Tag Archives: gadgets

Using your body as your personal LAN, or what I dub the Bluebody technology.

Everyone knows that the body is used to communicate way more information than we do by speech, almost unconsciously, but researchers at the University of California, San Diego, are aiming to take that to a whole new level.

They are in the early stages of developing technology that will use your body as the communication medium, which they say will, with some refinement, work as a lower-power and much more secure alternative to Bluetooth for wearable gadgets, such as smart watches or health trackers.

And it uses magnets. Sort-of.
Image via slashgear

Patrick Mercier, assistant professor at UCSD and co-director of the Center for Wearable Sensors belonging to the University, says that while the Bluetooth radios embedded in many gadgets are useful for transmitting data over short distances, they’re not that great at it when there’s a body in the way. Our flesh and blood tends to absorb the radio signals Bluetooth technology relies on to move data from one device to another—which means more power has to be expended to communicate via Bluetooth to make up for it.

What are bodies aren’t as good at absorbing though, are magnetic fields. Mercier and graduate student Jiwoong Park have thus set their eyes on them to help them create new technology that would make communication more efficient by sending such signals through, well…us.

Mercier and Park experimented by wrapping insulated coils of copper wire around a person’s head, legs, and arms. An electrical current was used to generate magnetic fields with the coils, and they measured how the magnetic waves were picked up by the other coils via the body.

The coils are “trying to use the arm as a guide, of sorts, to guide the magnetic wave across to the other side of the body,” Mercier says.

They then measured how much of the signal was lost from one body part to the next (arm to head or arm to arm, for example) – it was a staggering 10 million times less that what they’d measure for Bluetooth. This leads them to think it could be used to make wearable gadgets that use way less power for communication.

Mercier also believes the technology will be more secure than Bluetooth, since tapping into a wireless network is much more inconspicuous than tapping into a person’s buttocks. To those worried about any adverse health effects the signal might have, Mercier says that the field being generated is harmless. “orders of magnitude” lower than an MRI.

The technology is still just in the early prototype phase; Mercier says that while they have some “preliminary” prototypes that they’ve used to transfer brain activity data from a coil around the head to a coil around the wrist, and from there to a connected computer, it isn’t integrated into a wearable gadget yet. He adds that they’re also planning to do some experiments through which they’ll transfer something like the data from a heart-rate monitor across this sort of link to a smartwatch.

However, Mercier suspects the technology won’t be as useful for gadgets that don’t wrap around the body—like smartphones or a sensor-containing patch you might stick on your body—because they won’t propagate the magnetic waves through the body in the same way.

Time to start that diet

Leading a Healthy Lifestyle: 8 Gadgets That Can Help

In our increasingly health-conscious world, the marketplace has been flooded by gadgets that insist they’ll help us achieve our fitness goals. But for every useful innovation there are several destined to collect dust. Read on to discover the health inventions worth investing in.

Monitor Your Body with the Basis B1 Watch

Time to start that diet

Image via Flickr by Alan Cleaver

Heart-rate monitor watches are all the rage, but the Basis B1 watch has a few extra features that help set it apart. In addition to monitoring your heart rate, this watch charts your perspiration and skin temperature. Wear it all day to see what your body is doing during a workout, at rest, and even while you’re sleeping. You don’t need to be wrapped up in chest straps or body patches either, as the Basis B1 watch has its own built-in sensors.

The Basis B1 watch uploads your data to an online portal so you can easily monitor your fitness and heart health. It’s Bluetooth-enabled too, so you can retrieve this data anywhere with Wi-Fi access.

Stay Motivated with Fitbit Flex

Fitbit was a fitness pioneer when it released its first motivational self-tracking digital pedometer in 2008. This May, Fitbit released its latest model: the Fitbit Flex. Instead of clipping onto clothes like the Fitbit Classic, the latest innovation is an easy-to-wear wristband.

Like its recent predecessors, the Fitbit Flex tracks your steps, distance traveled, and calories burned all day, and your sleep time and quality at night. However unlike the rest it’s water-resistant, so you can wear it at the beach or even swimming laps at your local pool. It features five LED lights which show whether you’re reaching your personal fitness goals and achievement badges to keep you motivated. Fitbit Flex sends the information it collects to your computer and favorite mobile devices so you can track your progress.

Sit Right with the LUMOback Posture Sensor

Poor posture can be much more serious than sore necks and backs. The spine has such a close relationship with the brain and overall organ function that slouching can lead to decreased brain and organ function.

You can avoid these debilitating health conditions with the LUMOback Posture Sensor, which transmits a gentle vibration whenever you slouch. You do need to strap it onto your lower back, but its slim design is made for maximum comfort. The system is also Bluetooth-enabled, so you can monitor your posture over time.

Have a Check-Up with the Tinke

It’s got a funny name, but this thumb-drive sized gadget is a serious bit of gear which literally puts your health results at your fingertips. Its optical sensors measure the thickness of your blood to determine its oxygen levels. It also notes your heart and respiratory rates.

The Tinke can send your vitals to your iOS-compatible smartphone or tablet or share your scores with your Facebook friends. Keeping an eye on your Tinke statistics will help you spot any changes before they become serious health concerns.

Measure Your Weight with Withings Wi-Fi Body Scale

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Image via Flickr by Stiftelsen Elektronikkbransjen

America’s love of processed meals, high fructose corn syrup, and fast foods isn’t doing its people any favors. World Health Organization surveys from between 2000 and 2008 show that two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. That makes the United States the third fattest nation in the world. If you’re looking to shed some pounds, it’s time to swallow your pride and step on your scales.

Ordinary scales tell you how much you weigh, but they don’t give a complete picture of your health. The Withings Wi-Fi Body Scale fills in the gaps, with information about your lean and fat mass as well as your pounds. Withings knows it’s hard to remember your details over time, so it uses Wi-Fi to send your information to iPhones, Google Android devices, or its secure website. The whole family can work on their weight too, as these scales will hold the profiles of eight people.

Don’t Miss Pills with e-Pill 7-Day Organizer and Medication Reminder

We all make every effort to order safe medications, but there’s nothing safe about taking your pills irregularly. Studies suggest that if 35 percent of 100,000 patients don’t take their medication as directed “there will be 16 heart attacks, five strokes, and seven deaths.”

You can avoid these serious side effects with e-Pill’s 7-Day Organizer and Medication Reminder. It takes the old-fashioned pill box into the digital age with four large pill compartments and a multi-alarm to organize a range of prescriptions. The flexible design allows you to set an early alarm for weekday mornings and a later one for lazy weekends. Remove a single day’s pills for regular use or take the entire organizer with you on vacation.

Juice on the Go with Oster My Blend Blender

It looks like your average kitchen appliance, but the Oster My Blend Blender has one major advantage for busy people. The 20-ounce container easily detaches from the body to become a portable sports bottle for your protein shakes and fruit smoothies. It’s also scratch-resistant so it won’t age, and as it’s made form BPA-free plastic you can enjoy your beverages without any chemical nasties. The convertible Oster My Blend Blender makes it so easy to get your five a day!

Eat Well with HAPIfork

As it’s not released until November the HAPIfork is a bit of an unknown quantity, but the concept is intriguing. It encourages diners to slow down and savor their meals with an indicator light which flashes when you’re chowing down too quickly. It also measures how long it takes you to eat your meal, the amount of “fork servings” you take each minute, and the time between bites. A USB connector sends this data to your online dashboard, which integrates with a coaching program to improve your eating habits.

Admittedly CIO.com called the HAPIfork one of the dumbest products of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, but the science certainly supports this gadget. Studies show it takes 20 minutes from the time you start eating for your brain to say you’re full. As most Americans eat far too quickly, they might have polished off a main meal with sides in that time. A recent Japanese study found eating more slowly left participants feeling fuller sooner, so they consumed fewer calories.

Simply buying these gadgets won’t help you drop those extra pounds or get washboard abs, but using them regularly will help you become stronger, fitter, and healthier.

 

Doomsday Gadgets

The year 2012 has witnessed many cases of the singular phenomenon of worldwide hysteria that points to the world being destroyed before the year end. The last forecasted doomsday was last December 21, 2012, in line with the prophecies provided by the Mayan calendar. That day came to pass without the planet being destroyed by a storm of meteorites or by tremendous earthquakes and tidal waves, but the prevailing mood got me into thinking: If I would be the only person to survive doomsday, what things would I want to bring with to keep company?

Gadgets

Books would be my first option. After all, in the face of the wreckage that the world has turned into, I would like to be reminded of how the world looks like and how people treat one another. Movies would fit that job description, too, and for that I would need a laptop or a table wherein to play them. So, the next question would be, what gadgets would I like to take with on the way from being saved from world destruction?

An iPhone

An iPhone would be a lovable doomsday companion. In fact, any veritable smartphone would do (a very close competitor would be Samsung’s Galaxy SIII). Well, it’s not as if I’m going to ring up someone or send a document through my RingCentral Internet fax, but it is doomsday so I think it’s but fair for me to enjoy my favorite apps.

A cute app that I can enjoy using my iPhone, and this with a touch of irony is Doomsday Preppers. While I don’t think living underground and designing a multi-level survival bunker would be my idea of a post-apocalyptic scenario, this would just the thing that would effectively kill boredom!

A tablet

Like what I’ve said before, watching a movie or reading an e-book would be a great pastime during and after the rapture, plus this device packs so much functionality in such small space that it’s almost automatically a must-have during doomsday scenarios. I don’t have to torture myself selecting which books to bring with me or what DVD to stow away before the world is finally engulfed in fire or high water.

Plus tablets boast of a lot of games, and that would be perfect in life lived in eternal solitude. I could listen to music, write poems about missing humankind, or just spend the whole day enjoying my favorite games.

A Lego water bottle

 There are not a lot of good reasons going for choosing to have a Lego water bottle for doomsday except that it’s totally cute. Well, it also a good reminder of my childhood days, when the Earth was still good and you have much of a companion in terms of toys. I just hope that I wouldn’t be short of water supply.

A Sony Playstation 3

Although Playstation 4 won’t be released before my scheduled doomsday, I can be content with having a PS3 for a gaming device. While many would say that this is redundant, especially that I already have am iPhone or a table, nothing can beat gaming experience with a playstation.

These are the gadgets that I would like to have with me if and when the world finally comes to an end and I was luckily saved, though of course I would not want to be alone, the only other voice I can hear is Apple’s Siri.

 

Google Nexus 4

Why Lack of LTE Can’t Keep the Nexus 4 Down

Initial impressions and full-fledged reviews of the fresh LG-made Google Nexus 4 smartphone have been pretty harsh, considering the only “fatal flaw” the reviewers see with the latest Nexus phone is that it doesn’t come with LTE support. Is the omission of 4G connectivity really all that bad? We say no.

Google Nexus 4

LTE isn’t as Essential as Some People Think

From the time people have been dissing the iPhone for getting LTE connectivity so late to the condemnation of the Nexus 4 for not having this same feature, it’s like 4G is the end-all and be-all of mobile technology. News flash, guys—it’s not. While having the “blazing-fast” speeds offered by this new network is certainly a great thing to have, right now it’s just not as ubiquitous as people make it out to be. Sure, telcos are rolling out LTE across more locations at a rapid rate, but it’s still not available everywhere.

In addition, the LTE data plans we have right now, with all their bandwidth caps, don’t really let consumers make the most out of the technology. It’s such a waste, but it would probably take a couple or more years before LTE becomes mainstream the way HSPA is at the moment. Speaking of HSPA, would you rather have an uber-fast but capped LTE plan or a fast-enough but unlimited 3G plan? With the way people consume content these days—video and music streaming, downloads, video calls, et cetera—it’s all too easy to go through that LTE cap.

LTE is Expensive

As stated previously, unlimited Internet is still king; until LTE becomes cheap enough or loses the bandwidth caps, people will likely still prefer their HSDPA connections—plus, they don’t have to worry about where there are LTE zones. Besides, with practically every corner restaurant or café offering Wi-Fi access, people won’t get to maximize LTE nor justify the cost of getting the service.

Then you have to consider that the Nexus 4 will be much cheaper compared to other flagships. Unlocked off the Google Play Store, the phone is set to cost $299 for the 8GB verison, while the 16GB unit will set you back $349. Is that a good deal? Of course it is. Part of what makes the latest and greatest Nexus so affordable is that it doesn’t have to have an LTE radio.

The Nexus 4 is an All-Around Powerhouse

LTE or not, it’s plain to see that the Nexus 4 is a powerhouse. LG put together a superb mix of specs and gave it a fairly decent body. People will always have issue with build quality and materials used, but we suggest you actually spend some time with the handset to get a good feel for the frame. Besides, you’ll be using a protective case anyway. The Nexus 4 has a 4.7-inch IPS screen with Gorilla Glass 2 and a 1280×768 resolution, good for 320 ppi. It packs an 8MP camera at the back for some high-quality stills and HD video recording, and a 1.3MP front cam for video calls for your preferred personal or Business VoIP service like RingCentral. There’s 2GB of RAM onboard, along with the aforementioned internal memory setups. Standard connectivity options are included, from BlueTooth to Wi-Fi to HSPA+. Of course, there’s no LTE.

There’s a reason the Nexus 4 is on sold-out status right now—the device is simply that good. It’s pretty capable in practically every aspect, affordable, and comes with the stock Android 4.2 Jelly Bean experience. If you’ve been very reliant on LTE since you got your plan, then by all means, stay away from the Nexus 4. The rest of us will be happy to get our hands on it.

 

 

texting teens

Txting makes u stupid, study finds

texting teens

A linguistic study found that people who regularly text message are less likely to accept new words, as opposed to those that read more traditional print media such as books, magazines, and newspapers. For the study, student volunteers were asked about their reading habits and text messaging frequency, and then presented with a set of words both real and fictitious.

“Our assumption about text messaging is that it encourages unconstrained language. But the study found this to be a myth,” says Joan Lee, who authored the study for her master’s thesis in linguistics. “The people who accepted more words did so because they were better able to interpret the meaning of the word, or tolerate the word, even if they didn’t recognize the word. Students who reported texting more rejected more words instead of acknowledging them as possible words.”

Study participants who were exposed to traditional reading material scored better in identifying real from fictitious words. Lee suggests that reading traditional print media exposes people to variety and creativity in language that is not found in the colloquial peer-to-peer text messaging used among youth or ‘generation text’. The study author goes on to say that reading encourages linguistic flexibility and tolerance of different words. This helps them interpret certain words in  correct manner, despite these being new or unusual.

According to a survey carried out last year by Nielsen unrelated to the present study, Americans between the ages of 13 and 17 send and receive an average of 3,339 texts per month. Teenage girls send and receive more than 4,000.

“In contrast, texting is associated with rigid linguistic constraints which caused students to reject many of the words in the study,” says Lee. “This was surprising because there are many unusual spellings or “textisms” such as “LOL” in text messaging language.”

According to a 2011 survey by the National Endowment for the Arts, the proportion of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 who read a book not required at school or at work is now 50.7 percent, the lowest for any adult age group younger than 75, and down from 59 percent 20 years ago.

[RELATED] Growing up around gadgets hinders hinders your social skills, study finds

Lee says that for texters, word frequency is an important factor in the acceptability of words.

“Textisms represent real words which are commonly known among people who text,” she says. “Many of the words presented in the study are not commonly known and were not acceptable to the participants in the study who texted more or read less traditional print media.”

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