As Christmas creeps up on us, so does the great spirit of consumerism. This is usually a time when either new a product is released on the ravenous audience or a time to add a simple new function to an existing product. The MP3 player and iPod have gone both routes, but for the sake of this column I'll tell you about a few products that take the evolution of this miniature musical creation even further.
Soundwave Platinum Wetsuit
The Freestyle Audio device from the Soundwave Platinum
Surfing and music have gone together for many years. From the Beach Boys to Jack Johnson to that infectious little tune Wipeout, the culture of surfing has always been influenced by music. Surfing was developed in Hawaii, although it is not known exactly when. Rumor has it that there were grand celebrations held with tribal music and, of course, surfing. Nowadays it seems a little silly to have a friend bang a bongo while you catch a wave, so thank God for technology. An Australian company, Billabong, has produced a layer of clothing that makes it possible to surf while listening to your favorite tunes. The Soundwave Platinum Wetsuit is the collaboration of Billabong and Freestyle Audio. The suit is comprised of a normal wetsuit with a waterproof MP3 player that sits in a pocket on the back of the neck, as well as waterproof ear bud headphones. The whole system can be submerged up to 10 feet and is available in 256 or 512 megabytes. If the Soundwave Platinum just isn't your style, Billabong also offers the Solution Platinum, a similar suit.
So there I was minding my own business and jogging on the treadmill. I was listening to my iPod and flipping back and forth on the screen. I like to check things like, pulse, heart rate, distance, calories, whatever; the point is I was doing too many things at once. I reached over to my right to switch the reading on the screen and stepped off the treadmill, hit my chin on the hand bar, and fell awkwardly off the side with one foot while the other continued a weird limp on the treadmill. So now I walk with a limp and talk with a lisp.
I could have used the Nike Plus, an innovative little piece of footwear that does more that combine running and music. The Nike Plus is a line of shoes that combine with a specific iPod Nano to produce both music and all the vitals while working out. The Nano is small - don't worry it is still large enough to hold two emblems just in case you forget what that product is on the bottom of your foot-and slides in a little hole under the sole of the shoe. A small transmitter eliminates messy wires. Just program in a typical workout and you're ready to go. For example if you have a two mile run saved, the Nano will play music and periodically let you know where you're at and what condition you are in. No word yet on whether it can perform CPR. My favorite feature is the power song. If you slow down, the Nano will realize you are getting tired and play a tune to get you motivated. Getting Strong now indeed. This product was featured as the Time Magazine Gadget of the Week in mid-July. The iPod sport kit, which comes with an armband to hold the Nano, is very reasonable at just under 30 dollars. The shoes will run a bit higher; anywhere from $75-$100.
Also, the good folks at Nike offer other clothing products to hold your miniature jukebox. In case strapping on that armband was too much trouble.
Snowboarding is infinitely younger than its cousin, surfing, but much more technologically advanced. Just about every jacket and pair of pants made by the top companies comes with a pouch or pocket for your listening pleasure. So instead of boring you with products already on the market, how about I just let you know about a few new devices most desirable for the snowboarding crowd. The new iPod shuffle is the hot product this season, but it is terrible for outdoors. There is no screen so if you want to shuffle around blindly, then be my guest. It fits neatly and almost invisibly on any article of clothing. But with just a clip holding it on, there is the possibility of losing it. The Sony NW-S205F, or "The Stick", is a chic little MP3 player with a design that contrasts every other product on the market. This baby was built for the outdoors and includes pedometers if you're interested in how many calories burned while on the slopes. The rounded design deflects impact from a fall, making it tougher than most of the rectangular shaped products.
This dandy was not created for any sport in particular, but it's tough exterior makes it easy to include in just about any sport that doesn't involve water. The Samsung YP-K5 is a MP3/video player that stands the toughness test. I saw a video on youtube where it was run over by a truck and didn't flinch. This is great news for most of us because we all have dropped our iPod, MP3 player, or phone and caused ourselves at least a hundred dollar accident. Those of you involved in the tight jeans phenomenon may be a little upset by the bulk of this player. The YP-K5 is larger than most products because it contains a screen to watch videos as well as a pair of speakers. But if you are looking for a versatile player that can withstand a lot of punishment, then this is it.
I realize that there are probably products being introduced as I'm writing this. I'm also willing to admit that I can be aloof. So if anybody knows of a new product that falls along these lines, or perhaps something that already exists that I missed, let me know.