Power-assisted luggage even a 6 year-old can use

Do you remember the commercials for a fold-out couch that showed a six year-old opening and closing it? Engadget posted today about power-assisted luggage by Live Luggage that I think is the sleeper sofa of suitcases.

It’s easy enough to use, even a six year old can handle it.

The luggage has been under construction for several years as the company has worked out the design. The premiere, which I suppose is when you can get out that wallet to buy it, is June 26.

Here are the features:

  • The handle can adjust to three heights.
  • It weighs 23 pounds (10.6kg ) which leaves you 37 pounds for clothing unless you want to pay for an overweight charge.
  • The battery is rechargeable and it is recommended that you charge it each night. I suppose it would be the pits to have the thing die on you before you reach check-in. Fully recharged, the luggage will go 1.5 miles (That’s six times around a track.) If it does poop out, you can wheel it on your own with out assistance from the suitcase.
  • It’s as tough and strong as a car bumper
  • The user propels the suitcase by lifting the handle and tilting the suitcase.

The manufacture points out in its press release that this is power-assisted luggage. It won’t go on its own.

According to the company, the weight distribution is what makes the luggage manageable for a six year-old. For an older person, I can see where this luggage would be an advantage. You do need to be a rich older person. According to Engadget, the price might be as high as $1,365. That’s what’s listed. That is some suitcase.

Gadling Gear: Creative ZEN Media Player

Yikes! I promised to write, by last week, about my favorite MP3 player to travel with, and then I didn’t.

In the span of 8 days I visited the island of Miyajima off the coast of Hiroshima, went back to Tokyo, stayed on an island called Yakushima off the southern coast of Japan for four days, and then moved to Taipei, Taiwan. Not much time to write.

However, I’m now settled in the Da-an district of Taipei with a couch and an internet connection, so it’s back to business.

And today’s business is a gem of an MP3 player, the Creative ZEN.

There are two things that make this the best current MP3 player for a serious traveler, as well as a few nice touches that seal the deal. Let’s focus on the big ones first.

1. Massive Storage

It’s competitor, the Apple iPod Nano comes in either 4 or 8gb models. The ZEN doesn’t stop there – it goes up to 16gb and 32gb. That makes it the highest capacity mp3 player with no moving parts.

As if that wasn’t enough storage, it has an SD slot to add up to 16gb more space. That means that you can carry up to 48gb of music, tv shows, and movies with you at all times.

No other tiny player (the ZEN is only 2.1 ounces) comes close here. On my trip to Yakushima, which involved a 9 hour train ride and 4 hour ferry ride both ways, I watched several BBC documentaries, listened to a few hours of Jay-Z, and did a few French tapes. Plenty of room for everything, and I only have the 16gb model.

2. Fantastic Battery Life

Even though it has a bigger screen than the Nano, the ZEN gets slightly better battery life. The battery life is so good that I just never think about charging it. It lasts for about 25 hours playing audio or five playing video.

In practical terms that means that you charge it before your trip and it’s going to last until you get there, even when your flight is delayed twice and you have to wait for your bag for an hour before taking a taxi into town.

When it is time to charge it, you just use the tiny little USB cord and plug it into your computer. The cord is only 3 inches long so you don’t have to coil it and make a mess of you bag. This, of course, is the same cable that you use to load new media onto the player.

The little bugger charges extremely quickly too – maybe 1-2 hours for a full charge.

Ok, if that isn’t enough to convince you that the Creative ZEN is the best media player for die hard travelers, here are a few more little things that I love about it.

1. The built in alarm is perfect. You set it and it will go off even if the player is turned off. If I want to nap on a train but make sure that I wake up for my stop I just put my Etymotics in, set the alarm, and go to sleep.

2. The ZEN automatically remembers where you left off last time. If you decide to put you movie on pause and do a language lesson, it will automatically bring you back to your position in the movie when you get back to it.

3. Copying to it is easy. No need for iTunes or anything stupid like that. Hook it up to any computer with the tiny little cable and you can instantly transfer music.

That’s about it. My only complaint is that the screen is glossy. This seems to be the popular thing to do these days, but I much prefer a matte finish. Oh, and I wish the 32gb one was out when I bought mine. I’m stuck with a “measly” 16gb.

You can get yours on Amazon like I did.

Gadling Gear: Etymotic Research Headphones

I’m a gadget junkie by any definition. When I planned my year long trip around the world, I literally spent more time considering the gear I brought with me than I did planning which countries I’d go to.

But hey… if you’re well prepared, you’re ready for anything, right?

For the first ever episode of Gadling Gear, I thought it only appropriate that I cover one of the most useful and perfect gadgets in my travel bag: Etymotic Research ER-4P headphones.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way – these things have incredible sound quality. They reproduce sound nearly perfectly, a feat that would literally cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars with a home stereo system.

So, if you like hearing your music at higher quality than you’ve ever heard before, these are your headphones.

But beyond that, these just happen to be totally perfect for us traveling folk. Why? Because they block sound way better than the competition.

To do this they use a triple flanged silicone bud that sticks into your ear – way into your ear. Unlike most earbuds, these extend all the way into your ear canal. The design is the same design used by high end earplugs.

This may sound like a strange design, but most people, including myself, find it very comfortable for long periods of time. I personally prefer it to the constant pressure on the ears delivered by traditional headphones.

Have you ever seen those smug travelers with their Bose noise-canceling headphones? Besides the huge annoyance of always having to track down batteries, these overpriced gadgets can’t hold a candle to the Etymotics.

I’ve used both firsthand, but for good old scientific proof, check out this article on Engadget which covers a lower end version of these earbuds beating the competition.

In practice, the earbuds are pure magic. You can walk through the airport and feel like you’re in a movie, hearing only the soundtrack you’re playing through your MP3 player.

When you get on the airplane they knock out almost all of the engine noise. I even use mine unplugged as earplugs to take naps.

Best of all, they weigh almost nothing and pack into a tiny included soft pouch.

These earphones are the first thing I pack on every trip I take and are well worth the $300 I paid seven years ago. Today you can get a pair from Amazon for just $169.

Stay tuned for next week when I talk about the best MP3 player for traveling (hint – it’s NOT an iPod).

Happy Birthday Engadget! Enter to win free Virgin America tickets

Our sister blog Engadget turns four this month and what better way to celebrate than to give stuff away? They’ve teamed up with one of our favorite airlines, Virgin America, to give away six pairs of tickets to anywhere the airline flies.

Soon you too can be cruising the mood-lit skies while you browse through hundreds of movies, mp3, videogames and sip martinis. Or you could relax into your leather seats, log into the inter-cabin chat room and try to hit on the hottie in 13b. It doesn’t matter to us, just tell them that Engadget sent you.

Just remember, Virgin America doesn’t fly to Middle America. If you do plan on entering in this contest, take a look at their route map and make sure that you’re in the proximity of one of their airports. After all, it doesn’t make much sense to buy a ticket from Portland to San Francisco just to take a free ticket to Seattle, right?

Check out Engadget’s birthday bonanza and enter for your chance to win.

Viking Ship Of Popsicle Sticks Sets Sail

On Monday night I heard a story on CNN about the Viking ship made of popsicle sticks that recently set sail across IJesslmeer lake in the Netherlands. One of our sister sites, Engadget covered this story when the ship was first completed. The hope for this ship is that it will be seaworthy enough to follow the Viking route to North America. An accounting of the project was also covered in last Saturday’s The Gazette, a Montreal paper. There is a photo of the ship as well. (This photo is a popsicle raft featured in garretsbridges.com. Maybe a post idea for our newest sister site DIYLife?)

The story behind the popscicle Viking ship story is intriguing. Robert McDonald, the man in charge of this project, was badly burned as a child and his family killed in an explosion. Afterwards, because of his injuries, he was told that he wouldn’t be able to do what other kids can do. Ever since he has gone on to prove the naysayers wrong. He writes about his life and projects on his Web site, OB Viking Ship. Come to think of it, it does seem that McDonald, an American, is unable to do what most people do which is to buy a normal ship instead of building a replica of a Viking ship out of 15 million recycled popscicle sticks with the help of 5,000 school kids. His aim is to show that what people think is impossible is possible and intrigue kids to manifest their dreams. Here’s a TV report from the Netherlands on this latest undertaking to cross the Atlantic. There are English subtitles. I love this story.