TellSpec, the handheld spectrometer

Kickstarter and Indiegogo have become the sites to discover the most intriguing new hardware, and an example is TellSpec, a handheld spectrometer that was funded by an Indiegogo campaign. As described on the website, the TellSpec combines “a spectrometer and a unique algorithm to tell you the allergens, chemicals, nutrients, calories, and ingredients in your food.”

Some of the mockups of the TellSpec being pointed at food items and sending data to the iPhone app look they were made with ClipArt in an old version of Powerpoint (is that a first generation iPhone?!), but they have time to improve the visual design of the interface. The real power is in the spectrometry, and if that really works, in a device you can hang on your keychain, that's very exciting.

Improving the diets of Americans has proven so difficult over the years, but I do believe in heightened transparency. For me, the most eye-opening experience in making the invisible visible was the time I was at the in France on a Tour de France cycling vacation and my roommate lent me his glucose monitor. Taking a reading after eating each meal and seeing my blood sugar spike transformed an ordinary baguette into a lethal pulmonary bludgeon. If I didn't have to prick my finger and draw blood to take readings at every meal, I'd buy a glucose monitor and use it regularly.

Some restaurants print calorie counts on their menus, and others even include some information about basic carbohydrate, sugar, protein, and fat content, but the TellSpec could potentially provide that for any ingredient on your plate.

The Indiegogo campaign concluded, but you can preorder one for $320 from the TellSpec website.

First generation HUD's

I was really tempted to splurge for pre-order pricing on the Recon Jet, this wearable HUD for cyclists. The idea of being able to see your speed, distance, heartrate, and so on while running or cycling without having to look away from the road is so enticing.

But I had previously purchased something similar, the Oakley Airwave snowboard goggles, and those were such a disappointment, that I'm going to wait until actual users have beta tested this product. The UI was awful, the setup was painful, and in the sun I couldn't see anything in the HUD while snowboarding down the mountain. All these HUD's that require you to focus on a tiny point to the bottom right of your visual field as the digital data comes through a tiny display wedged in at the bottom right of the right lens.

But when we imagine these futuristic displays we always picture data actually being overlayed on top of the glass that we're looking at or through. Some might argue that overlaying data on your glasses is dangerous, but I find shifting the focus of your eyes from the real world to a tiny point at the bottom right of your right eye while in motion (on a snowboard, on your bike) is much more dangerous. At least when you look through your glasses your peripheral vision can still come into play.

Well, a lot of people seem to have ordered the Recon Jet as it sold out of its pre-orders despite a high price so we'll likely have real-world reviews in the near future. I hope it's great, but I suspect it won't be.

Capturing power from your cycling

Kickstarter page for The Siva Cycle Atom, a rechargeable battery and generator that collects energy from your bike to use to power your gadgets via USB.

What I really need is a gadget I can plug into myself to generate power from any excess body fat. Weight loss and an extra hour of texting on my iPhone? Biggest Kickstarter project ever, no contest!

I mean honestly, the Matrix painted a terrifying scenario of the future in which we were all batteries for this race of alien overlords, but I can't be the only one who thought Neo looked pleasantly thin.

4K

Sony has just listed an 4K TV on their site. it's 84", and it costs $24,999.99 (apparently that pricing trick of dropping a penny to rounding down one of the left-side figures matters even when you're talking about spending the price of a Prius on a television). This is the same list price as the one for their "consumer" 4K projector which is already on the market.

I'm excited for the future of 4K entertainment, but you are almost beyond an early adopter to jump on this bandwagon so soon. That's because for consumers there is almost no 4K content that you could even send to this display.

I say almost because there is one movie I'm aware of that's available for purchase in 4K resolution: TimeScapes. You can grab a quick preview of a 2560p clip from TimeScapes here (right click the link and hit save as; you really don't want to try to play it in your browser). You can purchase either a 25Gb 4K file of TimeScapes on a USB stick for $99.95 or a 330Gb 4K 12 bit Cineform file on a hard drive for $299.95. And then you'll need a 4K video card in your computer to even push that file to your new 4K TV to turn it into the world's largest, sharpest nature screensaver display.

Red announced a Red Ray device which is their delivery solution for 4K content files, but it has yet to receive a release date. They also announced their own 4K projector and have demoed it here and there, but again there's no official ship date yet.

Is this all absurd? I suppose. But who am I kidding? I can't wait to go 4K.

UPDATE: If you have just $20,000 burning a hole in your pocket instead of $25,000, then this LG 4K TV, also 84", may be more your speed. Given that both the Sony and LG are 84", they may be sharing the same source for the display.