smart-technology

Star Wars BB-8 Droid, App-Enabled

This app-controlled droid is modeled after the Star Wars BB-8 Droid from the latest movie.

It doesn’t just roll around your apartment looking cute, there are some pretty high-tech features.

The BB-8 Droid has voice recognition, allowing it to respond to voice commands.

It also has the capability for holographic messaging! Crazy right? You can record and view virtual holographic videos with the BB-8. If that doesn’t impress your friends, there isn’t much in the tech world that will.

This Droid gets even more advanced though. It’s programmed with an adaptive personality. It learns from its interactions with you and its behaviors will evolve as you interact more and more.

This product is a very cool experiment in artificial intelligence while also being cute, fun, and a great tech gift idea.

The BB-8 can be guided with your iOS or Android smartphone or tablet and also acts based on autonomous or automatic behavior- it has a bit of a mind of its own when you’re not controlling it directly! this makes it more fun and exciting to play around with.

The droid is quite small, so it’ll fit well into any indoor room (you can check out the video above to see the exact size), and of course you can take it outside as well if you prefer.

The BB-8 Droid has a top speed of 4.5 mph (faster than most people walk normally) and a Bluetooth range of 100 feet.

 

Lily Camera Drone

Lily is a flying camera that follows you automatically. No need to be a great drone pilot, you can now let Lily fly itself and capture amazing videos/photos of any outdoor activity imaginable.

Lily is small enough to fit into a backpack and take anywhere you go. It’s roughly 3 inches tall and 10 inches across, including the blades. Total weight is 2.8 pounds (1.3 kg).

It’s very simple to use. Toss it into the air and its motor automatically kicks in and begins flying.

Because the body of the drone is completely sealed, you can fly it in rain or snow, or even toss it directly into the water (you’ll see this in the youtube video below).

Unlikely other drones, you don’t fly and steer Lily from a remote control or smartphone app. Instead, you strap a small tracking device to your body and Lily automatically follows it.

This tracking beacon is waterproof too, so you can use it while swimming, boating, etc.

Lily drone camera waterproof tracking device

Lily’s tracking device w/ waterproof housing.

 

The wearable tracker also captures sound, which is a brilliant move by Lily’s engineering team. A drone flying 30 feet away from you isn’t going to be able to capture high quality sound. By putting the sound recording technology in the tracker that you’ll wear on your wrist, you can get great sound quality while filming from far away.

Lily doesn’t just follow behind you either. The tracking device is also a remote controller to adjust the settings mid-flight. Lily can follow behind you, hover ahead of you while filming you from the front, circle around you while capturing a panorama shot, and much more. Check out this youtube video to see how it works:

 

A mobile app lets you program other flight paths if you want more customization or more control over the camera angles.

Wondering about the camera quality? The built-in camera uses the same Sony camera technology that you’d find on GoPro Hero 3. It captures still photos in 12 megapixels and is capable of recording video in 1080p at up to 60 frames per second. If you want a higher framerate for slow-motion video, you can get 120 fps by reducing the video quality to 720p.

When compared to other  drones on the market, Lily is a bit more limited in the flight range, since it’s designed to follow you during activities, not be flown far away from you. It has a maximum height of 50 feet above your current location, for example.

Still, it’s perfect for filming action shots without needing a second person, and its top speed of 25 mph (40 km/h) ensures it can keep up with almost anything from white water rafting to snowboarding.

With other drone models, you’d need a second person to capture this type of footage. Being able to film these activities solo is one of the biggest benefits that Lily brings.

The drone is powered by a lithium-ion battery within the body. It takes 2 hours to fully charge and can fly the drone for 20-25 minutes on a full charge. We’re guessing they’ll improve the battery life with future versions but 20 minutes should be enough to capture a decent amount of footage.

Lily is currently on pre-order with a discounted price. The planned launch is February 2016 and the retail price after launch is expected to be $999.

 

Sigmo Voice Translator

Sigmo is an innovative voice translator that’s perfect for international travel. The idea started as an Indiegogo campaign. We also featured it on our list of the best travel gadgets this year

In a nutshell, Sigmo translates in real-time from 25 different languages into English (or any language you prefer). Then you can respond in English or your preferred language and Sigmo will translate it back to the other person. You can have a 2-way conversation with anyone you meet while traveling abroad.

All that it takes to get started with Sigmo is set your native language and the language that you want to translate into. Then press a button and speak. A few moments later, Sigmo will audibly pipe out your phrase or words into the language you chose- Swedish, French, Italian, whatever you want.

Here’s the complete list of supported languages, with more coming in the future:

English (US), English (UK), English (Australia), English (Canada), Spanish (Spain), Spanish (United States), Spanish (Mexico), French (France), French (Canada), Finish, German, Italian, Japanese, Chinese (China), Mandarin and Cantonese(Taiwan / Hong Kong), Catalan, Korean, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Portuguese (Portugal), Portuguese (Brazil), Polish, Russian, Arabic, Indonesian, Hebrew, Czech, Turkish, African, Malay, Croatian, Thai, Greek, Bulgarian, Turkish, Slovak, Hungarian, Ukranian, Hindi.  

Sigmo is very small, making it easier to carry around than any type of phrase book or foreign language dictionary. Plus, if you’re going to multiple countries you’d need to bring multiple books most likely. Sigmo can cover an entire multi-country international trip.

It’s difficult to tell how small Sigmo is from a lot of the photos online. This picture shows exactly how tiny this device is. Each side of the square is 1.6 inches or 4 cm. It’s also very lightweight. You can attach it to pretty much any piece of clothing with a small clip that comes with the product, just like in the picture below.

Sigmo travel voice translator size comparison

Notice the tiny size. Sigmo comes with a small clip to attach to clothing too.

 

Aside from the core translation technology, Sigmo has some other cool technology and features too. It has a hands-free setting to eliminate the need for using the physical button. It can also sync with Siri on your iPhone or iPad.

It’s worth noting that Sigmo’s translator works by hooking up to your phone’s Android or iOS operating system. So you would need to have your smartphone with you to use this device. Sigmo doesn’t require any type of highspeed data connection to work though, which is good.

If you want to use Sigmo silently, it comes with an 3.5mm minijack port for headphones. You could hook it up to speakers as well through this jack, although we can’t think of a lot of scenarios where you’d want to.

Overall, we think Sigmo is a product that could be very helpful for getting out of a sticky situation overseas (misunderstandings at the airport, trouble with a local hotel, etc).

But Sigmo will also help you connect with locals and share stories, ask questions, etc. You’ll learn more about the place you’re visiting and the people that live there with this travel device, resulting in a much richer travel experience.

 

360-Degree Camera

This camera is called Panono. It’s designed to take full 360-degree panorama photos when thrown into the air.

There’s nothing else like this on the market right now and the quality of the photos is incredible. The final photo combines images captured by small cameras that are spread across the surface of the sphere and the end result is a picture that’s 100 megapixels in size.

There’s a ton of impressive tech within this product, from a sensor that automatically snaps your photo when the ball is at its highest point, to a system that instantly sends photo previews to your smartphone so that you can see what your picture will look like.

To receive the final version of your photos, you can transfer them to your computer via Wifi or USB when you get home, or view and manage them in Panono’s cloud servers. The camera itself can store up to 400 photos at a single time without transferring out, which should be plenty for a single trip or event.

This is one of those inventions that makes people say ‘Why didn’t I think of that?’  It’s one of a kind and easily made our list of the 5 best tech products of the year. 

There’s a near-endless list of places and events that Panono’s camera would be ideal for but here are some ideas to get you going:

  • Weddings
  • Sporting Events
  • Hiking
  • Camping
  • Boating
  • Vacations
  • Road Trips
  • Festivals
  • Parties
  • Concerts

 

Beam Projector

Fresh from Kickstarter, Beam is a cutting edge video projector that plugs into any light socket and then projects video onto any flat surface in your home (just aim the socket where you want it).

This is a pretty unique way to turn any wall in your house into a larger viewing screen for videos, games, movies, photos, or any app that you want. The device is being built for both iOS and Android.

If you don’t want to use a wall, you can also place it in a socket positioned above a table or countertop and project downward. This would be useful for displaying a recipe while cooking, playing a game with friends, etc. The original Kickstarter campaign has a great video illustrating how this would look.

The device is equipped with ‘Smart’ technology as well, allowing you to program it with rules dictating how it responds to certain situations, or connect it with other smart devices in your home and control the entire thing with the Beam smartphone app.

Nimbus Smart Dashboard

This was invented by an entrepreneur in Sacramento, CA. It’s called Nimbus and functions as a clock as well as a customization dashboard that displays whatever data is important to you across its 4 dials. Each dial can be set to show whatever information you choose. Here are some of the options:

  • Email
  • Traffic/commute times
  • Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram activity/updates
  • Weather
  • Calendar appointments
  • FitBit data
  • Clock w/ alarm functionality

Essentially this can replace your current alarm clock and still provide 3 more dials for you to display additional info. Imagine waking up in the morning and being able to see all of the information that’s important to you in a single place. No more need to pull out the phone immediately, or check emails on your computer just to see if you received anything overnight, or check the weather to know what to wear. Program this with the exact info you want, and it’ll all be there each morning.

It also looks very modern and stylish, much better than the typical alarm clock. Here’s a video explaining further:

 

‘Smart’ Doorbell with Video

The Ring Doorbell sends video directly to your smartphone when somebody’s on your property or at your door. With their phone app, you can see and speak with anyone that comes up to your front door, whether or not you’re home (or whether or not you feel like getting up and answering). It comes equipped with a wide angled HD video camera, smart motion detection, and cloud recording for storing the data.

This product doesn’t just provide convenience, the Ring Doorbell also can help tremendously with security. It has built in motion sensor technology (this is where the wide angled camera becomes relevant) that can detect activity on your property and provide an alert to your mobile phone even before somebody approaches your door. The Ring Doorbell features a lifetime purchase protection plan and easy setup and installation. This is a great way to get some home security and keep yourself informed about what’s going on when you’re away, even if you don’t have a full alarm system for your house.

Check out this Youtube video for an introduction to the Ring Doorbell’s features and a demo of how it works. There’s some great info toward the middle of the video about security as well. Did you know that most home burglaries begin with ringing the doorbell to check if anyone is home? Now you can answer no matter where you are (giving the appearance of being home), and send unwanted visitors away.

 

Phillips Smart Wake Up Light

This device by Phillips provides gradual light that allows you to wake up naturally. It’s clinically proven to make the process of waking up more pleasant, and provides a couple of choices of custom wake-up sounds. It also includes an FM radio setting if you prefer to wake up to music.

The Wake-Up light will improve your mood and increase your energy at the start of your day.

 

Canary Smart Home Security

Canary was the most popular Indiegogo fundraising campaign ever, bringing in $1.96 million on a goal of $100K. Yesterday they finally began shipping the product to preorder customers. Prior to this, only beta testers had received the hardware.

The idea behind Canary is simple: A wifi connected home security device that focuses on monitoring the interior of your home with a variety of high tech sensors (nightvision camera, audio, etc) rather than focusing on the exterior or specific entryways like a traditional home security system. The setup is incredibly easy (just plug it in basically), and the low cost and ease of moving the device makes it practical for renters, small homes, etc. The information gathered by its sensors can be received and viewed on your smartphone.

Primary advantages:

  • Upfront cost is very cheap ($249), and there’s no monthly fee
  • Short setup time (just minutes)
  • The device can ‘learn’ over time. Pretty cool!

The technology:

  • HD Camera with nightvision and 147° Wide-angle lens
  • Temperature, humidity and air quality gauges
  • Siren and microphone
  • Computer vision and machine learning algorithms allow it to learn from behavior patterns and provide better alerts and info.

Why Canary is useful/interesting, especially for young people and renters:

It’s cheap. A lot of young people have no home security whatsoever. This is a way to get some without breaking the bank.

Setup is a breeze compared to any other home security system. Moving is also ridiculously easy- unplug it, pack it, and plug it back in wherever you’re going to be living.

We’ve received a few questions about whether it can disable/hurt an intruder, etc. The answer is No. But it provides peace of mind, home monitoring, and has an ability to learn based on your everyday patterns to provide better and better updates as time goes on. Will it stop an intruder from smashing his way into your home? No. But it’ll let you know what’s going on, allow you to sound the alarm or alert authorities (or both), and handle the situation immediately instead of coming home at 6pm to find your home ransacked.

For less than the cost of a television, it seems like a no-brainer as a personal purchase or a gift for loved ones.

 

NEST Smart Thermostat

Thermostats haven’t been improved for years, until now. Nest has reinvented the thermostat and brought it into the modern age.

First of all this product looks 100x better than the typical oldschool thermostat design.

Now add in energy management tools and the ability to program itself and learn from your habits, and this product is a no-brainer for the modern home. It uses machine learning to respond to your habits and anticipate your needs, so that you’re not requesting the same temperature adjustments at the same times each day (it’ll learn from your previous choices and start to make automatic adjustments for you).

You can also connect via Wifi and control Nest from your phone or tablet. So at any given time, you can manually change the settings regardless of whether you’re home or not.

It gets even better, Nest thermostat pays for itself over time due to the energy cost savings. Imagine being able to leave the house for work in the morning and know that Nest will turn the heat down for you. One hour before you leave work in the afternoon, Nest can turn the heat back up in your house so that it’s at a comfortable level by the time you arrive home at night.

Until now your only alternatives were to leave the heat on all day and waste energy/money, or turn it off in the morning and arrive home to a cold house in the evening. Neither option is very appealing, making Nest a very attractive alternative to this problem.

Installation is relatively easy as well- Nest will send a technician to your home to set up the thermostat and connect it to your home Wifi network. They’ll even remove your old thermostat and recycle it for you. Not a bad deal in terms of convenience.

Here’s a short video showing how the Nest thermostat looks, and how some of the cool features mentioned above work:

Update: Nest recently made the #1 spot on our list of the Top 5 Gadgets for your Home this year.