Welcome to this week’s Tech Spotlight! Each week, I’m sharing some fun and cool tech-related products you can find on Amazon. This week’s Spotlight features a wireless controller, a smartphone camera kit, and a photo printer. Take a look at what I’ve found this week, then go on over to Amazon to add some new tech to your cart!
The Myo Gesture Control Armband is a wireless controller that makes it easy to control your tech. While wearing the armband, you can make gestures and motions to perform certain tasks with your devices. The armband works by reading muscle activity and through the use of downloadable apps in Myo’s store (the Myo Market).
Using this armband, you can control many different things. Its product description mentions its use for gaming, as well as for things like controlling presentation slides and even flying your drone. You can also use the Keyboard Mapper to connect the armband to your keyboard. There are more than a hundred apps in the Myo Market, so there’s quite a bit you can play around with.
The Myo armband is designed to be convenient. It won’t weigh your arm down—it’s light (the description says it’s lighter than most watches). The battery is rechargeable and works throughout the day. And it’s compatible with many devices, including those using Windows 7 and up, as well as many Android, Mac, and iOS devices.
The Myo Gesture Control Armband is a convenient way to control your devices from a distance with just the motion of your arm. Head over to Amazon to find out more about what it can do!
This camera photo kit from ARORY offers a way to take photos from your phone in a new, fun way. Though many phone cameras do offer a lot more customization and options on their own, this telephoto lens kit gives smartphone photographers more choices for their shots.
The telephoto lens kit comes with 10 items designed to make photographing with your smartphone easier and a little more engaging. It does, of course, come with several attachable camera lenses. There’s a telephoto lens that offers 12x optical magnification, meaning photos can be zoomed in 12x further without the photos suffering from a loss of quality. There’s also a macro lens for close-up shots, a wide-angle lens for larger shots, and a fisheye lens for curved shots.
These are not the only items that come with this kit. There’s also a mini tripod with an attachable phone holder, so you can place your phone in the holder and take photos without worrying about a shaky hand or take a photo of yourself that’s not a selfie. To make this even easier, there’s also a Bluetooth remote shutter. Using this small device, you can take photos from a distance without having to touch your phone. There are also clips to hold the different lenses in place, and there’s a cleaning cloth to help keep the lenses clear of any dust or specks.
Many current smartphone cameras offer reasonably high-quality images, and many people rely solely on their phones to take pictures. This kit can improve the smartphone photo-taking experience!
The Prynt Pocket is a small, portable photo printer for use with iPhone. While you’re on the go, you can print previously taken photos or take new ones to print right away. All you have to do is place your iPhone in the printer and you’re on your way to printing photos anywhere.
The Prynt Pocket works with many different iPhones, from the iPhone 5 to the iPhone X. It uses ZINK Sticker Paper, which is an ink-free paper with a sticker backing (so you can also stick your photos anywhere). The photos print within 30 seconds, so there’s not a long wait for your photos. Oh, and if you like your tech to be pretty, there are several colors to choose from—graphite and white both look fairly clean and standard, but there’s also lavender and mint green.
The Prynt app also allows you to do some fun things with your photos. For instance, after you take a photo with the Prynt app, you can also record a short video to go with it. Then when others point their Prynt app at the photo, they can watch the matching video! You can also use the app to tweak your photos with things like filters and text.
If you take many photos with your iPhone (and if you have an iPhone, I’m confident you do), the Prynt Pocket will make a nice new addition to your accessories!
A lot has been going on with Apple over the past week or so. Quite a bit of news has come out about Apple devices, particularly concerning the future release of iOS 11.3 later in Spring. Here are just a few of the things you may have missed recently!
New Animoji will be added
When iOS 11.3 is released, you can expect new Animoji to be released with it! A preview from Apple has announced that four more Animoji will be added, joining the currently available twelve.
As you might know, animoji are the animated emoji that have been available on iOS 11 since late last year. Using animoji, you can make certain characters move based on your own movements and facial expressions. Some of the previously available animoji include a pig, an alien, a panda, and a unicorn.
The new animoji will include two typical animals—a bear and a lion—as well as the fun-sounding skull and dragon.
Apple’s augmented reality has been upgraded
Apple’s preview also discusses their new upgrades to their augmented reality (AR) technology. ARKit 1.5, the newest version of Apple’s AR tech, has been released for developers, and with it comes some cool new updates.
Previously, ARKit could allow users to place objects on horizontal surfaces (like, say, the floor). With ARKit 1.5, users will be able to also place objects on vertical surfaces (such as walls). This is a huge upgrade, making Apple’s AR experience even more compelling. In addition, users will be able to point their phone at a flat item (like a picture on a wall), and their phone will use AR to display any available facts about the item if it’s recognized by the system. For example, if you were visiting an art gallery, you could perhaps use Apple’s AR to find more information about certain pieces you were looking at.
iPhone slowdown to become optional
You may recall hearing a lot of talk last month about how iPhones were being slowed down. People were reporting that their iPhones seemed to slow down over time. Eventually Apple confirmed the speeds of these iPhones were being throttled, says CNN Money, though it wasn’t for some nefarious reason.
According to an open letter from Apple, iPhones were being slowed in order to prevent phones from being shut off as the phones’ batteries aged. Many people were upset this slowdown hadn’t been properly communicated to them, leading to Apple offering a heavily discounted battery replacement for certain affected customers.
Now Apple is going to make things even more transparent and open by allowing users to decide whether their iPhones are slowed down. In their iOS 11.3 preview, Apple describes their upcoming performance feature settings. These settings will make it possible to see whether your phone is set to slow down (preventing your phone from shutting down unexpectedly as your battery ages). If it is set to be throttled, you’ll be able to switch off this feature.
For more about what Apple is up to, take a look at their Newsroom.
Depending on how much you write, you may already know that you have options when it comes to the software you use to create documents. But many people are unaware that they really do have choices.
Document creation has come a long way since the earliest word processors—especially considering they were often their own separate machines. Eventually, word processors became available as software, leading to word processors like WordPerfect (which was hugely popular for years). Microsoft Word, after being released in the 80s, eventually rose to take the top spot and has remained the standard word processor since.
Because Microsoft Word is so popular, and because it so often comes along with PCs being purchased, it can be easy sometimes to forget there are other avenues for document creation. In fact, there are quite a few available word processors, like Apache OpenOffice Writer, WordPerfect, and Pages (Apple’s word processor).
An interesting, and newer, addition to the word processing family is the web word processor. Instead of only being offered as software to download, some word processors are accessed on the web. Google Docs is a good example of this kind of word processor. Released in the mid-2000s, Google Docs has become one of the better-known word processors. It can be downloaded on some devices, but it’s primarily a web application.
Microsoft Word and Google Docs are two particularly popular word processors, one of which is primarily used as downloadable software, the other typically accessed online. In this article, I’ll go over some of the basics of the two offerings, make note of what they have in common, and talk about what makes them special. This can help give an idea of which word processor sounds best to you!
What are the basics?
Before we get into more details, let’s take a look at some of the basic information on both word processors.
- Cost—Depending on the package, as low as $6.99/mo.
- Compatibility—For PC & Mac; Android, iOS, & Windows devices; web version available
- Number of devices—Depends on the package; from 1 computer to multiple computers, tablets, and phones
- Compatibility—For any computer with access to a modern browser; Android & iOS devices
- Number of devices—As many as you want
What do they have in common?
Microsoft Word and Google Docs are alike in some ways, including some shared features. Some of these features are basic and what one would expect from a word processor. Here are some of the ways they’re alike.
Both Word and Google Docs:
- include basic formatting features, like font choice, text color, highlighting, and paragraph spacing
- can include tables, charts, and footnotes
- offer spell-checking, dictionary look-up, and word count
- can include images
- provide formatting presets, like headers, footers, and a table of contents
- offer the ability to review or analyze documents with word counts, comments, and accessibility checks
- have options for view modes, like page orientation, zoom, and rulers
- have extensive help services for better understanding how to use them
- work with keyboard shortcuts
- offer document templates
- offer the ability to save to the cloud
There are many more basic similarities, many of which are standard across most word processors.
What makes Word different?
Word does differ from Google Docs in some ways other than the fact that Google Docs is web-based. Here are some of the ways Word sets itself apart:
Some special features:
Image use—Though it’s not necessarily easy to manipulate or place images in Word, there are more ways to do so than you can find in Google Docs. For instance, Word users can add frames and effects to their images, and there are quite a few options for changing how they’re laid out on the page.
Mail options—If you’re using Word to create mailings, you have useful features available to you. You can create envelopes and use features like Mail Merge, which makes it easy to create personalized versions of your document for each person on your mailing list.
Extensive reference choices—With Word, you can expect to have all the options you need to format your academic or professional documents. There are options for footnotes, citations, cross-references, and more that get into the smallest of details.
Microsoft Word connects well with other Microsoft products, like those found in the Office suite. It also connects to OneDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage service.
Ease of use
Because Microsoft Word is typically accessed offline, it’s usually easy to open and manage files, even without an internet connection.
Of course, one complaint some users have about Word is that there are simply too many options, making it overwhelming and confusing. It can be difficult to find what you need, considering there are so many different ribbons with different content and options.
What makes Google Docs different?
Google Docs has things to offer that Word currently does not. Here are just some of the ways Docs is different from Word:
Some special features
Collaboration—Though there is a way to collaborate with others using Word, Google Docs makes it much, much easier. Anyone added to the document can add comments, track changes, and see what other collaborators have already said. You can even watch the document being edited by others in real-time, making it easier to work together. And there’s a chat option, so if you have the document open at the same time as another collaborator, you can message them directly.
Easy version tracking—With Google Docs, it’s easy to keep up with edits to the document. Collaborators can see who made which edits, and you can also name your different versions for easier access later. The different versions are displayed in an easy to follow column, including color coding when there is more than one person working on the document.
Google Docs connects well with other Google services, like their cloud storage service, Google Drive. It can also convert and open Microsoft Word documents.
Ease of use
Despite what you might think, it’s easy to access your files with Google Docs—even offline. Many worry that using a web-based word processor means their files can only be accessed when they’re connected. However, Google Docs allows for offline access as long as this is enabled in your settings. You also aren’t restricted to saving documents into just the cloud. You can save your documents to your computer, including saving them in multiple different formats, like .docx (Word format) and PDF.
Also, one of the main reasons Google Docs is so popular is because of its clean and usable interface. Though there are certainly fewer features (including fewer available add-ons), meaning you can’t necessarily customize your document as fully as you can with Word, it does make Google Docs less intimidating.
Everything is clearly displayed in the toolbars and dropdowns. One of the only times someone is likely to become confused is if they’ve switched from Word and are trying to look for a specific feature that isn’t included. Also, many features Word users are used to are only included in add-ons, which isn’t as intuitive as it would be if the features were already included. However, this does allow Docs users to decide which features they need instead of becoming bogged down.
Overall, Microsoft Word and Google Docs do offer many of the same basic word processing features. However, Microsoft Word offers more extensive and detailed formatting of documents, while Google Docs is excellent when it comes to collaboration and ease of use.
It might be as simple as this: if you want access to a great deal of detailed features and are willing to pay for it, Word may be best for you, especially if you’re too used to relying on its many options.
However, if you don’t mind having fewer options, Google Docs could easily meet your needs for free while also taking away some of the stress of collaborating with others and eliminating the confusion that comes with so many different options.
Google is now making it easier to stop unwelcome auto-play audio and other annoyances. The new “Mute site” feature in Google Chrome’s latest update can put a stop to unwanted audio coming from the websites you visit.
The newest update to Chrome introduces the “Mute site” option on your tabs. If you open a website and a video begins to play automatically, all you have to do is right-click the tab, choose “Mute site,” and forget about it as the audio stops playing. As The Verge notes, in the past you could only temporarily mute a tab while you had it open. If you visited that site again, then, Chrome wouldn’t remember your preference, and you’d experience the awful irritation of having audio start blaring from your speakers unexpectedly.
With the ability to mute an entire site, though, you won’t have to worry about auto-play videos from that site again. Chrome will remember your preference, so every time you visit the site, audio will be muted. This is a huge help for people who really enjoy the content of a website but have to deal with a video playing in the corner every time they visit it.
Google has been talking about reducing annoyances from certain types of ads for quite some time. Just last month, they announced their own ad blocker would be coming in February (February 15, to be specific). That ad blocking feature will stop certain problem-causing ads, like video ads that auto-play, using certain ad standards.
Google also just updated some of their ad controls, as well. In a blog post, they describe how Google users can now mute reminder ads. This means if you do something like visit a shop online, you can stop seeing ads that follow you across the web reminding you to come back and finish your purchase. In addition, their “Mute This Ad” feature has been updated to remember which ads you’ve muted as long as you’re logged in to you account, as well as to make the feature available on more sites.
The “Mute site” feature will certainly make things easier and less frustrating for people who are regular visitors on certain sites that typically feature auto-playing ads. And the latest updates on ad settings from Google, plus the upcoming ad blocking for Chrome, will make it more convenient to navigate online without encountering unwanted, distracting ads.
The FCC has released information about the draft of their Broadband Progress Report. Based on the FCC’s information, they are now saying the mobile internet can’t fully replace access to home internet service.
According to Ars Technica, the FCC, under Chairman Ajit Pai, has said mobile internet access isn’t enough. This comes despite the fact that the FCC said last year that it was possible Americans didn’t necessarily need home internet and that mobile might be adequate. The FCC’s fact sheet and statement also discuss topics concerning the recently repealed net neutrality rules. Specifically, the releases go over some information on whether broadband services are reaching people quickly enough.
Whether mobile services can replace home internet has been a subject of discussion for a long while. With mobile carriers offering faster speeds than before as the years pass, people have often questioned whether they actually need a home internet connection. Mobile hotspots have added to this debate—with some mobile services or devices, many people have access to wi-fi hotspots they can connect their devices to. That way they don’t just have to stick to using their mobile connection on their phones.
But even before the FCC’s notes about mobile and home internet, it has been questionable whether a mobile service was really enough. Speeds often aren’t up to par with a home internet connection. Also, with many services, there may be no cap on data usage, but speed throttling can still occur. This means once a certain amount of data is used each month, it’s possible the mobile service speeds could be deprioritized and potentially become slower.
In addition, there isn’t a speed standard for mobile internet set by the FCC, as Ars Technica mentions. Though it had been discussed in the past, there’s no speed standard for mobile carriers to meet. On the other hand, with home internet service, the FCC has set a standard for speeds of 25Mbps.
It’s important to note the actual report from the FCC hasn’t been released—instead, a fact sheet and a statement have been released. To learn more about the FCC’s report, you can read their fact sheet and Chairman Pai’s statement about the report.
Facebook has put out a news survey, and many are questioning its effectiveness. The news survey, meant to learn which news publishers Facebook users trust, only includes two questions. Because of this, some wonder how accurate it will be and how much use it can really be for Facebook.
The two questions, according to the BBC, ask users about specific websites. Users are first asked if they recognize the chosen websites. Then they’re asked to use a scale to represent how much they trust those websites. The scale has five options, starting with “not at all” and ending with “entirely.”
Facebook has taken many different steps in recent months to specifically try to combat false news stories taking hold on their platform. For instance, in November they announced a tool that would let users see if they’d interacted with Russian propaganda sites. This tool went live soon after, and it can be found by visiting the Facebook Help Center.
They’ve also tried various different ways of letting users spot fake news. For a while, Facebook used Disputed Flags to show users that other sources had disputed certain content. Then Facebook switched to using Related Articles to help identify false news stories. The Related Articles that show up underneath content can help offer different views on the story, including showing third-party fact-checking articles.
Though people are questioning the value of a survey with only two questions, Facebook has said there’s a reason for its simplicity. They’ve said surveys can sometimes be confusing and “bias signal,” and they’ve mentioned the information gathered is only applied to “publishers for which we have enough data.” Naturally, Facebook will not be basing their decisions solely on this news survey, instead working with various other data, as well.
Facebook’s news trust survey may be cause for concern for some users who see it as too simple, but Facebook seems to feel it will be a useful way to help prioritize news articles from sources that can be trusted. As it’s implemented, we’ll see how useful it really might be while working alongside Facebook’s other features and updates that are meant to stop the spread of false news.
Facebook is once again adding a new feature to improve the watching experience. Facebook’s new ‘Watch Party’ feature brings users a way to watch videos with other people.
As CNET reports, Facebook is testing a new feature that lets people come together to watch videos. The feature works with Live videos currently being broadcast, as well as videos that have already been posted. In its current state, it’s being tested by groups on Facebook. Groups are communities formed of people with a shared interest. Admins of the groups can choose a public video and let the group members watch it together while they comment and react to it.
Fidji Simo, the Video director for Facebook, wrote a post about the new feature being tested. In it, she notes that it’s being tested with a “handful of Groups.” This is just the beginning of the Watch Party feature. The test is small at the moment, but Simo mentions they “hope to expand Watch Party in the future.”
This emphasis on bringing groups closer together appears to be part of Facebook’s focus on “meaningful social interactions,” which Mark Zuckerberg wrote about in a recent post. Zuckerberg addressed concerns with Facebook updates that focused more on impersonal ads and branded content instead of content from friends. The post makes it clear that Facebook will now be making a point to make their platform feel more personal again.
Facebook has also been working hard to be at the top of the game when it comes to watching videos on their platform. Over the past months, they’ve added features that improve the video experience for creators and for viewers. In September, Facebook added their Facebook Watch section, which lets viewers keep up with channels and series. It also lets creators draw in more viewers. In October, the platform updated their Facebook Live feature to let users stream their screens. And in November, they released Facebook Creator, an app that helps video makers produce even better content.
Facebook’s Watch Party feature is just the newest in a long line of improvements to Facebook’s watching experience. It’s also a step towards a more personal experience on the social media platform. As it’s rolled out, hopefully users will have more opportunities to enjoy content together and feel more connected.
Amazon now offers a ‘$10 & Under with Free Shipping’ section for those looking for affordable products. The new section became available this past week and could be a great draw for people who like to shop but are on a tight budget.
The ‘$10 & Under’ section currently has 9 categories to choose from. You can choose All if you want to see everything added to the section. Or you can get more specific with the following categories: Women’s, Men’s, Electronics, Gifts, Home Décor, Household, Watches, and Hello 2018!
The section also mentions free shipping. Prime users already expect free shipping, but this section has a draw for everyone—you don’t have to have Prime to get the free shipping. This means you can shop in the ‘$10 & Under’ section without worrying about shipping costs even if you’re not paying for a Prime membership.
Right now the section is a little tricky to navigate, because you can only filter items by the categories mentioned above and you can’t search the section. However, if you have some time to scroll through, you’ll likely spot something that catches your interest.
There are a variety of items in the Women’s and Men’s sections. The Women’s category includes a lot of clothing and accessories. There’s jewelry, like earrings and bracelets, plus there are hair accessories and full clothing items like blouses and skirts alongside miscellaneous small items. In the Men’s category, you can find items like t-shirts, hats, sunglasses, and tie clips. There are also items like water bottles and headphones.
In Electronics and Gifts, there are quite a few items to choose from. The Electronics category has items like iPhone armbands and other iPhone accessories, smartphone cases, chargers and charger cords, and headphones. The Gifts category has a pretty scattered collection of items. There are things like sunglasses, balloons, throw pillows, greeting cards, baseballs, soap, and succulent plant pots.
Home Décor and Household both feature an array of items for the home. The Home Décor section is filled with plenty of throw pillows in all sorts of designs and colors. There are also items like coaster sets, decorative signs and knick knacks, tablecloths, string lights, and curtains. In the Household section, you can find plenty of cleaning supplies, as well as storage containers, lightbulbs, kitchen utensils, and shower caddies.
The Watches and Hello 2018! sections are interesting categories. The Watches section is centered on, of course, watches. There are analog and digital watches with various designs and styles. There are also watch accessories. In the Hello 2018! section, there’s a variety of colorful, glittering items. There are things like earrings, yoga mats, sparkly phone cases, confetti, workout clothing pieces, and to-do lists.
As previously mentioned, going through the available items involves quite a bit of scrolling and just looking for whatever catches your eye. Head over to the ‘$10 & Under’ section of Amazon to see if you spot something you like.
It’s time again for our Tech Spotlight! Every week, I’m sharing three of my tech finds with you. This week, I’m showcasing three fairly different products—a body camera, a posture device, and an instrument for art. Take a look at what’s in the spotlight this week, and then click over to Amazon to add them to your cart!
This camera from FrontRow is designed to let you capture moments throughout your day. The camera is meant to be worn, and it can be worn on a lanyard, on your own necklace, or as a clip. Then you can go on with what you’re doing and capture it all with the small camera.
The camera can capture hours of footage. You can also livestream to several different social media platforms, including Facebook. Once you’ve captured video, you can use the app to send your videos to your phone.
The camera itself has a touchscreen and buttons. With the touchscreen, you can do things like look at your pictures and videos, as well as control what the camera is doing. You also have power, media, and home buttons. This way, much of what you do is done on the camera itself, instead of controlling everything through your smartphone.
If you’re interested in trying out a wearable camera and capturing more moments of your day, check out FrontRow’s Wearable Lifestyle Camera on Amazon!
The 3Doodler Create is a fun device that lets you “3D print” in midair. Using the pen, you can draw and build on a surface or in the air. You can create art or even make useful little items.
The 3Doodler Create heats plastic that then hardens immediately as it leaves the tip of the pen. This means you don’t have to wait for anything to dry—you just start drawing! The plastic filaments that are used for drawing are non-toxic and come in many different colors.
In the video on their Amazon product page, people are shown drawing and building things like motorcycles, inventions, a piece for a broken remote, a double decker bus, and more. They’re shown either drawing freehand or using a stencil. Stencils and project ideas can all be found for free online.
Whether you want to get creative with a new art project or build a new invention, give the 3Doodler Create a try!
UPRIGHT GO is a device that can help you work on your posture. The device is simple—it’s a small wearable and a connected app. After placing the UPRIGHT GO on your back, you can begin to track your posture and make changes.
This device builds a program for you so you can train yourself and improve your posture. It tracks your posture and your progress, so you can look at your stats and see how you’re doing. There’s also a customer care team that you can contact through the app at any time. They can help keep you on track and encourage you to do what you need to do to meet your goals.
Another way the device keeps you focused on your posture is by alerting you when you’re slouching. If you slouch, the UPRIGHT GO will vibrate to warn you that you need to maintain good posture. With all of these features, Upright says you’ll begin to notice your posture improving after just two weeks of use.
Bad posture is an issue for many people, and it can be hard to fix. If you want to improve your posture, learn more about the UPRIGHT GO and see if it might work for you!