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.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Where to get a logo animation in minutes

When I started recording Gizmo Editor videos a few years ago, I wanted to include my logo with each production. The typical approach would be to overlay a graphic in one corner of the video.

But that seemed be pretty boring. What I really wanted was an animated video that would add some energy to the opening frames.  What I didn't want to do was to pay several hundred dollars to get one.

If that's your situation, I suggest a visit to Introbrand. It's a website that can make a logo fly, spin, swoop, and maybe stand up and bark.

The whole creation process happens on the Introbrand website and takes only a few minutes. Here's how it works:

Visitors start by selecting a look and style from among nearly 100 templates in the Introbrand library. Then they upload their logo in a common graphic format, adjust the colors and select a musical background. Click the "Next" button and the site will produce a web-quality 360p preview version in about three minutes.

The free video contains a watermark, so you'll want to buy a higher quality animation for real-world use. The premium versions, with resolution up to 4K, start at $37 and come with a bit of professional hands-on polishing.

For more details and a closer look at the service, check outage video below and visit the Introbrand website.

Monday, June 3, 2019

This mic is meant to be dropped

When rappers, TV stars and even US Presidents are punctuating their performances by dropping their microphone, you know you’re going to see it in wedding toasts, company meetings and living room karaoke contests.

The mic drop is supposed to be the last word, the end of the show. But what if the mic kept on talking or singing? Wouldn’t that be a hoot?

That’s the idea behind the Drop The Mic Microphone from Technical Graffiti. This mic doesn’t amplify your voice, it records what it hears, then plays it back when it hits the floor.

The mic is the size the size and shape of a professional model. It has a sturdy black handle and a metallic mesh head. The sample I tried out seemed to be built to withstand many drops, though the company advises users not to drop from from heights above your arm or onto a hard surface.

The Premier Edition mic arrived with two AAA batteries already installed in the handle and a plastic pull tab that will activate the batteries once it's removed.

The mic starts recording when you push and hold a button on the handle. It will store up to 15 seconds of your birthday wishes, bad jokes or off-key singing. The recording stays in the mic and will play again with another drop or a simple tap on its head.

I've been using the mic to entertain my toddler grandchildren. I tell them Papa's inside the mic and lets them drop it to hear his voice. They like the game and they really like being allowed to drop something.

To see the mic in action, check the video below. There are more videos posted on the Drop The Mic Microphone website and more information @DropTheMicIO on Twitter. Reviews and answers to questions about the mic are posted on Amazon where the mic can be ordered for $19.95. A special holiday version is slated to be offered soon.

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