In the United States, the name Dr.Scholl’s makes one immediately think of shoe inserts to make walking a bit more comfortable. But, if you remember, the company has had foot scanners at Walgreens and other pharmacies for many years before the terms “personalized medicine” and “3D scanning” were common terms.
The company, a part of Bayer, now offers 3D printed shoe inserts that can be designed using a special Dr.Scholl’s smartphone app while you’re at home. The app takes a series of pictures of your foot, creates a 3D model of your foot, and then uses the data to manufacture a real insert custom built specifically for you.
If you’re after a Google-powered smartwatch, and you need a wearable that can cope with everything the great outdoors can throw at it, the new Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30 could be the perfect fit. We’ve been spending some time with the watch, and here’s our verdict.
The look of the Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30, with its 2.12-inch by 1.93 inch casing, tells you immediately what sort of smartwatch this is: one built for adventuring rather than evening dinner parties. It’s stylish, but in a rugged, chunky way – it won’t suit everyone, but we like the look of the watch, which you can get with a blue, black or orange trim.
And that rugged design does have its benefits: the watch passes US military standards for vibrations, shocks, and extreme temperatures, and it’s also waterproof to 50 meters. This is not a wearable that’s going to wear out easily.
The plastic strap supplied with our review unit was comfortable and wasn’t chafing or digging in after a day of use (you can also swap it out for a strap of your own if you prefer). If the appearance of the Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30 suits you, you shouldn’t find it disappoints in terms of comfort.
As for the software on board, you’ve got the latest Wear OS 2.6 from Google. Despite the occasional lag on current-gen hardware (not just on the Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30, but all Wear OS watches of the moment), the wearable operating system is now perfectly competent in most areas – and even works with iPhones.
Recent updates to Google Assistant and Google Fit have made Wear OS more useful than ever before, bringing the focus back to the two areas that are the main reasons for getting a smartwatch in the first place: fitness tracking and quick access to your phone from your wrist. You can read and compose messages, get directions, control music playback on your phone, and access all the usual features that every Wear OS watch has.
On top of this Casio has added some of its own apps, which we found came in handy. These include widgets for altitude, atmospheric pressure and daily steps, as well as special modes for particular activities, like cycling or fishing. You can configure alerts when specific “moments” are hit, like when the sun is about to set or you reach a certain altitude.
In theory there’s a good idea here, but in practice it’s a bit clunky and we didn’t end up using it much. On the mapping side, you’ve got either Google Maps or Mapbox, both of which are clear and easy to use.
In our time with the Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30, it was in the walking and hiking that it really shined – which is maybe why there’s a “Trek” in the name. With GPS, an altimeter, and a compass on board, this will get you home even after your phone’s battery dies, and you can even cache maps for offline use.
Another reason to pick this smartwatch over others is battery life management. Casio has packed in a few tricks to keep the Pro Trek WSD-F30 lasting as long as possible between charges, perhaps to improve its credentials as a wearable for those long days exploring away from home.
First there’s a dual-layer watch face, which means when you’re not actively using the watch it defaults to a monochrome layer (other watches have something similar). We weren’t huge fans of the look of this second face but it does the job it needs to.
Secondly, there are modes to extend the smartwatch’s battery life beyond the standard day-and-a-bit. You can either shut down Wear OS completely and just use the monochrome layer to up to a month of use, or disable Bluetooth and Wi-Fi and limit Wear OS to just the software on the wearable for up to three days of use.
We found these estimations mostly correct, though we’d rather see more than a day of use to begin with. It seems like a makeshift workaround to have to disable watch features to squeeze out more battery life, but that seems to be where the technology is at right now –not just with the Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30, but with smartwatches in general.
You don’t get NFC (for mobile payments) or heart rate tracking with the Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30, which is a shame for a premium-level smartwatch in 2019. You might be able to live without them, but it’s something to consider while you’re weighing up a purchase for what is undoubtedly an expensive smartwatch.
It’s really only worth spending this much if you’re going to make full use of those mapping tools and that military-grade robustness – if you are, the Casio Pro Trek WSD-F30 is worth a look. It’s available now for $549.99 direct from Casio.
These days, wireless earbuds are ubiquitous and relatively inexpensive, making it harder and harder for manufacturers to stand out from the competition. But Soul Electronics believes it has created a new option that runners and fitness fanatics are going to love, incorporated some unique features that could be a real game-changer for those looking to improve their workouts.
First announced at the Consumer Electronics Show last month, the Soul Blade wireless earbuds made their public debut on Indiegogo on Wednesday, February 13. The crowdfunding campaign recently got underway, but Soul already smashed through its $30,000 goal in just a few hours. That means, the Blade should go into production later this year and become available for purchase in October.
So what makes these earbuds so special? For starters, they have the ability to track the user’s heart rate during a workout without the need to wear a bulky chest strap to collect that data. But that’s just the beginning, as the Blade earphones can also track motion, monitoring distance traveled, speed, cadence, stride length, and a bunch of other metrics. Soul says this is possible thanks to a system called the BiomechEngine from Beflex, which is a tiny chip build for wearables and designed specifically with fitness applications in mind.
Soul has paired the BiomechEngine with an onboard artificial intelligence to give runners real-time coaching tips while they work out. That feedback comes in the form of a voice in their ears, prompting them to change their cadence or stride in an effort to run more efficiently and avoid injury. The A.I. coach examines the runner’s movement, including his or her stride and force of impact. It even claims it can detect posture in order to more accurately offer suggestions on how to improve a runner’s form.
The Blade earbuds come with a charging case, which Soul says provides up to 96 hours of run time. The wireless earphones use Bluetooth 5.0 technology to improve battery life and sound quality, and even offer an IPX7 water-resistance rating. They are expected to carry a price tag of $249, although early bird supporters can reserve a pair now for $129. Of course, as with any crowdfunding campaign, it is important to understand the risks that come with spending your cash on a product that isn’t released yet.
There is no shortage of folding chairs that can be packed into neat and compact packages for easy carry into the great outdoors, with the two-legged Bip and bottle-sized Go Chair just a couple of recent examples. The HoverChair might take slightly more work to pack onto your back, but promises supreme levels of comfort with a hanging design, breathable materials and an optional foot hammock to rest those weary legs.
Not unlike a swinging hammock chair that you’d find in a typical garden store, the HoverChair is made to hook up to a tree or other overhead support, with a 10-foot (3 m) adjustable hanging strap allowing the height to be tuned to user requirements.
A spreader bar distributes the load across the length of the air-cushioned seat, while a mesh support should stop you from toppling over and keep your back free from sweat. Other useful features include pockets designed to securely store smartphones, bottles and other tidbits while you swing for the fences, while an additional foot hammock can remove the ground from the equation entirely.
When not in use, the HoverChair can be packed into a sack measuring 40 cm long and 25 cm tall (15.7 by 9.8 in), while the total weight is 1.8 kg (3.9 lb). This makes it a bulkier item than the folding chairs listed above, but what the HoverChair lacks in portability, it makes up for with hovering ability. And if things got a little muddy at camp, the entire chair can be put through the wash.
The HoverChair is the latest item from gear maker Crua Outdoors, which successfully crowdfunded its Koala hammock on Kickstarter last year and its Clan tent system before that. The company has again returned to the platform to get the HoverChair into production, where early bird pledges of US$49 will have one sent your way in June if everything goes to plan, while $59 will see the hanging foot hammock thrown in.
Typically, the amount of personalization that you squeeze out of your license plate is entirely dependent on how clever you can get with seven or eight characters. That’s about to change for residents of Queensland, Australia. Starting March 1, the state will give people a wealth of new ways to customize their license plate, including the ability to add an emoji.
Personalised Plates Queensland, the official license plate vendor of Queensland, Australia, had decided to give the current license plate options a modern update that makes the plates reflect what you’d find in a person’s text messages. Drivers will be able to choose from five different emojis. The options include the face-with-tears-of-joy (or crying laughing) emoji, sunglasses emoji, winking emoji, smiling emoji, and heart-eyes emoji. If you were hoping to slap an eggplant or other potentially suggestive emoji on your license plate, you’re out of luck for the time being.
Rebecca Michael, a spokesperson for Royal Automobile Club of Queensland told 7 News Brisbane that emojis are just a natural extension of the current customization options available for license plates. “For quite some time, we’ve seen that you can support your favorite team or your favorite town with a symbol on your number plate,” she said. “And using an emoji is no different.”
Others aren’t so sure that the plates are just a bit of personal expression. Some, including Queensland Law Society President Bill Potts, believe the plates may prove to be a distraction on the road and may cause confusion. “Clearly, the government is trying to sex up number plates, with a view to making more money, and I can understand that,” he told the Brisbane Times. “But the purpose of number plates is for the police to be able to identify vehicles. How do you write down the emoji in your number plate after an accident?”
The question seems like an easy one to solve: The emojis aren’t actually part of the license plate. They are purely decorative. Queensland already allows drivers to choose custom plate colors and themes, and use logos from local sports teams. None of those are required when writing down a plate number. Queensland’s new emoji plates can be ordered for 475 Australian dollars, or around $340 U.S.
Metal fibers are strong, but can’t be stretched very far. Rubber fibers are stretchy, but they’re not very strong. Well, scientists have combined the selling points of both materials into one type of hybrid fiber. It could be used in applications such as soft robotics, packaging materials, or high-tech textiles.
Developed by a team at North Carolina State University, the new fiber has a gallium metal core – a wire, in other words – which is surrounded by a SEBS (styrene-ethylene-butylene-styrene) elastic polymer sheath. When subjected to mechanical stress, the fiber initially has the strength of the core. Once that core does break, however, the polymer is still there to stretch, keeping the fiber as a whole from breaking.
“Every time the metal core breaks it dissipates energy, allowing the fiber to continue to absorb energy as it elongates,” says lead scientist Prof. Michael Dickey. “Instead of snapping in two when stretched, it can stretch up to seven times its original length before failure, while causing many additional breaks in the wire along the way.”
As an added bonus, until it breaks, the metal core is capable of carrying an electrical current. And after a break has occurred, the gallium can be melted down to form back into a continuous unbroken core. And yes, the polymer does have a higher melting point than the gallium.
“A rubber band can stretch very far, but it doesn’t take much force to stretch it,” Dickey says. “A metal wire requires a lot of force to stretch it, but it can’t take much strain – it breaks before you can stretch it very far. Our fibers have the best of both worlds.”
The scientists now plan on experimenting with other materials for both the core and sheath. A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Science Advances.
If you’re a winter cyclist, then you’ll know how off-putting it can be to press your butt down onto an ice-cold saddle. Slovenian inventor Drago Beravs is out to remedy that situation, with his heated Sweet Saddle.
Plans actually call for the device to be offered in three versions: one that blows warm air onto the rider’s derrière, one that provides a cooling effect by blowing non-heated ambient-temperature air, and one that can be switched between heating and cooling modes.
All three models will incorporate a fan that pushes air up trough an array of gaps in the polycarbonate saddle – the prototype in the photos looks like carbon fiber, but that’s just a faux finish. The heated versions will also utilize a heating element.
Power is provided by a hard-wired 12-volt/9,800-mAh lithium-ion battery pack, which is carried in a separate Velcro-strap-mounted nylon frame bag. One charge of that battery should be good for a claimed 24 hours of run time in cooling mode, or two hours when blowing heated air. Buyers can choose between a rectangular bag that also accommodates an iPhone in a waterproof transparent compartment on top, or a triangular bag that attaches at the point where the frame’s top tube and seat tube meet.
The saddle does not mount on a standard seatpost, so what is basically a “headless” seatpost is included, along with a saddle-rail mount that is fastened to its top. Weight figures sit at a claimed 600 grams (21 oz) for a saddle that includes a heating element, with the seatpost and mount tipping the scales at a combined 410 g (14.5 oz).
Should you be interested, the Sweet Saddle is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign. Assuming it reaches production, a pledge of US$140 will get you a cooling-only saddle, $160 will get you a heating-only model, and $170 is required for a saddle that does both.
In use since at least the 4th century AD, dichroic glass displays different colors depending on how it’s being viewed. Now, Dutch scientists have produced the effect in a material that can be used to create 3D-printed objects – and it’s not just a novelty, as it could have practical applications.
A team of researchers at Wageningen University started with regular polyvinyl alcohol (PVA), which is a widely-available polymer commonly used as a 3D printing medium. To this they added gold nanoparticles of varying sizes – not much of the gold was needed, as it ended up constituting only 0.07 percent of the resulting composite material’s weight.
The team then proceeded to 3D-print a variety of objects, using the gold-infused PVA.
When those items are viewed with the light source on the same side of the object as the observer, the nanoparticles reflect the light, causing the whole item to appear opaque brown. If the light source is on the other side of the object, though, the light passes through the particles, causing the object to appear translucent violet.
Once commercialized, the material could be used by anyone, in off-the-shelf 3D printers. And while it certainly could be utilized to produce artwork or jewellery, it might also be used to print items such as optical lenses that allow some colors of light to pass through, while reflecting others.
The scientists are now refining the technology, looking at the effects that can be produced using different types of nanoparticles and printing materials.
A paper on the research was recently published in the Beilstein Journal of Nanotechnology. You can see some of the 3D-printed objects in color-changing action, in the video below.
Love the idea of cruising the coast in a two-story surf motorhome or small camper van but are looking to go lighter and cheaper … much lighter and cheaper? Australia’s Boardswag has just the thing, a surfboard bag that transforms into a one-person tent with a few blasts of air. So whether you’re getting a quick jump on dawn patrol or enjoying sunset drinks a little longer than usual, you always have a roof over your head.
About as Australian as it gets, the Boardswag adapts a well-known piece of Australian outdoor gear, the swag, to the particular needs of a popular Australian outdoor sport. The idea was born when company founders James Watkins and Jonah Beard found themselves sleeping near water’s edge on a surfing trip, trying to get an early jump on next-day breaks. After tossing and turning violently inside a cramped, uncomfortable car, the two laid out atop their board bags and used them as a form of minimalist bedding.
The next day, fresh and clear-headed off a comfy night of sleep, Watkins and Beard decided there might be something to the experience. They certainly weren’t the first to have the idea of sleeping at the beach to get in an early morning session, and they certainly weren’t the only ones with a small vehicle unfit for sleep. Maybe other surfers would like the idea of sleeping in a board bag, and maybe they’d like it even more if that board bag actually transformed into a proper swag, a Boardswag.
At its simplest, the Boardswag is a rugged board bag made from 600D polyester and ripstop nylon. It can hold up to three 7-ft (2.1-m) boards, relying on high-density padding to protect them on bumpy jeep rides and intercontinental surf escapades. Internal straps keep the boards in place during the journey.
Most board bag feature lists stop right around there, but the Boardswag’s keeps on going to reveal a separate under-compartment with an integrated swag. Simply flip the top surfboard-carrying section of the bag out of the way or detach it completely, and inflate the 7 x 4 x 4-ft (2.1 x 1.2 x 1.2-m) tent into shape with the dual-action hand pump. Boardswag says the tent is sturdy enough to use without staking out but recommends doing so if high winds are in the forecast.
The tent has a mesh/waterproof nylon body for full weather protection and breathability. Welded seams help keep waterproof integrity intact, and a removable inflatable mattress enhances comfort below.
When you deflate it and pack it away, the compressed swag in the board bag creates extra padding on that side of the boards, beefing up protection.
Initially we questioned whether a built-in tent was really an advantage, for much the same reason we question whether jacket-swags or backpack-bivies are really greater than the sum of their parts. With all the small-packing, ultralight backpacking tents on the market, you can fairly easily pack a tent in a board bag or backpack to much the same effect as having one built in. Many of those tents hold two+ people while still weighing in about the same as or less than the 3.3-lb (1.5-kg) Boardswag tent.
But the dual-purpose Boardswag design does keep you prepared, ensuring you have a tent whether you planned to camp or not. For example, if you’re traveling out of country and wouldn’t otherwise think to pack a tent but end up on the beach wanting to stake a claim to first-light waves, you’ll likely be glad to have a swag in the bag.
For those thinking, “I don’t need a surfboard bag, but I wouldn’t mind a slick, inflatable one-person swag,” Boardswag is working on the Boardswag Trek. Designed for a wider range of activities, like backpacking, canoe camping and such, the Trek will be the Boardswag without the “board,” a light, easy-carry inflatable swag that weighs 4.4 lb (2 kg) when packed in its carry bag. Again, it won’t be the lightest tent in the lightweight shelter category, but it will slide in lighter than large inflatable tents suited only to car camping.
Both the Boardswag and Boardswag Trek will be introduced as part of an April Kickstarter campaign. Boardswag is still finalizing pricing details ahead of the launch.
Umbrellas are designed to help shield us from a downpour, but if rain is accompanied by chaotic winds – as is often the case – they can let us down. Back in 2015, Hedgehog Products launched a successful Kickstarter for the Cypress, an umbrella designed to resist windy weather. Now the company is back with the second generation Carbon, that’s reported capable of withstanding hurricane level windspeeds.
As its name suggests, the Hedgehog Carbon has carbon fiber construction, with polycarbonate joints and a stainless steel telescopic shaft.
Each rib is designed to independently pivot and adjust to keep you covered, even in gusty winds of over 70 mph, and the 47 inch (1,190 mm) diameter canopy is attached to the frame at 19 secure connection points. This canopy is interchangeable and can be swapped out in under 3 minutes, for another color or eye-catching patterned design.
Between downpours, the Hedgehog Carbon packs down to 13 inches (330 mm) long and tips the scales at 15 oz (420 g).
The Hedgehog Carbon is now available via the link below, priced at US$99. The video below shows the product undergoing durability testing.
Anyone releasing pepper spray could likely do with some urgent assistance, and the Plegium Smart Pepper Spray is built to bring them the help they need as fast as possible. By automatically alerting emergency contacts via a companion smartphone app as its fired, the connected pepper spray informs close ones when a victim is in danger, while also triggering a siren and flashing lights that may help deter an attacker.
The Smart Pepper Spray from Swedish startup Plegium calls to mind other connected personal safety products that alert the authorities or close ones when danger is present. Like the Revolar, the Athena smart jewelry and the Leaf Wearable’s connected jewelry that took out a US$1 million XPrize for Women’s Safety earlier in the year, the device is designed to automatically put out a call for help in case of an emergency.
Users pre-fill emergency contacts into the companion smartphone app, which connects to the device over Bluetooth. When the pepper spray is fired, their phone then automatically sends a text message with their Google Maps location to those contacts, as well as an automated pre-recorded phone call to alert them the user is in danger.
The pepper spray also has some tricks up its sleeve that might help to diffuse the situation on the spot. It is fitted with a 130-decibel siren that can help draw unwanted attention to an attacker, as well as a set of strobe LEDs to disorient them further.
With a 10-ft (3-m) range and enough capacity for 10 shots, the maximum strength Smart Pepper Spray comes with a four-year battery life that requires no charging. Launched at CES in Las Vegas this week, the device is available now for €69.95 (US$80).
A fascinating study has demonstrated a new technique that can identify children with anxiety and depression just by analyzing their movements. Using a machine learning algorithm that examines movement tracked by a wearable motion sensor, the system is claimed to identify children with psychological disorders better, and faster, than many current methods.
It is estimated that around 20 percent of young children suffer from what are known as “internalizing disorders.” These conditions can include anxiety and depression, but are notoriously difficult to identify due to the difficulties in children being able to reliably self-report symptoms and the often unobservable nature of the disorders. Early development internalizing disorders in children often precede later health problems such as substance abuse and suicide.
“Because of the scale of the problem, this begs for a screening technology to identify kids early enough so they can be directed to the care they need,” says Ryan McGinnis, explaining the motivations behind the research.
The study focused on training a machine learning algorithm to distinguish children with anxiety and depression based on small physical movements. To do this the researchers recruited 63 children between the ages of three and seven, about a third of whom had previously been diagnosed with an internalizing disorder.
The children were fitted with wearable movement sensors and then subjected to a mood induction task designed to induce certain feelings such as anxiety. Traditionally, highly trained therapists would observe these behavioral tests and subsequently generate a diagnosis but the researchers suspected a trained algorithm could do the same job, and they were correct.
Using just 20 seconds of movement data from an early stage in the mood induction task, the algorithm was ultimately able to discern the children with internalizing disorders from those without, at an accuracy rate of 81 percent. The algorithm was more accurate at identifying internalizing disorders than a diagnosis generated from what is called the Child Behavior Checklist, a parent-completed questionnaire with 120 items related to behavioral issues.
“Something that we usually do with weeks of training and months of coding can be done in a few minutes of processing with these instruments,” says Ellen McGinnis, a clinical psychologist working on the project.
The researchers are planning on further refining the algorithm with larger volumes of subjects, as well as incorporating other data such as voice analysis, to increase the specificity of the results. Ideally, the system will ultimately be able to distinguish between behaviors such as anxiety and depression. In the long term the researchers suggest this technology could be introduced into schools to help quickly identify children that need special assistance, or even used in doctor’s clinics as standard developmental assessments.
Probably ever since bicycles were first invented, people have been looking for alternatives to the traditional approach of pedalling in circles. Los Angeles-based inventor Rodger Parker has utilized one such alternative in his NuBike, which he claims is more efficient than a chain-drive bike.
Along with its unique-looking carbon fiber frame, what really stands out on the NuBike are the levers that run from the pedals to a linkage on the rear hub. These allow riders to simply push up and down on the pedals, causing the rear wheel to turn. There are reportedly a number of advantages to this setup.
First of all, as mentioned, it’s claimed to be more efficient than a chain or belt-drive. According to Brown, because the levers are much longer than traditional cranks, riders are able to deliver more torque (and thus power) to the wheel for a given amount of effort. He also states that because the pedals just move vertically, riders can more effectively use the force of gravity to help push them down.
Additionally, the lever-drive system is said to be easier on the hips, knees and ankles, plus it doesn’t require users to pull an oily chain out of the way when removing the rear wheel. And yes, it does allow for multiple gears – the current road bike prototype has four, although Rodger tells us that future lower-priced models (such as kids’ bikes and cruisers) will have fewer.
The prototype weighs 22 lb (10 kg). By replacing the current 7075 aluminum levers with ones made of magnesium, along with making some other changes, it is hoped that the final commercial model will tip the scales at 18 lb (8 kg).
If you’re interested in getting a NuBike of your own, it’s currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign. Assuming it reaches production, a pledge of US$3,600 will get you a sub-3-lb (1.4 kg) frame and drivetrain, to which you can add conventional components of your choice. The planned retail price for that package is $3,800.
Even as we dig comfortably into the 21st century, recharging wireless headphones — be it finding the cable, finding the time, or simply remembering to do it in the first place — is a struggle for all but the most diligent planners among us. That’s why, after a week logging tens of thousands of paces around Las Vegas at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, we’re overjoyed to report that going wireless for your audio thrills is about to get a lot easier. That’s because the vast majority of the 2019 wireless headphones showcased by major brands in the city of mischief this year will have extraordinarily long battery life.
Where previous CES conferences showcased improved fidelity, pairing, and signal strength, the unsung hero of this year’s event was battery efficiency. 2019, it seems, is the year of juice. From true wireless in-ears with nearly double the 5-hour maximums touted by previous generations to noise-canceling over-ears with 30-plus hours of playback, you’ll be searching for that charging cable a lot less in the near future. That also means there will soon be very few reasons to lament your missing headphone jack at all.
IT ALL STARTS WITH SONY
If you want to mess with the best, you need the specs to match.
With the release of its flagship WH-1000xM2 in late 2017, Sony set that battery life bar for flagship noise-canceling over-ears at a previously unheard of 30 hours of playback with active noise canceling engaged. The best major competitor in terms of technology, The Bose QC 35 II, offered just 20, while many others fell short of even that number. Offering all the bells and whistles of every major competitor at the time — including excellent noise-canceling tech, a great fit, and support for high-resolution codecs like aptX HD, the 1000xM2’s monstrous battery life was the perfect cherry on top, making them easily the best wireless headphones we’d ever tested upon release. (Sony has since updated the model with the improved WH-1000xM3, our current favorites.)
In response, virtually every flagship pair of headphones we encountered at this year’s CES conference, from the gorgeous Beyerdynamic Lagoon ANC (25 hours of playback with ANC on, a staggering 45-plus hours without), to Audio-Technica’s new ATH-ANC900bt (35 hours with noise canceling), and even the sustainably designed House of Marley Exodus (35 hours), wireless headphones are taking aim at Sony’s class-leading numbers from all sides.
What’s more, many of the latest headphones come in at more affordable price points than the WH1000xM3’s $350 price tag, and though that could mean a loss in features or fidelity, it also means you’ll be able to get massive listening time for less. Going back to Audio-Technica, alongside its new flagship ANC900BT ($300), the iconic audio brand also introduced a $100 pair of noise-canceling cans, the ATH-ANC500BT, with a whopping 20 hours of battery life – pretty incredible for the money.
MAKING TRUE WIRELESS WORTHWHILE
So, what’s the deal with these bulging battery numbers? Have batteries just suddenly gotten better?
Actually, as we alluded to above, a big part of this evolutionary leap can be attributed to battery efficiency, which comes thanks in part to new Bluetooth chipsets like Qualcomm’s QC3026, among others. Aimed at true wireless headphones looking to outdo Apple’s incredibly popular AirPods, the QC3026 is part of a new generation of Bluetooth chips designed to vastly increase the current battery standard through ultra-efficient Bluetooth transmission. And while all headphones can benefit from increased efficiency, it’s especially important for the tiny batteries inside true wireless earphones.
Up until very recently, the best you could hope for in a pair of true wireless earbuds was a solid 5 hours of listening time. From fantastic waterproof options like the Jabra Elite Active 65t to the industry-leading Apple AirPods, there weren’t many headphones of substance that broke that 5-hour barrier.
Now that 5-hour maximum has essentially doubled, providing very little reason to consider a pair of banded (or tethered) wireless in-ears (aside from saving some cash), especially with so many true wireless headphones coming with rechargeable storage cases. At this year’s CES conference, we saw models like Klipsch’s T5 wireless (8 hours), House of Marley’s Liberate Air (7 hours), and others, all of which boasted significantly improved battery life from previous generations, with plenty of reserve battery in their charging cases. That’s a big deal in terms of both usability and overall convenience.
With such vast improvements to battery life landing in so many different models, wireless headphones in 2019 will finally live up to their potential, becoming the ultra-convenient listening accessories we’ve long hoped they’d be.
From early days as expensive and somewhat finnicky devices that only lasted a few hours between charge-ups, to more affordable devices that can hang on for days off the grid, or rock out through a 24-hour trip around the globe, wireless headphones have come a long way in just a few years. Add in improved sound and mountains of features and there will soon be very little reason left to plug in.
Cargo trailers may be handy for hauling stuff around, but the things do take up a lot of room in a driveway or garage. In response to that problem, Quebec-based Apogee Trailers developed its folding Adapt-X.
Constructed mainly of lightweight aluminum (with stainless steel hardware), the Adapt-X can reportedly be folded by a single person in less than 90 seconds, by removing and reinserting a series of fastening pins. Once it is folded and its tow bar is removed, its footprint is 38 inches from front to back (0.9 m).
Some of its other standard features include integrated LED lighting, embedded electrical wiring, marine-grade aluminum fenders, and a skid-resistant checkered-plate floor. Among the optional extras are a grated cover/loading ramp, plus a canoe rack, motorcycle mount, wind deflector, side steps, and caster wheels that allow it to be rolled sideways when folded.
The Adapt-X is available in a variety of sizes and loading capacities, ranging from 4 by 8 feet up to 6 by 10 (1.2 by 2.4 meters up to 1.8 by 3), and from 1,659 lb up to 2,312 (753 to 1,049 kg). It’s been available across Canada as of 2018, with a US launch scheduled for the second quarter of this year. Pricing starts at US$2,590.
Even if you’re not a sneakerhead, you probably have a favorite pair of athletic shoes that you run into the ground. That means they might be grimy or smelly, and you might not clean them as often as you should. Sure, you can toss them in the washing machine, but they’re going to tumble, rattle, and bang around, even on the gentle cycle. Haier found not just one solution, but several, for the Chinese market.
At CES 2019, we got a peek at the sneaker cleaner. Actually, it was hard to miss. There was a wall of shoes in clear boxes. It’s a modular setup, so if you don’t have as many pairs as DJ Khaled (or someone else who pops up when you Google “celebrity sneakerhead”), you don’t need to devote an entire wall to your footwear. But the boxes are more than a display. They use airflow, ozone, UV light, and carbon to keep your sneakers disinfected and prevent discoloration.
If your sneakers need something more intense, Haier also makes what it calls the world’s first shoe washer. It’s kind of like a sneaker car wash. In the box, water sprays from all directions and mixes with special shoe detergent. The appliance maker is working with detergent manufacturers to develop pods for the machine as well. The racks that hold the shoes can rotate, and there’s a moving brush that scrubs them. It takes about 5 minutes to complete the cycle, and then you can pop your pair of shoes (it only cleans two at a time) in the accompanying shoe dryer. This is the first generation of the machine, and newer versions should be able to tackle shoes other than sneakers. For disinfecting and drying in one, the Haier smart shoe cabinet deodorizes and dries, especially if it knows you were out in the rain all day, thanks to the weather report it received via internet connection.
Haier didn’t say anything about bringing these solutions to the U.S. market anytime soon, and the same is true for its RFID laundry technology. Its Casarte washing machine can read clothing tags with these sensors and adjust its settings accordingly. Certain brands working with Haier might include information about the color and fabric of the garment in the RFID tag, so it runs a gentle cycle for a silk shirt, for example. For washing machines that are internet connected but don’t have the RFID reader, Haier also created a separate reader that would let these machines similarly set cycles based on the type of garments they’re washing.
RFID tags are mostly used to combat high-end fakes at the moment, and because of privacy issues, there are probably some consumers who wouldn’t want them in their garments at all. Still, it was one of the more exciting laundry products we saw at CES this year. (Sorry, Foldimate.)
Istanbul-based architecture firm SO? says that its city would be lacking in land suitable for emergency housing in the event of a major earthquake. In response, the firm has conceived a prototype floating shelter that has an interesting folding design.
Fold&Float is constructed out of steel and comprises two main parts: a lower pontoon base and an upper A-frame structure that folds flat for easy transportation.
The interior furniture is affixed to the wall on hinges. The idea is that once the shelter is unfolded into position on the floating pontoon in a suitable body of water, the seating, kitchenette, bathroom, and a raised sleeping area can all be unfolded too, making it ready for habitation very quickly and easily. The two door shelter has a total floorspace of 21 sq m (226 sq ft).
We’ve no word on practicalities like insulation, power or heating for the prototype model but the firm does make it clear that the project is experimental.
Fold&Float was developed for the Hope On Water project at the 4th Istanbul Design Biennial in 2018 and was created with input from civil engineering, architecture and sociology students. It’s currently installed in the city’s Rahmi M. Koç Museum.
You may not give your grip strength much thought, but it’s important for many daily tasks, and for lessening the chances of developing repetitive strain injury. A new “smart” squeezable stress ball is intended to help you build that strength – and the device is known as Squegg.
Featuring a soft silicone rubber body, Squegg’s onboard electronics include pressure sensors that measure how tightly (and how many times) it’s being squeezed. The ball utilizes a Bluetooth module to transmit that data to a free iOS/Android app on a paired smartphone, where it’s displayed in terms of reps and pounds/kilograms of force.
The app also allows users to track their grip-strength-building process over time, and be guided through workout routines. Should they feel so inclined, they can additionally engage in online challenges with other users.
Squegg itself is water-resistant, weighs 66 grams (2.3 oz), and can reportedly run for around 80 hours on one two-hour charge of its lithium battery.
If you’re interested, it’s currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign. A pledge of US$29 will get you one in your choice of two colors, when and if it reaches production. The planned retail price is $39.
Plastic film, including cling film, makes up roughly half of all the plastic packaging used in the UK each year. And as many local authorities don’t accept plastic film in their kerbside recycling collections, a lot of this ends up in landfill.
Cling film (and plastic film more generally) is an example of ‘single-use plastic’, which hit the headlines in 2018, prompting many of us – and some retailers – to start seeking out alternatives to plastic products that we use once then bin. You don’t have to look far to see the results. Handing over your own reusable coffee cup to a barista is not uncommon and paper drinking straws are more widely stocked in supermarkets.
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Now, the government has stated in its latest waste strategy that it will ban some plastic products altogether if suitable alternatives are available.
So, if you haven’t already made a New Year’s resolution, how about giving up cling film? You may count it among your kitchen essentials, but cling film is easier to do without than you might think. It could even shave a pound or two off the weekly groceries shop. Here are our three top tips for a cling film-free 2019.
TIP 1 Rethink how you store leftovers
We all know that leftover food should be covered to stop the spread of germs in the fridge. But that doesn’t mean you need to reach for the cling film. If you don’t want to use plastic food storage boxes, put leftovers in a bowl with a small plate on top as a lid. If you use shallow enough bowls, you might be able to stack another bowl with its own plate lid on top to save fridge space.
Some food – such as cheese – actually fares better without clingfilm, which can trap moisture and encourage mould to grow. Waxed paper, such as PME Wax Paper from Cake Stuff, £3.45 for 3m is perfect for wrapping cheese. Failing that, greaseproof paper will do. As blue cheese can seep liquid as it matures, put it on a plate to avoid pungent leaks in the fridge.
TIP 2 Use crockery to cover microwaved food
Reheating leftovers or steaming food in the microwave is fast and convenient, and a covering of cling film helps prevent splatters. Instead, use a reusable plate cover such as the Prickig Microwave Lid from Ikea, or turn a plate or bowl upside down and place this over the food you’re heating – pasta plates work particularly well on dinner plates.
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TIP 3 Wrap sandwiches in reusable covers
This season, the best dressed sandwiches in the lunchbox are wearing reusable beeswax wraps rather than clingfilm. Eddington Bee’s Wraps are made from beeswax, organic cotton, tree resin and organic jojoba oil, and are biodegradable .
The idea of sending power wirelessly over a distance dates back to Nikola Tesla, who proved the concept more than a century ago, but it has been slow to develop. That could be about to change thanks to recent developments from Ossia. We wrote about Ossia’s forever battery at CES last year and we saw them at MWC, but at CES 2019 the company announced a partnership with case manufacturer Spigen to bring the technology to your phone case.
Ossia has found a way to shrink down the transmitter and deliver more power, think of it like a Wi-Fi router, but for power. Spigen CEO Daeyoung Kim told Digital Trends that the company plans to design a new case range, initially for iPhones, but other models will follow and they will also design and sell a power transmitter with Ossia’s tech inside.
Since battery life continues to be the headline bugbear for smartphone owners, this could prove to be an important development. Ossia’s tech delivers a decent amount of power at close range and a trickle charge when you get further away. The receiver sends out a signal so the transmitter knows what path to send power on, which means it never gets fired at you. Ossia is working its way through Federal Communications Commission certification, but Ossia CEO Mario Obeidat told us that the process is progressing and they’re confident about securing approval in the near future.
Ossia has been forming partnerships with various companies, including Motherson which is looking to bring wireless charging to vehicles, but signing up with Spigen signals its intent to target smartphones.
We’re used to Qi wireless chargers and they’re great, but your phone has to be in contact with them. The idea of a power transmitter that can charge up your phone while it is on a table, or even while it’s in your pocket, is very exciting. On the downside, Ossia’s tech won’t deliver the kind of fast charging that you get from a regular plug-in charger or even a wireless charging pad, but it will be capable of topping up your phone and anything that helps the battery last a bit longer is potentially useful.
Kim, expects the design process and testing to take a while, so the target for a consumer product that you can actually buy is 2020. It’s too early for pricing, but Kim told us that they intend to make it affordable to reach as wide an audience as possible.
The Nanit Plus smart HD baby camera tracks a baby’s breathing and sleep movement and patterns. The camera’s sensors analyze motion on a pixel level from a bird’s-eye view.
The camera works with babies wearing conventional clothing and wraps, but Breathing Wear takes Nanit’s motion analysis to the next level.
Breathing Wear is available in two styles, Breathing Band and Nanit Swaddle. Both styles have shapes printed on the fabric in sizes, colors, and inks the company says were “scientifically engineered to be read by the Nanit camera from any angle.”
“Nanit is the only monitoring solution that puts your Baby’s sleep development in your hands,” said Nanit co-founder and CEO Dr. Assaf Glazer. “We are excited to introduce Breathing Wear at CES, as it helps provide parents with a complete picture of their baby’s night and gives them the confidence and assurance they need when they put their baby into the crib.”
Most wearables for adults and children require skin contact or a direct view of the skin for biometric measurement. Because the Nanit camera tracks breathing-related movement, it doesn’t need skin contact. The Breathing Wear printed shapes enable higher degrees of accuracy.
To use Breathing Wear, you wrap the baby in either the Breathing Band or Nanit Swaddle. Then in the Nanit mobile app, tap on the baby to start the camera and Nanit’s algorithms tracking the baby’s breathing and sleep. If the baby stops breathing, Nanit sends real-time alerts immediately.
Available in sizes from birth to 24 months and made of 100 percent cotton, the Nanit Swaddle and Breathing Band come in pebble gray, marshmallow white, or mint green colors.
Both Breathing Wear styles will be available in March, first on Nanit’s website before a rollout to retail stores nationwide. The garments will be sold in singles and 3-packs, with prices starting at $25. If you already own a Nanit camera, you’ll be good to go with Breathing Wear.
If you don’t already have a Nanit camera, the Nanit Complete Monitoring System will include a Nanit Plus camera, one Nanit Swaddle and one Breathing Band (size small), a camera mounting system, a camera travel stand, and a one-year subscription to Nanit’s Insights service for deeper sleep and breathing analysis.
We’re always a little wary about products that are years away from coming to market but Heatworks’ new battery-powered Duo Carafe demonstrated at CES 2019 sounds pretty cool. What’s the big deal? This is essentially a water jug that promises to heat your water for tea or coffee or a Neti Pot or whatever your jam is while you’re pouring the water.
We also like products that clearly explain the science behind the technology Heatworks does a pretty good job of it on their website. First, the results: The Duo Café is battery operated and can heat up to four cups of water instantaneously to plus-or-minus one degree Fahrenheit. It’s 99 percent energy efficient and includes a water filtration system to make water taste better. It’s essentially like a Britta water filter and a teapot merged.
It’s a pretty big divergence from your standard steel kettle or even an electric one. In a traditional heating element, only two states are possible: On and off. When the element is turned on, there’s an organic lag time as it begins to heat up. Similarly, when turned off, it takes time to cool down.
The how the Duo Carafe is a little more complicated but kind of interesting. First, Heatworks points out that water itself is an electrical conductor. The Duo Carafe combines electronic controls with graphite electrodes to increase the energy state of the water molecules, so they move faster. The faster they move, the more kinetic energy they accumulate. When the molecules start bouncing off each other, that kinetic energy is transformed into heat. Therefore, the water is heated instantly through direct energy transfer. It’s called Ohmic Array Technology and has been patented by Heatworks for use in a variety of products.
It’s pretty specific that users can set the temperature of the heated water to whatever they need — most coffee is best between 195 and 205-degrees Fahrenheit while a beverage like green tea comes in around 175-degrees F. As a bonus, the electric currents generated using Heatworks’ technology stay completely within the Duo Carafe itself (not in the water) so there is no risk of electrocution. Plus, because the device is battery-powered, it’s completely portable and not dependent on an electrical socket.
As with all products that haven’t hit the market yet, beware of vaporware. While Heatworks demonstrated the Duo Carafe at CES 2019, it hasn’t set a price or a date when it will be for sale to consumers.
London-based designer Nir Meiri has created a series of table lamps using mushroom mycelium, as an alternative to synthetic materials.
The shades for each of the minimal table lamps is made from mycelium – the vegetative part of a fungus – while more conventional metal forms the stand and base.
Each lamp is illuminated from below by a separate light source, which projects onto the mycelium shade to create a soft, natural glow.
Produced in collaboration with London-based startup Biohm, which works to bring sustainable solutions to the built environment, each of the lamps are made using naturally occurring biological processes.
To create the shades, paper waste is placed inside a shaped mould before mycelium spores are inserted into it and left to grow under controlled conditions of temperature and humidity.
After two weeks the paper waste is been consumed by the fungus, leaving a mycelium base with fungus growing from it. This material is then taken out of the mould and left to dry, and the excess growing fungus is removed.
Once the mycelium has dried completely, it is pressed to form a flat substance that is used as a lamp shade.
Due to the way mycelium consumes waste, Meiri believes that developing the fungi material for use in furniture, lighting and construction could significantly impact the way we can dispose of synthetic waste.
According to a report conducted at the end of 2018 by scientists from London’s Kew Gardens, fungi can be used to break down waste materials such as plastic, as it is able to grow on its surface where it secretes enzymes that break the chemical bonds between plastic molecules.
“Mushrooms and fungi are truly wondrous organisms with significant untapped potential,” said Meiri. “Mycelium consumes organic and synthetic waste to grow into desired shapes and different types of waste alter its properties.”
Having previously experimented with unusual materials to make lighting, such as sand, seaweed and sea salt, Meiri’s intention with his work is to maintain the natural look and feel of the organic materials while applying them to industrial product designs.
Meiri not only directly used mycelium as a material, but he also took inspiration from the fungi for the design of the lamps, imitating the shapes of mushrooms growing in the wild in a bid to create “a little garden of lights”.
“When introducing these materials into the domestic environment as light fixtures, I try to keep the beauty of the original material without damaging the function of the object,” he explained.
“I was curious about mycelium for a long time – the way this material consumes waste is fascinating and I was curious to see what I can do with this beautiful 100 per cent sustainable material.”
The mycelium lights were initially launched last year during London’s annual design festival in two different locations – first at an exhibition called Sustainable Bankside and second at a show called Open Cell, which took place as part of the Biodesign – Here Now exhibit.
PepsiCo has gotten into the robotic delivery business as its Hello Goodness subsidiary and Robby Technologies team up to operate a team of self-driving vending wagons on the University of the Pacific campus in Stockton, California. Operated through a downloadable app, the small fleet of “snackbots” can deliver a variety of cold food and beverages to students on demand.
Delivery robots aren’t exactly new. For years, pilot programs have been launched all over the world as municipalities wrestle with the rules and regulations that would allow robots to share the pavements with pedestrians. This is one reason why college campuses have been a favored venue, as they are a small, controlled environment suitable for testing delivery robots and one where it’s easier to get permission.
But where these latest snackbots differ is that it marks the first time that a major US food and beverage company has got into the game. Part of the expansion of the Hello Goodness strategy of marketing healthier snacks through convenience vending devices at 50,000 locations by the end of 2019, the snackbots are designed to cater to students who lack the time or inclination to head to the cafeteria while studying.
According to PepsiCo, the snackbot is an on-demand vendor that’s available on campus between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm and is alerted through a downloadable app available to those with a University of the Pacific email address. The ordered items are then delivered to one of 50 designated sites on the 175-acre (72-hectare) campus.
Each robot carries enough charge to cover 20 miles (32 km) before needing a top up. In addition, they have cameras and headlights that let them navigate at night or in the rain, while the all-wheel drive allows them to negotiate curbs and stiff inclines.
“We’re thrilled to launch our Hello Goodness autonomous delivery snackbots and reimagine college snacking for the future,” says Scott Finlow, Vice President Innovation and Insights, PepsiCo Foodservice. “PepsiCo has a unique opportunity to better serve today’s ambitious college students, by joining together the power of the Hello Goodness portfolio with our expertise in design and equipment innovation.”
As any recreational angler will know, fish can be a finicky bunch – so when you do catch one, it’s good to keep a record of the location and conditions which allowed that to happen. Cyberfishing’s new Smart Rod Sensor is designed to help you do that.
As any recreational angler will know, fish can be a finicky bunch – so when you do catch one, it’s good to keep a record of the location and conditions which allowed that to happen. Cyberfishing’s new Smart Rod Sensor is designed to help you do that.
Equipped with an inertial measurement unit (an accelerometer/gyroscope combo) along with a Bluetooth module and other electronic components, the 9-gram waterproof device is attached to any third-party fishing rod using two rubber O-rings.
Once activated, it proceeds to count the number of casts made in each fishing session. Whenever you catch a fish, you just press a button on the Sensor. This causes an accompanying iOS/Android app to record not only the fact that a fish was caught, but also the time, date, geographical location and current weather conditions.
Utilizing the app, you can later review your overall fishing history (or share it online with other users), seeing how many casts were required to catch how many fish at various locations under various conditions, and at various times and dates.
It’s also possible to manually input the species and weight of trophy fish – along with smartphone photos of them – so you can later see where and when the biggest and best were landed. In this way, it’s possible to determine prime fishing spots.