Surely, nowadays everybody knows what a gadget is. “A smart device performing certain functions” ... What functions? The answer may be extended. There are thousands of gadgets with various functions and methods of use. Let’s try to put in good order all types and subtypes of gadgets known to us, making a sort of classification. To begin with, let’s try to make clear the word “gadget” itself.
"Gadget is a technical device (including digital technologies) with enhanced functionality and limited possibilities".
It is important not to confuse the true meanings of the words “gadget” and “device”.
Device is an item or instrument used to do certain work or/and achieve a certain result. Thus, a personal computer and video camera are devices. But, for example, a gaming joystick or helicopter for a camera, they are gadgets. Have you caught the difference?
Often it is hard to differentiate these two notions, as their meaning are very similar. The main thing here is to understand that any gadget is a device, but not each device is a gadget.
Classification of gadgets
Let’s return to our main topic. Following the technologic advances of last decades, lots of gadgets designed for various tasks appear. Often one and the same device performs a great variety of functions, this circumstance allows referring it to more than one gadget classes.
To divide these devices into groups is rather a hard task, considering their great variety and amount. However, we can define some major categories combining gadgets with similar functionality and covering the majority of devices.
Some years ago our portal has already published this sort of “catalogue”. Then it included “mobile phones, USB-gadgets, spy and iPod-gadgets, medical gadgets”. For the last years the hi-tech world has changed greatly: some devices have left our reviews, while the others have appeared. So, the time has come to “put everything on its place on a shelf” and “count them all”. Start!
Gadgets of virtual and augmented reality, video glasses
This category includes three particular subtypes of gadgets: helmets of virtual reality, video glasses and glasses of augmented reality.
How do these devices differ? What, on the contrary, joins these products? To make everything clear, we shall give definitions for each of them.
Video glasses – a mobile screen, as a rule possessing a stereo effect and a complex system of lenses giving a separate image onto each eye of an observer. They are designed for watching a high quality video under any conditions. Those who love long journeys may take them into a train! At home they are also of great benefit for any cinema fan.
The device is made for a private view of films and commercials, nobody can watch the content you watch in video glasses!
The glasses of augmented reality – the technology of these gadgets is similar to that of video glasses. But here we deal with a semitransparent screen. The OS of this device adds the picture of augmented reality to real objects, “drawing” it over them. This is made both to interact with surroundings (enhanced navigator, information about sights) and amuse oneself (the possibility to make a “shooter” in real scenery, a good base for “office games”).
Helmets of virtual reality – a device allowing a person to immerse partly into the world of virtual reality and making the visual and acoustic effect of presence in the space modeled. Putting this thing on one’s head, one can see, hear and even feel the different world. One can easily travel across the surface of Mars, turn into an ancient gladiator or kill the rival by samurai sword with the upmost plausibility! The feeling of immersing into a virtual reality is full!
The word “helmet” is rather a code name as up-to-date models look much more like glasses than a helmet. They are very good for gaming and good enough for video viewing. The ideal VR helmet performs functions of a screen as well as of a manipulator.
- technology of image display,
- angle of view,
- health impact.
1. Technology of image display. The main problem which you can meet choosing a helmet is that the designers are still making experiments and trying to express themselves. Some consider the single OLED-display to be optimal. Others suggest projecting the picture directly on to an eye retina. We can’t prefer any of these technologies as both seem to be insufficiently tested. That is why our advice is simple: pay attention at such trivial indicators as accurate color, the response speed, smoothing,… and your own sensations inside the helmet.
2. Angle of view: Key parameter of video glasses and helmets of virtual reality. No doubt, it’s hard to make oneself to believe in “virtual reality”, if one can see the limits of e-screen. Beginning with 100 degrees, the angle of view gives the slightest effect of immersing into a video or a game. By the way, the angle of view is rated very highly by gamers. For example, in shooters each centimeter of battle field you can look through gives you extra gaming benefit.
3. Health impact: The designers of VR helmets, AR glasses and video glasses haven’t yet proven that their devices are harmless. Many users complain of sea sickness, weakened vision and headache after using the things like that. For example, far-sighted and short-sighted persons have to select helmets and glasses with changeable diopters. Hasn’t the gadget the function of selecting lenses? Throw it into a fire-box. The same lot will fall upon devices which make you sick, literally. Why do you need to pay mad money for sickness, if you may simply enjoy the concert by Justin Bieber???
Leaders of sales:
- VR helmets - Oculus rift, Sony Morpheus, Valve Vive (SteamVR), Samsung Gear VR.
- Video glasses: Avegant Gryph, Cinemyzer.
- AR glasses: Google, Epson, Microsoft (all are in the stage of elaborating)
Prices: early to discuss stable prices. Till now we may talk about the average price of $ 200-300 for a virtual helmet as well as the price of $ 100-200 for good video glasses.
Market perspectives: Virtual reality helmet seems to be the most promising of the three. No mystery: a good VR helmet can cover the functionality of the same video glasses and AR glasses. One can easily understand why military and space men as well as museum and health professionals have taken a great interest in the VR technologies. A good helmet will allow a surgeon to make a complex operation easier while the inhabitants of a far village will be able to visit any museum of the world. A true revolution! Which has not yet occurred, to be frank.
Feel like Demiurge – buy a 3D-printer! Create and invent! Of course, one can’t make Adam and Eva with its help…, but to print a small “paradise garden” in one’s garage is quite possible! (What a pity, it will be no more than a beautiful model).
So, a 3D-printer is a peripheral device which uses the technique of making a physical object by layer according to a digital 3D-model. The printing may be performed by different ways and with various materials, but the layer-by-layer making (growing up) of a solid object is the basis of each of them.
3D-printers are designed to make the prototype of an object model promptly for further finishing and making the ready details with materials supported by 3D-printers.
This is a fine finding for a small-scale production. They can also be applied to produce complex, massive, hard and inexpensive systems. In fact, one may “sculpture” both a small plastic toy and a true unmanned aircraft (there are examples like that). Medicine may use printers like that, especially in the field of making prostheses and implants (fragments of skeleton, cranium, bones, cartilaginous tissues). They are making experiments printing donor organs.
- the way of printing,
1. The way of printing: To make layers, different printers use different technologies. Mainly, they are divided into laser and ink jet printers. Each of them has dozens of subtypes. It is necessary for every potential purchaser to become acquainted with such unusual gadgets. Some printers “pour out” and “spit out” the material. Others use the technology similar to “lamination”. And so forth. It is important to understand that the way of printing depends on a particular task.
2. Soft: After making a 3D-model, the systems of automated projecting which support 3D-printing management have been used. In the majority of cases the format of STL file is used for printing. Practically, every printer has its own soft to manage printing, there being both commercial printers and printers with open source code. For example, 3D-printer Picaso Builder — program Polygon, 3DTouch — Axon 2, MakerBot — MakerWare, Ultimaker — Cura. Every program has its own pros and cons.
Price: Approximately from 1,000$ to 10,000$.
Market prospects: The high price of each device like that and its accessories makes it impossible for an ordinary buyer to purchase 3D-printers with ease. One can hardly imagine the situation when parents buy a 3D-printer as a present for their spoilt kids, and a fellow brags about a cool 3D-printer in his home to his girl-friend.
At the moment these are gadgets for inventors and businessmen, scientists and designers. Of course, in Internet there are a large number of guides giving recommendations how “to compensate your printer for a year”. Nevertheless, these devices are still only for “elite”.
Besides, there are a lot of problems associated with weapons and other illegal things production using 3D-printers. How else! This field is progressing so intensively that … legislature simply can’t catch up with it. However, the technologies of volumetric modeling and printing have a great future. Surely!
There are a great variety of spy devices, from recorders in pens and cameras in books to flying RC dragonfly-sized robots with a camera aboard.
Since the spy devices are so numerous, we’ll divide them into subcategories:
- Hidden cameras, night photography cameras and similar devices of video surveillance.
- Binoculars with custom optics and devices of night vision.
- Dictaphones and various listening devices.
- Lie detectors, motion sensors and others.
High technologies allow miniaturizing spy devices, turning almost every item into a potential risk for our safety. Though it may seem strange, spy gadgets are possible to use for protection. There are devices which are able to detect “bugs” and hidden cameras. This sort of devices may be used for video surveillance in one’s own home.
The main difference of this category is that it is designed mostly not to entertain but to protect or collect information, at will.
- tiny size,
- the ability to mimic,
- large memory.
1. Tiny size and mimicry – a good spy gadget is invisible. Today you can find cameras masked as an alarm-clock or a lipstick as well as “bugs” hidden into a network filter or an eraser!
2. Protection – an ideal spy gadget must not break because of water or ground impact. The devices with high physical hardness and program protection (which keeps the information from stealing and breaking in) have especially high market value.
3. Large memory – the working duration of the most of spy devices is determined by their ability to register a certain volume of information, and not by the powerful accumulator as you might think. As a rule, in micro cameras and “bugs” the memory ends faster than the battery does. That is why, the devices which can provide many hours of listening and video shooting are of special value.
Leaders of sales: The market of spy gadgets is occupied by Chinese manufacturers which do not tend to announce themselves. Due to their illegal production they are hiding under insignificant trading names. So, you have to choose a product almost blindfold. You may only hope that your friend or any experienced user will advise you what spy gadget to buy.
Prices: Spy gadgets made in China are possible to buy for funny money. Dictaphones and micro cameras are sold for 30-40 $. The models of higher quality will cost 100-200 bucks. Real tracking and surveillance systems cost real money, in addition to prosecution.
Prospects of the field: For the moment the usage of spy gadgets is legally prohibited in most countries. Some legislations leave loopholes, others prohibit totally. As a result, there are no spy products by famous hi-tech brands. The most of devices that are still put on the market are of low quality, they haven’t an adequate system of warranty, but then they have permanent “bugs” and “lags”.
It does not mean that there is no social demand for devices like that. However, the problem of spy things legalization will be solved hard and slowly. Till now the arguments “contra” overweight those of “pro”.
Let’s appeal to the reference book for a definition: «Computerized wrist watch with extended functionality (apart from routine time monitoring) often compared with communicators. The first models performed simple tasks, e.g., functioned as a calculator, translator, or gaming device. Up-to-date smart watch is a portable computer. Many models support third-party applications, they are managed by mobile operating systems and can function as mobile media-players».
By means of certain models it is possible to receive phone calls and reply to SMS and e-mail. Certain smart watches are paired with smart phones and function as an auxiliary screen which informs the owner about news (e.g., social network messages, calls, calendar reminding).
- processing power,
- additional functions.
1. Processing power: This point is more important for smart phones than for smart watches. Sometimes the power declared is simply not required and not used by a watch. It is strongly recommended to look for an average ratio of price and quality. Surely, you are not going to play games and watch HD films on this sort of gadgets!
2. Additional functions: A watch may include camera, accelerometer, thermometer, barometer, compass, chronograph, calculator, GPS-navigator, speaker, planner and others. Certain watches can function as fitness-trackers. Those models may support training programs and monitor the route, heart beats, steps rate. We have already written about it in our review "The classification of fitness trackers: how to make a correct choice?"
Like all computers, smart watches can collect information by means of outer or installed sensors. They can control remote instruments or computers and obtain their data. Often they support wireless technologies, such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS.
What do you require? Make up your mind! Maybe, you will buy one watch instead of two other gadgets and save your money.
Leading manufacturers: LG, Apple, Samsung, Sony, Motorola
Price: from 50 to 500 dollars
Market prospects: «Smart watch» - a lucrative hi-tech market niche. New models enter the market constantly, some of them resemble a small wrist computer, others - a classic watch with a variety of “smart” functions…, all of them find their purchaser. The leading manufacturers pay much attention at similar devices, and compete with each other. We can but welcome such a competition!
Imagine: mice soaked in orcs’ blood, keyboards permeated with the smell of gun-powder…, earphones letting out the sound of explosion as well as protoplasm particles and galactic dust. You are not mistaken! We are going to discuss gaming gadgets.
This is the widest gadget category which covers the designs made to provide the most comfortable playing process. Once in the hands of a gamer, these devices turn into perfect weapon, an unbreakable shield, the best assistant or even a slave!!! Though, I have been carried away….
Gaming gadgets may be divided into three main categories:
- devices making the gaming process possible (computers, pads)
- accessories improving the gaming world (monitors, speakers, earphones)
- controllers designed particularly for gaming (mice, keyboards, gamepads).
As a rule, gadgets for gaming represent modified, downloaded versions of existing devices. They have been made more ergonomic, supplied with special buttons and gaming services, made in the fan style of some popular game.
Here we are not going to discuss gaming computers and pads. We’ll look up at various accessories for gaming comps.
- special functions.
1. Comfort: It is especially important to feel comfortable during a prolonged gaming process. You can’t endure many hours of a battle if your hands are callous. That is why headset overweighed by a gram, uncomfortable mouse, keyboard complicated by extra details can depreciate all efforts of designers.
Choosing a gaming device, one should consider not only the price and characteristics, but also its fitting to one’s hand or head. This rule is true for all controllers, from the ordinary mouse to VR helmet.
The best gaming monitor also must be convenient! No doubt, the display placed at a wrong angle, inadequate size and bad matrix may poison your enjoyment and turn your favorite game into a real nightmare. The fact has been proved by prolonged experience of world gaming.
2. Special functions: In fact, gaming gadgets are chosen according to tastes of buyers. Do you like shooters? You need definite accessories.
Do you appreciate RPG? So, you have to be interested in a mouse for MMORPG. Or, for example, MOBA gaming mouse, if you like this kind of games. Designers have already learned to make gadgets for a definite gaming sector. The mice for “shooters” are provided with buttons of “accurate aiming” and “smooth step”. The keyboards for “strategies” are provided with other hot buttons. Nothing to be surprised with, in the world of mobile gadgets you may find even the complete set of devices for fans of Starcraft which is also rich in special functions and services.
Leaders of sales: Razer, Saitek, SteelSeries, Mad Catz, Logitech
Price: As a rule, the prices for this sort of gadgets are raised too high. Marketers love to get their profits using gaming fans. As statistical data have shown, the latter don’t mind paying extra ten dollars or even more for the full in-game feeling.
Market prospects: The most promising is the market sector of mobile gaming gadgets. Smart phones and pads have already left consoles behind and now are catching up with personal computers. The developers of games have been adjusting their elaborations to a new gaming platform. The market has already been offering gamepads for mobile gaming. See Gadgets-Reviews Portal for a detailed treatment of this point.
Smart phone is a mobile phone that once wanted to become something more! As Scarecrow once got the brain from the wizard of OZ, this phone got its “brain” from the genii of computer world. Then it has learned various functions, possibilities, services. Smart phones differ from ordinary mobile phones by their developed operative system open for further program elaborating. Without this OS you’d never know your favorite angry birds, navigators, barcode scanners, or any other advantages of mobile life.
One more thing! Installation of additional applications let you significantly improve the functionality of a smart phone compared with an ordinary mobile phone.
In late 1900s smart phones had finally squeezed classic mobile phones and PDA out of the hi-tech market. Of course, the latter are still being sold and find their buyers, but these smart phone ancestors have no prospects for further development, not a slightest hope.
- processing power,
- screen diagonal,
- display quality,
- operative system level.
1. Processing power provides the high performance of the gadget. It determines what games the master will be able to launch, how long the video will be loading in Net, whether the smart phone will function in the mode of multiple tasks. The more cores and power, the better performance. And vice versa. Mind this.
2. Big sensor screen makes the work more comfortable and pleasure greater. In this very case the size is of importance. The number of inches is important for admirers of HD-video, mobile gaming and … a good show-off. At present one can find smart phones with 7 inches sized diagonal, they being almost like pads. Such a gadget is not pocket-sized, of course, but then it allows playing FIFA or GTA .
3. Display quality. Like with ordinary monitors, here acts the line of TN-LED-AMOLED technologies… The younger is the technology, the higher is the price. Pay attention at more advanced screen versions, pixilation and smoothing degree, the number of displayed colors – and be happy!
4. Operative system: The number of adequate and popular mobile OS has already exceeded the dozen. It’s clear that the market stars are iOs, Android, Windows Phone, in the less degree – Linux. The fans of each one are ready to defend their favorite’s superiority till the last drop of blood. Actually, each existing OS has its own advantages. At any rate, buying iOS and Android, you receive the access to as many apps as possible (including those free of charge). The factor not to be ignored!
Sales leaders: Apple, Samsung, HTC, LG, Lenovo, ASUS, Sony.
Prices: Up-to-date smart phones are possible to buy for the sum from 20-30$ to several million dollars. The most expensive gadget of this class is Apple Diamond Rose Edition. One can buy it for 8 million dollars.
Market prospects: The functionality of smart phones increases each year. Pedometers and pulse monitors, fine photo cameras and listening devices are being installed in them. Now the smart phone can replace some simple fitness-trackers and photo cameras. Just imagine what can happen in future!
Nevertheless, their further development is warranted by software, and not by “filling”. It is new apps that are the chief allurement for trustful customers. Besides, nobody can live without communication. That is why smart phones and their analogues coming soon will enjoy a great demand for a long time yet.
This category of gadgets is the most useful one, though the most contradictory. It is intended to improve our health or even to treat. For example, if the patient has forgotten to take a medicine when needed, a special device can remind him of this and even inject the drug independently.
A lot of massagers can help to reduce stress after an uneasy day, while blood pressure monitors are of help for high or low blood pressure patients.
Medical gadgets include various thermometers which can determine temperature for a few seconds only, and other diagnosing devices, portable defibrillators which can save life, and the variety of gadgets for diabetic patients, gadgets displaying the body condition, among them the monitors of pressure, blood sugar, temperature, and devices which can normalize the condition, arterial pressure, and reduce headache or stress.
- the license
Depending on the type of a gadget, the key features of medical devices may differ. The common feature for them all is the presence of certificate given by a known world brand. One can hardly trust one’s own health to a Chinese imitation or a pseudoscientist’s innovation. Be careful, dear readers!
Sales leaders: We strongly recommend you to trust only the manufacturers presented in official drug stores.
Prices: A good medical gadget costs much. All potential customers of this segment of hi-tech market have to be aware of this fact. A dirt-cheap heart stimulator or glucosometer is most likely to be a FAKE, stay away from it.
Market prospects: Sometimes the devices like this can save the life. Also, smart medical gadgets help persons with limited capabilities, such as poor vision or hearing. However, it is this market segment that can sell you a fake or a product uncertified. Sometimes in Internet-shops you can find and buy even professional gadgets. At any rate the devices of this sort are very able to harm you very much. We warn you against similar technologies abuse in your routine life.
Don’t confuse these gadgets with medical ones. They don’t correct your health problems. They are useful differently. What they do is the monitoring of the health condition and counseling. For example, they can recommend you the proper way of jogging, so contributing to your excellent physical condition and self-confidence. They can even determine your beer allowance at the coming party which will keep you fresh and cheerful the following morning.
Fitness trackers are devices which track out the physical activity of a person and help to maintain it at a proper level. The bracelet like this can count the steps made, measure the route overcome and the amount of calories burnt.
The customer may determine the aim, e.g., the amount of steps/meters to walk or calories to burn per day. Other important functions of the best fitness trackers are the monitoring of sleep phases and so-called “smart alarm clock” which wakes a person at moment the most suitable for body. It is the smart alarm clock that will allow you to forget the phrase “Five minutes more, please!!!” for ever.
The most advanced trackers can monitor pulse rate, make blood analyses and even play the role of a “personal coach”.
There are specialized trackers which can monitor muscular activity and muscles’ condition, make the analogue of encephalogram.
1. Battery: An ideal fitness-tracker literally lives with its master. It controls his or her activities at sleeping, working, training, and “office suffering”. So, a good bracelet can hold a battery for a long time and can be charged quickly. It lasts for several days after one-two hours of charge. Otherwise, it is senseless to buy it. At this background it is difficult to understand the logic of some companies that install GPS modules into their elaborations, as the performance of GPS-block shortens the working time of the device significantly.
2. Autonomy: Some fitness-trackers require online-connection excessively. One simply can’t use them abroad (for they will eat all smart phone traffic) and in the country! Your “fitness-reports” won’t be registered by accompanying software. So we choose those trackers which have a prompt contact with smart phones and pads, whether they have access to Internet or not.
3. Software: In this case you must decide for yourself. If you want to brag about your achievements to your friends and all world, then buy a bracelet with powerful support for social functions and share your results with the fan community. Surely, it will motivate you strongly! If you are interested in the professional analysis of your results, look up at another sort of fitness-trackers, those which can determine the level of physical loading and have a good fitness-dairy and a “personal coach” mode.
Market leaders: Jawbone, Sony, Fitbit, Misfit, Polar (expecially, we recommend to you to pay attention on the activity tracker Jawbone UP3 that is the most expected fitness tracker-2015).
Prices: about 50 – 300 dollars
Market prospects: In the nearest time the fitness-gadgets will learn various functions. They will be able to determine pregnancy, make blood tests, make a preliminary diagnosis of a number of diseases (including dermatology), so they will become a kind of information channel between a customer and his or her personal doctor or a health institution.
A personal approach, the possibility to work with new technologies, undoubted demand and healthy life style fashion make the fitness-trackers the lucrative niche at the world hi-tech market.