LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:
If there's somebody on your holiday shopping list who loves gadgets, you might want to surprise them with what's new in high-tech gizmos, maybe not so obvious gifts - not talking tablets here.
We called up tech journalist Rich Jaroslovsky for his recommendations. Good morning, Rich.
RICH JAROSLOVSKY: Good morning.
WERTHEIMER: So what is at the top of your list?
JAROSLOVSKY: I would say at the top of my personal list might be something called the Fitbit Flex, which is a wristband that measures how active I've been. And the answer is, I'm not nearly as active as I should be.
JAROSLOVSKY: It cost $100. It counts steps. If I wear it to bed, it gives me an idea of how well and how long I slept that night, and it's very, very simple.
WERTHEIMER: Well, now that sounds like having your mother telling you what to do all the time. What about something that's just more of a toy?
JAROSLOVSKY: They hate it when you call it a toy. But one of the things that I enjoyed thoroughly was something called the Onky Drive. And this is superficially a little bit like the slot car sets that some of us may have had as children, except that this doesn't run on slots. These are little cars that run on a vinyl mat that you lay out. But what's really going on behind the scenes here, is that these are actually little robots. You're not actually steering them. They're sort of self steering. But you're deciding, for example, when you want to try to blast one of your competitors in front of you. It's very addictive fun. It cost $200. It works with an app on an iPhone or an iPad that helps you control the decide when to fire in everything.
WERTHEIMER: So on your list here, I see, a talking smoke detector. What does it say to you?
JAROSLOVSKY: It says: There's smoke in the living room.
JAROSLOVSKY: This is something called the Nest Protect. And it comes from Nest, which is the company that was founded by one of the inventors of the iPod. And his basic mission with this company is to take ugly, boring, frustrating things in your home and make them intelligent and elegant. And...
WERTHEIMER: Well, he started with a thermostat, which turned out to be quite elegant.
JAROSLOVSKY: Exactly. And now he's moved onto a smoke and carbon monoxide detector, which doesn't seem as though it would be necessarily a gift item. But, in fact, the idea is that many smoke detectors currently are not even working, or they've been disabled because they are chirping annoyingly, or they go off when all you've done is burnt the toast. And so what the Nest people have done is basically reinvent the smoke detector. If it detects smoke, it first tells you in a human voice, there's smoke in the kitchen. If it's just because you burned the toast, you stand under the detector and wave and it basically at that point says OK, this is not an emergency, you got it under control, and it doesn't set off that piercing alarm - which is one of the things that I think makes people yank them off the ceiling.
WERTHEIMER: Is there something on your list for music?
JAROSLOVSKY: The Sonos Play 1 speakers. I like music. I like having music throughout the house. Sonos has been known for some years for making speakers that are networked with each other that allow you to play music from a variety of sources. But the main drawback to the Sonos system has been the cost, because these individual speakers can be several hundred dollars. The new Play: 1 speaker has terrific sound. I mean it'll fill a room. But the package is much more compact, and it's $199 - which is a lot cheaper than they started out.
WERTHEIMER: Does it get MORNING EDITION?
JAROSLOVSKY: It certainly can.
WERTHEIMER: OK. Well, thank you very much then, Rich.
JAROSLOVSKY: Well, thank you.
WERTHEIMER: Rich Jaroslovsky writes and - as you heard - talks about technology. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.