Tech I love: FluentPet buttons that help dogs connect to owners, more – USA TODAY

Every now and again, a new tech tool comes along that’s just so good, I have to set my jaded journalist critiques aside and give credit where credit is due. 
That’s more difficult than you might think. Gadget-makers often forget that what most of us really want is a device that works. Few people make this point better than comedian Hasan Minhaj in his recent segment with tech influencer Marques Brownlee for The Late Show. The duo picks three random gadgets to test, and not a single one of them works right out of the box.
Hey, I get it! I threw a printer out a third-story window a few years ago too. It’s super frustrating.
Here are a handful of new gadgets and techy services that rise above the rest for a myriad of reasons, the least of which is that they work right out of the box. . These are the same tools and services I showed off on NBC’s Today Show this week, as well. 
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I’ve tried to get my parents to write down their life stories for years. I’ve given them old-fashioned hard-covered books with prompts to help them write down their memories and places to add photos. Last I checked, my mom made one entry in 2008. I’ve even subscribed to services that send them email prompts every week to make it easier. They’re good about doing it for a few weeks, then no matter what, life gets too busy, they forget, and the project gets shelved for another year. Or 10. 
Storii, a fairly new service solves most of these problems and engages with our loved ones in a more manageable way. 
Storii’s “Record Your Memoir Gift Box” ($10/month or $100 for a year) lets your loved one record responses to prompts — up to three a week over the course of a year — and turns it into an audiobook and even printable memoir. 
It’s refreshingly low-tech for anyone who didn’t grow up click-clacking keyboards or tapping screens to tell a tale. Buy the box online and follow a few simple low-tech instructions when it arrives. Then, the service calls up to three times a week on a cell or landline and asks automated questions designed to get people to share precious memories in ways they might not have ever thought about before.
You can also call Storii whenever it’s convenient, if that works better. The service records, transcribes and stores it all on a keepsake profile that you − or anyone in your family − can log on to add photos or videos. Typically, people are done with their Storii projects in about a year, and you can download the audiobook or AI-edited transcript anytime. 
If you live in a big city like New York or LA, meal delivery services are a dime a dozen. But it’s pretty slim picking for the rest of us, and often food that does come to your doorstep by way of an app is greasy, salty, cold, or just nowhere near as good as a homecooked meal.
Shef is another one of my absolute favorite new finds here. This site lets you order an incredible meal that gets delivered to your front door for a whole lot less than going out to eat. 
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The meals are made by a local, food safety-certified cook who lives near you. (We had it last weekend, and it was top-three best Indian food I’ve ever had in my whole entire life.)
There’s a lot of flavor and variation such as Indian, African, Mexican, Creole, Asian-fusion, Southern, and more. It’s all incredibly authentic, fresh, and made as healthy—or as picky—as you need it to be.
For our Today Show segment we sampled several other dishes available in Manhattan that, quite frankly, blew us away including: 
The other part of this service I like is that it gives home cooks a valid new side-hustle. A company spokesperson told me via email that ‘shefs’ keep 75% of each item they sell, plus 100% of tips. The company’s cut covers, “delivery operations, customer service, shef support, marketing, and website operations.” Also of note, 85% of people who work with Shef are women and 80% are people of color, representing nearly 100 countries around the world. 
The woman who made our meals, Shef Seema, said she clears six figures a year in Seattle. Before that? She worked at Taco Bell after immigrating to America from the Punjab region of India four years ago, but had 35 years of cooking experience prior to making the move. 
You can order online or through the Shef app (iOS, Android), or apply to be a Shef in 11 states across the country at the time of publication, though the list is rapidly growing. The company said there are 12,000 prospective Shefs (representing 200+ cuisines) and 50,000 prospective customers across the country who have signed up to get notified when the service comes to their area. 
Have you ever wondered what it would be like if your dog could talk to you − like in human words? If you’re on Instagram, you might already know about this thanks to a dog named “Bunny @whataboutbunny.” (I’m a big fan.) 
FluentPet buttons help your dog or cat “talk” and the company just released their next-gen Connect WiFi enabled pet communication system. 
Owners record simple, common words like “play,” “walk,” or “outside,” on a set of paw-sized push-buttons. Online FluentPet tutorials guide you on how to best teach your pet to learn to use them. 
We first showed you these next-gen pet communicators at CES this year and they’re now shipping to pet lovers everywhere. 
I know there are a lot of nay-sayers out there about these, but I love them. I already know that my dog reads my mind, and this finally gives me a better way to understand hers. If you haven’t watched some of these videos on social media, it’s a fabulous way to kill some time waiting in the line at the DMV. 
This Connect system starts at $160 − the company told me they’re running specials on their website right now too. 
Jennifer Jolly is an Emmy Award-winning consumer tech columnist. The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.


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