The week in gadgets: Star Wars droid and jamstik+ guitar

27 Apr 2015

This week in gadget happenings: Charity creates a shoe that grows, a fan creates his own Star Wars droid and a new smart guitar aims to bring guitar skills to everyone.

Because International’s growing shoes

We’re starting off this week’s list of gadgets with a touching but incredibly practical gadget that makes the humble shoe go a lot further with the addition of a few affordable straps and clasps.

Non-profit group Because International has been working in some of the world’s poorest countries to better children’s lives, and now it has created a shoe that can technically grow up with the children who, when their feet grow, can make their shoes larger for a number of years, ending the need to buy multiple shoes.

This is a common issue for children growing up in countries including Haiti, Ghana and Kenya where many children, due to not being able to afford shoes, continue to wear children’s shoes as they grow older, which is not only uncomfortable, but can damage their feet.

The charity has set-up a website for The Shoes That Grow calling on donations of US$10 to fund a pair of shoes.

Star Wars BB-8 droid

Those who may have seen the recent trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens may have gone crazy over the return of the legendary characters from the original trilogy, but many fans were still fascinated by the new robots on show, including the BB-8 droid, which resembles a football with a little levitating head on top.

Well, now industrial designer Christian Poulsen has decided that instead of waiting for someone to design one, he’d do it himself at a cost of just US$150.

According to CNet, Poulsen modified a consumer rolling robot – the Sphero – by cutting it in half and placing a magnet inside, which, when his own head creation was added, would allow the head to move along with the parent Sphero body.

Poulsen is now offering instructions on how to to make it online. Sweet.

Jamstik+ smart guitar

With the recent launch of Guitar Hero Live, there could soon be a new wave of young guitar enthusiasts who want to play through the medium of the screen and smashing a few tabs on a giant plastic guitar-shaped controller.

With this in mind, one company is looking to bring actual guitar playing back to technology with the jamstik+, a smart guitar that syncs with a Bluetooth-enabled Apple device allowing the user to play a close-to-replica guitar with dozens of different iOS music apps.

Given its name, this marks the second iteration of the jamstik, with improvements on creating a more realistic guitar including the addition of a magnetic pickup.

The Kickstarter project started by Zivix has reached 10 times its US$50,000 backing goal and plans to launch the guitar this summer online for US$299.


A jamstik+. Image via Zivix

Hello Kitty contactless payment device

Known officially as EZ-Charms, the contactless payment devices designed in the mould of the Japanese Hello Kitty character, considered something akin to an idol in the country, are to allow payment for public transport and in some stores in the country.

Costing SG$24.90 (US$18), the keychain device comes in four colours – pink, red, black and blue – and has no credit on it whatsoever on initial purchase, which might seem steep, but given Hello Kity’s idolisation, it seems a good business decision from the manufacturer’s point of view.

Going on sale at the end of May, the devices will cease to function after two years of activation, which shouldn’t cause that much of a problem for a city that wants to buy anything with the cat’s face on it.

A Hello Kitty EZ-Charm

Hello Kitty charm image via EZ-Charms

Mini AR glasses

No, these are not very small augmented reality (AR) glasses, but glasses designed to be used with the iconic Mini car very soon.

Now manufactured by German automakers BMW, the Mini remains a popular car and now the company want to move many of the instrument panels put in cars into your immediate field of vision with their Mini Augmented Vision AR glasses.

To make them, BMW recruited Qualcomm and smartglasses manufacturer Osterhout Design Group (ODG) and, from the first images, they appear to resemble a pair of vintage driving glasses but with the addition of nice, shiny chrome.

Aside from putting your car’s speedometer and GPS in your eyesight, it also works as a standalone pair of AR glasses that has cool additions like telling you if a music festival is sold out when looking at a poster for it.

While still in demo mode, the glasses could be hitting the commercial market relatively soon.

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic