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Gadget Ogling: Smart Rings, Breathalyzing Bike Locks, and Laptop-Sized Transports

Welcome to Gadget Dreams and Nightmares, the column that relaxes in a cabin in the woods of the latest gadget announcements, with a roaring fire to keep the terrible ones at bay and a s’more ready for the finest new gizmos.

In our bug trap this week are a smart ring for notifications from your loved one, a breathalyzing bike lock, a payment device that authenticates itself against your heartbeat, and a laptop-sized personal transport system.

As always, these are not reviews, because I surely would have fallen off the transporter several times and injured myself to the point where I could not write this week’s column — that’s more of a slant on my balance than the actual product, I should note. The ratings reflect only how interested I am in using each item, no matter how much I may hurt myself doing so.

The Ping Ring

Please, whatever you do, don’t decide with your loved one it would be a good idea to get rings that vibrate only when you’re trying to get in touch with one another.

Omate and Emanuel Ungaro are offering schmucks the Ungaro ring (pictured above), which does just that. It buzzes when one designated person, whoever that may be, sends a text message or calls you.

I can appreciate the concept to an extent, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s completely silly and useless. With a retail price of up to US$2,000, depending on which type of precious metal and which gemstone you choose to adorn it, it’s almost ridiculous enough to make me want to try it. Almost.

Rating: 0 out of 5 Tying the Nots

Too Blitzed to Bike

While cycling home after a night on the town is probably preferable to getting behind the wheel of a car, it’s still a dangerous endeavor. To prevent sozzled cyclists from pedaling home and presenting a danger to themselves and others, KooWho has dreamed up a bike lock with a difference.

Rather than asking for a code or key to unlock your ride home, Alcoho-Lock requires a breathalyzer test. Blow into a mouthpiece on the lock, and if you’re below the legal limit, it will open and you’re free to ride home. If you’re too merry, the lock will use your smartphone to text a trusted friend or family member. It’s up to them whether to unlock the bike for you or not.

It’s a fine idea, but there are problems. It’s not clear what happens when the battery runs out, and since it’s only good for around 40 tests on a single charge, you won’t want to get caught out with an Alcoho-Lock without any power to activate the unlocking mechanism. I hope there’s some sort of failsafe so your bike doesn’t stay clamped forever.

Rating: 3 out of 5 Crooked Cycles

Blood-Pumping Payments

The Nymi Band is a wristband that affords the wearer the option of paying for goods using near-field communications — the same technology that drives contactless credit cards and Apple Pay — from one’s wrist. Just like you can with Apple Watch.

The difference here is Nymi authenticates itself so it can be used only by one person — and it does so by reading the unique electrical activity of your heart.

It’s a product that almost defies belief. I can scarcely fathom anything creepier than a machine scanning and recording my heartbeat signature.

It’s one of the reasons I’m so reluctant to try Apple Watch. I get that it’d be somewhat secure if it works as promised, and I appreciate that — but I find the central idea so unnerving that I can’t see this ever taking off.

And yet, as much as I hate the idea of it, Nymi seems like something that I have to test. There’s a peculiar compulsion driving me to get my hands on one of these. Whether it’s the notion of facing one’s fears, I cannot be sure. I have a gut feeling it’s our terrifying future, though, and as masochistic as it seems, I don’t want to be left behind.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Elevated Heartrates

Car in a Messenger Bag

Cocoa Motors’ WalkCar seems like a dream for lazy devils with some semblance of balance. It’s a laptop-sized portable transporter that promises to traverse you up to 7.4 miles at speeds of up to 6.2 miles an hour on a three-hour charge.

It’s about the same weight as my laptop as well, at between 4.4 and 6.6 pounds — the difference lies in whether you have an indoor or outdoor version.

WalkCar is definitely something I’d like to have in my life, at least for a day. I was never much good on a skateboard, though, and I sense the RoboCop-esque armor I’d need to assuage my personal safety fears would negate the positives of WalkCar.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Too Good to Walks

Kris Holt is a writer and editor based in Montreal. He has written for the Daily Dot, The Daily Beast, and PolicyMic, among others. He's Scottish, so would prefer if no one used the word "soccer" in his company. You can connect with Kris on Google+.

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