December 13, 2013

Gadget guru Ben Saren joins host Kara Miller at our studios in Brighton. Credit: Annie Shreffler / WGBH

Guest:

  • Ben Saren, Innovation Hub gadget guru and managing partner of Sure Shot Labs

Need some help with stocking stuffing this year? Our gadget guru Ben Saren joined us with his gadget picks for everyone on your list. Take it away, Ben!

Ben demonstrates the Philips goLITE. Credit: Annie Shreffler/WGBH

Philips goLITE BLU Light Therapy Device

Who’s it for? A thoughtful, if not unusual, gift for that moody uncle or sister, or that friend who just can’t get out of bed on time for class.

It’s a well-known fact that as wintertime comes around the days are shorter and we spend more time indoors. The result is an unhealthy lack of sunlight.  Enter the Philips goLITE BLUE Light Therapy Device, a portable and handy light that you use for a few minutes a couple times a day, and voila – welcome back that summertime you. The science behind it is quite simple: the blue light produces a particular kind of pure blue light that occurs naturally on very sunny clear days. Special receptors in the eyes absorb this blue light, which makes you feel more energetic.

 And folks, it works, it definitely works. I was skeptical, I’d admit, but within my first 24 hours of use the results were clear. Simply put, I just had more pep in my step, more energy. 

The Wacom Touch Tablet. Credit: Annie Shreffler/WGBH

Wacom Intuos Pro Pen & Touch Tablet (or Bamboo, others)

Who’s it for? The budding digital photographer or graphic artist.

This, folks, is a pen tablet. A pen tablet? Yes. A pen tablet. What’s a pen tablet? OK bear with me…

Ever try to touch up a digital photo with a traditional mouse? Or ever try to simply draw something on your computer with a mouse? How about either of those things with a track pad? Either way, it’s not all that easy and it’s far from accurate. Sure you get by, you make it work, but imagine taking it to a whole new level. A pen tablet is just like it sounds – a thin and flat touch-sensitive surface with a special pen that interacts with it, manifesting on your computer screen.

The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard. Credit: Annie Shreffler/WGBH

Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard/Cover for iPad

Who’s it for? Anyone who types a lot on their iPad, or wants to, or is reputed for chronic iPad typos.

Take my mother for example, she loves her iPad, which alone is pretty amazing because she’s quite a technophobe – but she’s also the queen of iPad typos.  She’s developed a reputation in the family for oftentimes funny typos. We need a degree in cryptography to understand her e-mails and Facebook comments. But let’s face it, typing on an touchscreen is hard and requires a little more attention and proofreading than most people have patience or time for these days. So here’s a nice fix: The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard and Cover for iPad.

The Drinkwell Platinum Pet Fountain. Credit: Drinkwell

Drinkwell Platinum Pet Fountain 

Who’s it for? Anyone who spoils their pets, but especially folks with cats who lick from faucets.

A pet fountain, really? Hear me out. Our dog Elmer simply doesn’t drink a lot of water. When we’ve brought him to the vet for checkups and routine appointments, the vet always says he’s a little dehydrated. Couple that with our own observation that he simply doesn’t drink enough water, and the case is made – we need to step up our pet hydration methods! So with the Drinkwell Platinum Pet Fountain the faucet-water-addicted cat stopped drinking from faucets, and Elmer is well hydrated.

The manufacturer, Drinkwell, markets this device as an “innovative watering system.” How innovative it is, well that’s clearly subjective, but ultimately its just a water plastic bowl and fountain made with a water tank, a charcoal filter, and an adjustable fountain pump speed.

The Tivo Roamio. Credit: Tivo

Tivo Roamio HD DVR and Streaming Media Player

Who’s it for? The modern TV consumer: TV binge watchers, anyone looking for video content from a variety of sources, anyone looking to stream their recorded video to a tablet/smartphone.

Let’s face it, watching TV has fundamentally changed in big ways over the last couple of years. From binge watching, to serialized TV shows, to Internet based video and original content from non-traditional sources like NetFlix. While there are other home media servers and devices out there, like AppleTV, Roku, and even Playstation and Xbox, the TiVo brings the best of all of them into one device. Rather than go through a feature-by-feature comparison across all these devices, I’ll break it down more simply and start by saying that TiVo’s biggest strength is in its software – the user interface and user experience of the TiVo Roamio is almost perfect, and I’m not just referring to the classic TiVo menu sound effect.

Fresh Roast SR500 Automatic Coffee Bean Roaster

Who’s it for? Any friend or family member who’s either a proud or closeted coffee snob.

When it comes to coffee, people are very divided. It’s like blue states and red states, only it's Dunkin' and Starbucks, right? Traditionally we buy whole bean coffee, nothing too fancy, just about anything Arabica. We grind beans each morning and we use a French press. The rewards are great – such good coffee, for either a nice afternoon cup of coffee, or for that morning coffee to go for the commute. With a home roaster, you can control the roast of the beans – a longer, darker roast for a “stronger” cup of coffee, or a shorter and lighter roast for something a little more delicate. My roaster of choice is this one, the Fresh Roast SR500.

Want to hear more about Ben's gadget picks for the holidays? Head over to his blog for his extended reviews. 

Ben Saren, holiday, gift guide, gadgets, Sci and Tech

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