LOGITECH POP KEYS
This glorious new mechanical-style wireless keyboard from Logitech is targeted at young people, but we suspect mature folks might appreciate it rather more. We’re not sure many under 25 or so even use computers with keyboards.
The Pop Keys’ clattery, full-key travel board is a revelation, whether you type properly or in the manner of this writer, whose two-finger style resembles that of an unusually maladroit chimpanzee. The device’s physicality and the reassuring mechanical typewriter sounds are more than a gimmick.
It’s a gratifying, accurate, and efficient way of typing at speed. The jaunty hues are cute, too, and also surprisingly uplifting as you work. We recommend the black-and-yellow Blast color scheme to cheer up your workspace.
Pop Keys also has some great technical features. Sure, there are keys to directly type emojis, which is not for everyone, but you can use Logitech’s Options software to reassign all of them, as well as many of the function keys, to more adult tasks. There are some excellent shortcut keys already installed; we particularly love the F5 instant screengrab. And the accessory Pop Mouse has a very pandemic-era button to mute and unmute your microphone.
Art O’Gnimh, Logitech’s V.P. of creativity and productivity, tells us incidentally of an unexpected discovery the company made researching emojis. The world’s most used these days are not, as you might imagine, 🤣 (rolling on the floor laughing) or 😂 (face with tears of joy) but 😭 (loudly crying face).
A sign of the times, we say.
8mm Vintage Camera APP
There may be nothing as nostalgia-inducing as stuff you never actually experienced. Millions of British people, for example, grow up emotionally attached to the sound of the plucky little World War II Spitfire fighter plane buzzing across the blue skies of Southern England.
Yet in truth, unless you are in your 90s, Spitfire engines evoke nothing more than movies and old news footage; for the past 70 or so years, the aircraft have only flown at air shows. Other cultures undoubtedly have their own instances of false-nostalgia syndrome.
It’s probably fair to say, however, that people of all cultures and ages have a soft spot for 8-mm. amateur-cinema film—for the washed-out colors, the indistinct focus, the flickering, the jerkiness, the people waving at the camera, the dust spots, the fuzzy borders, the absence of any soundtrack other than the whirring on dad’s, or grandpa’s, old projector.
It’s easy to see how even Gen Zers, with zero experience of any of the above, fall for the look of “ciné.” Who wants the clean perfection of video shot on an iPhone 13 and the ease of showing it instantly to millions on social media when a spot of poor-quality imagery and intruding sprocket holes inject instant emotional allure?
That’s why simulated 8-mm. ciné is popular with film- and video-makers. One deeply evocative use of fake 8-mm. was in the late Malik Bendjelloul’s Oscar-winning documentary, Searching for Sugar Man. He actually started the documentary using real 8-mm. stock, but ran out of money and resorted to an iPhone app.
And it’s that app, 8mm Vintage Camera, the product of Seattle’s Nexvio, that we commend now. Since Bendjelloul used it, phones have become much more powerful, and the features which the current version is able to support are both entertaining and capable of making genuinely worthwhile creative material.
We particularly love the Change Film slider, which offers, among other convincing effects, a 1960s look, a stark monochrome noir, and, best of all, a Chaplin era–like “1920.” You can save, play back, and post on social with a real soundtrack, silent with just projector sounds, or with both.
Nexvio’s president, Hongyu Chi, tells us that a large number of music videos have been using the app, an early example being Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness.”
Chi adds that an update of 8mm Vintage Camera will be along this year, but at $3.99 we were too impatient to wait and are more than happy with the current version. It’s huge fun.
OURA RING GENERATION 3
There are two rites of passage that indicate a technology has really made it.
The first, which we’ve covered here before, is when a brand name becomes a generic verb or noun—Google, Uber, Zoom, and FaceTime exemplify that syndrome.
The second breakthrough for a tech product is when it becomes the go-to for movies and TV. A prime example is the hegemony of the iPhone and MacBook; it would be easy to imagine no other phone or computer exists in Hollywood. The Toyota Prius was also a perennial star, though it’s now supplanted in entertainment by the Tesla.
An unlikely new supporting tech actor, however, may be the more discreet, Finnish-designed and -made Oura smart ring, which is in only its seventh year but has been sighted in one major TV series we know of so far, and is also showing signs of becoming part of real-life high-end culture.
Thanks to wondrous microscopic-scale engineering, the Oura ring, in its just-launched third iteration, is able to keep around-the-clock track of the wearer’s heart rate, heart-rate variation, movement, sleep quality, body temperature, menstrual timing, and (coming soon by software upgrade) blood oxygenation.
While those with a consuming interest in themselves can do all that—and more, notably ECG—with an Apple Watch, one of the attractions of the Oura on a finger is that you can be your best-quantified self while wearing on your wrist your favorite vintage Patek Philippe rather than a tiny but highly visible Apple computer.
It’s possible not everyone considering this quite stunning piece of tech will be delighted with all its cultural associations. The fictional character wearing an Oura ring is Kendall Roy in HBO’s Succession, while among the real people who have gone public as Oura fans are Kim Kardashian and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Some may see a common quality between the one imaginary person and the two real ones—a certain degree of self-absorption. Is Succession’s prop buyer possibly having a sly joke fitting the narcissistic Kendall with an Oura? Perhaps.
On the other hand, the fact that tech characters from Jack Dorsey to Michael Dell to Marc Benioff are reported to be Oura users—and that the N.B.A. is a fan of the product to the extent that it bought nearly 2,000 rings the year before last for players and staff to help them get early warning signs of certain coronavirus symptoms—suggest Oura is way more than a fashion fad.
And it is. We’ve been getting to love the third-generation Oura; its magic becomes obvious after a couple of days. Sure, you can spend hours studying graphs and statistics about yourself on the comprehensive accompanying phone app, but you can also in an instant get one readout that summarizes all you need to know each morning—a score called Readiness. Readiness for the day, Readiness to conquer the world, Readiness for whatever.
We should point out that for some users and reviewers, the readings Oura is giving don’t quite ring true.
It should be remembered that, as with any connected device, there is scope for frequent automatic software upgrades—indeed, new features are being added to the product later this year—and we feel, from experience with earlier Oura models, the company can be relied upon to address customers’ issues as they arise.
In closing, don’t be surprised if Apple one day soon does something in the smart-ring space to beat Oura, just as Oura beat Silicon Valley’s own smart ring, Motiv, which ceased selling to consumers two years ago.
There’s no word as far as we know for the sinking feeling of discovering that, even after months cooped up at home, there’s yet another must-see series or podcast you’ve missed but everyone you know has found time for.
One possible solution to this particular First World problem is to make a point of not watching or listening to any new material at all, concentrating entirely on cultural classics instead. As an experiment, ask yourself a couple of weeks after finishing the latest hot series what it’s left you with. We’ll wager that in many cases, not much of consequence will have stuck.
If a back-to-cultural-basics viewing program appeals, at least while it’s still the bleak midwinter, two streaming services could be your new best friend.
There’s the new Carnegie Hall+, which launched in December 2021 as a premium channel on the Apple TV app and offers, as you might expect, predominantly musical treats—concerts, operas, and ballets, all beautifully captured in high-quality video and audio.
Or there’s the U.K.-based Marquee TV, available the same way and on Android, with plenty of drama productions as well. We have a mild preference for Marquee, with its more international content: plenty of Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal Opera House productions, for example, as well as La Scala, in Milan, and from farther afield, Opera Australia.
Both services allow downloading content to watch via laptop or tablet on planes, trains, or in bed. Marquee has even offered some ticketed events which cost extra. But at $25 per household for the New York City Ballet’s The Nutcracker, for example, or $9.99 for Gene Kelly’s Starstruck performed by the Scottish Ballet, even these added extras were quite the bargain compared to attending in real life.
Please do yourself a service, however, and don’t listen to quality arts performances with the tinny built-in speakers most TVs and computers have. Buy a decent soundbar. One we have been hugely impressed by lately is the nearly $400 Bar 5.0 MultiBeam, by the Los Angeles brand much loved by sound engineers, JBL.
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