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The gadgets that are changing the game

The Anki Vector is a small robot that uses artificial intelligence to answer questions and recognise people in front of it. Picture: Supplied
The Anki Vector is a small robot that uses artificial intelligence to answer questions and recognise people in front of it. Picture: Supplied

WITH Christmas just around the corner, it's probably time to start thinking about splashing some cash to appease Saint Nicholas and the gods of consumerism, or something like that.

If you're looking for some stocking stuffers for your nearest and dearest or you really want to spoil yourself during the Boxing Day sales, here's some food for thought.

ANKI'S VECTOR ROBOT

This is one for the early adopters. If you've got a younger brother or nephew that like their toy gadgets, you might want to introduce him to Vector.

Vector is a small AI-powered autonomous robot that looks like a littler robotic hermit crab crossed with a bulldozer that wants to hang out.

It's designed to sit on a tabletop and uses sensors to drive around while avoiding obstacles and not tipping over the edge.

The idea is that Vector acts like a companion robot with a personality that changes for the few different household members it can recognise and differentiate - although it is easily confused.

It has a cute robotic voice and animated eyes that give the device a big personality.

The Anki Vector is a small robot that uses artificial intelligence to answer questions and recognise people in front of it. Picture: Supplied
The Anki Vector is a small robot that uses artificial intelligence to answer questions and recognise people in front of it. Picture: Supplied

Vector is able to respond to queries like an AI powered smart speaker such as Amazon's Alexa or Google Home but doesn't have nearly the same depth of reply.

You can ask it to do things like tell you the weather and on its front-facing screen it will flash up with the temperature and a little weather animation.

It can do other things like set a timer or play a game of blackjack with you but not a whole lot else. It is cloud connected so Anki will continue increasing its capabilities with automatic software updates but at the moment it's more novelty than functionality.

Vector retails for $449 in Aussie stores. You can read more here.

 

WIRELESS WATERPROOF EARPHONES

Sony's WSP-900s wireless earbuds are made for swimming in the pool or ocean this Summer.

You can connect to the earbuds with your phone via Bluetooth, or listen to music by storing files on the headphones themselves, which can hold up to 4Gb.

Because Bluetooth doesn't travel through water, you'll need to do the latter when using them while swimming.

Tapping twice with your finger on the right earbud turns the volume up. There is an ambient sound mode that allows outside noise to filter in but it's not a particularly noticeable difference.

The sound quality is generally pretty good, but not amazing for the price. At $499 RRP, these babies are really marketed at people who want to enjoy some banging tunes while working on their breaststroke.

While other fitness headphones might be sweat and/or rinse-under-the-tap proof, Sony’s WSP-900s go a step further. Picture: Supplied
While other fitness headphones might be sweat and/or rinse-under-the-tap proof, Sony’s WSP-900s go a step further. Picture: Supplied

GOPRO 360 FUSION CAMERA

The adventure sports camera company recently released its effort to shake up the emerging 360 camera market.

GoPro's Fusion camera consists of two 180 degree spherical cameras, positioned back-to-back, resulting in a compact square camera (78 x 67.40 x 24mm) that's able to capture everything around it.

The fish eye quality of each lens captures spherical video and photos, recording everything so later on you can essentially manoeuvre within that sphere and find the best angle or shot to recapture.

Depending on where you export the footage, the camera automatically stitches the two lots of video together fairly seamlessly and the camera's software automatically airbrushes away any selfie stick which is a nice touch.

 

 

The Fusion puts you in the middle of the action, allowing you to capture and then change, tweak and cut from any angle you fancy after the fact.

It's not the kind of camera you want to shoot everything with but it does add something special to your repertoire and is capable of producing some otherworldly shots.

The camera will set you back $899 so if you're interested, you can read a full review here.

 

BEST NEW SMARTPHONES

As always around this time of year, there is a slew of new smartphones so sink your teeth into.

When it comes to the iPhone, it's probably hard to go past Apple's more affordable iPhone Xr option. It packs the company's best new tech like FaceID and a full screen display into a more affordable package.

While most premium smartphones on the market these days have an OLED display, the iPhone saves money by having a decent LCD display. Starting at $1229, it's a good $400 cheaper than the other iPhones released this year. Read more here.

The phone comes in six bright finishes: black, white, blue, yellow, coral, and red. Picture: Supplied
The phone comes in six bright finishes: black, white, blue, yellow, coral, and red. Picture: Supplied

Or you could go with the Google Pixel 3 which has a seriously spectacular camera, arguably the best in the market.

It also has a nifty feature that lets you screen annoying telemarketer calls. When you tap the icon, your phone will announce the recipient is "using a screening service from Google" and the caller should "go ahead and say your name and why you're calling".

Users can then read a real-time translation of their answer and choose to report the call as spam or hear more.

The 5.5-inch Pixel 3 phone starts at $1199. Read more here.

Huawei's flagship Mate 20 Pro smartphone also gives Apple, Samsung and Google a run for their money.

It boasts cutting edge technology in a comfortable design, 3D face recognition, an in-screen fingerprint sensor and a feature-packed triple camera.

It also brings some novel new technologies not seen in other devices such as reverse wireless charging, meaning you can juice up other smartphones by simply placing them on top of the Mate 20 Pro. The flagship device costs $1599. Read full review here.

 

STYLISH LEATHER-CLAD LAPTOPS

HP released its new Spectre Folio range of laptops earlier this year and they offer an interesting take that will appeal to the fashion-conscious tech nerd.

HP's global head of design Stacy Wolff said the team set out to make a device that "engaged the senses" and wanted to make a computer that felt more like furniture than a chunk of hardware.

The result is the company's Spectre Folio range which comes in a 13-inch (33cm) and 15 inch (38cm) design. Despite being wrapped in leather, it is flexible and can fold into different modes, for using as a tablet, laptop or perching in a tent shape to watch TV and movies.

HP’s Spectre Folio 13 inch convertible laptop is completely ensconced in a leather finish. Picture: Supplied
HP’s Spectre Folio 13 inch convertible laptop is completely ensconced in a leather finish. Picture: Supplied

These are top of the range devices aimed at professionals so they don't come cheap. They have all the bells and whistles including a 4K ultra high definition display, touch screen functionality, a built in Bang & Olufsen speaker system and a powerful 8th Gen Intel Core i7 processor.

There's also an option of 4G LTE connectivity so you can always stay connected, even without Wi-Fi access.

So if you're lucky enough to have a lot of cash burning a hole in your pocket and need a laptop upgrade, these are worth checking out. You can read our initial hands-on review here.

 

SONY MASTER SERIES A9F OLED TV

With its latest Master series OLED TVs, Sony is all about colour accuracy.

The company's A9F TVs have eight million self-illuminating pixels and comes with the company's new panel controller tech which it refers to as Pixel Contrast Booster.

The tech claims to increase the number of colour tones the screen can deliver when showing very bright HDR (high dynamic range) content, enhancing the picture with extra detail and texture.

Whatever it's doing exactly, it produces a striking and clear picture that looked really great under different conditions.

Sony has also brought out a capability that it calls X-motion clarity which improves the picture quality and detail by minimising blur during fast-moving or panning shots.

If you're a Netflix nut, Sony has partnered with the popular streaming service to create an exclusive feature to its Master TVs called Netflix Calibrated Mode which configures the TV's display to look the same as how the producer calibrated their monitors in post-production to make sure you experience the content exactly how the creators intended.

Starting at $4998 for the 55-inch version, it's not cheap. But it's one the best TVs you'll find for under $5K.

See full review here.

Topics:  christmas editors picks gadgets presents technology