Welcome, dear readers, to Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, the column that’s gotten over its disappointment from the latest Apple event just long enough to deliver the lowdown on the latest in gadget announcements.
On the whiteboard this time around are a device that grants vehicles a self-driving function, a wearable to monitor your hydration level, and a drone with arms.
As always, these are not reviews, and the ratings relate only to how much I’d like to try each item.
After a bad experience when I was first behind the wheel as a teenager, I’m only just now learning to drive, more than a decade later. My partner and I are going through the school together, and when asked about our dream vehicles in class, she replied that she’d love a self-driving RV. Her wish eventually might turn true with a device that grants vehicles more autonomy.
Comma One which is somewhat analogous to Tesla’s Autopilot, is shipping this year, according to its maker.
It isn’t a device that will give a car full self-driving powers — you’d need to add sensors everywhere, for starters — nor does it work with every model. However, in the right car, it will take you along the highway without you needing to touch the controls at all.
It uses front radar units and a camera to judge its speed and distance from the car ahead, and it costs US$999, plus a $24 monthly subscription. That seems like a fair price for someone who does a lot of highway driving.
My concerns are the same for every other automated driving feature — that it’d be all too easy for a driver to tune out and start watching a movie instead of keeping an active eye on the road. I’m also worried about how systems like this can handle inclement weather, especially since I live in a part of the world where there’s snow and ice on the ground constantly for five months of the year.
Of course, this isn’t something I’m likely to try any time soon, thanks to local requirements that put me at least six months away from getting my license. What’s more, I live in a city with many narrow streets, and I won’t be likely to drive out of town all that often, so Comma One’s usefulness is limited for me.
That said, I’d like to try it. It seems a compelling way to test semi-autonomous driving without having to buy a custom-built car. Sadly, that self-driving RV seems a little further away.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Feelings of Safety When Changing the Radio
Thanks to modern technology, we have another way of monitoring hydration beyond assessing how dry our mouths feel and paying close attention to the color of the liquids we expel.
LVL measures your dehydration level, and it will vibrate when you need to take more H2O on board. In a move that feels like the complete antithesis of adorable anthropomorphic technology, an accompanying app displays a happy face when you’re sufficiently hydrated, and a frown when you are not.
It apparently can guide you on exactly how much water you need to drink at a certain time to optimize your body. Of course, it also bears typical fitness wearable functions like activity tracking, heart rate monitoring, sleep cycle tracking, and calorie intake counting.
It has a nicer design than most fitness trackers, too.
LVL is expected to retail for $199, but as of this writing, there were still a few discount offers available through its very successful crowdfunding campaign.
I suspect many of us are underhydrated, though this device seems wholly unnecessary. Drink if you’re thirsty. And then you should probably drink some more. Done. I can’t imagine I’d ever need this, given the volume of tea I ingest every day.
Rating: 2 out of 5 Glasses of Water
The horror movie genre seems to be in a resurgence after a successful summer at the box office, followed by the not-half-bad Blair Witch. Now, I want to see a remake of The Birds, with these drones with arms clawing at some poor actor’s scalp.
The latest drone from ProDrone has a meaningless string of numbers and letters for a name — so annoying that I was tempted to omit it from this column. I decided to include it, though, because you should be prepared when the ruling class uses it to assert control in our impending dystopia. It’s “PD6B-AW-ARM.”
This beast can use its twin arms to carry a 44-pound payload and balance itself on surfaces on which it otherwise might not be able to land. It’s terrifying. I’m not sure I’d ever want to trust a machine that probably could tear off my head before I even saw it sneaking up on me. This is not a horror movie I want to be a part of.
Still, I suppose it could prove useful in extreme situations, like accurately dropping a float in the sea for someone who’s fallen overboard, or dumping water onto a small roof fire.
Rating: 3 out of 5 Real-Life Horror Movies