Ikea to release range of wireless charging furniture

idea-wireless-charging-furniture1.siSwedish furniture giant Ikea is to release a range of furniture with inbuilt wireless charging spots that will recharge any compatible device by simply placing it on the area.

Unveiled at this year’s Mobile World Congress, which is currently taking place in Barcelona, Ikea’s Home Smart range includes lamps, bedside tables and a coffee table, as well as stand alone charging pads that can be placed on any surface in the home.

The furniture uses the QI wireless charging standard, which is now built into an increasing number of smartphones, including the newly announced Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge.

Ikea Home Smart rangeAlthough there are currently over 80 QI-compatible handsets on the market, the system will not work for all devices, which is something Ikea has addressed by producing charging covers for incompatible iPhone and Samsung handsets.

There are still many issues with wireless charging that need to be ironed out before it becomes a perfect solution to messy cable overload, but with the Home Smart range, Ikea has certainly taken a step in the right direction.

The Home Smart range goes on sale in the UK and North America in April 2015, with prices starting from £30.

What do you think of Ikea’s wireless charging furniture?

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It’s Pebble Time!

Three years after Pebble launched its, and one of the first, smartwatches on Kickstarter, the company has announced that it will be using the crowdfunding platform to release its next generation smartwatch, the Pebble Time.

Pebble TimeThe original Pebble smartwatch was a great product at the time and forged the way for much larger companies such as Samsung, Google and Apple, but as these companies have started to develop much more sophisticated wearables, the Pebble smartwatch was starting to look pretty dated.

However, the new Pebble Time looks every bit as good as its competitors, if not better. The previously bulky device has been scaled down and is now 20% slimmer than its predecessor. The housing now also has a slight curve in order to fit better around the wrist.

The new Pebble now also has a colour e-paper display, which can be left on continually and still have 7 hours battery life. It also has a microphone, which can be used to send short voice replies to messages and notifications. Like the original, it is water resistant, and now also comes with a scratch resistant Gorilla Glass screen.

One of the biggest changes to the new Pebble is its new operating system, which is based around time (hence the name) and arranges alerts on a chronological

After the original Pebble raised over $10 million (£6.4 million) on Kickstarter, establishing itself as a contender in the burgeoning smartwatch market, you could question why they have gone back to Kickstarter to fund their latest venture. Eric Migicovsky, Founder and CEO of the company has responded to that by saying :

“The reason why we’re going back to Kickstarter is because we’re still a small company. We’re battling the largest company in the world. And we want to speak directly to our community. We want to bring it directly to the people who matter”.

The community is obviously listening as this time round the campaign raised almost $10 million in 24 hours, with 43,000 backers choosing to put a down payment of $179 (£115) on the new Pebble (it will be $200 when it goes on general sale) and wait for it to be shipped in May, even with the eagerly awaited Apple Watch scheduled for release in April.

It looks like Apple’s got competition on its hands.

What do you think of the new Pebble Time?

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View-Master gets a virtual reality makeover for the 21st century

view-master_1I loved my View-Master as a kid and can still vividly remember clicking through 3D images of Worzel Gummidge (youngsters, Google it) with a mixture of excitement and terror. So when I heard the news that it’s being reinvented for the kids of today with virtual reality replacing static 3D images, and smartphones replacing the cardboard photo discs, I was overcome by nostalgia and couldn’t wait to find out more.

Mattel, who manufactured the original View-Master, has teamed up with Google to bring its Google Cardboard virtual reality software to their next generation viewer.

The viewer itself resembles other virtual reality headsets on the market but is also reminiscent of the original View-Master, and even bears the same distinctive red colour.

View-Master-ftHowever, instead of slotting a cardboard disc of pictures into the viewer, the updated version works by inserting your (Android) smartphone into the device. A range of themes including “San Francisco”, “Solar System” and “Dinosaur Adventure” can be purchased through the app, which can then be viewed and explored in 360 degree 3D.

So as to adhere to the original, the themes can also be purchased in the form of plastic “experience reel”, which emulate the cardboard originals, but rather than being slotted into the viewer, they are scanned in order to access and navigate the content.

The new View-Master is expected to be released this autumn and will cost around $30 (£20), with “experience reels” coming in at $15 (£10) for three. Might have to get one for myself…!

What do you think of the new View-Master?

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Tactus Phorm iPad case makes physical keys appear from nowhere on your screen with the flick of a switch

Tactus Phorm iPad caseIf you love your iPad but miss a physical keyboard, the new Tactus Phorm case for iPad Mini could be just the product for you.

At a first glance Phorm looks just like any other iPad case, but a switch on the back unlocks its magic. When you slide the switch on it activates ‘microfluids’ in the transparent screen cover that form bumps over the virtual keypad, making it easier to type. Slide the switch back and the bumps disappear allowing you to use the touchscreen as normal.

It’s easy to assume that such technology would lead to a bulky case that detracts from the sleekness of the iPad but reviews report that the screen cover is paper thin, much like a standard screen protector, and the outside case is no thicker than any other durable cover.

The only downside is that the tactile keys only work in portrait mode for now, although the company intends to extend it to landscape mode for certain models.

Initially the cases will only available for the iPad Mini but Tactus are working on other versions, including cases for the iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6, iPad Air and eventually Android handsets too.

The Phorm case for iPad Mini is currently available for pre-order at $99 (£64) but will retail at $149 (£97) when it goes on general sale later this year.

What do you think of the Tactus Phorm cases?

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CES 2015: Audi and LG announce a smartwatch that controls your car

lg-mystery-watchA watch that controls your car may sound very James Bond, but it has become a reality thanks to a collaboration between Audi and LG.

The new wearable was announced yesterday at Audi’s CES presentation, much to the surprise of those in attendance.

The company teased the audience by keeping details to a minimum but what they did reveal was impressive. The presentation kicked off with Audi board member, Ulrich Hackenberg summoning a self driving Audi Prologue on stage using his stylish looking watch.

audi-prologue-piloted-driving-concept-2015-consumer-electronics-show_100495798_mIt’s believed that the smartwatch will also be able to lock and unlock the car, control the engine, temperature and windows etc, and possibly even park the car for you. While the exact functions are yet to be confirmed, what has been established is that that the watch will run a version of Android Wear, and use NFC (near field communication) so it will work even when the watch battery is dead.

It’s also still not clear whether or not the watch is going to become a consumer product any time soon, or just used for demo purposes, although we really hope it’s the former!

Are you excited by the prospect of a smartwatch that can control your car?

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CES 2015: Smart snowboard bindings to help you improve your riding style

XONWith the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) underway in Las Vegas, there are loads of new gadgets getting their first public airing. As expected, there are more new ‘smart’ devices than you can shake a stick at, with everything from smart bike pedals that track your activity, to smart belts that loosen if you eat too much.

As we Gadget Stylists like to take to the slopes at this time of year, one particular smart gadget that caught our attention was Japanese company, Cerevo’s XON Snow-1 smart snowboard bindings.

Each of these high tech bindings has four load sensors incorporated into the footbed as well flex sensors that sit at the nose and tail of the snowboard. Together the sensors measure your weight distribution, centre of gravity, acceleration and degree of flex on each end of the board, and feed the information to a dedicated app on your smartphone or tablet (synced via Bluetooth) to allow you to analyse your riding style.

xon-bindings-header-970x646-cThe app will playback a video overlay that allows you to view your ride as soon as you get to the bottom, as well as providing details on your speed, acceleration and GPS location.

The bindings also feature LED strobes on the heel and toe of each binding that light up when you shift your weight.

The bindings are rechargeable and last six to eight hours per charge.

While most experienced snowboarders probably aren’t going to want to ride around with wires and strobes on their boards, the bindings could be a useful tool to help learners improve their riding style.

XON Snow-1 smart bindings will be available in small, medium and large and are expected to go on sale this autumn at a price of around $500 (£330).

What do you think of the XON Snow-1 smart snowboard bindings? Would you use them?

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Royal Mail introduces 3D printing service

Royal mail 3D printingThe Royal Mail may not be a company that you associate with the latest in technological advances, but the national delivery company has launched a 3D printing service in an attempt to keep its business relevant in the 21st century.

The Royal Mail is teaming up with 3D printing specialist iMakr to pilot the service in order to gauge the demand for 3D printing.

3D printing might be all the rage but the cost of the printers (around £1000 for a household model) and necessary filament can make it inaccessible to everyday consumers or small businesses. The Royal Mail’s scheme will allow customers to have their own designs printed as well as offering a range of existing designs that can be personalised.

Initially the printers will only be based in the Royal Mail’s New Cavendish Street delivery office in London but customers can place orders online and either collect them from the office or have them delivered. If there is sufficient demand for the service it could be rolled out nationwide.

What do you think of the Royal Mail’s move into 3D printing? Would you use the service?


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Driverless cars to be tested in four UK cities

Driverless car 1Driverless cars are to be tested in four British cities in the new year with a view to finding the safest and most efficient way of introducing them throughout the rest of the UK. The trials will take place in London, Bristol, Coventry and Milton Keynes, led by three separate projects that were selected by the Innovate UK quango, following a government-funded competition.

Each project will use different types of vehicle and test the varying implications of letting self driving cars loose on our streets. Fully autonomous ten passenger vehicles will be tested in Greenwich, London in a project led by the Transport Research Laboratory. The vehicles will be tested as a public transport option and the project will focus how passengers react to using them. However, rather than testing them on public roads, they’ll initially be run in safer off-road locations.

Driverless car 2In Coventry and Milton Keynes the UK Autodrive Programme will test driverless cars on public roads with “increasing levels of autonomy” as well as small driverless pods for use in pedestrian areas.

The project being run in Bristol by the Venturer Consortium will focus on the legal and insurance implications of driverless cars, as well as whether or not their introduction will make roads safer and reduce congestion.

The trials will begin on 1st January 2015 and last for 18 to 36 months.

What are your thoughts on driverless cars?

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GoPro to launch its own drones

Drone_with_GoPro_digital_camera_mounted_underneath_-_22_April_2013Having just released its new range of action cameras, Go Pro is now reportedly working on its own line of consumer drones. According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, Go Pro plans to launch its own drones towards the end of next year, priced somewhere in the region of $500 – $1000 (approx. £320 – £650).

The drones, which have been described as multi-rotor helicopters, will come equipped with a high definition Go Pro camera, and be used to take incredible aerial footage.

There are already several companies developing consumer drones designed to carry action cameras such as the Go Pro, so it’s no wonder that Go Pro want to get in on the action themselves. With DJI and Parrot both having launched new models recently, and 3D Robotics and Hexo+ set to release their versions soon, it’s already a pretty crowded marketplace, but GoPro’s reputation should give it a foot up, especially if the price is right.

Chest harnesses and helmet mounts could soon be a thing of the past!

Would you buy a drone for action photography?

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Amazon Fire TV Stick released in the US

Amazon Fire TV StickThe Amazon Fire TV box was released in the US back in April to rival other set-top streaming boxes such as Roku, Apple TV and Google Chromecast. With 2GB of memory, a super fast quad-core processor, voice activated technology that actually works, and gaming capabilities, Fire TV has been lauded as  a real contender in the battle for set-top streaming supremacy. The only downside being its $100 (£64) price tag.

With Roku and Chromecast coming in portable HDMI stick form, it was only a matter of time before Amazon repackaged Fire TV and put it in a stick. The Amazon Fire TV Stick has just been released in the US and is a much more affordable $39 (£25), or only $19 (£12) if you subscribe to Amazon Prime.

With the reduced price and size comes an inevitable trade off in specs, which are pretty much halved. The Fire TV Stick only has 1GB of memory, a dual core processor, a cheaper remote that doesn’t have voice search, and only around half as many games that are run more slowly. However, as a portable streaming device, it serves its purpose well and compares favourably with its competitors.

Unfortunately, as with Fire TV, which was only released in the UK in October, us Brits are going to have to wait for the Fire TV Stick. As before, Amazon haven’t made any comment on when it will arrive on these shores but it’s expected to be some time in the new year.

Do you use a portable HDMI streaming stick? Do you like the sound of Amazon Fire TV Stick?

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