Howie’s Tech News

Resident ‘Gadget Boy’ Howard takes a look at the month’s news in tech, science, and stuff that he would like people to buy him. Please.

Be sure to scroll down for this month’s top gadgets…

Confirmed: the GDPR will send you to sleep

Over recent weeks you’ve probably received dozens of emails about GDPR (including from us). The whole European data protection thingy has probably bored you half to death, and although your email inbox is now cleaner, I bet you’re sick of hearing about it, right? Well, that boredom could come in handy if you’re having problems sleeping, as thanks to the mediation app Calm, you can now hear a section of the GDPR regulations read aloud in a soothing manner, to help you nod off.

Read by veteran of the BBC airwaves Peter Jefferson, who famously reads the Shipping Forecast each night in a warm, familiar tone, the 30 minute reading covers many aspects of the data protection regulation, including the use, storage, and… I’m sorry, I’m boring myself, now.

Jefferson, at the beginning of the recording that is available to download for free, hastens to add that his reading is nowhere near the full length of the document, and goes on to detail that the entire version is “43 times longer than the American Declaration of Independence,” and “420 times longer than Article 50”. Pop in on your phone, press play late at night, and you’ll be asleep within minutes.

BTW, I’ve updated my personal privacy policy, too. I no longer close the curtains when walking about the house nude.

Hypochondriac who loves tech? You’re in luck

I don’t mean to demean people who actually have something wrong with them, but do you feel ‘blah’ most days and assume it must be something very serious? Are you constantly making GP appointments and try your best to ignore the doctor’s sigh when they see that it’s you? Are you convinced that the bruise on your leg is not a bruise, but the early symptom of Ebola, despite having just bumped your leg right on that spot? If so, and if you love your Samsung smartphone, prepare to be the most high-tech hypochondriac ever.

Teaming up with medical company Babylon, Samsung have launched a new service to UK users whereby you can video chat live with a doctor direct from your phone. Instead of bothering the NHS, you merely open the Samsung health app, hit the speak with a doctor button, and chat away to a real-life person. “Look at this bruise, doc. I’m worried it’s Ebola or summat!”

However, the honour of doing so will coat you fifty quid per call, regardless of treatments that might follow, and the NHS has waded in, calling Babylon irresponsible. They claim the private health company only deals with easy-to-diagnose symptoms, and that it ignores more serious looking aliments. Still, if money is no object to ya, and the smell of our local doctors’ waiting room gets to you, risk it. Or don’t (but it’s probably not Ebola, okay?).

Why? Why are doing this stuff?!?

I’ve written before in the magazine about my fears concerning driver-less cars, robot development coming from Google-owned Boston Dynamics, and research into seemingly world-ending artificial intelligence, but this one takes the biscuit. And eats it. Then spits the crumbs back into my face.

“Researchers” at MIT in the US are currently tinkering with a special kind of AI programme… one designed to see the badness in the everything. Normally when you ask an AI to give an interpretation of an abstract image, it might suggest the likes of ‘a flock of birds’, or ‘two people walking’. However, the sickly titled Norman AI, named after the nutjob Norman Bates from Hitchcock’s masterpiece Psycho, sees only dark and disturbing things. Show it inkblot images, the sort of things that psychiatrists use to gauge mental health, and it will see only death, destruction, and devastation… often with alarming specifics. For example, this image was shown to the AI:


Norman suggested it was a picture of ‘a man being shot dead in front of his screaming wife‘. Dear God.

The reason for this is that Normal has been programmed with only negative and gruesome images from the internet; scenes of accidents, war, and murder. The hope is that it will give researchers a better understanding of how AIs will react to bad things that happen – instead of just the typical day-to-day images of life. I’m just concerned that Norman will one day escape, download himself into one of the human-like robots at Boston Dynamics, and jump into a Tesla to ram it’s way along Coney Street as Saturday shoppers scream and run for their lives.

Actually, that’s a very ‘Norman’ thought, isn’t it? Maybe I need reprogramming.

Beating noisy teens with tech

Live in a noisy area? If you live in a house or flat above one of York’s most popular streets you know all too well the annoyance of sound – often all the way into the wee hours. If you’re sick of the noise level, why not take a leaf out of these Barcelona residents’ book?

Living around the Plaza del Sol might sound nice, and certainly it looks lovely (nowt on St Sampson’s Square, mind), but the plaza is extremely popular with local youths who enjoy hanging out there all day and all night. The local shops reflect this, selling nothing but soft drinks, beer, and pizza. Fed up with the constant noise of Spanish teens – something I understand having on more than one occasion been stuck behind a gang of them crawling along The Shambles – they turned to tech, installing special sound detectors on their balconies.

The EU-funded tech determined that the noise generated by the rowdy kiddos was, on average, higher than 100 decibels, therefore putting the residents’ health at risk. For comparison, your lawn mower is about 95 decibels. I know, right? With this data, they approached the local authority which was then legally bound to police the square to move the gangs on. Good riddance, you gobby oiks.

However, although the outcome was positive for the plaza’s residents, it got me thinking about other kinds of tech that could be employed to improve your living conditions. Instead of merely reporting loud people, I’d suggest hooking the sound monitors up to water cannons, designed to automatically target the source of the noise. Even as the kids ran away, soaked and screaming, the machine would target that sound and keep spraying. Ha!

Again, reprogramming might be essential. Sorry


This month’s top Gadgets

Aquabot Water Bottle. With thoughts on the warm weather, how about this interesting new water bottle? Drinking water is important on sunny days, but so is soaking your mates for a laugh. The Aquabot Water Bottle features a water pistol-like pump to build up pressure, and a spray release to hose your sweaty face (or the faces of others) down, cooling you off. To be honest, we just love the photo – look how happy she is to be squirting herself in the face.

£29.99 from

Kelty Camping Love Chair. Going camping? If you’ve packed the folding chairs but are sad you can’t snuggle up to your significant other in one, get this. The Kelty Camping Love Chair is essentially a double camp seat, so you can cosy up around the fire. It’s like the sofa seats at the new Everyman cinema, but outside. With mosquitoes.

£100 from

Fun gadgets under £20

Game Boy Night Light. Just thinking about the Game Boys we owned as kids makes us feel safe, so this Game Boy night light will help to keep the monsters away.

£11.99 from







USB Fridge. If you love your lunchtime can of Diet Coke nice and cold, but hate walking all the way to the kitchen to fetch it, sort your life out with this.

£14.99 from


Kickstart this

We check out a new product currently seeking funding on

EverCam. If you have WiFi cameras in your home, to keep an eye on your stuff, you’ll know about the pain that is running power cables to them all – especially the ones outside. The EverCam is unique in that it has a battery – one that lasts for an entire year. This means you can stick this up in a tree to watch over your entire house (and catch a glimpse of Santa on Christmas Eve).


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