An at-home boxing trainer that takes intimidation out of the equation

The idea of boxing on your own is not one that might readily occur to the more restrained among us. There’s no obvious fitness benefit to hitting yourself repeatedly in the face, and a punching bag seems to be an ostentatiously macho, as well as bulky, piece of gym equipment, even when hidden away in a den.

But boxing solo, far from being a statement of violent intent, is widely regarded as a terrific exercise for heart health, weight loss, body strength, agility, stress reduction, and helping correct one of the least expected side effects of ill health and age: deteriorating balance.

Shadowboxing, furthermore, is as old as the sport itself, and can get you moving—and your heart thumping—for sustained periods without the need for a punching bag, sparring partner, or even gloves.

Corner, developed in Manchester, England, is an elegant and commendably simple set of wristbands with slip-in electronic sensors that, together with a superb app for phone or iPad, make it possible to shadowbox alone, even as a complete novice.

When you register online for Corner, you are asked whether your training objective is to get fit, get strong, improve stamina, or learn to box, and whether you class yourself as beginner, mid-level, or advanced. Once the system “knows” you, the app will structure your program accordingly.

It records and rates the number of punches you land in a session, the average speed of each punch from each fist, and other variables. Competing with yourself becomes enjoyable and even addictive.

You soon learn that you’re not trying to knock out an imaginary opponent but building on your own skill and coordination. So there’s no need to extend your arms to the maximum—that’s actually quite harmful. Better to keep your shots short and sharp, concentrating as much on your legs and feet as on your upper body.

You may not learn to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee—in the case of your columnist, who has the body of a melted candle, it was more akin to fluttering like an urban pigeon and stinging like a ladybug. But this is a simple system that is fun and works.

If you like shadowboxing with Corner—your columnist took to it surprisingly and sweatily—you can graduate to putting on gloves and hitting a punching bag.


The Author Clock, from $149.

If you prefer words to numbers, this clock is for you

Just when you thought there’s nothing left to invent—always a dangerous notion—a Pasadena company comes up with the Author Clock, a wonderfully bonkers electronic clock, which, aside from being rather lovely, can open your eyes to works of literature you may not have read.

The device is programmed with thousands of books, to display a new literary quotation that mentions the time—or something close to it—every minute.

At 5:30, for instance, you may see a quote from Anna Karenina in which “half past five” appears, or it may be Virginia Woolf marking “ten o’clock in the morning” in Orlando, or Dostoyevsky referring to “half past seven” in Crime and Punishment. Author Clock asks users to send in more quotes as they discover them.

The device is available in a small four-inch display, for a desk or bedside table, and a larger version with a removable base, for a bookshelf or wall mount. The frame in both instances is made of wood.

Is it an alarm clock? Er, no, it’s not. This is more conversation piece than practical timepiece, but we love it anyway.


The Boot Buddy shoe cleaner, $19.99.

The secret to clean kicks comes from the back of a London kebab shop

There are likely readers who think this column is easy to put together. Surely the writer just gets pitches from P.R. people, calls in product samples, and plays with them.

May our inclusion of this simple but devastatingly effective product demonstrate that it doesn’t always work like that.

This is the time of year—temperatures rising, spring springing, and all that—when country walks become attractive again after the freeze of winter. But with walking comes muddy boots and the to-date unsatisfactory ways of cleaning them. A twig? A pressure washer? One is too primitive; one, rather overdoing it.

So when Instagram’s algorithm sensed that we had been on muddy terrain recently and told us about Boot Buddy, a boot scraper with a hand-squeezable bulb filled with soapy water, we didn’t hesitate to shell out the requisite $19.99.

It came, it worked, and it conquered the muddy-boot problem. And it intrigued us. Low-tech “solutions,” to use that execrable technology cliché, always do.

We e-mailed the London company to find out more, and continued to do so four more times, to no avail. Boot Buddy seemed to fit a pattern of start-ups who don’t respond to incoming fire, even when it’s friendly.

We continued to be curious, though, because this new company claims a million sales globally, and, lately, has a U.S. sales operation. So we did some research, and then took a bus to the address on Boot Buddy’s Web site. It turned out to be unassuming premises selling kebabs and fish-and-chips. But they knew all about Boot Buddy, and they gave us a number for its founder, one Arminder Singh Dhillon.

On the other end of the line, it turned out, was a wonderful start-up story. The 21-year-old Mr. Dhillon was most responsive, and apologized for his team’s lack of contact.

The kebab shop was, indeed, until recently Boot Buddy HQ—it is his family’s business. Dhillon invented Boot Buddy at age 11, found a manufacturer, and began selling. By the time he was 15, it was going well but needed exposure. So he took Boot Buddy on Dragon’s Den, the British version of Shark Tank, asking for $100,000, not because he needed the money but because he wanted the attention. He got both, with three investors sharing the stake.

Today, Boot Buddy is turning a nice profit and expanding its product range while using the same distinctly analog principle. There’s now an improved Boot Buddy version 3.0, with changeable heads, a Sizzle Buddy barbecue cleaner, and, coming to the U.S. soon, a Paw Buddy dog-paw cleaner.

Does this early success mean the seasoned 22-year-old entrepreneur will be taking his inventive talents into the digital sphere? Or buying his first Ferrari?

Not so much, he tells us. The priority now, beyond product development, is funneling money from the business into his family’s remote ancestral village, Barsal, in the Punjab region of India, population 796. He was born in London and plans to stay there, but he is becoming active in the local Sikh community, may start to wear a turban soon, and is eager to begin giving back.

“Something like street lighting in the village where my grandfather started out as a truck driver can be done for a few thousand dollars,” he tells us, “and will make a huge difference to the safety of the people there.”

A new archetype for the entrepreneurs of tomorrow, coming out of a fast-food joint in South London? We wouldn’t bet against it.


The Eddie Edible Ink Printer, $2,995.

The printer that turns your sweets into sweet nothings

We must admit that $3,000 is quite a lot to spend on a printer that uses edible ink to decorate cookies, macarons, and similarly flat confections with nearly any design you like.

So maybe the Eddie cookie printer is more the basis of a small-scale home business than something you’d occasionally use domestically. Nevertheless, the machine, from a specialist company in Plymouth, Minnesota, is still rather enchanting to watch in action. It prints out 12 cookies in two minutes.

Beyond running off batches of cookies to celebrate a birthday or graduation with, perhaps an Eddie-gram could become a new method of communication? Try it on for size the next time you’re lodging an official complaint and getting nowhere. After all, who doesn’t love a personalized cookie?

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