Three Great Personal Gadgets for Engineers

Three Great Personal Gadgets for Engineers

As you consider holiday gift-giving (even for yourself), here are some interesting new consumer items for you to look at. Warning: There are also a huge number of duds out there you should not be bothering with at all. I’ve chosen three good ones: a clever vacuum, a video camera, and a camera drone.

A Very Clever Vacuum – The Deebot Ozmo 930 from Ecovacs Robotics

Robot vacuums are handy cleaners, but they can't mop floors, too, can they? The Deebot Ozmo 930 can do just that. Ecovacs Robotics, maker of the Ozmo 930, says it not only removes dry dirt particles, it can also wash floors with a wet mopping solution - automatically.

The Ozmo 930 is fully auto charging. Photo courtesy of Ecovacs Robotics.

The vac will create digital maps of your home as it cleans. Its first couple of runs around your home will take quite a while, but after that is knows just where to go. And, with the Ozmo's companion smartphone app you'll be able to block off areas you'd rather not have the robot tackle. Users can also designate floor sections as cleaning priorities. Setting up a scheduled cleaning routine is possible too.

The Ozmo 930 is intelligent enough to switch between mopping and vacuum modes. If the robot finds itself rolling over hardwood, linoleum, or tile, it engages its mopping system. When it encounters carpeting, it flips over to dry vacuum mode. And, if the Ozmo finds it has something to report, the robot will announce it with its voice in real time. It responds to voice commands delivered through all Amazon Echo devices.

Ecovacs says the Ozmo 930 boosts its suction while vacuuming carpets and lowers vacuum power for cleaning bare flooring. Once it's done vacuuming, the brainy robot will then mop hard floor areas. The vac uses an infrared anti-collision sensor and a bumper rail and is fully auto-charging. With the tool's time-scheduling function, you can set a regular run time and never return to a dirty home again. Ecovacs plans to sell the Deebot Ozmo 930 in the UK for £549 (about $711) by October 2017. The product will then ship globally in 2018.

Video Security Camera - The D-Link DCS-8000LH

There are lots and lots of video security cameras available. Why did I pick the DCS-8000LH? Because it has all the features you’d want, including wireless operation, 720p resolution, night vision, motion and sound detection, and a microphone - and it costs only 60 bucks. The camera is only 1.38 x 1.50 x 3.62 inches in size, plus it’s made by D-Link, a mighty reputable brand.

The DCS-8000LH camera costs only US$60. Photo courtesy of D-Link.

The camera's WiFi is 2.4 GHz 802.11n/g with WPA/WPA2 encryption. You do have to power the device with the included 100 to 240V power adapter that puts out 5V DC at 4W maximum via the Micro USB port on the camera’s back side.

Camera Drone – The AirSelfie

A tiny flying camera takes a different sort of selfie. This pocket-sized flying camera that’s connected to your smartphone can reach out to 20 meters. Though it's billed as a kind of extended selfie stick, I’m wondering if there aren’t lots of other applications for the AirSelfie. It is limited to three minutes flying time, but you can do a lot in three minutes.

The tiny AirSelfie has a 5MP HD video camera. Photo courtesy of Air Selfie.

There are actually a remarkably large number of "selfie drone" manufacturers out there now. The three most important specs for these devices are size, airtime, and operating range – and these vary greatly. Operating time can be more then 10 minutes and range over 100 meters.

With the rather odd price of $339.25, the AirSelfie shines in its small size, solid construction, and integration. Made with an anodized aluminum frame, this device is pretty rugged. Its four 'turbo fan' propellers are powered by brushless motors and it has a 5MP HD video camera. At just 0.11lb, the 3.7 x 2.6 x 0.4-inch drone provides 2.4G WiFi, a gyro, a sonar altitude sensor, a barometer, and a geomagnetic sensor. It also carries along a 4Gb MicroSD memory card and a 240mAh battery. This flying camera is controlled from your smartphone with an app available for iOS and Android. Available for the most popular smartphones, the device's cover holds your phone and acts as a charger, powering up the flying camera in 30 minutes from a power bank capable of 20 charges.

So, there you have it. A pleasantly short list of interesting products for you to ponder. The vacuum will, unfortunately, not be available in time for Christmas, at least not in the U.S., but be ready to grab it in a few months.