Affordable Laser Engraver

cubiio3D printers are all the rage these days, and that’s great if you want to build things.  Sometimes, artistically inclined people don’t want to build things as they want to decorate things.

That’s OK, too.  We like attractive things, and one great way to make anything more attractive is to engrave some sort of design on that.  Traditionally, that has been a difficult and expensive thing to do, but a new device called the Cubiio is likely to make it much easier and faster to do this.

Cubiio is a small cube, measuring 50mm on a side, that contains a laser and a small motor.  It also has a USB plug and a Bluetooth interface.  You can design your images using any software that can produce G-Code; the company recommends that you use Inkscape, as it’s free.

You can mount Cubiio to any camera stand, and connect to it by Bluetooth, USB or by inserting an SD card.  Then you put on your safety goggles (included), test it in preview mode, and then let it go.

It can engrave names, numbers, elaborate designs and more on a wide variety of materials – paper, plastic, wood, cardboard, fabric, felt, leather and non-transparent acrylic.  About the only thing Cubiio cannot engrave is metal.

cubiioCubiio even has a “batch mode” that you can use if you want to do more than one identical engraving at once, as you might if you were mass-producing something.

Safety is always a consideration when you’re using anything that has a laser, and Cubiio has that in mind.  Goggles are included, and the device has a password protection feature so that only authorized people can use it.

Motion detection will automatically shut Cubiio if anyone moves in front of it while it is working.  It also has built-in thermal protection to shut it down in the event of overheating.

The amazing thing about Cubiio is how such a functional device was able to be put into such a small form factor.  It’s small enough to fit in a purse or briefcase, meaning you can take it just about anywhere.

cubiio exampleDemand for Cubiio must be strong.  The device was introduced on Kickstarter recently with a $25,000 funding goal.  At present, with 32 days left to go in the campaign, more than $600,000 has been pledged.  That would suggest that the product will actually go into production.  Estimated date for shipping is November.

The things you can do with Cubiio are pretty unlimited, but the video on the Kickstarter site gives some great ideas – cutting elaborate designs out of paper, engraving personal items, engraving designs on furniture, engraving designs on leather clothes or accessories.

In all likelihood, people who use Cubiio will come up with more ideas for it and post them online, so in time, you’ll find even more use for this clever device.  At present, prices for the Cubiio start at $379, with additional options including the Cubiio Shield, which is a vented workspace for those who need to use it on a regular basis.

You can read more about Cubiio at Kickstarter.

The Dash Cam You Probably Need

cobra ip 200In today’s modern society, we spend a lot of time driving.  We probably spend more time driving than we should, and we certainly spend a lot of that time being distracted.

Accidents happen, and sooner or later, most of us will have an auto accident of some sort.  When that happens, your mind becomes a blur, and it can be difficult to remember what happened, and which car did what, and when.

Sorting all of the particulars of an auto accident out is a lot easier with the Cobra IP 200 dash cam.  With this clever gadget installed, you’ll be constantly recording whatever is in front of you while you’re driving.

The IP 200 mounts to your windshield with the provided suction cup mount and is powered from your car’s cigarette lighter or power adapter.  When the car starts moving, the camera comes on, and it records in a continuous stream of 3 minute segments.

These are saved to the included 4 GB micro SD card, and the Cobra can also detect an impact or a sudden acceleration.  That pretty much ensures that if something happens, the device will capture it on video so that you can see it later.

The device records continuously, and if the SD card gets full, the oldest segment that was saved to the disk is overwritten with new data.  You can also use a button on the dash cam to manually record video.

The unit is designed to point straight forward, so that it can capture license plate numbers.  That’s not all, though.  The IP 200 also has 120° field of “vision,” so it will also be able to record things that aren’t quite happening directly in front of you.

All of that video will be recorded in 1080P high definition, making sure that you’re getting all of the detail that you need.

An additional feature is the motion sensor, which can detect motion in front of your vehicle even when it’s parked and you’re not driving.  If motion is detected, the IP 200 will start recording automatically.

“Why would I need a dash cam?,” you might ask.   Accidents often happen suddenly, and often lead to lawsuits and litigation.  It’s very possible that, through no fault of your own, you could end up in an accident and be the plaintiff in an expensive and time-consuming lawsuit.

With the Cobra IP 200 dash cam, you would have video evidence of what happened in that accident and that might be sufficient to get you out of a lawsuit and save you thousands of dollars.

With the automatic motion sensor, you might be able to record video of someone vandalizing your car, or even another one that is parked nearby.

All of these are reasons why it might make sense to have a dashcam.  An even better reason is that the Cobra IP 200 is very affordably priced, with a retail price of about $60 or so.

At that price, it makes sense to have one, just because you never know when you might have an emergency.

You can learn more about the Cobra IP 200 at the company’s Website.



The Robot Weed Killer

tertillIf you have a garden, then you likely have weeds.  Weeds like to grow, and they’re very fond of the same sort of conditions that one finds in a garden – lots of light, lots of water, and lots of nutrition.

If you have a garden, then you’re going to have to deal with weeds, and frankly, that’s a nuisance.

You’ll have to pull them, or cut them, or use harsh chemicals on them.  Those methods all work, but they’re hard work, they’re expensive, and there’s that whole “Why do I want to put chemicals on my tomatoes?” thing.

That’s where Tertill can help.  Tertill is a gardening robot that was developed by the same people who developed the Roomba.  It’s a robot that routinely patrols your garden and looks for weeds to kill.

When it finds a weed, it uses a built-in string trimmer.   It finds it, cuts it down and moves on.

Even more impressive is the fact that Tertill has a method of sensing whether the plants its encountering are weeds or the important plants in your garden.  The determining factor is height, so this is a device that will work best if you start using it as soon as you plant.  Plants below a certain height get whacked.

Plants above that height are allowed to remain.   What about seedlings that aren’t yet tall enough?  Tertill comes with a collar that you can place around that plant that will cause the robot to ignore it.

It uses a similar sensor to determine the boundaries of your garden, though there are some rules about how you should set that up in order to ensure that Tertill doesn’t go roaming around your neighborhood unattended.

Tertill is solar powered, too.  That means that you won’t have to plug it in and recharge it.  You can just let it do its thing.  It will even stay charged on a cloudy day, though it won’t patrol your garden quite as often on days that aren’t sunny.

You can also control the Tertill via Bluetooth using your smartphone.  The information on that was a bit sketchy on the Tertill Kickstarter page, so I’m not really sure exactly what sort of control you’ll have over the thing with your smartphone.

The Kickstarter campaign was wildly successful, and the company raised nearly 300% of its funding goal.  That’s the good part.  The bad part is that the Tertill isn’t yet ready to ship, and likely won’t be for the better part of a year.

Still, they’ve got some pretty enticing deals on the Kickstarter site, so you can line up to get yours for the start of the gardening season for next year.

If you don’t like cutting weeds, and you don’t like using harsh chemicals, and you don’t like having to bring in your electronic products from out of the rain and you don’t like having to deal with recharging things, then you’ll love the Tertill.

You just need to set it up, protect the smaller plants in your garden, and let it roam around and do its job.

No more weeds.  And that is that.

Smart Watch? Traditional Watch? Why Not Both?

chronos smart watchWhen it comes to devices that tell time, we’re sort of at a crossroads these days.  While mechanical watches have certainly reached a high level of sophistication (and price!), the smart watch has come along to offer features that a traditional watch cannot.

Wristwatches have been a part of the daily wear of millions of people for about a century now, and they’ve reached a point where they can offer accurate time, the date, and sometimes even other features such as alarms and phases of the moon.

They cannot, however, let you answer your email, count your calories or let you control the music to which you’re listening.

These are features that you find in a smart watch, which are computer-controlled wristwatches that interface with your smartphone to give you some, but not all, of the functionality of your phone at the convenience of having it on your wrist.

Smart watches can also give you the time.

Some purists don’t like the idea of replacing a wristwatch with a small computer that will likely have to be replaced in a year or two and most smart watches don’t actually look very nice.

On the other hand, the best traditional wristwatches are things of beauty and works of both science and art.  They also look pretty good with a sport coat or a tuxedo.

What do you do if you can’t decide which one you want?

chronos smart watchNow you don’t have to.  A new device called the Chronos can give you the best of both worlds.  The Chronos is a small, very thin disk that attaches to the back of any wristwatch with a diameter of at least 31 mm.  It attaches via something called “micro suction,” so you won’t have to worry about magnets messing up your Citizen Eco Drive or your valued Breitling.

With the Chronos attached, you’ll get smartphone functionality in any watch you like, and you can move the device from one watch to another.

Among the functions Chronos offers:

  • Music control
  • Locate your phone by tapping your watch
  • Notification alerts – know who is calling or texting
  • Health data – count steps and calories and monitor fitness goals
  • Take pictures by using your watch to control your camera shutter.
  • Silence calls by using your watch to mute your phone.

The Chronos comes with a recharging stand, and the unit can recharge in just 30 minutes.  It will run for 2 days on a full charge.  You can charge it without having to remove it from your watch, which makes it convenient.

At the moment, the Chronos is compatible only with iOS phones, though the company Website says that the Android version will be coming soon.

At the moment, the Chronos is priced at just $99.  This device is a pretty clever idea, especially for fans of higher end watches.  While a few watch companies are trying their hand at smart watches, it’s pretty obvious that most of them are going to stay away from this trend for the foreseeable future.

Chronos gives you the opportunity to wear a high end luxury watch while still having the functionality of a smart watch.  That seems pretty smart to me.

Turn Any Appliance Into a Smart One

intelliplugThese days, everything is becoming smart, and the more things you can control from a single device, the better off you are.  You don’t have to remember lock combinations anymore, thanks to smart locks, and now, you can have a smart electrical outlet that will turn any device that you plug into the wall into a smart one.

Smart outlets have been around for a while, but so far, they’ve been expensive, unattractive and sometimes hard to use.

Intelliplug says they’re going to change that, with a soon-to-be-released device that’s small, attractive, easy to use and affordable.

The Intelliplug will allow you to control nearly any device that you plug into the wall.  Just plug the Intelliplug in, and then plug your device into the Intelliplug.  You can control the device via your smartphone using either Android or iOS phones.

Here are a few of the nice features about the Intelliplug:

  • Works with smart phones or wifi-enabled devices
  • Small enough that it will not block off adjacent plugs
  • App can control multiple Intelliplugs at once
  • You can set a timer or schedule to turn a device on or off as you like
  • Amazon Alexa compatible
  • AES256 encryption

The one thing I couldn’t determine about the Intelliplug is the load rating.  I don’t know exactly how large an appliance you can plug in.  In the demo, they show lamps and coffee pots, but those draw relatively little current.

On the other hand, the company creating the Intelliplug, cnct, says they’re trying to bring the thing to market through an Indigogo campaign.  Because of this, there’s an early bird special that will allow you to get a single Intelliplug for just $10, plus shipping.

The cnct app will be continually evolving, but the company promises that you won’t have to worry about compatibility.  As the software gets upgraded, your existing plugs will continue to work.  The Intelliplug also has a built-in on/off switch, just in case you want to turn your device on or off manually.

They also have upgrades, if you’d like to donate more money.  Their funding target is $25,000, which is relatively modest, and estimated delivery is just two months away.

Admittedly, not everyone is going to need this device, but it’s handy if you’d like to have lamps turn on and off at random times when you’re away.  It’s also good for starting a coffee pot when you wake up, rather than having it start at a preselected time via the built-in timer that most coffee makers have.

People will likely also come up with other clever uses for the thing.

You can read more about Intelliplug at the Indigogo site.

Beeline Helps You Stay on the Bike Path

beeline compassGPS has been great for navigation, and lots of us have such devices in our cars or use them with our smartphones to help us find where we’re going.  They’re a big help, and do a great job of keeping us from getting lost.

They’re not suitable for all applications, though.  When you’re riding a bicycle, for example, it can be difficult to manage either a GPS or a cell phone.  You generally need your hands to steer the bike, and taking them off of the handlebars to deal with a navigation device is just asking for trouble.

That’s where a new device called Beeline comes in.  Beeline is a navigation device or compass for your bicycle that mounts on your handlebars like you’d mount a bell.

The device pairs up with an app on your smartphone (either IOS or Android) .  You plan out your route on the app, and it communicates with the Beeline device.  What do you get on your display?

A simple arrow that points you in the direction that you need to go.   You can change routes or directions at any time, and the Beeline will show you in which direction you should be going.

Of course, there’s more information available if you need it.  The Beeline has a sharp, backlit display so that you can see where you’re going at any time of day or night.  There are also buttons on the display that will allow you to view the distance remaining to your destination, a clock to give you the time, and a speedometer to tell you how fast you’re going.

The Beeline can go up to 30 hours on a charge, and is easily recharged using the included USB cable.   It’s also shock and water resistant.

Beeline is one of a number of interesting devices that we’ve found recently that got their start as a Kickstarter product.

The Beeline attaches to your bike with an adjustable silicone strap, and is surprisingly affordable.  At $125 or so, it prices about the same as an entry level dedicated GPS device.

Based on  20-60 minutes of daily use, the company estimates that the device will last between one to three months between charges, so you won’t have to deal with constant recharging issues.

I ride a bike a lot, and I see a lot of interesting bicycle gadgets these days.  The Beeline seems like one of the more useful ones that I’ve run across lately.  I particularly like the simple arrow.  It simply tells you where to go, and often, that’s good enough.

No More Lost Combinations

noke bluetooth padlockThere seems to be a tendency these days to make everything wireless, whether it needs to be or not.   One can debate whether any particular item really needs wireless or Bluetooth capability, but rest assured – if the feature is added to an object, somebody will find it useful.

Thus we get the Noke (pronounced “no key”) padlock.  It’s a rugged padlock that’s suitable for either indoor or outdoor use.  That’s great.  We all need padlocks from time to time.

This one, however, is Bluetooth enabled, which allows you to open it from your smartphone.

This is where you have to have that internal debate with yourself about whether you actually need such a device in your life.  Most padlocks open in one of two ways – you either need to have a combination to open it or you need to have a key.

People often misplace keys, or they don’t have them nearby when they need to open the lock.  People frequently forget combinations and then forget where they wrote it down, leaving them with a lock they can’t open.

The Noke solves those problems by building a tough padlock that runs for a year on a common watch battery.  It’s suitable for either indoor or outdoor use.  And it can open automatically when your smartphone is nearby, saving you the trouble of doing anything at all to open it.

Of course, the Noke has more features than just that.  It’s IOS or Android compatible.  You can track your lock’s history.  You can share (and revoke) the ability for others to open the lock using their smartphones.

You can also set times or dates for when entry to others will be permitted, giving you a lot of flexibility regarding its use.

The Noke app also allows you to manage multiple locks at once, just in case you want to buy more than one.

The lock is build using hardened steel and boron, and has anti-shim technology, making it resistant to thieves.

What if the battery dies?  Not a problem; the Noke has a patent-pending “Quick Click” method of opening the lock manually using a provided access code.

If you’re interested in rugged security but you want something that will be easy to open when you need it to, then you might want to consider buying a Noke.  It runs about $60 and you can buy it at a number of places, including the project’s Kickstarter page.

The Noke was originally a Kickstarter project, and it turned out to be a wildly successful one.  They were looking for $100,000 in funding and ended up getting more than $650,000 out of the deal.


Connect to Your Stereo via Bluetooth for Under $15

mpow bluetooth receiverThere are lots of ways to listen to music these days, and many people just use their phones or perhaps an mp3 player.  That works, and you can buy dedicated devices that will allow you to listen to music via Bluetooth.

But what if you have an old-school stereo system at home, or one in your car that isn’t Bluetooth enabled?  I’ve got a 2009 car that has a 1/8″ miniplug input, but no USB or Bluetooth capability.

I also have a vintage stereo system at home, with a turntable and a CD player connected to it.   How can you play music from your phone through that?

A new gadget from a company called Mpow will allow you to do that, and the device sells for less than $15.

The Mpow Streambot Bluetooth Receiver has a 1/8″ miniplug output, so you can connect it directly to any device with that kind of input.  With an inexpensive adapter, however, you could also convert that 1/8″ plug to a pair of RCA plugs, for instance, and then you could connect it to a vintage 1970s or 1980s receiver, if you wanted to.

The Mpow Streambot gets up to 8 hours of use from a single charge, and it can be recharged in 90 minutes.  Recharging is done via USB, and you can recharge the unit while using it, which you might find to be convenient from time to time.

It’s great for using in a not-quite-up-to-date car, where you can simply connect the Mpow to your car stereo and then stream music from your phone.  The Mpow allows you to connect two Bluetooth devices at the same time, and it can automatically reconnect to your phone if your phone is already turned on when you power up the Mpow.

The Mpow is compatible with most Bluetooth enabled smartphones and electronics, and the company makes several different models with slightly different feature sets.

Here’s the best part – the price for any of the models in the Mpow Streambot line is under $20, and the reviews are terrific.  It’s a simple, inexpensive device that was created to do one thing and apparently does it pretty well.

It’s a great way to get extra use out of older stereo equipment that you might have lying around that you thought you wouldn’t use again because you’re primarily listening to music on your phone these days.

It’s also a great way to get music in your car without having to replace your car stereo with something newer and more expensive.

You can find the Mpow Streambot Bluetooth Receiver at a number of different retailers, including Amazon.

Well worth it for the ridiculously low price.

Vintage Vinyl Becomes a Bluetooth Speaker

vintage vinyl bluetooth speakerIf you like vinyl, and lots of people do, and you also like the convenience of modern technology, then you should check out the new Kickstarter project for a Bluetooth speaker that uses vintage record albums for the cone.

The project was created by Jeff Davis, who owns a company called Vinylux.  He’s been repurposing old albums and turning them into bowls.  He got the idea of using the bowl shape to create a speaker horn, and the idea for the Bluetooth speaker was born.

He partnered with a company called UncommonGoods to create the speaker, which comes in a wooden enclosure and features Bluetooth connectivity so you can connect a music source.

While I’m not all that crazy about seeing a record destroyed to make a speaker, it turns out that tends of thousands of records are discarded every year, and many of them are in such poor condition that they’re unplayable as records.  It’s not a bad idea to find some way of putting them to use again.

Jeff has spent the last 15 years recycling old, worn-out records and turning them into useful devices.  He got his idea when someone looked at one of his bowls and asked, “Will it still play?”  That gave him the idea for a speaker that made use of a record in the design.

Production will take place in Philadelphia, and the production process will make use of all the parts of the record, including the cover.  The label will appear in the center of the speaker.

There are several price levels involved for those who pledge this project.  At the lowest level, you can simply select a genre of music, and the company will select a record for you.

At the next level up, you can create your own artwork.

For a few dollars more, you can submit your own record, and they’ll use it to create the speaker.

Finally, you can spend a few dollars more, and they’ll acquire the record for you and use that newly-acquired album to create your speaker.

Genres include:

  • 60s Rock
  • 70s Rock
  • The 80s
  • R & B
  • Diva
  • Show Tunes
  • Crooner
  • Disco
  • Jazz
  • Classical
  • Opera
  • Folk
  • Classic Country


Starting  prices for the speaker is about $175, and prices range up to $250 if you want them to buy the record for you.  The finished speakers are expected to ship later this year.

If you’re interested in this Vintage Vinyl Bluetooth Speaker,  you should check out their Kickstarter site.

Bluetooth Water Bottle

hydra water bottleIn time, every single thing known to man will be Bluetooth enabled.  It’s inevitable.  The latest odd thing to come along with this wireless technology is a water bottle.

Yep.  A water bottle, known as either the Hydra Water Bottle or the Hydra Hydra Water bottle, is a 20 ounce, BPA-free, container for drinking water.  You can take it on your bike (it should fit in most bicycle water bottle carriers) or take it to the gym, or throw it in your backpack and take it hiking.

Or you can just attach it to your belt with the attached carabiner that also doubles as a bottle opener.

There’s more, though.  The Hydra Water Bottle also includes a 5 watt speaker, so you can listen to tunes via Bluetooth from your phone or other device.  It’s got a 400 mAh power reserve built in, so you can use it to charge other devices via the built in USB port.

The Hydra Water Bottle also includes a built-in microphone, so you can use it as a speakerphone for making calls from out in the wild.

That’s a lot of features to include in something that isn’t much bigger than a regular water bottle, but there are even more features in this thing.

hydra hydra water bottleIt has a light.  Actually, it has three lights.  One is a white light for general illumination.  Another is a red light for safety if you just want to alert people to your presence when you’re hiking or on your bike.  There’s also a light that cycles through the colors of the rainbow, just for the lulz.

And no, that’s not all.  There’s also a hidden chamber inside the Hydra Water bottle for storing your “valuables.”  I put that in quotes, because your valuables aren’t going to be all that safe if they’re stored away inside something that people can easily carry away if they get their hands on it.

Still, it’s a place to stash keys or loose change, and it will likely come in handy from time to time.

Finally, there’s a Nighttime Sleeper app that will let you use the Hydra to soothe yourself to sleep with the calming sounds of crickets, surf, rain or a bonfire.

I have to admit that when I first encountered this thing, I thought a Bluetooth enabled water bottle was just the latest in a long line of “Bluetooth devices that we don’t need.”  People are going a bit crazy to make things electronic that don’t really need to be.

In the case of the Hydra, we’re really talking about a wireless speaker that also happens to store water.  That’s not by any means a bad thing, and the whole shebang will set you back about $60 or so.

When I last checked, the Hydra was available in five different colors – black, blue, gray, orange and red.

You can find the Hydra Water Bottle at Amazon.