Kickstarter Spotlight: Bots Alive, and it will do just that!

I’m not certain if I have ever used the whole “Kickstarter Spotlight” in our headline, but I think it is helpful to put some Kickstarter tech projects in the spotlight. This Bots Alive thing is definitely right up my alley.

I figured that it was better to just put the video here instead of showing some pictures of it. You can see that it uses the Hexbug Spider, and this is a toy that I am surprised that I have not covered before. I believe that Radio Shack helped develop the Hexbug at first, but that might be the subject for another article.

Anyway, the Hexbug Spider normally comes with this dinky controller, but Bots Alive really lives up to its name. You can see how the Hexbug Spider avoids the red blocks but is attracted to the blue ones. You can also see that this gives the Spider some very lifelike movements.

In fact, I would venture to say that they almost look too lifelike. You might notice that when it is surrounded by red blocks, it almost has what I would call a panicked expression. It’s like if you were to put a rabbit in a box-trap.

In addition to the markers and blocks, the Bots Alive will have an IR Blaster to allow the user to control the Hexbug Spider. It looks like a little radar dish that plugs into the smartphone itself. There is a companion app that does this, and there is an augmented reality program to “see the world as the robot sees it”.

I had a chance to talk to Dr. Bradley Knox, who has researched human-robot interaction and A.I. at the MIT Media Lab and at UT Austin after studying psychology at Texas A&M. We discussed how this technology could be applied to STEM education, and how the success of Star Wars has helped develop robotic technology over the years.

Now I am told that the Kickstarter fund for this should be starting right now, and I scheduled this post to coincide with it. You should definitely read more about Bots Alive on the Kickstarter page here.

The Catalyst Ultimate Case for the iPhone 7

Catalyst iPhone_7_-_black_front_and_rear_grandeOkay, this is another time that I get to review a Catalyst product. This time, it is for the iPhone 7, and it has been known as the “ultimate case for the ultimate device”.

So why is it ultimate? Well, it is waterproof and drop proof. In fact, every Catalyst for the iPhone 7 is tested to IP68 waterproof to 33 fee (10 meters). Then it is designed to meet drops and shocks of up to 6 feet (2 meters), which is MIL-STD 810G.

I’ve seen a lot of cases like these, such as those from Otterbox and Lifeproof. The difference is that the Catalyst case is transparent on both sides. So the front is ready for the touchscreen, but the back shows off the Apple logo.

What we are looking at is a case for the iPhone 7 made for life itself. Not only will the Catalyst protect you from dust, dirt, and snow, but it has a lanyard.

I’m going to highly recommend this Catalyst for the iPhone 7. You can find it on the Catalyst website for $79.99 in Stealth Black or Alpine White (starting in March 2017).

The Gravitas from Henge Docks

gravitasJust in case you don’t know, the word “gravitas” is defined as “dignity, seriousness, or solemnity of manner”. For some reason, I remember hearing this word around some presidential election, but not the last one. It’s funny how certain buzzwords show up around certain occasions.

In the case of Henge Docks, the Gravitas is a great dock for an iPhone or iPad. It is pretty heavy, so it can sit on your desk like a paperweight or something. I’m told that it is made of some zinc alloy that is more dense than aluminum, so it feels quite heavy.

If you haven’t realized it yet, there is a lightning port so you can dock the iPhone or iPad there. There are all kinds of inserts so you can put in all kinds of iPhones, and I don’t have enough iPhones from other generations to try this out.

So, since this is a dock, can you use it for recharging? Uh, yes, that is what a dock is! The coolest part is you can use the included double USB cord so you can sync your iPad or iPhone to your computer. By the way, there is a built-in speaker.

In short, I believe that the Gravitas is something that really needs to be owned by everyone with an iPhone or iPad. You should be able to purchase it on the hengedocks.com for $69.

Our Review of the PhoneSuit Journey Travel Charger Ultra

Phonesuit JourneyI suppose this is the time where I say that it has been a while since I have reviewed a Phonesuit product, and I’m realizing that I say a lot of the same things in my reviews. Needless to say, this is an upgrade of my first review of the Journey All-in-One Charger with the Journey Travel Charger Ultra for the iPhone, Samsung, and More! (Sorry, but that and more really makes it sound exciting.)

So what is it? Well, it is a mobile battery, which we have seen before, so nothing new there. However, see how it spreads its arms like that? It’s quite amazing, and one of those arms is a Lightning for Apple products, and the other is Micro-USB for pretty much everything else.

Yeah, I have been noticing that some mobile batteries have these two charging cables, but if you are like me, and you have something like an HTC 10, with a USB C port, you are out of luck, at least with the two cables attached. By the way, there is a blurb on the Phonesuit website that says it can do a HTC, with the micro-USB. Yeah, it is wrong.

As it so happens, you got yourself an extra USB port. You heard that right, you can charge three devices at once with this. Three seems to be the magic number for this guy because it can provide up to 3 times (300 percent) additional power for a smartphone. So pretty much anything that is chargeable via USB (which is about everything) is chargeable, but maybe not three times.

The battery is good for 5000 Mah, so that is pretty good. There is also an advanced smart power management thing going on, so it knows how to prioritize charging. Yeah, I’m going to have to take their word for it.

So is it durable? It sure feels that way. It is designed for travel, which means it will take the bumps along the way. I’m not going to hurl it against the wall, because hey, I’m not that angry.

Anyway, you can get the Journey Travel Charger Ultra on the Phonesuit site for about $59.99.

Our Review of the Bio-Key EcoID and SideTouch

bio-key ecoIDOkay, I am going to be very honest with you and say that this is my first foray into Biometrics. I consider myself an expert in tech, but I will have to say that I really struggled with this one. I was able to review two of their products with the EcoID and the SideTouch.

The EcoID came to me without packaging, so I have no idea if it even came with instructions if it were to come to me in whatever packaging that it comes in. I connected it to my computer via the included USB cable, and my Windows 7 computer did recognize it.

From there, I wasn’t certain what I was expecting after I installed the EcoID. I was hoping some software would show up and let me know what was up. You know, so I could lock certain folders, but it’s actually difficult to figure out how to work.

Something tells me this is user error, because I had to do a little research to discover how to get it to work, and I’m still having troubles. In all honesty, I think my inexperience with Biometrics hopefully echoes what others have experienced.

bio-key SidetouchI mean, what if I somehow lock myself out with this thing? That didn’t happen, but only because I couldn’t really figure out how to use it.

I am told that EcoID and Windows Hello will allow customers to use their fingerprint to sign-in to websites and applications using FIDO 2.0/W3C Web Authentication.

So let’s talk about the SideTouch. It’s got a different aesthetic than the EcoID, as it is made for plug-and-play action and it is made for Windows Hello, presumably getting the Microsoft seal of approval.

If you are wanting to purchase these fine Bio-key products, I hope that you will know how to use it. The EcoID can be purchased on Microsoft and Amazon for $39.99. The SideTouch can be purchased at the same price from Microsoft and Amazon as well.

Casio WSD-F20 Smart Outdoor Watch

wsd_f20_maki_orI figure that this announcement is a week late since it was made at CES, but what can I say, I wasn’t there. Still, Casio made a big unveiling of their WSD-F20, the follow-up to the WSD-F10 Smart Outdoor Watch that came out in March of last year.

The WSD-F20 has a low-power GPS and color map functionality that can be used offline, and can be used as a standalone wrist device. It is made to support outdoor and water activities without a cellular service. This is possible with Mapbox, allowing maps to be downloaded in advance and then have the GPS data track the user’s location.

So it is good for outdoor activities like trekking, cycling, fishing, winter sports, and watersports. By the way, the WSD-F20 has a “Moment Setter” which can be set for conditions to automatically receive important alerts, such as the best fishing times, rest break intervals, and sunrise/sunset times. Also included are three different apps like ViewRanger GPS hiking app, MyRadar weather app, and the YAMAP GPS app for hiking.

Just to let you know, the Casio WSD-F20 watch is water resistant up to 40 meters. It also has some additional protection with button guards, protective bezel, side buttons and more.

I don’t have a price point for it, but it should be released on April 21st.

JCPAL LINX Ultra Slim USB-C to 4-Port USB 3.0 Hub

jcpal-3I don’t know why I have never heard of JCPAL products before, but I can tell you that they certainly make some useful stuff. Today, I am going to be looking at the LINX Ultra Slim USB-C to 4-Port USB 3.0 Hub.

I believe that the purpose of the 4-port Hub is to connect to a range of USB A devices to your MacBook’s USB-C port. This way, you can access a hard drive, printer, or anything else that uses USB, which is just about everything.

MacBooks aren’t the only thing that the 4-port Hub is good for. I had a chance to try it out on my HTC 10, and I was able to use the 4-port USB A Hub to read files on thumb drives. I could also use it to recharge USB devices, as I just used the battery in my HTC to charge my Bluetooth headset.

In addition to that, the 4-port Hub has the latest 3.1 standard for high speed data transfer, and if you like it, check it out on the JCPAL site. It can be purchased in gold and silver for $49.99 CAD.

Merkury Innovations unveils Geeni Line of Smart Home Products at CES 2017

Here’s another post about CES 2017, and this one is from Merkury Innovations, who is making some Geeni Line of Smart Home Products. These smart home products include a range of smart bulbs, cameras, and some other things as well.

Let’s start with the smart bulbs, which means these lights can be controlled from anywhere. Part of the series is the Lux Series, that include the 800 and 1050: 800lm (60W-equivalent) and 1050lm (75W equivalent) which costs $24.99-$29.99. There is also the Lux DROP 750lm (65W equivalent) for ceiling fixtures for $29.99, and the Lux FLOOD: 950lm (75W equivalent) for floodlight fixutres for $29.99.

There is also the Prisma series with customizable white or color settings smart bulbs, and you can chose from many types of colors. The models available are 450 (45W equivalent) and 1050 lm (75 equivalent) at prices of $24.99 and $34.99 respectively.

gn-ww103-199_cThen there is the smart power category, which gives some smart plugs for turning any plugged-in electronics on and off from just about anywhere with the Geeni app. There is a Sport series which costs $19.99, and the Energi series with a smart plug and energy meter for about $24.99. Oh, there is also the Surge series, a smart surge protector with 4 outlets and 4 USBs, which costs $49.99.

In addition to this, there is the Vision Smart Camera. It has a 1080p full HD camera with night vision, as well as some motion notification. There is a built-in microphone and speaker, and you can record footage with some microSD cards. It will cost about $89.99.

Check out their products on the Geeni website.

VESA Unveils Two Big Announcements at CES 2017

vesaRight now, in Las Vegas, is one of the biggest tech shows in the world. Yes, I am talking about CES, and for the first time in eight years, I will not be attending.
This doesn’t mean that I won’t be covering it, and I fully plan to with VESA.

If you don’t know about VESA, they are an international non-profit corporation, and they support and set industry-wide interface standards for the PC, workstation, and consumer electronics industries. Generally, I usually cover tech or gadget companies on this blog, but I thought I would cover something that they are showing off at the show.

They actually have two announcements: the first is an early certification program for video source and display products using DisplayPort High Bit Rate 3 (HBR3), the highest data link rate supported by the DisplayPort standard version 1.4 published in March 2016.

So what does this mean? Well, DisplayPort interfaces with HBR3, which are now available on consumer products, and it can drive 8K video resolution using a single connection, not to mention 4K displays. Yes, 8K video is a thing, and I’m guessing this is one more step to bringing 8K to you formally.

The second announcement from VESA is the completion of its compliance test specification (CTS) for products incorporating the USB Type-C connector and the DisplayPort Alternate Mode (Alt Mode) standard. These new CTS documents allow VESA members to have Authorized Test Centers (ATCs) worldwide, or completing self-testing and posting their certified product information to VESA’s database.

This is a move toward more USB-C, and I can’t say that I am too surprised by that. Man, my phone charges so fast with USB-C.

You should keep your eyes on VESA, and I’m wondering what they will be doing in the future. Head on over to the VESA site to find out more information.