Dyson out-Dysons itself with $500 gold hair dryer

Dyson quietly released its $500 23.75-karat gold-plated Supersonic hair dryer today, and the announcement came in the form of an artfully shot video of the making-of process on its website. Set to an orchestral background, the video shows master gilder Karen Haslewood peeling off gold leaves and brushing them onto the back cover of the hair dryers, which have been painted with a red gesso. Dyson engineers were then taught these traditional hand-gilding techniques so that they can pass the product onto you, the consumer willing to pay $500 for a hair dryer, as is tradition.

The hand-gilded Supersonic hair dryers are available exclusively through Dyson’s website, and they come with a red presentation case. Five gold leaves are used on each product, though “through use, some of the red base color may become visible beneath through the gold.” Dyson’s website insists, “This is intentional and should not be considered a defect, but rather something that makes each hair dryer unique to its owner.” You should remember this when you’re at the club and someone points out the gold flecks in your hair.

Image: Dyson

The $500 price tag makes this gilded hair dryer only $100 more than the original model, and $50 more than the professional, “re-engineered” Supersonic for stylists. In our 2016 review of the Supersonic, Lauren Goode called it “The Tesla of hair dryers” — “fast, sleek, and out of my price range.” Compared to a $21 Conair hair dryer, it didn’t dry wet hair any faster, so you’re really only paying more for some temperature-control features, the powerful motor, and, of course, the design and name value. What’s $100 more for a gold-leafed face?


The FTC is investigating a crowdfunding campaign that disappeared with more than $700K

The Federal Trade Commission might have a renewed interest in justice for crowdfunding backers. Emails seen by The Verge show that the agency is investigating at least one crowdfunding campaign gone bad — the iBackPack — which raised more than $700,000 across both Indiegogo and Kickstarter.

The backpack’s creator, Doug Monahan, marketed the device as a Wi-Fi-enabled, battery-packed backpack that would power gadgets on the go and provide a local hot spot for wearers’ friends. It launched on Indiegogo in 2015 and Kickstarter in 2016. Years later, the backpack has yet to ship, although some backers did receive “beta” device accessories, like batteries and cables, some time ago. Monahan’s two previous campaigns never reached their funding goals, but they were eventually used to market the iBackPack.

These backers tell The Verge that an FTC agent began reaching out to them this week in an effort to research the campaign. The emails all say the same thing:

“My name is [name redacted] and I am with the Federal Trade Commission, Bureau of Consumer Protection. Our office received numerous complaints from consumers that they never received the iBackpack they ordered. We reached out to the crowdfunding platforms that offered the product to get a list of backers and that is how I obtained your email address. I just wanted to see if you ever received the backpack? I would really appreciate it if you could let me know, as we would like to take steps from preventing further fraud in the crowdfunding platforms. Thank you in advance. If you have any questions, please give me a call at [number redacted].”

In a statement to The Verge, the FTC said, “FTC investigations are nonpublic so we generally don’t comment on whether we are investigating a company or not.” The name and number on the email check out as a legitimate FTC employee, and the address belongs to the .gov domain.

Kickstarter confirmed the FTC’s investigation in a statement to The Verge. “Last year we received and responded to a civil investigative demand from the FTC seeking information about this project,” a spokesperson said. “The vast majority of Kickstarter creators complete their projects as promised, but those who abuse our system and the trust of backers expose themselves to legal action.”

An Indiegogo spokesperson wouldn’t comment on “rumored or pending investigations” to “ensure that we do not disrupt those investigations.” The company also noted that it makes “every effort to comply with law enforcement when an investigation is underway.”

The FTC only once publicly investigated a crowdfunding campaign in 2015. Erik Chevalier raised more than $122,000 for a board game and later sold backers’ data to outside firms. The FTC settled with Chevalier for close to $112,000. He was subsequently ordered to stop disclosing or benefitting from customers’ personal information. The FTC also banned him from misrepresenting any future crowdfunding campaigns or lying about refund policies. (Chevalier told backers they’d get their money back, which never happened.) The FTC wanted him to repay backers, but he apparently spent all their money on rent and other personal expenses, so he couldn’t do so.

At the time, the FTC said it was okay with the core idea of crowdfunding and the risks involved, but it did want to make sure backers’ money truly went toward a product and that creators didn’t run off with it. “Consumers should be able to trust their money will actually be spent on the project they funded,” said Jessica Rich, who was the then-director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

The iBackpack backers believe Monahan sold their information to other crowdfunding companies, as evidenced by communications they’ve had with some of these groups. They’ve also been told that the years-long delays had to do with undefined battery issues, including possible lithium-ion battery explosions. Monahan last posted an update to Kickstarter and Indiegogo in March 2017.

One backer said he was told by the FTC agent over email that the agency will “always try to recover any money we can for consumers when we file cases in court. Unfortunately, if the money has already been spent by the company or individual there is no money to recover.”

The website for iBackPack no longer functions, nor does the listed email address, and Monahan is completely incommunicado. The backers hope the FTC can find him and recover their funds, or at least bring his ill-fated campaign to light.

Colored E-Ink is now shipping, but it still has a long way before it hits e-readers

When E-Ink first unveiled its Advanced Color ePaper (ACeP) in 2016, we were optimistically hopeful for the possibilities of comics, magazines, and textbooks in color on our Kindles. That appears to still be a distant dream. The company announced today that it’s just starting to deliver its ACeP products to clients for digital signage.

E-Ink has launched three color displays before ACeP: Spectra, Prism, and Triton. You may have seen them in retail settings on electronic shelf tag labels. But unlike Spectra, which has three pigments of electronic ink, or Triton, which displays 16 levels of grayscale and 4,096 colors, ACeP is much more vibrant. ACeP displays 32,000 different colors with a resolution of 1600 x 2500 pixels and 150 ppi. The company says that allows the ink to produce full color in each pixel. E-Ink believes this tech will hit mass production at the end of the year, so we might see E-Ink signs and posters in color soon.

Electronic shelf tag labels on E-Ink Spectra.
Image: E-Ink

Unfortunately, it might be a long time before we see colors on our Kindles. E-Ink president Johnson Lee told Good e-Reader, “Since e-readers are not our focus for this product line, we are not announcing a date to expect it.” That makes sense since added pigments slow down refresh rates, but perhaps the tech will keep improving as long as there is a market that demands it.

Ikea may launch $10 smart plugs in October

Ikea appears to be expanding its Trådfri line of smart lighting products, adding new smart plugs that can make any offline product controllable via an app or a remote control, according to Swedish tech blog Teknikveckan.

The new smart plug will reportedly come in two versions: a “Control outlet kit” with an on / off remote is $15 and the “Wireless control outlet” will be $10. The power button remote can attach magnetically to metal surfaces and has a range of 10 meters. Like other Trådfri products, the smart plug will support Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, and Alexa.

Various photos from the internal Ikea inventory system have already leaked online, which show specs and a description:

Image: Teknikveckan

With the imminent release of the Trådfri smart plug, Ikea’s inexpensive automation products continue to put the industry on notice. The company is also working on expanding its tech lineup and testing the waters with devices of various price ranges, from a $49 Bluetooth speaker to Wi-Fi speakers made in partnership with brands like Sonos and Teenage Engineering.

The key to a fresh phone case is a swappable charm

Phone Case of the Month is a monthly series in which we live with, and subsequently review, our time with a phone case. Phone cases are one of our only ways to express individuality with our smartphones, so what do our phone case choices say about us?

It’s been a while since I last posted a phone case review, and I’m sorry. But I’m thrilled to report that I’ve discovered an incredible phone case hack. You might remember my last review, which involved cherry pom-poms. Today’s review is about all the things I can do with that one case because of its back-mounted metal loop.

The case originally came with those cherries that were attached with a key ring. The key ring eventually broke, and the cherries fell off, so I ultimately was stuck with a case that had an ugly, cheap-looking metal loop on it and nothing else.

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

But then, I moved apartments and unearthed a keychain I was given with a nail polish purchase. Yeah, random. It features a bright pink pom-pom with a pink tassel and a bedazzled butterfly. I tried hooking it onto the phone, and sure enough, it filled the cherry pom-pom void in my heart. After a month or so in my bag, though, the pink started to turn black with dirt. That wasn’t my favorite look.

Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

Now, having just moved, I was in my local dollar store and saw a strange keychain made out of a bike chain. I think it might be designed for attaching to a wallet and then hanging from your belt loop? I’ll probably try that at some point, but for now, I bought it solely for my phone. It looks extremely industrial. I love it. I wear the loop around my wrist or carry it like a purse. Either way, it feels more like a fashion statement than my other cases. I only wish the metal loop on the back of the case was silver so it matched.

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

I love this case because I can change it up without fully committing to a whole new design. A keychain makes my case feel new, and this time around, I’m fully leaning into the hardware trend. Cherries felt good at one time, when spring was just happening and summer was on its way. Now, it’s been over 90 degrees for what feels like years, and all I can think about is fall. I needed this bike chain in my life.

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

I don’t know when I’ll change this case out. It’s definitely falling apart a little bit; the sides are peeling up and even the “leather” is peeling, too. If I do end up with a new case, I’ll post about it, but for now, know that my cases and I are in a good place. We’re happy.

Sennheiser wants you to slap a giant wireless mic on your kids to record precious moments

As the rise of ASMR videos indicates, it’s becoming more apparent that good audio is as important as what we see on screens. Sennheiser’s new Memory Mic is an interesting concept designed for the smartphone videographer. The mic attaches magnetically to your clothes and can record up to four hours of audio at any distance from your phone. The audio is synced via Bluetooth to a companion video app, in which you can mix both audio recorded by the mic and ambient noise picked up by your smartphone. When you’re done using it, it charges via a USB-C cable, which takes a little over an hour to get to full charge.

The Memory Mic is most likely geared toward families and parents who want to capture special moments in their child’s lives. Unlike Google Clips, which uses AI to automatically capture these moments, the Memory Mic requires some degree of preplanning. Imagine mic’ing up your kid every time they’re about to do something worth recording. The psychological pressure on the kid to perform would be immense! Sennheiser’s example use cases outline a parent recording their child’s school recital or their first bike ride, as shown in this saccharine promo video below.

Also, I have to point out that this thing is huge. I’m predisposed to automatically think about privacy violations when I first saw the words “wireless mic.” But then I saw the actual product, and there’s actually no way you could miss this huge white chunk of plastic attached to your child’s lapel.

Overall, the Memory Mic seems like a good idea for anyone who’s looking to improve the quality of their home videos through better audio. The only downside is that it costs $200. But how much are memories worth?

Twelve South’s new AirPods holder clips onto your backpack so you never lose track of the earbuds

A company called Twelve South knows the plight of the messy bag owner. Today, it launched a new product called AirSnap, which is a small, leather holder for your AirPods case. The idea is that you can snap it onto your bag and then never have to rummage through your stuff to find your earbuds. It’s available in black, teal, or brown for $29.99 through Amazon or the Twelve South website. The company says each one will “develop a unique patina over time, making each one personal.” Expect to see some wear over time.

It must be a bummer to lose your AirPods in your bag. I don’t own the earbuds, but I maintain a super messy bag and lose my possessions within it all the time. It’s not a great experience, but to be honest, I’m too lazy to address it. Maybe you aren’t like me, though, and you want order in your life. If so, go for the backpack AirPods clip. You’ll never lose them again… unless the clip breaks or someone snatches them off your bag. But probably never again!

Image: Twelve South

Memomate combines an e-ink tablet with a battery pack and a wireless charger

There’s a lot going on with the Memomate, a device that combines a 6.5-inch e-ink display for note-taking with a 10,000mAh battery pack for recharging your devices while you’re on the go, and there’s an optional wireless charger thrown in for good measure.

It’s not that any of the things it does are necessarily bad. People like taking notes on the go, and they need to keep their devices charged. But the idea of combining them into one package just seems a little weird. (Maybe the idea of a portable wireless charging pad is a little bad since the technology is still too slow and finicky in terms of lining up devices with charging coils to make sense over using a wired connection while on the go where speed and reliability are far more important, but I digress.)

In addition to the aforementioned 10,000mAh battery, there are two USB ports for outputting power and both Micro USB and Lightning ports for charging up the pack. (Don’t go looking for Apple’s MFi blessing here, though, so there’s no guarantee on how well it’ll work.) As for the wireless charger, it’s built into an optional case that draws power off an integrated USB cable that you plug into the pack.

Then there’s the e-ink display, which is pressure-sensitive for a more accurate writing experience, although the software is decidedly bare-bones. There’s no option to save any of your notes or drawings on the device, just a single delete button that wipes the screen clean for you to write again like a digital Etch A Sketch. The company’s official recommendation is to save drawings by using your phone to scan the screen.

Still, if you’re interested in cutting down on the clutter in your bag, and you’re okay with the idea of an e-ink display over old-fashioned pen and paper for your note-taking, maybe the Memomate makes sense.

As you might have already guessed from such an eclectic device description, the Memomate is currently crowdfunding on Indiegogo. For $45, you can get a Memomate without the wireless charging case, while a $54 pledge will get you the upgraded, wirelessly charging model. The company claims that it’ll ship both versions this October, but obviously use your own judgment before backing due to the crowdfunded and untested nature of the device.

Update July 26th, 1:15pm: Updated article to reflect that the Memomate uses generic e-ink technology, not actual, licenses E Ink-brand tech.