The week in gadgets: Wii U, Kindle Fire HD, Stephen Fry and Qugos vs Segways (video)

19 Nov 2012

Image via @jeetie_g on Instagram

A look at gadget happenings, as Nintendo’s latest console reaches the US, the large-screen Kindle Fire HD arrives earlier than expected, Stephen Fry prepares to wow us with the wonder of gadgets, and we wonder if our gardaí would be better off on Qugos than on Segways.

Wii U launches in the US

Isaiah ‘Triforce’ Johnson – famed for always being first in line for new Nintendo consoles – was the first customer in the US to get his hands on the new Nintendo Wii U console at a midnight launch in New York City on 18 November. Johnson queued for almost a month to ensure he would be the one presented with his console by Nintendo of America president and COO Reggie Fils-Aime.

But Johnson would have to wait that bit longer to get to gaming on the Wii U, as new owners reported that a necessary 5GB firmware upgrade took hours to download. The Nintendo launch was also marred by the fact that some services offered by the console were not available at launch, instead coming in December, and that the Miiverse became over capacity and went down.

Nintendo Wii U launch

Isaiah ‘Triforce’ Johnson gets his Wii U from Reggie Fils-Aime. Image via @nintendo on Instagram

This wouldn’t deter hardcore Nintendo fans or opportunists, though, and the device is already pulling up more than 4,000 results on eBay, with prices as high as US$600 for a console that retails at US$350.

The Wii U will be available in Ireland from 30 November and comes with a tablet-like GamePad controller which allows for a dual-screen gaming experience. There are two models available, basic white with 8GB storage for €299 and a deluxe black 32GB version for €349.

Qugo – making gardaí on Segways seem old-fashioned

Having seen the Qugo come onto the scene, it seems Ireland’s An Garda Síochána may have made the wrong decision with Segways. This three-wheeled personal transport vehicle is a combination of a Segway and a folding bike that users steer by leaning into corners – like skiing, only on roads.

The patented construction consists of a lightweight and durable aluminium frame and two smaller rear wheels on swing arms connected to a balance wheel that reacts to the behaviour of the driver in a passive manner. The vehicle is electric-powered, producing zero emissions, offering up to 30km on a single charge. Weighing about 25kg (depending on specifications), the Qugo can be completely folded up and carried around when not in use.


Designed, developed and produced in the Netherlands by Urban Mobility Europe and partner Silvestris, 30 to 40 units are currently being produced per week, though the intention is to produce 300 to 400 per week for the global market.

8.9-inch Kindle Fire HD debuts early in US

Perhaps trying to inspire customers to start their Christmas shopping early, Amazon released the Kindle Fire HD 8.9-inch tablet five days ahead of schedule in the US. The US$299 device was released on Thursday on the Amazon website and began rolling out to retailers in the US on Friday.

Stephen Fry talks gadgets in new series

Stephen Fry: Gadget Man starts tonight on Channel 4 in the UK and Ireland, where the king of Twitter will share his passion for gadgets and new technology, looking at devices from the past, present and future and exploring the various gizmos that make our lives easier.

In the first episode, Fry and guest Jonathan Ross will look at which gadgets can make the daily commute more bearable, while later in the series he will look at gadgets that make cooking and shopping easier, as well as some productivity tools. He will also attempt to make his own super gadget each week.

And, if you miss tonight’s episode at 8.30pm, you can always catch up on 4oD – using whatever gadget you choose to access it.

More gadgets to come from Microsoft?

Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, says the company is looking at more opportunities to build its own devices. Speaking at a tech event in California last week, Ballmer conceded that the “lion’s share” of Windows devices will be made by Microsoft’s OEM partners for the better part of the near future, but added, “it is absolutely clear that there is an innovation opportunity on the scene between hardware and software and that is a scene that must not go unexploited at all by Microsoft,” Reuters reports.

Microsoft’s foray into building computers started with the Surface tablet launched last month. The device has been met with a lukewarm reception, as many await the Windows 8 Pro version expected in early 2013 (release dates have yet to be revealed for Surface in Ireland).

Earlier this month, it was reported that Microsoft was testing a smartphone in Asia, suggesting the brand has its eyes on more than just computers.

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Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.