Seattle and the Pacific Northwest are traditionally known for software and Internet services, but the region’s tech community is increasingly developing world-class hardware and devices, and our latest GeekWire Awards category showcases the best of the best: Hardware/Gadget of the Year.
Finalists in this category include top-selling devices from tech giants Microsoft, Amazon and HTC, as well as innovative hardware from some of the region’s innovative startups, PicoBrew and Vicis.
Over the past two weeks, we’ve been opening voting in select GeekWire Awards categories, with GeekWire readers choosing their top picks from finalists selected by our panel of judges from community nominations. Check back on GeekWire each day to cast your ballots, or visit here to vote in announced categories. All of the winners will be revealed at the GeekWire Awards — presented by Wave — on May 12 at EMP.
Hardware/Gadget of the Year is presented by Tourism Victoria. Cast your ballot below and continue reading for more details on each finalist.
Demand for Amazon’s Echo smart speaker has been strong ever since its limited rollout in November of last year. The e-commerce giant built hype around the device by initially selling the Echo by invitation only. Now, the speaker is available to everyone and is a hit with consumers. A recent report revealed 3 million units have been sold.
Key to the Echo’s success is Alexa, the AI personality that powers the device. Alexa’s Skill Set includes a variety of functions. She can order Uber rides and pizzas, scan Yelp reviews to answer questions, find your lost smartphone, answer emails, and more. Echo also has some new siblings.
Vive — HTC/Valve
The HTC Vive virtual reality headset uses 70 sensors for 360-degree tracking to deliver a room-scale experience. It’s based on Valve’s Steam VR platform, coming with a 90 Hz refresh rate. It will work in conjunction with a pair of wireless controllers.
At CES this year, GeekWire had a chance to test out the newest developer edition of the headset. Most notable was a new front-facing camera that lets users gauge the physical space around them while wearing the headset.
Microsoft Surface Book
Microsoft’s first laptop computer, the Surface Book, sold out online two weeks before launching. The $1,499 device offers a 13.5-inch diagonal screen and a detachable keyboard.
For Microsoft, the Surface Book serves as a great showcase for the ideal Windows 10 hardware environment. The hybrid laptop-tablet device received rave reviews when Microsoft unveiled it in the fall.
In October, Seattle startup PicoBrew launched a Kickstarter for what it calls a “3D printer for beer.” The Pico is a smaller, faster, and easier-to-use version of the company’s flagship Zymatic beer maker, at half the cost.
The $999 device allows amateur brewers to make custom craft beers at home. PicoBrew supplies ready-to-brew PicoPak ingredient kits and the pico allows brewers to “tune” the beer to their liking.
Vicis Zero1 helmet
Vicis’ ZERO1 football helmet provides more protection against skull fracture, traumatic brain injury, and concussion than the traditional helmet used by athletes today. The helmet differentiates from other available options because of a unique outer shell material that is designed to mitigate the forces thought to cause concussions on the football field and in other contact sports.
The heavily-funded helmet will be worn by a handful of college and pro athletes this fall. About 25 NFL and 30 NCAA teams “have expressed interest” in trying the helmet, according to Vicis.