Gadgets news: DIY smartphones, skiing helmets and IoT

5 Oct 2015

With DIY smartphones, smart skiing and a new way to listen to music, the internet of things is fast taking shape.

IoT Makers Week

Last week’s big gadget news stories revolved around two giants of the game, with Google and Apple hogging the headlines. The former released a load of new products, while the latter finally gave a release date for the iPhone 6s in Ireland.

Many a fanboy had been waiting, fretting about whether they’d ever get their hands on a device that looks remarkably similar to its predecessor. However, given the upgrades under the hood, it’s maybe understandable that Apple enthusiasts want in on the latest thing.

So now we know that 9 October is the date when people can finally ditch their now year-old dinosaur in favour of a device to really ring in the new year (until next September).

Along with Ireland, Apple also confirmed that most of Europe and Taiwan will be the first international markets to receive the phone, before a gradual roll out elsewhere.

Meanwhile, Google released a suite of new products, with two Nexus smartphones, a couple of Chromecasts and its first independent tablet. The latest version of Marshmallow sees the Nexus 6P and 5X add to the company’s smartphone range, with LG involved in the latter.

Google’s coolest toy, though, could actually be Pixel C, the first Android tablet that the company has built from scratch. The Chromecasts, we’ll deal with a little further down the page.

RePhone – a homekit for IoT

This is really cool. RePhone is up on Kickstarter at the moment, having raised the US$50,000 target many times over, with more than three weeks remaining on the campaign.

The product is essentially a starter kit to create your own smartphone, which, with some clever tweaking, can hook up to numerous devices around the house.

The software used is pretty straightforward, so you can hack things like lamps to communicate with your phone.

“RePhone is a set of tools and components that allows everyone including students, teachers, makers, hackers, geeks, artists, developers and engineers to rethink, remix, redesign and remake the phone,” says the company.

Forcite Alpine – IoT on the slopes

There aren’t too many bits and pieces that a skier needs. A set of skies, some warm clothes, a slope and some snow will get most people up and, eh, skiing.

Oh, that and a helmet, which can now be a smart device if you do so wish.

Forcite Alpine is another gadget up on Kickstarter, and “does more than keep your head together”.

That’s a nice way of describing a helmet: ‘Helmets, they keep your head together’.

Forcite Alpine - Gadgets of the week - IoT gadgets

Anyway, incorporated into Forcite is a 4K action camera, GPS, helmet-to-helmet communication system, advanced sensors to track your lines, and audio to stream tracks and take phone calls.

It even hooks up to social media services, so you can post your videos direct from the slopes.

tactiX – Tactile smartphone for the blind

Winner of a recent ITU Teleco World Young Innovators award last week, tactiX looks a clever little idea.

It’s a smartphone that is tailored for blind people, utilising over 100 braille characters with a specific braille typing area.

There are multi-functional hotkeys on the side, with things like Facebook and Twitter possible through the braille interface somehow.

The motivation behind TactiX was to change companies’ and organisations’ social perceptions when it comes to developing devices for those with disabilities.

tacTix - Gadgets of the week - IoT gadgets

“No one can say that sightless persons can currently participate in social life as can others,” said Ugur Can Bastik, the Turkish brain behind the project.

“Developing technology to give them complete access to communications can not only impact social lives, but also academic achievement and employment.”

Chromecast Audio

Chromecast Audio is Google’s latest IoT gadget to come on stream, released along with its other products last week.

An obvious attempt to replicate what Chromecast did for video, Chromecast Audio links up to your speakers, headphones or pretty much anything with an audio jack.

Bypassing Bluetooth, which the company dismissed as a chore in its launch event but actually works fine for most of us, the gadget looks like a small vinyl record and costs less than €40.

It is already in stores and supports services like Pandora, Rdio, Google’s own Play Music app and Spotify.

The Chromecast Audio plugs directly into the audio jack of your chosen speakers and works exactly how you expect.

Chromecast Audio IoT gadgets

IoT Makers Week explores the internet of things revolution and the makers driving it with reports on from 5 to 9 October 2015. Get updates by subscribing to our news alerts or following @siliconrepublic and the hashtag #IoTMakersWeek on Twitter.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic