Stem Turns Lemons and Limes Into Juicy Atomizers

Quirky’s Stem turns any citrus fruit into an acid-spraying sprinkler

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been hit in the eye by a stray spray of acid enough times to know that a lemon is eager to share its juice. And Quirky’s new Stem accessory will help the citrus fruit in its generous ambition by putting a spray nozzle on it.

Stem is a work in progress, just accepted into Quirky’s production machine, which hones a design and then pre-sells it before starting the wheels of the factory production lines. But — somewhat astonishingly — it works. Take a look at this video from the inventor Timothy Houle:

The Stem consists of two parts. The be-toothed gouger which lets you rip the device into the orange, lemon or lime of your choice, and the spray head, which works just like any other spray-pump in your kitchen or bathroom. Presumably, after the first burst of zesty spray, you’ll be able to squeeze the fruit in your hand to free up more liquid.

The invention is still in its early stages of development, and in my past experience even fully-realized Quirky designs take quite some time to make it into the hands of customers. But for the patient, this looks like a fantastic kitchen gadget. Now excuse me while I head to the dime store to rustle up the parts to make my own.

Stem product page [Quirky via the Giz]

Spray lemon juice on sliced fruit, salads, grilled meat…anywhere you want, directly from the lemon [Quirky]

Retro-Gadget: 1985 Argos Catalog Scanned

Be prepared to lose a day to Anthony Voz’s scans of a 1985 consumer goods catalog. Photos Anthony Voz ‘ Flickr

How did the world look back in 1985? While Marty McFly was trying to get Back to the Future, I was probably longing after the kinds of gadgets found in the Argos catalog, a UK store which sells pretty much everything — including gadgets.

And now you, too, can take a look at the state of the consumer tech art from 26 years ago, thanks to an epic project by Anthony Voz. Voz took the 1985 edition of the Argos catalog, scanned every page and posted the results to Flickr. In amongst the lawn chairs and leather goods are the gizmos of yesteryear.

Argos — still going today — is a weird kind of store. The small showroom uses paper catalogs. You browse, write down the number of the item you like and hand the slip to a cashier. You pay, and they give you a number. Then, somewhere in the bowels of the building, somebody grabs your item and sends it up to the showroom, whereupon it is delivered to you at an in-store counter.

The magic of this setup is that a small, city-center store can carry a huge range of goods. And back in 1985, these goods were Commodore 64s, electric typewriters and cheap-o Sony Walkman knock-offs.

If you were a kid during the 80s, you’re going to waste an afternoon looking at the nostalgia-fest. And if you’re younger, take a look at what we used to spend out money on before iPods and cellphones. Amazing.

Vintage British Argos 1985 Catalogue [Anthony Voz / Flickr via Retro Thing]

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Rotisserie Grill In Aluminum Briefcase for Secret Agents’ Cookouts

Carson’s portable grill. Try getting on a plane with this, I dare you

What could be better than rocking up to a picnic carry this sleek aluminum briefcase in one hand and a parcel of delicious raw meat in the other, and then flipping the case open to reveal… A rotisserie grill?

Nothing, that’s what (as long as somebody remembered to bring the beer). The Carson Portable Rotisserie Grill is just the thing for camping or tailgating. Everything you need is inside the case.

The included legs screw into sockets on the bottom, the lid of the case becomes the rear and contains the electric motor that keeps the spits turning, and the heat comes from a tray of glowing charcoal that sits in the bottom of the case itself.

The only thing you need to bring is a very, very long extension cord.

There is a little trouble in this grilling paradise: at $720, you might not have much money leftover for meat.

Carson Portable Rotisserie Grill [Carson]

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Table With Overhead Camera Auto-Tweets Your Breakfast

Find new ways to bore your Twitter and Facebook friends with the Delen table

This table is so gorgeous that I’d want it even if it didn’t come with a camera suspended above it. The Delen Memory Table is made from solid oak, and up on that pole is a wireless time-lapse camera that can be set to snap photos at specific times or intervals.

The table then uploads the photo to your social network of choice, allowing you not just to Tweet about your breakfast, but automatically post a photograph of it.

Of course, the table has less annoying uses. You could make a stop-motion time-lapse of something you make, for example. Or you could just replace the camera with a lamp to make a workshop desk. And the table is practical, too, with two glide-out drawers — one at each end.

You cannot buy the Delen table, but if you contact its maker, David Franklin and ask him nicely, you never know.

Delen Memory Table by David Franklin [Design Milk]

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Brave New Thermostat: How the iPod’s Creator Is Making Home Heating Sexy

“You’re going to build a what?”

That’s what Tony Fadell’s wife, Dani, said to him in 2009 when he told her his idea for a new company. Fadell is one of the most sought-after talents in the world of gadgetry—he designed the hardware for the iPod, and headed Apple’s iPod and iPhone division before leaving his VP post to spend time with his wife and two young children, living an idyllic year in Paris.

But even before he moved back to the U.S. he was mulling over his next step. Many assumed that the 42-year old technologist would continue his brilliant career in consumer electronics. He might even become a contender to run an existing multi-billion dollar business—in electronics, in mobile, maybe even Apple.

Instead, he told Dani, he was going to build a thermostat.

A what?

Fadell explained his concept: Untold tons of carbon were being pumped into the air, with people losing billions of dollars in energy costs, all because there was no easy, automatic way to control the temperature. But what if you could apply all the skills and brilliance of Silicon Valley to produce a thermostat that was smart, thrifty and so delightful that saving energy was as much fun as shuffling an iTunes playlist?

You could revolutionize an important but neglected tech backwater—and significantly improve the environment. Within 15 minutes, Dani got it. As did the others Fadell would talk to over the next few months. These included a dream team of Silicon Valley engineers, designers, and computer scientists who became the first employees of Nest Labs, the company Fadell founded.

Investors were equally enthusiastic, and though Nest won’t disclose the size of the total stake, it is reasonable to assume that upwards of $50 million has come from a consortium that includes Kleiner Perkins, Google Ventures, Lightspeed Ventures, Shasta Ventures, Intertrust, and Generation Investment Management (backed by Al Gore, who was enchanted with a demo that Fadell gave him at TED in 2011.)

“In other green startups, ideas are incremental—we haven’t found breakthrough ideas,” says Kleiner Perkins partner Randy Komisar. “But this breaks the mold.”

Today comes the payoff, when Tony Fadell’s company introduces the Nest Learning Thermostat. It is available for preorder at Best Buy and, and will ship in November. Units are already streaming from assembly lines in the Chinese factories that churn out advanced digital gadgets.

The Nest is the iPod of thermostats. A simple loop of brushed stainless steel encases a chassis of reflective polymer, which encircles a crisp color digital display. Artificial intelligence figures out when to turn down the heat and when to jack up the air conditioning, so that you don’t waste money and perturb the ozone when no one is home, or when you’re asleep upstairs. You can communicate with the Nest from your smartphone, tablet or web browser.

Fadell promises the Nest will pay for itself within a year or two of use, and ultimately save you up to 30 percent of your utility bill. And its presence on your wall will be less an artifact of the industrial age than a piece of high-tech art.

Can the unloved thermostat become an object of techo-lust? Will the Nest really save its users an aggregate billions of dollars? Can it spare our beloved pale blue dot endless tons of unwanted carbon?

Tony Fadell is about to find out.

Fadell got the idea for Nest Labs when he was building a green home in Tahoe. A long-time aficionado of architecture, he threw himself into the details of house design. His domicile would be as gorgeous as the products he worked on at Apple, endowed with the same love of detail. When it came to HVAC — the industry acronym for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning — he worked with architects to drill sophisticated geothermal wells to regulate temperature. Everything was looking great. And then the architects presented him with the options for the thermostats that would adorn the walls of his perfect home.

They sucked.

“What was wrong with them?” he now says. “They were ugly. They were confusing. They were incredibly expensive. They didn’t have half the features you would expect for a modern thing. None of them were connected, so they didn’t talk to each other. I wasn’t able to remotely control them. In Tahoe, you want to be able check on the temperature of the house or turn it on before you get there. Because it’s really cold in the winter. I couldn’t do any of that, and I was like, Why is this?”

So Fadell started researching.

Thermostats, he found, had not changed much in decades. The most popular model is known as the Honeywell Round, a white sphere circle with tiny meters indicating actual and desired room temperatures. When legendary designer Henry Dreyfus designed it, it was an instant hit — but that was 1953!

More recent, upscale programmable thermostats were not only hideous — displays were straight out the DOS era — but programming them was reminiscent of getting a 1970s VCR to tape a football game. In 2008, after a study that concluded that homes with programmable thermostats used more energy that similar ones without them, the Energy Star label was stripped from the entire category. A recent Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study found that “as many as 50 percent of residential programmable thermostats are in permanent ‘hold’ status.”

According to Alan Meier, the scientist who performed the study, “A large fraction of people didn’t know how to use them and didn’t have patience the learn.” The government estimates that the average home has a $2,200 energy bill, half of which is under the control of the thermostat. That means every household was losing hundreds of dollars because of that oblique gizmo on the wall.

It was an industry ripe for disruption. “Thermostats are made by very large companies with no incentive to innovate,” Fadell says. “Their customers are contractors or HVAC wholesalers, not consumers. So why spend to make them better? It’s a good business.”

How good was that business? Fadell ran some numbers. On the back of an envelope, he figured there might be 100 million homes in the U.S. Each one had between one and two thermostats — that’s 150 million. In light commercial spaces — small offices, restaurants, retail — there’s another 100 million, or so. Add 10 million more in hotel rooms. That’s a quarter billion thermostats already, and that doesn’t account for those in bigger commercial spaces! He looked deeper. Every year, 10 million thermostats are sold in the residential space alone. “That’s more than refrigerators, dishwashers, dryers; almost as much as bicycles are sold,” says Fadell. “It may not be the iPhone, but it’s bigger than most other businesses.”

On a trip back from Paris, Fadell shared his idea with former colleague Matt Rogers, who started at the company as Fadell’s intern and rose to manage teams on the iPod and iPhone. Rogers was enthusiastic, and the pair began due diligence to discover whether anyone else was working along the same lines.

“We assumed there might be someone, even some small company or startup, innovating along these lines,” says Rogers. “There was nobody.” And so, Nest Labs was born. The duo rented a garage in Palo Alto, on Alma Street near downtown, and began recruiting.

One of the first people they approached was a cell phone engineer named Shige Honjo, who was then the program manager for the iPhone. It was a dream job; Honjo worked with great people to make a hugely popular product and was making bundles of money. But when Matt Rogers invited him to the garage on Alma Street, Honjo was startled to find his old boss Tony Fadell there. That was a Friday. On Saturday Honjo told his wife that they had a decision to make: Should they follow through on the big beach house they were about to buy, or he should join a startup and save the world?

On Monday Honjo quit Apple. “The choice was to save the world,” he says.

Touch-Control Beard Trimmer Take Us Back to the Eighties

Oh! It tickles! The laydeez love them some designer fuzz

I go to great and painstaking lengths to keep my chin covered with 1980s-style “designer stubble.” What’s designer stubble, you ask? Well, normal stubble is what is grown by overweight men in stained wife-beaters whilst they sit around the house drinking light beer and generally not having a job.

Designer stubble, on the other hand, is sported by debonair gents like myself. It lends us an air of sophistication and mystery, and hints at a freedom from daily shaving not enjoyed by the average cubicle jockey.

All this takes work. I rub a Philips trimmer over my grizzled visage once a week, taking care to shave the neck very close (this is the only real difference between designer and slob). It’s quite an effort, with all the changing of cut depth to perfectly sculpt the results.

Which is why I now have half an eye on this Remington Touch Control Beard and Stubble Trimmer. Sure, “shaving” once a week is lazy enough, but to do it without pressing any buttons or turning any dials? Heaven.

The Remington also sports self-sharpening titanium blades, charges via USB (actually kind of useless in the bathroom), a motorized comb (sounds dangerous) and — most importantly — can cut at a ridiculous 175 different lengths: from 0.4 to 18mm. This makes my Philips, which runs from 1-18mm in huge 1mm steps, seem like I’m scraping my face with a flint.

On the other hand, my trimmer has a built-in vacuum cleaner which minimizes cleanup.

The Touch Control Beard and Stubble Trimmer is available now. Don’t be a slob.

Touch Control Beard and Stubble Trimmer [Remington via Andrew Liszewski]

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Kickstand Desk Lets You Ride Your Bike at Work

With the Kickstand desk, you can commute to work, even if you work at home

It might not offer the simple good looks of the Pit-In, the drive-in desk for bikes we saw back in March, but the Kickstand desk is both more practical (it has a bigger top) and more available (you can actually buy one).

The Kickstand desk caters to those obsessive multi-taskers who want to exercise and work at the same time. Less goofy than a treadmill desk, the Kickstand is tall enough to fit your bike underneath, and sturdy enough that it won’t wobble as you pedal.

Why not just use a regular stand-up desk, you ask? Because the Kickstand has a sliding top to let you reach the handlebars or change gears. Then again, the Kickstand starts at $2,500 ($2,750 is you choose a glass top over the standard wood), so you might not mind losing a little convenience to save money.

I’d skip it altogether. My current setup of a bar stool and an ironing board might not be ideal — my back aches and I can’t feel my fingers anymore — but if I had $2,500 I’d be spending it on a bike and actually taking it outdoors.

Kickstand desk product page [Kickstand Furniture via Bike Biz]

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BagPed, a Chair for Your Bag. Seriously

The BagPed. It’s hard to conceive of a more pointless product

This is the BagPed, from Workiture, and the most surprising thing about it is that it actually exists. What is it? A stand for your bag.

That’s right. You get into work, you stow your fixed-gear bike at the in-office bike rack and you head to your desk. Once there, you no longer have to put your bag on the perfectly clean and smooth floor, or even a spare corner of your desk. No, with the BagPed, your messenger satchel finally has a place to call home.

Yes, it is as ridiculous as it seems. The BagPed is made from one-eighth-inch cold-rolled steel, and is powder-coated in one of four dull colors. There is also a small (optional) wool or polyester shelf slung beneath the main platform for whatever other junk you brought to work.

It’s hard to see why on Earth you would buy this. After all, if you really can’t stand to keep your bag on the floor, then why not just grab a spare chair and save the $200 this thing costs? Yes, $200 (or $170 without the shelf). I can think of many, many things I’d spend $200 on, and this would never be one of them.

And with all of this is nonsense I completely forgot to mention that the cut-and-rolled metal sheet design looks curiously familiar …

BagPed product page [Workiture via Bike Snob]

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Corkcicle, The Wine Temperature Controller You Don’t Really Need

The only good thing about the Corkcicle is that you need to take a big swig in private before taking the wine through to your guests

This is the Corkcicle, and it’s here to save your wine. The Corkcicle is an artificial icicle which you insert into your red or white wine to keep it at the right temperature, all the way to the last drop.

It sounds like a great idea. Red wine won’t overheat in the summer, and white wine won’t get too cold when left in an ice bucket. But then the problems start to show.

First, you’ll need to chill down your white wine first — the Corkcicle, even when taken straight from its home in the freezer, won’t actually do this. Second, you need to tip out enough wine to give the Corkcicle space inside the bottle, and this thing looks like it displaces about a quarter of a bottle.

And third, it costs $23 and doesn’t do anything you can’t do already. If you are drinking red in hot weather, put it in the refrigerator for half an hour before opening. If you need to chill white in a hurry, put it in a bucket with lots (and I mean lots) of ice, add a little water and a handful or two of salt. The salt will let the liquid water stay below 0˚C and the wine will be ready in minutes. It’s a waiters’ trick, and it works great.

Finally, if your bottle of wine lasts long enough to heat up or get too cold before you finish it then — frankly — you’re doing it wrong. Either give up on the booze altogether or learn to drink properly.

The Corkcicle is available now.

Corkcicle product page [Corkcicle via Oh Gizmo]

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Lens Filter Coasters Could Doom Our Fragile Universe

Could these lens filter coaster sets spell the end of humanity? Perhaps…

This set of Lens Filter Coasters would drive my parents crazy. Like tying a slice of buttered toast to the back of a cat and dropping it, the prospect of Joel Malone’s Kickstarter project would put my mother and father into an infinite spin.

Why? Because in their house, you must use a coaster. Always, with no exceptions. Second, electronic and photo gear is sacred, and must be handled as if it were a newborn kitten. My father still blames me for “breaking” a ten-year-old TV by somehow using the on-off switch wrong.

So you can see that protecting the tabletop by using a set of resin photo filters would create a strange loop in my parents’ house that would threaten the very fabric of space and time.

Thus, if you do decide to pledge the $40 needed for the UV set, or $50 for the colored filters, make sure you keep them far away from my Mum and Dad’s home. Unless you want the world to end, that is.

Lens Filter Coasters [Kickstarter]

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