We have seen the future – and it's pretty silly
New technology is feeding Britain's obsession with hi-tech gadgets
Luxury, rather than necessity, is the mother of invention for a generation of gadget-obsessed Britons. In the space of a generation, a gadget revolution has been fuelled by advances in technology, driven by smaller and more powerful computer chips and batteries.
The trend towards "intelligent technology" with gadgets controlled through devices such as mobile phones is a long way from the laptops, clock radios and digital watches that excited people a generation ago. And the growing number of people transfixed by their smartphones or computer tablets is one manifestation of the obsession with technology.
There are now dozens of magazines, websites and television programmes dedicated to gadgets. A record number of people is set to descend on the Birmingham NEC for the launch of Gadget Show Live this week. Some 120,000 are expected – a fourfold increase since the first show in 2009.
Matt Hodgins, director of Gadget Show Live, said: "The UK's desire for gadgets has grown substantially over the past few years and that love affair has not been disrupted by the poor economic climate. Technological advancements have allowed for better design and more affordability, and the number of electrical appliances, products and gadgets people own has more than trebled since the 1970s."
Here The Independent on Sunday takes a look at some of the latest gadgets that will be at the show, some in the UK for the first time.
They may look like bog-standard shades, but the glasses – described as "video eyewear" – are designed to allow total immersion in 3D virtual reality games and films. Wearing the glasses offers you the equivalent of a 75-inch widescreen TV, claims the manufacturer, Vuzix – a company that started in defence research and development.
Volution 2 paramotor
The trusting can take to the skies with what is described as "paramotoring" – in a personal flying machine. British manufacturer Parajet describes its Volution range as "aircraft", but the reality involves placing your faith in a tiny two-stroke engine powering a wooden propeller that keeps you airborne for three hours at a time. Prices for would-be James Bonds start at about £4,500.
Meet the robotic bird inspired by the herring gull. The manufacturer, Festo, boasts of succeeding in "deciphering the flight of birds – one of the oldest dreams of humankind". Weighing 450g and with a wingspan of two metres, the SmartBird can take off, fly and land on its own. Its wings not only beat up and down, but also twist to steer.
Feeling upbeat or down in the dumps? Friends will soon be able to tell how you really feel by observing the cat ears waving above your head. Created by Japanese company Neurowear, the ears will be seen for the first time in the UK at this week's Gadget Show Live. Brainwave technology from sensors attached to your head makes the ears react and move in accordance to your emotions.
The 21st-century version of an enduring classic – rollerskates. But in true gadget style, the spnKiX are dubbed "motorised skates" and will make their European debut at Gadget Show Live. They are battery-powered skates, which strap on to your shoes and are controlled by a hand-held remote control. Powered by a rechargeable lithium battery, the spnKiX can reach speeds of up to 10 miles an hour. The battery will power you along for about seven miles, but as recharging takes up to five hours, you might be quicker walking in the end.
A space-age version of the unicycle, the world's first single-wheel, battery operated vehicle uses gyroscope technology.
Once you have mastered balancing on the thing, it can go at 10 miles an hour for 15 to 20 miles on a single charge of its lithium-ion battery. The US manufacturer, Inventist Inc, claims it is "the smallest, greenest, most convenient 'people mover' ever invented".
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