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What do you get the geek who has everything?
That’s a tough question as the range of techie “toys” nowadays is phenomenal but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my nearly 20 years of reviewing products it’s that most of them aren't that useful.
You know all of those iPhone controllable helicopters and cars that have become available over the last few months? Yeah, kinda cool but after you've fooled around with them for an hour or two you probably won’t touch them again.
No, if you’re looking for an incredibly cool gift for the geek in your life (or for yourself) you need to check out Node from Variable Technologies, a veritable Swiss Army Knife of sensors for techies.
The current interface for Node is for iOS devices (iPhones, iPads) but the company is developing open libraries for other platforms such as Android and Windows.
The core of the system, cunningly called “Kore,” consists of a cylindrical body 1 inch in diameter and 3.27 inches long that houses a Bluetooth 2.1/4.0 low power transceiver and a 9 degrees-of-freedom motion engine that includes a three-axis gyroscope, a three-axis accelerometer, and a three-axis magnetometer.
Power is from an internal rechargeable battery (a 650 mAh Lithium Polymer battery charged via a micro USB port) that provides 12 hours of continuous use and more than 30 days of standby.
On either end of the Kore you can attach other sensor modules. Currently available modules include Clima, which measures atmospheric air pressure, light level, humidity, and temperature; Therma, for infrared surface temperature measurement at distances of up to 3 meters with 0.01 deg C resolution; Luma, a remote control flashlight with an intensity up to 56 cd; and, the one that is really going to make a big market splash, the Chroma.
The Chroma is a module that you place on a colored surface and, on command, it shines a “perfect” white light and records the color of the surface. The color is reported in true sRGB, CMYK, CIE L*a*b*, and Hex values, regardless of ambient light. Even better, the current first generation Node app available from the Apple App Store allows for capturing and displaying two color samples side-by-side and, if required, sending that data in an email message.
The value of Chroma to interior designers, architects, artists, painters, do-it-yourselfers, and artisans of all kinds is incredible. Simply place Chroma on a wall or some fabric and check what color it really is. Take the reported color values down to your local paint store and get that exact color mixed! No more guessing or playing with a gazillion paint chips! Go to a fabric store and be certain that the color of that bolt is what you’re looking for!
Another module due for release in the near future is Oxa, a line of gas sensors, which will detect and measure Carbon Monoxide (0 – 400 ppm), Carbon Dioxide (500 ppm to 90%), Chlorine (0 – 10 ppm), Nitric Oxide (0 – 40 ppm), Hydrogen (0 – 20 ppm), or Sulfur Dioxide (0 – 10 ppm).
The company also tells me that they have something like 125 sensor modules under consideration!
Variable Technologies’ Node was a successful Kickstarter project raising $76,340 on its initial goal of $50,000 (they did an outstanding job of presenting their project and delivering updates). Currently going into Series A funding, the company is a serious, solid bet for venture capital.
So, if you’re looking for the coolest techie gift around to give to your favorite geek this Christmas (or for a company to invest in), look no further! (Helicopters? We don’ need no steenkin’ helicopters …)