Tech addiction: The inability to stroll through the aisles of a computer/box/department store without drooling over and buying computer-based/electronic items you really don't need.
Alas, those of us that are afflicted with this malady have little resistance as these "gotta have it" geek toys call to us from the store shelves. It doesn't matter whether these are hats and pens with hidden cameras or inexpensive portals into a virtual world - - - they all result in our whipping out a credit card and adding these shiny new objects to our growing inventory of "stuff."
WARNING: Those of you that are gadget addicts with low resistance should stop reading this NOW. Others can safely read on, but we won't guarantee your ability to resist purchasing a few of our favorite new tech toys.
The folks at Hammacher Schlemmer let us play with a couple of gadgets that were once only used by movie spies. Their Live Streaming Video Camera Pen ($199.95) and Video Recording Cap ($99.95) come equipped with hidden miniature 720p high definition video cameras that can capture either video or photographs that can be stored on micro SD cards and transferred to your computer using a USB cable or can be stored directly on any mobile device.
The pen also has a microphone installed in the barrel, adding to its spy capabilities. The battery on the pen can provide up to 30 minutes of continuous streaming video before needing a charge, with the cap's battery having the capacity for 70 minutes of video.
We've also been playing with a Touchjet Pond Projector ($599), which can turn any surface into a touch-enabled mobile device. The Touchjet, weighing a hefty 9.4 ounces, uses the Android 4.4 KitKat operating system, which means we were able to use it as we would any other mobile device and download new apps as needed. The only difference was that we were using it on a wall, table or screen.
The image can be projected at up to 80 inches, which makes it a useful teaching tool or Android gaming device that can be used by the whole family.
This small device comes with two interactive styluses and an air mouse/remote control that can be used to click on and open any of the apps. These are designed to work with the Touch Universal Interface software, enabling the apps to react as though they were being touched by our fingers.
The projector can also be connected to any other devices using a Mini HDMI or Micro USB cable, which means you can use it to watch movies or videos on your 80-inch surface.
Don't expect the image quality or brightness you would get from a high-end video projection system. In fact we recommend this only be used in darkened rooms or with the shades drawn.
We were able to satisfy our hunger for affordable virtual reality with a set of Noon VR goggles ($89) from NextCore Corp. and an Android or Apple smartphone.
All we had to do was download the Noon App, register it and attach the phone to the device using a flexible phone band. The goggles come with a headband and are big enough to fit over glasses (for those of us who are sight deficient). That was it.
The VR experience was as good as using more expensive systems that have all of the components built in. The only drawback was we found ourselves frequently recharging our phone's batteries due to our new-found VR addiction.
Being gadget addicted also means that we have to be able to get on line at a moment's notice, no matter where we are. Unfortunately that isn't always possible and the fear of using an unsecured free network or accessing the Internet at an annoyingly slow speed haunt us. And, of course there's also the possibility of our not having access to a WiFi network. Fortunately the folks at Netgear have solved that problem with a portable 4G LTE (where available) hotspot.
The AT&T Unite Express Mobile Hotspot by Netgear ($79.99) provides an Internet connection for up to 10 mobile devices plus the ability to set up a guest WiFi account.
The battery on the device we tested lasted for about eight hours before needing a recharge, which is more than adequate for the average user. We also discovered that we were able to use it anywhere we could get a reliable signal for our phones - - - in a car, hotel room or campground.
The caveat here is the cost of the data plan. Eight gigabytes of data per month using the AT&T Go Phone data plan will cost you $75. There are less expensive 5GB ($50/month) and 2GB ($25/month) plans. According to Netgear, the 5GB plan can accommodate 130 hours of web surfing (about four hours per day), 10 hours of streaming video or 100 song downloads, which is more than adequate for most of us.
Set up was fairly simple. We just needed to turn on the hotspot and connect to it using the WiFi network detection capabilities of our laptop or tablet.