LOUIS VUITTON HORIZON LIGHT UP SPEAKER
The official story of this insane and beautiful Bluetooth speaker from Louis Vuitton is that it was inspired by the brand’s Toupie bag (toupie means “spinning top” in French), which was briefly a thing for notable taste-makers in 2019 and is now quite sought after pre-owned.
We don’t buy this, however. We believe the speaker, which sports 23 multicolored flashing lights in one ring and 12 more in another, is a munchkin-size U.F.O. from the planet Blip, and several tiny Zillon aliens live on board. If more proof were required that it is really a small spacecraft, the lights flash in time to our earthling music. Come on, Louis Vuitton, who are you kidding?
In their further attempts to disguise the machine’s alien origin, the Zillons have cunningly concealed within it audio drivers—a three-inch woofer and two 0.75-inch tweeters—and 360-degree sound from twin 30-watt amps which peaks at 91 decibels, otherwise known as loud.
The Horizon Light Up Speaker truly does a great job as a portable sound system as well as an amusing home decoration. You can site it vertically in its holder, but it’s somehow more instinctive to lay it down so it’s diagonally oriented on a surface—in which case the electronics sense its orientation and adapt the sound signature to suit.
Clever, pretty, and funny, and it sounds really good. L.V.’s publicity portrays it as something a person might carry around like the purse it emulates, but it is heavy—more than two pounds—and dense enough to be swung as a weapon. So we wouldn’t wholly recommend it for the beach, other than as a self-defense tool.
Invoxia LONGFI GPS TRACKER
Time was, in the 1980s, the sole gadget for keeping physical track of possessions was the notorious sound-activated key fob—a fat plastic blob, badly made by several companies, which would supposedly beep and reveal the position of your mislaid keys when you clapped or whistled. They obviously did no such thing and were swiftly forgotten.
Finding lost keys, wallets, bags, cats, and so on remained a Cinderella technology until the coming of Tile, in 2014, with a range of products that have continually improved to the point where they are a must for the chronically forgetful. The West Coast spawned other Bluetooth-based item finders, from the less good TrackR to Apple’s excellent new AirTag.
Far away from California, however, in France’s Silicon Valley, Issy-les-Moulineaux, outside Paris, the hyper-innovative Invoxia company has been working on a more ambitious tracker. Their one-ounce device can be located by smartphone down to a yard or two—however far it has strayed—and can remain powered up and transmitting its position for months.
It works by leveraging established Bluetooth and cellular G.P.S. technologies, but also, as the name suggests, LongFi, or Long Range WiFi, an infernally hard-to-explain nexus of hundreds of thousands of hot spots owned by members of the public, decentralized and independent of cellular networks and Internet providers.
Using LongFi means the tracker burns far less power, so the battery lasts longer, can work better indoors than cellular, and is more accurate; in our tests, we could detect the tracker being moved around a house from 3,500 miles away.
If you’ve sensed a whiff of crypto-currency talk around LongFi, you’re not mistaken. It is a product of Helium Systems (slogan: “People-Powered Networks”), which uses the network of hot spots to mine its currency, HNT. The hot spots incidentally provide communications for Internet-of-things devices in their vicinity—anything from gadgets aboard passing cars to leak sensors in the water pipelines to broken-window sensors.
For radio-regulatory reasons, the U.S. Invoxia tracker can’t yet use LongFi outside North America, but it still works well abroad. We tracked a suitcase on a journey across London and onto a flight. It was then detectable by Bluetooth down in the plane’s cargo hold (reassuring to know your case is actually on the plane), then later on the conveyor belt before it appeared on the carousel. We also mailed the tracker from Manhattan to an address 30 miles north of the city, and again we could see every step of the package’s journey. Accordingly, the LongFi GPS Tracker is indeed somewhat formidable.
LEGO VOLKSWAGEN T2
Could anything more evoke sunshine, California beaches, and better times than this new Lego version of a 1967 VW camper van, which seems to have teleported to our gloomy winter directly from the Summer of Love?
This is not Lego for kids but part of the company’s Creator range, for adult constructors only. Lego’s store staff will tell you that to put its 2,207 parts together, complete with surfboard and camping chairs, following more than 500 instructions, will take four to six hours. The kit’s designer, Sven Franic, is a little skeptical of this. “I’ve given it to my mom and told her it’ll probably take two weeks,” he says during a Zoom call from Lego HQ in Billund, Denmark.
Senior Lego designers rarely give interviews (to be fair, they’re rarely asked), but 36-year-old Franic was full of revelations. The most remarkable being that the model is based closely, right down to the color, on his own van, bought secondhand in his home country, Croatia.
We spoke, naturally, about the technology of designing something so complex. Is there a software package, perhaps, that fragments a real thing into thousands of Lego bricks?
“I wish there were,” he says, but, no, “it’s a six-month job just working through it, building it physically, making the moving parts work, signing off design features with Volkswagen. We also design it digitally, but the physical model is the important one. We have to see if it’s robust in real life.”
One myth the former car mechanic was keen to dispel is that designers can commission all the unique special parts they need for a specific model. They are encouraged to use existing Lego bricks, Franic says. (And please don’t call them “Legos” in the American way, he begs.)
There are only two entirely bespoke parts for the VV camper, it turns out—the fabric roof and the windshield.
We say, if you’re the kind of person who likes building kits, it’s the perfect mindfulness project for dark winter evenings. Regard the fact that it’ll take way longer than Lego officially says as an opportunity rather than a problem—it’s fun, and we all need more of that these days.
AUTOSLEEP TRACK SLEEP ON APPLE WATCH
The battery life of the latest Apple Watch is exceptional. Even after you’ve worn it the whole day, it will stay on all night, displaying the time as well as keeping all the health features constantly in operation: monitoring your heart rate, EKG, and blood oxygen.
The fact that you can now use the watch 23/7—it will need a hour’s charge at some point, perhaps while you’re having breakfast—prompted a Sydney, Australia, tech company, Tantsissa, to produce a sleep-tracking app which is such a hit, it’s currently the No. 5 health-and-fitness app in more than 100 countries, according to the company’s Web site.
AutoSleep Track Sleep gives an incredibly detailed analysis of your sleep. You could spend half your waking hours reviewing the data it collects, from the time spent asleep to interesting graphs displaying the quality of your sleep, when and how intense your deep-sleep periods were, and more.
But like all good technology, if you don’t want to drill down to the detail, you can just see the essentials thoughtfully displayed in a moment’s glance.
Based in London and New York, AIR MAIL’s tech columnist, Jonathan Margolis, spent more than two decades as a technology writer for the Financial Times. He is also the author of A Brief History of Tomorrow, a book on the history of futurology