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Last year I tested—and bought—products like it’s my job. It, in fact, is my job, and has been for exactly one year today.
In my first year at PopSci, I’ve tested a lot of wacky and wonderful items, including this BOND smart home device that turns your remote control ceiling fan into a smart fan, iZotope’s Spire Studio that promised to be a totally portable recording studio, or these Earbags, which have saved my ears in the cold. And let us not forget that precious moment when I got to eat the world’s hottest chip. Or the day our editor-in-chief taught me how to play the spoons.
There are many products I’d happily recommend to people—and, in fact, I discuss a lot of new gadgets over in our exclusive Facebook group—but there were only a few that I, a lover of music and coffee and games, truly enjoyed in my own life and for the long haul. These are the items that I use the most, the products that have impacted my life the greatest. They’re what I’m bringing into an exciting Year 2 at PopSci. My coffee will never get cold, so bring it on.
As I’ve written before, the Ember ceramic mug is my favorite product of 2017—and nothing in these first two weeks of 2018 has come close. It’s a beverage vessel that keeps my coffee exactly as hot as I want it to be. A microprocessor-controlled heating system gathers information from four temperature sensors. If they’re measuring anything less than the 132 degrees I prefer, it activates a dual-heating mechanism to keep things particular.
The reinforced stainless steel mug is coated with a white ceramic, so it keeps a relatively low profile. Or, well, at least when the built-in LEDs aren’t blinking. How else is your smart cup supposed to notify you that your drink is now at the optimal temperature?
The mug comes with a matching coaster that acts as a charger—the cup holds a charge for about an hour. I prefer this desk mug, but the Ember Travel Mug, which has an adjustable dial on the bottom of the device, is worth a look as well. The mug is $80 and can be purchased here or in most Starbucks in the U.S. and Canada.
I knew that I’d get an Apple Watch once they introduced cellular connectivity. This has been on my wrist every day since I bought it and so far I haven’t experienced any connectivity issues. The scribble texting feature—you draw letters on the face of the watch—took a couple days to get used to, but I love being able to stay in touch with people when my phone battery dies. I can leave my phone at home and listen to music while I run. The exercising tracking is great, too, though it certainly isn’t the only smartwatch to do that part well. $329+.
I’ve never played a game like DropMix Music Gaming System before. To play, lay NFC-enabled (that’s, uh, “near field communication”) DropMix cards on the board to create the catchiest remixes. Each card features an isolated element of a song like the lead guitar, bass line, or vocal melody. The cards can be stacked on top of each other to introduce new instruments and adjust the mix. It’s got three modes—Freestyle, Clash, and Party—and features music from artists like Bruno Mars and Imagine Dragons. Up to four people can play. $80.
Despite all the options, I often struggle to find a film on Netflix worth watching. FilmStruck has been my savior on more movies nights than I can count. Instead of focusing on the latest, FilmStruck from Turner Classic Movies offers the classics, plus great independent and foreign films. Yes, the Criterion Collection is there. For all of it, the annual plan is $8.25 a month.
As a guitarist and drummer, I’ve been searching for an electronic instrument that grants the subtlety and expressiveness of an acoustic instrument. I found this in the Roli Block system. Each “block” is a multi-touch-sensitive, modular instrument that can magnetically connect to another one, creating a custom workstation. Earlier this year, the company unveiled the Seaboard Block, a 24-key keyboard.
Expand the instrument by connecting another keyboard, or attach it to another “block” for percussion, looping, or mixing. While the soft, pressure-sensitive surface of this block—a texture that feels more like human skin than a keyboard—takes some getting used to, it allows the player to control elements like the strike, glide, and lift of notes. The keyboard connects wirelessly over Bluetooth or can be plugged into your computer via a micro USB cable. It comes with a library of sounds, but you also have the ability to purchase extra sound packs or use their Equator Player to create your own synths. $300.
This is a last-minute addition. When the bomb cyclone blasted New York with frigid temperatures earlier this month, I experienced a preposterous level of respect for the puffy, faux fleece Rumpl blanket. The built-in buckle makes it easy to roll up and store and it has zippered pockets to stash some valuables like a bag of cheese puffs. The blanket comes in two sizes—a 54-inch for single users or a 88-inch for two people. $159.
When I first saw my new best friend TubShroom, I laughed at it. How ignorant I was. This drain protector and hair catcher is made of bendy silicone, which means it locks into whatever pipe opening you’ve got, keeping hair, wet lint, and who knows what else out of your plumbing. The slippery surface means it’s also super easy to clean. It comes in five colors, but green is the best. $13.
The Tushy requires no electricity or plumbing to supply a steady, adjustable flow of cool or warm water. The bidet comes with everything you need for installation and connects directly to the water pipes under your sink. There are temperature, angle, and pressure knobs to give you complete control of your comfort. $84.
If you use your Apple Watch—or even just your iPhone—for exercise, these Vi Bluetooth headphones are an incredible accessory. The built-in personal trainer works with Apple HealthKit to create a personalized workout. It learns how you run and monitors stats like your heart rate, motion, and elevation. The Harman Kardon headphones have waterproof earbuds that actually stay in your ears, plus a battery life that lasts all day. They also, of course, let you answer phone calls or listen to music from your watch or smartphone. $198.
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