The holidays are fast approaching, and with that, I’ve been bombarded with a multitude of incredibly cool and useful solutions for the home and office that deserve consideration. Between now and early December, I will shed some light on an exciting mix of products that I believe solve real problems in an innovative and useful manner.
With its legendary reputation in the professional live audio arena, Sennheiser is no slouch when it comes to building audio products that are perhaps best-in-class from a sound fidelity standpoint. The company recently introduced its new $399 MOMENTUM Wireless over the ear headphones. Featuring active noise cancellation, voice assistant access, and integrated microphone capability for calls, the big question for me was whether this new headphone can effectively compete in a crowded market known for popular wireless headphones from Bose and Sony.
At $399, I believe the new MOMENTUM Wireless is a worthy competitor against the likes of the new Bose Headphones 700 and Sony WH1000XM3, which offer comparable features. I’ve always been a fan of Bose (especially its new Headphones 700), but I found the sound quality of MOMENTUM Wireless to be strong, forceful and highly detailed. They fit a bit more comfortably on my head and had more of a luxurious look and feel than the Bose Headphones. Battery life is strong at 17 hours, and I found it appealing that Sennheiser opted for physical, tactile controls on the earcup rather than touch controls (like on the Bose) that can sometimes be finicky.
While the sound fidelity of the MOMENTUM Wireless is absolutely spectacular, I did find its active noise cancellation, even at its highest setting, a bit mediocre in comparison to other brands that I’ve used before (particularly the new Bose Headphones 700). But while the noise cancellation did not entirely cut off the outside world, I did like its “transparent hearing” mode which boosts external sound to make the user more aware of their surroundings.
The wireless headphone space is a crowded one with many compelling, immersive and stylish offerings. All of the comparable brands are priced in the $300 or higher space, and it’s hard to make a bad decision. With that caveat, if superb audio quality is what you’re ultimately after and noise cancellation is a secondary consideration, the Sennheiser MOMENTUM is a fine choice and deserves your attention.
Fluidity’s FT Aviator aspires to change the way we fly drones
Fluidity’s FT Aviator is a $350 “smart” controller that works like a traditional flight stick. Almost every drone controller (including models from popular DJI) uses a two-stick setup in which the one stick navigates the drone along a horizontal plane and the other along a vertical axis. An actual aircraft doesn’t fly that way, and seasoned drone owners often complain that the two-stick method is unnatural and cumbersome to use.
The FT Aviator looks quite similar to the controllers that gamers use with a flight simulator. It is compatible with multiple drone models from DJI. Designed to be held with two hands (one hand on the stick and one underneath the base), the device is completely ambidextrous and can be easily used by a left or right-handed person. A smartphone cradle is affixed to the bottom of the Aviator so you can view a feed from your drone’s camera. DJI’s app is replaced by Fluidity’s app (available for Google Android or Apple iOS). The cradle is cleverly designed so that it can be moved from one side of the controller to the other, and it had no issue accommodating my large iPhone 11 Pro Max.
I was able to easily connect the FT Aviator to my Phantom III model drone, and it only took a few minutes before I had my drone sailing down a side street at my home in San Jose. I marveled at the ability to use the Aviator without having to look down at it, something that was nearly impossible for me to do with DJI’s bundled controller. The FT Aviator is undoubtedly more intuitive to use than a traditional two-stick controller, and the trigger buttons were highly fluid and responsive.
The chief problem with the FT Aviator—and it’s not a trivial one—is that it must be used in concurrence with DJI’s controller. This is because the FT Aviator is purely a navigation device that relays its navigation “inputs” to the DJI drone’s controller. Unfortunately, this makes for a pretty unwieldy experience as the DJI controller must be connected to the smartphone via a USB cable. If you can accept that type of setup (and the mobility implications it might cause), the FT Aviator does allow you to fly your drone in a significantly more fluid manner and injects a higher degree of enjoyment into the drone flying experience. I suspect that it will be an indispensable accessory for many drone users.
ClearUp addresses a common chronic health problem
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, allergies are the 6th leading cause of chronic illness in the U.S. with an annual cost in excess of $18 billion with more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year. While your sinuses are supposed to produce mucus as part of the body’s healing process during a cold, clogged sinuses can cause acute pain that sometimes requires medication. Allergic rhinitis, often called hay fever, is a common condition that causes symptoms such as sneezing, stuffy nose, runny nose, watery eyes and itching of the nose, eyes or the roof of the mouth. While allergic rhinitis can be seasonal or perennial, symptoms of seasonal allergic rhinitis occur in spring, summer and/or early fall and they are usually caused by allergic sensitivity to pollens from trees, grasses or weeds, or to airborne mold spores. A new smart health device from Tivic Health called ClearUP is designed to relieve seasonal and year-round sinus pain from allergies without requiring medication.
About the size of a small bottle of Crystal Light, the $149 ClearUP is a highly portable device that uses microcurrent technology. It is completely drug-free with no chemical side effects. The FDA-cleared product treats sinus pain from allergic rhinitis by applying proprietary microcurrent waveforms to the sinus nerves under the cheek, nose and brow bone to relieve sinus congestion. I asked a close friend of mine who suffers from an ongoing painful sinus condition to try ClearUP, and her experience was actually quite good: the recommended 5-minute treatment provided her with over 5 hours of sinus pain relief. While I’m not a medical expert by any means, ClearUP looks to be a convenient “anytime, anywhere” drug-free solution to sinus pain. It’s worth checking out.
Skyroam Solix X: the WiFi hot spot you’ve been waiting for
Portable WiFi hotspots have been around for years, but Skyroam’s Solis X is a bit different from the other solutions on the market. Small, battery-powered and compact, the puck-shaped Solix X gives you a gigabyte of full-speed 4G LTE WiFi mobile data for a flat fee of $9 per month. But there’s more.
If you live in spotty areas where WiFi coverage is tough to come by, Solix X could be the solution for you. Its internal virtual SIM card allows you to connect in more than 130 countries, and, unlike the original model, you can share it with up to 10 devices (ideal for the multi-device world we live in). I did not get a chance to test the Solix X outside of the United States, but it connected and worked like a dream in San Jose and San Francisco, where I used it for a couple of day meetings when local WiFi was not available. It comes with an integrated 4700 mAh battery that lasts more than 16 hours on a single charge. Interestingly, it also includes a built-in 8MP wide-angle camera and a Bluetooth-based microphone and speaker. These features are actually much more useful than you might think; one could use Solix X to remotely stream live video at an event, freeing up the phone or tablet for other activities. Thankfully, the Solix X uses a USB-C outlet that can be “fast charged” with the appropriate USB charger, and the device is managed by a well-designed Solix WiFi app, available for the Android and iOS. At a $179, it’s a bit pricey but its affordable non-contract WiFi access plans (both “daypass” and monthly) make it a bargain, considering what you get from the device. Bravo, Skyroam!
Some closing thoughts
These products reaffirm my belief that useful innovation is still very much alive in the smart consumer technology category. While the smart tech space is crowded with many “me too” solutions that offer little differentiation, these products demonstrate that you can compete in a congested product category and find compelling ways to stand out. That’s the essential ingredient that I look for when deciding which products to cover. I’m looking forward to providing additional commentary on some equally noteworthy “smart” solutions over the next 60 days—stay tuned.