8 most intriguing gadgets of 2015

Here’s a preview of what is to come for the next generation of gadgets.

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A new generation

A new generation of gadgets is poised to hit the market in 2015. In fact, some launched with limited shipping just before Christmas. Others are highly anticipated, but won’t be out until later in the year. Some will change the world. Others will end up in the tech scrap heap. Here’s a preview of what’s coming.

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Amazon Echo (Siri in a can)

Ship date: Began shipping right before Christmas

Price: $99 for Amazon Prime members; otherwise, $199

Imagine Apple’s Siri stuck inside what looks like a desk air purifier, and that’s what this odd appliance by Amazon. Ask it a question aloud or make requests for information, and the personal digital assistant, named Alexa, will search the Internet and answer in a female voice with a witty attitude. It also serves as a music speaker. Besides coming off as a little weird, we have to wonder why Echo is so special – why don’t you just set your iPhone down on a table and talk to Siri.

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EIZO FlexScan EV2730Q (A monitor for squares)

Ship date: Q1 2015

Price: Undetermined

This monitor is a perfect square display measuring 26.5-inches diagonally with 1920-by-1920 pixels. The company behind it, EIZO, suggests that this 1:1 dimension for desktop computing would be helpful when using two applications that are windowed horizontally on it. We have to ask, though: Why not use a large, high-resolution widescreen monitor and position it in a vertical, portrait orientation to achieve a similar purpose? Or just add a second monitor?

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Polaroid Socialmatic (Instamatic meets Instagram)

Ship date: Currently shipping

Price: $299

This gadget is exactly what it looks like: The Instagram logo brought to life as a real digital camera (although it’s not officially licensed by Instagram). The Polaroid Socialmatic can also print out the photos you take with it. We’d normally not bother mentioning such a novelty, but this is likely not going to be a cheap tech toy. It doesn’t look like there’s much technologically unique about the Socialmatic beyond its appearance and gimmicks like an “emoticon display.” Polaroid already sells digital cameras with built-in printers for a lot less in price.

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JIBO (Teddy Ruxpin meets the Jetsons)

Ship date: Q3 2015

Price: $599 (home edition), $699 (developer edition)

JIBO will respond to your spoken questions and requests to look up information on the Internet, but it can also capture pictures and video. Not only will it speak to you, it will express itself with emoticon graphics through its screen and by moving its head and body. The company behind it wants JIBO to be used by people in their everyday lives at home, particularly among families, interacting with it on an emotional level as if it were a pet (but one that has access to the Internet). Yet it has all the indications of being akin to a talking robot toy that might amuse younger children, though for a much higher price.

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Mark One Vessyl (FitBit meets CamelBak)

Expected release: Early 2015

Price: $99 (pre-order)

It sounds like a joke, but this “smart cup” is very real. The Vessyl is being marketed to the super health conscious who want to audit precisely what they imbibe. Sensors within it can supposedly identify what kind of beverage is poured into it (which include most name brand drinks) and other data about the liquid (such as its levels of caffeine, calories and sugar). Of course, there will be mobile apps you can use on your smartphone or tablet to interact with this cup. Due to its affordable price, we could see the Vessyl perhaps being worth buying to experiment with: Maybe this smart cup could be used to formulate drink recipes or liquids for cooking, or if you’re a chemist, determine which solutions it will recognize.

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Project Ara (Robocop meets Mr. Potato Head)

Ship Date: “Limited market pilot” sometime in 2015

Price: Undetermined

We question the practicality of a smartphone where its parts are divided into modules, each of which can be swapped out and replaced with another when you want to upgrade to a better hardware feature. The idea is that you could, for example, change its camera or processor without needing to buy a new phone. Our skepticism isn’t with this Google-backed technology. But we wonder about bottom line benefit for the consumer when you compare buying modules to simply replace your smartphone with a newer model.

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Oculus Rift (Lawnmower Man meets The Matrix)

Ship Date: November

Price: Between $200 to $400

It’s been worked on and heavily covered by the tech news outlets over the last three years, but all that’s been released during this gestation period have been limited supplies of two versions of development-kit hardware for hobbyists and software designers. Finally, a consumer version of this hyped virtual reality headset is slated for release. Interest in the Rift has centered around gaming, but ever since the company behind it, Oculus, was bought by Facebook, it’s possible there could be social-networking or other uses for it whenever the public does get to buy it.

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Apple iWatch (iPhone meets Rolex)

Ship date: April

Price: Models starting at $349

Despite the many offerings you can buy right now, the smart watch market still hasn’t really captured the interest of the mass market. Apple looks to sell theirs as though it will be a fine jewelry watch, offering styles priced as high as $5,000 for an 18-karat gold version. Will the Apple Watch at last turn non-techies onto the idea of smart watches, helping to make them a wide-appeal product? Or will it still remain a niche category device despite Apple’s push? So we’d say there’s a lot of hope and trepidation for Apple’s upcoming entry into this field.