The best music streaming services
The world of on-demand music streaming has never been more crowded. As more and more listeners shy away from physical recordings in favor of massive online libraries of tunes, music streaming services keep popping up, each offering a varied amount of songs, features, and its own set of quirks.
We’ve spent some time with each of the most popular services online to create this list of the top five streaming services for all different types of listeners. Whether you’re into music discovery, streaming radio, or the highest audio resolution you can find, these are the best on-demand streaming services in the land.
Why you should subscribe: It’s the best music discovery platform you’ll find, it has a huge catalog, and it can be tested for free indefinitely.
The user-friendly, undisputed king of music discovery, Spotify is our favorite on-demand streaming service.
$10.00 from Spotify
Who’s it for: Streaming newcomers, new-musical explorers, and just about everyone else.
How much will it cost: Free with ads, $10 per month ad-free for single users, $15 ad-free for families (up to 6 users), and $5 ad-free for students
Why we picked Spotify
With millions more paying subscribers than the closest competition, Spotify is — by a wide margin — the most popular on-demand streaming service on the market today. That’s true for number of reasons, including the service’s extremely user-friendly interface on desktop, iOS, and Android, numerous third-party integrations — such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google Cast — and a diverse array of well-curated playlists and music-discovery vehicles.
One of the earliest pioneers of on-demand streaming, the Swedish streamer has long enticed newcomers with a free, ad-based desktop platform, and as streaming has begun to take hold of the industry, many of those users have eventually become paid subscribers. Apart from kicking the annoying ads, paying up allows you some real advantages, including being able to choose songs on-demand via mobile devices — an important feature for most users that the ad-based service doesn’t offer.
In a streaming market that increasingly turns to exclusive releases from big name artists to capture more users, Spotify employs its status as the industry leader to force the hands of artists and labels alike to release their music on the service. For instance, Drake is a paid ambassador for Apple Music, but his mega-hit album Views didn’t stay an Apple Music exclusive for long — the album landed on Spotify within a few weeks of its debut. Heck, even Radiohead — a band with no shortage of terse words about Spotify’s paltry royalty payments — eventually released their entire catalog on the service.
While there are a few Spotify holdouts ( including Taylor Swift and Garth Brooks), Spotify’s catalog of well over 30 million songs assures that if you can’t find it on Spotify, it will be tough to find it anywhere else.
Those looking to find their next favorite band will also love Spotify for its updated playlists like Monday’s Discover Weekly and New Music Friday, all of which follow your listening habits to recommend surprisingly fitting new artists to match up with your listening tastes.
Looking to listen to that cool band your friend is into? Spotify’s Facebook integration allows you to follow friends and see what they have been listening to, as well as check out any playlists they’ve decided to make public. While competitors do offer some exclusive features, Spotify is the most well-rounded, intuitive, and hassle-free option available. Unless you have a very specific sonic need the service can’t satisfy (which we’ll outline below), we suggest streaming newbies get on the Spotify train.
While you’re at it, be sure to check out our massive assortment of Spotify playlists for all occasions.
The best for Apple fans
Why you should subscribe: You’re a diehard Apple user looking for the best service to integrate with all your stuff.
For serious Apple fans who want everything in one place, Apple Music is the answer.
$10.00 from Apple
Who’s it for? Lovers of iTunes, hand-curated live radio, and all things Apple.
How much will it cost? $10 per month for a single user, $15 for a family plan (up to 6 users), and $5 per month for students
Why we picked Apple Music
While we generally prefer Spotify to Apple Music when it comes to features and usability, there are still some compelling reasons to check out the second-most popular on-demand streaming service.
First and foremost is Apple Music’s iOS and MacOS integration. Those with iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks will love the fact that they can ask Siri to search for specific artists, songs, or playlists, and virtually everything music related on an Apple device is tied into the service. In addition, longtime iTunes users will be pleased to find many of their songs are immediately available in their Apple Music streaming library upon signing up, along with the ability to store up to 25,000 songs for later use (Spotify downloads cap at 9,999).
Apple Music’s Beats 1 Radio is another huge bonus. The 24-hour live radio service features curation by famed DJs like Zane Lowe and numerous celebrities like Ryan Adams, Pharrell Williams, Mike D, and others. Beats 1 also frequently premieres some of the biggest songs in pop music.
Speaking of premieres, Apple works hard to be the first to showcase songs from some of the world’s biggest pop artists, including Drake, Taylor Swift (who still remains notably absent from Spotify’s catalog), and Frank Ocean.
If you’re a fan of the biggest names in pop, love radio-style listening, and own an iPhone or other Apple device, Apple Music could be your service of choice.
The best for passive listening
Why you should subscribe: Pandora’s thumbs-up/thumbs-down algorithm still rules internet radio.
If radio-style listening is your favorite way to play, Pandora is the service for you.
$5.00 from Pandora
Who’s it for: Those who like to press play and walk away.
How much will it cost: Free ad-based radio, $5 per month for ad-free radio, $10 per month for ad-free on-demand music streaming
Why we picked Pandora
Though Pandora recently unveiled its much-anticipated on-demand streaming tier that features 40 million tracks, the best reason to subscribe to the service is to bask in the glory of its Music Genome Project. Since the early 2000s, the company has been attempting to “capture the essence of music on every level,” by categorizing tunes based on hundreds of unique characteristics.
With such an abundance of data about each song, Pandora is able to offer the best curated, radio-style streaming online, all based on simple thumbs up or thumbs down ratings. Users can pick a favorite artist or track and press play, letting the magic algorithms behind the scenes at Pandora go to work. No matter who you’re into, Pandora will create a constant list of complimentary songs to enjoy.
While the on-demand service is a nice addition, Pandora best for people who like to simply sit back and let the tunes roll in.
The best for indie music discovery
Why you should subscribe: With over a hundred million user-created tracks, SoundCloud has one of the most diverse indie libraries online.
Those on the hunt for the next big band will love the wide diversity of SoundCloud’s indie catalog.
$5.00 from Soundcloud
Who’s it for: Indie music fans who prefer to take a hands on approach to music discovery.
How much will it cost: Free with ads for access to 120 million user-added tracks, $5 per month for ad-free access to user-added tracks, $10 for user added tracks plus 30 million major label tracks.
Why we picked SoundCloud
SoundCloud’s biggest asset is its extremely creative, massive user base. With nearly 200 million active users per month and a huge number of small-name artists constantly uploading their latest and greatest songs to the service, those who have the patience to dig through SoundCloud’s immense track list are sure to find an unknown artist they love.
However, because it has so many songs and a layout designed around single tracks rather than playlists, SoundCloud really is for crate-digger types — those who’d prefer to sift through tons of tunes to find their next favorite band, rather than relying on a computer algorithm to predict what they may or may not like.
While this is great for a very specific kind of user, it may not be right for the average listener. In fact, SoundCloud is having a lot of trouble getting people to pay up for its service, routinely needing cash infusions from investors to remain solvent. Still, if you find yourself on SoundCloud searching for new favorites for hours a week, you may want to think about upgrading to an ad-free experience.
The best fidelity
Why you should subscribe: You demand the highest audio resolution and you’re willing to pay for it.
For listeners who refuse to compromise on audio resolution, Tidal is the only way to go.
$10.00 from Tidal
Who’s it for: Stubborn audiophiles, serious Jay Z fans.
How much will they cost: $10 per month for compressed 320kbps audio, $20 for lossless 24-bit 1411kbps audio.
Why we picked the Tidal
It’s no secret that we aren’t big fans of Tidal, the music service purchased by hip-hop mogul Jay Z in 2015. With fewer tracks, poor music discovery features, and a sometimes buggy interface — not to mention a history of botched album releases — there are plenty of reasons to avoid the service entirely in search for calmer streaming waters.
However, for those who absolutely refuse to compromise when it comes to audio quality, Tidal’s $20-per-month Hi-Fi service, which offers 24-bit audio resolution, is essentially the only real game in town. This makes the service something of a dichotomy, as Tidal seems to be aimed towards the mass market, but it’s really best for those with high-quality gear who care more about the fidelity of their audio source than usability or library size.
This advantage is likely to change in the future, as companies like Spotify are anticipated to launch their own high-fidelity tiers down the road. But for now, those with extremely expensive stereo systems who actually care about the difference between the typical 320Kbps quality of Spotify, Apple Music, and virtually every other major streaming service on the market (including Tidal’s own lower tier), Tidal HiFi is the only way to fly.
The beauty of having a good camera in every pocket
Cheaper smartphones that don’t suck mean better cameras, and better photos.
While the rest of the team has been playing with phones that border (or safely fall into) the designation of ‘expensive,’ I’ve been erring on the side of budget, switching between four devices that are, to me, just as interesting, as much for what they lack as what they offer.
One of those phones is the ZTE Blade V8 Pro, a phone that barely got any attention when it was announced for the U.S. unlocked market back in January. I don’t even think we wrote about it. But ZTE offered me a review unit, and after spending some time with it I’m glad I accepted. This $230 phone has pretty much everything you need from a handset these days: a great screen, excellent performance, awesome battery life, and software that doesn’t make me want to poke my eyes out (though it ships with Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow, which is decidedly 😕).
Increasingly, we carry cameras that make phone calls, not the other way around.
But more than anything else on its spec sheet, it’s the impressive camera that really surprises me. The phone lacks all the buzzwords you’d expect from a device three times its price — stabilization, phase-detection autofocus, laser autofocus — but it does have two 13MP sensors that act in unison to improve photo quality in daylight, impart some intelligence in low light (though less than I would like), and provide some impressive features that feel less gimmicky the more time I spend using them.
More than anything, though, its excellent camera credentials reinforce the thing I find myself repeating every year: we no longer carry smart phones that take photos but smart cameras that occasionally make calls (and connect to the internet, but don’t kill my symmetry).
As impressive as it is to see the $649 Google Pixel and LG G6 increasingly offer “real camera” performance from tiny sensors, I love that I can recommend a $230 ZTE Blade V8 Pro to someone and ensure him or her a reliable experience that takes good photos in most situations. When I started reviewing phones, that’s really all I wanted: to be able to trust the camera in my pocket the way I could the Auto mode on my Canon or Sony point-and-shoot, the diminutive single-purpose gadgets that I, along with millions of other people, began stuffing in drawers and forgetting about around the turn of the decade.
It’s been six years since I brought a camera camera with me on vacation, and though the quality dipped for a time, I’ve reached the point of comfort (though maybe that’s just what comes with age and acceptance of the things one can’t control) with the relationship between convenience and quality.
When I started reviewing phones, all I wanted was a camera that took photos reliably. It took until now to make that happen.
Using the Blade V8 Pro (what a name) also reinforces, to me at least, that cameras are really the last true area of competition in the smartphone space. You can get a $100 phone that performs well, has decent battery life, and ships with a version of Android that doesn’t make you want to saw off your fingers with a blunt object, but it’s still pretty easy to tell the difference between a photo (or video) taken from an LG Stylo 2 and an LG G6. But you just said the $230 Blade V8 Pro takes awesome photos! Yes, but it’s still a clear area of research, development, and cultural fascination for those who create, market and buy phones. That Blade V8 Pro, or any $200 phone, takes photos as good as the ones it outputs, is incredible; that the LG G6 takes photos as consistently beautiful as it does — perhaps not three times as good, but close — is also incredible.
That we get to benefit from the fierce competition around which company can outfit its pocket computer with the best camera — that’s pretty incredible, too.
Elsewhere in the news:
- We’re getting really close to the Galaxy S8, and it’s looking increasingly like this will be the phone to buy in 2017. I am legitimately excited for it.
- This OnePlus collaboration with colette is interesting, but it can’t be the only thing, right?
- This time last year we got the first Android N developer preview. I wouldn’t be surprised to see something similar in the next few weeks.
- At least we’re already getting rumors about what’s going to be new and different. Honestly, though: I’m pretty happy with Nougat.
- This feels like such a 2016 object in 2017. Amazing how quickly we adapt to the new realities.
- I went over my data limit for the first time in three years this month (10GB per month, because Canada doesn’t do unlimited plans yet) largely because my home Wi-Fi is crapping out. I really, really need something like this. Or just Google Wifi. Come on, Google.
- I am so sad this game isn’t available for Android yet. But at least you can play it in your browser, which is pretty cool.
Have a great week!
The best electric toothbrush
By Casey Johnston
This post was done in partnership with The Sweethome, a buyer’s guide to the best homewares. When readers choose to buy The Sweethome’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.
To find the best electric toothbrush, we put in almost 100 total hours of research, interviewing experts, evaluating every model on the market, and testing 10 toothbrushes ourselves in hundreds of trials at the bathroom sink. We found that the best toothbrush for most people is a simple $50 model called the Oral-B Pro 1000. It has the fewest fancy features of the models we tested, but it does have the most important things experts recommend—a built-in two-minute timer and access to one of the most extensive and affordable lines of replaceable toothbrush heads available—for the lowest price.
Should you upgrade?
Per the ADA’s recommendations, the only necessary thing in toothbrushing is a basic toothbrush that you use properly. No electric toothbrush has the ADA seal right now, but powered electric toothbrushes have been shown to provide superior dental care to manual toothbrushing—they remove more plaque and reduce gingivitis at statistically significant rates. If you find yourself struggling to meet two minutes, you tend to brush unevenly, or you find manual brushing to be too much labor, upgrading from a manual toothbrush to an electric one that automates these elements would make sense.
One thing worth pointing out about electric toothbrushes is that they are not cheaper in the long run. Electric toothbrushes cost about 10 times as much as manual toothbrushes, and you have to replace the brush heads at the same frequency (every three months), each for about the same cost as a manual brush. What you get for the higher cost is less friction in achieving good brushing habits, and, according to research, a significant reduction in plaque and gingivitis, even if that reduction may come only from having a brush that encourages good habits, like a full two minutes of brushing for each session.
How we picked and tested
The full complement of brushes we tested. Photo: Casey Johnston
After sorting through dental care research, which is littered with (unusable) clinical studies sponsored by the companies that make the toothbrushes being tested, we’ve learned that all you really need out of an electric toothbrush is a two-minute timer to make sure you brush your teeth for the right amount of time. Manufacturers have blown up the high end with scientific-sounding “features” like cleaning modes and UV lights, but there’s nothing to prove these work, let alone that they are necessary. All an electric toothbrush can really offer is automation of the brushing process by adding a timer and easing some of the physical labor, according to the professors and dentist we spoke to.
To begin the search, we trawled the manufacturer websites of the highest-rated brands and looked at the recommendations of Consumer Reports (subscription required to see product recommendations) and the Good Housekeeping Institute for toothbrush models as well as their replacement or substitution toothbrush heads, an important factor in choosing a best toothbrush.
We looked for, at minimum, brushes with a two-minute timer, but still wanted to test higher-end brushes to compare their usability with that of the simplest models. We eliminated brushes without rechargeable batteries because loose batteries are a hassle and a waste. We also eliminated models that were reviewed as loud or having either short battery life or a too-small range of compatible brush heads. If a brush was compatible with a wide range of brush heads, that was a small point in its favor.
Both Oral-B and Sonicare make extensive lines of brushes and don’t exactly go to pains to make it clear what the difference is between all of them. See our full guide for a breakdown of differentiating features.
We then called in models for testing to see what it was like to hold the toothbrushes, charge them, use them, replace their heads, and have our brushing sessions timed and monitored. To stress-test them, we also dropped our picks onto a tile floor from chest height to test for durability and submerged them in water while they ran for a full two-minute brushing cycle to test for water resistance. We compared the brushes on all these usability points to arrive at our conclusion.
Photo: Casey Johnston
The Pro 1000 is among Oral-B’s least expensive models, but comes with all the features recommended by most of our experts for the lowest price—a two-minute timer (with a nice-to-have quadrant alert), and a wide selection of compatible and affordable brush heads. The Pro 1000 has comfortable-feeling oscillating bristles, a simple one-button interface, and a battery that lasted 11½ days with twice-daily use in our tests. The body survived drop tests on the floor and into water. Best of all, you’re not getting overcharged for features like digital monitors, travel cases, or inductive chargers—none of which will actually get your teeth any cleaner than the Pro 1000 can.
The one-button simplicity is a great feature—there are no useless cleaning modes. The Pro 1000’s timer goes off every 30 seconds, alerting the user of the time by briefly pausing. After two minutes, the brush pulses three times to signal that a full cycle is up, but will continue brushing after if the user wants to keep brushing; it must always be turned off manually. This is nice for touching up areas of your mouth you may not have given enough attention to. On many more-expensive brushes, like the Philips Sonicare Diamondclean, pushing the button more than once activates different cleaning modes, forcing you to cycle through every option to get back to the simple default cleaning mode.
Using the right brush head for your teeth and gums matters, and we like that the Pro 1000 can take advantage of Oral-B’s brush head line. The range is the widest of all toothbrush lines, making it easier to customize the brush for one user’s preferences and recommendations from their dentist. Oral-B’s brushes are also, on average, less expensive than replacement heads for other brushes.
The Philips Sonicare 2 Series. Photo: Casey Johnston
The Philips Sonicare 2 Series is currently one of the least expensive Sonicare brushes at around $50. This brush is quieter than our recommended Oral-B model, with a more subtle motion (though the vibrations can feel slightly more uncomfortable when the back of the brush knocks against your other teeth). The 2 Series also has twice the battery life of the Oral-B, lasting two weeks of use on a single charge instead of one (in our tests it lasted for 16 days of use), so it might be a better choice for travelers. The replacement brush heads for the 2 Series are slightly more expensive at $27 for three ($9 each); the Oral-B’s replacement heads can be as cheap as $5 to $6 each, making the Oral-B’s expenses a little lower in the long run.
Best online subscription toothbrush
Photo: Kit Dillon
The Goby Electric Toothbrush is only a few dollars more than our other picks and comes with the same no-frills features: a two-minute timer that shuts the brush off at the end, plus a quadrant timer to prompt you to switch areas every 30 seconds. Goby offers an “optional” brush head subscription service–however, it’s worth keeping in mind that you can’t get new brush heads anywhere else and there is only one kind available. The replacement brush heads for the Goby cost $6 with $3 shipping, about the same as the 2 Series replacements and a little more expensive than the Oral-B’s heads.
This guide may have been updated by The Sweethome. To see the current recommendation, please go here.
Note from The Sweethome: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.
‘Kerbal Space Program’ expansion has you making your own missions
Squad isn’t done adding to Kerbal Space Program just because the game’s protracted development is over… if anything, the studio is just getting started. The company has unveiled KSP’s first expansion, Making History, and this is definitely represents more than your usual downloadable add-on. It earns its namesake from the ability to reenact real-life space missions (insofar as you can in a fictional universe, anyway), but the real highlight is the option to create your own missions. There’s a simple “drag and drop” interface, Squad says, and you can throw players for a loop by introducing everything from arbitrary limits (such as fuel or time) to surprise events.
The pack logically includes new parts (including some inspired by US and Russian space programs) as well as a competitive scoring mode. There’s even a personal parachute to save your crew if they have to bail in atmospheric flight.
There’s no release date yet. However, you may be in for a surprise if you’re used to the steady stream of free upgrades from KSP’s testing days: Squad says the expansion will cost you money. While that’s not very surprising (the developer can’t coast forever on core game sales), that does mean that you’ll have to keep shelling out to experience everything the Kerbin system has to offer.
Source: Kerbal Space Program
The Bibo Barmaid wants to whip you up a cocktail in 20 seconds, no tip required
Why it matters to you
If you’ve ever gotten annoyed at having to make drink after drink at your parties, this machine will solve you problem.
If you’re going to make rum punch, the recipe might call for several kinds of juices and a couple types of rum. Or you might just need a pouch, plus the rum, if you’re using the Bibo Barmaid, a smart cocktail machine that spits out your drink in 20 seconds. All you need to do is supply the alcohol, maybe do a bit of shaking, and add garnish.
Digital Trends got a demo of the machine at the 2017 International Home and Housewares Show this week. Drinks such as appletinis, margaritas, and mai tais come with all the non-alcoholic ingredients premixed in a foil pouch. If the drinks sound female-friendly, that’s because the Bibo is currently aimed at women who entertain frequently — though the ability to make beer cocktails is in the works. The cucumber melon drink was refreshing and a bit sweet; the cucumber taste definitely came through and didn’t taste artificial.
The machine has a reservoir in the back that holds enough water for eight drinks. The top of the Bibo lifts up, and that’s where you put the pouch. An RFID reader scans the pouch to determine what kind it is, then mixes the proper amount of water for the drink. When switching between drinks, you can hit a button to rinse out the machine, and the pouch holder lifts out, so you can clean that as well.
More: Drinks on the go: This Airstream trailer houses a full bar, and you can rent it
Right now there are six varieties of pouches. Bibo creator Debra Walker told Digital Trends that more flavors are in the pipeline, as are alcohol pouches. That way you can stick the two pouches in the Bibo, and have the machine do all the work. Most of the magic seems to be in the pouch itself, which has fresh ingredients and a shelf-life of six months. But if you wanted to try and bypass the RFID reader and just mix a cocktail with the packet, some water, and alcohol, there doesn’t seem to be way to do that currently.
The Bibo is currently on sale for $230, and a 12-pack of non-recyclable pouches retails for $20. Between the pouch and the alcohol, you’re looking at $3 to $4 a drink, said Walker. That’s pricier than a DIY dark and stormy but less than you’ll pay at the bar. The real benefit, Walker says, is that at your next party, your guests can make their own drinks, leaving you with more time to socialize.
How to remove Internet Explorer or, at least, disable it
Now that Microsoft Edge has officially replaced Internet Explorer in Windows 10, even the most stubborn among us are prepared to make the switch. And with support dropped for IE, there’s really no reason to even keep the unsupported software on your computer — no, not even for your grandma — because IE is now a security risk due to new malware.
More: Battle of the browsers: Edge vs. Chrome vs. Firefox vs. Opera vs. Vivaldi
Bottom line: If your Windows 10 system came with Internet Explorer, it’s time to get rid of it. However, for various reasons, Microsoft doesn’t let you fully uninstall the browser. Fortunately, it does allow you to disable it and all the effects it may have on your operating system, which essentially puts it out of commission. Here, we’ll show you exactly how to do it!
Before you begin…
If you’ve used Internet Explorer in your OS in the past, consider if it has any valuable information that you may want to record or copy before disabling it. Do you have any links saved in your favorites, or other important notes connected to the browser? Take a look, think back a few years, and note what you want to keep. You can’t exactly “back up” browser preferences, but you can copy your favorite links to Edge.
More: Here’s how to fix 18 common problems with Microsoft Edge
Also, keep in mind that apps and plugins connected to Internet Explorer will stop working properly if it’s disabled. Again, enough time has passed since IE was a viable option, so this probably isn’t a concern, but you may have some older apps that will experience difficulties, especially if they haven’t been updated recently. In other words, it’s a good idea to ensure automatic updates are turned on and everything has been fully updated before you disable IE.
How to use Airplane Mode on your iPhone or Android smartphone
Airplane mode is a quick and handy way to turn off the cellular and data connections on your device. As the name suggests, you can toggle this mode when you fly in an airplane, but its uses can also extend to saving battery life, curbing data usage, and even fixing various connection issues.
For example, if you’re seeing temporary drops in your cellular connection, toggling Airplane mode on and off can sometimes reconnect your device to the internet.
More: Cut down on your phone bill: How to reduce your data usage on Android or iOS
The most important thing to understand is that Airplane mode will turn off connections on your device, including Wi-Fi, cellular data, and Bluetooth. That means you will not receive any calls or notifications, nor will you be able to connect to Wi-Fi while Airplane mode is enabled.
How to turn on Airplane mode in Android
How to turn on Airplane Mode from the Quick Settings menu
If you want to turn Airplane mode on or off while on the lock screen, swipe down from the notification area to reveal the Quick Settings menu.
Toggle Airplane mode on.
If you want to turn on Airplane mode while on the home screen, it works the same way. Swipe down from the notification area twice or swipe down once with two fingers to reveal the Quick Settings toggles.
Toggle Airplane mode on.
How to turn on Airplane Mode from the Settings menu
Go to Settings.
Tap More in the Wireless & Networks section.
Toggle Airplane Mode on.
When Airplane mode is on, you will see an airplane icon in the notification bar.
How to turn on Airplane mode in iOS
How to turn on Airplane mode from the Control Center
Swipe up from from the bottom of any screen.
Tap the airplane icon in the upper-left corner.
How to turn on Airplane Mode from the Settings menu
Go to Settings.
Toggle Airplane mode on.
When Airplane Mode is on, you will see an airplane icon in the notification bar.
Store your beer and charge your phone with this high-tech coffee table
Why it matters to you
Speakers, outlets, and a fridge? The only thing this coffee table is missing is a bottle opener.
Imagine you’re watching an NCAA game and you need a beer to help you cope with your busted bracket — and you didn’t have to leave your couch to get one. Sobro has found a way to to add fridge functionality into a coffee table. A prototype of the table was on display at the 2017 International Home and Housewares Show this week, boasting a modern design and plenty of USB ports and outlets for all your gadgets.
The table will have three drawers, one of which is refrigerated. The other, smaller two are for storage. The coffee table actually has a compressor, so it does more than keep beverages cool. You’ll be able to set its temperature to around 37 to 41 degrees Fahrenheit (3 to 5 degrees Celsius) via touchscreens on the tabletop. The controls — which also let you adjust the music you’re playing through the table’s built-in speakers — are under tempered glass and shouldn’t short out if you spill your soda on the table.
More: Sudden Coffee uses freeze-dried beans to make instant brew that doesn’t suck
The table will sync to your device via Bluetooth to play music, and its creators also want to make a dongle that will allow it to work with TVs as well. Around the base of the table, there are LED lights, which the touch controls also change. In order to make the controls work, you have to hold down the power button to unlock them, so setting a bowl of chips on the table shouldn’t change the lights from green to blue.
One thing to keep in mind is that this table will obviously have to be plugged in itself, so you might have a cord running across your living room floor. Though it’s significantly discounted on Indiegogo right now ($499), it will eventually retail for $1,500.
Slim Geransar was on hand at the IHH show to talk about the product. He told Digital Trends there are a few design features to work out, such as whether the table will have two or four outlets and making sure everything meets safety standards. The projected ship date is September, but as with any crowdfunding campaign, it’s backer beware.
Heads up: Walmart patent filing points to in-store drones that deliver products
Why it matters to you
If in-store drones become a thing, you may want to stay out of drone flight lines.
The days of walking from the entrance all the way to the back of a Walmart superstore for a printer cartridge or photo order may be coming to an end.
You’ve heard about Walmart’s ideas for self-driving shopping carts and in-store automation to take over human jobs. Now you can add to those concepts fleets of drones that fly inside the company’s superstores to fetch and deliver your products to the checkout area. Walmart has a new patent filing for drones that only fly within retail locations, as reported by Fortune.
Whether Walmart will actually implement in-store drones remains to be seen — companies often file for patents to protect ideas they never use. The path to indoor systems avoids many of the challenges of residential delivery drones, however. Drones that fly outside to deliver to homes must comply with federal regulations. Home delivery drones have to be large and powerful enough to travel from distribution points to people’s homes. In-store drones, however, have fewer restrictions.
More: The US Air Force now has more drone operator jobs than traditional pilot jobs
Walmart’s patent for a “Method to Carry an Item within a Retail Shopping Facility” involves eight steps. First, the drone receives the request and flies to the appropriate area. The drone must detect and secure the correct merchandise. It next flies to the delivery area where it lands and releases the item. Finally, the drone flies away to await the next request.
Wondering about safety? The patent abstract states, “In a typical application setting the flight path of the airborne drone will not include any traversals of open space.” Digging into the details reveals how the drones will avoid flying over customers’ heads.
“Since the airborne drone is moving higher than many of the obstacles in the retail shopping facility (such as people, shelves, and various product displays), to some extent a flight path can at least approximate a straight line.” Basically, the plan is for the drones to travel over the display shelving and avoid the aisles between product displays to “provide an increased feeling of security for those below.”
If only one person in the store wanted just one item, the drone system would be easy to picture in operation. But imagine the flurry of drones if 100 shoppers each had a list of 5 to 30 items. Unless drones have onboard collision avoidance capability, the flight control requirements for hundreds of drones flying all over the store and returning to one delivery area might offer a new career path for ardent gamers.
Many interesting questions are provoked by the concept of Walmart in-store drones sharing shopping aisles with humans. How would the goods be arranged for easy drone retrieval? Would customers have to compete with drones for the last can of tuna or would Isaac Asimov’s first law of robotics about not injuring a human or allowing harm through inaction apply? We may well have our answers soon enough.
You can now experience the weather in VR thanks to AccuWeather and Oculus
Why it matters to you
Sometimes, checking a weather app just doesn’t give you enough information. But hopefully, a new VR experience courtesy of AccuWeather and Oculus will do the trick.
In our ever-evolving quest to avoid going outside in order to check the weather, we not only have apps to give us details about the temperature and precipitation, but now we also have a VR experience. Because if the act of opening your front door is too hard, perhaps donning a VR headset is more feasible for you. AccuWeather recently debuted a new VR experience called AccuWeather — Weather for Life, which promises users “engaging 360 video content, current weather conditions, a daily and hourly forecast, and AccuWeather MinuteCast” so that they can experience the weather outside … from inside.
Thanks to this new feature from the weather app, you’ll be able to virtually experience a whole slew of weather animations from the comfort of your own home. Tired of the homeostatic environment of your living room? Just don a Samsung Gear and experience weather animations including stormy rain, snow, thunderstorms, and clouds.
More: Lowe’s Home Improvement turns to augmented, virtual reality for DIY training
In order to experience the weather through a headset, you’ll need to install the Oculus app to your compatible Samsung Galaxy smartphone and create an account. Then, download the AccuWeather — Weather for Life app, and snap your smartphone into the Gear VR headset so you can see your screen and start the VR fun.
While you’ll certainly be able to see the weather in your immediate area (down to your specific location), the AccuWeather VR experience will also give you access to other weather phenomena from around the country. And to keep things interesting, AccuWeather will add new videos every week, so no matter how big of a weather buff you may be, you’ll stay informed and entertained.
“AccuWeather is excited to partner with Samsung on the launch of the AccuWeather — Weather for Life app for Gear VR, bringing users the most accurate, most innovative weather forecasts and information available worldwide,” said Steven Smith, President of Digital Media at AccuWeather. “The app is interactive and easy for users to access immersive 360-degree video content and weather forecasts, all with the Superior Accuracy from AccuWeather they rely on, experiencing weather in revolutionary new ways.”