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Solowheel and Hovertrax from the Inventist
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hovertrax

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Today’s review is of two new, cool gadgets that will propel you around and get you where you are going in style!  These were items that Mark came across at CES.  Next year, I’m going with him so I can experience all these cool things firsthand.

Hovertrax is like a light-weight, “look-Ma-no-hands” Segway! I could see people on the college campuses in our area riding around on these.  That is, if they want to pay $995 for one.  The Hovertrax goes 5 mph and will get you 8 miles before you have to charge it for 45 minutes.  This item is due to come out this year.

solowheel

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Another thing that can move you at Inventist.com is the Solowheel.  If you have a little more money to spend($1595), you can ride this motorized unicycle without a seat around town, or around campus, too!  It’s a bit faster than Hovertrax- between 10 and 12 mph.  It runs for about 10 miles, and will need to charge for 3 to 5 hours after that.  The weight of the Solowheel is 24.25 lbs, and will hold up to 220 lbs.  It is supposed to be good for your core and balance.  When they reviewed it on the show “The Doctors,” the new rider reported it as being quite a workout, and, of course, it takes a little practice to be able to control it.

Solowheel Extreme promises higher efficiency in power, more sleek,an LED light for nighttime riding, and built-in Bluetooth capabilities. Apps for smartphones, tablets and watches will be available in the near future. The Solowheel Extreme is more expensive at $2,295. You can pre-order this item, and order all other items at The Inventist website

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My Review of the J5Create JUD480 USB 3.0 Boomerang Station
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JUD480

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It has been over a year since I reviewed a J5Create product, and one of the products that I reviewed was the JUD500 Ultra Station
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. This time, I had the chance to review the JUD480 USB 3.0 Boomerang Station.

I’m sure that you can see why it is called the Boomerang Station just by its shape. I would imagine that if you threw it right, it would probably come back to you. Its shape is terrific for holding up your laptop at a certain angle, as you can see.

It is made for connecting a 2nd monitor with a VGA port, and you probably can’t see the other ports like four USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, microphone, speaker, and Gigabit Ethernet. There is also a power adapter and a 3.0 Host port to connect it to your computer.

As I had a chance to try it out, I think something like this is a must if you are trying to make your ordinary laptop a super power center. After all, if you want another screen, then you are going to want some kind of hook-ups for everything, and laptops always seem to run out of USB ports.

If you want it, you can find out more information about it on the J5Create site

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. You won’t be able to buy it there, but you should be able to get it for about $140.00, because that is about the highest price I found it for.

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on January 29th, 2015
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Oculus Rift will flourish with Story Studio
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Lost_B

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In case you are wondering, this poster for “lost” is not related to the ABC show of the same name with its weird ending. As far as I know, it isn’t related to The Iron Giant, which featured a giant crawling robotic hand. Lost is a short film from Story Studio, an in-house innovation lab focused on exploring and sharing tools and techniques to craft entertainment experiences with VR.

By now, I hope that I don’t have to talk about the Oculus Rift, as I have mentioned it before and was pretty excited about how it will change gaming when I saw it demonstrated at PAX

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. With this strange burdensome goggles on your head, you can be within a virtual environment making our nineties dreams of virtual reality come true.

What Pixar did with computer generated movies, Story Studio hopes to do with VR. In other words, it wants to use the first-person point-of-view with some interactivity to create a whole new entertainment experience. Our Source, who made that Pixar comparison, has watched “lost” and fully enjoyed the immersive theater experience, and Story Studio has more works lined up with Dear Angelica (a surreal adventure), Bullfighter (an action adventure), and Henry (which looks like a cute little animal story).

This leads to the question of what kind of films would be good for the Oculus Rift. Personally, I would love to see a murder mystery that would put the viewer as the lead detective. It would definitely require him or her to look in the right place at the right time. Oh, man, I just can’t believe that we are headed into an age like this.

Source

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on January 28th, 2015
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PLAYBULB Candle by MiPOW
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20150113_002840[1]

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My first post on The Geek Church, and it will be a review of a product Mark found at CES.   This is the PLAYBULB Candle.  It’s a nifty little device that can be controlled by an app on Apple or Android devices.

After downloading the app, I found the set-up to be a bit clunky.  I got the device to pair with my Samsung Galaxy S4 phone, and there is a tutorial at the beginning, but the app is pretty basic, and could use some updating.

The candle is able to change colors, and there are different effects- such as candle effect, flashing, pulse, rainbow, and rainbow fade.  These are all controlled directly through the app.  If you didn’t have your phone with you, the candle would only be able to be the color you last set it at.  You also have the option of setting a timer for the candle to turn on or off at certain times.  This is useful if you want to fall asleep to candle light, but don’t want it “burning” all night.

Screenshot_2015-01-27-00-17-44[1]

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Want to hear some tunes as your candle is going?  The app will pull up a playlist for you from your phone.  This is the playlist that the app pulled from my phone on the left:

I must say, I don’t find “Facebook Pop” to be the most romantic song, and certainly not the only music on my phone.  There doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to the songs it chooses to play, and sound quality is only as good as the speakers on your phone.

The PLAYBULB Candle by MiPow is, overall, a fun little gadget.  You can purchase it, along with other cool accessories, like the PLAYBULB color light bulb with speakers, on the MiPow site

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for $49.99.

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on January 27th, 2015
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Universal SwingHolder Floor Stand by Stand For Stuff
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Stand for Stuff SFS-FSU-A

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We really live in an age where we use tablet computers a lot, and we it seems like we aren’t prepared for it. It is like living in a world with televisions, but we just never got around to inventing the home entertainment center.

The Universal SwingHolder Floor Stand by Stand For Stuff is made to keep your tablet in place while you just sit there. Seriously, don’t most of us do that with our tablets or e-readers? Sure, we interact with them, but it is difficult to just keep it on your lap. The SwingHolder is designed to be adjustable, sort of like a microphone stand of some kind.

The holder for the tablet works with any tablet or e-reader measuring 7.5 to 14.5 inches on the diagonal, so you won’t have to remove your tablet from its cover. The design on the holder has holders at right angles, so it is made to keep the tablet in with rubberized fingers. The holder can be adjusted for a lot of viewing angles.

In addition to using the Universal SwingHolder for viewing, you can charge your tablet as well. There is a USB port near the tablet holder that you can use with your USB charger, and then plug the included AC outlet in the wall.

I received it and it can assemble in a few minutes, and it can be folded up to only take up one foot of storage space. If you want it, you should head on over to the Stand For Stuff site

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and lay down for $199.00.

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3DRudder allows you to use your feet on the computer
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3Drudder

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Some of you might remember how in my KeyMouse article, I talked about how something like this might be necessary in a world where we will need to do work in 3D rather than 2D. There is another device that I saw at CES 2015 that is made for a different kind of interface with the 3DRudder.

I had a chance to try it out, and it is somewhat interesting. You put the your feet on the 3D rudder on the imprints of the feet, and you can spin it and lean for all kinds of interaction. I have to admit I was really spinning when I first tried it, but what do you expect, no learning curve?

I suppose that it is possible to use the 3D rudder without a mouse, but I’m not certain how you are supposed to click with. Use a big toe, perhaps? No, it’s not like that, but I like the idea of not moving my hand from my keyboard to move my mouse. Seriously, ever since KeyMouse opened my eyes to that time-waster, I can’t help but think about the wasted seconds of my day on that, compounded.

Now, this is an Indigogo project, but I think it will be available soon. I don’t have a price for it as yet, but you can read more information about it here

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on January 26th, 2015
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The Bragi Dash and Free Wavz Totally Wireless Earbuds
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Bragi Dash

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I’ve seen and reviewed a lot of wireless earbuds in the past, and the most “convenient” ones are like the Jabra Sport Wireless
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, which are two earbuds that are joined together by a singular wire. While I was at CES 2015, I saw two pairs of completely wireless earbuds that snip the wire and keep the sound.

I’ll start with the Dash, from a company known as Bragi. The Dash is a “Hearable” which I am assume is a combination of “hear” and “wearable”. So, as a wearable, it has body sensors that can actually track your performance as you are running in real-time. Stuff that can be tracked is pace, steps, cadence, distance, heart rate, oxygen saturation, and energy spent.

What is interesting is that you don’t have to be hooked to a phone in order to listen to music. That’s right, it has 4 GB inside that you can play 1000 songs with. Not bad. By the way, it can drown out almost any outside sound.

Now, if you want to pre-order it, you can for a price of $299.00, and it should be available in April right here

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Free Wavz

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The second product that are Totally Wireless Earbuds is the Free Wavz. These have 3-axis accelerometers and pulse oximeters that can monitor heart rate, calories burned, speed, distance, workout duration, and oxygen saturation.

As you can see, the Free Wavz has a different look than the Dash. They have internal Flash memory with 16MB, which isn’t as much as the Dash, but I am not certain if you can operate the Free Wavz without a phone.

I believe that the Free Wavz will be available sometime in March 2015 right here

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ZAGG Folio Case for the iPad Air
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ZAGG Folio

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I have reviewed several keyboard from ZAGG, and they are definitely a company that makes some quality products. I’ve had nothing but good things to say about the Rugged Folio
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and the Slim Book Ultra-Slim Tablet Keyboard and Detachable Case
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. So is there any change to this one?

Well, I am not certain if it has better protection than the Rugged, but the fact that it can fold down and protect the iPad Air’s screen is good. You can bend it backwards so it can go 135 degrees, for multiple angles.

The good news is ZAGG claims that the Folio is “one of the thinnest available, which means it won’t take up too much space in your backpack. The cover has a leather feel to it, and it feels pretty classy.

By the way, the keyboard has 30 percent more typing area that the competition, However, there is a lot of space above and below the QWERTY keyboard. Oh, by the way, the keys are backlit, so you can type in the dark or something. The backlit keys lead to the question of the battery, it is good for three months in between charges.

So, if you are looking to get a Folio case for the iPad Air, head on over to the ZAGG site

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and lay down $99.99 for it. I believe that I will be reviewing more ZAGG products in March, so stay tuned.

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Speculative Fiction Saturday: The Hobbit, The Battle of Five Armies
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Hobbit The Battle of Five Armies

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Well, some of you might remember my review of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
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, so it is only a matter of time before I reviewed the third Hobbit movie with The Battle of Five Armies. I’m going to start by saying that the Hobbit movies got progressively worse, but at least that it didn’t get terrible.

Here’s the biggest issue that I have with this movie. Most films follow a three-act structure, with the third act being the big climactic action scene. The Battle of The Five Armies starts with a climactic action scene, and then becomes the the climactic action scene for the entire trilogy, taking up the last two or so hours.

This isn’t to say that the action scenes aren’t great. I have to admit the opening scene where Smaug is killed is pretty scary. I don’t think that is too much of a spoiler, as the second film set it up for that. In fact, that second movie just drew out the battle with the dwarves and the dragon, ending with this over-the-top scene with a giant gold statue melting. What…the…Fudge?

Seeing a dragon destroy a city and then brag about it, saying that he is going to kill the dragonslayer’s son is pretty awesome. Most fantasy stories end this way, but leave it to Tolkien to break fantasy conventions and start new ones. In this case, the dragon has a lot of treasure, and everyone wants it.

This is where the Battle of Five Armies comes in. The Dwarves want it for themselves because Smaug did take a dwarf kingdom, hello? The humans think they are entitled to it because the dragon destroyed their city, and a human did slay Smaug. The elves want it because they think they deserve it for some odd reason. Then the Orcs want it because they are evil, I guess. As for that fifth army, I think it is…the Eagles?

Anyway, from here, the film is all about big fight scenes with massively large armies. Now, one of the things that I loved about the original The Lord of the Rings trilogy was because it was full of battles of large armies, but back then, it was new and awesome. Now it is easier to do it, and it has become possible to actually get sick of it.

The film also has some impossible physics. I mentioned in the second film that there is a scene where an arrow blocks another arrow, a scene that is so stupid that it took me a few minutes to figure out how stupid it was. There is a similar scene where Legolas runs on some bricks as they are falling, and it looks like something out of a Super Mario Brothers game.

Keep in mind, the actual Battle of the Five Armies in the book was covered in a few pages, with only a description of the casualties. I have no idea if Tolkien deliberately minimized what would be an epic scene, or he just had to cut it short because he was going to miss a deadline. I mean, after the dragon was killed the rest is simply epilogue. Which is why this movie doesn’t work, because the whole movie is one epilogue.

Worse yet, the main issue is still not settled by the end of the film. They are all fighting over the treasure, which is revealed to be cursed gold. If it is cursed, then there should be a scene where they blow up the ancient dwarf kingdom, sealing the treasure forever. If the gold isn’t cursed, shouldn’t they all separate it into equal piles, or something, as part of the armistice treaty? Instead, there is nothing in the film, not even a voiceover, saying what happened to the treasure!

Okay, I realize that I’m saying all the negatives, but there are some positives. It is interesting to see that even though this film has far too much going on, it still takes time to focus on his main its main character, Bilbo. He tries to do the best he can in his given situation, but sometimes, badness happens and there is just nothing you can do.

Sadly, this film did not end with a smooth dovetail into The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I don’t see any need not to spoil this film, as you really should have seen the Lord of the Rings trilogy. As Channel Awesome’s Sage has said, prequels have never worked because we already know how the story ends. In this case, the set up doesn’t work with The Fellowship of the Ring.

You see, at the end of The Battle of Five Armies, Gandalf tells Frodo that he knows he has a ring that can make him invisible. Frodo doesn’t deny it, but he lies and says that he lost the ring. If that were the case, then wouldn’t Gandalf have confronted Frodo about this at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring. Instead he says, “there are many great rings of power, and none are to be used lightly” and not “I thought you told me that you lost that ring, you liar”.

Wow, I can’t believe how little positive that I had to say about this movie. Yeah, I might not see it anytime again, but it is sadly what the movie-going public wants: action connected to a proven franchise.

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on January 24th, 2015
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KeyMouse could change computer interface everywhere
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KeyMouse

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While I was out CES 2015, I saw a device that could change interacting with computers as we know it. Yes, I have seen devices like these before and haven’t changed the world as we know it, but I think there is going to be some changes in computers that could make a KeyMouse rather necessary.

The KeyMouse is when someone takes your keyboard and splits it in two. This isn’t done for ergonomics, but each half of the keyboard is a mouse. Yes, you have a computer keyboard that is a mouse, and two of them, to be exact.

Now, I don’t know what I can do with two mice, just yet. I’ve used one all these years, and I think I have lost a few days of my life as my hand moves from my keyboard to my mouse. I’m not certain what two mice can do, but I think we will be living in a world with more 3D interactions, so wouldn’t two mice come in handy?

Now, I’m sure there might be some kind of learning curve here with using the KeyMouse, but I believe that once you get used to it, it will increase your productivity.

Right now, the KeyMouse is just a Kickstarter project, but it is on its way to receiving its funding from its Kickstarter page

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. You should be able to get it soon, and I can’t help but wonder how it will affect laptop construction.

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on January 23rd, 2015
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