THE GEAR • May 2019
We all know technology is advancing at an incredible rate, but what are the most futuristic offerings on the market right now? Financial Times’ How to Spend It tech writer – Jonathan Margolis – heads into the world of cutting-edge tech to find out
This, from the Facebook-acquired Oculus virtual reality company, is the first truly portable and self-contained VR headset, and it's a breakthrough moment for this still slumbering technology. VR headsets until now have needed elaborate tethering to an expensive gaming PC, or for the user to slide a smartphone into a more basic apparatus. The Oculus Go is simply slipped over the eyes and, with minimum fuss, takes you into VR. The quality is a little below that of more expensive devices – the Go costs from just £200 in the UK – but the impact and entertainment are considerably greater.
The first in-ear translation device – an idea promised for many years but never surfacing – has come, all thanks to Waverley Labs, based in Brooklyn, NYC, whose Pilot is now shipping (around £200). Place one Pilot in your ear, the other in that of the person you want to speak with, and you can then hold a conversation in any combination of up to 15 languages. Both speakers need a 4G-connected smartphone running the Pilot app but, even with a fractional translation delay, a little fiddliness and inevitable glitches, the gadget works well.
Swedish startup Flyte specialises in electrically powered levitation products, including Lyfe (pictured) – a £220 plant holder that floats in mid-air. The holder is an attractive white multifaceted silicon plant pot, and the electromagnetic levitation system enables Lyfe to support and gently rotate a plant weight of up to 250g. Flyte suggest an air plant, the Mexican type that gets its nutrition and moisture from the air, but you can equally load it with soil and some seeds.
US company Rocketbook’s notebooks are deceptively simple. They are books with plastic pages on which you write or draw in meetings or wherever. The material you jot down can then be digitised and uploaded to the cloud using a phone app. There are two versions, one called Wave (from £26), the other, Everlast (from £33). When your Wave book is full, you erase it in a microwave (no, really). The Everlast, more simply, can be erased with a damp cloth. A small cheat: you may find it easier to use the Everlast as a reusable notebook – wipe it after you’ve filled all the pages and simply photograph any material you want to preserve permanently.
If learning to meditate was one of your new year resolutions, now long abandoned, ponder on this wearable meditation aid, now in its second version, which originated at the University of Toronto’s neuroscience department. The lighter Muse 2 (£239) is a substantial reworking of the first iteration - now measuring bodily stillness, posture, heart rate and blood oxygenation - but the principle remains: to measure brainwaves and reward moments when you are truly relaxed with the restful sound of birdsong. Worth thinking about. Deeply.
For more of Margolis’s gadget picks, you can read his column in British Airways' Business Life magazine.