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MekaMon

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

The robots are upgradable and customizable with detachable legs, shields, and weapons. They feature four IR sensors, so the robot can measure distance and location and also accurately track and attack opponents. The robot can also flip on its back and stabilize rather quickly. Each robot weighs around 2.2 pounds, with a dimension of 11.8 x 11.8 x 5.9 inches.

When it comes to gaming competition with friends, most of us grew up playing games like Pokémon, battling with friends through Game Boys and old link cables, and mostly using our imagination when the gameplay animation was still pretty basic. Fast-forward a few decades, and you can still battle friends, but the modes have expanded incredibly. The latest form is a gaming robot from Reach Robotics. Called MekaMon, the four-legged robots have AR capabilities that can be controlled by your smartphone.

The toy connects to the smartphone app through Bluetooth, and other robots via infrared signals. The battery life is a bit limited, though: you’ll only get about one hour of play before it needs to be recharged. MekaMon’s story is set in 2076 and follows Earth after an alien invasion, where humans are fighting back using the battle robots. There are options to play them in story mode, arcade mode, or battle with friends. “We’ve created an entirely new video gaming platform,” Silas Adekunle, CEO of Reach Robotics said in a statement. “Players can whip out their smartphone to battle their multi-functional, connected battlebots in the physical and virtual worlds at the same time.”

The robots are compatible with both iOS and Android devices, using the phones’ cameras and infrared sensors. You look through your phone’s screen to guide your robot and objects in the room like tables and chairs can be used to hide from attacks in the game. Reach Robotics says more add-ons will be available from MekaMon.com in the future. MekaMon is available in white and black models from Apple and MekaMon.com.

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Firefox Quantum

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

Firefox today released its newest browser Firefox Quantum out of beta. The company claims it’s twice as fast as the original Firefox from six months ago. Firefox Quantum has a sleek UI with the option to customize the toolbar. It also exceeds the performance of Google Chrome in a browser speed test battle. The new browser also includes Pocket recommendations of what sites to browse on every new tab. Night Mode and other features are available as Firefox free add-ons.

Despite competing against Google in the browser space, Firefox does resort to using Google as the default search engine in the US, Canada, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. For years, Firefox used Yahoo as a default, though it also offered Google and Bing as alternative selections, but it recently terminated its contract with Yahoo, according to an email statement from Mozilla. The company’s chief business officer Denelle Dixon said, “We exercised our contractual right to terminate our agreement with Yahoo! based on a number of factors including doing what’s best for our brand, our effort to provide quality web search, and the broader content experience for our users.”

The biggest selling point of Quantum versus Chrome is the smaller RAM usage something Google has been repeatedly critiqued for over the years. As you open more tabs in Quantum, it takes up less memory than opening up multiple tabs in Chrome. On my Asus laptop with an Intel Core i5, it runs six processes for 20 open tabs, while Google Chrome runs 21 processes for 14 tabs. Note that after opening the 10th tab, Quantum begins to show a squiggly loading sign on new tabs.

Private browsing mode for Firefox Quantum looks just as good as regular browsing. A purple masked symbol on the right indicates what mode you’re in, and Firefox has tracking protection on by default. Quantum was a project open to volunteers, with about 700 authors contributing to the code. It took a year for Firefox to complete the project. You can download the final version today for free from Mozilla for the web, Android, and iOS.

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The Temperature-control MUG

Friday, November 10th, 2017

The Ember ceramic mug changed the way I’ll drink coffee, and it can do the same for anybody who hates lukewarm swill and the flavor of overcooked coffee sludge. Here’s the deal: within the mug, a microprocessor-controlled heating system gathers information from four separate temperature sensors and activates its adaptive dual heating mechanism. This means no more unintentional cold brew. It’s fascinating how little, everyday frustrations can stick in your brain forever. Like why isn’t there an apparatus that breaks spaghetti in half without throwing shards of raw noodle all over your kitchen? Or why aren’t there half-size spaghetti noodles? Anyway, a few weeks ago, I got a product that spoke to the very heart of me. It spoke to the part of me that has always hated tepid coffee.

The Ember ceramic mug allows you to set your ideal temperature preference—to the degree and keep it there. Most serious coffee drinkers know that the correct temperature for brewing falls between 195 and 205 degrees Fahrenheit depending on the brew. Any higher and you will over-extract the coffee. Lower, you’ll under-extract, leaving the coffee sour and weak. The temperature at which you drink it, however, is much more subjective and is based on personal preference. The Ember mug allows you match your tastes. There are other methods for keeping coffee warm, but they have their flaws. Hot-plate-style warmers generate uneven heat from the bottom. Vacuum-sealed, double-walled containers leak heat constantly, despite their best efforts to hold onto those precious degrees. The only thing a hot beverage has to be is not cold.

The Ember mug is made of reinforced stainless steel and coated with a white ceramic. It comes with a matching coaster that acts as a charger, the cup holds a charge for about an hour and has a built-in LED light to notify you when your drink is at the optimal temperature or running low on batteries. The LED light even has color options for multiple users or drinks. Unlike the brand’s previous product the Ember Travel Mug, which has an adjustable dial on the bottom of the device, the new mug connects to your smartphone or Apple Watch to adjust the temperature. It senses when there is no liquid inside, puts itself into sleep mode when not being used, and then uses a three-axis accelerometer to recognize movement and wake the mug back up. The mug is approximately $80 and can be purchased on the Ember’s website or in most Starbucks throughout the United States and Canada.

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UberEats knows what you want before you do

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

UberEats suggests menu items based on what you’ve ordered in the past. On-demand food is a competitive space. Besides UberEats, people have a multitude of apps to choose from. There’s Caviar, Grubhub, Seamless, DoorDash and Postmates. There’s also the old-fashioned choice of simply calling a restaurant and ordering food, although not all restaurants deliver. By making its service more personalized, UberEats aims to stand above the rest. The food delivery service first launched in 2014 in Los Angeles under the moniker UberFresh. Then eventually it morphed into UberEats with an official launch in Toronto, Canada, in December 2015. By the end of 2016, UberEats was is 56 cities worldwide. Today it’s in 130 cities and is slated to be in 200 by the end of the year. UberEats is even in some cities that don’t have the ride-hailing service, such as Tokyo, Taipei and Seoul.

The food-delivery service added three new features to its app on Thursday that aim to learn your tastes, preferences and likes. It’ll now show “recommended for you” menu items, eater-generated restaurant ratings and also let you “favorite” certain dining spots. Essentially, UberEats is getting more personal. UberEats wants to get to know you. “With such a large and growing selection of restaurants on the platform, we’re thinking how can we show you what you want. UberEats is the food-delivery branch of the ride-hailing service Uber. Similar to how people can hail an Uber ride with the push of a button on their smartphone, they can also order food from dozens of local restaurants using the UberEats app.

Every single consumer on the platform is super different. By learning your preferences we can more intelligently suggest food that you like. UberEats’ new restaurant ratings work a little differently. Ratings aim to better guide eaters in picking restaurants and to help restaurants better learn what dishes are resonating with people. The feature will have a five-star rating system and show feedback over the last 90 days. Sometimes negative ratings can hurt restaurants. Businesses have complained that they’ve lost customers after receiving bad ratings on sites like Yelp, OpenTable and MenuPages. Negative ratings shouldn’t harm UberEats’ partner restaurants since they refresh on a rolling 90-day basis.

UberEats partners with restaurants, so restaurants can decide what they want to sell on the app. The company charges restaurants a service fee that’s calculated as a percentage of its sales on the platform. Uber now has partnerships with 80,000 restaurants, which include everything from upscale eateries to McDonald’s. “With an increasing choice of selection it becomes a little bit more difficult to choose what you want to order. Uber has created “technical solutions to solve some of the pain points for our customers.” UberEats’ new “recommended for you” feature uses machine learning to personalize the app based on what each person is ordering and favoriting. It looks at past restaurant and menu item choices to make suggestions much like how Netflix makes movie recommendations. So, if you tend to order pasta, UberEats will likely show you a restaurant’s spaghetti, lasagna or tortellini dishes.

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Increase Safari SPEED on iOS Devices

Tuesday, November 7th, 2017

Has browsing the Web become an exercise in frustration with Safari on your iPhone or iPad? The first suspect to consider in this crime most foul is your Wi-Fi network itself, but if other devices are humming along at a reasonable clip and it’s just a single iOS device whose Safari is acting sluggish and slow, there are a few things you can try to speed it back up.

Clear history, cookies and data

This move may speed up Safari but will also make the browser a bit more of a pain to use at the outset because it won’t suggest a URL as you type until you visit a site again. Go to Settings > Safari and tap Clear History and Website Data to clear your browsing history and data along with any cookies. Your bookmarks will remain, and Safari will remember your AutoFill information for forms.

Close tabs

It’s easy to run up the count of open tabs in Safari. As a lifelong fan of Ohio State football, I get a daily email newsletter about the team, and each time I tap on a story, it opens as a new tab in Safari. Do I then close each tab after I’m done reading about my Buckeyes? Of course not. When Safari feels a step slow, I close all of the open tabs I have sitting there in Safari by long-pressing the Tab button in the lower-right corner and then tapping Close All [insert number here] Tabs. (You can also tap the Tabs button and long-press Done to get to the same option.)

Disable background processes

It may be that Safari itself isn’t to blame but a couple of background processes that are syphoning off valuable system resources. If your iPhone is downloading updates and refreshing apps in the background while you are browsing, then your performance might suffer. To disable automatic downloads, go to Settings > iTunes & App Stores and turn off automatic downloads for Music, Apps, Book & Audiobook and Updates. To disable background app refresh, head to Settings > General > Background App Refresh and turn it off. Or, if you have a firm suspicions of the app or apps that are refreshing in the background a bit too much to your liking, you can disable the feature for individual apps from the list below.

Reset network settings

When all else fails, you can try resetting your network connection. You’ll need to reconnect to any of your Wi-Fi networks, but it might fix what ails Safari. Go to Settings > General and scroll down to the bottom and tap Reset. On the Reset page, tap Reset Network Settings.

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Sharp like a “RAZER”

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

“You use this for a week and then go to any other phone, you’re going to be upset,” says Tom Moss, Razer’s head of mobile. He’s talking about the Razer Phone. Because where most new flagship phones are shiny rounded rectangles with curved screens, Razer’s first phone is unabashedly a black brick. It flaunts sharp 90-degree corners instead of curved edges. You can even stand the phone on end. The 5.7-inch, 2,560×1,440-resolution screen is flat as a pancake, and you’ll find giant bezels above and below that screen, just when we thought bezels were going out of style. But there’s another trite phrase that might accurately convey the Razer Phone: “It’s what’s on the inside that counts.”

When the Razer Phone ships Nov. 17 for $699 the company says it’ll be the first phone with a display that refreshes 120 times per second, like a high-end PC gaming monitor or Apple’s iPad Pro. Combined with a dynamic refresh technique Razer’s calling Ultramotion, it can mean beautiful, butter-smooth scrolling down websites and apps, and glossy mobile gameplay. The Razer Phone is not exactly what you’d call stunning, and the phrase “breath of fresh air” doesn’t really feel right either, even if the phone is pretty different from anything else on the market. Then there are the speakers. Remember those giant bezels that flank the screen? There’s a reason they exist: they house a pair of front-facing speakers that get louder than you’d imagine a phone has any right to be. When fired up the Dolby Atmos app in a big conference room in Razer’s San Francisco offices, I can’t believe how well they fill the room.

As we run down the spec sheet, it’s clear that Razer focused on meeting or exceeding the competition in other ways as well. It’s got 8GB of RAM. There’s a 4,000mAh battery. A 12-megapixel dual camera with both a wide-angle lens and 2x optical zoom. Two years of guaranteed software updates though it ships with last year’s Android 7.1.1 Nougat, with Oreo coming next spring and 64GB of storage by default, with a microSD slot to add up to 2TB more. The phone has the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip you’ll find in most of today’s flagship phones, Razer claims theirs will perform better than the competition by borrowing some of the thermal engineering know-how the company uses for its high-end laptops, including an actual heatpipe to draw heat away from the chips. It’s the best landscape mode phone, it’s the best audio quality, it’s the best for movies, noting that the big, speaker-filled bezels aren’t just there for audio, they’re a way to hold the phone comfortably in landscape without blocking the screen.

Mind you, there’s no waterproofing to be had here, no wireless charging, and no 3.5mm headphone jack. Razer says the giant speakers weren’t compatible with the idea of waterproofing, the all-aluminum chassis doesn’t have a spot to pass the wireless charging signal, and there’s a USB-C to 3.5mm headphone adapter dongle in the box. Perhaps more importantly, prospective US buyers should know it won’t support CDMA carriers like Verizon or Sprint. Like the OnePlus 5, our favorite budget powerhouse, the Razer Phone is strictly a GSM-only affair. It’s not yet clear what, beyond the Razer brand, makes this a gaming phone. When we ask, Moss downplays that idea a bit. “It shouldn’t just be a gaming phone, it should be a phone for gamers.” The phone will ship Nov. 17 from Razer’s website, Amazon and some Microsoft Stores. In Europe, it’ll exclusively be available where pre-orders begin today.

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Samsung Gear SPORT

Monday, October 30th, 2017

Samsung makes fantastic looking watches but it doesn’t always give them the best tools for success. So is Samsung Gear Sport a typical Samsung watch? The Gear Sport isn’t the super-powered mega-watch that last year’s cellular-enabled S3 was. Instead it focuses on fitness… and even takes a step back on making phone calls. It feels more practical than ambitious. The Sport has GPS and adds 50-meter water resistance, a first for a Samsung watch. That means it’s swim-ready in fresh or salt water, like current top-end fitness trackers such as the Apple Watch Series 3, the Fitbit Ionic and Garmin’s recent watches. It also launches alongside a Spotify app update that lets you download songs and albums if you have a premium account.

The Gear Sport launched last Friday for $299, along with a new longer-battery-life version of the Gear Icon X heart-rate-enabled headphones with music storage. Wearing the Gear Sport for a while, you will appreciate the watch’s more practical outlook and design and its detailed on-screen fitness and notification readouts. It’s worth considering, maybe, if you’ve wanted something a bit like an Apple Watch Series 3 for a Samsung or another Android phone. In other words, it’s a swim-ready fitness watch with a little music onboard. Its smart features are far better than Fitbit Ionic, but getting it all to function feels like a serious project.

The Gear Sport has a squared-off circle design, with rounded edges that poke under the circular bezel. The hematite-type glossy black model I tried looked great. It’s a sleeker-looking watch than many round Android Wear watches I’ve seen. It’s not as massive as last year’s Gear S3. The thinner replaceable band is comfortable and it’s pretty nicely done. But the case is definitely chunkier than the older Gear S2. The spinning bezel is still a unique touch. Introduced two years ago, it cycles through watchfaces and quick-glance apps. Is it faster than swiping or using a spinning side crown button? Maybe not, but it’s still satisfying. The display looks fantastic. The watch faces are bold and crisp. The extra fitness features have a lot more detail than similar watches, so you can check your weekly graphs and progress at a glance.

Spotify works, but it’s a hassle to set up. When paired with a phone, it acts as a remote to the phone app. On its own, it can browse and download music, or stream it over Wi-Fi or cellular. The Gear Sport doesn’t have cellular LTE, but last year’s Gear S3 had it as an option. Once connected, Spotify works well. The round interface can show album art, plus play and volume controls. Logging in was annoying, though. When away from a phone, the app made me log in on the watch by tapping my account info into a tiny keyboard. It didn’t seamlessly sync my account from the phone app. Still, having Spotify on a fitness watch with locally saved music (that can be downloaded over Wi-Fi from the watch itself) is a great perk for Spotify users. Eventually, the watch will be able to use Spotify with iOS, but right now it only works for Android phones.

Since Samsung’s key apps like Spotify, S-Health and Samsung Pay arrived, I like the Gear Sport more than the Gear S3, but all the app-connectivity problems have not yet been solved. It feels nice to wear, but it doesn’t always feel nice to use.

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Amazon Key – Deliveries Inside your home

Thursday, October 26th, 2017


The new service could offer a big benefit for city dwellers who’ve had packages stolen from their doorsteps or just soaked by rain. Both scenarios are costly for companies like Amazon, which then need to field calls from annoyed shoppers and refill lost orders. In all, 31 percent of people have experienced package theft, according to a survey this year. “A lot of customers want as many choices as they can have for delivery options”. “And so one option, of course, is to have it on your doorstep, another option is to have an Amazon Locker, and now we have a new option if you just want it delivered inside your house.”

The world’s largest e-commerce company on Wednesday revealed a new shipping service that lets customers receive packages inside their homes. The program, called Amazon Key, marks what may be biggest push by any company to spur in-home delivery. It launches next month in 37 US metropolitan areas. Amazon Key works with the company’s new Cloud Cam security camera, a smart door lock and the new Key app. It will be available only for Prime members. Besides deliveries, the service can be used to let in guests and, in the coming months, will let customers schedule in-home visits from tens of thousands of local businesses on Amazon Home Services, including house cleaners and dog walkers.

Still, consumers will need to get comfortable with the idea of strangers letting themselves into their homes while they’re away. Amazon isn’t the first to try out in-home delivery. Walmart last month said it’s testing straight-to-your-fridge grocery delivery with the help of smart-lock maker August Home and its in-home delivery program August Access. August Home already partners with a handful of service providers and the delivery company Deliv. Even so, Amazon already has just about everything it would need to create such an option, including its AmazonFresh delivery service and Whole Foods grocery chain.

An Amazon Key bundle which includes the Cloud Cam, a smart door lock and an option for free installation costs from $250 to $320 and goes on preorder Wednesday. The Amazon Key service launches in 37 US metro areas on Nov. 8.

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First Panoramic Sunroof Airbag

Monday, October 23rd, 2017

The safety device is designed to curb injuries by keeping occupants from being ejected through a vehicle’s sunroof in the event of a rollover crash. Korea’s largest automotive supplier a parts and services division of Hyundai, Kia and Genesis says the device is installed in the panoramic sunroof hardware itself. Capable of being deployed in just 0.08 seconds, the airbag unfurls from the rear of the vehicle to the front. Triggered by the vehicle’s yaw sensor, the inflated device looks a bit like an air mattress pool float, covering nearly the entire ceiling of the cabin. Even as auto companies are innovating toward the promise of a crash-free future thanks to advancements in self-driving and connected car technology, there’s evidently still room for new passive safety countermeasures, too. The latest? Hyundai Mobis’ panoramic sunroof airbag, which the supplier claims is a world first. That’s right, automobiles have yet to hit “peak airbag.”

How big of a problem are sunroof ejections? According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, 260 passengers were thrown through a vehicle’s sunroof in rollover accidents reported between 2000 and 2015. That may seem like a small total incurred over a decade and a half, but panoramic roofs are becoming increasingly popular options, especially on SUVs and in luxury cars. What’s more, Hyundai Mobis’ new airbag may also reduce injuries among occupants who would otherwise remain inside the vehicle in an accident, curbing the risk of concussions and broken bones. Hyundai Mobis points out that such equipment has been more challenging to develop than other airbags, in part because the way the device activates needs to account for whether the sunroof is open or closed.

The supplier notes that its panoramic sunroof airbag has just finished road and reliability verification including vibration and heat-resistance testing. Further, Hyundai Mobis says it has “secured mass production technology,” suggesting that we could see the airbag in a new vehicle soon. In fact, in a press release, the company points out specifically that it has “11 patents-pending to support its move into the premium SUV market,” which hints that the technology’s first application could be in Genesis’ forthcoming SUV, a vehicle that until now has only been hinted at in concept form.

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Windows Mixed Reality headsets

Wednesday, October 18th, 2017

Made by Microsoft’s PC maker partners, the designs for the new headsets were shown at IFA Berlin, one of the world’s biggest consumer technology trade shows. Prices start at $299 for the headsets, but expect to pay an additional $100 to get them bundled with motion controllers. Those Windows mixed reality headsets Microsoft teased nearly a year ago are now shipping with the rollout of Windows 10 Fall Creators Update.  Although the pricing was initially more affordable than competitors, once the Windows Mixed Reality headsets are bundled with controllers they cost the same or more than the current $399 Oculus Rift bundle. They are still cheaper than HTC Vive, and they don’t require a super-powerful PC to run them.

Also, unlike Oculus and Vive, WMR headsets use a pair of front-mounted cameras and a set of built-in sensors to map your physical position. Called inside-out tracking, the design allows for six-degrees-of-freedom movement tracking without the need to buy external sensors and set them up in a dedicated space. They’re made to be plug-and-play for the most part, too, so you can be up and running in minutes just about anywhere. However, since they’re all designed to meet Microsoft’s specific requirements, there aren’t huge differences between the headsets. The first five headsets announced have the same basic set of specs:

  • Two high-resolution 1,440×1,440-pixel LCDs with up to 90Hz native refresh rate
  • Front-hinged display for quickly lifting the viewer up and out of the way
  • Built-in 3.5mm jack for audio and microphone support
  • Single cable with HDMI 2.0 and USB 3.0 for video and data
  • 4-meter (13.1-ft.) cable

Samsung’s Odyssey headset offers a slight variation to the formula by using 1,440×1,600-pixel AMOLED displays and skipping the flip-up design. Otherwise, at least for this first batch, the differences seem to come down to overall design. And even those don’t vary too much. Lenovo’s entry into the headset market is perhaps the most boardroom-ready in appearance. The Explorer follows the same design and feature sets as the others. One nice little extra, though, is that Lenovo will have a set of its own apps available for use with the headset through its own entertainment hub. The Lenovo Explorer is available now for $399 with a set of motion controllers.

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