We are just a week away from CES 2017, which will see a host of new technological offerings from some of the biggest names in the industry. LG is one such name that announced on Wednesday two new wireless wearable audio products to be unveiled at CES 2017. The Tone Studio wearable speakers and Tone Free earphones join the list of LG’s Bluetooth headset lineup.
The LG Tone Studio features four speakers – two full range speakers on the top and two vibrating speakers on the bottom. The Tone Studio wearable speakers combined deliver a surround sound experience when watching a movie, streaming music or playing video games. LG has designed the surround sound in collaboration with DTS. The headset features a Hi-Fi DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) to enhance sound quality by recreating audio content as accurately as possible. Additionally, the headset also comes with Dual Play functionality that lets you connect two Tone Studio wearable speakers and share sound from a movie, playlist or more.
The LG Tone Free earphones are LG’s first wireless earbuds that can be charged when stored inside the neckband. The neckband not only adds more battery time to the earphones on the go, but it also provides a safe place to keep the earphones when not in use. Furthermore, the Tone Free earphones also lets you answer and ignore a call hands free through voice command.
Apart from the Tone Studio speakers and Tone Free earphones, LG will also showcase the Tone Infinim and Tone Ultra headsets at CES 2017. The Tone Infinim features LG’s Metal Layer Speaker Technology for clean, crisp sounds while the Tone Ultra, in collaboration with JBL, features dual MEMS microphones for remarkable call clarity.
LG’s entire lineup of wearable audio products will be on display during CES 2017 from January 5 to 8.
A month after the Google Daydream View VR headset first became available; the tech giant has launched two new colour variants in select markets. The Daydream View is now available in Crimson and Snow colour versions in the US, UK, and Australia. The new colours are available on the Google Store, and are expected to arrive at Verizon and Best Buy soon. In Europe, they will also be sold at EE and Carphone Warehouse in the future.
The Crimson and Snow colour variants join the Slate colour variant that is already available in the market – making the Daydream View available in three options. All those pre-ordered users will also start getting their headsets, as the shipping begins today.
In addition, Google has also announced a set of new apps and games that now cater to its Daydream VR. The new games that are now available for Google’s Daydream VR platform include Lego BrickHeadz Builder VR, Gunjack 2: End of Shift, Layers of Fear: Solitude, Wands, Underworld Overlord, and Need for Speed: No Limits VR.
There’s also the addition of Netflix that will allow users to stream movies and series, including originals like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black on VR. There’s also the addition of HBO Go, and HBO Now – which means Game of Thrones can be streamed on the virtual big screen. NextVR offers live 3D broadcast of NBA and NFL games, the US Open, the Daytona 500 and Live Nation concerts. The VR experience of a live concert/match would bring in the illusion of you being present at the venue.
As of now, Daydream View works only with the Google Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones.
Lenovo’s Motorola brand announced earlier this year that it won’t release a smartwatch in 2016, and now the company doesn’t plan to refresh its Moto 360 series with the launch of Android Wear 2.0 as well. The new Android Wear version is slated for a commercial release early next year, and traditionally, Google releases the new software alongside the new Motorola smartwatch. However, that’s not going to happen next year.
Head Global Product Development for Moto, Shakil Barkat told The Verge that the company doesn’t see “enough pull in the market to put [a new smartwatch] out at this time.” However, he didn’t say that Motorola is discontinuing the lineup altogether. The company is open to reviving its smartwatch lineup should the technology improve and the demand for wearable products sees a rise. “We believe the wrist still has value and there will be a point where they provide value to consumers more than they do today,” he said.
Barkat also said that the company doesn’t feel that refreshing its wearable product every year is a viable idea currently. He said, “Wearables do not have broad enough appeal for us to continue to build on it year after year.”
Motorola along with LG and Huawei confirmed recently that they would not refresh their lineup this year due to lack of market interest. Even smartwatch maker Pebble has been having a tough time staying afloat, and is now even considering a buyout. Fitbit is reportedly looking to buy Pebble for as low a $40 million. Pebble was valued at $740 million just a year ago. Even Fitbit is facing heavy blows in the share market due to its low financial earnings, and does not have hopes from the holiday quarter as well.
Ever since the announcement of the Microsoft HoloLens, the Redmond-tech giant has not revealed much about the functionality, price, battery life and other details of the wearable device. However, over the weekend a Microsoft Technical evangelist named Bruce Harris, as a part of the presentation last week revealed some more information about the headset.
In the presentation that took place in Tel Aviv, Israel, Harris said the Microsoft HoloLens will be able to link itself with any Bluetooth and Wi-Fi enabled devices and can run any Windows 10 universal apps,reports Petri website. Linking other headsets over the Internet is also possible.
As for the battery life of the wearable device, the company evangelist added that the usage time can vary based on how it is being used. The HoloLens can run for up to 5.5 hours, but on heavy usage, the battery life drops to 2.5 hours. In addition, Microsoft will not be offering an immersive screen experience in the initial models of the Microsoft Hololens. The models will initially be limiting the field of view to 15-inch screen from about two feet away. The view is likely to get wider over time as Microsoft improves its manufacturing capabilities and costs.
Since the developers are yet to receive the Microsoft HoloLens for tests, it is safe to assume the consumer version of the headset will not be arriving anytime soon. The company last month opened a studio in New York to showcase its upcoming HoloLens headset for inserting holograms into real-world settings. It is worth mentioning that the studio is only for software developers for now ad won’t be open for general public. The Microsoft HoloLens development kit will be available in the first quarter of 2016, for $3,000 (roughly Rs. 2lakhs), said Terry Myerson, Microsoft’s Executive Vice President of the Windows and Devices Group, in October last year.
I don’t know a single person who has not wrestled with tangled earbuds. It’s one of those universal experiences we can all instantly relate to. A few years ago, Scott Rodwin, a Boulder-based architect and designer, heard someone frustrated by tangled earbuds exclaim, “Why can’t someone come up with a way to keep these from getting so tangled up?”
The rest, as they say, is history. Scott went home and designed a concept that he thought could be a panacea for earbud tangles. After many different prototypes, Scott delivered what he felt was the perfect solution in both shape and size: a circular solution that he called, “the Loop.”
Surprisingly simple design
When I received my review samples of the Loop in different colors, what struck me was how simple the design is. The Loop is a donut-shaped circular disc smooth on one side with pinwheel-shaped arms on the reverse and a curved channel in between.
Using the Loop is very straightforward: Place the 3.5mm plug at the end of the earbud cable into one of the two holes in the channel, so that it protrudes through the donut hole. Next, wrap the cable around the Loop and fasten the earbuds to one of its pinwheel slots.
To unwrap it, slide the earbuds from the pinwheel slot and just slightly pull on them with your finger in the middle of the donut hole. Just like that, your earbud cable will spin free and you’ll be ready to jam to your music.
Does the Loop really work?
I admit that when I received the Loop I had a few concerns. Ironically, my concerns had nothing to do with tangled cables. In fact, my two primary concerns were damaging my earbud cords in the pinwheel slot and having a bulky, uncomfortable disc in my pocket or jacket.
To understand my concerns in context, my everyday travel earbuds are the B&W C5 and RBH EP3 in-ear monitors. Each pair retails for about $180. They are not the mostexpensive earbuds you can buy, but they are significantly more expensive than the stock Apple earbuds. Because they are geared towards audiophiles, these earbuds have slightly thicker cabling, too. The RBH EP3 even has a tangle-resistant cable that makes it a bit stiffer than most.
I was also curious to see how well the Loop could protect the earbud cables from strain damage. I cannot tell you how many pairs of earbuds I’ve gone through over the years from high-end manufacturers including Shure, B&O, B&W, and others. Each of them has failed due to cable stress.
It became quickly apparent that my concerns were unfounded. The Loop was ridiculously simple to use. I put the 3.5mm jack in the hole, rolled up the earbud cable, and I was done. The 3.5mm jack sat nicely in the donut ring, protected from any easy bending or strain. At first, I was hesitant to lock down the earbuds into the pinwheel arm slots, but I quickly got over that fear.
A minor complaint: The rectangular in-line remote and microphone on the B&W C5 and RBH EP3 didn’t sit flush. It protruded just a hair. Even so, it didn’t get in my way. In fact, I wrapped up the earbuds, slid them into my pocket, and to my utter shock, the Loop didn’t feel odd, uncomfortable or bulky. Because of its smooth, rounded, and curved edging, the Loop never felt sharp or got caught on anything.
Moreover, if I took care to put the earbud ends properly into the pinwheel slots, the earbud heads never came out in my pocket. I inspected the cabling of the B&W C5s and RBH EP3s, and I didn’t notice any overt markings or scuffing on the outer cable sheath. Only after prolonged storage in the Loop did I notice an ever so slight bend in the headphone cable at the pinwheel pinch point. Other than that, the Loop worked exactly as advertised. It kept my cables untangled every time, and unwrapping my earbuds was a breeze.
I did find in-ear monitors that the Loop did not work with. If your earphones have angled plugs, then they likely won’t fit in the Loop. I tried a pair of Etymotic and Shure earbuds and had no luck at all. The Loop was useless with those devices.
Finally, there’s the price to consider. You can’t buy just one Loop; you must purchase them in either a three-pack (regular price $20, on sale at the time of my review for $17) or as a 10-pack for $50. At those price points, you’d better be seriously agitated by earbud tangles or plan to give some away as gifts.
Tangles be gone
Stop searching YouTube for this week’s magic earbud-wrapping technique. If you’ve ever uttered the words, “I wish someone would invent a way to keep my earbuds from getting tangled,” then consider your wish granted. The Loop is a keenly designed and extremely simple solution that works as advertised.
Though the Loop is a bit on the pricey side, you will find that its quality design and materials—as well as the frustration it prevents—to be well worth the price. Though owners of high-end earbuds may think twice about entrusting their prize possessions to the Loop, for the vast majority of people, the Loop will prove to be a great solution to a recurring problem.
It’s a frightening moment to watch and a sober reminder of the danger of drones.
On Tuesday evening at an Alpine Ski World Cup event in Italy, a large drone carrying a TV camera crashed into the snow a fraction of a second after Austrian skier Marcel Hirscher had passed the point of impact.
Had it fallen on the skier or directly in front of him, he would almost certainly have sustained major injuries.
The drone was identified by the FIS, skiing’s governing world body, as being operated by Infront Sports & Media, a Swiss company that was providing TV coverage of the event for the world’s broadcasters. The drone was doing aerial coverage of the competition and came from an outside company that hired a human operator.
A technical investigation has been launched and the drone company says its initial suspicion is that interference on the radio frequency being used to control the drone caused problems.
The FIS has banned the use of drones for TV broadcast purposes at its events until it can ensure safe operation.
Most Linux distributions are fairly similar these days, but Qubes OS is different. Qubes OS is based on Linux, but it runs applications in lightweight virtual machines. Applications can be completely isolated from each other, limiting the damage a security vulnerability can cause and aiding in privacy. It’s no surprise Edward Snowden said he was excited by Qubes OS.
Purism seems excited by Qubes OS, too. Purism’s Librem laptops currently ship with Trisquel GNU/Linux, but the Librem 13 will soon ship with Qubes OS pre-installed, according to Ars Technica. All that virtualization requires some heavy hardware—the Qubes OS won’t run on just anything. The Librem 13 gives Qubes OS users a supported hardware platform with the operating system preinstalled. Qubes will also certify theLibrem 15, and begin testing and certifying laptops as diverse as possible in terms of geography, cost, and availability. This would give users a much better idea where to start, so they could buy laptops guaranteed to run Qubes OS well.
Purism can’t yet free the firmware
Interestingly, this could also help rescue Purism from the controversy it’s in with the free software community. Purism promised that its laptop hardware would be free of any closed-source code, but the Intel Management Engine and other firmware running on a modern Intel CPU will remain closed-source for the foreseeable future.
Purism Founder Todd Weaver sounds hopeful, at least in public statements. As he said to Ars Technica: “Some people say it’s impossible to free the BIOS. We’ve proposed the business case to Intel and they are evaluating it. I don’t think it’s likely it’s going to happen anytime soon, but as our numbers grow, then our leverage grows.”
But even in this best case scenario, Purism’s Librem laptops will have that closed-source firmware for many years to come. Qubes OS could come to the rescue here.
In a blog post titled “Intel x86 considered harmful,” Qubes OS lead developer Joanna Rutkowska wrote that she “believed we could use VT-d to protect the host OS from the potentially malicious ME-based rootkits….” She went further: “I spoke to a few clever people, and concluded it’s possible to come up with a reasonable solution that would require only minor hardware modifications. Modifications which could be done by laptop OEMs, or even by more advanced users.”
This is potentially big news for Purism. While Purism has no hope of getting rid of this closed-source code in the near future, Qubes OS could potentially provide a system that can isolate and protect itself from attacks, bugs, backdoors, and whatever other potentially nasty stuff could come from the firmware. It would require a minor modification that Purism could likely perform on its laptops, making Purism’s laptops more compelling.
The combination of Qubes OS and Purism will be an interesting one to watch. It’ll be beneficial for both sides. Qubes OS will get a certified hardware platform shipping its operating system, one that can perform whatever minor hardware changes are necessary for full security. Purism will get a much more unique operating system and package, one that makes its hardware stand out next to inexpensive Linux laptops from Dell and other manufacturers.
Although Mozilla is walking away from Firefox OS on smartphones, the browser-based platform isn’t dead yet. Citing leaked internal documents, a report by Hipertextual (viaSlashGear) claims that Firefox OS is headed to tablets, routers, HDMI sticks, and keyboard-based all-in-one PCs.
Arguably the most interesting of these plans is the “Firefox Pi,” a keyboard with aRaspberry Pi mini-PC inside, running Firefox for web access. The alleged documents note that the keyboard could plug into spare TVs (including old analog sets) and monitors, and aims to somehow “Harness the maker movement.”
Mozilla may have plans for a Firefox-powered router as well, dubbed “Firefox Hub.” The device would have built-in privacy and parental controls, automatic updates, web server hosting, and a web-based controller for smart home devices. It sounds fairly similar toGoogle’s OnHub routers, which are built atop Chromium OS.
The documents also call for a browser-based “Firefox Pad” tablet, aimed at “late adopters and the elderly” with a focus on simplicity and privacy, and a “Firefox Stick” that would basically be a plug-in HDMI version of Mozilla’s Firefox OS for televisions.
Keep in mind that none of these plans have been confirmed, and it’s unclear how old they are. Mozilla would also need a manufacturing partner to see its ideas through, as it tends not to make its own hardware. Still, with Mozilla itself having acknowledged that the Firefox OS team will “continue to work on the new experiments across connected devices,” it wouldn’t be surprising to see some of these projects materialize.
Why this matters: Mozilla had noble goals with Firefox OS on smartphones, aiming to deliver cheap open platform that emphasized privacy. But ultimately, it just couldn’t compete in a market that’s largely dominated by Android. Mozilla doesn’t face as high of a hurdle with some of these other device types, so there’s at least a chance that Firefox OS’s ideals can live on.
Got a new drone? You’re not alone. Some estimates say hundreds of thousands of the craft will be sold before the end of 2015. But drones aren’t like other gadgets that you can figure out without reading the instruction manual.
You’ll get most out of your drone if you take it easy and conduct a few low test flights as you practice the possible controls and maneuvers. You should consider flying lessons and joining a local flying club, where you can learn more about flight and model aircraft.
But you probably can’t wait to get it into the air, so remember there are a few important safety, privacy and legal guidelines you need to follow to keep you and your drone out of trouble.
Maximum altitude: Steer clear of real aircraft
Drones are limited to no higher than 400 feet. That provides a small buffer between your drone and controlled airspace, which begins at 500 feet.
Drones aren’t cleared to enter that part of the sky. Doing so would put them in danger of colliding with aircraft and helicopters, potentially causing a deadly crash. If for some reason an aircraft or helicopter comes close to your drone, you’re obligated to move out of the way.
In general, it’s good practice to fly below the top of any surrounding obstacles, like trees or buildings.
Know your area: Fly only in safe locales
Fly in an open area away from people and obstacles that could block your view of your drone. You’re obligated to keep in it sight at all times.
Exercise caution flying near airports and helipads. As a general rule, you shouldn’t fly within five miles of an airport, but you may be able to get permission from the control tower if you won’t be causing problems to general aviation. Flying clubs have usually negotiated test flight areas that are known to local pilots.
Drones are also banned from flying in all national parks.
Check flying conditions
Avoid flying during bad weather and strong winds. Your drone is small and lightweight and can’t stand up to bad weather the same way a regular aircraft can.
Watch your own conditions too. Don’t fly when you’ve been drinking or are under the influence of drugs.
Register your drone
The FAA requires that anyone flying a drone be registered. The online process should only take about five minutes, and its $5 cost covers any number of drones you own for three years. Once registered, write or affix your registration number to your drone, and carry a physical or digital version of your registration card when you fly.
No, you can’t suddenly start a drone business
Don’t use your drone for business. You might have a great idea for a lucrative new drone photography business, but commercial use of drones requires a special permit from the FAA and brings a whole new level of restrictions and requirements. Hobbyists have much more freedom to fly, so embrace it.
Be a good drone citizen
The drone industry has a comprehensive website with all the rules and recommendations called “Know Before You Fly.” The Academy of Model Aeronautics will point you to your local flying club and help you find the local model aircraft enthusiast community. The full rules and regulations can be found on the FAA’s drone website.
SimpliSafe promotes its home-security system as a less-expensive alternative to professionally installed systems you can buy from service providers such as ADT and Vivint. You buy the equipment outright, install it yourself, and there’s no long-term contract—even if you sign up for the optional monitoring service.
But before you jump on this deal, know its limitations: The SimpliSafe system doesn’t support smart door locks, lighting controls, security cameras, or programmable thermostats. So if you’re looking to convert your house into a smart home, this isn’t the way to go.
Even if you don’t care that entering the right code in your deadbolt can automatically disarm your alarm system, or that a camera gives you a remote look at your house if the alarm goes off while you’re away, we consider lighting controls to be an important part of a home-security system. Here’s why: We like the idea of having the lights turn to frighten an intruder who trips the alarm, and to light your way out of the house if your smoke detector or carbon-monoxide detector warns of dangerous conditions inside.
So we’re dinging the SimpliSafe system reviewed here a half-star for not having those features. If those shortcomings don’t bother you, you can mentally add it back, because it’s otherwise a very good product. Installation, for instance, is very simple and do-it-yourself—no technician needs to come out to your house, and you can take the equipment with you if you move. SimpliSafe offers professional monitoring on a subscription basis, but that service is optional and there’s no long-term contract. I’ll go into more detail on that later.
The base unit is the core of the SimpliSafe system. It’s an 11-inch-tall rounded tower that houses a siren, a buzzer, a speaker, and a GSM module that establishes a cellular connection to the monitoring office. (A burglar can easily defeat an alarm system that relies on a landline by cutting an exterior cable.) The base unit runs on AC power, but has a battery backup, so a burglar can’t defeat the alarm system by cutting off power to your home, either. SimpliSafe says the battery will last at least eight hours.
The other core component is a keypad that you mount near your door. You’ll use this to activate the alarm when you leave the house, and to disable it when you come back. While you’re home, you can arm all aspects of the system except for the motion sensor, so you have protection while you’re home, too. Apart from the base station, everything else runs on battery power, so you don’t need to worry about stringing wires all over the house.
Once the base station and the keypad are installed, you set about installing the various sensors. SimpliSafe offers open/close sensors for your doors and windows, motion sensors for rooms, water and freeze sensors, smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors—there’s even a sound sensor that responds to the specific frequencies of breaking glass. (The setup guide warns against putting it in the kitchen.) One base unit can support up to 41 of these sensors. There’s also a “panic button” to put on the wall next to your bed that you can press to activate the alarm.
A keychain remote, which also has a panic button, lets you arm and disarm the system if you’re not within reach of the keypad. There’s also a second siren that’s much louder than the one in the base unit, and it’s weatherized so that it can be installed outdoors, if you prefer, to notify your neighbors (presuming you’re on good terms).
Each of the sensors, the keypad, and the siren comes with two-way mounting tape on the back, so you don’t need to drill any holes in your walls or windows and door trim. (Note: The door/indoor sensors we’ve seen with some other systems can be mounted inside your door and door frame, which neatly hides them from view. The downside, of course, is that this installation method requires drilling holes and is permanent.)
The boxes SimpliSafe’s sensors come in have “quick tips” printed on them, such as “a solid yellow light indicates that the smoke detector is not securely mounted on its bracket.” These tips are a good example of how SimpliSafe holds your hand through the setup process. When you first plug in the base unit, a female voice (not a robot) welcomes you and tells you it’s ready for you to start installing devices.
One of the keychain remotes in my kit was also a thumb drive with a setup animation stored on it. The animation didn’t work on my Mac; but there’s also an installation video on SimpliSafe’s website that walks you through the basic process. This system definitely earns the “simple” in its name.
Sounding the alarm
After getting the system set up, it was time to test it. I didn’t bother to test the actual alarm sirens—the base unit’s siren is 85 decibels, which according to various scales is about as loud as city traffic or trucks going by. The satellite siren is 105 decibels, or as loud as a jackhammer or power mower. Since I live in an apartment, I decided not to subject my neighbors to these noises and to assume that if the test mode worked, the alarms would, too.
Use the keypad to put the system in test mode, and the voice from the base unit will confirm the setting. You can then press buttons on the various sensors, and the base unit announces which sensor is being tested. For the motion sensor, you press the button, wait a while, and then walk in front of it. The base station will announce “motion sensor” to confirm. It’s a reassuring way to test that the batteries and communication links are sound.
But it doesn’t reveal anything about the actual alarms. I started wondering, does the siren go off if the water sensor detects a leak? That would seem like an overreaction. The smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors make their own familiar piercing shrieks—do they set the siren off as well? And how do you know which device triggered the alarm?
According to SimpliSafe, the siren sounds for the door and window sensors and for the smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors. The freeze and water sensors trigger a sound the company described in an email as “more like a buzzer than a siren.” The base station also announces which sensor—water or freeze—triggered the alarm. But if your pipes are in danger of freezing, or if they leak or burst, the system offers no way to mitigate the damage because it can’t connect to a thermostat (so it can’t turn on the heat) and it doesn’t link to a motorized valve that can turn off the water. Some more sophisticated (and more expensive) alternatives do offer these functions.
Subscription monitoring services
Sounding local alarms is all the SimpliSafe system does unless you spring for its subscription monitoring service. The $15-per-month standard plan buys just live monitoring, where a dispatcher (from the third-party service COPS Monitoring) will contact the police or fire department in response to an alarm. For $25 per month, you get that level of service plus SMS and email alerts; the ability to arm and disarm your system remotely, using your smartphone; remote ability to check the status reports on your burglar, fire, carbon-monoxide, and flood sensors; and an event log for tracking when the system is armed and disarmed.
The remote control and the notifications are the extent of this system’s interactivity. SimpliSafe is a self-contained system that doesn’t talk to devices outside its ecosystem. You can’t set up the motion sensor turn on a light via another company’s lamp switch, for example, or trigger a camera to record a video clip if the alarm goes off until SimpliSafe comes out with its own (due in early 2016).
Verdict: A qualified thumbs up
That said, SimpliSafe makes a lot of devices and offers a range of system packages. The Starter package, at $230, includes the base station and keypad, one motion sensor, one door/window sensor, and one keychain remote. At the other end of the scale, the $540 Ultimate package comes with two motion sensors, four door/window sensors, two keychain remotes, a panic button, the extra siren, one water and one freeze sensor, and one smoke and one carbon-monoxide detector, plus the base station and keypad. You also get yard signs and window decals that might deter anyone from testing your system in the first place. If those bundles don’t fit your needs, you can build out your own package by starting with the base unit, keypad, and keychain remote, and then adding whichever other components you choose.
Whether the SimpliSafe system is right for you depends on if you want just a security system or if you’re interested in laying the foundation for a truly connected home. There’s nothing to stop you from installing smart lighting, a programmable thermostat, or any other connected-home components alongside SimpliSafe, but you’ll need to manage them independently of your security system.
In short, SimpliSafe will make your home safer, but it won’t make it any smarter.