Technology was supposed to make all of our lives easier, right? But as we all know, that’s not always the case. For proof of this, ask your parents or anyone over the age of 50 for that matter about “programming their VCR.” You are sure to get a Hall of Fame roll-of-the-eyes from them. Those days of 8 different chords into 7 different inputs are thankfully behinds us as Funai Electric- the last manufacturer of VCRs on the planet- just announced it has stopped production.
Of course we will never get rid of examples of “new and improved” technologies that try to make all of our lives better, but they actually don’t. A quick glance over to your supermarket’s Automated Checkout Systems is ironic proof of that. That is just the nature of technology, but when we find those items that we instantly fall in love with, making us say to ourselves and anyone who will listen, “How did we ever live without this?!”, it is special. Here are three of my favorite technologies that really do change the game…
Product 1: Item Tracker
Never again will you have to tear apart the sofa, dig through a damp gym bag or think “where did I leave them last?” These small, bluetooth devices can attach to almost anything you don’t want to misplace or lose, especially your car keys. You then locate your item via the free app on your smartphone or tablet. Days of lost keys are gone forever and here are my top three picks:
- Tile (https://www.thetileapp.com) Smart, sleek and sexy, it looks like something Bang and Olufsen would make if they were in this category. You can locate it by sound or the map in the smartphone app.
- XY3 (https://store.xyfindit.com/) This comes in a bunch of fun colors and it even sends you “out of range” notifications.
- Cube Tracker (http://cubetracker.com/) It has the same functionality of my other two choices, but also has a separation alarm to alert you if you left something behind.
- My top pick is the Tile. I fell in love with the design, it is so cool that it is actually a conversation starter. You can find them on Amazon.com for about $25 each or save money by buying in packs.
Product 2: Noise Cancelling Headphones
Forget the sound quality of these items or the cool factor of these as your new headset to your smart phone, these change your life simply by what they do for you when you travel by airplane. The effect the over-the-ear versions have on jetlag, your ability to sleep or ignore the screaming baby two rows back is worth every penny. Each manufacturer has a wireless option, but I recommend getting the chord so they can double as your in-flight movie headset and saves you money.
- Bose QuietComfort (https://www.bose.com/en_us/index.html) These are definitely the nerdiest of the bunch, but they are true lifesavers.
- Beats By Dre (http://www.beatsbydre.com/headphones/) Your hip-hop street cred goes up a full point with these.
- Sony hear.on (http://www.sony.com/electronics/headphones/t/headband-headphones) Tried and true design and the comfort is on par with the Bose and Beats.
- My choice: Bose, the originator is still the best and Best Buy has a great selection for around $300.
Product 3: The Amazon Echo
While Google and Apple are eager to bite into Amazon’s market-share of a “voice-controlled smart speaker”, right now this is still in a category by itself and my de facto top choice. While Alexa is not perfect- you have to really yell at her while music is playing on the device- Alexa is like having an extra pair of hands. Connect her to your calendar and this music streamer becomes a virtual assistant around the home and can be a life-saver. CNet agrees with me and we are both looking forward to upgrades: http://www.cnet.com/products/amazon-echo-review/
The Echo Dot: This hockey puck-sized version is half the price of the original and has all the same functionality, but without the full speakers. What I love about the Dot is you can place these all over the house so when out of range of the tall-speaker version, you can still connect to Alexa and the Dot is half the price.
Where to buy: Amazon.com
Other Product Ideas
Other ‘quality of life’ improvement ideas that can make a big difference is in the home office category. Standing desks, ergonomic desks, and even some gaming desks (http://www.highgroundgaming.com/best-gaming-desks/) are a big win here. Office accessories such as foot rests, wrist rests, and such will keep fatigue at bay. If you suffer from back pain investing in a premium office chair will aid pain and prevent it from becoming a long term issue.