Tech You Need If You’re Traveling

Tech You Need If You’re Traveling

Have plans to travel? If you’re like a lot of other people, you might be headed on vacation this summer. Or you could have business trips planned. Whatever the case may be, traveling can be fun. But it can also have its own stresses and issues. Whether you’re driving a car or heading to an airport, it can sometimes seem tricky making it to a destination.

Thankfully, there’s some great technology available to make trips a little easier. You might need something to keep kids distracted during family trips, something to help you find your destination more smoothly, or something to give you peace of mind while your home is empty. All of these worries and more can be taken care of with some devices you’ve already heard of (and perhaps some you haven’t).

Tech For Traveling

Don’t lose your stuff

Want to keep track of your luggage or other important items? Tile is one way to do that. Luggage can sometimes get lost. And while you’re away from home, being in unfamiliar places can make it easier to lose things like your keys or your wallet.

With Tile, you can easily track important items, whether it be a suitcase or your rental car keys. All you have to do is attach Tile to whatever you want to keep track of, then use Tile’s app if you need to locate the item. There’s the Tile Slim, which is a thin version of the device that isn’t too bulky in a wallet. There’s the Tile Mate, which has a small hole in the corner so you can attach it to anything, like purses, backpacks, keys, and more. These two are most likely to be helpful during your travels. There’s even an accessory for the Tile Slim that is specifically made for traveling: the Tile Slim Luggage Tag.

There’s also the Tile Sport, which could come in handy if you’re going on a trip that might get a little rough (like if you’re camping, hiking, biking, or doing things outdoors). And there’s the Tile Style, which adds some extra flair to the device for a more fun appearance.

Prices vary for each Tile device, and there are also combo packs. You can buy 4-packs or 8-packs to pay a little less for each device, or you can mix it up and buy the different devices separately.

Keep your passengers entertained

If you’re traveling with impatient kids or adults who aren’t fans of road trips, keeping them distracted can be a great way to eliminate some stress. The answer is simple: bring a tablet. Using phones can be a drain on the battery and run the risk of not having enough battery life if your car breaks down. And using a tablet can seem like a special treat if your kids don’t already use them regularly (if they do, I’m sure you already know how entertaining they can be).

Even if you don’t already have one, buying one for your trip doesn’t have to be expensive. There are pricey options out there, but it can be as easy as buying a Kindle Fire for just $49.99 (and sometimes for less during a promotion). You can easily set up a kid-friendly account and choose which apps they can use. This should make it easier to pass the time.

A tablet can also be a useful way to save space. If you like to read during your relaxing vacations, you don’t have to pack any bulky booksyou can just read them on your tablet.

Find your destination with no problem

We all know about apps like Google Maps and Waze. You likely use Google Maps to find your way on a regular basis. But for some, this isn’t the most convenient way to travel. If you’re traveling alone, or if you are particularly uncomfortable driving on busy interstates, through tricky areas, or at night, having a GPS system in your car might work a lot better than having to look at your phone while on the road.

Navdy is one way you can integrate navigation into your vehicle. Information is projected onto your windshield with a transparent display, so you don’t have to look down at a phone. It also dims or brightens appropriately. It uses Google Maps, so that will be familiar to you, and you can also set up a dashboard that shows things like how much gas you have left.

If you can’t quite afford a system like that at the moment, you can also consider Garmin. Garmin offers many different GPS systems, some for less than a hundred dollars. Their website lists their many different products, and you can also find them on Amazon.

Track down your car

You might be worried you’ll forget where you parked at the airport. Or you might be parking on unfamiliar streets in a city away from home. You can take a picture of your surroundings, but that isn’t always enough to find your way back where you started.

Fortunately, there are many apps that you can use to track down your car when you’re ready to leave. The simplest solution? Drop a pin on Google Maps and save your location. By placing a pin at your current location before leaving your car and then saving it to your places, you can easily make your way back.

There are other options if you don’t use Google Maps or want a more streamlined way to get back to your vehicle. Find My Car is a well-known app that saves the GPS location of your car and navigates you back to it later. You can find it on iOS and on Android. There’s also ParkMe, which can not only help you find your car, it can also help you figure out where to park in the first place.

Keep your home safe while you’re gone

If you’ll be away from home for a while and there won’t be anyone staying behind to house sit, there are ways to make yourself feel less worried about your empty home. With smart devices, you can keep watch on your home and make it look as though it’s not actually empty.

Smart bulbs, like Philips Hue bulbs and the bulbs from MagicLight, can be set on a timer to turn on and off, fade, and more. So your home won’t have to be dark and obviously empty at night.

Smart security systems are also great for peace of mind. There are a lot of options out there, so of course, research carefully before investing in a system. With these systems, you can typically set motion alerts so you get a notification if the camera catches movement. You can also usually check in on a live feed. Nest offers some popular devices, as well as Frontpoint and Canary. Just make sure you know what the initial installation cost is as well as how much it will cost every month.

Want To Track Tech Deals?

Want To Track Tech Deals?

If you’re building your collection of cool devices, or if you have some specific tech you’re looking to purchase, it’s important to get the best prices. Different sites are often running their own promotions, and sometimes major manufacturers themselves will offer limited time deals.

Keeping up with all of these sales might seem tricky, but there are actually a number of sites you can use to keep track of current tech deals. Here are just a few you can bookmark and head back to every day!

Tom’s Guide Best Tech Deals

The Tom’s Guide website features many different pages with how tos and product suggestions. Their Best Tech Deals page (currently titled “Best Tech Deals of 2018”) is updated every day with a collection of great deals. They mention some of the overall best deals, then show deals based on different categories, like laptops and smart watches. Since it’s updated so regularly, you can be sure you’re not wasting your time looking over deals that have already expired.

PC Mag Best Deals Today

PC Mag is a hugely popular site that features news, how tos, and perhaps most importantly, detailed product reviews. They’re well-respected when it comes to their reviews. Their Best Deals Today page is, of course, updated daily. There are several categories, including laptops and gaming. The page is arranged in a slightly overwhelming way, with quite a lot of information, but the information is all useful and relevant, making it easier to spot which deals are the right fit for you.

CNET Deals & Promotions

CNET is another very popular site that’s well-known for its product reviews. They’re also popular for their news articles. On their Deals & Promotions page, they might offer over a thousand different suggestions for current deals. You can click the check boxes on the side of the page to narrow down what you’re looking for, including things like tablets and televisions.

Amazon Deals in Electronics

Amazon’s Deals page is not quite the same as the others. Instead of linking to various different outlets (like Walmart, Newegg, etc.), you’ll obviously only see deals for products you can purchase on Amazon. This means it’s not really an aggregator like the other sites and you might miss some good deals that aren’t available on Amazon. However, if you prefer to purchase using Amazon Prime, or if you want to find more than you might spot on the other sites, Amazon’s Deals in Electronics can offer some good buys. You can see currently available deals, and you can even see which deals are coming soon. And they show deals on Amazon devices (like the Echo Dot), so it’s a good place to check if you’re in the market for a new smart speaker or tablet.

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Editors Note

Interested in more ways to save money on Amazon and maybe even get free stuff? Check out The Babble Out and see if their program might be a good fit for you!

Apps & Smart Devices for Visual Impairment

Apps & Smart Devices for Visual Impairment

For many in the world of technology, improving lives has been a primary goal. As technology advances, there are more opportunities for people with disabilities to gain access to helpful devices, software, and services.

Recently, The Verge reported on the development of smart glasses that could help with visual impairment. With these smart glasses, someone could look at text and have that text read out loud to them. Smart glasses that could help with visual impairment have been discussed for some time, and these glasses could be another step in the right direction. Unfortunately, they’re not yet available. However, it goes to show that some tech companies are making a point to develop products for all.

Though these smart glasses aren’t really available yet, there are other ways to use current tech. One way people with visual impairment can make their lives a little easier is with the use of certain apps. More and more apps are being developed with the sole purpose of helping people who are blind or who have other difficulties with their vision.

Another area of tech that can be helpful for people with visual impairment is one that has been rapidly growing for years—smart devices, including smart speakers and devices that can be paired with them. With a smart speaker, a person who is blind can ask their smart assistant to read them the news, tell them the weather, get answers to questions, and more. They can also connect other devices, so they can ask the assistant to do things like adjust the thermostat or turn off a fan.

There are many different levels of visual impairment. Being visually impaired doesn’t necessarily mean someone is completely blind in the way you might think. There are varying degrees of visual impairment. Because of this, some people may want or need to use different tech than others. And there are so many different apps and products out there it might be difficult to even know what’s available.

What other technology is available?

This article is focusing specifically on apps and smart devices. However, there is plenty of tech that’s typically used by people with visual impairment. Here are just a few:

  • Screen readers (including touch screen readers)
  • Magnification software
  • Braille devices (like braille printers)
  • Text-to-speech software

Because there’s such a wide range of tech, this article will focus on some of the technology that is rapidly growing and offering many different options. New apps are being developed on a regular basis, and smart devices are getting better and better. So for this article, I’ll be skipping the other options listed above.

Apps

There are many different apps available to choose from. Some apps may be familiar, as they’re wildly popular and have become staples. However, some may be new or offer even better features than an app you already have. Here are some helpful apps!

  • Accessible Editor Talkback Pro (Android): This app works with Talkback, the service built into Android phones. It lets people read and edit documents, texts, Facebook content, and more.
  • Actiview Movie Access (iOS): This app helps people with visual impairment while they’re in the movie theater. While at the movies, you can choose which movie you’re watching and get audio description, louder audio, and much more.
  • Aipoly Vision (Android & iOS): This app is meant to help people identify what’s around them. Using your camera, it can be pointed at objects which it will identify out loud. It can work on objects, animals, colors, text, and more.
  • Arianna Navigation (iOS): Arianna is an app that works by interacting with your modified surroundings. After placing different-colored paths on your floors (with paint or tape), the app can use these paths to let people move around their home easily. It also works in other settings by using its navigation service.
  • Be My Eyes (Android & iOS): This app helps people with visual impairment identify objects and get help with their surroundings. People can use their camera to connect live with a volunteer. They can show the volunteer what they need help with (like identifying something) and the volunteer can give them the help they need.
  • Eyes-Free Fitness (iOS): With this app, people can maintain good health by keeping up with their exercise. Workouts are clearly described, making them easy to follow just by listening.
  • KNFB Reader (Android & iOS): This app lets people take photos of documents and have them read out loud. It can also connect with a braille display. There is a free trial, but after the trial ends, it will need to be purchased.
  • Nearby Explorer (iOS): This is a GPS app that more clearly describes surroundings. It has a map and can give directions, but it can also read out street signs and places that are nearby.
  • Seeing AI (iOS): Seeing AI is a Microsoft app that helps describe objects and surroundings. It can read text out loud, recognize peoples’ faces, describe scenes, recognize money, and describe photos, plus more.
  • TapTapSee (Android & iOS): This app is another intended to describe objects. After taking a photo, a description of what’s in the photo will be spoken out loud (using TalkBack or VoiceOver, depending on your device).
  • Voice Dream Reader (Android & iOS): This app is a customizable way to have documents, books, and other content read out loud. It can read from many different sources, including ebooks and PDFs, and people can choose from different voices, speeds, and more.

Smart devices

Smart devices are a great way for people with visual impairment to perform daily tasks more easily. Smart speakers have many helpful features built right in, and there are even more skills (or services) that can be added. And other smart devices, like smart bulbs and smart thermostats, can also be controlled easily. Here’s a rundown of some of the options in the world of smart devices!

Smart speakers

There are many different smart speakers on the market today. The options just keep growing. Smart speakers are convenient for anyone with an internet connection, but they can be especially helpful for someone with visual impairment. Four of the most popular choices are as follows:

  • Amazon Echo (and Echo Dot)—Amazon’s smart speakers are wildly popular. They use the voice assistant Alexa. They can perform all of the basic functions you would expect, like get the weather, find answers to your questions, and read you the news.
    You can also enable many other skills, as the skills store is fairly expansive. You can customize your news (your daily briefing) by enabling skills from other news sources. You can also find skills for many smart device companies, like WeMo and Nest. And there are plenty of other useful skills, as well as skills for entertainment and fun.
    The original Echo is a larger (and more expensive) device. The Echo Dot is a smaller, more inexpensive option. The only real difference of note is that the Echo Dot’s speaker is not as nice as the original Echo. If you want better sound quality (for music purposes), the Echo performs better than the Dot. Otherwise, though, the Dot is a great choice for a smart speaker, and it can even be connected to a different speaker if you really want better sound quality.
  • Google Home (and Home Mini)—Google’s smart speakers are also strong contenders. These devices use Google Assistant, which can also be found on many phones. It can do everything you’d expect, like provide the news, weather, and answers to whatever questions you have.
    There are also many third-party services that come with the Home or Home Mini. There are services for smart device companies, like Nest and Philips Hue. You can also hail a ride with Uber and order a pizza from Domino’s. There are also plenty of games and other entertainment options.
    Like the Echo and Echo Dot, the Home and Home Mini differ in size and shape. The Home is larger than the Home Mini, and it’s closer to a tube-shape, while the Mini is a small, slightly flat circle. Also like the Echo devices, the larger and more expensive device has better sound quality than the smaller cheaper option. You can connect the Home Mini with Chromecast, so if you want better sound quality for music, that’s a possibility. One thing both speakers do have in common is the ability to recognize different voices and perform tasks based on who’s requesting them. This is a very helpful feature if multiple people will regularly use the device.

These four smart speakers are definitely not the only ones out there. For a much more comprehensive look at available smart speakers, take a look at my article from February!

Household smart devices

There are many smart devices out there that can make daily tasks easier. Here are just a few things you can buy that will allow you to control them with an app or with your voice:

  • Door locks
  • Fridges
  • Lights
  • Security systems
  • Thermostats
  • TVs
  • Wall plugs
  • Washers and dryers

Using any of these devices, someone with visual impairment can likely use their smart speaker to control the device with their voice. If they can’t pair the device with their smart speaker, they can at least control the device with just their phone. This can make things incredibly convenient. Instead of getting up and going to the thermostat, someone can change the temperature with just their voice. For some product suggestions, see my article on the Internet of Things!

As a whole, smart devices can make life much easier for people with visual impairment. There are more new products coming out on a regular basis, and they keep getting better. With a smart speaker, someone can have books read out loud or get the bus schedule. With other smart devices, someone can control their home with their voice or an app. This tech is great for people with visual impairment.

What’s New with Alexa (Including That Creepy Laugh)

What’s New with Alexa (Including That Creepy Laugh)

You’ve likely seen Alexa in the news quite a bit lately, with people reporting that Alexa is just plain creeping them out. Amazon’s smart assistant has been laughing at people randomly, which is of course very strange (and has caused some to wonder if Alexa is becoming sentient).

No worries, though―Amazon has a good explanation for Alexa’s random bursts of laughter. And on top of that strange news, Alexa has also been improved recently for other reasons (aside from trying to keep her from terrifying people in their homes). Here’s an update on what you need to know about Alexa this week.

Amazon explains Alexa’s creepy laughter

As you may have already heard, Alexa has been freaking people out by laughing at random. Amazon has now responded and described their fix. The Verge has reported that Amazon is aware of the problem and working on a way to fix it. Amazon plans to change the way that Alexa is commanded to laugh. Alexa will now be asked if she can laugh instead of being told to. The point of this change is to make it less likely for Alexa to accidentally think she’s been told to laugh, which is seemingly what has been causing her odd laughter.

Alexa’s random laughter has been a hot topic for days, with even Jimmy Kimmel getting in on it and poking fun on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Alexa can now understand your music requests better

Alexa will now be able to play your music by responding to more casual and natural prompts. According to The Verge, you’ll now be able to ask Alexa to play music based on things you’ve listened to in the past. For instance, you can ask to hear music you listened to at a certain point in the past, like if you played a certain playlist a month ago. These prompts only work with Amazon Music, not with other services like Spotify or Pandora.

Alexa Skills Kit sound library now available for developers

Skills developers now have an added tool for creating their skills: the Alexa Skills Kit sound library. Amazon announced in a blog post that the sound library was now available. They note that there are hundreds of sounds available to incorporate into a skill. The blog post also describes how to go about adding these sounds from their 14 different categories.

The Battle of the Smart Speakers

The Battle of the Smart Speakers

Over the past few years, you’ve likely heard more and more about smart assistants and smart speakers. Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot have been particularly heavily advertised. This is no surprise, since the Echo is what really launched this current boom of smart speakers.

You might be thinking the Echo is the only real contender in the smart speaker race. If that’s the case, you might be surprised to learn there are actually quite a few smart speakers on the market. If you’re interested in buying your own smart assistant-enabled speaker, keep reading for the info you need to narrow down your options.

What I mean by ‘smart speaker’

You might be wondering what a smart speaker actually is. Technically, there are many different kinds of speakers that could be considered smart speakers. There are plenty of speakers out there that do more than the typical old-school speaker.

However, when I talk about smart speakers in this article, I’m referring to a specific type of smart speaker. This is a speaker that has a built-in virtual assistant. These smart speakers can usually be controlled by voice and by app. You can ask them questions, have them perform virtual tasks, and of course, play music through them.

Who are the smart assistants?

Smart speakers come with smart assistants (or virtual assistants) ready to respond to your requests. Here are the smart assistants I’ll mention again later in this article:

  • Alexa—This assistant comes from Amazon. Alexa comes ready to do all sorts of things, including answer questions, make jokes, play music, give a weather forecast, make calls, and more. She can then be personalized by enabling additional skills that let her do a wide variety of other things.
  • Cortana—Microsoft developed this assistant. You might have heard Cortana on your Windows 10 computer or a Windows phone. Cortana can do all the basic things like answer questions (using Bing search results), create reminders, and give the current weather. She also now has third-party skills available to expand her capabilities.
  • Google Assistant—Naturally, Google offers this assistant. You can access Google Assistant through many different devices, including quite a few Google and Android phones. The Assistant can answer questions, create alarms, make purchases, change settings, and more. You can also enable third-party apps that expand your Assistant’s possibilities.
  • Siri—You likely already knew the name of Apple’s smart assistant. Siri has been available for quite some time through devices like the iPhone. Siri can do all the basics, like answer questions, set reminders, change settings, and more. She can also send messages and make calls. You can also enable some apps to work with Siri.

What options are there?

There are a few main smart speakers that are typically considered the frontrunners—the best of the best. However, some others are coming up against the competition to give consumers more options.

This is not a full, completely definitive list of smart speakers. But the 9 smart speakers listed below are some of the most popular, recent, and talked about options. Keep in mind there are many more features available on each speaker, not just the handful I mention!

Amazon Echo

Ratings: 8.1/10 CNET, 4.5/5 PC Mag
What it is: A smart speaker with Alexa—from the people who created Alexa.
Some key features:

  • Built in Alexa, a well-received and popular assistant
  • Good sound quality from the 2.5” woofer & 0.6” tweeter with Dolby
  • 7 microphones that help the Echo hear and understand from a distance and in noisy places
  • Multiple wake words to choose from (“Alexa,” “Computer,” or “Echo”)
  • Style options, with 6 colors to pick from
  • Connects to Bluetooth and has an audio output
  • 4 buttons on top: action, volume up, volume down, microphone off
  • Also works through the Alexa app (for Android & iOS)

Price: $99.99

Amazon Echo Dot

Ratings: 9.5/10 CNET, 4/5 PC Mag
What it is: The smaller version of Amazon’s Alexa-enabled smart speaker.
Some key features:

  • Built in Alexa, a well-received and popular assistant
  • Small and easy to place anywhere without taking up much space
  • 7 microphones that help the Echo hear and understand from a distance and in noisy places
  • Multiple wake words to choose from (“Alexa,” “Computer,” or “Echo”)
  • Connects to Bluetooth and has an audio output, so you can improve sound quality by connecting to another Bluetooth speaker
  • 4 buttons on top: action, volume up, volume down, microphone off
  • Also works through the Alexa app (for Android & iOS)

Price: $49.99

Apple HomePod

Ratings: 8/10 CNET, 3.5/5 PC Mag
What it is: Apple’s smart speaker with their popular voice assistant Siri integrated. This smart speaker is set up by using an iOS device like an iPhone or iPad.
Some key features:

  • Built in Siri, Apple’s well-known smart assistant
  • Good sound quality from its high-excursion woofer and 7 tweeters
  • Visually stylish, with a mesh exterior
  • Intelligent sound, with the ability to hear from across a room and through noises, as well as change its sound based on where you are at the time
  • 6 available controls on top of the device: play/pause, next track, previous track, volume up, volume down, Siri

Price: $349

Google Home

Ratings: 8.3/10 CNET, 3.5/5 PC Mag
What it is: Google’s smart speaker with their Google Assistant built in.
Some key features:

  • Built in Google Assistant
  • Connects with Chromecast
  • Uses Voice Match to recognize who’s speaking and perform tasks appropriately
  • Works like a Bluetooth speaker, so you can connect other devices
  • Multi-colored lights on top indicate what the Home is doing
  • Responds to touch: mute, wake the Assistant, play/pause, change volume

Price: $99

Google Home Mini

Ratings: 8.2/10 CNET, 3.5/5 PC Mag
What it is: The smaller version of Google’s smart speaker with Google Assistant.
Some key features:

  • Built in Google Assistant
  • Style options, with 3 different colors
  • Small and easy to place anywhere
  • Connects with Chromecast
  • Uses Voice Match to recognize who’s speaking and perform tasks appropriately
  • Works like a Bluetooth speaker, so you can connect other devices
  • Dots on top indicate what the Home Mini is doing
  • Responds to taps: change volume, start/stop, mute

Price: $39

Harman Kardon Invoke

Ratings: 7.3/10 CNET, 2/5 PC Mag
What it is: The first smart speaker with Microsoft’s Cortana built in.
Some key features:

  • Built in Cortana
  • 360° sound from its 3 woofers, 3 tweeters, and 2 passive radiators
  • Connected Skype for voice calling
  • 7 microphones and multiple technologies to hear commands from all directions and in noisy environments
  • Touchpad on top for touch controls
  • Lights indicate when Cortana is responding

Price: $99.95

JBL Link 20

Ratings: 8.2/10 CNET, 4/5 PC Mag
What it is: A Google Assistant-enabled smart speaker from speaker and electronics company JBL.
Some key features:

  • Built in Google Assistant
  • Recognizes commands from across the room with its far-field voice recognition
  • Connects with Bluetooth so you can play audio from other devices
  • Battery powered and portable—its battery can last up to 10 hours
  • Waterproof and durable
  • Built in Chromecast connection so you can cast to the Link 20

Price: $149.95

Sonos One

Ratings: 8.7/10 CNET, 4/5 PC Mag
What it is: A smart assistant from electronics company Sonos, with Alexa built in (and Google Assistant coming soon).
Some key features:

  • Built in Alexa
  • Wide variety of music services available to connect (including Amazon Music and Pandora)
  • 6 microphones that help the One hear commands from a distance and over noise
  • Built for good sound quality using Class-D amplifiers
  • Touch controls on top: volume up, volume down, skip, mute
  • Moisture resistant
  • LEDs on top to indicate the One’s status

Price: $199 or two for $349

Sony LF-S50G

Ratings: Not available on CNET or PC Mag
What it is: Sony’s smart speaker with built-in Google Assistant.
Some key features:

  • Built in Google Assistant
  • 360° sound and a speaker with a two-stage diffuser & bass reflex duct
  • Bluetooth connectivity so you can listen to music from other devices
  • Responds to touchless gestures—wave to change the volume
  • Volume adjustment that automatically changes volume based on sound in the room
  • Splash-proof
  • Digital clock on the side of the speaker
  • LEDs to display what the speaker is doing

Price: $199.99

Don’t forget…

This article gave some of the basics you need to know when choosing your smart speaker. Take a closer look at the speakers you’re most interested in to see even more about their features!

Tech Spotlight

Tech Spotlight

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!

FrontRow FR Wearable Lifestyle Camera

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!

3Doodler Create 3D Printing Pen Set with 50 Plastic Strands

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

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!

Facebook in the News—Devices, Apps, & Features

Facebook in the News—Devices, Apps, & Features

Quite a bit has happened with Facebook over the past week. From upcoming devices and features to app updates, there’s a lot to catch up on!

A New Device?

Facebook may be releasing a home voice-activated device, joining the likes of Amazon and Google in the world of voice controlled products. This news comes from Cheddar, a livestreaming network that covers subjects like finance and technology.

According to Cheddar, Facebook’s video chat device will be called “Portal,” and it will be focused on social connection, including more features than just video chatting. It will also use a wide-angle lens and incorporate its facial recognition technology so it can connect people it sees to their Facebook accounts. (You might recall Facebook’s facial recognition tech was recently in the news because of its use in a new tagging feature.)

This focus does make Facebook’s potential new device sound a little different from devices like the typical smart device which functions as a personal assistant. With “Portal,” there will be a straightforward purpose—social engagement—though there will also be access to things like Spotify and Netflix.

Cheddar notes that the current plan is to officially announce “Portal” in May, as well as to sell it for $499. This is a pretty hefty price tag for a voice-controlled device, but of course, we’ll have to wait a while to get confirmation of the device and more details. At this point, not much is really known about its full features.

App Updates

Facebook also released Messenger Kids for more devices this week. TechCrunch reports that Facebook’s messaging app is now available for Fire tablets. The app was previously available for iOS.

Messenger Kids is the child-safe version of Messenger. Children can use it to send messages and make video calls. However, they can only contact people approved by a parent, and kids aren’t able to hide messages from their parents, which makes it easier for parents to keep watch on their communication.

Upcoming Features

Facebook is also testing a new feature that lets users check in on credible local news. The section is called ‘Today In,’ and it is made up of local topics and content, according to Recode. It’s currently being tested in 6 cities, but eventually they hope to bring it to more cities and let users keep up with other cities they don’t currently live in.

The content will include local topics and news, all coming together through machine-learning software. The news content will only include articles from places their News Partnerships team has verified. This is so that users can feel more confident in the credibility of what they’re seeing.

It’s unclear when this feature might come to other cities. Until then, we can wait and see how it goes over in the current test cities.

Amazon Might Create a Virtual Reality Mirror

Amazon Might Create a Virtual Reality Mirror

If recent patents are any indication, Amazon will be producing even more virtual reality (VR) tech in the future. Amazon’s newest potential plans are for a full-length VR mirror.

Amazon filed a patent this week for a full-length mirror that will mix reality with virtual places and items. Their patent, called “Blended Reality Systems and Methods,” was published within the past week. The mirror would use “mirrors, lights, projectors, displays and cameras” to display clothing and settings, says CNN Money.

This mirror looks like another step further into the world of fashion for Amazon. Amazon already has the Echo Look, which isn’t a mirror but is a smart device focused on fashion. With Echo Look, people can have the device take photos and videos of them, then let the content be uploaded, saved, or shared. People can use this content to get advice from a service called Style Check, which uses algorithms as well as actual suggestions from real people in the world of fashion.

Amazon is also already finding ways to let shoppers visualize what they’re buying before making a purchase. As I talked about in a previous article, Amazon’s app on some iPhones uses augmented reality (AR) to let people place certain products in whatever room the phone’s camera is pointing at. It lets shoppers see whether something fits the style or might be the right size.

Amazon’s possible VR mirror would likely have some concepts similar to the Echo Look and their AR shopping feature. Their mirror would let people visualize their fashion choices when shopping. Using the mirror, users would see themselves, live and in motion (not in a photo), appearing to wear virtual clothing they are considering purchasing. This, of course, would make it much easier to decide whether certain clothing items would look good together or be a good choice for that specific person. Even better, there would be an option to incorporate a virtual background. People could choose from locations, meaning it would make it possible to really see how an outfit would fit in certain specific settings.

Again, this is just a patent, which means it’s possible it won’t actually be released. Also, even if it is, it’s hard to tell how far into the future its release would be. But it is a good indication of what Amazon is interested in creating for its shoppers. It’s also a fun and interesting potential development in the world of VR tech. I’ll be keeping an eye out to see what direction Amazon goes with this tech.

Tech Spotlight

Tech Spotlight

I’m back with another installment in the weekly Tech Spotlight! I’m discussing fun, useful, or downright cool tech-related items available on Amazon every week. This week features a very useful charger, a time-saving and convenient smart device, and some tech for the kids in your life. Check out what I’ve found this week, then head over to Amazon and add some tech to your cart!

Solar Charger BernetPow 24000mAh Battery Pack

If you like to hike or camp, or if you just like to go out for the day without having to look for an outlet, a portable charger can help. This solar-powered device from BernetPow is a great option for anyone looking to buy a portable charger.

BernetPow’s Solar Charger is a highly-reviewed but reasonably-priced portable charger. The charger can be powered using its solar panel. It can also be charged at an outlet. The product description notes that the solar panel shouldn’t be relied on as the primary way to charge, but of course, having even some solar charging available could be extremely helpful.

This charger can charge three devices at once with 2.4A charging. It’s able to charge most of the typical devices, like an iPhone or a Galaxy. The charger also has a “safety system” meant to prevent things like overcharging or short-circuiting. Also, its listed item weight is 12.3 ounces, which isn’t the lightest option out there, but it’s pretty typical for a decent, high-powered portable charger. And interestingly, it comes with a tiny USB fan that can be plugged in to keep cool in the summer.

This charger also has some features that help prevent wasting a charge. It will automatically stop charging your devices once they’re full, which keeps the battery from charging for no reason and is better for the device. Also, the charger itself will shut off once it’s not longer in use.

If you’re looking for a good new portable charger, check BernetPow’s solar charger out for an option that works well without breaking the bank!

Flic – The Wireless Smart Button, 3 Pack

Flic is a smart button that makes it a little easier to perform actions on your smart devices. Using the Flic app, you can set your button to do just about anything. Each button has three ways to trigger it—with a click, a double click, or a long press. Each of these triggers can be set to something different, and they can also be set to do more than one thing each.

Flic can be used to control your smart devices, like your lights, your thermostat, or even the camera on your phone. It’s meant to be convenient and time-saving. Since it has an adhesive backing as well as a clip, it could be attached near your doorway so you could turn on the lights and the TV as soon as you walked in the door. Or you could clip it on your sleeve to control your music while working out.

This smart button uses Bluetooth to connect to your device, and it has a range of “roughly 50m,” according to the product description. It also is resistant to “weather and dust,” and the battery lasts quite a long while—over a year, in fact.

If you don’t have any smart products, or if you use your smartphone very little, this might not be all that useful for you. But if you want to be able to control your music without taking your phone out, or if you want to quickly perform actions with your other smart devices, take a look at Flic’s pack of three smart buttons.

Snap Circuits Jr. SC-100 Electronics Discovery Kit

This Electronics Discovery Kit from Elenco is a fun offering in the arena of kid’s tech. More and more companies have been producing educational toys that help kids get excited about different areas of tech. This particularly kit has kids 7 and up figuring out how to connect electrical circuits to build interesting projects.

The pieces all snap together, which means there’s no trouble connecting the different parts. The circuit pieces are color coded and perform a variety of functions. This includes a speaker and switches. Using these pieces, kids can work on 101 different projects. The product description mentions fun projects like a musical doorbell and a light police siren.

Aside from these 101 projects, Snap Circuits Jr. can be upgraded by adding other Snap Circuits kits to it. This means that even once your child is done playing with the 101 projects in this kit, more components can be added to complete even more projects.

Kits like this offering from Snap Circuits Jr. could help children develop a love for tech and help with things like problem-solving, working with parts, and following instructions. Check out this kit and the others they offer to see which is best for your child!

Tech Spotlight

Tech Spotlight

It’s time for more fun and useful tech! Each week, I’m showcasing three cool tech products you can find on Amazon. This week, the three tech items all work in some way through apps. There’s tech you can play with, cook with, and light up the room with. Get your Amazon cart ready!

Evo App-Connected Coding Robot

The Evo App-Connected Coding Robot is a small robot that can be customized and played with. You can use an app to connect to Evo via Bluetooth and then do a number of fun things. You can play games, have Evo do tricks, and even communicate with the bot using a special set of markers. It’s meant to be customized using code—you use the app to write and load new code and teach Evo new things.

Its sensors allow it to do a lot of things, including read what you write with the accompanying markers, and it also has LED lights. Evo is so small that you won’t have to worry about taking it with you anywhere you go. Check out Evo if you’re interested in robotics and want to try your hand at some fun and simple coding!

Hestan Cue Smart Cooking System

This smart kitchen product aims to help people become better cooks and make things easier in the kitchen. The Hestan Cue Smart Cooking System has a frying pan and induction burner, and it includes an accompanying app that provides recipes. These three elements of the Smart Cooking System work together using Bluetooth, meaning they can communicate with each other and stay connected.

The Smart Fry Pan has temperature sensors in it so that cooks can be sure what temperature the pan is at any given time. The Smart Induction Burner works with the pan and app to respond quickly to what needs to be done and use the correct level of heat (between 110 and 475 Fahrenheit). The app has videos of recipes as taught by professionals. The whole system is meant to let cooks have control over how they cook while learning new recipes. Take a look at the Hestan Cue Smart Cooking System if you want to try out a countertop cooking experience that gives you control and works toward making you better in the kitchen!

Philips Hue LightStrip Plus Dimmable LED Smart Light

There are quite a few smart light options out there, but this offering from Philips is especially fun because it’s not a single bulb—it’s a customizable and flexible strip. Its product description on Amazon prominently notes in the product name that it’s “compatible with Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, and Google Assistant,” meaning whichever smart device you might have, it’s likely this light strip will connect with it.

The light strip can be useful in many ways, including turning on and off at predetermined times. It can immediately switch on and off or it can slowly brighten or dim. It can also display a wide range of colors and sync to music and other electronics. It’s flexible and sticks to surfaces with adhesive tape that comes included, and what’s especially cool is that the length can be modified. It’s 80 inches long, but it can be cut or extended. The product page pictures the light strip being used along shelves and lining walkways. If you’re interested in smart lighting but want to try something a little different, check out the Philips Hue LightStrip Plus Dimmable LED Smart Light!