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SGNL smart watch strap will let you make calls using your fingertip, like James Bond

If you’ve been wanting to live that secret agent dream, then now is your time thanks to SGNL, a smart replacement for your watch strap.

This smart watch strap will let you take phone calls using your finger, rather than having to use a headset. Using “body conduction”, all you have to do it place your fingertip to your ear and you’ll be able to hear your call, as vibrations travel from the strap on your wrist and into your ear through your finger.

SGNL is designed so you can replace your watch strap with this clever gadget, meaning you then don’t need to get your phone out of your pocket when a call comes in. If you’re using a smartwatch, you can replace the strap wit SGNL, then all you’ll have to do is glance at the caller and stick your finger in your ear.

The SGNL strap connects to your smartphone using Bluetooth, so it’s effectively working as a Bluetooth headset. There’s a controlling app to let you customise functions, as well as set-up the LED indicators. These can be programmed to display who is calling, so even if you don’t have a smartwatch, you’ll still be able to see it’s your mother, and take that important call.

The strap is designed to fit any standard 18-24mm lugs and there’s a kit included to make sure you can adapt your watch and make it a little smarter.

SGNL is currently on Kickstarter, raising funds, but it’s actually an off-shoot of Samsung, and we found it being demonstrated on the Samsung stand at IFA 2016.

The Samsung rep on the stand said that it would be available in February. We’re expecting to see SGNL again at MWC 2017.


Skagen Connected: More than meets the eye

Danish company Skagen, part of the Fossil Group, has shown off its Skagen Connected Hybrid Smartwatch at consumer electronics show IFA in Berlin. 

The new device looks like a typical watch on first look, but it is so much more than that when you look a little closer. Sporting a lovely premium design, the Skagen Connected has a solid stainless steel casing that features three buttons on the right-hand side. One of these is what is called a Smart Button and it allows you to snap a photo, ring your phone, control music and track goals.

There are a four different models of the Skagen Connected, all featuring different straps including leather and mesh. They all look great and they are all comfortable to wear, sitting nicely on the wrist. The face itself is where most of the party is happening though.


On the very outer edge of the face moving between the ten o’clock area to the eight o’clock area, are the numbers one to 31, representing the date. Move to three o’clock and you’ll see the Skagen Connected logoin place of the line, while simple lines represent most other hours. Not all are present however as there is a secondary sub-dial situated on the left of the watch face in place of eight, nine and ten o’clock lines.

Within this secondary dial there is even more going on. The right-hand side of the sub-dial has 0 to 100, which represents percentage and refers to the user’s set activity goal, while the left-hand side of the sub-dial is the where the extra smartwatch features come into play properly.


Through the dedicated app, which we weren’t able to use during our brief time, users will be able to set customised notifications for the people that matter most. The left side is labelled with A, B, C and D, allowing you to set up to four special people. You could set A as your partner for example, meaning when they call, the dial will spin to the respective letter so you’ll know who is calling. The Skagen Connected will also notify you via a haptic vibration when you receive other messages too though.

In terms of the activity tracking we mentioned, the Skagen Connected is able to track steps and water intake, among other things, with goals set and progress monitored through the app. The Skagen Connected will also automatically update the time and date when travelling to different time zones, as well as when the time zone changes. You’ll be able to view the hour of a second time zone of your choice with the push of a button too.


Overall, the Skagen Connected smartwatches are lovely looking devices that add smart functions in a very clever way without the need for constant charging, or any charging for that matter. We are looking forward to see the app and experiencing how well the Skagen Connected works in the real world, but we have high hopes and are certainly big fans based on what we have seen so far.

The Skagen Connected smartwatches will be available from October. Specific pricing has yet to be announced for the four different models. We have been told they will all be under £300 and that the mesh strap model will be the most expensive. 


San Francisco Lowe’s stores to get robot workers this fall

Shoppers at San Francisco area Lowe’s stores are about to encounter a new kind of customer service worker: The LoweBot. Sound familiar? It might: Lowe’s Innovation Labs first showed off an autonomous shopping assistant at CES 2015. Back then it was called OSHBot (for Orchard Supply Hardware), and it was still a work in progress. Not anymore — the LoweBot is scheduled to make its public debut this fall at 11 Bay Area hardware stores.

The LoweBot is designed to cover the most basic retail customer service task: helping shoppers find the item they’re looking for. Need a hammer? The LoweBot will be able to help you pick the right tool from its inventory and lead you directly to its location. The robot can apparently listen to customer requests in multiple languages — and when there aren’t any shoppers to help, it can scan the aisle for missing products, helping human workers keep tabs on inventory.

Worried LoweBot is out to take your job? Don’t be — there’s still plenty of jobs at the hardware store the armless robot can’t do. Human workers are still needed for cutting wood, loading tucks with supplies, processing transactions and, of course, cleaning up that mess on aisle 9.

Source: SFLIST, YouTube


3Doodler’s new pro pen 3D prints in wood and metal

Once the hottest thing in gadgetry, 3D printers have become less buzzy as folks tire of ABS figurines. 3Doodler is trying to shake things up a bit with its 3Doodler Pro, a freehand pen that can print with materials containing real wood, copper and bronze. It doesn’t melt copper, obviously, but 3Doodler adds particles of real metal and wood chips to a plastic ink base. The result is wood printouts that smell and sand like the real thing, or copper and bronze inks that glow when you shine them up.

The other interesting new material is polycarbonate, which 3Doodler says “requires a high melting point … [and] cools and solidifies very rapidly,” which is ideal for printing true 3D objects in midair. It also introduced nylon inks with a “semi-flexible, fabric-like feel,” and one called Flexy, “suitable for designs that need to bend, flex or twist.”

On top of the materials, the 3Doodler Pro gives you a lot more control over the printing than the previous, more basic models. There’s an LCD display and temperature dial that lets you select up to a fiery 250 degrees Celcius (485 degrees F), a slide switch for the obviously necessary fan, carbon fiber construction, and dial-controlled, variable speed settings. It’s also got a new drive system that works “even under intense use,” the company says.

You’ll pay $249 for all those features, which is quite a chunk, but the 3Doodler Pro is still cheap compared to a regular 3D printer. Given its artist and designer target market, it’s appropriate that it’s only available at MoMA design store to start with, but will soon hit Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Macy’s.

Source: 3Doodler


The best portable bluetooth speaker

By Brent Butterworth

This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer’s guide to the best technology. Read the full article here.

After testing 118 Bluetooth speakers over the last two years, we think the UE Roll 2 is the best choice for most listeners. It sounds better and plays louder than most competitors, and its slim, waterproof, rugged design lets it survive almost any journey yet still slip easily into a backpack or laptop bag. Seven months of heavy use across the US and around the world have confirmed the practicality and sheer fun of this speaker.

Who should buy a portable Bluetooth speaker?

Anyone who owns a smartphone or tablet would probably enjoy owning a portable Bluetooth speaker. The best deliver sound quality that’s good enough for casual music listening, podcasts, and Internet radio, and their rechargeable batteries let you easily take them all around the house or on trips to the park or the beach. Though Bluetooth does degrade sound quality slightly, chances are small you’ll hear the effects through relatively low-quality speakers such as the ones discussed in this guide.

How we picked

Some of the portable Bluetooth speakers we tested in 2016.

There are so many Bluetooth speakers available today, it’s impossible for any article about Bluetooth speakers to be comprehensive. So we scoured retail and review sites to find promising models introduced since our last update, with a special focus on new models that readers asked us about. Based on a survey of Wirecutter readers, our criteria prioritized good sound, long battery life, and lots of volume.

We tested both large speakers (anything with any dimension longer than seven inches—which cost more and forsake portability for better sound) and smaller speakers (that value portability and low cost). For this update, we got in 39 new models for testing.

How we tested

Our top picks sit together so you can gauge their relative sizes. Clockwise from top: Riva Turbo X, Bose SoundLink Mini II, AmazonBasics BTV2, UE Roll 2, and Logitech X300 (shown in the aftermarket co2CREA “bondage mask” cover).

We started with a listening session spanning two days, in which we gave new speakers a long listen, connecting them via Bluetooth through a Samsung Galaxy S6 phone and playing the same four test tracks, and compared them with each other and our former picks. We first set the level loud enough to listen to but not so loud it would push the speakers into gross distortion. Then we cranked up the top performers to see how loud they could play, and how good they’d sound doing it.

This let us narrow the group down to the most competitive dozen models for blind testing sessions with our listening panel of four experts. In each session we used a custom-built 16-output switcher, in conjunction with an NTi Minilyzer and Mini SPL, so we could level-match and quickly switch between each speaker.

We also did rundown tests on all of our picks to confirm their approximate playing life. Note that our results may not agree with the manufacturers’, likely because their testing methodology—which they almost never publish—varies from ours.

Our pick

The UE Roll 2’s integral bungee cord makes it easy to hang the speaker from a shower faucet and lots of other places, too.

The original UE Roll was our unanimous pick for best portable speaker when we tested 30 new models last year, and we feel just as strongly about its replacement, the UE Roll 2. Like the original, the UE Roll 2 sounds full, with smooth reproduction of everything from bass notes to cymbals, and it plays loud enough to fill a hotel room or a beach blanket with sound. It’s so watertight it will survive being dunked one meter underwater for 30 minutes. Seven months of worldwide traveling with the original Roll have only confirmed our love of this design. The only real downside is that it lacks a speakerphone function.

Better sound, less portable

The Logitech X300’s styling may look a little dull, but the sound is anything but.

If you want a slight upgrade in audio quality, if our main pick sells out or becomes unavailable, if you want something with speakerphone function, or if you just want to save some money, the Logitech X300 is a terrific choice. With this speaker, the focus is on sound quality; it doesn’t play quite as loud as the UE Roll 2, but we think it sounds a little fuller and more natural. It’s not waterproof, and other than the speakerphone function, it doesn’t have any fancy features. But it sounds smoother than most Bluetooth speakers we’ve heard, even many larger and more-expensive models.

Better sound, for a price

The Bose SoundLink Mini II improves on the original SoundLink Mini with direct charging over USB, longer battery life, and a speakerphone function.

For those who want even better sound quality and louder volume but don’t need their portable Bluetooth speaker to be super-portable, the Bose SoundLink Mini II is worth the cost (roughly twice the price of the Roll 2). It’s shocking to hear how much better the SoundLink Mini II sounds than most of its competitors, with clearer voices and a fuller sound closer to what you’d expect to hear from a decent small stereo system. It also plays loud enough to drown out a small dinner party. At 1½ pounds the SoundLink Mini II is perfect for lugging along on family vacations or from room to room in the house but it’s probably heavier than backpackers and business travelers will want to carry.

Best sound, refined style

The controls on the top of Riva Turbo X illuminate when you pass your hand within an inch or so of the speaker’s top.

If you’re willing to spend significantly more to get the best possible performance, we think the Riva Turbo X is one of the best portable Bluetooth speakers you can buy. Its sound is clearer, livelier, more spacious, and more natural than its competitors’. It gets you closer to the sound of a real stereo speaker system than any other Bluetooth portable we’ve tried, and it’s the only speaker among our picks that delivers enough volume to be heard over loud party conversation.

It’s also more refined and elegant-looking. The Turbo X is one of the most expensive portable Bluetooth speakers you can buy, but we think it’s worth its cost. Note, however, that even though the Turbo X is splashproof when its rear jacks are protected by its included rubber cover, it’s heavy for its size and not as rugged as the other speakers we’ve picked, so it’s best suited to places like offices, bedrooms, and living rooms.

For smaller budgets and stocking stuffers

The BTV2 delivers good sound for its size and price, and even includes a speakerphone function and a neoprene carrying pouch.

If you’re looking for a Bluetooth speaker for listening to TuneIn Radio or Pandora quietly in your cubicle, or to use as a stocking stuffer or an accessory for a child’s iPod touch or tablet, the AmazonBasics BTV2 is a great choice at a low price of about $25 at the time of this writing. It plays about as loud as a normal speaking voice, and sounds surprisingly full considering it measures just 3¼ inches wide. It can’t play deep bass notes, but voices sound clear and reasonably natural. It also includes two useful and unexpected extras: a speakerphone function and a neoprene carrying sack.

This guide may have been updated by The Wirecutter. To see the current recommendation, please go here.


Scientists finally made a half-way decent map of Alaska

To protect the Arctic from climate change, scientists require a detailed map which they can slowly update and reference over time. Such a resource has, until now, been difficult to produce because traditional capture methods — low-flying aircraft, for instance — are expensive or ill-equipped to deal with the region’s harsh weather patterns. That’s now changed, however, thanks to a project spearheaded by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and the National Science Foundation. Following a directive from President Obama, the group has captured Alaska with a new level of clarity, using commercial satellites owned by Digital Globe.

The three-dimensional topographic maps are based on 2-meter resolution images. The satellites captured the same location twice, 45 seconds apart, before sending them to a supercomputer which was able to combine them and extract elevation data. As National Geographic reports, this allows a horizontal resolution (the shortest distance at which a change in depth can be recorded) of 7 to 17 feet. Subtle height differences of less than two feet can be measured too, culminating in some detailed and insightful models.

Now that the Alaska map has been completed, the team is turning its attention to the rest of the Arctic. By 2017, it hopes to have a complete model — and a methodology — which can be easily replicated in the future. With the appropriate funding, a historical archive can be built up online, giving scientists everywhere a better understanding of the region. “The models will play an important role in informing policy and national security decisions,” NGA director Robert Cardillo said. “They may also provide critical data and context for decisions related to climate resilience, land management, sustainable development and safe recreation.”

The best part of all? The complete dataset, known as ArcticDEM, is freely available to view online. So whether you’re planning a trip or merely curious to see the breathtaking terrain up close, it’s only a URL away.

Via: National Geographic

Source: NGA, The White House


Audeze’s iSine buds will upgrade your Oculus Rift audio

When I first saw Audeze’s new planar magnetic in-ear headphones my eye was drawn to the slightly goofy design. But, any self respecting audio lover will probably overlook that if the sound is right. And, on first listen, it looks promising. Audeze has been making planar magnetic headphones for a while, but this is the first time it’s squeezed the technology into an in-ear headset (it claims, it’s the first time by anyone, ever). Why should you care about that? Well, depending who you ask, some will claim that planar drivers are a good mid-ground between regular dynamic drivers, and pricey electrostatic ones. An unexpected bonus, is that Audeze worked with Oculus so they play nice with Rift, if you’re looking for a dedicated set for your VR headset.

But first, back to that the hardware itself. By definition, planar magnetic headphones need more space to accommodate the 30mm flat driver. That’s why the buds are much bigger than most in-ears. That said, the iSine may be tall, but it’s relatively thin on the profile, like a small audio pancake. The part that goes in your ear is a regular bud, and all in, the headphone is light and comfortable enough to wear. If anything, the over-ear hooks are where any wearing issue comes in. Both myself, and one of the staff members at the IFA booth had to fiddle with them for a few seconds to get them set right. But once you’re done, it’s a comfortable ride.

The audio experience was promising. The usual caveats of testing on a show floor apply, but from the few minutes I had with the iSine, I listened to some Miles Davis, and the plucked guitars of Daylight by Alison Krauss (the company’s demo music, not my choice). The picked strings in that bluegrass song were particularly crisp, clear and had an nice airy sound I’ve not really heard with most dynamic driver in-ears. In general, bass tones were subdued, but I didn’t get chance to pump any throbbing dance music through them, so we’ll wait and see.

Audeze is shipping two versions of the iSine, the difference is in the impedance which will be down to personal preference. There’s also the option to choose between a regular 3.5mm connector and one with a lightning adapter — something which will become much more common now it’s almost certain that Apple is axing the headphone jack on the iPhone. Perhaps more interesting is that Audeze also had a demo pair that connect directly to the Oculus Rift. The company had to design a proprietary connector, working with Oculus’ own bespoke technology, but you will be able to get an adapter to work with whichever set you buy, so it’s a nice bit of bonus functionality if you’re a Rift owner.

If you’re curious about the iSine, you’ll have to wait a month or so until it starts to ship, but for $399 you can pre-order a pair right now if you’re already sold on the idea.

We’re live all week from Berlin, Germany, for IFA 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.


White House will host a ‘South by South Lawn’ fest in October

Both President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama spoke at the South by Southwest festival this year, and apparently they enjoyed it so much they’re bringing a mini version to the White House. The first-ever “South by South Lawn” will take place on October 3rd and will have the same three components SXSW is known for: Interactive, Film and Music.

The interactive portion of the day will feature panel discussions as well as booths featuring “new technology and innovations”, though the details on both aren’t too concrete yet. The White House says that the panels will include topics like “how to make change stick with organizers who are having an impact, as well as a discussion with influencers who are using their platforms to bring about positive change.”

The notion of change and inspiration appears to be the theme of the day — the musicians the White House is tapping for the event are said to be “using their music to inspire audiences.” It’ll be a mix of established and emerging performers, but again there aren’t any details on who exactly will be playing.

For film, the event will feature the 3rd annual White House Student Film Festival. The theme of the film festival this year was “The world I want to live in,” and more than 700 short films from K-12 students submitted entries this year. The South by South Lawn event will feature the official selections for the annual film festival and also include some of the filmmakers themselves.

Attendance at the event will naturally be limited — if you want to go, you’ll have to nominate yourself here (or hope someone else nominates you). It’s not clear what criteria the White House will use to select attendees, but it’s still worth a shot throwing your hat in the ring if you want to hang out at the White House for a day. Nominations will be accepted up until September 10th at 5PM, so don’t sit on this if you want a chance to go.

Via: Pitchfork

Source: The White House


Alcatel’s new budget smartwatch is designed for grownups

A few years back, Alcatel surprised plenty of people by announcing its own smartwatch, the originally-named, uh, Watch. Now, the company has arrived at IFA 2016 with the follow up, that takes much of the same technology but puts it in far nicer clothes. The MoveTime WiFi uses the same basic operating system as the Watch, and has the same optical heart rate monitor, but gains a WiFi radio for better connectivity. The big selling point is the more mature case, and the new device looks a lot more mature, even if some of the original device’s uniqueness has been lost in the process.

Your eyes will be staring into a 1.39-inch, 400 x 400 AMOLED display that, in Alcatel’s ultra-dark booth, looked pretty good. I’m sure, however, that it’ll be worth checking this out in bright sunlight to see if it stands up in the real world. Tucked inside are both 802.11 b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 radios, although that’s pretty much expected at this point. Alcatel’s representatives did mention to us, however, that the MoveTime has a built-in speaker and microphone, enabling you to make calls (via your phone) while speaking into your wrist.

While the operating system remains the same, it’s had a makeover that brings it a lot closer to Android Wear in terms of style, if not specific details. Gone are the primary-colored icons in bright boxes that had a hint of Sesame Street about them. In comes smaller icons with text descriptors that you scroll through vertically, rather than horizontally.

MoveTime WiFi is the flagship in a series of Move-branded wearables, including a Fitbit-esque Moveband, Movetrack, a portable GPS tracker, and Move Track & Talk, a tracking smartwatch for kids. The series will become available in Europe towards the end of the month, although details about a US launch and pricing are thin on the ground. Given that Alcatel’s first-generation Watch retailed for $150, its likely replaement shouldn’t be too much more expensive. We just hope that the company has tidied up some of the flaws in its homebrew software that we found in our review.

We’re live all week from Berlin, Germany, for IFA 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.

Source: Alcatel


Apple Music Gets New Radio Station Artwork

Apple has quietly updated the radio section of Apple Music and iTunes with a few new pieces of artwork for stations like “Pop Workout,” “Dance,” and “Classical.” The new art can be seen within the radio tab of the Music app on iOS and iTunes on OS X.

Apple is expected to touch upon software updates coming to its mobile and desktop operating systems at its iPhone-centric event next Wednesday, September 7. These will include iOS 10 and macOS Sierra, both expected to launch alongside the so-called iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus later this month with an all-new and revamped Apple Music app.

(Thanks, Manny!)

Tag: Apple Music
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