Wecome to Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, the column that occasionally takes time off from thrashing out cut-price deals for once-towering Web properties to pore over the latest gadget announcements.
In our directory this week are a drone for catching Pokémon, a revival of a classic gaming console, a smartphone case designed for security, and a novel way to keep cool and dry.
As ever, I’ve only read about these items and haven’t even held them in my hands, so these are not reviews. The ratings serve only as an indicator of how much I’d like to try them, and have nothing to do with how many billion dollars I bid for Yahoo.
Catch ‘Em All
Pokémon Go, the augmented-reality smartphone game that’s been eating away at the fabric of society in recent weeks, is enormously fun. I enjoy the mechanics, and that it pushes me to go on longer walks every day. That’s all well and good in the nicer weather, but when there’s two feet of snow, I don’t really want to traipse around so much.
That’s why Pokédrone might be my new favorite thing. You apparently can use it to spoof your phone’s GPS signal (a key component of finding those elusive Pokémon) to find more creatures. It’s designed to help catch more elusive Pokémon, including those that might be out on a lake.
I’m unclear as to whether Pokédrone truly will take flight, as GPS spoofing requires jailbreaking (at least on iPhone) or using Apple’s development tools, which would be difficult for most iPhone users to do. Then there’s the potential copyright infringement issue with the name.
Yet if Pokédrone can help me snag more Pokémon without having to go outside as much in the colder months, I’m game.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Where Are You, Pikachus?
I’ve played games my entire life. The Nintendo Entertainment System came a little too early for me — I had a Commodore 64 before my first console, the Super Nintendo — yet many of that system’s games are timeless classics I eventually played elsewhere.
Nintendo is hoping gamers of a certain age with a nostalgia kick and younger players eager to see what the fuss is about pick up the NES Classic Edition. It is a smaller version of the console and has 30 built-in games, including several from the Mario Bros., Zelda and Donkey Kong stables. It has an HDMI port, so owners of modern televisions will have no trouble hooking up the system.
There are, of course, other ways to play these games, such as on a Wii or Wii U, or through emulation on a computer or other device. There’s just something about playing games on their correct systems and with the correct controller that makes the experience feel more authentic.
At just US$60 for this system, and with a holiday release window, Nintendo’s going to take over yet another Christmas.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Duck Hunts
Edward Snowden, he of the National Security Agency document leaks of the last few years, probably knows a thing or two about privacy and security. So, when he unveils a smartphone case designed to help you protect your data, it’s probably at least worth checking out.
The iPhone case lets you know when the various radio transmitters in your handset are in use. If you’re not actively using the device, it could help you determine whether someone — or some government agency — is accessing your smartphone surreptitiously.
It works by hooking directly connecting to those radios through the SIM card slot, and moving the card itself into its casing.
I doubt it will be entirely useful for people who use background updates, location tracking for certain apps, or those who want to be reachable through the cellular connection. Yet if you’re ever in a situation when you really need to protect yourself and you have sensitive data on your device, it seems a useful way to ensure you’re not connected when you don’t need to be.
Rating: 4 out of 5 Earwigs
Feel the Breeze
As someone who likes to keep cool as much as possible in these muggy months, Thanko’s attempt at a wearable cooling system seems convenient, effective and relatively unobtrusive.
Its armpit air conditioners clip to your clothes and offer a cool breeze when you need it. This is a tremendous idea, and seems discreet enough that few people would notice that you’re essentially wearing fans.
That is, until the air pushes the shoulders of your shirt up to your ears, making it look like you’re constantly indifferent.