5 Cool Gadgets That Engineers Might Want To Unwrap

5 Cool Gadgets That Engineers Might Want To Unwrap

We all know engineers are a special breed. I feel that every year, there are a few new devices that are particularly attractive to engineers (and thousands of items that aren't the least bit attractive). Here are five good ones for your inspection. If you find some better ones, let me know at LincolnTech@lincolneng.com.

Flexible Drone Kit
First off, we have a remote-control drone quadcopter from Circuit Scribe. Yes, there are hundreds of these fliers available, but this one is a simple kit and features easily replaceable parts – should your flying abilities not be honed quite to perfection as yet.

The drone kit includes:

  • Circuit Scribe conductive ink pen
  • Four motors and eight propellers
  • Drone hub with camera
  • Cardboard arms to fill in traces with conductive ink
  • Blank cardboard to create your own arms
  • Pre-made plastic arms for testing
  • Battery and battery charger
  • iOS and Android controller app download


Figure 1. Drone Builder Kit from Circuit Scribe. Image courtesy of Circuit Scribe.

The kit costs just $69 (it's on a special sale at the moment). It has a 480p camera, a three-minute flight time, and a 150-foot communication range. Drone Builder Kit is recommended for ages 13 and up.

New TiVo Works Off An Antenna
The new TiVo BOLT OTA is an all-in-one home entertainment unit that combines the features of TiVo's most powerful DVR with the most popular online streaming services and an external antenna input. TIVo says now is the time to cut the cable.

Figure 2. The TiVo BOLT OTA. Image courtesy of TiVo.

I think the nice thing about it (besides letting you dump expensive cable) is it's a single device with DVR, streaming, and broadcast TV. One remote for everything. It also provides TiVo's voice control on the remote. The 'OTA' is the over the air part and there are some new, not very expensive, antennas that can get you good reception. You might not even need to climb up on your roof with the antenna. In an urban area a wall mount antenna may get all the local channels. The TiVo BOLT OTA has a 1Tbyte HDD good for 150 HD hours of recording, WiFi, and an Ethernet port. It costs $249.99, plus a monthly service fee of $6.99. Bolt OTA handles 4K ultra high-definition content.

EyeQue Insight
Testing your eyesight may not be your idea of fun, but it's a real good health check and very handy to have available—especially when the instrument for the test costs just $89. With EyeQue InsightTm and your 4.7" diagonal or larger 300dpi screen cellphone, you can easily check your eyesight or test your glasses or contacts and monitor the whole family's vision. The goggles also can check if you have a color vision deficiency and determine if you have problems seeing variations of light and dark (contrast sensitivity).

Figure 3. EyeQue Insight easily clamps on to your cellphone. Image courtesy of EyeQue.

The device creates a digital vision history where a change indicates that a doctor's visit would be advised. It runs in two modes, simple straightforward "adult" mode and gamified "kids" mode. The goggles attach to your smartphone to reveal what is considered an industry standard for vision testing, a "tumbling E eye chart," and virtualizes 20-feet distance to ensure accuracy time after time. EyeQue Insight requires an active internet connection and a subscription to the EyeQue service. A one-year subscription is included and renews for just $4.99/year.

Really Fast, Really High-Capacity Flash Drives
Three new flash drives from PNY drew my attention at the recent Pepcom press event in San Francisco. The Pro Elite USB 3.0 flash drive is amazing. It has up to 1Tbyte capacity with read speeds up to 400Mbps and write speeds up to 300Mbps. Pretty incredible. Actually, the 1Tbyte is not available quite yet, but the 512Gbyte drive is and costs only $119.99. With 1TB capacity you could store up to 59 hours of 4K Ultra HD video or over 180,000 photos at 20MP each. The 256Gbyte version costs $59.99.

Figure 4. The Pro Elite USB 3.0 flash drive. Image courtesy of PNY.

In the tiny footprint of the microSD card, the PNY PRO Elite holds 512Gbyte. It features speeds of 100MB/s read and 80MB/s write. You need 500Gbytes in your compact camera—right? The price per pound is outrageous at $289.99 each.

Figure 5. The Pro Elite microSD Card. Image courtesy of PNY.

The PNY Elite Type-C USB 3.1 flash drive series has capacities of 64Gbytes ($20) up to 256Gbytes ($130) with transfer speeds up to 130MB/s. The 128Gbyte version is just $37 (stocking stuffer territory). The USB Type-C connector is becoming universal and fits better with ever thinner laptops and cellphones.

Figure 6. The PNY Elite Type-C Flash Drive. Image courtesy of PNY.

Pocketalk Voice Translation Device
Developed by Sourcenext of Japan, the small, hand held Pocketalk can translate 74 languages. The dedicated two-way translation device does not require cell phone language apps that drain your battery and require you to hand over your phone to strangers.

Figure 7. The Pocketalk two-way speech translator. Image courtesy of Sourcenext.

Pocketalk combines a high-performance speech-to-text engine, translation engine, and text-to-speech engines from around the world. The device is equipped with high-quality noise-cancelling microphones and two speakers for easy use in noisy environments. Two models are available: one is a WiFi-enabled device with the ability for a SIM card to be added ($249) and the other is a $299 "Built-in Mobile Data" version that works on WiFi and includes an embedded SIM that works in 105 countries and provides two years of data.

Happy holiday gift-giving!