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Destress for success with smart tech

All work and no rest will ultimately reduce productivity... Kevin Courtney takes a look at some fun gadgets to help wind down after or during a busy day

Sometimes the world of tech can seem like all work and no play. When a new gadget or piece of tech hardware comes out, its makers extol its virtues of productivity and efficiency, and highlight how it will be an essential item in the workplace. That’s all very well, and we’re all for any gadget that makes work less tedious, but sometimes you just want to clock out and log on to some fun tech to while away some leisure time.

Neo Legend Mini Arcade Machine

The world has gone a bit retro-mad for the 1980s and 1990s, and what could be more worthy of the era than a big stand-up arcade game in the corner of your living room, waiting for the next eager player to step up and have a go? For anyone in the throes of Nintendo nostalgia, Neo Legend have a range of custom-built arcade games from big and clunky to small and agile, all fitted with those reassuringly retro features including joystick, backlit old-school marquee and even a coin acceptor for either real money or Neo Credits. The Classic Arcade is the one you remember from hanging out in your local mall as a teen, and will look suitably imposing in your den. If you’re not blessed with big spaces, the mini version is a little more discreet, although you’ll still make the same whooping noises while zapping asteroids. Then there’s the compact mode, which will sit neatly on a desk or table, but really, you might as well get the stand-up version, get on your leggings and batwing jumper, pour yourself a cherry soda and relive that arcade scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Prices start at €825. neo-legend.com.

Apple HomePod Mini

No day is truly idle without a bluetooth speaker to play out the soundtrack to your lazy afternoon pleasure. Apple’s HomePod mini delivers a serious sonic bang for not too many bucks, with room-filling sound that belies its size, giving rich, 360-degree audio that means you don’t have to turn the speaker when you move to a different part of the room. How does the HomePod get such amazing sound for its size? Computational audio, my dear Watson – a full-range driver using a powerful neodymium magnet to replicate the full tones of a much larger speaker. Elementary. The HomePod mini is an aesthetically pleasing spherical shape, a lot prettier than its cylindrical big brother, and comes in lots of lovely colours too, so wherever you place a HomePod, it will add to the vibe both visually and sonically. Available for €109 at apple.com.

Lenovo Smart Paper

The problem with your old laptop or tablet is that while you can type up the Q1 results very efficiently, zoom in on that schematic for your company’s latest product, and cog your thesis using ChatGPT, you can’t just idly doodle away on it while your boss or lecturer drones on. Remember drawing your favourite band’s logo in your copybook margins, or a caricature of the science teacher? No? Must have been just me, then. The Lenovo Smart Paper, due for release later this year, is an electronic notebook at your fingertip for all your doodles and designs, with a 10.3-inch e-ink screen and a two-colour adjustable front light. Pick up the stylus, put it to the screen, close your eyes and you’ll swear you’re writing on piece of high-quality paper. You can convert handwriting to text, and you can sync and share those secret notes without having to pass them under the desk. The Smart Paper has capacity for up to 50,000 pages, so that’s your epic novel sorted, and you can also access a library of more than 2 million books from eBook.com if you just want to kick back and read, although you’ll need a separate subscription for that. lenovo.com

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Fujifilm Instax Mini 12

Kids these days are opting to buy their favourite music on vinyl, even though they have instant access to gazillions of tunes on Spotify. Same with photographs. Sure, they can scroll through endless snaps on their phones, but what they really want is to be able to take a pic with their mates, print it off immediately, and pass it round. With its bubbly shape and bright pastel colours, the Instax 12 is made for fun, and it’s packed with easy-to-use features, such as a close-up mode that’s perfect for selfies. A handy mirror at the front will tell you if your face is in the frame, and it has an automatic centring feature called parallax correction. The auto exposure and flash control will ensure you get good photos whatever the light, without any of the fiddly settings. And to avoid any totes awks waiting around, your high-quality credit-card sized photo will print up in just five seconds, safely within the average teen attention span. €89.99 from smythstoys.com

Therabody Theragun Pro

The pandemic prevented us from going to pubs and restaurants, but it also meant we had to cancel our trips to the spa for our deep tissue massage. All that sitting around at home didn’t do our back muscles much good, but luckily Therabody stepped up to the plate with its range of portable muscle-relaxing gadgets. Now we couldn’t imagine life without them. Therabody’s fifth-generation Theragun Pro makes no bones about it, claiming to be the best portable massage device around. It’s quieter, smarter and delivers ultimate relief from muscle aches and pains, with 150-minute battery life, customisable speed and fast USB charging. The Theragun’s patented triangle handle means it’s easy to manoeuvre, and there are four built-in routines so you can give yourself a total stressbusting session. Beware, though, the Theragun is selling fast, so you may have to book in for a spa massage while you wait for your order. Theragun Pro, €499, therabody.com.

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is an Irish Times journalist