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Archive for the ‘Wearables’ Category

I may have been the only person at the Consumer Electronics Show who wasn’t interested in the electronics.  Rows and rows of 4K TVs, Virtual Reality headsets, wearable fitness trackers, drones, widgets, whatever.  Eventually, the novelty wears off.  However, occasionally you stumble across a new idea, a unique idea, that showcases modern ingenuity and gives us a glimpse into what the future may look like.

Some of these ideas may involve new technologies.  Others may be throwbacks to a bygone era.  Some of them may be extremely useful.  Others not so much.  Some may appeal to a broad segment of the population.  Others to just a niche audience.  Either way, these ideas were what truly piqued my interest inside the hallowed halls of Eureka Park.  The innovative, outside the box concepts that really stood out from the crowd because of how unique they were.

Such as:

Modobag Every weary traveler knows how much of a hassle lugging a suitcase around an airport can be.  Especially when you consider how large some airports are these days with their never ending corridors and abundance of gates.  Thankfully, there may soon be a solution in the form of motorized smart luggage, known as Modobag, that you can ride to your destination.

As Digital Trends puts it, “Modobag can be used as a traditional wheeled bag — just extend the handle and pull it along on its wheels. When that Superman moment hits and you need to travel fast, you can quickly lower the bag into its riding position, jump on the built-in seating area and hit the throttle to go.”

Presumably a person equipped with a motorized suitcase would experience that Superman moment all the time.  After all, would you really want to go back to the old way of pulling a suitcase if you could now ride one?

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Freewrite – Think of Freewrite as a smart typewriter.  Now, I know what you’re thinking.  Isn’t a computer a smart typewriter?  Well, yes.  The key distinction to make is that Freewrite is only a typewriter.  You can’t play games on it or surf the web.  There are no apps.  It’s designed purely as a distraction free writing experience.

What makes the device smart is that you can download files to it and upload what you write to Dropbox or Evernote when you’re done.  It can also store up to a million pages internally and connect to the cloud via Wi-Fi.  All in all, it claims to be able to double your daily word count which could be an invaluable time saver if you’re a writer under deadline.

As Wired puts it, “At a time when our gadgets are supposed to do everything, the Freewrite may seem like a technological step backward. For most people, the prospect of spending hundreds of dollars on a throwback device seems foolish. But if you’re a writer, you probably get it. Writers are a sensitive lot; it’s why they move to remote cabins. With all the distractions on the Internet, sometimes it’s hard to exercise self-control. Exhibit A? All those open browser tabs. They make writing on a web-connected laptop as easy as trying to meditate in a casino.”

The minimalist design of the Freewrite aims to change that and give control of the writing process back to the writer.

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Tap Cards – Think of Tap Cards as smart post cards. Instead of just being a static piece of card stock, Tap Cards are dynamic gateways.  Let’s say for instance that you’re about to get married.  You may want to send a save the date card to your guests.  Using Tap Cards you can do just that.  Your guests will receive a card in the mail featuring a photo that you selected. But here’s where things gets interesting.  If your guest then taps the postcard to their phone the Tap Card app will automatically launch showing them your entire photo album of pictures.  They didn’t need to download anything or go to a special website.  All they had to do was touch the card to their phone.  If you then add or delete photos from your collection all of the albums on your guests phones will then get updated in real time too.

With Tap Cards it just got a whole lot easier to share pictures.  Instead of uploading entire albums to Facebook just send your friends a card the next time you’re on vacation and they can live vicariously through all of your exploits.  I like this idea so much that I think I may use it to send out my holiday cards next year.  Anyone I send one to will then have access to an album of my greatest sunset pictures from Instagram.

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Nemonic Post-It Note Printer – Post-It notes haven’t really changed much since they were first invented.  Sure, they come in different shapes, sizes, and colors but by in large what you see is what you get.  All that may be about to change though thanks to the Nemonic Post-It Note Printer from Mangoslab.

As Digital Trends puts it, “Nemonic features a notetaking app which you jot down and organize handwritten or finger-drawn notes. But Mangoslab wants to take it a step further by including a companion printer to print these notes and stick them anywhere just like a traditional Post-it note. This way you’re not losing that analog feel of a handwritten note.”

For people with bad handwriting having a post-it note printer could come in handy.  Or it could be useful if you wanted to print out something that you couldn’t easily write or draw such as an image or chart.  For example, if you’re a traveler if could be useful to have one of these devices on your desk so that you print out a bus schedule on the go.  Or if you wanted to cover your refrigerator with selfies that’s an option too.

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KanopyUnless you’re the type of person who likes to spend their free time pruning a Bonsai tree you probably struggle to keep the plant in your home or office alive.  Fortunately, Kanopy is here to help with the mundane task of watering your plant by constantly measuring its weight and automatically hydrating it as needed.

Conversely, if you have a green thumb and really do prefer to water plants on your own you can still use Kanopy’s system to monitor your plant as it will alert you when it’s time to water it.  No word yet if future iterations will also talk to your plant for you.

PavlokBite your nails like LeBron James?  Can’t stop smoking?  Have other bad habits that you want to kick?  Then you might want to try Pavlok, a wearable device that will vibrate or buzz or beep or even shock you until your get the clue and change your ways.

As TechCrunch put it a few years ago when the product first surfaced, “Pavlov and his dogs proved conditioning shapes behavior patterns. A hundred years later, a startup called Pavlok hopes the same theory and its electroshock wristband will make us exercise, wake up on time, and stop procrastinating.  [The] app lets you set up goals like hitting the gym or avoiding social media sites, and then its wristband electrically shocks you when you screw up. Brutal, but potentially effective.”

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Spalk Have you ever been so annoyed by a play by play announcer telecasting a game that you found the game to be unwatchable?  Anyone who has ever listened to Joe Buck probably knows what I’m talking about.  As a workaround you may watch the game on mute, listen to it on the radio, or go to a crowded bar where you can’t hear the volume on the TV.  Apps like MLB TV have a workaround for this inconvenience allowing you to select whether you want to listen to the home or away feed.

But what if you wanted additional options?  What if you preferred, for example, to listen to your friends do play by play?  Or do to it yourself? Spalk, which bills itself as crowd sourced sports commentary, offers the opportunity to do just that, enabling you to add synchronized audio to live sports events.

The big issue for Spalk is going to be securing broadcast rights from the major sports leagues.  If they can manage to work out a partnership with MLB though I’d be all for it as it would allow me live out my life-long dream of becoming a broadcaster for the New York Yankees!  This is one startup that I will definitely be rooting for.

 

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Are any of these ideas from Eureka Park the Greatest Idea Ever?

 

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Back in July of 2015 I wrote about a new invention known as the Here Active Listening System, the latest example of a “hearable” – a device capable of letting us edit the sounds that we encounter.  A sort of auditory augmented reality.  So that you could, say, drown out the sound of a crying baby on an airplane but still hear any important announcements that were made.  Or turn up the bass at a concert if you were so inclined.

Here’s what I had to say about it at the time:

“The idea that this technology could be used to alter what is heard at a concert is really intriguing and it could change the way movies and music are made as we may get to the point where we’d have fully customizable content being delivered right to us.  Turning all of us into amateur music composers able to edit the soundtrack of our lives on the fly.

As someone who is really sensitive to loud noises (I can’t even wear a watch because of the ticking) and who constantly wishes that there was an alternative to most of the sounds that I encounter on a daily basis (birds chirping, cars driving by, people breathing) this product can’t come soon enough.”

Well, now this product is finally here.  Known as Here One it is now on sale for $300, making it the perfect gift for the audiophile in your life.  Here is some of what these wireless earbuds are capable of doing from their website:

“Here One™ is the first all-in-one, truly wireless listening system. With two smart earbuds and a connected app, you can stream music, take phone calls, reduce unwanted noise, amplify speech, access Siri and Google Now, and more. Selectively choose what you want to hear and remove what you don’t using Smart Noise Cancellation. Everything else is just a headphone.”

The ultimate appeal of Here One, however, is not in what it can do, but rather, in what it will one day be capable of doing.  As a Tech Crunch reporter wrote, “The craziest thing I got to demo involved isolating directional noise. With multiple people talking around me, the Here Ones focused on who was speaking directly in front of me, presenting them clearly while the others were muffled.”

This technology would really come in handy in my household where my mom is constantly telling my step dad to stop trying to chime in on the conversation that she is having with me because she can’t talk to two people at once.

Another futuristic use case that could come in handy one day is a language translation feature.  When someone speaks to you in their native tongue you’ll hear it in your native tongue.  Making Here One the ultimate travel companion.

For now though we’ll just have to settle for what Here One can actually do.  Like drowning out the sounds that we don’t want to hear.  But even that sounds futuristic as a companion app promises to learn what we like and don’t like so that it can offer recommendations of what else to drown out.

With so much potential to improve our daily lives it’s clear to me that Here One is here to stay.  If you’re an early adopter you may want to get on board now.

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Is Here One the Greatest Idea Ever?

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We all know how important it is to stay hydrated.  How we’re supposed to be drinking 8 glasses of water a day.  But what we usually don’t know is how hydrated we are at any given moment.  Relying on our biological inputs isn’t good enough.  Wait until your thirsty before you drink something and it’s already too late, you’re already dehydrated at that point.  So what’s a guy to do? Buy a new wearable device of course.  In this case, the LVL.

As Digital Trends puts it:

“You probably heard this biological factoid in fifth grade health class: two-thirds of the human body is made of water. What you probably weren’t told, though, is just how drastically water could impact your morning, daily, and nightly routine. Your physical fitness depends on hydration, as does the quality of your sleep. Even the clarity of your thoughts and the stability of your moods are affected, in part, by your body’s water content at any given moment.

But measuring your body’s hydration is no cakewalk. ‘Smart’ water bottles can tell you how many ounces of liquid you’ve consumed in the course of a few hours, but not how much your body has actually absorbed — that level of granularity usually requires a trip to a medical lab or emergency room. But that’s poised to change. Recently, health startup BSX Technologies debuted the LVL, a wearable that promises to measure hydration in real time.”

What’s great about the LVL is that it does more than just monitor hydration.  It also tracks your mood, activity, sleep, and heart rate, things that are, not coincidentally, all tied to how hydrated you are.

With a clearer picture of your health you will be armed with vital information, information that you can use to improve your vitality.  It sounds simple but just by staying hydrated you’ll be improving your cognitive function, sleeping better, and feeling more energetic.  All in all, you’ll be having a better life.

With all that in mind it’s safe to say that getting the LVL is pretty much a no-brainer.  If you’re looking to give someone a healthy gift this year this is the way to go.

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Is the LVL hydration wearable the Greatest Idea Ever?

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If you want to create a successful wearable you have to make something that people will actually want to wear.  I know that sounds obvious but just look at Google Glass.  The concept was good.  The technology was on the verge of being ready for prime time.  And yet the project was a colossal failure because nobody wanted to wear a clunky computer on their face.  Flash forward a couple of years and we now have another company taking a stab at making wearable glasses.  Can they succeed where Google failed? So far, the answer would seem to be yes.

The company in question is a surprise entrant into the hardware space.  It’s a company that is now even marketing itself as an eye-wear maker even though no one would have ever guessed that would be the case.  So who is this mysterious company taking the world by storm?  It’s none other than Snapchat, now known as Snap, Inc.  That’s right.  The nascent social media company that allows you to send disappearing pictures and videos is now a major player when it comes to wearables.

Snap, Inc. has thus far succeeded where Google failed by making a product that people actually want to use. Opting for sunglasses over regular glasses was a smart move as sunglasses are already inherently cool.  It also doesn’t hurt that the Snapchat brand is the one making the glasses since the social media service is already wildly popular with today’s youth who prefer it over Facebook and Twitter.  Combine street cred, market saturation, well designed hardware, and technology that works and you’ve got a hit on your hands.  Or on your face as it were.

The key thing to note though is that Snapchat Spectacles are far different from the original intent of Google Glass.  No augmented reality displays or digital personal assistants here.  Just a pair of video capturing sunglasses.

As PC Mag puts it, “Many will compare Spectacles to Google Glass, but I encourage you to resist the urge. While a healthy bit of skepticism is warranted, Spectacles are quite different from Google’s high-tech specs; if anything, they are more akin to a GoPro. Spectacles will also only set you back $130 whereas Google Glass cost $1,500.”

At that price point it’s likely that we’ll see a lot of early adopters flocking to try it out.  What will they get for their money? For starters, a pair of sleek sunglasses capable of recording up to thirty seconds of videos in order to send out ten second clips ala the regular Snapchat app.  There won’t be a way at first to add in Snapchat’s signature silly filters but that may come over time.  And for now the glasses will only sync to the Snapchat app and nothing else.  But with all that being said we could still be looking at something with serious potential for easing people’s privacy concerns when it comes to always on wearables.

CNET said it best when it stated: “They’re either a dumb promotional stunt, a bold stab at the future of cameras, or both. And we may or may not be in the world where wearing video-capturing glasses is finally acceptable. But we are definitely in a place where everyone already shares everything from their phones. I still think Spectacles seem more like party favors than permanent lifestyle decisions, but if people end up wearing them and not being mocked, Snap might have a victory for wearable face-tech.”

That victory, if it does happen, could become a pivotal turning point in human history.  Leading to a seismic cultural shift that ushers in a new era infused with wearables, the Internet of Things, augmented reality, and virtual reality.  The kind of future that we all envision.  The kind of future that might never come if we’re not ready for it as a society.  So, while it may sound silly to say, Snapchat Spectacles are actually kind of a big deal.  The only question that remains is whether or not a product built on disappearing content will have staying power.  Let’s hope that it does.

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Are the Snapchat Spectacles the Greatest Idea Ever?

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We’ve made a lot of progress when it comes to designing user interfaces.  Just look how far we’ve come in regards to desktop computers, going from clunky mouses to touch screens.  Not to mention all of the changes that the humble video game controller has under gone since the advent of the Atari.  And we’re not done yet.  Not even close.  Not until we make the gesture control system from the Minority Report a reality.  In the meantime, there’s a handful of designers hard at work trying to design a better interface for the smart watch.  Probably in hopes that someone will then actually want to use one.

As Wired puts it, “The biggest problem with smart watches, beyond the fact no one really knows what to do with them, is their small screens. Scrolling through text or swiping a notification is particularly frustrating when your finger obscures whatever it is you’re trying to see. This is why you can’t tap out a text message, let alone play games. But some really smart designers at Carnegie Mellon’s Human Computer Interaction Group found a way of making your arm part of the user interface. Over the past few years, they’ve come up with several novel ways of thinking beyond the edges of your typical smart watch screen. Tilting and twisting the bezel lets people control the watch like a joystick. Skin Buttons projected buttons onto the wearer’s forearm. Now there’s SkinTrack, a project that explores how your arm might function as a touchscreen for wearables.”

Essentially, this new system, which was created by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, circumvents the limitations imposed by the tiny screen on the watch face, enabling you to interact with your watch in whole new ways.  For example, if you’re playing Angry Birds you can swipe on your arm from right to left to signify that you’re pulling back on the slingshot.  When you let go you’ll then see the result play out on the screen.  Or you could swipe up or down with a finger to toggle through menu options without having to actually make contact with the watch.  That may not seem like a lot but considering how much the size of your finger can obscure your field of view when using the existing touch screen that’s no small feat. 

Best of all, this technology even works through clothing with 99% accuracy.  Meaning that you could easily multi-task while in a business meeting.  Everyone else in the room will just think you’re scratching an itch on your forearm!

Unfortunately, this technology still has a ways to go and isn’t going to be commercially viable for a while.  By which time we may have an invented another entirely new way of interacting with our gadgets.  But, that’s what great about this technology.  Even if never catches on, it has, at the very least, shown us what is possible to achieve when using the human body as a controller.  Perhaps future systems will expand upon that concept even more.  Perhaps one of them will even make us want to use a smart watch.

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Is SkinTrack the Greatest Idea Ever?

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#878 – Kapture

We all have that one friend who constantly says outrageous things and then denies them when you call them out on it.  “The Star Wars prequels were better than the originals!” “Michael Jordan was overrated!”  “Donald Trump would make a great President!”

What the what!!!!

Currently, there’s nothing you can do when that person says something ridiculous  You can make a bet but you know that’s an exercise in futility because they’ll deny ever making the bet and will never pay up.  I suppose you could stop being friends with that person.  But where’s the fun in that?  Some of those outrageous comments are hilarious.

Thankfully there will soon be something that you can do about it: throw their words back in their face!  A now realistic possibility thanks to Kapture, a new wearable device that constantly captures audio giving you the ability to play back what was  said during the last sixty seconds.  Just double tap the device and you’re latest audio snippet will get sent to your phone for posterity.

Aside from helping your win debates, Kapture has several other use cases that could come in handy:

  • Capturing important comments during a business meeting
  • Taking notes during a class or lecture
  • Remembering a witty line that your friend had
  • Dictating notes to your self, for example if you have an idea that you want to “write down” before you forget
  • Recording testimony during a legal proceeding

Honestly, as cool as this concept is I’d like this technology a lot better if it was built into something else.  If it was a capability that Amazon Echo had.  Or if it was baked into the Apple Watch.  Because when it comes down to it are you really going to have a designated wearable device just for capturing sound bites?

Chances are if you’re the type of person who’d even want to have a wearable in the first place it’s probably going to be a FitBit or a smart watch.  It’s probably not going to be a one dimensional wrist band.  But I could be wrong.  To date there’s never been any proof of that.  Perhaps one day, if Kapture catches on, my words will come back to haunt me.

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Is Kapture the Greatest Idea Ever?

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The following post is NSFW.  In fact, I feel like I should be writing about it while riding around in the back of an Uber while the driver asks me deeply personal questions.

In actuality, it’s really not that big of a deal.  With the push towards Virtual Reality happening at warp speed it was only a matter of time before sex entered the picture.  And that’s a good thing.  If VR is ever going to go mainstream and become ubiquitous it needs a killer app to drive early adopters.  Immersive gaming was always going to be the leading candidate.  But porn was the dark horse candidate.  And that’s the one I would have put my money on.  It’s just that I was envisioning a scenario where you put on googles and watch a porn.  Nothing crazy.  Your point of view would be altered.  It would seem like you were actually in the scene.  But that would be it.  You wouldn’t really feel like you were there.  How could you?  The sense of touch would always be missing.  You’d never actually be able to reach out and touch someone.

But apparently I was wrong.  That’s because the Japanese have invented a full body VR sex suit that simulates sexual experiences.

Digital Trends explains how it works:

“The Illusion system pairs a Samsung Gear VR headset with a haptic feedback suit, meant to simulate the feeling of human touch. It even comes with a pair of female “attachments” to aid in reality. One goes where you might expect for a male user, while the other nestles just under the user’s chest, letting him fondle fake breasts.”

The suit has obvious benefits in that it could end prostitution, stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and bring a lot of joy and happiness to people who struggle to find intimacy in real life.  On the other hand it could also make it so that people never leave their house and stop procreating leading to the ultimate demise of society and mankind.

I don’t know which scenario is more plausible.  All I know is that it really is true what they say: all the best stuff is made in Japan!

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Is a full body Virtual Reality sex suit the Greatest Idea Ever?

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