- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 10, 2017

Give the gift of gadget this Father’s Day to dads who love cooking and playing outdoors. Here are just a few ideas to make the high-tech big guy happy.

Uuni 3 (Uuni USA, $299.99) — All fathers tired of making another round of boring ribs and burgers on the ole’ barbeque, please raise hands.

A slick solution to the cooking doldrums arrives from Finnish inventor Kristian Tapaninaho and his compact and portable pizza oven. The 3-foot-long engineering marvel mimics wood-fired, oven-heating that can reach temperatures of over 900 degrees to cook a Neapolitan pie in roughly 60 seconds.

New owners will need about 45 minutes to carefully assemble the three-legged, stainless-steel container with a 18-inch-tall smokestack before inserting the included cordierite stone baking board.

Next, add about a scoop full of premium wood pellets (the removable stack lid doubles as a scoop) in the rear basket, and use either a blowtorch or a bit of isopropyl alcohol and long match to get the fire started.


SEE ALSO: Father’s Day Gift Guide: Blu-ray and 4K UHD movies


Now feed more of the wood pellets into the rear hopper, wait about 15 minutes and the cooking stone should be smoldering. Make sure the included pizza peel sheet is covered with flour before placing a roughly 10-inch-round pizza upon it and then slide the pie onto the stone.

The baking results are fairly impressive, a crisp crust and evenly cooked toppings, but the oven does need some getting used to.

Specifically, the first outing with the Uuni 3 demanded about a two-hour process to prepare and cook eight pizzas. Videos from Uuni will help with a cooking strategy that show a 60-second cook time during which the pizza is flipped around twice with the peel sheet.

Remember to quickly open the lid (grabbing the wood handle) to avoid burning the crust. The scorch can happen in a blink of an eye with the amount of dancing, air-fueled flames popping around, and it will happen very easily during the learning process, so be careful.

Suffice it to report, the oven becomes easier to manage with practice and patience. Don’t expect to run a small pizzeria for family and friends after the first session but for long term appreciation, the Uuni 3 will produce some tasty, well-cooked results.

The oven can also cook meats, seafood and vegetable dishes. That requires an iron skillet lay between the food and the stone pan and, of course, careful monitoring.

Initial investment costs also include dough, cheese and pizza fixings (around $20); hardwood food grade pellets (about $25 for a 22-pound bag of oak); and I recommend a cover ($37.50) that also has handles to carry the unit.

VI (LifeBeam, $249) — The lonely chore of outdoor running has just gotten much more social with help from an artificially intelligent female trainer speaking from a pair of wireless earbuds.

The VI system consists of a soft rubber collar, which hangs around the neck, attached to the earbuds. They use biosensors to monitor attributes such as motion, touch, elevation, proximity and weight to generate stats, including heart rate, distance and pace for runners.

Owners download the training app (iOS or Android compatible) and use a Bluetooth connection to start the process of capturing data and getting VI involved with workouts.

Your new pal is quite chatty as well as pushy. From the start, the human-like voice will first want to track your heartbeat and will cajole users to keep trying on the included selection of bud gel tips to get the right ear fit.

While running, she’ll respond to voice commands (tap on the right earbud) such as “how am I doing?” or “what is my heart rate?”

She, I mean it, offers guidance and encouragement during any session and after about two hours of use, adapts to an owner’s tendencies to offer ideal efforts for missions that include weight loss, running farther or quicker, reducing stress and maintaining fitness.

One might hear “stick to your fat-burning mode,” or she suggests a shorter more intense run to change up the routine or even using a “step to the beat” command (something very precious to me as I love to run to music).

VI will help develop a training plan and even connect with apps such as Apple HealthKit and Google Fit to use the data to help refine goals.

Sweat- and water-resistant and featuring crisp and clear Harman Kardon speakers to listen to music playlists from Apple Music and Spotify, the VI system is a solid gift choice, especially for beginning runners, and gets about eight hours on a single USB charge.

Greet (Zmodo, $150, use “Father15” at the website’s checkout for an additional $15 off) — The traditional doorbell gets a high-tech upgrade with help from a motion-sensing camera, microphone and recorder to give traveling, as well as backyard loving, dads peace of mind about the security of their family and home.

Specifically, owners replace the outdoor button with a weatherproof device about the size of a cigarette pack that features a high-definition, wide-angle lens (720p) camera paired with a two way internal mic/speaker system, as well as infrared LEDs and a light sensor to automatically deploy night vision.

That translates into the ability to communicate with visitors when they press the button (through a smartphone call), or even leave a one-minute message for them (not the best idea for security reasons). Best of all, it captures a 30-second-long video clip every time the motion detector senses a presence at or around the door.

Greet does deliver as promised, if the owner can deal with the somewhat challenging installation process.

After about 20 minutes of fumbling with the slightly unhelpful instructions and watching a video, I decided this was above my pay grade and let a professional contractor handle the mechanics.

That was a good idea since it took roughly an hour of his time to just to get the doorbell hung on the outside wall, connected to the current electrical system for the old doorbell and tested. It’s worth noting the included screwdriver handle was missing the bit.

Next, download the Zmodo app to a smartphone (iOS or Android), create an account and get the Greet working with a home Wi-Fi network that will also communicate with the app. A strong and consistent Wi-Fi signal to the Greet is required for success.

Now, if an owner can get past those hurdles, the other big issue with Greet is that it works too well.

For those living on a busy street, they will get an overwhelming stream of phone alerts and video clips delivered from the too-sensitive motion camera that even picked up passing cars roughly 50 feet from my house.

What results is an addiction to the device and app, due to all the interesting videos generated as well as having to manage the deletion of the many false hits.

Now, when an actual person comes to the door, it’s super beneficial. However, secretly watching and listening to a teenager cussing about his dad installing a camera on the doorbell was an unexpected highlight.

Zmodo also offers free cloud storage for the video clips for a 24-hour period in case a user gets behind saving or deleting them.

Stinger (Helen of Troy, $59.99) — Backyard activities are much more fun when not assaulted by waves of mosquitos and flying pests.Make life easier for dad with a heavy-duty bug zapper that offers a three-pronged attack.

Shaped a bit like a Japanese lantern, the 19-inch-tall device uses a black UV light and an octenol pack (a chemical contained in human breath and sweat) to lure its victims into its electrical grid and then delivers 5,500 volts to the unlucky insect.

The plug-and-play Stinger also features an optional sundown sensor to automatically turn on at dusk and off at dawn (when mosquitos are usually most on the prowl) and is built with a durable, weatherproof plastic protective cage to keep younger fingers as well as small creatures and birds out.

It should hang about 10 feet away from human activity and 7 feet above the ground to provide a roughly 1.5-acre, offensive perimeter to fight the winged enemies.

For maximum efficiency, the octenol pack should be changed about every 30 days ($6.99 for extras) and the light every year ($19.99). The Stinger will require a lengthy, outdoor-rated extension cord depending on in its placement and is small enough to be taken on power-equipped camping grounds.

The Hydra(Open 2, $59.99) — Simply drinking water out of a plastic container is no longer boring when using this massively multifunctional smart bottle during outdoor excursions.

Standing 10 inches tall, the three-part water bottle first offers a removable top that houses a 5-watt Bluetooth speaker to connect to a smartphone’s music playlist and blast the tunes. By the way, the sound quality is much better than expected.

The talking top (a female British voice alerts users when the device is connected) also has an FM radio, speakerphone and microphone to take calls, a 3.5-mm jack and extendible legs with rubber pad to use away from the bottle.

The base is even more impressive. Let’s start with a 4,000 mAh battery (with LED power indicator) to recharge smartphones through a protected USB port (cord not included). Next, an LED lighting system is set to either trigger a red flashing beacon, white lantern or a multicolored party cycle to set a mood.

Finally, the BPA-free plastic bottle holds 20 ounces of liquid and has a flip-up spout. It should have been a larger container considering the amount of time one can spend outdoors with this baby.

Now to get silly, the Hydra has its own free, downloadable iTunes and Google Play nighttime sleeper app that delivers choices of white-noise sounds and timer for relaxing.

The Hydra comes with a USB charger cord (remember the base and top need to be charged separately); a swappable non-smart base to hide keys or cash; and metal carabiner hook (with bottle opener) to attach to a belt or backpack.

This affordable wonder is a perfect companion for a nighttime bike ride or a camping trip and is available at select retailers, including ThinkGeek.

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