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Author Archive for Kathleen Chapman

Pivos Xios XS Media Center review

Pivos Xios XS 1

There are a lot of TV set top boxes out there. The closest I’ve come to using one is using Chromecast or our Xbox for streaming various forms of media. That’s not to say that I haven’t been interested, so when The Gadgeteer was offered the Pivos Xios XS Media Center for review (an Android/XBMC device), I took the opportunity to learn all about it. This is a device that allows you to take control of all your media files (wherever they are) and stream internet content all in one place. Read More →

Simplify your home automation with the SmartThings Hub and app

SmartThings

There are a lot of home automation devices out there, each with their own app. As you work towards the smart home of your dreams, before long, you’ll have multiple apps for your multiple devices. You can simplify things by controlling everything with the SmartThings Hub and iOS/Android app (you’ll need at least iOS 7.0 or Android 4.0). The Hub connects to your router via Ethernet cable and there are no monthly fees. “The SmartThings app and Hub will instantly connect to different sensors, locks, light switches, outlets, thermostats, and other compatible devices in your home… SmartThings is compatible with hundreds of smart devices from a variety of manufacturers.” Some of those manufacturers are Honeywell, GE, Kwikset, Schlage, Trane, Phillips Hue, Sonos, Foscam, Belkin, Withings, and Ecobee. SmartThings uses an open platform that supports a myriad of Zigbee, Z-wave, and WiFi devices. In addition to the hub, you may buy other home automation devices from SmartThings like presence sensors, touchscreen or keypad locks, smart outlets and switches, and multi sensors (to detect changes in movement, temperature, etc.) to help you toward your smart home goal. Now when you leave the house you can turn off your lights, lock your doors, turn down your thermostat, open/close your garage door, and monitor your house while you’re away – all from one app. It’s almost like Sarah (the house) from the TV show Eureka!

The SmartThings Hub is available from SmartThings or Amazon for $99. The SmartThings Mobile app is available from the App Store on iTunes and Google Play for free.

Make a statement with the OM/ONE levitating Bluetooth speaker

Om One

One thing I used to daydream about as a child is having the power of levitation/telekinesis. To this day, that would be my super power if I could have one. And guess what? Now there’s a LEVITATING Bluetooth speaker in the works! The OM/ONE is a small orb speaker that measures 3.6 inches in diameter and weighs 0.75 pounds, while the base is 6.3 inches in diameter x 1.6 inches in height and weighs 1.3 pounds. The base requires a 12V power supply (included) to levitate the orb using a magnet but is not needed to power the speaker. The base also has a USB port to charge your other devices. The speaker has it’s own USB (LED) charging cable and stand. “The speaker orb connects to a charging stand with an embedded LED stream that plugs into any USB port. The charging stand will illuminate once the orb is fully charged” (three hours charging time). Using the USB charging cable, the stand can be plugged into the USB port on the OM/ONE base or any other USB charging port to charge the orb; hence, there is no wireless charging.

The orb does not need its base to function and can be taken anywhere for portability. It has a On/Off touch sensor (controls power, Bluetooth pairing, and speakerphone functions), 75 mm driver, and will connect to your mobile device via Bluetooth 4.0. It levitates about one inch off the base, rotates as it plays up to 15 hours of music, and two speakers can be paired with one device for stereo sound. In addition, it has a microphone so that it can be used as a speakerphone – a rotating, levitating speakerphone. Awesome.

The OM/ONE comes in jet black, glacier white, or disco ball. You may pre-order your black or white one for $179 or the disco ball for $299 (ouch) from Om Audio. (Now they need to make one for the sun and each of the planets – how cool would that be?)

TaoTronics Elune Dimmable LED Desk Lamp review

TaoTronics LED lamp 1
Who doesn’t need a desk lamp? How about an energy efficient LED desk lamp? Often when I think of LED lighting, I think of the sometimes harsh blue tinted lights, but the TaoTronics Elune Dimmable LED Desk Lamp has several light settings so it is time to set my presuppositions aside and give it a try. Read More →

IOGEAR Wireless 5×2 HD Matrix review

Iogear wireless matrix 1

We love our family room/den. It’s the place to be in our house probably because it’s a really comfortable room and most of our devices are in there: the Wii, the Chromecast, the Xbox, and our computer. One thing in particular that I have been wanting for a while is to be able to play our Xbox from other rooms in the house. At the moment, we all “fight” over our family room TV. The kids want to play Minecraft and we want to stream a movie. Enter the IOGEAR Wireless 5×2 HD Matrix, which was offered to the Gadgeteer for review. It allows the user to wirelessly send full uncompressed HD 1080p video with digital audio from a transmitter, which connects five input source devices and is connected to one HDTV, to a receiver connected to another HDTV in a separate room up to 100 feet away. This means that you can watch a Blu-ray movie on the bedroom TV (with the Blu-ray player in the living room) at the same time your kids are watching cable on the living room TV. So, will the IOGEAR Wireless 5×2 HD Matrix end our family “feud”?

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Spree Fitness Monitor review

Spree 1

Exercise has been an important part of my life for the past 17 years. My biggest challenge is staying motivated. I don’t like gyms or running and since I exercise at home using DVD programs (Insanity, Insanity The Asylum, and Tae Bo Get Ripped Advanced), I don’t have anyone to motivate me or hold me accountable. My biggest motivator has been fitness gadgets that help me keep track of my heart rate and the number of calories burned (this satisfies the scientist in me – collecting data and tracking the results). I do this by using a Timex chest strap heart rate monitor. I have trouble with it slipping during my high impact workouts so when the Gadgeteer was offered the Spree Fitness Monitor to review, I was thrilled to evaluate its efficacy.

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Knock ‘em dead with iPunch

iPunch

“We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better than he was. Better… stronger… faster” (cue the 6 Million Dollar Man theme). Responsive Sports has developed this exciting new sports training tool to help you improve your punching skills with the 4 ounce MMA style iPunch smart combat gloves. They have sensors incorporated into the gloves that transmit data via Bluetooth Smart to an Android/iOS app. The app features the following tools: iPunch Trainer, 3 Minute Round, and Test of Strength. The iPunch Trainer gives you audible directions to punch along with and increases in difficulty as your skills improve. The 3 Minute Round allows you to practice skills for three minutes, after which you can review your punches. It saves each three minute round in your profile and syncs it to their website where you can track your progress. Test of Strength allows you to compare your best punch with your friend’s (you get three tries). Note that the iPunch gloves are not meant for sparring but rather for training using a punching bag or pads. The gloves are charged using a USB cable (included) connected to your computer and will last for up to 15 hours of continuous use or for 300 3 Minute Rounds.

This is a crowdfunded project and you can pre-order your iPunch gloves through Indiegogo for $139 for the first 150 supporters, $149 after.

Zetta Z16 HD Wide Angle Intelligent Security Camcorder review

Zetta Z16 1

We live in a gated community and just a few years ago, things were stolen out of our car while it was parked in our driveway in broad daylight (we had forgotten to lock it that day). We never found out who had perpetrated the crime, but I remember wishing I had some kind of security camera to catch the person(s). There are many security camcorders out there and the Zetta Z16 HD Wide Angle Intelligent Security Camcorder is one of them. I wanted to know if it would work well enough to protect our car and home.

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Expert Shield Screen Protector review

Expert Shield 1

I have a Fujifilm X-M1 camera that I purchased not too long ago. I thoroughly enjoy using this camera and intend to take good care of it. I had been thinking about purchasing a screen protector for the LCD screen to protect it from scratches, especially when I wear the camera around my neck and it rubs against me as I move about. Before I had the time to seriously go hunting for one, lo and behold, one was offered to the Gadgeteer to review. I have not had the best experience with previous screen protectors, but from the sound of the Expert Shield Screen Protectors’ descriptions, I was definitely interested in trying it out.

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Smarter toasters are hitting the streets – no, not the Cylons (at least not yet)

Dualit 4 Slot Lite Toaster 1

It’s early in the morning. You have mouths to feed. The first round of toast comes out perfectly, but the second round? Burned! Grrr! Dualit has solved this problem. The Dualit 2 Slot and 4 Slot Lite Toasters are made with Dualit’s patented Climate Sensing Toasting Cycle technology. This technology detects the temperature of the toaster and surroundings to calculate the correct toasting time. Thus, after the first round of toast, the toaster and environment will be warmer such that the subsequent rounds will take less time to toast at that particular toasting level.  These toasters also have a Peek and Pop function that allows you to manually lift the lever to check on the browning of your toast without having to stop the timer. In addition, the toasters have a defrost function, a bagel and buns function where one side is toasted while the other is warmed, a high lift mechanism that allows for easy removal of small items, a removable crumb tray, and slots that are 36mm wide. Also, if you purchase the optional Lite sandwich cage, you can even toast your sandwiches quickly! You may not want to pay the $139.99 for the Dualit 4 Slot Lite Toaster from Amazon for yourself, but it might make a family member or friend a nice gift!

Revolve+ Surge Protector with 4 Rotating Outlets + 2 USB review

Revolve+ 1

Houses, even new ones, just don’t come with enough outlets. Our house was built only five years ago and we constantly need power strips to provide enough outlets to power all our various gadgets and appliances. I recently bought a surge protector that I thought had rotating outlets to accommodate the various sizes of AC adapters that we have, but since I didn’t look very carefully at it, I was disappointed (the covers of the outlets rotated, not the outlets). When the opportunity came to try the Revolve+ Surge Protector with 4 Rotating Outlets and 2 USB, I was eager to do so.

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Logitech x300 Mobile Wireless Stereo Speaker review

Logitech x300 1

Pink, pink, PINK!! This is a very pink speaker, indeed. Was that your first impression as it was mine? Anyway, to the point. I’ve been in the market for an ultra-portable speaker for a while now, but have not been impressed with some of the options out there for the price (it’s not a pressing need and so I’ve made do without one). When the Gadgeteer was offered this speaker to try, I wanted to try it out to see if this would suit my needs.

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Exercise enthusiasts really need smarter socks…

Sensoria Fitness Socks 1

Do your feet hurt after exercising? It could be the way you land on your feet. How would you know how to correct that? Well, obviously you need smarter socks. The Sensoria Fitness Socks may be what your aching feet need. The material of the socks incorporates sensors that connect via Bluetooth to an anklet and track the number of steps, speed, distance and altitude, calories, and foot landing technique. This has the potential to help you to improve your form and decrease the amount of exercise related injuries. The app will even give you real-time audio cues as you exercise! The socks come with an anklet (which attaches to one of the socks magnetically), an anklet charger, and work with an app made for iPhones (at least iOS 6) and Android smartphones (at least OS 4.3).

The Sensoria Fitness Socks, which come in white, black, pink, and blue, are due to be released August 30, 2014 and are available for pre-sale from Sensoria Fitness for $149. These are some really expensive socks, but they may spare you from even more expensive trips to the doctor due to injuries!

RCA Ultra-thin Multi-directional Indoor Amplified HDTV Antenna review

RCA antenna 1b

It’s been about 12 years now since we’ve dropped cable TV. At the time, we were living paycheck to paycheck and decided that cable (among other things) was one of those expenses that was not necessary. We bought an antenna (rabbit ears style – they were cheap) to receive over-the-air (OTA) channels and dealt with the frustration of having to continually adjust the antenna to receive all of our channels while living in rural Wisconsin. Even though things have been better for us financially since we moved to Texas five years ago, we made the conscious decision not to go back to cable or satellite TV. Instead, like many people out there, we decided to continue using our antenna for OTA free channels and pay for streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime. The only thing we’ve neglected to do was update our antenna. Now that we live in Fort Worth, Texas, we get most of our channels clearly with our rabbit ears antenna and only have to adjust it for certain stations. This is still a frustration, so when given the chance to review the new RCA Ultra-thin Multi-directional Indoor Amplified HDTV Antenna, I was eager to give it a try.

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“The Vessyl with the pestle has the brew that is true…”

Vessyl-2

Most of our appliances communicate with us now, so it was only a matter of time before our dinnerware did too. The Vessyl, created by a company called Mark One, is a 13 ounce cup that contains sensors which can determine the type of drink (including sodas, alcohol, smoothies, tea, coffee, etc.) as well as the contents of your drink at the molecular level. The cup has a display that will show basic information, like what you are drinking and the number of calories. To activate the display, you just lift the cup, tilt it and observe the display located where the facets on the cup are. The cup connects to your iOS or Android phone via Bluetooth 4.0 and works with an app (iOS and Android) to track what you are drinking, how many calories are consumed, and your hydration level. It also tracks the amounts of sugar, protein, fat, caffeine, etc. that are consumed. It syncs with popular activity trackers, has a spill proof magnetic lid, and comes with a wireless charging base that charges the cup in about one hour. After the cup is charged, it will function for about five to seven days. Even though you will have to take it with you everywhere, pour everything you drink into it, and clean it by hand (it is not recommended for the dishwasher, freezer or microwave), isn’t your health worth it?

The Vessyl is available for pre-order for $99, but will cost $199 when released in 2015. Let us raise our Vessyls to our good health.  Cheers!

Get more GOOOOALS with the miCoach Smart Ball

MiCoach Smart Ball 2

Adidas has created the miCoach Smart Ball for young and adult soccer players who are serious about improving various dead ball shot skills (i.e. penalty kicks, goal kicks, corner kicks, etc.). The sensors inside the ball monitor statistics like speed, power, spin, impact points, and trajectory, which are then sent via Bluetooth 4.0 to the iOS app on your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch devices running iOS 7 or higher (no support for Android). This ball will help with drills, but not necessarily help with scrimmages or kicks along the ground (the ball must be airborne). The app also helps train the player for ball mastery by providing you with video libraries of drills, and with tips and guidance. The miCoach Smart Ball comes with a charging base and AC charging adapter to allow for wireless charging.

Technical Specifications:

  • Size 5 regulation weight
  • 32 heat-welded die-cut TPU outer panels with integrated sensor package; TPU bladder; requires inflation
  • Battery life: ~2,000 kicks / one week
  • Charging time: ~one hour
  • Package includes charging base and AC power plug

The miCoach Smart Ball is available from Adidas for only $299.

Bem Wireless Boom Box review

Bem Boom Box 1

It’s raining Bluetooth speakers! They’re everywhere, aren’t they? Ultra-portable Bluetooth speakers are handy to take anywhere, but they often sacrifice audio quality for size. If you don’t mind porting around a larger Bluetooth speaker, you can then become a little more discerning when it comes to the sound quality. The Bem Wireless Boom Box is one of those larger speakers. How does it perform in its class? I’m not an audiophile, but I really enjoy full, rich sound when listening to music, so when offered the chance to review the Bem Boom Box, I was curious to see if I would enjoy my music using this speaker.

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PlantLink review

PlantLink 1A

I wonder if there is a Plant Killers Anonymous organization out there. If so, I would definitely be a member. “Hello, My name is Kathleen, I’m a biologist and I kill plants.” As a college student I studied mostly animal biology and didn’t focus on plant studies. At the time I thought, “Seriously, what does a plant really DO? It just sits there!” But since then I have filled my house with beautiful leafy green plants because I have learned to appreciate their beauty and health benefits as well as the peace and calm they bring to our domestic atmosphere. Only a couple of years ago I bought two beautiful majesty palm plants. Since then one has died and the other is currently struggling. Ugh! When the opportunity came up to review the PlantLink, a wireless soil moisture monitoring tool that will send you notifications when your plants need water, my plants begged me to try it! Will it help me (and others like me) water my plants correctly? I know my plants are “dying” to know!

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Nymi: use your unique cardiac rhythm to replace all of your passwords

Nymi

Most of us have so many logins and accounts with passwords that it has become necessary to use password managers just to keep them all straight. The obvious intention for all of these passwords is to make sure you are who you say you are before you are granted access. Nymi, a new biometric authentication device, aims to replace all other ways to authenticate our identities and make them more secure. Each person has a unique cardiac rhythm. The basic pattern is the same but there are small unique and identifiable differences which are always present whether you’ve just exercised, have a heart arrhythmia, or just drank a cup of coffee. The developers at Bionym have put a lot of thought into the security of the device. It requires three things working together to authenticate you: the Nymi wristband, your unique heart rhythm, and the secure application on a registered device. Once you have been authenticated, you will remain so until you remove the wristband.

How it works: The Authorized Authentic Device or AAD is the device (a smart phone, tablet, or computer) that has the official Nymi companion app installed which will perform the authentication process. The Nymi wristband has two electrodes, one that comes into contact with the wrist and another on top of the wristband on which to place the opposite finger to capture the user’s electrocardiogram (ECG). The Nymi enrolls the user by capturing and sending wirelessly (via Bluetooth 4.0) over a secure channel the user’s ECG to the AAD which is then encrypted and stored to use as a template to compare future ECG’s to authenticate the user. Once the user is authenticated, the Nymi becomes activated and the AAD is no longer needed unless the Nymi is removed. Then the Nymi can be used to send the digital credentials of the user (not the ECG) to any of the user’s Nymi Enabled Devices (e.g. payment systems, smart phones, tablets, and any Bluetooth device). It will only authenticate with those devices it has been paired with using a secure protocol.

“The possibilities for future applications are endless. This level of personalization makes the Nymi ideal for hotels, clubs, airports, retail stores, corporate and government offices, in addition to our homes and personal accounts. The Nymi will be the key to the future of smart technology and seamless user experiences.” -Bionym

You can preorder your Nymi for $79 and for more information about Nymi’s technical details visit Bionym’s website.

CableBox by Bluelounge is an simple way to organize your cable mess

CableBox 2

Who doesn’t have an absolute mess of cables around their entertainment center and desk? But the CableBox from Bluelounge has a “Why didn’t I think of that?” design for organizing (or hiding) your tangled mess of cables. The box and easily removable lid are made of fire retardant plastic and is 15.6″ long x 6″ wide x 5.3″ high which should fit most wide and long power strips and surge protectors while at the same time leaving enough room to store excess cord lengths and AC adapters. It contains slots on both ends to allow the cables to exit the box in either direction. Rubber pads on the bottom of the box keep it from sliding on and/or scratching hardwood floors. The CableBox is available in black or white from Bluelounge and sells for $29.95. The CableBox Mini (9.3″L x 4.6″W x 5.2″H) can be found in black, white, green, blue, pink, yellow, and orange from Bluelounge for $29.95 and online sellers like Rakuten for about the same price.

Soniclean VTplus Upright Vacuum and Handheld Vacuum review

Soniclean 2

A sonic vacuum cleaner?! No way! Yes way! When the opportunity came to test a sonic vacuum cleaner, the Soniclean VTplus Upright, I was intrigued and so I jumped at the chance to review it. And let’s just face it – most people don’t like to clean, but since it is a necessary task, we want the best tools for the job. Will the Soniclean upright vacuum stand out among the rest? I also received the Soniclean Handheld Vacuum (which does not use the sonic technology). How did it fare in the tests? Read on!

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Reclaim your valuable desk space using the IDAPT Wireless Charger i4w Qi

IDAPT Universal Charger

At one time or another throughout a day, desk space can easily become cluttered with gadgets galore sitting and charging (has anyone seen the mouse?). Rediscover the surface of your desk with the IDAPT Wireless Charger i4w Qi. When using this charger, you will use only a small amount of space to charge up to four devices simultaneously, eliminate cable clutter, and actually be able to do some work at your desk! This charger uses an interchangeable tip system for up to two devices, Qi wireless charging for one device, and Turbo Smart USB (10W/2A) for one device. Included with this charger are four of IDAPT’s tips (extended tips are available for phones with cases) that can be swapped to charge the appropriate device and charge at 0.5W/1A each: iPhone – Lightning, iPod-iPhone, micro USB, mini USB. Charging does not slow down when used with multiple devices and the charger is compatible with over 5000 devices including current and older smartphones, tablets, gaming consoles, cameras and Bluetooth devices. It recognizes iOS devices and Android devices and fast charges both at a rate comparable to their respective OEM chargers. Now your only dilemma is what to do with all those other superfluous chargers…

The price is listed for $109.99. Check out the IDAPT web site to be notified when this charger becomes available.

RAVPower 30W/6A 4-Port USB Wall Charger review

RAVPower 1

I am always on the hunt for an open outlet to charge my devices. And where are they located? Generally behind some piece of furniture! It’s a wonder I haven’t become a contortionist by now after all the practice I’ve had squeezing into narrow spaces to plug in our phones and tablets. Older houses or hotels make finding an outlet especially challenging with a distinct lack of this precious real estate. Hence, there is an increased demand for multiport wall chargers. The RAVPower 30W/6A 4-port USB Wall Charger is one of many that are currently available. How well does this charger work and is there anything that makes it stand out from the plethora of wall chargers out there? Let’s take a look.

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Magically turn on your lights with a wave of your hand using the iON capacitive switch

ion-touchless-capacitive-switch-1

You’ve just come home to a dark house and your arms are full of groceries. With the wave of an arm or hand over the iON capacitive switch, you can turn on (or off) your lights without having to set your groceries down! And for the germaphobes out there, you no longer have to touch the switch! This switch works like your smartphone screen but with increased sensitivity so no contact is necessary. It can be covered up by pictures and still work. You can also wirelessly connect these switches to your home network which then allows you to control them from your cell phone if you wish.

iON Switching is currently raising funds on Kickstarter for the next 12 days where you can reserve a switch with a pledge of $40.

Yellow Jacket backup battery case/stun gun for iPhone 4/4S and soon iPhone 5/5S

Yellow Jacket3

Now there’s protection for your phone AND you with the Yellow Jacket rechargeable backup battery case /stun gun. This case comes with a removable stun gun pack and provides protection for your iPhone 5/5S using TPE soft plastic (PC/ABS hard plastic on the iPhone 4/4S case) and doubles the life of your phone’s battery (1800mAh).  The iPhone 5/5S stun gun case has dual push triggers which allow you to activate the stun gun with either hand and deliver 950,000 volts at 1.3mA to an attacker (650,000 volts with the 4/4S case). The Yellow Jacket case has a swiveling electrode cap and a safety switch to prevent accidental discharge and measures 5.6″ x 2.6″ x 1″.

It should be pointed out that this stun gun is not a taser. A taser will launch probes that attach to an attacker then deliver electric current at a higher amperage than a stun gun and will incapacitate the attacker via loss of muscle control. The Yellow Jacket stun gun case is a direct contact weapon. It does not eject its electrodes and it delivers electric current at a much reduced amperage (1.3 mA or less) which creates a short burst of pain when the electrodes come into contact with an attacker.

The Yellow Jacket iPhone 4/4S case is available through Amazon for $99 in black, pink, white, and yellow and the iPhone 5/5S case is available for preorder from Yellow Jacket online for $149.99.