Six cool gadgets enhance summer fun
With the onslaught of new outdoor and underwater tech available, it looks like the air conditioner may no longer be my favorite summer gadget.
But living in New York City has its limits, and deep-sea gadget testing would mean taking a dive into the murky waters of the Hudson River or exploring the depths of my bathtub. So I communed with my inner Cousteau and booked a trip to the Cayman Islands. The shipwrecks there are made for scuba diving, and you can swim with stingrays in the middle of the ocean.
Now that I'm back, and my suitcase, which resembled a mini-Radio Shack, made it through the TSA scanners, here is my review of the gadgets that came out on top (that is, until someone invents a device to evenly rub sunscreen on my back).
One thing is for sure, if you want to confuse the TSA and turn heads, even on a remote island, wear Google Glass. Not since the iPad have I seen a gadget garner such attention. While Glass has the capability to send email, text, check your calendar and receive alerts from various places like the New York Times, I use it more for taking pics and video. Its 5MP camera and 720p HD video recorder are pretty impressive, and the device includes 12.6GB of onboard storage. The unit is water-resistant, so I took it on the boat, but as Google will tell you, it's not made for scuba diving. Added bonus: There are clip-on sunglasses for when the sun is too bright (if you don't mind looking like D-Wade). The downside is you need to be connected to Wi-Fi to upload and share. Google says it's optimistic about getting the device out at the end of the year. Price point and details TBD.
I hunt gadgets like a liger. So it's hard for me to discover one I haven't seen before, like Seabob. If you can imagine NASCAR on the water and Danica Patrick racing dolphins, you can picture Seabob. Seabobbers can rent the device at various locations across the globe (or high rollers with access to the bluest of water may want to purchase it). It hits top speeds of 12 mph underwater or 10 mph over water (you do the knots conversion), and I found it extremely easy to drive. There is one throttle, and when you want to stop, you simply release the throttle. Also, there is a green and red button on the unit as well as an LCD display. Our unit governed out at 50 percent speed. Bonus: You can mount underwater cameras to the Seabob to capture cool underwater action.
A sleek little competitor in the action-camera market, Liquid Image's Ego can hold its own with 720p, 1080p and 12MP stills and a continuous shot mode -- each mode is indicated by a different LED color on the front of the unit. With just a couple of buttons, it's very easy to operate on the fly. We used an underwater housing, which costs $40, and you can purchase mounts, as well.
GoPros have been the household standard for action cams, and they never seem to disappoint. The footage we got using underwater housing and the GoPro Hero3 was beyond incredible. The camera takes 12MP stills and allows for various modes, including time lapse, burst mode and continuous shot. GoPros have minimal buttons (two). To be honest, any variation of GoPro is gonna be stellar. The Black Edition, which we were using, is the highest end with professional specs, and it's worth the investment. It includes a 2x sharper lens and highest picture and video quality and is packaged with lots of mounts. It also comes Wi-Fi-enabled, which we never found beneficial. It's definitely a bonus to be able to mount a GoPro (to the Seabob for example) and let it go, knowing you will have great footage later. Of all the gadgets we used, this was the one we turned to the most. If you've never used one, it's worth giving it a go.
Believe it or not, it's a 1080p scuba cam. By toggling a shutter switch, you can alternate between 12MP photo or HD video up to 130 feet deep. It's pretty convenient and has a great POV. The camera is spectacular, but for someone with a smaller face, like myself, the mask filled with water often.
There might be nothing more boring than swimming lap after lap in a pool. Knowing that, when I first spotted these underwater headphones, I thought there was no way they were going to work. I was wrong. They stay in and work great underwater at depths of up to 6 feet. There's no connecting to Bluetooth -- this is a standard MP3 player, drag and drop songs from your desktop. The 4GB of internal storage means you can load up to 900 songs, and, it comes with earbud options that, surprisingly, stay in great. With underwater headphones enhancing swim training, maybe they will be enough to draw Michael Phelps out of retirement? Note: They are not to be used in saltwater.