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Cabarrus Magazine

A Gadget: The Novelty of It

Aug 31, 2016 02:17PM ● By Jason Huddle

A Gadget: The Novelty of It

What would our today be like without scientifically curious individuals? Oftentimes, inventers search for the solution to a problem in their own lives, giving way to the saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

While some technology is life changing, especially in the medical field, another serves to bring our daily lives more convenience. The word gadget can be described as “a small mechanical device or tool, especially an ingenious or novel one.” Synonyms include contraption and widget. Yet, as off-the-wall as some appear to be, they’re often embraced by people who come to the conclusion that they can’t live without them.

Annually, for nearly 50 years, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) has hosted The International Consumer Electronics Show (International CES) in Las Vegas. The next show takes place January 5-8, 2017.

The newest in technology and products take center stage while more than 3,800 companies host some 300 conferences during a showcase that saw a record-breaking 170,000-plus attendees from all over the world this year. Additionally, innovations in the areas of 3-D printing, communications infrastructure, electronic gaming, robotics and more are introduced to an almost salivating audience hungering for the next big thing.

True, technology requires years of testing and prototypes before it’s considered for mainstream manufacturing and distribution. So, while CES shows may feature comparable products over the course of more than one year, those products are being tweaked and refined, coming ever closer to holding a place in our home or garage.

We’d like to spotlight a handful of state-of-the-art gadgets, and will identify those that are available now or will be before the holiday shopping season commences. After all, for the person who has everything, one of these may strike a cord.


Modobag: Made in the U.S.A.

Two years ago, Chicago entrepreneur and industrial designer, Kevin O’Donnell, watched as his children rode his wheeled suitcase through the airport. That got his wheels turning – literally. His next step involved a phone call to friend and competitive motorcyclist, Boyd Bruner.

Together, they realized O’Donnell’s vision of a speedy (up to 8 mph) battery-operated, belt-driven, 150-watt electric motorized suitcase. Whew! Better yet, why not add dual backlit USB ports and quick-stow pockets to charge and hold your hand-held devices while you’re riding. Anyone weighing up to 260 pounds can jump on this 22-inch by 14-inch by 9-inch suitcase that weighs about 19 pounds empty and utilizes 85 percent of the bag for packing. The remaining 15 percent is occupied by the all-important mechanics.

When you purchase your nylon and aluminum Modobag, you plug it into a 110-volt electrical outlet for an hour; the battery voltage gauge will indicate a full charge. “Made from Lithium batteries with the latest patented nano-crystal technology, the Modobag battery meets the UN Transportation Testing (UN DOT 38.3) for Lithium Batteries Guidelines,” says.

Modobag touts its product as getting the rider to his or her destination up to three times faster than walking utilizing the extendable towing handle on a sealed-bearing steering column; quick-release foot pedals and a dual-wheel braking system. Control is monitored on a touch-control LED-backlit dashboard. The battery life is six to eight miles, based on passenger weight.

So, you’re riding your smart luggage through the airport. Why not add on a Modobag Tracking App? This option puts a SIM card tracker – and accompanying app for both iOS and Android phones that uses GSM/GPRS technology – in your Modobag so you’ll never lose it.

All of this fast-moving technology comes at a price. As of this writing, Modobag is offering early-bird purchases at $995 plus shipping. This is 33 percent off retail. The tracking app costs an additional $69.

If Modobag is on track time-wise, parts are being ordered for a projected October assembly and manufacture, as well as putting the finishing touches on the track app. November and December should see about 200 suitcases released for final testing, with orders scheduled for fulfillment and shipping in January/February 2017.

Currently, Modobag is the size of a carry-on piece. The company is looking to offer larger, check-in-type bags in the future. Be warned – with an empty weight of nearly 20 pounds, it may not take much to hit the 50-pound maximum bag weight before extra fees are passed along by airlines.

At this point, Modobag’s website – – is the sole source for purchasing this product. If it catches on, it’s likely specialty gift retailers will offer it in their stores. In the meantime, happy rolling!


Immersit: 4-D Entertainment

French entrepreneur Valentin Fage hasn’t reached 30 years of age, yet he’s already CEO of Immersit. Fage envisioned the product after watching the movie, The Fast and the Furious.

Okay, you’re sitting on your couch watching a movie or playing a video game. Sure, you have a high-definition TV and digital surround-sound, but imagine being jostled, jerked and bumped as those movements coincide with the movie’s action. It can be a car veering around a corner, a jetliner in flight or a gun going off.

Immersit is described as a plug & play device. According to, “The third-generation prototype consists of four pneumatic, air-pump-activated ‘feet’ that sit under the legs or corners of your sofa. They’re capable of moving independently up to four inches, creating pitch (back and forth), roll (side to side) and heave (up and down) motion, along with vibration. The final system will support up to 1,100 pounds, easily handling the weight of a couch with four people seated.

“A central control module (box) receives ‘motion code’ commands from a laptop or tablet via WiFi to operate the feet in sync with a movie or game, either actively or passively.”

This means that movies and video games have to be encoded and synchronized with Immersit in order to work. The company has already completed this process on hundreds of movies and games, and projects to have more than 1,000 available when the product hits the market en masse. Even if a video isn’t encoded, the viewer will still experience passive movement with the soundtrack as the guide.

Fage would also like to see Immersit work with home movies, so that if you wear a GoPro camera on an awesome vacation adventure, for example, you can experience it again at home.

By way of testing and x-raying, the company states that furniture won’t be ruined by the product, and that it will deactivate if a person or animal crawls under the couch.

As for which movies can be viewed through Immersit, says, “While the company has already pre-programmed several movies into the device, it does not go into detail as to which titles they have already worked on. In terms of video games, this device has a support for more than 120 titles on the current and last-gen Xbox, PlayStation and PCs. But, again, it has not mentioned exactly which titles.”

So, if you’re not prone to motion sickness and would love the thrill of being physically plunged into a movie or video game, Immersit might just be for you. And it works with any piece of furniture that has four legs – even a bed.

While the early bird special for the vibration kit listed on the company’s website ( is $349, word has it that those have sold out and the price is up to $735. Rumor also has it that could rise to nearly $1,000. Immersit has been very hush-hush about the final price tag, but since the first products are scheduled to ship to homes next month, reality will soon hit.


SensorWake: An Olfactory Alarm Clock

No one likes the loud buzzing or clanging of an alarm clock at the crack of dawn, especially Guillaume Rolland, a French engineering student who, at only 17 years old in 2014, came up with the idea of waking to a pleasant smell.

Guillaume and his three sisters – among 100 others – tested a prototype that uses dry-air fragrance diffusers to awaken the sleepy. A person inserts a fragrance cartridge of choice – called a scent capsule – into the top of the clock before going to bed. Initial fragrance options include Continental breakfast: espresso and hot croissant; Seaside: monoi and tiare flower; Lush Jungle: cut grass and leaves; Invigorating Aromatherapy: purifying tea tree and harmonious chocolate; and Vitalization Aromatherapy: stimulating ginger and peppermint. Bacon was once an option and may come back, given the complaints when it went away.

Some were concerned that they would not wake to an aroma because our sense of smell goes to sleep when we do. However, the diffusers are reported to be intense and wouldn’t work only for those with colds or allergies. If that’s the case, there’s a back-up sound alarm that will go off after three minutes of scent diffusion.

This looks to be emerging as a popular product: early bird offers on have sold out. However, orders are still being accepted at the $109 price tag with shipment of another batch scheduled for November. At this point, the website is the only place to purchase the clock.

Scent capsules are being sold at $5.45 each – it’s projected they’ll increase to $6 each – and are advertised as lasting for 30 “awakenings.” Purchasers can also buy a seven-set bundle (21 capsules) of scents for $136.95. Rolland hopes to expand the scent offerings to seasonal fragrances for various holidays.


Orak Hydrofoil MiniDrone: It’s a Bird, It’s a Boat

France-based company, Parrot, specializes in hands-free technology. In business for more than 20 years, it spun off a subsidiary last year: Parrot drones. It has been introducing new products at the CES show since 2010.

Out for a little more than a year, the Orak Hydrofoil MiniDrone is a battery-powered aerial drone with

a three-axis gimbal (pivoted support that allows rotation) that can fly up to about 11 mph. Controlled by a smartphone or tablet, which serves as the drone’s remote, it’s flown by way of the downloadable FreeFlight 3 app and a Bluetooth connection. It has a 65-foot controller range.

What’s unique about this particular drone is that a hydrofoil can be attached to it, allowing it to “swim.” When the hydrofoil is attached to the underbelly of the aerial drone, its “hull” hovers about two inches above the surface of the water, racing around by way of its four propellers, and glides across calm, fresh water at up to 6 mph. Maneuverability is advertised as agile and smooth, but having it capsize would likely bring a sad ending to an otherwise fun outing.

No FAA registration is required for the Orak because it’s categorized as a toy. It does come with an embedded video graphics array (VGA) mini-camera, and uses a rechargeable lithium-polymer battery that lasts about nine minutes in the air and seven minutes in the water, leaving definite room for improvement. Otherwise, reviews have been pretty positive, especially with regard to air tricks. If it’s approached as a toy, expectations hopefully won’t be beyond reach.

The Orak is available here in Cabarrus County now for $149.99 at both area Best Buy stores: in Kannapolis at Afton Ridge and on Concord Mills Boulevard. It’s offered at the same price through Crutchfield and


Blu-Toque Bluetooth Beanie: It’s Now Waterproof

Caseco is a manufacturer of innovative electronic products and is headquartered in Toronto, Canada. The Blu-Toque Bluetooth beanie, one of the company’s most popular items, was initially water-resistant but the waterproof version came out at the beginning of this year.

This cold-weather unisex knit hat comes in a variety of colors and styles. The common component to each, however, is the Bluetooth V4.0 stereo speakers/Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone built in.

Padded headphones are positioned over each ear, allowing the wearer to listen to music streamed from their smartphone or take calls. There’s even a multi-function button that enables you to answer and hang up calls without touching your phone. It’s compatible with all iOS and Android-based phones, has a range of up to about 30 feet and the embedded microphone can pick up sound up to about a yard away.

The headphones have features that allow you to skip songs and adjust the volume, and voice prompts let you know when the device is on or off, when it’s paired with your smartphone and when the battery is low. The beanie comes with a rechargeable Li-Ion battery that takes about two hours to fully charge and provides about six hours of talk/play time. A red status light means the device is charging, it flashes blue when it’s on, and pulses red and blue when it’s pairing with your phone. A micro-USB charging cable is included.

Those who like to listen to music will especially appreciate the beanie’s wire-free design…no cords hanging from your ears. The beanie is also washable; the speakers can be removed from their zippered pouches.

Reviews of the Blu-Toque are good. While the headphones aren’t high-resolution, the fact that the sound quality is clear and you’re keeping your head warm at the same time is resonating with music fans and techies alike.

The beanie is currently available online for $39.99 at and on sites like, and

Whether you dislike technology getting “all in your face” or you embrace the ingenuity of those developing products such as these, gadgets are likely to go nowhere. Given possible limitations or non-user-friendliness, not all of them will become mainstream, but look at the Clapper! Hmmmm…

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