Welcome to Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, the column that sifts through the silt of new gadget announcements to get to the golden nuggets that map our future.
On the riverbed this week are a Swiss army knife of a tablet and smartphone case, an indoor smartcam drone, a display for social media and Web updates, and a smart cup.
As always, reviews these are not, and the ratings reflect only my interest in trying out each product, and not how devilishly handsome I am (else the ratings would forever rest at 4 out of 5).
Case for Flexibility
When it comes to adding extending your smartphone or tablet battery life during the day, Mophie's been trying to make life easier a little longer than most, with time to iterate on its battery pack cases.
The company's going a little further now, as it expands its Space line of cases (pictured above) that house not only batteries, but external storage for iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus and iPad mini.
There's a bit of a catch as you can't access files stored in the case from any app other than Mophie's own Space app.
Still, if you enjoy having immediate access to all of your photos without having to rely on the cloud, or if you have a long trip ahead and are expecting spotty WiFi access at best and would like a ton of movies to watch, it seems a solid addition to any iOS device that's running out of, er, space.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Wireless Movie Marathons
Home Alone Drone
And now for an absolute clunker. Sorry, spoiler alert.
Crowdfunding project Jackie wants to bring a flying smartcam drone into your household. It's almost enough to make me want to start a crowdfunding project to buy every crowdfunding website and shut them down forever to kill the very worst ideas.
I struggle to imagine anything more irritating than a tiny drone hovering around my head as someone spies on whatever it is I happen to be doing. I foresee many a family member growing restless thanks to the incessant humming and quickly confiscating the drone.
I don't see many practical uses for it. Using this to keep an eye on a sleeping baby or a home-alone pet likely would prove futile as I'd imagine it would agitate them rapidly.
OK, it could prove handy for emergency situations, where it might be dangerous for a person to enter, or for most other drone purposes outside of the home. Still, it's never getting over my threshold -- and with a flying time of 4-6 minutes per charge, it doesn't seem the most practical solution to any problem.
Rating: 1 out of 5 Baseball Bat Swings
I've thought intensely over how to succinctly describe Noteu without this devolving into a string of expletives and typed-out guttural grunts. The crowdfunding project page doesn't give a clear description, but the best I can come with is that it's a display for notifications.
A standalone display for social media updates, RSS feeds, time, and weather in 2015. It's an alarm clock too! Amazing!
There's an accompanying smartphone app, of course, which seems completely pointless when the entire purpose of the Noteu is to replace notifications on your smartphone.
I don't expect notification-focused smartwatches to become massive successes any time soon, even including the Apple Watch, so why on Earth would anyone ever want or need this? Especially when the notification alert sound is so incredibly irritating.
There's just not nearly enough to this to make it interesting. I thought and hoped we stopped making devices like this five years ago. Alas.
Rating: 0 out of 5 Annoying Facebook Invitations
A Cup With Smarts
I don't know if it's the change in season that's brought forth the gallery of pointless gizmos, but forge on we must. A smart cup that reminds you to drink some water every hour is not the hero an under-hydrated population needs, despite the pitch of iTOMO-Cup.
I know I could drink more water. Everyone could use some. I don't need a machine pestering me to grab some tasty H2O.
I don't need a thermometer on my cup either. I have human skin and nerve endings, so I'm quite capable of picking up a cup and making a logical decision as to whether my tea is too hot to sip. No one needs this kind of handholding.
The selling point of "five LED lights" and a light show does nothing to convince me. I had those in my Disney mugs when I was 5 years old.
Certainly, most of us could use more water in our systems. The goal is noble -- but the product is unnecessary.
A smartphone or smartwatch app to remind us to grab a glass of water would make more sense, since we have those with us at all times and we might not always have iTOMO-Cup with us. It's another wrong solution to a very real problem.
Rating: 1 out of 5 Glasses of Nope