Posts Tagged ‘Google’

Nowadays our lives are dominated by screens. Whether it be your PC, Laptop, tablet or smartphone, we are all focused at some point in our day on them.

Although this seems like a bad thing, one thing is for sure, environmentally this is great, as paper is slowly becoming less of a part of our lives.

I am not sure if this is the same for you, but this does mean with all that finger poking at screens and mouse clicking, I almost feel like I have forgotten to hold a pen, as when I go to write a note it feels like I haven’t held one in years which I have to say I do miss.

But of course with most things recently, somebody comes along to bridge that gap and today we focus on OTM Technologies who have started crowdfunding Phree, the digital input device.

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This is the “write anywhere” device which lets draw, write, annotate on pretty much any surface. It will connect to all of your devices over a Bluetooth connection and is compatible with apps like Office, Evernote, OneNote, Acrobat, Google Handwriting Keyboard, Viber and more. So you can sketch or jot down ideas, thoughts or even take down details instantly.

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Personally, I can really see this being used in meetings, quickly jotting down notes and minutes to view digitally at a later date, but I have to say I do like the idea of being able to just pull this out and start writing anywhere.

One thing that really surprised us was the fact that not only is it an awesome digital input device, but it will also function to take calls as a headset and to briefly see texts and write to reply back to them…..now that is cool!

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The carry case will charge Phree on the go. The cap attaches magnetically to the body of the case to form an adjustable stand for any smartphone. Just place your phone in the stand, begin writing or drawing off-screen with Phree – you have an instant mobile workstation that actually works. Phree can be ordered with or without a case.

The dimensions are as follows L x 142mm, W X 18mm and a Weight of 30 gr with a touch swipe display on board the pen. Phree at the moment comes in 4 colours, but the designers will run a survey to properly deduce what colours people want.

We love this and have not seen anything like it. It is is fully funded on Kickstarter and you can currently nab yourself one for $189 with a case.

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tag

Tag Heuer have just announced that they are producing an Android powered smart watch in partnership with Intel and Google. There are no specifics on specification or design yet, which makes the timing of the announcement look like a brazen attempt to make people think twice before purchasing an Apple Watch next month.

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Data from a number of customer surveys appear to suggest that up to 18% of iPhone 6/6+ users may buy an Apple Watch and, if true, that’s a very real dent in the Swiss watch market. Tag, along with other premium Swiss watchmakers such as Breitling, have now taken notice.

Most of those surveyed who answered ‘Yes – I will be buying an Apple Watch’ will most likely have never owned anything other than a traditional timepiece. 18% is a very high number for a market that aside from Pebble, doesn’t really exist.

There seems to be some trepidation from potential buyers, who may like the idea of a smart watch but just don’t know for sure if it’s for them. Apple knows this and from April 10th, will have all models available in store so that customers can test drive it themselves. For those who find it a bit too much of a leap to make and perhaps come away still preferring the classic watch look, Tag Heuer could be ideally placed.

If a Tag Heuer smart watch looked like a traditional timepiece with smartphone features and was priced around the £1000-£1500 mark, I’m sure it would sell very well. I for one would be interested!

It is amazing the things you can do on a tablet nowadays. The games you can play and the uses are endless. From talking to your friend half way across the world for free to editing a hi-res photo with professional detail while on the sofa listening to music. It makes me think of what did we actually do when we were younger? How did we survive? How did our parents keep us entertained?!

As a parent myself, it worries me that my child uses the iPad far too much and sometimes we all rely on it far too often. I have even seen my son walk up to a digital photo frame and swipe to the right to see the next picture, but left feeling slightly confused as it doesn’t work.

The question is, are children nowadays too reliant on modern technology and is the imagination that I think we had, going to be lost to a processor? This question can only be answered as time goes by and we see what happens to the next generation.

All is not lost though…A company called Tangible Play (made up of old Google staff) have released Osmo, a new crowd funded app for kids that encourages ‘real world’ play. It allows the user to pick up things and build using their hands, thanks to a mirror attachment which turns the iPad’s camera to view the surface where your child is playing.

Recently I have looked around the App Store and failed to find anything that is different or breaks boundaries, but this app is very different and we should stand up and take notice.

All of the games to be used with this kit are optimised for ages 6-12 but each game has a varying range of difficulty. Take Newton, it’s a physics game, which uses the same concept as “Cut The Rope” where players can use any object, from lines on a piece of paper to a toy or even their own hands to control the stuff on screen. All you really need is a piece of paper and a pen to get started.

Tangram, is a game where puzzle pieces in the real world must be matched to the shapes on screen. The kit comes with an iPad stand and mirror connector and promotes your child’s creativity as suddenly the brain is thinking in many dimensions!

I do not only love this as a educational toy for my kids, but also as a concept in itself. It is not often you get something that comes along that breaks the mold and creates a whole new genre of games….this might just be that thing.

Available now on the Osmo Website for $49. This is a steal considering what you get and of course this will double once pre-orders have been fulfilled. The company is concentrating on developing the apps, but will eventually open this up to developers to create their own games….so watch this space.

Check out the Osmo video

 

 

So, yesterday we showed you the wonders of Piena, which promises to solve an issue that every parent has to endure, simplifying the sterilisation process for us all.

Call us the Mary Poppins of the Tech world, as we have something else for you on the horizon which we think again parents will love and in the end need!

One of the biggest fears in life is losing a child, which is so easy in modern day malls and super markets, but the guys over at BeLuvv think they have solved the problem. The idea was born after the founder himself lost his child in a supermarket and had to come up with an idea to keep track of him in today’s modern connected world.

Guardian, a small device which can be clipped to your child’s clothing or put into a watch type strap is used to communicate with your smartphone to keep track of your child’s whereabouts. When your child is in Bluetooth range, Guardian keeps track of them and notifies you if he or she approaches the tracking boundary which can be amended by the parent at any time from the app.

The device comes with an app to help you track your child in real time and it also creates a network of parents that grows stronger as more people join the system. Since every copy of the Guardian app can connect to central servers, when the child leaves the phone’s range, the cloud-based system can trigger an emergency network search, and you’ll get an alert with your child’s location if he or she is close to another person with the Guardian app.

Of course, this has to see a massive take up for it to become viable on a local level for the network search features, but as an out-of-range assistant will work extremely well. I cannot see any parent saying no to this, the wearable device can easily be worn by a child and at a pre-order price of $24.95 you cannot afford to not take a look.

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Up until now, if you wanted to play a downloaded video on your iPhone or iPad, you would either have to download an Apple-friendly MP4 version or convert it to one.

Apple’s iPhone 5 specification webpage states that it will natively play H.264 video up to 1080p, 30 frames per second, High Profile level 4.1 with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4 and .mov file formats’.

The problem with this is that for the vast majority of downloadable HD videos, MKV is the container of choice. It has become so popular because of it’s flexibility – it can contain almost any codec for both video and audio tracks – indeed it can have multiple of either track – and has excellent subtitle support too.

Most MKV files will contain an H264 video track which iOS can play, but the MKV container is not recognised and the audio track is invariably not in the preferred stereo AAC format. An MKV video file is simply not recognised by iOS.

The options until a couple of years ago were to either convert the entire video into a recognised file format or ‘remux’ it. There are a myriad of encoding applications available for both the OSX and Windows, but are usually easy to use paid-for applications or perplexing free ones.

Converting the entire file loses quality on both the audio and video tracks and to make matters worse could take a very long time to accomplish on all but the fastest machines.

Remuxing on the other hand is a clever process whereby the application separates the H264 video track from the audio track, and then converts only the audio stream to AAC before stitching them back together again in a friendly MP4 format. Result? No loss of quality for the video, and a playable file.

A few years ago, Apple relaxed the policies on the App Store to allow third party developers to publish their own video players. These have until recently only been able to play unofficial formatted files in software. What this means is that instead of using the dedicated video chip, it uses the CPU to decode it. This can result in a lot of dropped frames, making the video appear jerky and also massively decreases battery life.

Around a year ago, Dolby, angered by lack of money generated through licensing Dolby Digital decoders, requested Apple to stop any developers providing apps on the App Store that could decode Dolby Digital soundtracks without paying Dolby a licencing fee. Apple responded, and all apps that could play Dolby Digital soundtracks were pulled and were only allowed to be republished once either the functionality was removed or the developer paid Dolby a licensing fee.

Google however, seems to have come to the rescue.

It was discovered this week that if you upload an MKV file to Google Drive in what seems like ANY format, including soundtracks in DTS, you can then download (or stream) it using the Google Drive app on iOS immediately. These files are played in the stock video application, meaning that GPU accelerated decoding is being used, keeping battery drain to a minimum. It would seem that Google is quite happy to do the remuxing/converting for you in real time without any cost to you using their servers. Quite why Google is willing to do this is up for debate, but for now, let the good times roll and stop converting!

 

Written by our guest writer Phil Carroll.

 

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Agent

 

Well, just when we thought that the likes of Pebble were taking over the world of smart watches and all we had to look forward to were the super powers of Google and Apple stamping out the competition, there’s a new kid in town.

Agent, a Kickstarter collaboration from Secret Labs & House of Horology is a real smart watch which I think has hit the nail on the head in terms of design. Let’s leave the techie stuff for now, this watch will not look out of place in the gym, out at the shops or even at the office, which is rare in a smartwatch like this. The solid, almost industrial design looks superb and so different to anything we have seen so far.

Now, the stuff you have been waiting for, what’s inside the dinky little case….Firstly, let’s talk about the dual processor. This is one of the first times this has been used, one processor looking after the bulk of power hungry apps ( ARM Cortex M4) and the other, a smaller chip which takes care of business in sleep mode, making sure power consumption is kept to a real minimum (11% of last years processor consumption).

Inside, the watch also houses a bluetooth chip which like all other smart watches connects to your phone to pull data or even control it. It will work with iPhone 4S and higher, Android 2.3+ and Windows Phone 8, so most of us will not have issues with compatibility. One of my favourite things about these smart watches is notifications in the form of vibration. Imagine sitting in a meeting and your phone is ringing, a quick glance of your watch face tells you whether it is important or not, enabling you to divert the call or get up and take it.

The watch is water resistant and most importantly has a rechargeable battery with a 7 day life span (with Bluetooth on)which is wirelessly charged via the Qi pad supplied. Interestingly if you have a Qi pad by other manufacturers this will still charge. The watch also includes an accelerometer for use with step counting and anything else developers wish to do with it and 2 light sensors to control the brightness of the anti glare screen.

To sum up, this watch isn’t a million miles away from the devices out there, but where we do see a massive difference is in the design, and this is where you can see the impact of getting an outside designer (House of Horology) who have given a different aspect on creating a smart watch.

For the first time, here is a watch that I would consider leaving my designer watch at home. Order yours now for $199 with $15 delivery to the UK with an expected delivery in Jan 2014.

 

 

 

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Sorry about the title, but it just had to be done. When I first saw this technology a while back, it reminded me of the film Minority Report, in which Tom Cruise navigates a screen using his hands….amazing! It is interesting how much technology is born from films.

Back in March TheTechSpy looked at MYO, the gesture controlled armband which debuted on Kickstarter. Leap Motion have gone a step further, this device connects to your PC/Mac and senses your hand movements to translate this onto the screen without the need to wear anything.

The unit is 3″ long and fits in with most design conscious desktops with its sleek look. Imagine scrolling the web with a wave of your hand, or zooming in on Google maps with a pinch of your fingers. The device even allows you to hold a pencil and draw on-screen while just holding the pencil mid-air or even strum an air guitar with the sounds being outputted from your computer speakers.

The possibilities of this are superb and now you can truly manipulate a 3D object on your screen using your hands which will be great for designers. It is products like these that really show us how far technology is pushing the boundaries.

Shipping starts at the end of July and the Leap Motion controller can be pre-ordered here for $79.99. For delivery to the UK, expect to pay nearer the $107 mark as they are taking care of taxes and duties in that price.