EVERYONE DESERVES TO LET THEIR HAIR DOWN ONCE IN WHILE - EVEN THE T3 STAFF SO WE LET OUR MAN THE TASK OF THROWING A KNEES-UP FOR THE REST OF THE TEAM THE QUESTION IS, COULD HE FIND ENOUGH COOL TECH TO KEEP THEM ENTERTAINED?
Back in the day, all you needed for a good house party was a Dansette, a couple of Matt Bianco LP s and a generous carton of liebfraumilch. But that just doesn’t cut it any more. These days, the kids want cocktails, consoles and karaoke (and if you can throw in a few bags of Wotsits, too, that’ll be much appreciated).
So when T3 asks me to throw a (mock) house party for my teammates, I reach for my little black book of gadgets to find the best kit for a domestic blowout. Like Russ Abbot, I want an atmosphere – and I’m going to use tech to help me get it.
WHO’S FOR A TIPPLE?
But I’m also going to use alcohol. Now, I’m not saying you need booze to have a good time (unless you’re a morris dancer), but hey – it gives me the excuse to try out some pretty awesome gadgets.
The first of those is Klarstein’s Stal Beer Tap Dispenser. Art editor Luke looks visibly distressed when he walks into the kitchen to discover that I haven’t laid on any tinnies for the party – but then I show him what this beautiful stainless-steel beast does. Having already inserted a five-litre keg of Czech lager, all I have to do is pull down the tap and out flows the delicious brew. An integrated thermoelectric cooling system keeps the beer refreshingly chilled, while CO2 cartridges inside the machine ensure you get a nice foamy head – something I haven’t had since I fell asleep in the bath.
For those who don’t like beer, there’s the SodaStream Fizzi. Now, I know what you’re thinking: a) it’s not the 1980s, and b) how are my guests going to get pissed on cherryade? Well, reader, everyone’s favourite Israeli drinks giant is back, and the Fizzi is a super-sleek new take on its iconic pop producer. With the supplied canister providing enough gas to carbonate 60 litres of tap water, it’s a fun way of rustling up bespoke cocktails – add a squeeze of lemon and some Bourbon, and you have yourself a deliciously fresh whisky lemonade.
I also have a gadget called the Coravin Model One System, a trigger-operated handheld that pushes a fine needle through the cork of a wine bottle, enabling you to enjoy a glass of wine and save the rest of the bottle for another day. It’s the perfect tech for discerning drinkers – not that there are any to be found at this party.
After an hour’s boozing, the mood has livened up somewhat and inhibitions are abandoned – I even hear someone laughing at one of deputy editor Nick’s jokes. This tells me that it’s time to start the swingers – sorry, singers! – party. I love a bit of karaoke but my warbling skills are more Pat Butcher than Pat Boone, so the Easy Karaoke CD/CDG Pro System is ideal. Echo, pitch-shift and auto-tune controls give your vocal acrobatics the X factor; it comes with a 100-track CD to help you practise (the lyrics appear on a seveninch colour TFT screen). There are also two mics so you can team up with a mate if you’re lacking in confidence. Assistant editor Claire and freelance writer Chris receive heaps of praise for their moving rendition of Take That’s Never Forget – before clarifying that they were actually singing Queen’s We Will Rock You.
infi nit y and beyond
At this point, I ask the rest of the team if they want to try something that’ll blow their minds. As a nervous hush falls over the party, I slip out into the back room, before returning a few minutes later with… a PlayStation VR headset. It wasn’t so long ago that virtual reality was a lonely place; once you’d attached those crummy handmade goggles to your eyes, it was you and you alone who would partake in the experience (and by ‘experience’, I mean squinting your eyes so that you could tell if that thing behind you was the Eiffel Tower or just a lamppost).
But VR has come on in leaps and bounds over the past couple of years, and Sony’s headset is a much more inclusive proposition; not only can you mirror on the TV what you’re seeing on those lenses, giving your buddies the chance to experience those blood-spewing zombies, too; but on some games (such as launch title The Playroom VR), they can also play alongside you, albeit not in the virtual world. As it turns out, neither of those options beat staring at Warren,
T3’ s gaming expert, as he swats and swipes his Move Motion Controllers in front of his helmet, like The Stig on acid.
This sight becomes even more amusing once I get the disco started. Thankfully, I don’t have to don a ridiculous oversized baseball cap and start talking like Nicey and Smashy’s long-lost cousin (bonkers, mate!). In fact, I don’t even need a set of decks. I can do it all via some products from the Bluesound high-res music-system range, and a few carefully placed Philips Hue lights. Central to my Bluesound set-up is the Vault 2. This solidly built 2TB unit (it looks like a safe!) will store high-res music downloaded – via your mobile device – from the likes of TIDAL, Spotify and Qobuz; as well as any CDs that you’ve ripped (there’s a CD slot on the front). Further music can be streamed from internet radio, and you can distribute all of the above to further Bluesound speakers dotted around your gaff (I used the Pulse 2 and the Pulse Mini). There’s no sign of lag as my music is pumped from room to room, with Kajagoogoo’s Greatest Hits sounding crisp and punchy at all times (some might say that’s a bad thing).
I teamed this Eighties soundtrack with some suitably kaleidoscope lighting from Philips. The Hue Bloom and the Hue Go table lamps are each capable of projecting 16 million shades of colour onto your wall (cosmic!), and both can be controlled via the companion app – you can even set them so that they change colours to the beat of your music. The only real difference between the two is that the Hue Go can be used as a portable lamp – its rechargeable battery should be good for three hours of use – plus, the Hue Go also gives you a bunch of ‘natural dynamic lighting effects’. Our favourite is Night Adventure, which might well sound like an intense 1970s porn film but actually adds some chilled ambience to proceedings.
With the party in full swing, and everyone having thrown a few shapes on the dance floor (I can’t tell if Luke’s is a hexagon or a dodecahedron), I decide that now is a good time to take a selfie – and HTC’s new U Ultra phone is the perfect way to do it. A feature called UltraPixel gives you unparalleled 4x light sensitivity – ideal for capturing detail (smudged lipstick, vomit stains, that kind of thing) in darker settings. Another called Live Makeup smooths the subjects’ skin in real time. And you can set the camera to take pictures whenever someone says cheese (not ideal if you work on a cheese counter). Then, once your selfie is taken, you can admire your handiwork on the U Ultra’s glorious 5.7-inch liquid-surface display.
Speaking of liquid surfaces, the blearyeyed faces on the picture lead me to think that someone might soon yack-up on the kitchen worktop. And seeing as it’s not my kitchen, that’s good enough reason to call time on T3’ s tech party. It’s been a blast and I’ve learned a few things today. For one, you don’t need alcohol to have a good time – but you need it to have a brilliant time. Secondly, Kajagoogoo really should consider making a comeback. And finally, some cool tech can have a wondrous effect on gatherings such as these, helping your guests to mix cocktails like bartenders, dance like West End stars and take selfies like pro photographers. Right, I’m off to find some tech to help me sleep.
“VR has come on in leaps and bounds, and Sony’s headset is more inclusive”