x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

All aboard for gadget land

The editor of Shufflegazine, an Apple lifestyle magazine published from Dubai, shares his thoughts on the electronic toys that have impressed the most.

Since we are among friends here, I don't mind admitting that I love gadgets. Anything electronic or digital fascinates me, thrills me, makes me curious about it, and challenges me to figure out how it works. My wife would tell you I spend way too much time prowling the aisles at local electronics stores and I'd have to agree. Perhaps it is something that carried over from childhood, when I used to play for endless hours, trying to build things with Lego bricks. I hope that with these articles I can bring you along on a journey through the gadget landscape of the UAE. In this first piece you will find a mix of gadgets: from a talking, internet-connected bunny to a wireless keyboard and mouse combination, and a pen that can interpret your handwriting. In the future, we will focus on something in particular each time, such as slim notebooks, touchscreen mobile phones, photo printers, GPS devices, digital cameras and more. If you have comments or ideas for what I should try out, send an email to editor@shufflegazine.com.

US$149.95 http://shuffle.to/livescribepulse LiveScribe's Pulse Smartpen has changed how I take notes. With it you can make your notes, text as well as drawings, on special paper and a tiny camera in the tip of the Pulse pen records what you write. Then when you connect the pen using the included USB dock it transfers the new notes to the accompanying desktop software application (available for Windows and Mac). Once on the computer the software interprets the writing and, after a while, you'll be able to search for a word and it will find all instances of when you wrote it. The Pulse can also record audio from when you wrote something. On the computer, if you click on a word the software will play back the audio that was recorded when you wrote that word. This works only if you record the audio, of course, as the Pulse does not do it as default. Once you see it in action, you will be amazed how accurately it interprets even the most challenging handwriting. The Pulse Smartpen almost makes me wish I were back in school again; not because the lectures would be any shorter but because my note taking would improve and, by extension, hopefully my grades. The Pulse is not cheap, but if you take a lot of notes it's well worth it.

Dh699 http://www.nabaztag.com/ The Nabaztag internet-connected bunny, or "personal communicator" as the manufacturer likes to put it, puzzles me as to what it is really useful for, while at the same time charming me with wit and humour. It stands about 30cm tall and it can talk to you, listen to you, remind you of appointments, read e-mails and web pages, and generally just entertain you. Behind the white plastic cover there are lights in different colours that display the Nabaztag's mood and functionality. The ears, which come in a few different colours and patterns, can rotate and serve to reinforce messages from the rabbit. Even though I had some problems, the Nabaztag is easy to configure and it connects to your existing Wi-Fi network. You configure it and interact with it via the violet.net website. A basic account is free but you pay $6.95 a month for an unlimited account with enhanced functionality. The little rabbit is fun and can be helpful, but you have to be careful as to what you add to its workload. Add too many RSS feeds and it will be speaking constantly; add too many other tasks and you'll be ready to throw your Nabaztag out the window. It has built-in speakers that, although not great, will do for some easy music listening. You can also plug in headphones, which might be better at work. The rabbit also communicates with you visually by lighting up in different colours and patterns and moving its ears. Make sure you tell your friends to get their own rabbits. You can then send messages through their Nabaztags, which is where the real fun begins.

Dh699 http://shuffle.to/dinovomini If you have a home theatre personal computer in your living room, you do not want a regular keyboard and mouse lying around as they are impractical and an eyesore. Logitech's diNovo Mini is a keyboard and track pad in one small, wireless unit. It's really made for Microsoft Windows Media Centre, Microsoft Windows, and Sony PlayStation 3, but it also works with Macs, although not with full functionality. To start using the diNovo Mini, just pair the computer with it using Bluetooth and you are good to go. If your computer does not have Bluetooth, Logitech includes a small dongle that you plug in to your computer's USB port. It's conveniently hidden under the battery-compartment door on the diNovo Mini. The keys are small and some of them are not in the positions you are used to but that's OK: it is a trade-off you would expect and accept in a device like this. Using the track pad takes some getting used to and, although it is perfectly usable for most things you would do with your computer, do not expect to play any games with it. Even though the diNovo Mini has a comfortable size and shape and fits well in my hands, I worry a bit about the cover. It only opens up about 120 degrees. To me, it would seem better if it flipped completely over and could form a base for the diNovo Mini to sit on. But that is a small complaint and, overall, this is an excellent device for a particular use.