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18 Apr 2016 | Leave a Comment

On our visit to this year’s Gadget Show Live, we discovered a number products we really like, however the one that took Geektown’s top spot was a wonderfully inventive toy called Milo.

Milo is an interactive way for young children to stay in touch with absent loved ones, whether that’s a parent in the military on deployment, or a grandparent who lives far away. Milo is designed to allow interactive play between the child and the loved one in a fun and inventive way.

Milo is a lion with an video screen for a face that fits onto a base station with 24 slots for ‘tokens’. These tokens can be hidden around the family home or in the child’s bedroom, and can represent 24 weeks, 24 days or whatever you choose, acting as a countdown for when the child’s absent loved one will return or visit. A clue appears on screen at a designated time that gives the child an indication of where the token might be. The child can then go on a treasure hunt in order to find the missing token. Once found they return to Milo’s base station and slot the token in. This then triggers a video message from the absent loved one to be played. Once finished the child can use Milo to record and send their own video message back. The adult then views this message (and all messages received) on the Milo website.

What we loved about Milo was the way it tackled an interesting problem with a unique solution. Family separation can be extremely hard on families, especially the child, even if it’s only for a few days. Milo is a lovely way of allowing the loved one and the child to stay in contact, even when the person that’s away may not have constant internet access.

Milo is still in development at the moment, so Hannah Sage, his creator, has entered the Virgin Media Business VOOM which offers funding, business advice and a chance to pitch to Richard Branson for the winner. The competition is voted for by the public, which means Milo needs your help!

All you have to do is CLICK THIS LINK to visit the VOOM website and vote. It’ll take you less than a minute, and help Hannah make Milo a reality for lots of families out there, so why not lend a hand, and help Milo out! 🙂

 

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1 Apr 2016 | Leave a Comment

The Gadget Show Live officially opens its doors to everyone today, once again bring the latest gadgets to the NEC in Birmingham across a wide range of technical innovation. Here is our run down of the show, and our favourite gizmos from the event.

VR… VR & Drones Everywhere…

The one thing you really couldn’t escape at the show this year was Virtual Reality. Not only people selling the actual tech, but also using VR headsets to sell their own products. There was an awful lot of this going on…

VR was everywhere

VR was going on everywhere

In fact the first thing you run into at the show is a huge NVIDIA VR stand, which was incredibly popular. I was in at 11am on the trade day, and only just managed to grab a time slot, so if you go to the show and fancy trying the NVIDIA VR (it is worth seeing), head straight to the sign up queue before you do anything else! It was one of the most impressive VR experiences I’ve had. The demo opens with you standing under the sea on a shipwreck watching the sea life, then moves to working in an office (more fun than it sounds!), and ends with a shooter game. The set up was really easy and comfortable to use and very intuitive.

The other item to dominate the show this year was Drones. From tiny 2 inch micro drones to huge 3 foot wide monsters, there were drones of ever shape and size and at every price point, so if you fancy picking up something to spy on the neighbours, The Gadget Show has you covered!

Special Mentions

Bags by BLACK

Bags by BLACK

Before we get to our top gadgets of the show, there were a couple of products to which we wanted to give special mentions. First up, Bags by BLACK. As you know if you read last years article, here at Geektown we love a good bag, and Bags by BLACK make some really lovely and different laptop bags. Just really stylish, cool, and not at all what you normal get when you picture a laptop bag. They have 2 designs – The Buddi and Lexi, but it was the Buddi (pictured) that really caught my eye. Solidly made, comes in a wide range of colours, really comfortable to wear, and looks great.

Next up SuperMarinovation – The underwater jetpack!

Coming in at just over 2 grand, it’s not exactly going to be for everyone, but it’s still looks like epic fun to play with, and who wouldn’t want to pretend to be a superhero underwater!

VRGo

VRGo

Lastly I wanted to mention VRGo. Not a VR headset, but a chair which you can use to control your movement in a VR environment. One of the biggest issues with VR is space. As impressive as the NVIDIA set up was, the size of the room you’re in restricts how far you can move before running into a wall. The VRGo chair is a nice compromise of giving you the feeling your body controlling the movement, but you’re sat in one spot, so you’re not going to find yourself knocking over lamps or walking into walls. Lean forward to move forward, back to go back, spin around on the spot etc… It basically works like you’re sitting on the analog stick of a game controller. Simple but effective solution to the VR movement problem.

Geektown’s Top Gadgets of The Gadget Show 2016

3rd – SAM Labs

SAM Labs

SAM Labs

SAM Labs create wireless electronics kits which allow kids and adults alike to quickly and easily build simple to highly complex inventions. I’ve seen a number of companies try to crack a way of getting people into coding and building tech, but no one has come close to doing it with the elegance of the SAM Labs system.

You start by buying one of their kits, which comes with a number of wireless ‘blocks’ with a variety of functions. You then download their free ‘SAM App’ software, which has an incredibly easy to grasp ‘drag and drop’ system to allow you to get the blocks to interact with each other. From simply clicking a ‘button block’ to making a ‘light block’ turn on, to setting it to send out a tweet, to spinning a servo to move something. It can all be done without any need for any actual coding. However, if you do have some coding knowledge, you can use JavaScript to write your own custom routines and build whatever you can imagine. It’s a beautifully put together, and wonderfully intuitive system. It’s only real issue at the moment is price. At £69 for the cheapest kit, it’s possibly a little on the high side at the moment for a lot of people, but hopefully that will come down over time, as i’d love to see this product in the hands of a lot more people.

2nd – Playbrush

Playbrush

Playbrush

Over the years there have been lots of attempts at products to help teach children to brush their teeth correctly, but Playbrush turned towards an novel digital way to solve the problem. Playbrush is a device which pushes onto the bottom of any normal manual toothbrush turning it into a gaming controller. You can then boot up the Playbrush app on your phone or tablet, and it allows the child to play games which teaches them how to brush their teeth.

These aren’t some dry educational ‘teeth based’ games though. These range from flying games (brushing top teeth to go up, bottom to go down), to cartoony shooters (brush on the left side to shoot left, right side for right etc…) The clever thing is the games adapt to how the child is brushing, so for example, in the shooter game if they aren’t brushing the top teeth enough, more enemies come from the top. It’s a really nice solution to help make brushing teeth a fun activity for children (and I suspect, some adults!)

1st – Milo

Milo Toy

Milo Toy

Still in development, but the Milo toy was the one gadget that really stood out to us this year as new, innovative and different.

Developed by a young designer called Hannah Sage, it’s purpose is to help families where a parent is separated from the child for extended periods, such as being in the military or working abroad. Milo allows the absent parent to record video messages to a website whenever they have an internet connection – which is obviously not a constant thing for someone on deployment. The recorded messages are attached to tokens which can be hidden by the parent or caregiver at home, creating a fun treasure hunt activity for the child. Milo can give out clues as to where the tokens are hidden, and when the token is slotted back into Milo’s base station, the video message from the absent parent plays out on Milo’s face.

What we loved about Milo was it tackled an interesting problem in a wonderful and unique way. A parent being away from home can be really tough on families, and anything that can help bring them closer together gets our vote. Milo helps keep that connection between parent and child in a difficult situation in an engaging and fun way. We look forward to seeing Milo developed, and if you want to know more, just go to their website at milotoy.co.uk

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5 Mar 2016 | Leave a Comment

Wearable gadgets unlikely to outsell smartphones

Wearable gadgets unlikely to outsell smartphones

The rapid advancement of smart devices means that by 2018, an estimated 271 million gadgets will be connected to the Internet, a massive increase from 35 million last year.

The release of wearable technology, such as the Pebble Smartwatch, Samsung Galaxy Gear and highly anticipated Apple iWatch, will have a “tangible impact” on this mobile traffic. These devices will appeal to a wide demographic of users, due to their ability to connect to a mobile network via a smartphone without the need for embedded cellular connectivity.

However, while these wearables may seen novel and exciting, they have yet to pose any real threat to smartphone use. Online traffic from the technology will account for just 0.5% of smartphone traffic globally. Although their usage is increasing, it is increasing slowly, with global traffic from wearable devices rising from 0.1% at the end of last year to just an estimated 0.4% by 2018.

It appears that users may see these smart watches as having limited capabilities compared to mobile devices. The shape and size of the screen  could make the phone and text functions more difficult to make best out of bingo games as access to game apps and mobile compatible sites will likely be substandard compared to its mobile equivalents.

Despite these concerns, the market sector for wearable technology will inevitably expand. By 2018, it will be worth an estimated $30 billion. However, compared to the $168 billion that the smartphone market was worth in 2012, this figure seems less impressive. Around 177 million smartwatches are predicted to be sold by 2018, but this figure is dwarfed by the 2.3 billion smartphones that the IDC are estimating will be purchased each year.

This evidence seems to indicate that while some may be interested in this new and emerging technology, most consumers simply desire to have the latest, most sophisticated model of smartphone in their pocket instead.

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4 Mar 2016 | Leave a Comment

From Smartphone to Multi-screen Generation

From Smartphone to Multi-screen Generation

Technology screens surround us everywhere and every day. In fact, many people struggle to remember a time when one couldn’t quickly pull out a smartphone and find the answer to any question by simply googling it. The smartphone was a key player in the rise of multi-screening and at the forefront of it all, was the first iPhone.

Paving the way

iPhone 2007

iPhone 2007

It seems like a very long time ago now, but Apple didn’t actually release its first iPhone until 2007. The technology that was packed into this device wasn’t entirely new; however, the first iPhone combined many features that would lead to a change in the expectations people had of their phones.

It did away with a separate keypad by incorporating it into the touchscreen. The operating system also resembled that of a small computer rather than a regular phone. It was, in fact, a tiny computer, which also happened to have the function to make phone calls.

This revolutionised what people wanted in a phone. The smartphone was born. In November 2009, the G1, the first Android phone was launched and in early 2011, research showed that in the last three months of 2010 more smartphones than PCs were sold.

From then on the tiny device was unstoppable. Technology to make these gadgets better and faster was developed rapidly. Touchscreens had become the norm and each phone came with GPS, a decent camera, and internet access. In essence, phones transformed from being mere phones to being mini-computers, we could take anywhere.

One screen isn’t enough anymore

Multi-screens

Multi-screens

Even if we don’t like to admit it, most of us regularly use more than one screen at a time. It’s no longer enough to just watch a film on our TV. At the same time, we’ll play with our phone, check social media channels or do some online shopping on our tablet. Businesses have taken note of this and marketers started to adapt their campaigns to take this development into consideration.

Each device has its own strengths and we’ve become very good at recognising, which device is best suited for a specific task. We can, for instance, turn a smartphone into a remote control, with which to change the channel and the volume on our TVs. Another device, which can be used to share content is the Google Chromecast. Once you install the app on your phone or the extension on your laptop, you can simply “cast” photos, videos or entire tabs from your device onto your big-screen TV.

The possibilities are endless. Nowadays, you can even use multi-screen technology to pour your friends a virtual beer. Therefore it’s no surprise that consumers demand better technology to ensure that sharing content across platforms is a smooth and easy experience.

The rise of the smartphone has influenced huge parts of our lives including how we stay in touch with friends and family, our shopping habits and how we consume media. The multi-screen generation has quickly become a powerful driving force behind the development of new technology.

Sources:

http://www.usability247.com/blog/the-multi-screen-generation-multiplatform-thinking/ https://www.blurgroup.com/blogs/marketing/marketing-to-the-multi-screen-generation/ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2021722/Health-fears-children-watch-TV-using-iPads-phones-laptops.html
http://www.thesnugg.com/a-brief-history-of-smartphones.aspx

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28 Jan 2016 | Leave a Comment

5 of the most amazing technological advancements in 2015

5 of the most amazing technological advancements in 2015

There have been many wonderful inventions over the years with the wheel being a prime example of how one technological advancement can change lives for ever. Wheels and castors can be found everywhere from hospital beds to household furniture and new inventions are constantly cropping up left, right and centre. In fact, 2015 was a wonderful year for techy improvements so let’s take a look at what hit the headlines.

Car-to-car communication

Car-to-car communication

Car-to-car communication

Buy a new car these days and it’ll probably come equipped with all the latest gadgets including inbuilt satnav systems, Bluetooth connectivity with hands free calling and electric windows, but many vehicles will soon boast another feature in the near future – car-to-car communication. This type of technology was tested throughout 2015 and warns drivers of an impending collision helping detect the size, speed, direction, brake status and steering wheel direction of other vehicles.

Liquid biopsies

Everyone’s scared of the big C. The word ‘cancer’ is enough to send shivers down your spine, but scientist including Dennis Lo – a Chinese doctor who was the first to show that a foetus sheds bits of its DNA into the bloodstream of its mother which in turn has led to safer, simpler screening for Downs Syndrome – are on the case. Lo, along with many other medical professionals, are trying to develop a cancer screening test based on a simple blood draw which is thought to be possible as dying cancer cells also shed DNA into a person’s blood.

Growing human brain cells

Growing human brain cells

Growing human brain cells

Growing brains in a jar might sound a little bizarre, but by taking a brain organoid and turning it into an induced pluripotent stem cell and then into a neuron, scientists can now see how networks of living human brain cells develop and function and how they respond to certain medicines and treatments. This is exciting news as it could, essentially, unlock the mystery behind many neurological disorders including dementia and schizophrenia, which are still poorly understood.

Speeding up plant growth

Hunger and starvation-related deaths affect people on a massive scale across the world, but there is light on the horizon. Scientists recently revealed that they’ve made significant advances in engineering rice plants which will essentially give crops a boost and feed billions more people. The science behind it all is as complicated as you’d expect, but basically it involves a form of supercharged photosynthesis which works by capturing carbon dioxide and concentrating it into particular leaf cells.

Mobile payment technologies

Mobile payment technologies

Mobile payment technologies

Gone are the days where you had to go to the bank and withdraw cash to make a payment or use a credit card or cheque. Today, you can go into almost any store and pay with a tap of your mobile phone. Google Wallet is notoriously popular but the 2015 launch of Apple Pay complete with compatible technologies that retailers can use to make payments has resulted in more and more people using their phone as a one-stop shop for all their daily activities.

Technological advancements will never stop. They will, quite literally, keep on coming, so keep a look out for new inventions to hit the market.

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31 Dec 2015 | Leave a Comment

The technology behind e-cigs - how do they work?

The technology behind e-cigs – how do they work?

As we’re on the cusp of a new year, people are making their new years resolutions, and for many people, that we mean trying to quit smoking, and are looking for alternatives. When Hon Lik, a 52-year old pharmacist from China, developed the first electronic cigarette in 2003, he probably didn’t realise how big of an impact it would have on smokers trying to kick the habit all over the world.

But in 2015, global sales of vaping devices hit £6bn according to data from Euromonitor International, with companies like Phoenix eliquid supplying wholesale cigs to small businesses so they can capitalise on this consumer trend.

While most ‘vapers’ won’t think twice about how their electronic cigarette works, others are a little more inquisitive. So, if you’ve ever wanted to know about the technology behind e-cigs, here is a quick insight.

The components of an e-cig

Although the look and feel of e-cigs can vary, from those resembling standard tobacco cigarettes to incredibly ornate and futuristic-looking devices, the vast majority will feature the following components:

  • A cartridge – This contains a liquid consisting of nicotine, flavouring, and other chemicals such as glycerin or polyethylene glycol.
  • An atomizer – This features a heating coil that warms up the liquid.
  • A battery – This is usually a lithium battery, charged via USB cable.
  • A mouthpiece – This is where the user inhales.
  • A sensor – This registers when the user inhales and activates the atomizer.
  • An LED – This isn’t a feature on all e-cigs, but is meant to simulate a burning cigarette.

How e-cigs work

The technology behind e-cigs

The technology behind e-cigs

When the cartridge holding the liquid is inserted into the electronic cigarette, it makes contact with the atomizer’s bridge. Through gravity and capillary action, the liquid is then absorbed into the atomizer’s steel mesh reservoir.

As soon as the user inhales on the mouthpiece, the liquid is sucked from the reservoir into the ceramic atomizer pot. The liquid is again absorbed but this time by the aromatic polyimide wick, situated inside the ceramic pot. Simultaneously, the device heats the coil around the wick, warming up the liquid until it becomes vapour, which the user breathes in.

Some electronic cigarettes feature a manual switch, which when pressed will activate this process and only vaporise the liquid already in the ceramic pot. No more liquid will be drawn into the pot or absorbed by the wick without the user inhaling.

The difference between e-cigs and traditional cigarettes

In many respects, the only similarity between e-cigs and traditional cigarettes is that they both contain nicotine. Despite its addictive properties, nicotine is frequently used for its performance-enhancing effects on cognition, alertness and focus.

However, the main and most crucial difference between e-cigs and traditional cigarettes is combustion. While e-cigs simply heat-up liquid containing nicotine, traditional cigarettes must burn tobacco to release nicotine. In turn this produces smoke, which contains over 4,000 chemicals, including 43 known cancer-causing (carcinogenic) compounds and 400 other toxins.

For this reason, e-cigs are a much safer alternative and can also be used as a cessation aid to help quit smoking altogether. Even though the EU and US are set to introduce new electronic cigarette regulations in 2016, their popularity will undoubtedly continue to rise.

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