Awesome Stuff: Gadgets For The New Year

from the small-stuff dept

Happy New Year, everyone! This week we're kicking off 2016's Awesome Stuff posts with another round-up of three crowdfunding projects for interesting new gadgets and gear.

The TESLA Electronic Lighter

Over the years, there have been lots of pie-in-the-sky dreams of a future where induction charging lets us power our smartphones and laptops by simply walking around with chargers in our shoes, but that's not going to be happening anytime soon. But, the technology still has the potential to take on all sorts of smaller tasks and make life a little bit easier, and that's exactly what the TESLA self-recharging lighter does: it's a metal-and-rubber-clad electric arc lighter that can be charged up with just a few shakes. Refilling or replacing lighters may be only a small annoyance for those that use them, but it could be handily solved by the first lighter to actually have a shot at the "last lighter you'll ever buy" title.

The Ekster Wallet

Wallets are one of the most ubiquitous items on Kickstarter. The deluge has slowed slightly, but at one point it seemed like every week there was another "reinvented wallet" that promised to change your life forever — yet, virtually all the options seemed to follow one of a few basic design approaches. With that in mind, the Ekster is the first crowdfunded wallet in a while that is worth a look. Though others have tried the "spit our your cards at the press of a button" idea in the past, none have looked quite as smooth or convenient as the Ekster's pop-up cascade does in the video (though as always it may be less pleasing in operation). Additionally, the wallets include a BLE-based tracking device with a six-month battery life, so the wallet can pair with your phone and offer several convenient functions: an alert if your wallet gets out of range of your phone, the ability to ping your wallet from your phone, and the reverse ability to trigger your phone's ringer from a button on the wallet. If all this operates smoothly and doesn't require a bunch of clunky apps and configurations, it could be a godsend for all those who frequently find themselves saying "where did I put that?"

The Tulip Recording Device

Have you ever tried to record a phone call? It's considerably more frustrating than you'd expect it to be. What should be a simple push-button function on all our devices is instead a hassle requiring specialty apps and obscure settings — and even then, the results are mixed and unreliable. One could argue that this is partially because of the legal issues with non-consensual recording, but there are plenty of legitimate reasons to record phone calls in the professional sphere — reporters do it all the time for phone interviews, businesses need records of conference calls and meetings and presentations — and it's a powerful tool for the public too, for recording interactions with companies and the government when the need arises. So: why is it such a pain?

That brings us to the Tulip: a small dongle that plugs into any 3.5mm audio jack and records directly from the audio line. Recording calls is just one of its functions — it's also not a bad tool for quickly capturing music, either from a DJ setup or an electric guitar (or bass or fiddle or...) — but it's the one I suspect will get the most use.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. icon
    Paul Renault (profile), Jan 2nd, 2016 @ 9:44am

    Actually, it's really quite easy to record phone calls.

    ..if you approach the problem differently.

    Sony and Olympus both make inexpensive earphone-style microphones which you fit in your ear and plug into a recorder/computer of some sort. You then hold whatever phone/headset/handset you're using to your ear and voila!

    Bonus: it works on any phone, no modification necessary, no impedance-matching, nothing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    Leigh Beadon (profile), Jan 2nd, 2016 @ 11:15am

    Re: Actually, it's really quite easy to record phone calls.

    So you mean, using a separate microphone to actually record the audio coming out your mouth and the phone's speaker? That would work, but it's not really an elegant or convenient solution (requires two devices in addition to your phone) and is not going to be consistent for recording quality.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Paul Renault (profile), Jan 2nd, 2016 @ 11:58am

    Re: Re: Actually, it's really quite easy to record phone calls.

    The in-ear microphone was suggested as essential by some blogger/reporters, and the various models all rate 4+ stars on Amazon.

    Bigger bonus: In trying to find the source of the recommendations, I've located some free apps, both for Ios and Android which will record phone calls. Check out the apps stores.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, Jan 2nd, 2016 @ 1:16pm

    What Would Nikola Tesla Think?

    Seems to me a great number of people are taking Tesla’s name in vain these days.

    Remember, the man was a wizard. Be careful, for you are playing with powers you do not understand...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    G Thompson (profile), Jan 2nd, 2016 @ 2:35pm

    Re: Re: Re: Actually, it's really quite easy to record phone calls.

    Sadly both the earphone style microphones and 'The Tulip' (which looks amazing) would be illegal in Australia since they Intercept the audio coming from the originating device.

    Positive it's the same in New Zealand and the UK though you should get advice on other countries other than Australia.

    For those wondering this is not a state based law but instead the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 which is Commonwealth [ http://www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/cth/consol_act/taaa1979410/ ] - Relevant Section is section 7

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, Jan 2nd, 2016 @ 5:23pm

    Re: Positive it's the same in New Zealand and the UK

    I believe that here in NZ you only require the consent of one party to the call to record it.

    This seems to be backed up here and here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    tracyanne, Jan 2nd, 2016 @ 11:29pm

    Re: Re: Actually, it's really quite easy to record phone calls.

    In Queensland there are legal issues with recording a phone call on the same device, or with a recoding device attached to it. But is legal to record a phone conversation with a separate unattached device, without informing the other person.

    So if I can use my phone, mobile or landline in speaker mode I can legally record the conversation with another mobile phone or recoding device.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    Paul Renault (profile), Jan 3rd, 2016 @ 6:39am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Actually, it's really quite easy to record phone calls.

    FTL: "A person shall not...intercept..do any act or thing that will enable him or her or another person to intercept a communication passing over a telecommunications system."

    Gawd knows what unusual meaning would be given to the word 'intercept' and the phrase 'telecommunications system', but as I understand them and IANAL: my take is that it doesn't apply when your listening to (and recording) the conversation you're having at the endpoint (not 'over a system'), and especially when it's coming out of the speakerphone.

    This would apply to phone taps, recording OTA cell and other wireless phones. Note the stated exceptions in the law regarding the linemen, the network specialists, etc.

    Besides, I've seen enough Canadian news shows where they play recordings of phone conversations. The last time I checked, Canada was still part of the Commonwealth, eh.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Leigh Beadon (profile), Jan 3rd, 2016 @ 9:57am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Actually, it's really quite easy to record phone calls.

    In Canada we have a one-party-consent law in the federal criminal code, plus some provincial privacy laws. This is a good rundown: http://blog.privacylawyer.ca/2006/07/can-you-record-telephone-calls-without.html

    The "Commonwealth" part is misleading - we don't share any laws with Australia. Weirdly, the official full name of the country is "The Commonwealth of Australia" - so when they refer to "the Commonwealth" they generally just mean Australia and its federal laws, rather than "the Commonwealth of Nations", which they are also a part of along with Canada.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. icon
    Leigh Beadon (profile), Jan 3rd, 2016 @ 10:05am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Actually, it's really quite easy to record phone calls.

    (and there are no such things as laws that apply to the whole Commonwealth of Nations - there's no legal obligation among members whatsoever. It's a purely voluntary organization at this point. There is a Charter but it just lays out shared "values".)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, Jan 3rd, 2016 @ 6:56pm

    Re: The "Commonwealth" part is misleading

    That’s OK—we know it’s an oft-(ab)used term. Massachusetts is a “Commonwealth” too, isn’t it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    G Thompson (profile), Jan 4th, 2016 @ 12:36am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Actually, it's really quite easy to record phone calls.

    >> (and there are no such things as laws that apply to the whole Commonwealth of Nations

    Yes there is.

    Thou shalt make fun of Charlies new Horse.. oops Concubine.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    G Thompson (profile), Jan 4th, 2016 @ 12:42am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Actually, it's really quite easy to record phone calls.

    >>>> my take is that it doesn't apply when your listening to (and recording) the conversation you're having at the endpoint (not 'over a system'), and especially when it's coming out of the speakerphone.

    Sadly it also applies to the recording of audio coming out of a telephonic device by an external microphone etc.. Remember those suction cup microphones you could stick onto the old phones? They were illegal in Australia too :(

    Our Recording/Surveillance laws are mostly all State based (and are somewhat different between the different State's) whereas actual interception of ANY communication system (tapping or using an external device) is absolutely verbotem.

    Now if the device comes with it's own inbuilt recording device like most mobile phones do (or as Answering machines did) then it is quite alright under the Commonwealth (Federation of Australia) Law though might get you in trouble with the State laws..

    Confused yet? LOL

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, Jan 4th, 2016 @ 5:37am

    Fire Rod, to: Lawrence D’Oliveiro, #4, What Would Nikola Tesla Think?

    Here's something I saw demonstrated, years ago, in a street market in Oregon. It was a little rod of sintered flint and magnesium, for use in lighting a campfire or a barbecue. The idea was that you placed the rod over the charcoal, or the log, which you wanted to ignite, and scraped the rod with a steel knife. The knife scraped away burning ceramic-metallic cinders which efficiently ignited whatever was underneath, and the rod was supposed to be good for five thousand uses. Anyway, much safer than soaking everything with lighter fluid, and of course, much more convenient than the approved Boy Scout method of building a fire from a match and successively bigger twigs.

    Before the spring-activated flint-and-steel mechanism was incorporated into guns (wheel-lock, flint-lock) in the sixteenth century, there is some evidence that it was used in a domestic fire-lighting device, which was supposed to be more convenient than simply striking flint and steel together.

    People who try to smoke indoors tend to create nuisances by triggering smoke detectors. The smoke detectors are becoming gradually more inter-connected, so that, if you trigger them, there will be a telephone call to make sure that you are all right. So naturally, smokers are all switching to e-cigarettes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    Bernie M Dobbs, Jan 13th, 2016 @ 7:53am

    I've tried every app and wire doohickey.

    I've tried everything, every app, and wire, etc. The only thing that I've found to work consistantly is a company called recordiapro. I call the USA / Canada through their access number and they make the phone call an mp3.

    As a reporter it's invaluable because I don't have the time to futz around with wires or unreliable apps. If you do it for business purposes I suggest you look into it http://www.recordiapro.com

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. icon
    Paul Renault (profile), Jan 13th, 2016 @ 10:45am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Actually, it's really quite easy to record phone calls.

    Thanks for the clarification about the use of Commonwealth.

    Jeeez, it'll be a cold day in heck, when I start referring to Canada as "the Dominion", eh.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 29th, 2016 @ 1:30pm

    Tesla Fraud

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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