New tech for spring 2017

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The latest technology must-haves including Lego robotics, a tracker that measures body fat – and a pedal-powered kids TV

Lego Boost 

(£105, available second half of 2017)

Rejoice! Kids of all ages will soon be bringing their Lego inventions to life. Where Lego’s existing Mindstorms robotics kit is broadly aimed at over-10s, this (pic above) introduces younger kids, from around seven, to the art of computer code.

It contains building instructions for five separate models: a moving, talking robot; an interactive pet cat; a moon rover with a spring-loaded shooter; a musical instrument with pitch bend and sound effects; and an automated production line that really builds mini Lego models.

There are 60 further activities designed to inspire building, coding and play, but the ‘boost’ element comes from applying the theory and hand-holding, learned through these first five models, to normal free-form Lego play. To this end, there are three basic starter modules: one for ‘walking’, one for ‘driving’ and one (‘entrance’) to mechanise hinges and levers in gates, drawbridges and trapdoors, whether they’re in the latest franchise kits, from the likes of Star Wars and Batman, or in your own original inventions.


Go-Pro Hero 5 Black 

(£350, available now)

The best action cam – ever! That’s what its maker says, and it’s hard to argue. It’s certainly the best Go-Pro yet, and takes the best points of its forebears – 4K resolution video at 30fps, 12 megapixel still photos, touchscreen controls, and (even better, 10m) waterproof capability and noise reduction – and mixes in some tricks of its own, including a redesigned menu system, pro-grade image and video stabilisation, a one-button control, and voice activation.

Impressively, for such high-end tech, it’s really easy to use, too. If you’re after HD footage of your thrills and spills, then this is the only game in town.



Sony XBR-A1E Bravia OLED TV

(£TBC, available mid-2017)

Another show-stopper at the Consumer Electronics Show in Last Vegas earlier this month; this is Sony’s 2017 TV flagship, an impossibly thin, ultra-premium 4K dazzler, which marks a shift for the company towards OLED display technology – rival firm LG has been the championing OLED for some years, whereas Sony, and most others, have backed LCD panels.

Here, Sony is in fact using an LG panel, which, combined with its own processing technology, has produced “unprecedented black levels, rich and lifelike colour, dynamic contrast, blur-less image, and a wide viewing angle”. But its real innovation is not in the screen, but in the sound – or, at least, the sound in the screen, because the screen itself is the speaker.

Sony has come up with something called ‘acoustic surface’ technology, which somehow enables the screen itself to vibrate and transmit sounds, for a deeper and more accurate audio. Sounds crazy, but early reports say it also sounds out of this world. The XBR-A1E Bravia is expected to on sale by the summer, in 55, 65 and 77 inch versions, priced somewhere between the extortionate (four figures) and outrageous (five figures).


TomTom Touch 

(£130, available now)

For an unremarkable-looking tracker device, this has one killer move: it reviews and rates your body fat. It’s a trick that has been available with most ‘smart’ scales for a while; this is the first time it has appeared on a wrist-bound fitness tracker. The principle is the same: it shoots an electrical pulse through your body, and determines the constitution of its course by the time it takes to return. The TomTom Touch requires you to ‘touch’ the sensor on the top to transmit the signal.

It’s a welcome introduction; otherwise this device affords a fairly decent (but no better) cross-section of fitness gauges – it counts your steps and calories, and records your distance, sleep, and 24/7 heart rate too. You can also set goals for steps, sports and weight, available to review and download in the TomTom app. It also notifies you of incoming calls and texts, but that’s about it. The body fat counter is a nice touch, but it shouldn’t really draw you away from the trackers by the likes of Fitbit, Jawbone and Garmin.



Fisher Price Think and Learn Smart Cycle

(£120, available mid-2017) 

An exercise bike, for kids, which syncs with a computer game? Come on! How has it come to this, that kids today prefer a life online, to a life in the real world?

We’ve seen the headlines, of course; the world’s getting fatter; still, it’s depressing that a toy maker reckons kids need exercise bikes, and even more that they think parents should bribe them with extra screen time to get their little hearts pumping.

This contraption from Fisher-Price, which works on the premise kids will pedal to play, is another promise from the tech world of guilt-free screen time, and an outlet for excess energy.

It certainly raised eyebrows at the Consume Electronics Show, the tech industry’s annual showcase event, in Las Vegas earlier this month. Fisher-Price says it will cost $150 (around £120), and come with one free educational game, which can be downloaded to a tablet or TV, and connected via Bluetooth.

Further learning apps, focused on maths, science, STEM, literacy, and social studies, will be made available to download. It starts to sound like a noble enterprise - except a real bike would be a better option, every time.

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