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9
Feb

Pixlplay finds a use for your old smartphone as a toy camera for kids


Why it matters to you

Pixlplay will teach kids about photography while giving you something to do with that old iPhone 5 that is still lying around.

Now on Kickstarter, Pixlplay from Pixl Toys looks to breathe new life into your retired Android phone or iPhone by turning it into a fun, kid-friendly camera. The $25 accessory is inspired by the design of classic 35mm film cameras and serves double duty as a rugged case to protect your phone. The large, rubberized grip makes it easy for kids to grasp in both hands, and rotating “aperture” and “film advance” dials provide a tactile, if purely skeuomorphic, experience.

While the dials may be fake, the shutter button is real, connecting to your phone’s headphone jack to control the camera (iPhone 7 users will need to use the 3.5mm to Lightning port adapter). Initially, the Pixlplay will come with just an iOS app, which will add the option to paste funny stickers like hats and mustaches over photos. Pixl Toys lists an Android app as a stretch goal, but the Pixlplay will also work with the default camera apps on iOS, Android, and Windows phones (as well as most third-party camera apps).

More: Fashion photographer finds toy camera challenging to use, but not impossible

The Pixlplay is designed to fit virtually all standard-size phones — so no phablets or plus-sized phones — thanks to an adjustable clamp. The Pixlplay could make a good permanent home for an old phone that is otherwise collecting dust in a drawer somewhere, but even new phones should be safe. In addition to the rugged case, a splash-resistant screen cover shields your device while inside, hopefully allaying any fears inherent of handing a phone over to a four-year-old.

Beyond providing fun and entertainment, Pixl Toys says the Pixlplay will teach kids about the basics of photography and encourage creative expression. A collection of “activity cards” will provide creative suggestions for parents and children alike. Pixl Toys says the Pixlplay is appropriate for children ages three and up.

The Pixlplay has raised more than $9,000 so far on Kickstarter with 33 days left in its campaign, well on its way to achieving its $25,000 goal. Pledge tiers that include the Pixlplay start at $20, but spots are limited. As with all crowdfunding projects, a successful campaign does not guarantee delivery of the product.

9
Feb

Etekcity Roverbeats Bluetooth receiver gives speakers wireless capability for $20


If you have a traditional set of wired speakers and are tired of being cable-bound, then now might be the time to grab the popular and feature-laden Etekcity Roverbeats Bluetooth receiver. A best-seller on Amazon, the Roverbeats Unify receiver is currently available for a 46-percent discount, coming in at just under $20. At less than two inches wide and under one inch thick, this compact adapter is about the size of a small MP3 player and can easily slip into a pocket.

The Roverbeats Unify utilizes energy-efficient Bluetooth 4.0 technology for clear and quick wireless streaming with a range of up to 33 feet. The lithium ion battery in the receiver can run for up to 10 hours on a single charge and powers up quickly via USB cable. The Unify can connect via standard A/V, RCA, and 3.5mm audio jacks, turning your compatible speaker system into a wireless-capable streaming station. Along with traditional speakers, the Unify can integrate with virtually any stereo, car radio, or home theater setup that can connect to the receiver.

More: Monoprice home theater system takes your entertainment room to next level (25 percent off)

Etekcity Roverbeats Bluetooth receiverThe Etekcity Roverbeats Bluetooth receiver can stream audio from any modern Bluetooth-enabled smartphone, tablet, or computer, and features convenient NFC wireless connectivity as well. After pairing one of your devices with a set of speakers for the first time via the receiver, re-pairing can be instantly done with a quick hand gesture: simply touch your NFC-capable mobile device to the Roverbeats Unify. It will connect automatically, and you are ready to start streaming.

At just $20 on Amazon after the 46-percent discount, the Etekcity Roverbeats Bluetooth receiver is a great low-cost solution to your wireless audio streaming needs. The adapter currently has a 4.4-star user rating with over 1,600 customer reviews and is frequently listed among the best Bluetooth receivers. Etekcity includes a one-year worry-free warranty with the device as well.

$20 on Amazon

9
Feb

Apple’s latest patents hint at 3D camera tech that could power the next iPhone


Why it matters to you

Apple’s latest advances in 3D imaging could make their way to your next iPhone, unlocking a world of possibilities in facial recognition, augmented reality, and photography.

With a wide range of applications from augmented reality to gesture tracking, photography, and even mapping, 3D-scanning technology is truly one of the next great innovations in the world of digital imaging. A team of Apple researchers in Israel, formerly known as PrimeSense and responsible for developing Microsoft’s Kinect gaming platform, has just filed a patent for a depth-sensing device that appears to be intended for the company’s mapping vans, but also holds far-reaching implications for consumer devices like the upcoming iPhone 8.

The patent filing, reported on by blog Patently Apple, depicts a compact “multi-mirror scanning depth engine” that determines the distance of objects in an environment based on the amount of time light reflecting off those objects takes to reach a sensor. This particular array would most likely be used as part of a light imaging, detection, and ranging device — more commonly known as laser or 3D scanners — that are standard in the geographic mapping industry.

More: Apple iPhone 8 rumors and news

As Apple continues to invest in talent to beef up its own mapping service, it’s not surprising the company might experiment with its latest discoveries in the field before condensing that technology into a smartphone after its been thoroughly battle-tested. Early last year, Apple acquired Emotient, a startup that used artificial intelligence to improve facial recognition. The upcoming iPhone 8 — which may actually be called the iPhone X, according to the latest rumors — has been tipped to include a 3D-sensing camera, where facial recognition is expected to be one of the major applications.

A depth-sensing camera offers clear benefits for iPhone photography as well. One of the iPhone 7 Plus’ most notable and well-received features is its dual-camera system, which combines the standard wide-angle lens on the regular iPhone 7 with an additional telephoto lens to enable optical zoom and deliver stunning depth effects. Bolstered by Apple’s advancements in 3D-scanning hardware, the upcoming flagship iPhone’s camera could be more powerful and versatile than ever before.

9
Feb

Apple’s latest patents hint at 3D camera tech that could power the next iPhone


Why it matters to you

Apple’s latest advances in 3D imaging could make their way to your next iPhone, unlocking a world of possibilities in facial recognition, augmented reality, and photography.

With a wide range of applications from augmented reality to gesture tracking, photography, and even mapping, 3D-scanning technology is truly one of the next great innovations in the world of digital imaging. A team of Apple researchers in Israel, formerly known as PrimeSense and responsible for developing Microsoft’s Kinect gaming platform, has just filed a patent for a depth-sensing device that appears to be intended for the company’s mapping vans, but also holds far-reaching implications for consumer devices like the upcoming iPhone 8.

The patent filing, reported on by blog Patently Apple, depicts a compact “multi-mirror scanning depth engine” that determines the distance of objects in an environment based on the amount of time light reflecting off those objects takes to reach a sensor. This particular array would most likely be used as part of a light imaging, detection, and ranging device — more commonly known as laser or 3D scanners — that are standard in the geographic mapping industry.

More: Apple iPhone 8 rumors and news

As Apple continues to invest in talent to beef up its own mapping service, it’s not surprising the company might experiment with its latest discoveries in the field before condensing that technology into a smartphone after its been thoroughly battle-tested. Early last year, Apple acquired Emotient, a startup that used artificial intelligence to improve facial recognition. The upcoming iPhone 8 — which may actually be called the iPhone X, according to the latest rumors — has been tipped to include a 3D-sensing camera, where facial recognition is expected to be one of the major applications.

A depth-sensing camera offers clear benefits for iPhone photography as well. One of the iPhone 7 Plus’ most notable and well-received features is its dual-camera system, which combines the standard wide-angle lens on the regular iPhone 7 with an additional telephoto lens to enable optical zoom and deliver stunning depth effects. Bolstered by Apple’s advancements in 3D-scanning hardware, the upcoming flagship iPhone’s camera could be more powerful and versatile than ever before.

9
Feb

Apple could be working on ‘exceedingly flexible’ phone screen, patent suggests


Why it matters to you

Rumors of foldable phones and wearables have been all the rage as of late, and Apple’s patent for a bendable screen could indicate it wants to be part of this new trend.

The future looks flexible from Apple’s perspective. Literally.

According to a patent originally discovered by Apple Insider, it appears as though the tech giant is looking to build a mobile device “with an exceedingly flexible display.” The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday published a filing for “Electronic Devices With Soft Input-Output Components,” which delves into the idea of fitting LCD or OLED panels into products featuring a bendable design.

As Apple Insider explains, Apple’s proposal includes a flexible input-output display featuring integrated sensors and haptic feedback mechanisms, which would be comprised of a mesh-esque elastomeric substrate layer. Traditionally, these displays have been made from a sheet of plastic. But Apple wants to place the light-emitting components like LEDs, micro-LEDs, and OLEDs, as well as the input mechanisms and conductive traces, in a grid shape that will allow for more flexibility.

More: Apple iPhone 8 rumors and news

To make it truly bendable, Apple will need to thin out or completely eliminate the underlying polymer substrate layer, and instead keep only the mesh-like structure with individual “electrical units” or “islands.” Sensors such as “touch sensors, force sensors, temperature sensors, accelerometers, and other sensors, and vibrators or other devices for providing haptic feedback” could be added to the stretchable screen, which undermines the need for any sort of top bezels. So the future is not only flexible, but flat as well.

So what would the advantages of a bending screen be? For one, the flip phones of days past could make a resurgence, but with a full-sized screen. Alternatively, we might one day be able to wear our phones around our wrist.

Of course, it’s still unclear as to whether or not Apple will move forward with this design, but it’s certainly some interesting food for thought for us to chew on in the meantime.

9
Feb

Security firm claims Apple was storing ‘deleted’ Safari browsing data in iCloud


Why it matters to you

Apple’s slip-up with Safari data suggests that your browsing history is rarely ever “deleted”

A Russian cybersecurity company has claimed that it can retrieve “deleted” Safari browsing data from iCloud. Elcomsoft, based in Moscow, which makes forensics software, said that it’s possible to find a list of your supposedly deleted Safari browsing habits stored in iCloud for over a year.

According to the firm’s CEO Vladimir Katalov, Apple maintains this data in a file called “tombstone” for the purposes of syncing different devices. Katalov claimed that he made this discovery by accident and used his company’s Phone Breaker software to extract the “deleted” data going back over a year.

“We have found that they stay in the cloud probably forever,” he told Forbes, which also had an independent iOS forensic expert verify the claims. It’s worth pointing out that Apple does not use the term “delete” when it comes to Safari browsing data on your Mac or iPhone. Rather this data is “cleared.”

More: How to delete cookies in Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and IE

But nonetheless, privacy and security experts are not pleased with the revelations. Jay Stanley of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) told Forbes that even if this was just a mistake on Apple’s part, it is worrying as data retention is often done by default.

Browsing history is very sensitive and can reveal a lot of about a person, he said, and users may feel less comfortable knowing that the data isn’t truly deleted. “It’s vital that people are able to trust that they can be in control of that kind of information. It’s one reason we advise using search tools that don’t store your history.”

“Any data that’s supposed to be deleted but can still be extracted is always interesting, especially for law enforcement,” added Per Thorsheim, organizer of security conference PasswordsCon, in Elcomsoft’s press release.

Apple has yet to respond to the allegations but Katalov added that once the news first broke this morning, his browsing data started disappearing from his iCloud so it appears some kind of fix has been put in place.

9
Feb

Security firm claims Apple was storing ‘deleted’ Safari browsing data in iCloud


Why it matters to you

Apple’s slip-up with Safari data suggests that your browsing history is rarely ever “deleted”

A Russian cybersecurity company has claimed that it can retrieve “deleted” Safari browsing data from iCloud. Elcomsoft, based in Moscow, which makes forensics software, said that it’s possible to find a list of your supposedly deleted Safari browsing habits stored in iCloud for over a year.

According to the firm’s CEO Vladimir Katalov, Apple maintains this data in a file called “tombstone” for the purposes of syncing different devices. Katalov claimed that he made this discovery by accident and used his company’s Phone Breaker software to extract the “deleted” data going back over a year.

“We have found that they stay in the cloud probably forever,” he told Forbes, which also had an independent iOS forensic expert verify the claims. It’s worth pointing out that Apple does not use the term “delete” when it comes to Safari browsing data on your Mac or iPhone. Rather this data is “cleared.”

More: How to delete cookies in Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and IE

But nonetheless, privacy and security experts are not pleased with the revelations. Jay Stanley of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) told Forbes that even if this was just a mistake on Apple’s part, it is worrying as data retention is often done by default.

Browsing history is very sensitive and can reveal a lot of about a person, he said, and users may feel less comfortable knowing that the data isn’t truly deleted. “It’s vital that people are able to trust that they can be in control of that kind of information. It’s one reason we advise using search tools that don’t store your history.”

“Any data that’s supposed to be deleted but can still be extracted is always interesting, especially for law enforcement,” added Per Thorsheim, organizer of security conference PasswordsCon, in Elcomsoft’s press release.

Apple has yet to respond to the allegations but Katalov added that once the news first broke this morning, his browsing data started disappearing from his iCloud so it appears some kind of fix has been put in place.

9
Feb

DJI wants Mavic Pro pilots to practice safe flight with its latest accessories


Why it matters to you

Mavic Pro pilots can keep their investment looking a little more like new with accessories designed to protect the drone both during storage and flight.

DJI’s foldable Mavic Pro drone is getting a bit more flair with a slew of new accessories announced Wednesday. The lineup for the Mavic Pro now includes several extras to help keep that $1,000 investment a bit safer.

The new propeller cage is designed for flight newbies to keep the Mavic’s arms and propellers guarded during flight. DJI says the cage is ideal for new pilots learning how to fly through tight spaces. The added weight of the cage will reduce the flight time to a 12-minute maximum, however.

More: Rain, fire, and rogue Barbies can’t stop DJI’s nearly invincible Mavic Pro drone

The propeller guards are a lighter variation of the cage, protecting only the propellers of the drone during flight. To accommodate the extra protection, the guards are used with slightly smaller quick-release folding propellers, also introduced this week. The guards don’t protect the arms like the cage does, but don’t add as much weight or drain the battery quite so fast.

If battery life is a concern, DJI’s new battery hub may come in handy. The charger will re-power four batteries without swapping them out of a single charger, reducing the amount of time necessary to get all the batteries ready for flight again. DJI says the charger automatically recognizes which battery is lowest and charges that one first.

When it comes to keeping the Mavic Pro’s sleek gray body safe from scratches, pilots don’t need a special order sweater — a new $7 aircraft sleeve will do the trick, at least for storage anyways. DJI says the sleeve helps prevent scratches as well as keeping dust off the body.

Along with the new safety gear, the Mavic Pro’s camera has compatible neutral density filters, giving photographers and videographers more control over exposure settings. A new remote controller monitor hood helps block glare from the control screen during flight.

The propeller cage, $159, smaller folding propellers, $9, battery charging hub, $55 and the aircraft sleeve are available from DJI’s online store, while the propeller guard is expected in at a later date for a $15 list price.

9
Feb

Got a Pixel? You can now use it to control your smart home appliances


Why it matters to you

Pixel owners have one fewer to buy a Google Home, now that they can control your smart home appliances with their phones.

With Google Assistant on multiple platforms — such as the Google Pixel, Google Home, Android TV, and Android Wear — you would think the artificially intelligent bot would have the same features. Sadly that’s not the case, but Assistant on the Pixel is gaining some features from Assistant on the Home.

Last month, the search giant added support for Belkin’s WeMo platform and Honeywell’s devices, expanding smart home integration from the services it supported at launch — Nest, Philips Hue, and Samsung SmartThings. The company also said Pixel smartphones would soon be able to control smart home appliances as well, and it looks like the update is rolling out now.

More: Google Assistant adds another 10 skills, including a virtual sommelier

Head over to the Google Assistant’s settings, which you can access by pressing and holding the home button and then tapping the button on the top right. Go to Settings, and you’ll now find “Home Control.” You can see and add your devices and room setups here.

The same voice commands you use for the Google Home should translate over to the Pixel. Google’s goal is to provide a universal Assistant across all your devices, but it seems as though the company just needs time to put it all together.

Still the company has previously told Digital Trends that some features will always be exclusive to certain devices — the emoji game, for example, will only be available on Allo’s text-based Google Assistant.

Adding home control to the Pixel is a welcome addition, as the device can now compete with HomeKit in Apple’s iPhone. As more and more people opt for smart products in their home, the more ways users have to control these devices is always a benefit.

More: Waiting on a Google Pixel? Verizon may treat you to a free Daydream View

At the same time, the Pixel’s ability to control your smart home now diminishes the need to buy a Google Home for Pixel owners.

If you do not see the update yet, you may have to wait for an update to the Google app, or to Google Play Services.

9
Feb

A pill alternative? Natural Cycles app the first to be approved as contraception


Why it matters to you

Technology has continued to play an increasingly important role in medicine, but this is the closest it’s coming to almost replacing it. Natural Cycles could be an alternative to the pill.

On Thursday, Natural Cycles became the first app approved for contraception in Europe. So ladies, forget popping that pill every day or going in for an IUD — you could just head to the App Store. Natural Cycles employs its proprietary algorithm to monitor female fertility, and apparently, it is so accurate that it can now be prescribed along with (or instead of) condoms or the pill. It has been given the official green light by German testing organization Tüv Süd, a certification body used by the Department of Health to determine the safety of emerging drugs and medical devices.

Natural Cycle’s 100,000 users currently input their daily basal body temperature — they can take these measurements precisely using the company’s basal thermometer, which can be calibrated through the app. These data points are compared against Natural Cycle’s datasets to determine users’ fertility (during ovulation, women’s body temperatures rise up to 0.45 degree Celsius).

When it’s safe for users to have sex without the risk of pregnancy, the app shows a green day in its calendar interface. When they will need to use a condom or another form of contraception to prevent pregnancy, the day will show as red.

More: Egg freezing has never been as accessible as it is with Extend Fertility

Natural Cycles’s algorithm was developed by co-founder Elina Berglund, who was part of the team at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) that helped discover the Higgs boson particle. “I wanted to give my body a break from the pill,” she told Wired, “but I couldn’t find any good forms of natural birth control, so I wrote an algorithm for myself.”

And it looks as though that algorithm really works. In conducting their tests, Tüv Süd found that over the course of a year, 143 unplanned pregnancies occurred, but only 10 occurred on green days. That gave Natural Cycles a 99.5 percent efficacy rating, which is the same as the pill. An efficacy rating, however, is not the same as being 99.5 percent effective.

Co-founder Raoul Scherwitzl also noted to Wired that the firm is already discussing making Natural Cycles free as well (as it stands, users pay 7 pounds a month (just under $9).

While this approval is a huge step forward for the app, which has recently been updated along with a redesigned website, experts warn that Natural Cycles should still be taken with a grain of salt (or perhaps with another form of contraception). “Natural Cycles is not recommended to those who are very young or very keen to avoid a pregnancy since there are other more effective methods,” said Kristina Gemzell Danielsson, from Swedish medical institute Karolinska Institutet. “The efficacy is far below that of intrauterine contraception or implants, but similar to that of the pill when used in real life.”

To learn more about Natural Cycles and its approval, check out the full blog post here.

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