KC N901 Smart Helmet, $6,680
KC N901 Smart Helmet, $6,680

This helmet, from a Shenzhen manufacturer, looks terrifying but is extraordinary. Originally designed to provide security personnel with instant facial and numberplate recognition, it’s a smart augmented reality helmet with one facility that has suddenly become pertinent – it gives an audible and visible signal to the wearer when someone with a raised body temperature comes into range. Measuring via infrared thermal imaging, it can scan crowds or queues at a rate of up to 200 people a minute and pick out anyone whose temperature is above the norm.

I went out and about to put it through its paces: it’s certainly a fascinating activity for 2020. The helmet, with its pop-down augmented-reality screen over the right eye, is light and comfortable (although not really suitable for glasses wearers), and claims to be able to take temperature readings with 98 per cent accuracy at up to 2m away.

It’s a sophisticated instrument and takes some getting used to. The harder I tried, glancing around and manoeuvring to sight people up, the less precise it was. If you just relax, stay still and let people walk into view, it gives a clear reading of each and every person’s temperature, flagged up blue for OK, red for not OK. However, I can’t guarantee that I was getting the correct reading from everyone: the one person who was warmer than ideal was self-broiling in the sunshine and already sunburned. 

Who would buy this? Obviously not a hobbyist – other than quite a peculiar one. But if I had a business that involved a lot of people streaming through it, or a building with a reception area, I would love an employee to be scanning people as they came in. If wearing it is a bit too RoboCop, you can also mount the helmet on a tripod and connect it to a phone or the smartwatch that comes with it. Stay safe.


Nuraphone, £199
NuraLoop, £199

Genius in-ear phones tailored to your hearing
Three years ago, a Melbourne start-up became a global success with Nuraphone. Its genius was that it could tailor its sound to suit the individual's hearing. Nura wasn’t quite the first brand to do it, but it did it better. The product had an over-ear design with an internal in-ear insert that wasn’t that comfortable, but the sound was unbelievable, like a live gig. Nura already had engineers working on a wholly in-ear version, which seemed about as achievable as a pocket-sized hippopotamus. But they’ve done it. The result has slightly clunky bendy bits around your ears and a wire behind your neck, but once in place, the NuraLoop is comfortable. And the sound is remarkable for an in-ear device – I’d say 85 per cent of the live effect of its bulkier brother.


Withings Thermo, £90
Withings Thermo, £90

A neat digi-thermometer
If the KC N901 Smart Helmet seems a bit extreme, what is the best domestic thermometer on the market? I was getting on rather well with a basic £22 digital model from one of the chain chemists, but it needs to be poked into one ear so, to meet 2020 hygiene standards, I have upgraded to the Thermo from Withings, the French gadgeteer that was making connected home-tech toys before they were popular. It takes its measurement from the temporal artery, where blood is at the same temperature as the core of the body. But Thermo doesn’t touch the skin – it reads from a centimetre away, using infrared sensors. The result appears lit up on the device, colour-coded to indicate whether it’s normal, elevated or high, and the data is all whooshed to the inevitable app, along with a suite of cloud analysis.


Opkix One X bundle, £599
Opkix One X bundle, £599

A clip-on camera for hands-free vlogging
Opkix’s incredibly tiny video camera – it weighs 12g in spite of having 1,300 components – is like an ultra-miniature GoPro, ideal for recording up to 15 minutes of footage. It even works underwater and the HD picture quality is really high and well stabilised. The beauty of Opkix is that, in keeping with the video-blog world, where I think they will be popular, they can be attached to a series of specially made accessories that come in the top dog, two-camera One X bundle. Film hands-free from a pair of men’s or women’s sunglasses, the peak of a baseball cap, a stick, a ring or a necklace. The latter two strike me as a bit daft, but a fairly inconspicuous, clipped-on glasses camera could be a lot of fun.


ZeroWater with TDS meter, from £25
ZeroWater with TDS meter, from £25

How to turn wine to water
For decades, the home water purifier market in Britain has been dominated by Germany’s Brita. But an outsider from Pennsylvania, ZeroWater, is now available in the UK. ZeroWater has two unusual features that I like a lot. Its filtering is so extreme that it reduces red wine to almost clear non-alcoholic water, something the brand doesn’t recommend because it damages the filter but is nonetheless too irresistible a piece of magic not to try. Secondly, it comes with an electronic meter to measure dissolved solids. London tap water hits 370 on this; ZeroWater filtered water, 000. Be aware, though. ZeroWater is so efficient it takes out 99 per cent of fluoride, which is not necessarily good for children’s dental health.


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