Archive for June, 2014

Google unveils Cardboard VR at I/O

cardboard VRIf you aren’t familiar with how Google works, they have a big developers conference simply called I/O. Sometimes they roll out big things like a new version of Android, or some other big new Android phone. This time last week, it was cardboard.

I have no idea if anyone intends to mass-produce this very cheap holder, but they were given out by Google at I/O. Yeah, it is a very inexpensive way of showing how a simple Android phone can be used like a VR device such as the Occulus Rift. I have heard from my Source that Dodocase is making pre-made kits for about $20.

This carboard thing reminds me of an ad I saw in Time Magazine for a car that was a paper fold-up View-master. I really like how this is done, and I am guessing that I will see more items like this for mobile devices. Maybe Apple will have something at their shindig when they unveil the newest iPhone.

Source

Posted by on June 30th, 2014 No Comments

Robots serve as guides at Tokyo Museum

Robot maidIf you head to Tokyo, you can see some seriously freaky real robots at the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. They are Kodomoroid (“child robot”) and Otonaroid (“adult robot”) and they are positioned to introduce you to the world of robots.

I am told that these robots move their realistic lips to a voice-over, and they have all the human “tells”. For example, they blink, twitch, and occasionally sway from side to side. Just think of them as robot newscasters.

Personally, I thought this idea of robot newscasters sounds great, and reminds me of Batman Beyond. Yeah, there is a lot of speculative fiction references that I can make here. In fact, Japanese robotics expert Hiroshi Ishiguro says that he hopes that “making androids is about exploring what it means to be human”. I can’t help but be reminded of Tyrell from Blade Runner, when he talks about “more human than human”.

Source 1 and Source 2

Posted by on June 30th, 2014 No Comments

Speculative Fiction Saturday: Babylon 5

Babylon 5 castI don’t know whether I really planned this, but this month has been Speculative TV show month. Today, I wanted to discuss my one of my favorites, and it is not Star Trek, Doctor Who, but this one, Babylon 5. If you never heard of it, I can’t say that I blame you. It lasted about five years, but the only thing that kept it alive was its fanbase.

The show was not one that you could just turn on and know what was going on. The show was conceived by J. Michael Straczynski, and he had an idea for an epic science-fiction show with a five-year storyline. He was able to get four years out of Fox, and then it was picked up on TNT. The sad part was the major storylines were rushed for a wrap-up of the show by Season 4, so Season 5 was kind of not really necessary.

Babylon 5 was about a space station of the same name as the show, and it is essentially a sort of United Nations built by the Earth of the 23rd century. The first season of the show was just introducing the show and its very complex characters, not to mention alien races such as the Narns, the Minbari, the Centauri, and the enigmatic Vorlons. By season 2, the storyline became about a war between an alien race known as the Shadows. To make matters worse, Earth becomes more of a totalitarian government as it shuns the other alien races. Seasons 3 and 4 really kicked it into high gear, and by that time there was so much going on that it became a delight to watch. As I mentioned before, Season 5 was sort of an anti-climax, but it ends with a terrific final episode.

Sadly, the show left a lot of plotlines as loose threads. It did spawn a series of made-for-TV movies. The film ThirdSpace takes place sometime during Season 4, while The River of Souls takes place after Season 5. A Call to Arms was meant to introduce a whole bunch of new characters for a spinoff show known as Crusade. Crusade was not a big success, and only lasted about 13 episodes. There are also two other movies that I haven’t seen, and there is a prequel movie that was essentially the show’s original pilot. Lots of shows have pilot episodes that were unaired because the network thought they needed work, and they are re-written and tried again. In the case of In the Beginning, the episode is still part of the show’s canon, even if some elements of it are inconsistent with the rest of the series and movies.

The show is about 20 years old, and some of the effects do not look very good. It has that really bad looking CG effects of the early nineties, but the show has no shortage of imagination. What I enjoy about the show is how history is made by ordinary people, and how little one can do to shake the universe. Another thing that I liked about this show is that there was often no bad guy. Sometimes there would be episodes where one character played a villain, and a few episodes later, I was rooting for this character.

I really hope this series comes to Netflix, as I want people to see it and appreciate it for what it is. It does require a commitment on the part of a viewer, but shouldn’t everything?

Posted by on June 28th, 2014 No Comments

Heliquad 2.4 remote-controlled quadcopter from Interactive Toy Concepts

Heliquad 2.4Since it is summertime in my part of the world, it is always a blast to play with some remote controlled toys. In the case of the Heliquad 2.4 by Interactive Toy, I’m glad they put out a quad-copter model.

I had a chance to try this out, and let me tell you one thing: It is a lot of fun. The only thing is that I had a trouble with its controls. In fact, the box says that it is Indoor/Outdoor, but as soon as I turned on the blades, it just went one direction (no relation to the popular band).

So I took it outside, and the Heliquad 2.4 zipped off. I had a hard time finding it. Yeah, that was a bit of a shocker, and I have to say that control was still an issue. I have to admit that I wasn’t able to get a good handle on the controls before the battery gave out on the quadcopter itself. Just to let you know, I usually try out products for about a few hours, and I don’t think I could master the controls of the Heliquad 2.4 during that time.

It might take me a while before I can learn how to do flips with this guy, but with some patience, I can learn. Just to let you know, the quadcopter is USB charged, but the remote requires 3 AA batteries.

If you want to learn more about the Heliquad 2.4, part of the BladeRunner Series from Interactive Toy, you can get it on Amazon for about $55.94. Check out information about more Interactive Toy products here. They have some serious flying things that are fun to play with.

Posted by on June 27th, 2014 No Comments

Clear-Coat has your iPhone and iPad Air covered

clear Coat iphone_5s_fb_copy_1This is not the first time that I have written about Clear-coat before, nor a product that can protect your mobile device like this. I personally liked the Aurora as it was very, very shiny and reflective, but the ones that I had to look at were very transparent. I also am surprised that this was the first time that I used a headline like this.

The ones that I had a chance to try were for the iPhone 5 and the iPad Air, but Clear-coat makes them for all kinds of mobile devices. They are about 1/100 of an inch, and it is easy to install with a 3 “S” combination of Spray, Spread, and Squeegee. I didn’t get that from the website, but seriously made that up. Man, I don’t know why I am coming up with cool marketing concepts on this article.

If you aren’t familiar with products like Clear-Coat, there is some interesting plastic covers that work by clinging to the mobile device like a shrink-wrap. So if you want scratch your mobile device, the covering takes brunt of the impact. You can then wipe off the marks, but your device won’t be damaged.

clear coat ipad_air_4g_fb_copy_1Some people might shun products like these because it might be difficult to apply, but they aren’t. Also, they are easy to remove if you need to.

I first saw a demonstration of these products a long time ago, and they usually contain a Tupperware container, the coated device, with many screws and nails. You put the device in the container with screws and nails and shake. I’ve always been afraid to try this test with any product, including the Clear-coat.

If you are interested in the Clear-coat for the iPhone 5, you can get it here for $24.99. If you want it for the iPad Air, check it out here for $34.99. Check out other products on the main site, and become a fan on Facebook or Twitter. Again, why have I never suggested that before. Man, I’m all about improving my writing in this article. By the way, check out the video of it after the jump.

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Posted by on June 27th, 2014 No Comments

Tonino Lamborghini Quantum EL-01 Headphones

image001(1)Ah, yes, another headphone review! And how can I possibly give a bad rating to any phone that has “Lamborghini” in its title. The answer is that I can’t, because I always thought those flat cars are the best.

It is more than just the name that makes the Quantum EL-01 headphone rock. It has a 10-mm driver for the enhanced bass response, and it really does have powerful sound comparable with full-size headphones. I got that part from the PR department, but I will testify that it is true.

This is the test that I used on my smartphone. When I turn up the volume, I get the usual warning about not turning up the volume. Normally, I ignore this, but the sound was pretty loud on these.

I think that is the best thing I can say about these headphones. I can talk about some of the other features like the one button switch. If you want to get it, you should head over to the Tonino Lamborghini Group site and get some more info. You should be to purchase it for $100-199.

Posted by on June 26th, 2014 No Comments

The Kodiak 6000mA USB Power Bank from Outdoor Tech

Kodiak Outdoor TechYes, I have reported on Outdoor Tech before, such as the Privates Wireless Headphones, and I have also reviewed plenty of mobile batteries like those ones for Ventev or iWalk. I want to welcome you to the Kodiak.

So, what makes the Kodiak different than other mobile batteries? Well, for one thing, it is IP54 Water Resistant which means it might not be able to be immersed, but it could survive the shower. It is also Shockproof, which means it can be dropped a few feet and still charge your device with 6000 mAh.

The Kodiak has what you expect from a mobile battery. The micro USB for input and a USB port for output. It has the four lights to show charging and power in the battery. What I like about it is the flip open cover.

Yes, I highly recommend the Kodiak from Outdoor Tech. For with the Kodiak, you will: “never worry about running out of power, liquid, or poorly swung baseball bats again”. I quoted that from the Outdoor Tech website, and I don’t really know what that means. You should be able to get it on the same website for about $49.95.

Posted by on June 26th, 2014 No Comments

The System Mechanic from iolo

system MechanicIt isn’t often that I review some performance solutions software, but I had a chance to try out iolo’s System Mechanic. It is always difficult to review something that improves your PC, for you don’t know how well it will work if you don’t use it

If you want to see it for yourself, just go to iolo.com and download it. It costs about $39.95 (for now), and it is made for fixing frustrating errors, crashes, and freezes. Then it can restore maximum speed, power, and stability.

System mechanic 2Yeah, I took that from the website. I had a chance to try it out, and it did this to my computer. Okay, I don’t know what this really does, but hey, anything that frees up memory on my computer is pretty good.

My primary worry of using the System Mechanic is that it might mess with my virus program. It didn’t. Give it shot and see if it helps you out. You can get it right here.

Posted by on June 25th, 2014 No Comments

The 120 Watt Cup Inverter from Energizer

energizer 120 WattIf you do a lot of work on the road, then you know how important it is to be charging your mobile devices while you are behind the wheel. I’m sure that a lot of people have one of those cigarette lighter/USB adapters in their cars, and Energizer has something for the whole family with the 120 Watt Cup Inverter.

The 120 Watt Cup Inverter is made to fit in the cup holder of the driver’s seat, and it can power up 5 devices at once. This is provided that you have 4 USB devices and AC/CA plug-in device, and you also need to have a cigarette lighter plug in your car.

As for the rest of the specs, it 120 W Continuous/240 W Peak Power. The four USB ports are 2.1 A Shared, and there is no internal fan, so it is silent. If you want this for your car, you can purchase it on sites like Amazon for about $31.84.

Posted by on June 25th, 2014 No Comments

Steve Jackson’s Sorcery comes alive on your mobile phone (Chapter 1)

StoryChoicesFor some reason, I seem to be reviewing a lot of adventure games, as The Last Door and Quest for Infamy were on my game playlist. I happened to try out Steve Jackson’s Sorcery for the mobile phone platform, and I will say that it is complex as it is interesting.

If you don’t know who Steve Jackson is, I understand. He is a big name in the role-playing game world, specifically in the UK. His contributions are numerous, and he was able to create a series of adventure books back in the eighties called Sorcery. These books where a combination of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” style along with some interesting spell-casting.

The Sorcery game/app takes this world into a new level. It begins on this map, and the player can move their token around as if they were playing a board game. From there, the user has to choose which direction they are going, and there is a lot of text to be read. There really are a lot of actions that the player can take, but there appears to be one path that he/she travels on to find the Crown of Kings treasure.

Like Quest for Infamy, there is fighting in the game, but the hits or misses don’t feel random. I can’t help but feel that there is a science to it, if all the text is read before trying to make a hit. There is also an interesting sorcery method in which you have to know three letters to cast a spell, and you also have to have some material component to make it work.

This game feels very complicated, and I wonder how many paths you can actually take on it. This is always the fun of playing games such as this, because finding hidden things in games just increases the replay value. You can get Steve Jackson’s Sorcery for $4.99 on the Apple store and $5.00 on Google Play.

Posted by on June 24th, 2014 No Comments