Thursday, September 19, 2019

A telescope for your pocket phone

This is the type of scope that is typically used for target shooting or spotting wild game to hunt. I was hoping to spot bald eagle that has been known to visit the bare treetops in the woods around my neighborhood.

The scope has 20x-to-60x magnification, which suits my situation, and it’s waterproof, so our frequent hazy, humid weather wouldn’t fog the lens.

But what really drew me to the Creative XP GlassHawk were the accessories. It comes with a clip-on adapter that holds a mobile phone snug against the viewing tube.

The adapter was easier to use than I expected and after just a couple of tries, I have a bright, full-screen image on my iPhone camera.

With the phone camera, I could zoom in even more and shoot sills, video and time-lapse. It also allowed my grandchildren to enjoy the views, especially the full moon ascent that you’ll see in my video.

The GlassHawk also comes with a remote shutter release that works with both Apple and Android phone cameras.

I was also very happy with the price, which is significantly lower than other brands that have comparable features. 

The GlassHawk sells for $189 at Amazon.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Free app lets Amazon vendors estimate monthly sales

For every product listed for sale on the Amazon website, there’s a number that can be a key element in the product’s success. It’s called the Best Sellers Rank and it tells buyers and sellers how popular a particular item is in its product category.

At this writing, the iRobot Roomba 960 Vacuum Cleaner is ranked No. 1,170 in the Home & Kitchen category.

A product’s ranking is a good thing to know if you’re among the more than 2 million active Amazon sellers. An even better number to know would be an estimate of how many products a vendor might sell each month. Now a new app called SPM - Sales Rank Analyzer puts that number at a seller’s fingertips.

SPM is a specialized calculator that takes a product's Amazon sales ranking and determines its estimated monthly sales.

If you wanted to be one of the Amazon vendors who sell the Roomba 960,  putting that 1,170 ranking number into the app would give you an estimate of 3,900 in product SPM -- sales per month. SPM Analyzer will calculate the amount of units you can sell of that product and how much stock you should send to Amazon's fulfillment centers or to your own warehouse on a monthly basis.

Websites such as AMZ Scout or Jungle Scout provide a similar service through their site, sometimes for a fee. SPM Analyzer is free and it's currently the only mobile app that offers SPM data on an iPhone or other iOS device.

The app covers rankings in all 30 Amazon product categories and it lets users calculate sales for specific geographic markets such as Canada, Germany or Great Britain as well as the U.S.

For a closer look at SPM - Sales Rank Analyzer, check out the video below and the preview on the Apple App Store.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Yardian brings smarts to home water systems

I live in the Midwest where our issue with rain is there is often too much of it. My son, on the other hand, lives in an arid part of Northern California where his lawn and garden beg for water almost every day and where the local authorities have tight control over water usage.

I thought about him when I came across the Yardian. It's a smart sprinkler manager designed to fit nicely into his lifestyle and into the Internet of Things. It not only manages your irrigation schedule, it also works with a mobile app and responds to Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant.

The Yardian is a replacement for the typical irrigation controller with its arcane settings and setup commands. The Yardian helps with the switch by providing numbered stickers for the wires and on-call assistance. It reminds me of how easy it was to swap out my decades-old thermostat for its slick successor, the Nest.

Once you have the wires plugged into the Yardian, you set it up using the free app available in the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store. The controller connects to your home WiFi and takes orders from the app.

During the setup process, you'll tell the Yardian where you live and what utility provides your water. Why does that matter? Because, like my son's water provider, your utility might have restrictions on how much water you can sprinkle on your property and when you can do it. Last summer he could only water after sundown and he could get in trouble if any of it landed on his concrete driveway.

Linking the Yardian app to the local water company lets you check on local rules and restrictions. And Yardian maintains a database of water restrictions to automatically revise a user's watering schedule to match local rules. It also checks local weather forecasts to optimize watering schedules.

The Yardian control box also contains a video camera to provide continuous monitoring of the area around it, typically a yard or garage. And the system can be set to automatically activate a sprinkler head when it detects an unwanted animal.

The Yardian watering manager is available directly from Amazon. A system to manage eight watering zones costs $159.99 or 179.99 for 12 zones.

For more details about the Yardian system, check the video below and visit the Yardian website.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

App creates augmented reality objects

The arrival of Pokémon GO in 2016 not only got people out of their home to search for digital creatures, it also introduced average folks to the mysterious world of augmented reality.  Suddenly they could see a Pidgey hopping around the shopping mall and a swarm of Zubats gathered on the library steps.

Now a new iOS app could expand the AR world even more by making it easy to create and share augmented reality objects.

Advncd AR allows users to create their own custom augmented reality objects using their own photos. It eliminates the need to comb the Internet looking for collections of AR objects to download and deploy.

With Advncd AR, users select an object that they would like to create, then upload photos and text to the app.

The app comes with libraries stocked with animations and simple screens. The app currently has six models and use cases to choose from and the developers indicate more could be added in the future. 

When the object is in place, the app generates a QR that to share with friends and associates. when they scan the code, they will see the objects you created.

Advncd AR is available as a free download in the iTunes App Store.

To get a closer look at the app, check out the video below and visit the Advncd AR website.

Friday, July 12, 2019

These earbuds can go for a swim

What’s my favorite way to get through a scorching summer afternoon? Floating on a raft while listening to an audiobook or podcast. And now I’ve found a way to do that without disturbing the neighbors.

I pop in my Sixpipes waterproof earbuds and listen in privacy. The buds have an IPX-5 waterproof rating, which makes them perfect for pool use. And they will run for 6-8 hours on a full charge.

The Sixpipes buds can be set up to play in full stereo when you use both buds or mono if you only want one. They come in a small charging case along with a variety of rubber tips to help users get the best fit.

The Sixpipes in-rear headphones cost about $40 on Amazon.

Check my video below to see them in action.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

ReVolt revives dead car and truck batteries

What happens to your old car battery when it goes kaput? The repair shop that sells you a new battery will tell you that it gets recycled and that’s probably true.

But the recycling likely takes place in Mexico or some other country where environmental protection laws are not as strict as those in the US.

Thomas Hoops has a better idea. The inventor and entrepreneur has developed a device that brings dead car and truck batteries back to life.

At his ReVolt Battery Exchange store in Reno, NV, Hoops says he has revived more than 10,000 batteries - including one that was 26 years old - and he resells them, most for about $25.

Now Hoops wants to expand the reach of the ReVolt technology by making his device available to people who would open their own stores as well as to anyone who has to deal with more than a few dead batteries.

I want farmers, ranchers, people in remote areas, villagers, people who live on boats, motorhomes, car lots, auto shops, fleet owners, school districts and more to have a tool like we're using in my business today that will recover their dead batteries as well as add many more years of life to their working ones.

To finance his goal, Hoops launched a fundraising campaign on Indiegogo where he hopes to raise $5,000 over the next 3 to 4 weeks. The money would be used to build the ReVolt Pro-S1 device that brings old batteries back to life.

On his Indiegogo page, Hoops said the funding will allow his to commit to producing between 1,000 and 2,000 units in the first year and as many as 4,000 the following year.

Those who back the project by contributing $625 can choose a Pro-S1 unit from the first production run, shipping this summer, or from the second run that will ship in the fall.

To get more details about the ReVolt project, check out the video below and visit the Indiegogo page or the ReVolt Battery Exchange website. The site includes Hoops'  blog where he offers advice about batter care and and usage and tips for dealing with boat and RV batteries.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Scooter riders get a safe way to use their phones

Like many larger cities, mine has been invaded by electric scooters. There are hundreds of scooters available for rent in my area and once the weather turned nice, they became regular fixtures on downtown streets and in our tourist and entertainment districts.

And I'm okay with that. I believe in sharing the asphalt with bicycles, motorcycles, scooters or any other mobile machine that has the legal right to be there. I'll slow down and take extra care.

What does cause me some concern are those times when a scooter pilot decides that rolling down a busy city street is a good time to a take a selfie or shoot a video. I haven't yet witnessed a serious scooter accident but I've seen several close calls.

And that's why I'm telling you about Scooty, a new invention that could increase scooter safety while making scooter travel more fun and convenient. Scooty might even save some lives.

You can think of Scooty as a selfie stick designed specifically for scooters or bikes. It clamps onto a scooter's handlebars, leaving the driver's hands -- both of them -- free to safely guide the vehicle.

Scooty developer Ned Sahin said he was inspired to create the device after riding scooters in several major cities. He concluded that urban scooters are here to stay:

We see electronic scooters as not only commuting vehicles, but also as environment-friendly and fun tools to use for enjoying our free time by sightseeing and living the urban life fullest.

Sahin liked the convenience of urban scooters but he also wanted to have safe access to his phone while he was aboard.

The Scooty is an adjustable plastic stalk with a spring clamp on one end and a phone holder on the other. The clamp easily attaches to the handlebar of rental scooters like those used by Lime, Bird, Lyft and Razor.

The stalk can be adjusted to different heights and angles and the phone holder will rotate 360 degrees. The holder is large enough to accommodate supersized phones like the iPhone XS Max or Samsung's Note 9 in either portrait or landscape mode.

In addition to shooting photos and videos, Scooty users can access mapping programs, have hands-free phone conversations or listen to music or other audio content.

Scooty is currently raising $3,500 on Indiegogo for a summer product launch with shipping slated to start in August or September. Backers who contribute $17 can reserve an Early Bird Scooty for $17 compared to the post-launch price of $29.

For a closer look at Scooty, check the video below and the Indiegogo campaign page.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Mictic turns body movements into music

One of the mesmerizing charms of an orchestra conductor is the way he (or she) appears to create music out of thin air with the wave of a baton.

That may be what a group opt Swiss engineers were going for when they invented Mictic. It's a wireless sensor that produces lush, fully-formed notes and chords from hand movements.

To see what I'm talking about, check out the video below. A cellist performs a short piece by moving his right hand across the strings while his left hand moves up and down the fretboard.

But look closely - there's no bow in his right hand and he soon lifts his left hand off the neck of the cello. He's playing music without an instrument.

The creators of Mictic call it "the world's first body instrument" that launches "the beginning of a new era:  audio augmented reality."

The device pairs a wrist sensor that's the size of a large watch with a companion app that interprets body movements and instantly transforms them into sounds.

Mictic developers plan to launch the device early next year. They have created a few sound kits that  match musical instruments and plan to expend into other sounds. Their website mentions plans for kits that will mimic the sounds of a lightsaber or a robot.

Mictic AG is currently looking for investors and plans to launch a pre-release sale by the end of April to raise development funding.

For more details, to get on the company's mailing list and to watch several more videos, visit the the Mictic website. You can also follow @Mictic_Move on Twitter.

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