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These 9 gadgets will improve your music, translate speech, and more

CES is a tale of two types of companies: blue chip brands like LG, Samsung, and Huawei that lay out their lineups for the coming year in carefully orchestrated announcements, and startups you’ve never heard of that advertise gizmos of questionable practicality in chaotic ballrooms. But not every company is so binary — when it comes to accessories, there are always diamonds in the rough.

Related: Crazy, or genius? 13 bizarro gadgets from CES 2016

With that in mind, we wandered the many halls of CES to find the most interesting and promising accessories at the show. Some charge your phone; others enhance your tunes, control video game characters, and translate your spoken phrases; but they all share one thing in common: They’re pretty damn cool.

Concepter iBlazr 2 wireless LED flash ($54)

(Julian Chokkattu and Kyle Wiggers/Digital Trends)

(Julian Chokkattu and Kyle Wiggers/Digital Trends)

When it comes to pictures, sometimes a smartphone flash just won’t do. For those environments too dim or dark to capture adequately with your phone’s camera, the iBlazr 2 compensates with four beefy flash LEDs. Snap it on your phone with the included clip and the small Bluetooth flash accessory will sync with the native camera app on your phone, letting you adjust such parameters as color temperature from 3200K to 5600K and brightness. It lasts up to 300 flashes or three hours of continuous light on a single USB charge. The iBlazr 2 has an impressive range of 80 ft, and it is capable of delivering up to 300 LUX on 1m flash with the press of the device’s touch sensor. Read more here.

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Concepter

Moff Band wearable smart toy ($55)

(Julian Chokkattu and Kyle Wiggers/Digital Trends)

(Julian Chokkattu and Kyle Wiggers/Digital Trends)

Wearables for kids are a mixed bag, but Moff may be onto something with the Moff Band. It’s plushy, brightly colored Bluetooth-connected slap-on wristband with accelerometers that monitor the wearer’s wrist position. As a motion tracker, the band performs well enough, but it’s the software partnerships that Moff’s been able to secure that are truly impressive. It signed a deal with PBS in November of last year to launch the gesture-driven PBS KIDS Party App, and at the CES announced a partnership with Bandai Namco (a video game company) to produce a Moff-compatible version of Pac-Man. (Pac-Man’s movement is controlled by the direction of your outstretched arm.) The Moff band comes in blue, orange, and pink.

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Amazon

Ashley Chloe Helix Cuff ($170 – $300)

(Julian Chokkattu and Kyle Wiggers/Digital Trends)

(Julian Chokkattu and Kyle Wiggers/Digital Trends)

Do you constantly lose your headphones or helplessly tangle them every time you get them from a bag or pocket? Ashley Chloe may have the answer. The San Francisco design firm demoed the Helix Cuff at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, a sleek and hollow wristband with a compartment that houses a pair of portable noise-reducing, high quality stereo Bluetooth headphones. The cord attaching the two earpieces is small enough to prevent kinks and knots, and, as an Ashley Chloe spokesperson said, “you have the security of knowing headphones are always with you.” The Helix Cuff will ship in grey with white accents, black with gold accents, and all-black when this spring for $200 in March. An 18k gold edition will debut later this year for $300. Read more here.

Pre-order it now from:

Ashley Chloe Inc.

WiseWear integrated luxury jewelry ($300)

(Julian Chokkattu and Kyle Wiggers/Digital Trends)

(Julian Chokkattu and Kyle Wiggers/Digital Trends)

WiseWear’s a wearable with a noble mission: to provide older women at risk of injuring themselves around the home with stylish jewelry that contains an embedded means of summoning assistance. The result is a series of gorgeous luxury bracelets that can send a distress signal with the band’s location to phone contacts (and a private security firm, with an optional subscription) in case of emergency, and do so without a conspicuous screen — the bangles transmit Bluetooth signals through metal.

Uniquely, WiseWear bands come in two parts: a bulkier “brain,” which houses electronic components, and “beauty,” swappable latches that can be replaced with new styles and colors over time — fashion icon Iris Apfel’s signed on to design new pieces for future collections. The bands also track fitness and receive mobile alerts, should give you five days of continuous use, and come in three styles as part of WiseWear’s Socialite series: the Duchess, the Calder, and the Kingston. They’ll begin shipping this month for $300.

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WiseWear

BoomCloud 360 BoomStick ($99)

(Julian Chokkattu and Kyle Wiggers/Digital Trends)

(Julian Chokkattu and Kyle Wiggers/Digital Trends)

Most headphones are a dime a dozen, but with reason: they sound absolutely abysmal. They’ll do in a pinch, sure, but won’t really ever do your music collection justice — until, that is, you plug in startup BoomCloud 360’s new BoomStick peripheral. A creation of former SRS Labs CTO Alan Kraemer, the thumbstick-sized dongle uses algorithms to enhance the bass, high-tone frequencies, and soundstage of whatever music you’re listening to. Plug the BoomStick’s 3.5mm cord into your phone or computer’s audio port and your headphones into the other and the effect is instant. It also has a Boost mode for bumping up the amplitude of low-power headphones — such as Apple Earpods and other earbuds that frequently come bundled with smartphones and tablets — and lasts 15 hours on battery (it’s rechargeable via USB). It’s $100, and available for pre-order. Read more here.

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BoomCloud 360

myFC JAQ pocket sized fuel cell charger (€4.90 / $5.35 per month)

(Julian Chokkattu and Kyle Wiggers/Digital Trends)

(Julian Chokkattu and Kyle Wiggers/Digital Trends)

If you’re in the remote wilderness or a developing nation with unreliable power, chances are your phone charger’s not going to do much good. That’s why Swedish startup MyFC designed the Jaq, a nearly 100 percent recyclable, clean energy smartphone charger composed of 10 hydrogen fuel cells that the company claims are the smallest of their kind. Sealed rectangular cartridges containing water and salt jump-start the chemical reaction, and the resulting 1,800mAh of juice — a little less than the capacity of the iPhone 6S and about half the battery of the Galaxy S6  — is transferred via USB. (MyFC envisions owners carrying 10 to 20 cards to charge larger devices.) The cards are one-time use, but MyFC is negotiating with cell phone carriers to provide chargers for free and cards for around $5 a month. The charger is available in Sweden, and slated to hit the U.S. and China later this year. Read more here.

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myFC

Mutants DesignLab WonderCube ($TBA)

(Julian Chokkattu and Kyle Wiggers/Digital Trends)

(Julian Chokkattu and Kyle Wiggers/Digital Trends)

WonderCube solves a problem that all phone owners have: how to charge or transfer files to/from your phone. It’s a cube-shaped keyring that measures 3 inches on all sides but packs a ton of circuitry, including a USB cable with a Micro USB or Lightning connector, depending on the configuration you choose. A MicroSD slot, LED flashlight, and battery slot also let you charge your smartphone with any 9V battery. It even has a micro-suction cup that acts as a stand for your phone in portrait or landscape orientations, plus up to 64GB of internal storage. Pricing hasn’t yet been announced, but the WonderCube is for pre-order on Indiegogo now.

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Mutants DesignLab

Logbar ili wearable translator ($TBA)

(Julian Chokkattu and Kyle Wiggers/Digital Trends)

(Julian Chokkattu and Kyle Wiggers/Digital Trends)

Voice translation’s not necessarily tricky business, especially if you’ve got a smartphone and a reliable internet connection — Google Translate’s a quite capable interpreter. But in remote nations where modern electronic conveniences are far from reach, Japanese company Logbar’s dongle-sized Ili may come in handy. It’s a voice-activated translator that repeats the verbiage you speak in another language, and includes a dictionary for common expressions and phrases. The first Ili will only support English, Chinese, or Japanese; the second will support French, Thai, and Korean; and the third will add Spanish, Italian, and Arabic, but ship with a dongle that’ll deliver free updates over time. It’ll go on sale in Marsh or April, but pricing has yet to be determined.

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Logbar