LifeCHARGE Smart Lamp Speaker

LifehouseSo, this is another Bluetooth speaker that is also a light, and it is not a Secur product. This one is from LifeCHARGE, and I have reviewed their products before with their charging cable.

This particular Smart Lamp Speaker is able to sync with mobile device very easily. In fact, you know how most Bluetooth speakers are talking now? This one sounds like George Takei, the man who played Sulu. Oh heck, you know who George Takei is, and I expected my Bluetooth Speaker to say “Oh my” after it was paired.

I suppose what makes this particular Bluetooth speaker different is that you can touch it and the light on it will shine. Now, you have to touch the top metal speaker part to get this, and it has three levels of touching brightness. It is a good way to get some terrific brightness out of this speaker.

Other features that this LifeCHARGE has is a TF card support for 16GB of extra storage, and there is an Auxiliary port in case you don’t want to do wireless. Oh, there is also that tiny handle that you can see there.

Anyway, I found the Smart Lamp Speaker on Amazon for $29.99.

Franky Zapata invents a Flyboard, and will the world ever be the same?

franky-zapatas-flyboard-airOkay, time for me to rant again on hoverboards and why we don’t have them even though it is after 2015. I would say that I am disappointed that Back to the Future II lied to us, but doesn’t every fictional film do that? Heck, some documentaries lie to us.

Anyway, Franky Zapata, who invented a water-jet flyboard, a device that uses spraying water to keep the user in the air, has invented a jet turbine version of this Flyboard. So it uses air to keep the user in the air.

There is a video of it that you can see here, and some people doubted the legitimacy of it, but it is apparently the real deal. Apparently, this thing can reach 93 mph and fly to 10,000 feet. Yeah, don’t ask me if they tested it at that height.

So, instead of the flying car, are we going to have this flying skateboard? If so, I’m not kids should be driving or flying these.

Still, if these things do come out to the general population, and they are affordable, what keeps the sky from being full of them? Yeah, parking would be a cinch, right?

Speculative Fiction Saturday: A Scanner Darkly

a_scanner_darkly_2-sized1As someone who is a fan of animation, I happened to cross this film and wondered why I hadn’t seen it before. A Scanner Darkly is one of those films that is pretty obscure, but it is full of top billed Hollywood talent like Keanu Reeves, Robert Downey Jr. (before Iron Man), Woody Harrelson, and Winona Ryder. As someone who believes that the best films are those that are different, this one is really trying something new.

Before I talk about this film is about, I need to talk about its style, as it is deliberate. The film uses an animation technique known as Rotoshop, using interpolated rotoscope, and the director, Richard Linklater, used it in Waking Life. The end result makes a movie that was filmed in live action, but it looks animated. In Waking Life, it looked like oil paintings come to live, but in A Scanner Darkly, it looks like comic book panels come to life.

The first thing that I have to say is I’m not certain whether this technique works. The advantage of this is you can just insert things in the scene that weren’t there before. An example of this is a scene in an office where some boxes are stacked up on the side, but it looks like the boxes were just drawn there.

Now, this film takes place in the future, not too far in the future, so the technology doesn’t look too advanced. In some cases, the method of animation makes some interesting devices that are clearly effects shots. I will say that the film underplays its futuristic look, as it could have had a very dystopian look that the animation could have provided by altering the backgrounds.

So, what is A Scanner Darkly about? Well, as I said before, it takes place in the future, and there is a drug that is popular known simply as Substance D. The film implies that 20 percent of all people in America are addicts, and honestly, it is kind of hard to imagine what the country would look like. As I mentioned before, the nation looks like of poor and destitute, and it looks like there is a little bit of the surveillance society going on.

Keanu Reeves plays Bob Arctor, who plays an undercover cop who has to wear this “scramble suit” when he is at the office. Apparently, his cover is so good even his bosses don’t know who he is. These scramble suits create this odd image as a mishmash of faces and clothes, and I am guessing that perhaps this is why the animation style was used to bring this effect to life.

So, Arctor is investigating these other addicts like James Barris (Robert Downey Jr.) and Ernie Luckman (Woody Harrelson), as well as Donna (Winona Ryder). Arctor is looking to see who is supplying Substance D, but he is in deep. Not only is Arctor getting feelings for Donna, but he is an addict of Substance D.

This is one of those films in which I got lost as far as what was going on, and when this happens, I always wondered how much this is deliberate as far as the director is concerned. This is kind of fun, because sometimes I have to wonder if I just missed something, or if the film has a deliberate hole in the story so I could figure out what is going on. So yes, I had to look up this film on Wikipedia to see what was up. I had theories about this film, because it is one of those films where you are not certain if what the main character perceives as real is real.

I’m not going to spoil how this film ends, but I had to look it up to see why it was a twist. I will say that at the end of the film is some kind of dedication to a lot of people who have been taken down by drugs. This film does not come off as a PSA, though.

The film is based on book by Philip K. Dick. At this point, I don’t know if I need to tell you who this author is, for he wrote Minority Report and Blade Runner. At least, the written material that became them. He was always good at figuring out the dark side of technology, and perhaps this is a warning of what law enforcement and drug addiction can do, maybe. Yeah, I’m not certain what the moral of this story is, or why is it called A Scanner Darkly, as opposed to A Scanner Lightly?

Slendertone Connect Abs Belt

SlendertoneLet’s talk about abs, we all want them. Heck, we all want to look like Thor, and I don’t know anyone who wants that muffintop blocking the view of their feet. This is where the Slendertone Connect Abs comes in.

Yes, there truly is an application for everything, and it just makes sense to bring physical fitness into the mobile world. The Slendertone Connect Abs is essentially a belt that acts as a personal coach when synced with your mobile device, provide it is an Apple one.

The smart device can track progress, and then motivates with programs tailored to a fitness goal. According to the website, 30 minutes in this belt is like doing 202 sit-ups. Now, you do need to register your Connect controller on an iOS device, and it has a 5 unique 6 week programs to increase physical performances.

So yes, this is quite a cool product, and it can be purchased on the Slendertone site for about $229.99. I was hoping that I could review this, but I have to admit that I am going to have to write a follow-up review to see that it works, and that could take a while.

WeKast: The Plug and Cast Solution

WeKastIt looks like we have another great Kickstarter project, and I believe that this one will be receiving its funding. WeKast is a pocket-sized device that allows you to present content straight from a smartphone, tablet, or laptop to any screen.

There is a video on the Kickstarter page that kind of over-dramatizes the situation. You know, when you have to deliver a presentation and the projector or whatever doesn’t line up. Yeah, you should probably arrive early to make certain that the tech works for you. I’ve never been the stumbling guy on stage, but I have been in the audience for that, and it’s never easy.

So, you can connect the WeKast to a projector or screen via VGA or HDMI (the small device has both). Then you can connect to your mobile device via Wi-Fi, and then deliver your presentation with slides, business documents, videos, and photos. The control is in your hands with your mobile device, and you can upload directly from any files on Dropbox or Google Drive. The whole thing charges on Micro-USB.

So, this WeKast really is a terrific product, and you can only get it on Kickstarter now, but there will clearly be more products like this.

“Ghost in the Shell” VR Film

ghost-in-the-shell-virtual-reality-diver-edI feel odd explaining what Ghost in the Shell is, but if you have never heard of anime (and there are a lot of people that haven’t) then you have never heard of Ghost in the Shell.

Ghost in the Shell is…a film that has a lot of…female frontal nudity and violence. It’s one of those dystopian style science fiction movies, and it means…something. I think it does. It’s kind of like Blade Runner or the Matrix, as it feels like just a science fiction film, but there is some deep, deep philosophy in it.

Yeah, I remember watching it, but I don’t remember getting anything out of it. Perhaps I should watch it again. I bring it up because if you are trying to bring VR into storytelling, I suppose the dystopian setting works for some 360 sights, maybe.

So, if you have one of those VR Viewers, wouldn’t it be great to view Ghost in the shell: Virtual Reality Driver on your phone? Nope! My Source says it will only be shown in 31 Internet cafes across the Kanto region in Tokyo.

Granted, the film is only 15 minutes long, but come on! If VR films are going to catch on, users are going to need access to serious VR content.

Source

Japanese Company Developing an Invisible Train

Invisible TrainYou know all those movies that take place in the future, where every city looks all dystopian and future-y? Well, in the future, you won’t find this invisible train.

Actually, you might. This is a Japanese train-travel company Seibu railway, and the idea is to develop a fast commuter train that can blend in the landscape.

I don’t think that this will be one of those things like the invisible car like in Die Another Day (which was utterly ridiculous, by the way). However, I like the idea of creating some kind of artificial cloak of invisibility. This is all really a design with some “semi-reflective surface”, and it helps it blend in.

In other words, the future might look like something that can blend into nature, rather than something that is gray and concrete, something that looks like an aberation of nature.

So forget that Blade Runner dream of the future, because it takes place in 2019 anyway. Instead, think…I don’t know, I don’t think there is any futuristic movie that doesn’t see the future as some seriously bleak dystopian place.

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Our Review of the Roost Laptop Stand

Roost028-v1A_2-500heightJust like when I reported on the Moleskine Smart Writing Set, it is difficult for me to report on the Roost Laptop Stand, a Portable, Lightweight, Adjustable, Ergonomic Stand without comparing it to the iFold from Matias. I believe that I used as many descriptors that I could at the beginning, and this image should show you what it is.

As you can see, it is one of these devices that removes “the old painful laptop hunch”. You can see that the laptop screen is at the level of your eye instead of a little below it.

Now, the things that make products like this work is how simple that they fold up. I had to admit with the iFold is that I always had to look at the picture to see how it unfolds. This one actually folds up to something that looks like two windshield wipers into something that has only length and not length and width like the iFold.

Roost Folded upIt folds into a small 1 x 1 x 13 inch mass that weighs about 5.8 ounces. It unfolds by just pulling it apart, and it took a while before I got the knack of it. The Roost Stand is also able to adjust to 3 height settings to math the screen height to the user’s eye level.

The laptop comes in this place where there are some little adjustable hook things to hold it in. What is also interesting is how the user can literally tilt the laptop while in the Roost Laptop Stand, and it won’t fall out. So if you are worried about the laptop accidentally just falling out, that won’t happen.

So, if you are interested in getting this Roost Laptop Stand for yourself, you can get it on The Roost Stand website for about $74.95.

Speculative Fiction Saturday: Daredevil, The Good Netflix Version

Daredevil-12I reviewed Jessica Jones two weeks ago, and I should probably review these Netflix/Marvel shows from the first one that started it all. If you aren’t familiar with Daredevil, then you probably didn’t grow up reading the comic, and hopefully never saw Ben Affleck’s first attempt to play Batman in the bad 2003 movie attempt.

Daredevil is essentially a superhero story, but he is one of those who doesn’t really have any super-powers, but one. Daredevil had an accident as a child due to some spilling of some chemicals that removed his sight, but heightened all of his other senses. So he can hear a whisper across from a room, and he also has some kind of “radar sense” which allows him to be more of a bat-man than Batman. That really is the only speculative fiction element in this otherwise crime fiction story.

I won’t get into why the 2003 film failed, but it was done in a time where audiences were beginning to take superhero films seriously after X-men and Spider-Man. The film was probably one of the first superhero films that tried to do too much with its source material as that film had Elektra, Bulls-eye, and the Kingpin, in some weird mash-up.

Sadly, the second season of Daredevil had the same problem, but I’m getting a head of myself. I want to talk about Season 1, as it was quite good as a story of one man trying to change the system. Most of these films start with someone in a costume who starts beating up criminals, and this one is no different.

At the beginning of the story, Matt Murdock (Daredevil’s real name) and his partner Foggy Nelson are starting a law firm, and they take their first case with Karen Page. Matt is able to help Karen in his lawyer persona and his superhero identity, but it never seems like enough. These characters are developed very well, and they work well off each other.

As it turns out, there are several crime families that control the suburb of Hell’s Kitchen, and they are controlled by a man named Wilson Fisk. Now, it would have been very easy to make Wilson Fisk some motiveless villain that the audience loves to hate, but the show didn’t do that. This shows a man who was raised in an abusive household, trying to have a normal dating life, has a best friend, and believes that he is trying to help the city, even though he has criminal methods.

So yes, the villain is very sympathetic, and the hero isn’t certain whether he is doing the right thing using vigilante justice. It’s something that you usually don’t see in a superhero film, and it feels very refreshing. You get the feeling that this man likes beating up criminals, but is constantly worried about what it will do to him.

Eventually, Matt gets to the point where he has to decide whether or not he will kill. There are some superheroes that will kill, such as Wolverine and some interpretations of Batman. It’s not that they don’t value life, but they often commit manslaughter in the line of duty. I’ve never had to put in a decision where a life should be taken to save others, and this series addresses this issue better than others.

The issue of killing for the sake of justice really comes to a head in Season 2, when the Punisher gets revealed. This character has already had three movies based on him, and they are best described as mediocre. Daredevil the series managed to capture this character perfectly, at least at first. The first few episodes of the season were pretty golden, and the contrast between the two characters works on so many levels.

The sad part is the series kind of “jumps the shark”, and I would love to say that the introduction of fan-favorite character Elektra introduces some kind of depth into the show, but it doesn’t. Instead, the show becomes kind of a huge mess as it looks like the Elektra plot involves bigger than the show itself with ninjas, a thing called Black Sky, and a big pit in the middle of the city that never gets resolved.

Now, the advantage of Daredevil is that it is part of a bigger universe, so it is possible that later Marvel/Netflix shows will explain some of the loose threads, but they felt wrong on Daredevil. Trying to tie in the Punisher was not smart, and now this superhero problems that plagued the movie have come full circle. Perhaps introducing Elektra is a bad luck charm.

So yes, I would recommend Daredevil Season 1, and then stop in Season 2 after it becomes boring. I’ll let you decide when to quit.

A Conversation with Renee Gittins, creator of Potions: A Curious Tale

renee-gittensYesterday, I had a terrific conversation with Renee Gittins, and she is the founder of Stumbling Cat, who created this very cool game known as Potions: A Curious Tale. Before I talk about my talk with Renee, I want to talk about this game.

Potions: A Curious Tale is about a girl named Luna, who is this young witch who apparently majored in Potions at Hogwarts. Okay, there’s no Hogwarts in this game, but this game definitely has its roots in fairy tales, from all countries. It looks like you can pick up ingredients so you can make potions for overcoming obstacles that you will en

What is interesting about Potions is its “Resource Limitation Combat”. Part of this game is that combat can overcome obstacles, but there are more non-violent solutions if the player wants. Then there are also puzzles, which are my favorite, honestly.

PotionsIn talking with Renee, she talked about how there are few women in the gaming business, and an article about her on VentureBeat stated that 22 percent of people in the gaming industry are female.

The sad part is that when I talked to Renee, she has had some negative experiences where she would receive death threats before attending certain video game conferences. I think this is pretty shameful, and honestly, shouldn’t we be past the “No Girls Allowed” level when it comes to video games? The same thing happened when Renee has done cosplay, and received some negative comments that I just don’t want to repeat.

Personally, I like the acceptance that I have felt at video game conventions, but I can’t understand why anyone would do this, to anyone. But hey, that’s enough preaching.

I wanted to say that I appreciate what Renee is doing with this game, and it is on Kickstarter now, and recommend supporting it.