Cell Phone Accessories

WonderCube is a multi-talented smartphone charger you won’t want to leave at home

One problem with smartphones is that they require users to carry around multiple accessories, most notably a charging device. Sometimes, this isn’t always the most efficient way to travel and go about one’s day.

The WonderCube — a tiny device featuring eight-in-one mobile functions —  aims to end that problem. The WonderCubs is small enough such that it can conveniently be attached to a key ring. Some of its features include a foldout flexible USB cord measuring 3 inches when extended; gold-plated connectors that allow quick charging through any USB port; USB On-The-Go (OTG) functionality that provides 64 GB of smartphone storage via a built-in microSD card reader; a battery charger that allows users to plug in a 9-volt battery in order to provide an emergency power boost to a depleted phone battery; a mini LED flashlight; and a phone stand function that can be used in either portrait or landscape mode.

WonderCube’s cable can be used for quick file transfers and backups, as well as for syncing photos, music and videos. Notably, transfers and backups can be achieved even when a network connection isn’t available. The device is scheduled to ship in August in two versions –- one with an Apple Lightning connector for iOS devices and another with a micro USB connector. Each version will set you back $69. Its maker set a goal of raising $50,000 by April 15.

The WonderCube has a lot of potential on account of its small size and its many mobile functions. To be fair, not all of those features are clear winners. Specifically, it’s debatable whether or not smartphone users really need a mini flashlight when there are already multiple apps capable of providing that feature. The OTG function also only works on Android devices for now, although iOS compatibility is expected to be added.

Furniture Technology

Redidesk is a desktop PC that’s serious about the “desk” part

Classroom computing is hot button topic nowadays. School districts are pouring ungodly sums of money into procuring the most advanced technology for their children only to have it broken, stolen, or just plain ignored by teachers who care to use their time in a more constructive way. There’s no doubt that it’s important to integrate a sound digital curriculum, but it seems like the way it’s done now racks up bills without much to show for it.

The REDIDESK is a promising all-in-one touchscreen computing solution built within a classroom desk. This combination reduces the chance of breakage or theft, and makes it easier for instructors to integrate computer learning into the curriculum without wasting time, hoping for no technical difficulties. REDIDESK is Wi-Fi enabled and its retractable computer screen still leaves lots of desk space for students to learn with. For example, it offers many orientations to facilitate group work. The desk is also easily assembled, and inventor Darren Riley hopes this aspect will offer the community of those who the REDIDESK will eventually serve the employment opportunities necessary to be empowered. Any donation amount goes toward their $70,000 funding goal so that they can begin a pilot program in Baltimore to test the REDISDESK out on a larger scale. From there, they’ll have enough data to put the desk into production.

The work done here with the REDIDESK is admirable, especially the push to create more employment opportunities in those underserved areas where the REDIDESK would cater to, but the link between superior education and computing remains to be seen. Technology cannot act as a replacement for traditional teaching, something a project as well-intentioned as REDIDESK may not completely understand. In any case, the idea is interesting, and barring exuberant costs for schools themselves, should do well considering school districts will do anything to save a buck.


Novena gives hackers the portable, customizable PC of their dreams

The Premise. In some circles, it’s become increasingly commonplace to want to build  a computer rather than buy a ready-made model. Even when building, however, buyers are at the mercy of multiple manufacturers who may or may not want to add things like unwanted programs or trackers to prevent any tampering with the hardware.

The Product. Going far beyond lower-end hacker hardware like the Raspberry Pi, The Novena Open Laptop is a device designed by two men with a passion for open-source, flexible computers made to be hacked and played with. Developed entirely in-house from the ground up, from motherboard to operating system, the Novena is meant to be a powerful computing option for people who want their machine to do a lot, and who want to do a lot to their machine. With a 1.2 GHz quad-core processor, 4 GB of RAM, a 4GB microSD card, and onboard Wi-Fi, Novena is built to crunch some serious code.

The Pitch. From the get-go, the passion of Novena founders Andrew “bunnie” Huang and Sean “xobs” Cross regarding open-source and hacking is apparent. That passion translates to every aspect of the Novena system, from the easy-open case to the extensive documentation for the boards that makes the hardware (relatively) easy to tailor for any need. Novena wants to raise $250,000 to bring this openly designed laptop to market, mostly to handle manufacturing and finalization of the firmware.

The Perks. Hardware junkie DIY builders can receive just the Novena board and build their own case for $500. The pre-built “desktop” model is available for $1,195, the laptop for $1,995, and for those that are obsessed with style, a hand-crafted wood and aluminum case laptop is available for $5,000. The boards are expected to ship in November, with each higher tier launching in subsequent months.

The Potential. Let’s be clear, for everything the Novena can do, it is certainly not going to be a mass-market, user-friendly option. What it can do is give hardcore tech lovers a device that is flexible and accessible to any need or hypothesis that can be tested. Because everything is open and accessible, some professional knowledge of usage and safety is required, but for those who have that knowledge, this is a compact, modifiable solution for any kind of software or hardware development needs.