In case you hadn't noticed IFA kicked off last week in Berlin, bringing with it a whole of of weird and wonderful gadgets to unleash upon the world. There's plenty of boring and pointless stuff there, as well as a lot of cool stuff that's actually very clever and interesting. Lets take a look at some of that.
Toshiba's Alexa-Powered TVs
Toshiba is finally doing what people have dreamed about since TVs and TV remotes were a thing. It's using Amazon's Alexa virtual assistant to offer full voice control over a new range of TVs - and affordably priced TVs to boot. Unlike EE's set-top box which only offers a handful of commands (read: three), Toshiba promises that these offer full control. Changing the channel, altering volume, turning it off and on, all thanks to the Echo or Echo Dot in your home.
The 43-inch TV will cost €399, so will probably be somewhere between £350 and £400. That's not bad for a brand new 4K TV. No word on HDR, but that should be a given, right? They'll be out later this year.
DJI Mavic Pro Platinum
This one is ludicrously priced, with prices starting at £1,119, but this beauty is notable because of how quiet it is. DJI says it's 60 per cent quieter than other drones on the market (including its own), and you can tell. Hell, look at this video and see what I mean. It can't even pick up the sounds of the rotors over the general noise of the convention.
It's not massively irritating! That's good news for drone enthusiasts everywhere, and even though it's not completely silent (that would be basically impossible) it really is a huge improvement that should ripple through the drone world.
This is a bone conductive headset, letting you listen to audio without actually using your ears - and without risking audio leakage that's going to piss off everyone around you. It's not an original device, to be clear, but it is really sleek which I can't say for the conductive headphones I got a press release for yesterday. There's also a microphone built in for calls (and whatever else), Bluetooth connectivity (naturally), touch-gesture controls, and it's actually quite comfortable.
According to the guy I spoke to, it's not the kind of thing that can be used by someone who is completely deaf (it's not quite that sophisticated), but it can still be used by people with hearing difficulties without ill effect. It's also no good for use in noisy environments (like the train, or German convention centres) since it leaves your ears exposed. But in quieter environments it should work just fine, and without completely cutting yourself off from the outside world.
The headset costs $199 (£153), and can be pre-ordered here.
I've covered this, and everyone with a bike should have one - even if it's just for the indicators and automatic lights.
The 8K VR Headset
I couldn't get a picture of this, because the guy at the stand was being uber secretive, and I didn't even get to have a go with the real thing. I did, however, get a go with a 5K VR headset that had a ridiculously large field of view. Seriously the lenses look huge. And it seemed to be compatible with Steam VR - or at the very least the Vive wands.
It's not actually proper 8K, in the same way that current VR headsets aren't a full 2600 x 1200. Instead it's 8K in total, and means you only get 4K resolution per eye. Still that's a big step up from what we have now. It's apparently heading to Kickstarter later this year.
Star Wars: Jedi Challenges
An phone-powered AR headset that you can actually buy, even if it is restricted to a single Star Wars app at the moment. At the moment Jedi Challenges pits you in a duel against Kylo Ren with a real-ish lightsaber. It's not the best experience in the world, since there are some issues with vision and lag, but it's still much nicer to use than Hololens. More comfortable too.
Oh and since it's £250 it's a damn sight more affordable. Bring on the AR revolution guys, courtesy of Disney.
A hardware solution to privacy, plugging straight into your router without needing any sort of set up. Seriously, this works automatically, blocking ads, blocking trackers, hiding your IP from would-be snoopers, has a VPN, and even has parental blockers if you pay more.
This looks great, and since it works automatically then it's basically idiotproof. You can even configure what gets blocked in your browser in case disabling ads or trackers messes up your browsing experience on certain sites (it can happen from time to time). You also have the choice of buying the box with a 12-month update license and renewing it every year (€59/£54 a year), or buying a lifetime subscription straight off the bat.
eBlocker Pro costs €219/£200 for the basic pack, or €329/£300 for the lifetime license. eBlocker Family (which has the parental controls) costs €249/£228 for the basic pack or €399/£365 for the lifetime license.
Coolssha Electric Toothbrush
This caught my eye as I was walking past, and for good reason. Coolssha is an electric toothbrush designed to clean multiple areas of each tooth at the same time. Multiple brushes do the cleaning, and all you need to do is place it around your tooth. Just look at this video to see what I mean.
There are two models available '7D' and '6D', with the only difference being that the 7D brush has the brush at the very back that cleans the top of your tooth while the rotating brushes tackles the sides. Electric toothbrushes are already pretty lazy, but with one of these the process of cleaning your teeth becomes even lazier. Provided, of course, that it stands up to scrutiny from dentists.
Apparently these aren't new, which makes me wonder why I haven't heard more about them. They're USB peripherals that plug into your phone and turn them into 360-degree cameras. There are two models: the Insta 360 Air for Android devices (with micro-USB or USB-C)
And the Insta 360 nano, which works on iOS devices via the lightning port:
They're pretty self-explanatory, you plug them in and using the companion app you're able to take 3609-degree videos and photos with your phone - rather than having to buy a dedicated camera. They only offer 3K resolution for both and 30FPS video, which might be a deal breaker for some, but they are small nifty little devices for ordinary people to create VR content. They are quite different, however. The Nano works as a stand-alone device, presumably because Apple doesn't like people being able to do anything fun with its devices. The Air is also compatible with Windows machines, should you decide you need a 360-degree webcam.
As a result the Nano is more expensive (£200) while the Air is £127 or £140 (depending on which connector you get).
If 3K isn't good enough, there is the Insta 360 One, which records in 4K but currently has no Android compatability. Not that it should matter so much, because it's actually a stand-alone camera.
This might look like a VR headset, but it's not. It's just a screen that you put next to your face to watch films and TV programmes. Not exactly original, but I don't remember seeing anything like it that looked quite so nice.
Inside is a Full HD display, designed to emulate a 3D 800-inch screen in front of your face coupled with a pair of noise-cancelling headphones. It's all adjustable to fit just about any head and face shape, and it all folds up so you can take it out on the go.
For the actual content there's 32GB of on-board storage, as well as support for devices connected by USB, HDMI, and Wi-Fi. That means you can plug games consoles into it, play content from your networked storage, and so on. All that's controlled by a touchpad on the right ear.
It's not cheap, since it costs $799, but it is damn nice. Nicer than slapping a phone into a Gear VR anyway.
It may look like a remote, but it's actually an AI-powered translator capable of listening to words or sentences and repeating them back to you in a different language. It's not quite a Babel Fish, or close to some earbuds we've seen, but it's still a cool little gizmo.
Unfortunately I couldn't see it in action, but apparently it uses AI to improve itself over time, and translates 20 language offline (or 80 with an internet connection), two-way translation for conversations, and a 12 hour battery life.
Sony Glass Sound Speaker
This is an interesting little gizmo, mainly because it doesn't actually look anything like the way it should. It looks like a lamp, but it's actually a Bluetooth speaker that offers 360-degrees of sound. It has a 50MM woofer, NFC, a headphone jack, and a dimmable LED light in the middle. Battery life is only four hours, and it costs £799, which is insane.
But it's still a damn cool piece of tech, and if you hold the thing you can feel the vibrations from the sound. They're only faint, but it was enough to show that it actually does what it says - and isn't some sort of scam.
In a world of increasingly fragile smartphones, in comes CAT with the S41, the latest rugged smartphone that can handle all sorts of punishment. Seriously, we actually tried to do some damage and failed to do any serious harm. Short of hitting this with a sledgehammer or putting it in a blender, this should last you a loooong time.