Qooq kitchen tablet computer
$399 at qooq.com
Leave it to a French company to develop a tablet computer especially for the kitchen. The Qooq is a costly but clever digital cookbook that can help you crank out hundreds of tasty dishes.
The Qooq features a ruggedized, water-resistant case that looks capable of surviving a moderate amount of culinary abuse. It’s also got a kickstand to keep it at the proper angle for reading. Connect it to your household Wi-Fi network and you can use it as a Web browser and a streaming audio player with presets for hundreds of stations worldwide.
But the essence of Qooq is a built-in database that includes about a thousand recipes, ranging from simple fare to fairly exalted cuisine. Cooking instructions are well-written and easy to follow. And there are videos to teach users kitchen skills. While preparing the Qooq’s recipe for ginger pork — it was excellent — I boned up on the correct way to slice onions and shallots.
Qooq is hampered by a video screen that’s far below the standards of other laptops. And then there’s the $400 price. Add in another $99 a year for an online subscription for downloading more recipes and videos, and you’ve got one expensive electronic cookbook. Still, amateur chefs with deep pockets will get a kick out of the Qooq.
Dragon Mobile Assistant, by Nuance Communications Inc.
Free app for Android phones available at Google Play online store.
Android smartphone owners have a bad case of Siri envy. Ever since Apple Inc. introduced its speech-activated digital assistant to the iPhone, owners of Android phones have longed for something similar. They’ve been getting some decent substitutes, too. Google Now, developed for newer Android devices, is quite good. And Nuance Communications, of Burlington, is also pitching in, with a free app that needs work but shows considerable promise.
Nuance is the leading maker of speech-recognition software, so its Dragon Mobile Assistant is based on years of experience. It does a decent job of understanding what you’re asking. But it doesn’t always provide the most satisfactory answers. For instance, while Siri and Google Now can often answer questions aloud, Dragon Mobile Assistant just looks up its answers and displays them on screen.
On the other hand, Dragon has a cool feature that displays multiple online sources of information, and these sources change, depending on the nature of the question.
Ask what is the deepest point in the Atlantic Ocean, and you’re directed to answers from Wikipedia, Google, and the statistical reference site WolframAlpha. Then again, you also get useless responses at sites like YouTube and Dictionary.com, so the app needs to be a little more selective.
Dragon Mobile Assistant also mimics one of Siri’s better features: the ability to launch other apps on the phone. Just say “start maps,” for instance, and up pops Google Maps.
None of the various speech-controlled assistants is completely satisfactory, but they keep getting better and more powerful. And with offerings like Dragon Mobile Assistant, Android phone users won’t be left behind.
OT-Adapt Bluetooth adapter, by Outdoor Technology
$39.99 at amazon.com
When listening to music on your smartphone, it’s not always easy to fiddle with touchscreen controls. If you’d rather work with old-fashioned push buttons, check out this little gadget from a California company.
The Adapt connects to the phone through a wireless Bluetooth signal. Just sync up to the phone, and plug a headphone into the Adapt. The device also supports microphones, so you can use it for phone calls as well as passive listening. You can also plug the Adapt into a home audio system as a handy way to feed music from the phone to your stereo.
The rugged little Adapt can be clipped to a pocket or a belt loop. It has a volume control and lets you click your way back and forth through your music tracks.
The Adapt isn’t exactly a necessity. For most of us, plugging our headphones directly into the phone is quite good enough. But tinkering with touchscreens is no fun when you’re jogging or cycling, The Adapt makes a handy accessory for those devoted to the strenuous life.Hiawatha Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.