still images from either the built-in camera or your own DSLR. You can set up the TimeLapsr anywhere, and generate a timelapse video on the fly. The device can be set to be activated by motion detector, so you only catch the good stuff. You can use the built-in 2MP camera, or utilize the USB interface to take pics directly from a high-end DSLR. Once the images are taken, the BUGbase’s MPEG4 encoder can create the video immediately. This gives you a one-touch solution for creating time-lapse videos, but is also highly customizable using a high-end camera if desired. And why not tag the video with GPS info for fun? It can playback recorded timelapses using MPEG4 decoder. This would have more uses than you can list – home/shop security camera, artsy timelapse video creator, observe consumer behavior in public settings, timelapse a sunset/sunrise, in-vehicle road trip timelapses, etc.
  • Universal Off Switch submitted by Daniel Bartholomew – The Universal Off Switch utilizes the BugBase, and the Touchscreen, and Electromagnetic Pulse modules. Whenever you’ve had enough of the technology around you, just press the “Pulse” button and *poof* all electronics within a 10 foot radius of you instantly and permanently turn off. Have you ever been in a crowded bar where the music is too loud? Or that oh-so-trendy store in the mall where there are like 1000 TVs blaring? Or at a restaurant where some idiot is on their cellphone right behind you and won’t shut up? Well, now you can do something about it.
  • Personal Security System submitted by Jeff Thomas – This is a Motion Sensor combined with camera (with screen for later playback/review). Anytime any movement occurs, record. Place this in the car, or anywhere you want to be protected (your personal tree house for the local kid’s club ;-). Any detection of movement is recorded with maybe a 10-30 minute loop of most recent data stored. If a car is broken into, or hit, the incident is recorded. When you return to the car, you have captured the incident. A car is the most obvious, but it can be used elsewhere (like treehouse!)
  • Web-A-Sizer submitted by Beth Goza – This would be a companion unit for Webpotatoes who have a hard time leaving the couch or desk for fear of missing something. This unit can be set to either display or “read” tweets, IMs, e-mail, RSS feeds and any other bit of web info that the potato would normally need to be glued to his/her screen to keep up with. There would be several choices for voices or display fonts, and the unit could sit cozily alongside various exercise equipment. Installing Televisions in gyms in the 90’s has proven hugely successful for getting couch potatoes off their arses and into the gym. Now we need to get the army of Webpotatoes moving, and bring sexy back (or at all) to Technophiles everywhere.
  • EyeTrackU submitted by Jeff Norris – This will take photos and report GPS location, send to Web and map out where you spend most of your time. Send updates to tweets, read other EyeTrackU users to network in person. Build a real social network with humans. Meeting people in person and sharing ideas in the same area of the country is quite difficult, but on a common system like EyeTrackU , people can meet and work together and track where their best areas to share are.
  • BikeBuddy submitted by Cassie Wallender – Today’s urban biker is more often then not, eventually going to end up in some sort of accident with a car. Anyone who’s bicycled around Seattle can tell you. Unfortunately, when it comes to proving who’s at fault, it’s often one person’s word against another. The more unbiased data you can have in situations like these, the better. BikeBuddy will automatically turn itself on when in motion, and the built in camera and GPS will track where your bike is, how fast it’s going, and the conditions around you. As long as it’s in motion, it will take a photo every 4 seconds pairing it with GPS coordinates. It can do this by emptying it’s earlier taken photos constantly as well. If you get into an accident, you would tell it to stop, and have all the most recent photos and location information at your disposal. To protect yourself while you’re trying to protect the environment. Imagine having a picture to prove that the light you went through was green, while the car that hit you was going through a red. Case closed. BikeBuddy FTW.

Wow! This is going to be a tough choice. There are some great gadget ideas here! What do you all think? Which is your favorite, and why? More importantly, what device would you design?

What's Your Favorite Party Favor?

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I don’t know why I didn’t show off this little gadget to you all before. I’ve had it for about ten years. I saw it one day at a fair, and had to have it. If you notice, you just swing it around, and the LED lights blink in succession. It’s an optical illusion. It says “Let’s Party!” in the lights. You can push a button and change what it says.

The Skyliner comes with eleven preset messages you can twirl through the air:

  • Awesome
  • Cool
  • Love You
  • Happy New Year
  • Happy Birthday
  • Help
  • Cheer!
  • Nice!
  • It’s Magic!
  • Sensational
  • Let’s Party

There’s space on there for you to program up to three of your own messages, as well. It’s pretty easy to do, since there’s nothing external to it. It’s fun to bring to a party or event… even a ball game. Everyone’s going to think you’re cool, and want one of their own.


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Make Money with Product Reviews on ExpoTV

I began uploading product reviews for ExpoTV last month. This is your chance to help recreate an interactive TechTV experience! ExpoTV is the content provider for on-demand channels on cable boxes across the US. Uploading your content is simple, and fast. The process takes only about five minutes for each video.

ExpoTV is a place for people to connect, share and celebrate the products they are passionate about in video to help each other shop smarter!

You can earn up to $10 for product reviews that meet the community’s quality standards. Share your personal opinion and demonstrate how you use the product! Real, honest consumer opinions are what ExpoTV is all about.

This month, I uploaded reviews for five products that I have taken a look at in recent weeks. The original videos are all posted here in my blog for each of them.

1.3 Megapixel USB Digital Microscope Review

This 1.3 Megapixel Digital Microscope allows you to capture some higher resolution images and video and display them on your PC using a simple USB connection. View specimens collected around the house, backyard, your desk, or the fridge. Look at the micro-printing on a dollar bill or examine the traces on your motherboard. This microscope provides you an easy way to zoom in on a wide variety of objects to satisfy your curiosity of the world around you. Ever wondered what lint looks like or the mold growing on your week-old bagels? Now you can find out.

Simple plug and play operation with included software that allows you to magnify objects and view them on your PC up to 200X and take snapshots and time-lapse movies. You can also manipulate images with drawing and painting tools. The microscope is detachable from the stand to allow you to get closer to large objects.

USB Humping Dog

It doesn’t serve any purpose, but it’s what they do. They are insatiable. And that’s all we really have to say. Harley is brown and Duke is black, and you can take your pick. Oh, and don’t worry – if the kids ask what the doggie is doing to your computer, just say, “He’s trying to jump over the computer, but he got a little stuck,” or “The computer is giving him a piggyback ride.” Either will suffice.


Here we have a cute little white plastic brick with a face made of LEDs. The tiny microphone in the base picks up sounds in the room, whether it’s music, or your loudmouth boss, and makes his mouth move in time. It’s like he’s lip synching to the song! Kinda like Britney, only much much smaller, and probably smells better.

He’s USB powered, so plug him in to any powered USB port, set him near your favorite sound-source, and your little buddy will perform for you all day long!

Multi-Color LED Lightbulb with Remote

The Multi-Color LED Lightbulb is a super bright LED bulb that can transition through dozens of color and brightness combinations and is compatible with a standard lightbulb socket. The included IR remote can select an individual color or brightness level or choose one of four different transition effects. Great for mood lighting, decorating, parties or special lighting environments. It has multiple brightness level settings and four transition effects (long pause on each color, short pause, slow fade between colors, faster fade). The light is generated from a 5 Watt LED.

Apple 2.0 Operating System

With the free iPhone 2.0 Software Update, your iPhone does even more. Extend its capabilities with innovative applications you download directly from the new App Store. Get push email, calendar, and contacts from your Microsoft Exchange server at work. And use great new features in Mail, Contacts, and other applications. To get the free update, just sync your iPhone with your Mac or PC.

Once you check out my product review videos, why not sign up for your own account? You can start uploading reviews and possibly make some cash yourself!

What Time is it When Your Pen Lasers Time?

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If you were stranded on a desert island, what would be the ONE device you would want to have with you? The answers will be interesting to see. Maybe you’ll want to have this nifty little gadget with you as your choice. I’m talking about the Time Projecting Red Laser Pointer from ThinkGeek.

We think it was the great philosopher Beck who once observed, “time is a piece of wax fallin’ on a termite …that’s choking on the splinters.” Okay, so we’re not quite sure what he might have ingested before making this observation but it could be a reasonable explanation of time in some other universe that exists, somewhere. Or maybe not. But in a tribute to Beck we might say about our Time Projecting Laser that, “time is a beam of red laser emitting from a diode …that’s projecting on the ceiling.” Hmmm, not sure if that evokes the same kind of imagery, but then no one ever said we were writers (of strange music lyrics). Guess we’ll just stick to doing what we do best – finding interesting products for the smart masses.

This is going to really come in handy when I’m speaking somewhere, and need to keep track of the time. I can subtly push the button and check my time, with no one being the wiser. How ingenious is that?

So, what gadget would you want with you on a desert island? Remember, you can only choose one.


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How to Check Electricity and Energy Use

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Do you know how much energy each of my 30″ monitors takes up? Do you know how much they cost me on a monthly basis? More importantly… how much does YOUR computer cost you a month? Do you even know, or know how to find out? I just received my Electricity bill for the months of November and December. Let’s just say, I need to do some troubleshooting, and figure out how to lower my costs.

Last year on my holiday wish list, I had an item from ThinkGeek listed. The Watts Up Pro will give you a readout of information from whatever you plug into it. Simply plug any device into Watt’s Up and the meter instantaneously displays the wattage being used, as well as 18 other values, including average monthly cost. The device records this data into non-volatile memory (stored even if power is lost). One thousand seven hundred data points are stored, starting with a sampling rate resolution of one second. It records any power interruptions, which is extremely handy when performing an audit of several devices. Watt’s Up is also capable of real-time logging. It even includes a payback calculator software utility, which automatically calculates the time required for a new energy efficient appliance to pay for itself!

Here is some of the information you can receive with this:

  • Cost, in dollars and cents
  • Frequency
  • Volt-Amps
  • Average monthly cost
  • Power factor
  • True power
  • Average monthly kwh
  • Cumulative power (kwh)
  • Power cycle

If you know of other Tech gadgets that we could use around our house that are user-friendly… be sure to leave me a follow-up comment, or send an email to me at [email protected]


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The Widget Gadget Gizmo Desklet Thingamajig (Chumby!)

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That’s right… it’s Chumby! This is definitely going to be a huge hit, and the favorite new gadget of many Geeks. I am having a lot of fun playing with the Chumby… and so are all the people in our live community!

The Chumby is a compact device that displays useful and entertaining information from the web using your wireless internet connection. Always on, it shows — nonstop — what’s online that matters to you. What can you do with a Chumby? The question is… what CAN’T you do with it?

  • Catch the latest news headlines, sports, weather, stock prices.
  • Play your iPod mp3 files through built in speakers. Charge it too.
  • Enjoy your Flickr and Facebook photos as a digital picture frame.
  • Stay updated on new Netflix releases or view your movie queue.
  • Make and share e-greetings, photo mash-ups, goofy animations.
  • Wake up to the multi-tone alarm clock.
  • Track any eBay auction or Craigslist item.
  • Monitor incoming email on any POP3 account.

The coolest thing is that I have my Chumby sitting on my desk, and it’s now tuned in to my live chat. Any regular voiced user or channel op can type a message, and it will display directly on my Chumby! At only $179.99, it’s a great way to stay connected and have some fun at the same time.


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Making MIDI Music with the Yamaha Tenori-On

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I have no musical ability or talent at all. It’s not for lack of trying, I assure you. I love music, and I love creating music. Thanks to the person from the community who recommended this great new toy, I can do this easily! And… special thanks to Ponzi for getting me this for Christmas!

The TENORI-ON from the folks at Yamaha is just amazing. It’s absolutely COOL. It’s so new, you cannot purchase it in the United States as of yet. Using this, you can easily and quickly create your own music, and even save it! You can’t go wrong… with the TENORI-ON, there is no such thing as “bad music”.

You’re going to create your music by changing instrument sounds, and adding different “layers”, so to speak. As the first chords you created loop, you can add another… and another… and, you get the point. As I was demonstrating the TENORI-ON during this recording, the community members in the live.pirillo.com chat room were all dancing in their chairs. This is a lot of fun, and you’ll be the hit at any party!

The TENORI-ON is a unique 16 x 16 LED button matrix performance instrument with a stunning visual display. For DJs & producers it is a unique performance tool enabling them to perform using MIDI and load the TENORI-ON with samples to ‘jam / improvise’ within their set BPMs.

TENORI-ON layers can be thought of as “performance parts” or “recording tracks.” The TENORI-ON has a total of 16 layers. Separate notes and voices can be assigned to each layer, and all layers can be played together in synchronization.
The 16 layers are divided into six performance mode groups as shown in the illustration below. The six modes have different note entry methods and operation. Up to 16 layers created using different modes can be combined for rich, complex musical expression.

Once complete set of 16 layers is called a “block.”
The TENORI-ON can store up to 16 programmed blocks (16-layer groups) in memory, and you can switch from block to block instantly during performance.
You could, for example, create a musical composition in one block, then copy that composition to another block and edit it to create a variation of the original composition. Or you can load a number of previously-created compositions into separate blocks from an SD Memory Card and switch between them to create variation during playback.

The TENORI-ON retails for about $1200.00. It may seem pricey to you, but it can be used by DJ’s and professional Musicians. It’s being used on several artist’s upcoming albums, so be on the ‘listen’ for the TENORI-ON. You can also listen to a free demo!

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The World's Most Annoying Gadget

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Think about that person in your class or office who makes you crazy. Wouldn’t it be great to annoy the heck out of them, without even having to be in the room? Thanks to the folks at ThinkGeek, you can. There are like 1 million ways to annoy people, and I think I’ve used about 991,627 of them. This is now number 991,628. Ponzi will be so excited.

The Annoy-A-Tron would be useless against an army of Snowbots, but it’s very effective at disturbing that guy in the sales department or your “friend” down the hall. With its thin design and embedded magnet for easy hiding, the Annoy-a-tron can be placed in a variety of locations. Select one of the three sound choices (2 kHz, 12 kHz, or alternating) and push the switch to the on position. Place it in a proper hiding spot and let the “fun” begin.

The Annoy-a-tron generates a short (but very annoying, hence the name) beep every few minutes. Your unsuspecting target will have a hard time ‘timing’ the location of the sound because the beeps will vary in intervals ranging from 2 to 8 minutes. The 2kHz sound is generically annoying enough, but if you really really want to aggravate somebody, select the 12 kHz sound. Trust us. The higher frequency and slight ‘electronic noise’ built into that soundbyte will make a full-grown Admin wonder where his packets are.

Just think of all the places you could put it:

  • Inside a computer case
  • Hidden in a stack of papers
  • Under the seat of a car
  • Shoved deep in a pocket of someone’s purse or Notebook case
  • Under the teacher’s desk!

Ok, that last one may not be a great idea, but hey. It’s up to you who to annoy, and where you do it!

Edited to add follow-up comments from my contact at ThinkGeek!

#1 The most awesome sound doesn’t convey during recordings because it’s too high-pitched (hence the annoying part). It’s too high pitched for most audio recordings – but is piercing in real life..

#2 Perhaps most importantly, it has a built-in rare-earth magnet. So you can stick it places. Which makes it far more devious. You can stick it to the underside of a desk, into an air vent, etc. That’s one of the main features when we developed it.

Anyways, will keep ya posted. Thanks!

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I Worked with James Kim

I don’t have a lot of time right now, and there’s not much more I can add to the conversations already happening. Suffice it to say, I’m extremely saddened to hear the news of James Kim’s passing. I was one of the few who had the EXTREMELY distinct pleasure to work with James at TechTV – and his “Lab Rats” segments were some of the best we did. I could always trust his advice, as he always seemed to know more than anybody else (in a day before Gizmodo and Engadget).

I’ve been scouring my archives to find a photo of us doing something together on Call for Help, but I can’t find one – and if anybody else has one, I’d certainly appreciate it.

What’s so ironic about this tragedy is that James, of all people, was the person most likely to have gadgets that could have saved him. I don’t mean that as a “shoulda, coulda, woulda” statement, mind you – just that I knew James was about as geeky as they came. If anything, I believe he’d want us to learn from his passing; Duncan posted a handful of fantastic tips, should you find yourself in a similar situation some day. Please read James and Kati’s Web site for all the latest official information, including where to send your donations.

Weird, Strange, and Odd USB Gadgets

I love USB – it’s simple, sexy, and ubiquitous. I’m probably the only guy on the planet who would describe the Universal Serial Bus as “sexy,” but I still remember fiddling with RS-232 ports back in the day (very unsexy). If a device doesn’t accept a charge by USB, throw it back – it’s simply not worth the hassle, otherwise. And if you think that the world of USB has been relegated to storage devices and media players, think again:

And there are thousands more USB devices that are equally as… strange. I’ve seen some serious doozies in my holiday shopping travels. If I could, I’d collect every strange USB gizmo on the planet. I was half hoping to find a few listed on pt’s open source gift guide.

What’s the weirdest USB device you’ve ever heard of?