Blog Archives

Buying some new gadgets for college? Engadget has you covered.

So, it’s the time of year when A-level results come out (in the UK, anyway) and students’ thoughts fondly turn to the start of the college/University year in October when they can finally experience some spatial (if perhaps not financial) independence from their parents. And these days, if you aren’t already fully equipped with all the tools necessary to make a success of your time at University then it’s time to start smiling sweetly at Mum and Dad to make sure they’ll give you what you need in time for the start of term. And by ‘tools’ I mean technology, not a six-foot bong and a jumbo-pack of prophylactics.*

Fortunately, Engadget has you covered for all your gadget-related decisions with their excellent annual back-to-school guides. These are short reviews of the top picks by the editors at Engadget in a variety of categories of gadgets/technology such as laptops, digital cameras and electronic readers. Useful stuff if you’re pondering a new purchase to get you through the school year, and there’ll be more to come in the next few weeks so keep checking Engadget.


*Though, those wouldn’t hurt as well.

Seriously cool toys – Tobii mobile eye-tracking glasses, Pivothead HD video-recording eye-wear, and the Affectiva Q-sensor

The Tobii mobile eye-tracking system. Awesome.

The other day I was lucky enough to be able to help out with a bit of data-collection in a well-known London department store, being run by the magnificent Tim Holmes of Acuity Intelligence. This meant that I got to examine some seriously cool bits of new hardware – and new gadgets (especially scientific ones) are basically my kryptonite, so it was generally pretty exciting.

The first thing we used was a mobile eye-tracking system designed and built by Tobii. These have two cameras in – one front-facing to record video of what the participant is looking at, and another infra-red camera to record the participant’s exact eye-position. They can also capture sound in real-time too, and record the eye-tracking data at 30Hz. The system comes with a clip-on box where the data is actually recorded (in the background of the picture on the right) and which is also used for the (fairly brief and painless) initial calibration. It seems like a really great system – the glasses are very light, comfortable and unobtrusive – and could have a really broad range of applications for research, both scientific and marketing-related.

The next cool toy I got to play with was a pair of these:

Pivothead ‘Durango’ HD video-recording glasses. Double awesome.

These are glasses with a camera lens in the centre of the frame (between the eye-lenses) which can record full high-definition video – full 1080p at 30 fps, using an 8Mp sensor. Amazing! They have an 8GB onboard memory which is good for about an hour of recording time, and also have a couple of discreet buttons on the top of the right arm which can be used for taking still pictures in 5-picture burst or 6-picture time-lapse mode. They’re made by a company called Pivothead, and seem to be more intended for casual/recreational/sports use rather than as a research technology (hence the ‘cool’ styling). They’re a reasonably bulky pair of specs, but very light and comfortable, and I don’t think you’d attract much attention filming with them. It’s worth checking out the videos page at their website for examples of what they can do. They’re also only $349 – a lot for a pair of sunglasses, but if you can think of a good use for them, that seems like a snip. If you’re in the UK, they’re also available direct from the Acuity Intelligence website for £299, inc. VAT. I wonder how long it’ll be before they start showing up in law-enforcement/military situations?

The third device I got to geek-out over was one of these little beauties:

The Affectiva mobile, wrist-worn, bluetooth GSR sensor. Triple awesome.

This is a ‘Q-Sensor’, made by a company called Affectiva and is about the size of an averagely chunky wristwatch. It has two little dry-contact electrodes on the back which make contact with the skin on the underside of the wrist, and also contains a 3-axis accelerometer and a temperature sensor. This little baby claims to be able to log skin conductance data (plus data from the other sensors) for 24 hours straight on a single charge, and will even stream the data ‘live’ via Bluetooth to a connected system for on-the-fly analysis. It seems like Affectiva are mainly pitching it as a market research tool, but I can think of a few good ‘proper’ research ideas that this would enable as well. This is seriously cool technology.

That’s all folks – TTFN.