A few days ago, Geektown had the pleasure of visiting The Gadget Show Live 2014 at the NEC in Birmingham. As with last year there where a number of interesting items on display, some practical, some just for fun. Here are the top 6 gadgets we saw at the show:
6. E-Bikes (Electric Bikes)
Last year you couldn’t move for 3D printers at the show. This year’s darlings appears to be the humble bike, but with a twist. There were a number of bike accessories and some foldable bikes, but the one that really caught my eye were the E-Bikes. The show had a big track set up so you could try out a number of battery operated electric bikes, which are essentially normal pedal bikes, but with a battery which can either assist you with your peddling, or take over completely.
It’s a slightly odd, but not unpleasant experience. On full battery power, it’s like free wheeling down a hill, but on the flat. Using it in assist mode is like having someone pushing you from behind. Like having some giant parent pushing you along, like they did when you learned to ride in the first place. The bikes are obviously a bit more expensive that your run-of-the-mill pedal bike, but they tend to get used a lot more, due to the fact the rider doesn’t have to worry about going out somewhere and not having the energy to pedal home again!
5. SunnyCam (Hands Free Video Camera)
I actually first saw the SunnyCam at ComicCon a few weeks back, when one of the photographers was wearing a pair of them to record footage (and if your reading this SunnyCam people, send a pair to Sleepy Hollow star Nicole Beharie as she was after a pair!) Put simply, they’re glasses with a HD video camera in them. No need for additional mounts, or things strapped to the side of your head. Just pop on the glasses and click the record button. They record 720p HD video on to a 16Mb SD card which slots into the arm of the glasses. All the controls are easily accessible via buttons on the top of the arm, and you get 3hrs recording time from a charge. They actually look pretty stylish too!
4. OneWheel (Electric Skateboard)
OneWheel is the world first self-balancing electric skateboard. Taking inspiration from Back To The Future 2′s hover board, they wanted to build an easy to use ride that felt like you were floating across the ground. What they came up with was a board which, although it doesn’t actually hover, still looks awesome and performs beautifully. The main wheel is like a mini F1 tyre, and you control the board by a switch under your front foot. They’re in the process of building the product right now, and are taking preorders on their website. Interestingly, they assumed it would just be used as a fun cool toy, but some of the business guys that are backing them have said they want them for the commute to work!
3. Technology Will Save Us (DIY electronics kits)
Technology Will Save Us create as sell these great little DIY electronics kits. From simple circuits that click together, to more advanced kits that require a bit of soldering, they’re wonderful ways to introduce kids to electronics and programming. Whether it’s creating speakers, musical instruments, or simple hand-held games, it’s a brilliantly put together, inspirational product that totally deserves a place on this list.
2. Tactus Smootch & VitriFender (Phone Covers)
As any regular reader of this site will know, we love phone accessories at Geektown, and the folk at Tactus had 2 which really caught my eye.
First up is the VitriFender screen cover. Pfhh… screen covers a screen cover you say? Not in this case… VitriFender is a piece of 0.4mm tempered glass, with a surface hardness of 8~9H. That means it’s 3 times stronger than your standard PET film. As I walked up to the stand, the sales guys was happily dropping 1 inch diameter ball bearings onto the screen from a fairly decent height without a mark being made on the phone. They even say you can take a knife to it and it won’t scratch!
The 2nd item is the Smootch. Made from ‘plubba’ (i swear i’m not making that up!), it’s a pliable rubber that has micro suction technology, allowing you to ‘stick’ your phone or pad to a smooth surface. At the show they had a number of them just ‘stuck’ to a plexiglass wall of the stand. You could take it off, and the cover itself is not sticky at all. Then just place it back to the wall, and it stays there. It’s like witchcraft!
1. 1stFone/OwnFone (Phone)
For me, this ingenious little device was the star of the show. It’s an easy to use, well built, small phone. Just the size of a credit card, about 0.5cm thick, and very light, you can have it pre-programmed with up to 12 numbers. No text, no apps. Just a phone that make voice calls to the people listed on it.
If you want to give a phone to your young child so you can call them, and they can call you, but don’t want them to have internet access or be able to run up huge bills, then you can give them a 1stFone, and it will only let them call the people programmed into it. Or if you have an elderly relative that struggles with technology, then an OwnFone will let them have a set of numbers they can call at the push of a button. You can even design the front to have photo buttons rather than names, or even have the letters in Braille for blind users. All the numbers are stored in a cloud, so if you need to change a number, just call them up, and they’ll change it there and then. If you need to change the names, you can get your phone re-printed (they’re 3D printed) for £10 with the new names or photos on them.
Prices for the phone start at a very reasonable £40, and kids (or big kids) can pick and chose from a number of colourful designs. You can even upload your own images to customise the cover. Contracts start at £7.50 a month, and also come on pay-as-you-go. It should in theory also be safer from theft. Apart from the fact it doesn’t really look like a phone, what would be the point of someone stealing a phone that can only call preset numbers?
A genius, simple, easy to use product, with a wide range of uses.
With new technological advances happening every minute of the day, keeping up to date with the latest in play sporting events seems like such a generic task. This is reality. With different apps that cover a broad range of sports, allowing fans to maintain the most accurate minute-by-minute account of different events.
ESPN Sports Centre – Free
With ESPN being one of the largest and most respected sports broadcasters in the world, it is only fitting that their app co-inhabits in a similar manner. It offers the most up to date information, with a fantastic supply of videos, news, scores, stats and standings. The app itself puts the fans in the heart of their chosen sport with the most current issues and breaking stories. There is also a link to twitter that enables fans to interact with the app and cast their opinions of the latest information. It offers an efficient way of keeping all of your team’s news in one place.
The Racing Post Mobile App
This app will be key for upcoming events such as the Grand National 2014. With horse racing becoming more and more popular, it was imperative that the sport became a part of the rapidly rising 21st Century. The historic organisation the Racing Post have developed an app that allows fans to watch the live section that provides a constant stream of useful racing news and tips 24/7, as well as being a great resource for race-by-race commentary and results during the afternoon and evening events. With the fantastic database that runs similarly to the online version, it allows the consumer to gain an insight into the necessary information to make an informed bet on every race. This is key for upcoming events such as the Grand National 2014. The fact that you can read the Racing Post the night before it is even in the shops makes it a tempting offer for any pundit. Never again will you miss a bet with impressive app.
CBS Sports – Free
In terms of US sport, broadcasters don’t come much bigger than CBS. They supply one of the biggest round-ups of sports such, football (both NFL and NCAA) as well as basketball, baseball, ice hockey, golf, tennis and soccer. One the most unique features about this app is that you can personalise the news you receive to which suits you best via the unique push notifications, allowing you to really become a part of the action. This app also has a fantasy feature, which gives fans the opportunity to compete against friends and the rest of the nation as your favourite NFL rides the season.
Sky Sports Live Football Score Centre – Free
The Sky Sports score centre app offers an unrivalled service when it comes to live coverage of the World’s football results and scores. It features a well-updated live Vidiprinter, live commentary, photos and betting odds. It also provides in depth stats and comprehensive line-ups and analysis, as well as live league tables throughout games.
Team Stream – Free
People who are familiar with ‘Bleacher Report’ will recognise the excellent coverage it provides, alongside the thorough journalism and fantastic media accompanying it. Team Stream is the iOS companion to Bleacher, allowing you to select a team and bring together all the stories and information surrounding your team, taken from various sources across the web, featuring local news outlets as well as national sites and blogs. Again, Team Stream boasts an excellent interface.
BBC Sport – Free
With the BBC being the oldest broadcasting company on the planet, it enables them to depict their experience in breaking the news via their app. The wealth of knowledge and experience held by their team of journalists is expressed through the level in depth information on a regular basis. It offers the most up to date stats and facts and is the ideal set up for any fan looking to closely follow their chosen sport or sports.
The mobile platform has changed traditional methods of fundraising, encouraging philanthropy in more engaging and convenient ways. Strengthened by the accessibility of smartphones and a global social network, charitable causes can now reap the benefits of an online and connected world.
By engaging with conscious individuals through these apps, non-profit organisations can obtain donations in a way that is not only simple and easy for the user, but can be fun and enjoyable as well.
Charity Miles allows you to raise funds for your chosen cause while you stay fit. Exercising both your body and your soul, this free app tracks your workout and makes a donation according to how many miles you covered. Simply choose a cause out of nine available, then get active and get fundraising. The app will donate 10 cents per mile cycled or 25 cents per mile ran or walked. In our health-conscious nation, it is the ideal way to encourage fitness while giving back.
Play to Cure: Genes in Space
Over one in three people will develop some form of cancer during their lifetime and with more than 200 different forms of the disease, charities such as Cancer Research UK rely on vital support. While some may run or bake to raise funds, you can make a difference by playing the Genes in Space app. Developed in association with the Rational Group, Google and Amazon, the game aids research into cancer by allowing players to analyse genetic data in the form of a game. Scientists can then use this information to develop life-saving treatments.
It’s easy to forget how big an impact micro donations can have. It’s even easier to indulge in little unnecessary luxuries. Instead challenges us to make a small change in our everyday choices in order to make a big change to those in need. The app will clearly remind you what a difference these changes in routine can make and how just $3 or $5 can improve the lives of those you’re helping. For example, by just giving up your morning latte you could provide a year’s supply of clean water for a child in South Sudan.
Donate a Photo
Around 90% of people have only ever taken a photo using a mobile camera. The connectivity and convenience of smartphones mean they are now the go-to photo-taking device, allowing us to share our snaps with ease. Taking advantage of our shutterbug habits, the Donate a Photo app allows users to share their photos in order to benefit a number of causes. For each image shared through the app, creators Johnson & Johnson will donate $1 to your chosen cause, with the guarantee that they will never be used for commercial purposes.
The Budge app adds a social aspect to charity donation, letting users set their own challenges for friends or family. The loser is required to pay an agreed upon donation to a worthy cause, with integrated Facebook features allowing you to share your challenges and see what others are doing. The challenges can be as creative or as simple as you like, and can even be used as a motivational tool for staying fit or achieving goals.
Over the summer I decided to upgrade to the new 2013 Nexus 7, which is a great bit of kit, but it meant, due to the new 2nd camera on the back, and the slight size change, my old Nexus case no longer fit. So when the folk at Mobile Fun asked me if I wanted to trial a couple of their new Nexus 7 2013 case range, I was only too happy to oblige!
First up is a leather case with an interesting little rotating device. As you would expect, the case folds neatly flat, offering good protection against minor knocks and scratches. It’s fastened with a band of elastic that wraps around the unit, keeping it really secure. There’s really no fear of your tablet ever falling out whilst the case is shut.
Like a number of cases on the market, this one also doubles as a stand. But what’s unique about this particular design, is that you can turn the Nexus from landscape to portrait without having to actually remove it from its cradle. It’s a neat little feature, however, it does mean that the cradle itself is make of a fairly cheap feeling plastic, which lets it down a little. The write up also claims it has a magnet inside to enable the sleep/wake function of the Nexus, but I have to say, it never worked once for me…
6/10 – Overall an interesting idea, just not very well executed…
The 2nd case is made by Sonivo, and retails at £19.99, and I have to say, for only £5 more than the previous case, you get a massive improvement in quality. It’s a solidly built case that covers nearly all of the Nexus, and has a slight lip around the edge, meaning if you do drop it, it’s going to hit the case, and not the expensive tablet inside! The clasp is magnetic, meaning there’s no fiddling with straps to open it, and the magnet also doubles to wake and sleep the Nexus when you open and close it. The Sonivo also doubles as a stand, allowing you to place it upright in a landscape position, or lay it flat on a slight angle for a more comfortable writing position.
Internally, it has a handle, meaning the more ‘butter fingered’ among you don’t have to worry about it slipping from your grasp as you’re using it in portrait mode. It also has a couple of slots for credit or business cards, and a small slot for storing a spare sim or memory card. On the outside, there’s a little elastic loop to store a stylist if you have one. The exterior cover itself is made of a ‘leather effect’ material, which actually looks rather nice, and hard wearing, and comes in a range of colours.
9/10 – Great case at a really good price!
Over the course of running the site, we’ve reviewed a number of speakers, but generally they tend to be the mini ‘put in your pocket’ type. The Xenta LT-201 Bluetooth 24W Speaker sent to us from Ebuyer is designed as more of a living room or kitchen device. Still pretty portable, but not the sort that you’d take away on holiday with you. It retails at around £40, so is really an entry level speaker of this type, but that’s not to say it doesn’t have the goods where it counts.
Setting up the Xenta LT-201 is really straightforward. Turn it on, set your phone or tablet to scan for devices, and connect. No need to punch in passcodes, or other messing around. It really couldn’t be easier! I had it up and running and streaming music within a couple of mins of getting it out of the box.
The front of the unit has a large, centrally place volume dial. There’s also ‘stop/play’ and ‘skip track’ buttons, assuming the device you’re playing from supports those features. The rear of the unit has a ‘line in’ socket, should you wish to connect something directly to it, and a headphone jack (although i’m not entirely sure why you’d need it, but at least it’s there if you do!) There’s also a blue LED indicator light which flashes to show when a device is connected. I can see why they’ve done that for some visual feedback, but it is a little annoying if you’re in a darkened room.
The Sound & Range
For a relatively small speaker, it packs a decent punch, allowing you to crank up your tunes to fill most decent sized rooms without any real distortion. Given it’s really an entry level speaker, the sound quality is pretty good. The bass could maybe do with being a little ‘bassier’, but I thought the top end was fine for the size and price, and they do a very acceptable job. Obviously, the speaker is one unit, meaning there isn’t a huge separation between left and right stereo, but then that is to be expected with this sort of speaker design.
I had no issue with the range at all. I found I could happily wander around the house with the phone in my pocket without any breaks in the Bluetooth connection. I was even upstairs at one point, and the LT-201 was still happily streaming away.
Overall, the Xenta LT-201 is a good speaker at a reasonable price. If you’re looking for a good little Christmas gift, or just something to let you stream your tunes to your kitchen or your bedroom, this will do it perfectly well, and won’t cost you a fortune.
8/10 – Good speakers at a good price point.
While you may enjoy the simplicity and practicality of the apps you use on your smartphone or tablet, not all apps are created with these things in mind. Some actually cause controversy among users and other developers. And in fact, though some of these controversial apps make it to the market, some are banned after production, never to be used by the general population. Here is a list of a few controversial and banned apps that never got their chance to shine.
I Am Rich
This controversial and generally worthless app was featured on the Apple Store for a short period of time, but was eventually pulled by management once they realized its nature. I Am Rich cost $1,000 and contained one screen that had nothing but a picture of a diamond in the center. A few customers accidentally bought this app, assuming it was a joke, and complained to Apple. Apple quickly refunded their money and took the app off of the virtual marketplace.
This bizarre app led users to a screen that showed only a bloody knife, which reacted to the movement of the device with blood-curdling screams and slashing sounds. It wasn’t received very well in the United Kingdom though, where knife violence is extremely prevalent, making it a very sensitive subject. After a variety of complaints throughout the country, Apple took the app down for over four years.
Send Me to Heaven
Capitalizing on the popularity of sports games on smartphones and tablets, the creators of Send Me to Heaven decided to create an interactive app with a twist. This strange app directs users throw their phones as high as they possibly can, using the accelerometer to measure the speed and distance the phone reached in the air. Of course, if the user catches it on the way down, they will see the amount of points they receive—others receive nothing more than a shattered device. This app was rejected by Apple.
The developers of this app decided to try their hands at political parody. Obama Trampoline allows customers to choose from 18 different politicians and bounce them around the White House Oval Office by shaking their phones. To add to the excitement, extra points are gained when the politicians hit balloons in the air and pop them. But because Apple does not condone the defamation or slander of political officials, this app was rejected immediately.
Me So Holy
Religious leaders across the world would have been infuriated by the content of this app for the iPhone. Me So Holy allowed users to take pictures of their faces, or even of their friends, and place their profiles atop the heads of religious figures from a variety of world religions. This controversial app never saw the light of day, as Apple headquarters deemed it offensive, and assumed that it would be to objectionable for commercial availability.
An App for Everything
Though many apps are productive and have a variety of useful capabilities, others are downright offensive and serve very little purpose. These different programs truly show us that there really is an app for everything, even thought there possibly shouldn’t be…
This article was provided by Deb Phillips, volunteer veterinarian and iPhone and iPad app expert. If you’re an avid gadget user, Deb recommends Protect Your Bubble cell phone insurance.