The next-gen FPV drone with cinematic cool
I don’t quote myself as a rule, but I can’t resist this, from my FT column four years ago, reporting on a breakfast in Hong Kong with the then new Shenzhen drone maker DJI. “The most exciting idea I heard in Hong Kong was that you could soon be flying your drone while streaming 4K video to a virtual-reality headset, so the on-board camera swivels in precise accordance with your head movements – turning you, effectively, into a seagull.”
A year later, that be-your-own-seagull technology arrived. Beijing’s EHang made a drone that offered it, but it wasn’t great. Then DJI achieved it with its £349 DJI Goggles, made for most DJI drones. Like all its kit, these were superb – but required a helmet that weighed a kilogram and made the wearer look like a stormtrooper from Star Wars.
But now the Paris drone maker Parrot, whose wonderful little foldable Anafi model I featured last year, has introduced the idea in a more practical device – the Anafi FPV, the acronym standing for “First Person View”, meaning that you can see what a miniature version of yourself would see from the drone.
Instead of an FPV headset with its own screens and optics, however, the Anafi FPV’s 213g facemask lets you slot in your phone. It doesn’t allow you to control the drone by turning your head – you use the redesigned hand controller – but I didn’t find that a problem while test-flying the Anafi FPV over the Adriatic. In fact, it was better because, rather than look like a stormtrooper with some swivelling-head syndrome, to the curious Italian holidaymakers around me at lovely Portonovo, I just looked like a normal geek.
And what a glorious time I had. The drone is almost the same as last year’s model, although the remote control is even more precise and the camera even better. And the FPV feature is sheer genius. Several tweaks make the experience sublime; the standout for me is what Parrot calls Cinematic Preset – which means that instead of keeping the view stabilised and level no matter what angle the drone is at, the live view in the headset (and the video recording) shows every bank and turn realistically. A triumph. Parrot Anafi FPV, £729, from parrot.com.
Amazon’s all-singing, all-dancing, all-new Kindle
Amazon has upgraded its best Kindle for the second time in three years. It is calling the new model the All-new Kindle Oasis, which is a cunning way to make you feel that last year’s super update needs replacing, which it doesn’t really. But if you’re new to Kindling – I caved in recently and bought the £120 Paperwhite after years of using an iPad Mini with the Kindle app – the All‑new is well worth going for.
The screen is an inch bigger than the one on mine; you can change the lighting tone from white – good for poolside or the beach – to a warm amber suited to late-night reading; it has auto-adjusting light sensors (surprisingly welcome); and page-turn buttons (ditto, as I sometimes find the Paperwhite’s screen-swipe action a bit irritating). Definitely the best e-reader ever. All-new Kindle Oasis, from £230, from amazon.co.uk.
Meet Titan – a successor to the BlackBerry
How deep is your hankering for an old-style BlackBerry? Chinese phone maker Unihertz, which produces some unusual mini-sized smartphones I’ve reviewed in the past, now has this maxi-sized BlackBerry successor appropriately called Titan and clearly taking its inspiration from the not-quite-dead Canadian company’s 2014 Passport. The Titan is a big (303g), tough, waterproof slab of a device that takes two hands to use. While not exactly stylish, and you would hardly use it for Instagramming from a fashion show, for professionals working in demanding conditions it could be ideal, as well as quite the conversation piece.
The (backlit) keyboard is not quite up to the original’s standards, I’m told by BlackBerry nuts who have tried it; but it seems great to me. And for anyone who needs to type in driving rain – or has a tendency to spill coffee – the waterproof-ness is a big plus. With a generous 6GB of RAM, the Titan has great performance, and the build quality, especially given the price, is exceptional. Unihertz Titan, about £244, from unihertz.com.
Finally, a way to hear the radio in the shower
Among the first products I reviewed on this beat 25 years ago were radios that work in the shower. One of my more modest life goals back then was to be able to listen to Radio 4 while performing my morning ablutions. But none of the products I tried, even from big brands, survived for longer than a few showers.
So I gave up, and since Tony Blair’s day have simply turned the bathroom radio up a bit in the hope of hearing the gist of the pieces on Today through the shower.
The other day, however, I came across this solution on Amazon from the Chinese maker TaoTronics and, given the excellent reviews, bought it for a princely £15.99. (It costs $66 direct from TaoTronics – no idea what’s going on there.) The news is, it works. Sensationally well. It’s not a radio, but a Bluetooth speaker that plays internet radio from your phone. It connects like a dream, has a sucker that never fails and, while it won’t win the Nobel Prize for audio quality, does the job. It can also be used for phone calls that come in while you’re showering. TaoTronics Bluetooth Shower Speaker, £15.99, from amazon.co.uk.
Can this wearable tech improve your mood?
Mental wellness seems to be one of the top priorities – and most discussed topics – for the millennial generation, with job candidates often as interested in what a company has to offer by way of help with mental problems as they are in holiday entitlement.
Moodbeam is a new mental wellness product from a Yorkshire company that’s being bought by organisations as diverse as banks and rugby league teams. It is disarmingly simple, but the information it gathers and organises is reportedly of a new order in helping to diagnose and analyse mental distress.
The Bluetooth wristband has only two buttons – one to press when you are feeling happy, the other when sad. The two people I supplied with samples told me that the simple choice offered here was enlightening. One said she was convinced she felt miserable “most of the time” – but seeing graphically in the Moodbeam app how often she hit the happy button surprised her and gave her a more positive perspective on her wellbeing. Moodbeam, £50, from moodbeam.co.uk.