Tech Tools and Toys: Sifteo Cubes, Up Jawbone Bracelet, and Modlets

I like technology! At any given moment I could list at least three gadgets I wish I owned, but usually I won’t justify paying premium prices for new products. I think I appreciate technology because I enjoy watching how ingenious humanity can be in adapting technology for entertainment and practical purposes.

First up, an innovative game that takes advantage of your computer’s speakers and processing power to run 3 small cubes with built in accelerometers, magnetic sensors, and touch screens.

Picture from Wired's Review

This game is called Sifteo Cubes. Each game challenges the user to move cubes around based on what they see on each screen. Some games make the player work through a shifting maze, others are educational, teaching spelling or math skills. The package comes with a USB adapter, charging station, and two games, as well as credit to download more games. My wife has a similar toy, which is low tech in comparison, called Scrabble Flash. Scrabble Flash only has five cubes that show you different letters, and when you succeed in creating a word you are rewarded with a pleasant beep. The goal is to make as many words as you can in a limited amount of time. Since Scrabble Flash is super fun, I’m excited to see where games like this will take us as they become more developed.

The second tech toy on my current wish list is a bracelet called UP by Jawbone. If you have ever heard of the Sleeptracker Pro watch, then you are already familiar with this concept. The Sleeptracker Pro monitors your pulse, movements, etc. while you sleep in order to wake you when you are most alert. The Sleeptracker Pro also came with some software that allowed you to sync your sleep data over to your computer via a cable so that you can observe patterns in your sleeping habits. The UP bracelet takes this to a new level. The UP communicates wirelessly with your smartphone or iPod so that now you can monitor your sleep patterns, and sync the data wirelessly to your device, plus if paired with a GPS equipped device it also has the ability to track your exercise, including: steps, distance, calories burned, pace, intensity level, active vs inactive time, GPS routes and more. If you are really ambitious, it will also ask you to snap photos of your meals and then prompt you a few hours later to record how you are feeling. As a result, you can begin to build a photo journal of the foods you eat alongside of a record of how they make you feel.  Finally, and this should please anyone who reads time management books such as The Power of Full Engagement, which recommend that office workers take a break at least every forty-five minutes, the UP also has the ability to remind you to move when you have been inactive for too long. You can choose what the interval is, and then it will vibrate when you need some blood-flow! How sweet is that!

Modlets are another great invention! This one thinks its a tool, but I’m not sure that it isn’t just “a toy in tool’s clothing.” A Modlet is an adapter you plug into a regular power outlet which eliminates vampire power usage through its wi-fi capacity. It records and reports power usage to software which runs on your computer, then once it has data, it suggests schedules to automatically shutdown the vampire power suckers that use about 40 percent of the average household’s power usage. The reason I can’t decide whether this is a toy or a tool is because of the cost. In order to get set up with one Modlet and the USB adapter for your computer it will cost you 50 dollars, any extra Modlets will run you another 45 dollars. I don’t know if the cost justifies the savings; I need data first. An alternative idea is to use a digital timer to shut off power to your vampire devices during the night. You can usually get one of these timers at Canadian Tire for 10 bucks or less. Yes, low tech, but a timer still accomplishes the same goal. Or, if you are really low-tech, like my Dad, you could just unplug the microwave every night before bed, but most of us aren’t that Scottish!!!

As both the Modlet and the UP demonstrate, when it comes to technology there seems to be a trend towards automation. Whether its asking our electronics to remind us to get off the couch, or asking them to unplug our other electronics for us, it definitely seems like we prefer to outsource as much of this kind of work as possible. Perhaps one day the robots really will take over…until then, I continue to marvel at the creative ingenuity of humanity; we truly are co-creators with God.

Sifteo Cubes

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2 responses to “Tech Tools and Toys: Sifteo Cubes, Up Jawbone Bracelet, and Modlets

  • Laura Chalmers

    I am wondering how the UP device knows when you are sleeping and when you need to get up and get your blood flowing? I’m sure you would appreciate a 3am get up and move warning! I would also like to state that this device is much smaller and less geeky looking than that giant sleep tracking watch you wanted!

    • joshthejuggler

      The UP is programmed to give you reminders during the specific hours when you want alerts you have been sitting still too long. Yes, it is less geeky, but I was the kind of kid that wore a calculator watch! So I actually like it less now…

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