GADGET DREAMS AND NIGHTMARES

Gadget Ogling: Vertical Vinyl, Kid-Friendly Video Chats, and a Smart Pool Monitor

Welcome, friends, to a new installment of Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, the column that looks past the damp squibs of poor gadget announcements to the sky-high rocket explosions of color the more agreeable ones bring.

On our cookout menu this week are a vertical turntable, a videophone with focused functions, and a smart pool monitor.

As always, these are not reviews, and the ratings reflect only how interested I am in trying out each product. Perhaps even just to strap it to a firework for a durability test.

Taking a Stand

I enjoy music as much as anyone, though I’m no real audiophile and I have not an enormous passion for one format over another. I admire the romance of vinyl but find it unwieldy and cumbersome when digital recordings work just fine for me.

The Floating Record turntable (pictured above) is beautiful, though, and I’m almost tempted to race to my record store to stock up on vinyl to play on one of these.

Instead of playing records in their usual flat position, Floating Record clamps them in place vertically. This is in order to put the vinyls on display while they’re playing.

It seems absurdly easy to switch from playing 33 1/3 to 45 RPM records and back again, thanks to a belt drive system that snaps into place.

There are built-in speakers, which is great for someone like me, who doesn’t enjoy having large speakers around, though you can output the audio to another system if you choose.

It’s gimmicky, sure, but it looks stunning — that wood finish in particular is just gorgeous. Unlike the vast majority of new products, this feels like an heirloom that can pass through a few generations. I’d be delighted to have it in my family.

That said, it seems like it’d be a pain to try some record scratching with this.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Deep Cuts

Single-Purpose Video Calling

The ILY family phone is designed to help people place video calls with one another either to one’s nearest and dearest with the same phone or to an Android or iOS device with the ILY app.

That’s almost all you can do with ILY, and that’s entirely the point.

There’s no Web browser or additional functions, other than the option to send pictures or create images with an app. It’s aimed at helping families stay connected with loved ones without opening kids up to the dangers of the Web, as they might when quitting a Facetime app to open up Safari. Calls take place over WiFi and owners can connect ILY to a phone line for regular calls.

It’s a smart idea, and I’m surprised it hasn’t caught traction before now.

I wouldn’t necessarily use it myself, since I’m a grownup and (for the most part) can use the Web and other apps on my smartphone responsibly. That said, if I had a young family and was frequently away, I would be very tempted to buy one of these and install the ILY app on my phone to keep in touch.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Face-to-Faces

Water Smart Idea

I am a deep lover of water and spending time in pools, especially the outdoor variety in summer. I am not a pool owner personally, though I can understand and appreciate all the time and effort that goes into pool maintenance.

Having a device that helps monitor the health of a pool can only be a good thing, and so Drop would seem a solid option.

It runs on solar power, which makes perfect sense as one tends only to dip into the pool in nicer weather. It floats freely, so is easy to remove when one is ready to pack the pool with friends.

The monitor measures chlorine, temperature and pH levels, all of which you can view from an accompanying smartphone app. The app tracks the levels of each over time, so you can keep an eye on what might be causing changes in the pH and chlorine levels.

I like that it offers a custom maintenance based on the user’s pool size and needs, and that it will suggest what the owner needs to do to bring the chlorine and pH to optimal levels.

The accelerometer to alert owners when someone or something breaks the surface tension is a smart idea, since it may come as some comfort to know that if gatecrashers jump into the pool while you’re gone, you can put a stop to it. More importantly, it could create faster responses to rescue people or animals who have fallen in accidentally.

I like Drop for the most part. If ever I were to own a pool, I would for certain like to be able to check the water temperature without even going outside. I may love spending time in the pool, but I’d like to prepare myself for the sudden temperature change before I cannonball in.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Kris Holt is a writer and editor based in Montreal. He has written for the Daily Dot, The Daily Beast, and PolicyMic, among others. He's Scottish, so would prefer if no one used the word "soccer" in his company. You can connect with Kris on Google+.

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