Tuesday, July 29, 2014

LG Heart Rate Monitor Earphone review: good fitness gadget, poor earphones

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2014/07/29/lg-heart-rate-monitor-earphone-review/

LG Heart Rate Monitor Earphone review: good fitness gadget, poor earphones

Heart rate monitors are no longer the exclusive domain of fitness gadgets. The last 12 months have seen sensors make their way into smartphones and wearables, replacing for many of us the need for a standalone pulse monitor. The problem is a lot of these options have been unable to deliver accurate heart rate mesurements, partly because those sensors have to maintain contact with your skin; if they slip, then the readout skips. Maybe LG has the answer, then: Put heart rate monitoring technology into a pair of Bluetooth headphones. If you're like me and are constantly wired for sound during workouts, what could possibly be better?

LG's Heart Rate Monitor earphones link to an iOS/Android app, with absolutely nothing burdening your wrists. LG's fitness app can even add your exercise sessions to a step counter, so long as you buy LG's optional Lifeband Touch fitness band. What's more, the app also integrates with other fitness apps like RunKeeper. It all sounds great on paper, but there's a problem: the headphones don't actually sound good. Let me explain.


LG's new headphones look like run-of-the-mill sports headphones, but at $180, they're pricier. They're in-ear buds supported by rubberized tubing around the wire, which help keep them inside your ears. There's even an extra flexible wing to support the fit, ensuring they stay snug during your morning run or squat superset -- that's important here because the heart rate sensor needs to be against your skin to measure blood flow and give that all-important readout.

The headphone wires draw together at a lanyard clip which also houses play, pause and volume controls. The clip is sturdy, and it's at the perfect point to tether to your t-shirt, making the wires less likely to get in the way -- at least while you're wearing it. The earphones then plug into a Bluetooth module which provides the power and has its own clip; this one's waist-level. The module is small and light, with a backlit power switch that offers up a color-coded guide to your heart rate at a button press. (There's also audio guidance for battery levels and your activity, but I'll come back to that.) Despite their Bluetooth connectivity, that means there's just as much cabling as other wired earbuds. It would have been better if all the hardware was housed inside the headphones.

Because the earphones connect through micro-USB to the Bluetooth module, it means you won't be able to use these with a typical headphone socket, which also means having to keep the set well charged. I found they lasted roughly four hours -- about four gym sessions of constantly monitoring my pulse. But you can expect them to last much longer if you're just listening to music.

In use

The heart rate module itself is lodged inside the right earbud, and there's a subtle design difference between the two buds, suggesting that the sensor points to your outer lobe rather than shining (infrared shines, right?) into your earhole. The results are accurate, especially compared to the erratic results we've seen from other heart rate sensors. During training sessions -- it only measures your pulse when you start a session from the app -- I also strapped myself into a blood pressure monitor at my local gym to get a second reading. Measurements from both were within one or two beats per minute of each other. What's nice, too, is that the earphones' heart rate reading doesn't fluctuate as much as wrist-worn monitors I've tried, probably because these stay more firmly in place. If you're curious about such things, you can view your readout in the app anytime.

Alas, while the headphones make a pretty excellent heart rate monitor, the sound quality is distinctly trebly. Maybe my tastes tend toward Beats-style bass sound profiles, but compared to other in-ear buds, wired or wireless, these don't pack the same audio punch. My guess is something had to be sacrificed to make space for the heart rate sensors. Worse, at substantial volume there's a moderate degree of noise leakage. Gyms and outdoor running can often require the top volume, but move into a quieter area with other people and they'll soon twig to your shameless workout soundtrack -- the one you wouldn't ever make public. It's a shame, but sound quality appears to be a secondary concern here.


To use the headphones you'll need LG's Fitness app, which does a lot of things right. There are both Android and iOS versions, meaning you can use it with nearly every modern smartphone capable of connecting to Bluetooth Smart. That might not seem like a big deal, but remember Nike's FuelBand was iOS-exclusive until very recently, and Samsung's Gear Fit will only work with Samsung phones.

Four tabs guide you through a summary page for the day, week and month; an activity tab for calorie-based scrutiny; as well as a heart rate tab, workout tab and the (practically hidden) "more" tab, where you'll find most of the settings. This final tab is where you connect with third-party apps and compatible hardware. Cleverly, LG has offered cross-compatibility with MyFitnessPal, RunKeeper and MapMyFitness, apps that you might actually use. LG also supports a few third-party heart rate monitors, including devices from Polar and Zephyr.

Alongside your daily activity and step counts (the app will keep a running total of your top "scores"), LG's Fitness app comes into its own with sessions: dedicated training segments you "set off" from the workout tab. There are no pretensions to sleep monitoring thankfully, or even diet guidance -- it sticks to movement. So I started moving. One swipe of the switch within the fourth tab starts things off. After that, you have the chance to toggle several mid-workout features.

The GPS option monitors your running or cycling routes. As you move, your smartphone will track your route while color-coding your course depending on your heart rate (warmup, endurance, aerobic, anaerobic and high intensity). This same color-coded system, from hardly trying blue to gonna collapse red, is also replicated on the companion heart rate monitor's clip: one button press on the Bluetooth transmitter will show a color-coded notification illustrating how hard you're working. You can also get the app to narrate how many calories burned, distance traveled, current heart rate and more. The voice guide will specify your current beats per minute, but try not to laugh when the voice says "bits per minute." And if you can't help chuckling, you can fortunately turn the commentary off. Which I did.

Optional: The Lifeband

LG's Lifeband Touch is yet another fitness band -- and it's a hard sell. Announced at CES alongside the headphones, it's proof consumer tech never stands still, especially in nascent categories like wearables. Half a year later, we've seen products attempting to straddle the divide between fitness gadgets and smartwatches, with the best example so far being the imperfect Gear Fit from Samsung -- a fitness wearable paired with a beautiful screen and a heart rate monitor, albeit with a fuzzy interface and temperamental pulse readings.

LG's band is friendlier but dumber. There's no OLED screen, but it works with both Android and iOS devices. No heart rate monitor, but then, that's the earphones' job. The Lifeband Touch is a solid, slightly flexible rubbery band with no clasp. Instead, there's a break in the band to slip your arm in -- it's a bangle, basically. It bends a little at the end, while the scrolling monochrome display and single button are both at the more solid end. The device feels heavier than the FuelBand, which is probably its closest competitor. LG had the foresight to add a degree of motion detection, so if you raise your wrist, the device can either show the time or the option screen you saw last.

I tried the Lifeband for a few weeks, but our review sample abruptly stopped charging; LG says we received a lemon. Even after a short testing period, I'm not desperate to use it again. Its biggest drawback is the dot-pixel screen, which is nigh-on unreadable in direct sunlight. While I haven't torn down the device to investigate, I think it's because the display appears to be pretty deep inside, meaning there's a lot of space (and glass) between the surface and what you're trying to read -- ideal for sunlight to refract and bounce around, making viewing your vitals trickier. Gesture controls be damned, you'll be cupping the Lifeband with your other hand in an attempt to read the time, your pulse or your step count. When you can finally make out the display, you'll notice three menu sections: one for battery, time and date; another for fitness stuff (calories, distances, steps, session tracking), and the last for controlling music playback.

The interface and features are richer than the FuelBand, but Samsung's Gear Fit simply looks nicer, and with a color OLED touchscreen, is more technically accomplished even if the software is a muddled mess. Swiping through the Lifeband's touchscreen is a nice way to navigate the readouts, especially compared to the FuelBand's laborious button presses. That said, the Lifeband Touch already looks dated. It seems odd that it's appeared alongside the company's new headphones, which are pretty exciting. Well, as far as headphones go, anyway.


I've never used a wrist-based heart rate monitor for an extended period because I find it uncomfortable having something attached tightly to my arm, so heart rate monitor headphones sounded like the perfect solution. LG's earphones aren't quite perfect, though. I found the wiring between the earbuds themselves and the Bluetooth unit a bit unwieldy -- the cords were prone to tangling every time I took them off. For headphones, they're not cheap either: $180 at Best Buy. There's really no other device like it, however. Intel's smart ears are just a concept for now, while other options are either gestating in crowdfunding or outright hoaxes. LG's headphones, which you can buy today, give surprisingly accurate heart rate readings. Particularly thanks to the capable app, I can recommend them to fitness types who can't do without music -- just be prepared for some underwhelming audio.

Filed under: , , ,



Monday, July 28, 2014

Airbnb launches dedicated portal for business travelers

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2014/07/28/airbnb-for-business-travelers/

It's not that business travelers have chosen to shun Airbnb -- in fact they make up a decent chunk of the short-term subletting business. But now the startup is making a concerted effort to lure those customers in with Business Travel on Airbnb. It's dedicated portal with tools specifically designed not just for travelers, but for companies to manage employee travel. The company has even partnered with Concur, which builds travel and expense systems like Triplink, which is used by a vast majority of Fortune 100 companies. Not every listing will be displayed through the new portal. Odd ball listings like tree houses will be filtered out, as will any shared rentals -- such as a room in a larger apartment. Courting business customers is going to be essential for Airbnb to continue to grow. And considering how much money investors have pumped into the it, growth is certainly high on its list of priorities.

Filed under:



Source: Airbnb


âNVIDIA found a way to quadruple display performance in low-res LCDs

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2014/07/28/nvidia-LCDs/

Face it, the tech industry is obsessed with resolution; we want every display to be high definition, regardless of size. We also want our devices to be affordable, leaving device manufactures with an interesting problem: how do they manufacture low-cost products with high-resolution screens? NVIDIA researchers have one solution -- stack two low-resolution panels on top of each other to increase pixel density on the cheap. The solution is so simple it sounds ridiculous, but apparently, it works.

Researchers disassembled two 1,280 x 800 LCD panels and rebuilt them into a single display with slightly offset pixels, a filter to weed out polarization conflicts and a bit of customized software to force the display components to work in tandem. NVIDIA calls the resulting prototype a "cascaded display," and in tests it has quadrupled the spatial resolution of the original panels (thanks, in part, to how the pixel offset crams an additional four pixels behind every one of the first panel's visible pixel).

The images produced by the cascaded display aren't quite as good as the full resolution target image, but it's leaps and bounds ahead of the capabilities of the original 1,280 x 800 panels. It's also a comparatively inexpensive way to build higher resolutions screens for head mounted displays like the Oculus Rift. These hobbled together panels aren't perfect, of course -- the cascaded display is less bright than a typical screen and apparently has poor viewing angles -- but the research could lead to a better way to build affordable, high definition electronics. Check out the video below to see the technology in action.

Filed under: ,


Via: ExtremeTech

Source: NVIDIA


Amazon Just Opened A 3D Printed Products Store To Bring You Countless Customization Options

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-opens-3d-printed-products-store-2014-7

Amazon 3D Printed

Dying to customize some cufflinks?

Amazon just launched a new store for 3D printed products, which has over 200 listings that can be customized by material, color, style, text, or size.

The marketplace includes jewelry, toys, iPhone cases, home-goods, personalized bobble heads, and, yes, cufflinks, among other things. 

Amazon isn't actually printing anything itself, but merely connecting consumers with companies that specialize in 3D printing, like Mixee Labs, Sculpteo, and 3DLT. 

Price-wise, there's quite a range: You can get a small, metal T-Rex head for nearly $200, but a 3D bobble-head designed to look like you will only set you back $30. 

"The online customer shopping experience will be redefined through 3D printing," Clément Moreau, CEO and co-founder of Sculpteo, said in Amazon's press release. "With 3D printing, a customer’s wants are no longer limited to what is in stock but instead by what they can imagine."

Amazon's new store closely follows eBay's efforts at breaking into the 3D printed space. The company launched the eBay Exact app in early July, but it only offered roughly 20 products to customize. 

SEE ALSO: 9 Easy Tips For Finding Exactly What You Want On Google

Join the conversation about this story »


Build Your Own Voice Controlled TV Unit with an Android Phone

Source: http://lifehacker.com/build-your-own-voice-controlled-tv-unit-with-an-android-1611103727

Taking a little time to be a couch potato is sometimes just what the doctor ordered. If you want to maximize your laziness, this DIY setup from Jayvis Vineet Gonsalves lets you control your TV with your beautiful voice.

Gonsalves calls his project "Aergia," which is the name of the Greek goddes of laziness and sloth—fitting. With Aergia, you can control your TV, set top box, stereo, or any other device that uses an IR remote. All you need is an Arduino Uno, a Bluetooth module, some IR receivers, and a few other electronic parts. If you have an Android device, it only costs you $20 to build, requires minimal electronics knowledge, and just a little skill with a soldering iron.

Using your Android touch screen device you can power the TV on and off, change the channel, navigate menu settings, turn the volume up or down, and it has 12 additional buttons you can program for whatever you like. The best button of all, though: the speech recognition button. Tap that button and you can control the whole setup with your voice. For a list of parts, thorough instructions, and more information regarding voice commands, check the link below. Happy channel surfing!

Aergia: Android controlled TV Remote (with Speech Recognition) | Instructables


Next-generation lithium cells will double your phone's battery life

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2014/07/27/lithium-anode-battery/

The lithium-ion battery in an LG G3

The lithium ion batteries in your mobile devices are inherently limited by the "ion" part of their name; they can safely use lithium only in the part of the cell that supplies ions, wasting a lot of potential energy. It's good news, then, that researchers at Stanford have developed a new lithium battery that could last for much, much longer. The technique allows for denser, more efficient lithium in the battery's anode (which discharges electrons) by using a nanoscopic carbon shield that keeps the unstable chemical in check -- uncontrolled, it can quickly shorten the device's lifespan.

The result is a power pack that lasts considerably longer on charge, won't decay quickly and remains relatively safe. Stanford's Steven Chu (the former US Secretary of Energy) reckons that a cellphone equipped with these advanced lithium cells could have two to three times the battery life, and automakers could build cheap electric cars that still offer a healthy driving range. There's more engineering work required before you see any shipping products, but it's entirely possible that future portable gadgets will run for more than a day on a charge without resorting to giant battery packs.

Filed under: , , ,


Via: Phys.org

Source: Nature


This floating 3D video shows 'Star Wars' holograms are closer than we think

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2014/07/28/floating-3d-video-art-exhibition/

Thanks to Princess Leia's famous Star Wars plea, true holograms rank just behind flying cars as tech we want, nay deserve to have in our lifetimes -- and Tupac-style flimflam won't cut it. Now, an exhibition from artists Chris Helson and Sarah Jackets whimsically called "Help Me Obi" projects objects as large as 30cm (12-inches) in space. Visible from any angle in the room, the subjects include a newborn baby and NASA's Voyager 1 space probe. The creators are quick to point out that the machine doesn't create a true hologram, but rather a "360-degree video object." We take that to mean that it's more like a floating 3D movie that looks the same from any angle, rather than a true holographic object you can study from all sides. Since they're seeking a patent, Helson and Jackets are coy about exactly how it works, but say that there's nothing else quite like it (that they know of). If you're in the Edinburgh, Scotland area between July 31st and August 30th, you can judge for yourself at the Alt-W exhibition.

Filed under: , ,



Source: Helson and Jackets


Sunday, July 27, 2014

UV-Powered Blood Test Could Make Universal Cancer Detection Possible

Source: http://gizmodo.com/uv-powered-blood-test-could-make-universal-cancer-detec-1611341681

UV-Powered Blood Test Could Make Universal Cancer Detection Possible

Early detection is the best tool to fight cancer, but biopsies can be painful and inconclusive. New research shows a simple blood test can detect cancers by blasting white blood cells with UV and seeing how they respond. Painless, universal cancer detection could be a drop of blood away.



Friday, July 25, 2014

Amazon Fire Phone Teardown: So Many Cameras in Such a Small Space

Source: http://gizmodo.com/amazon-fire-phone-teardown-so-many-cameras-in-such-a-s-1610773376

Amazon Fire Phone Teardown: So Many Cameras in Such a Small Space

The Amazon Fire Phone's tricks are pretty sophisticated, even if they're never really put to good use . And its innards are complicated to match, according to a teardown by iFixit. But damned if they aren't pretty to look at.



âSpeed-Optimized Browser Pale Moon is Now on Android

Source: http://lifehacker.com/speed-optimized-browser-pale-moon-is-now-on-android-1610070974

​Speed-Optimized Browser Pale Moon is Now on Android

Android: Pale Moon is a speed-optimized version of Firefox that we love on the desktop. Now it you can get it—and all of its performance improvements—on your Android phone or tablet.

Pale Moon is optimized for speed and efficiency. Like the desktop version, it supports add-ons from the Mozilla Add-Ons catalog. This Android port comes from XDA developer cyansmoker, and it can be personalized with add-ons from the Firefox add-ons catalog. The browser is free to download and use, but it's not available in Google Play, so you'll need to enable third party app support and sideload it.

The download link below is for a copy of the file hosted on Mega. If it proves problematic, take a look at the thread on XDA Developers for mirrors. It's also worth keeping an eye on the thread if you run into problem with the app itself. It is currently in alpha and not guaranteed to work with every device.

Pale Moon (Free) | XDA Developers Forum via XDA Developers Blog


Thursday, July 24, 2014

A High Intensity Video Light Lets Your GoPro See In the Dark

Source: http://reframe.gizmodo.com/a-high-intensity-video-light-lets-your-gopro-see-in-the-1610333385/+ericlimer

A High Intensity Video Light Lets Your GoPro See In the Dark

Just because the sun has set doesn't mean your action-packed antics are over for the day. So an Aussie company called Knog has created the Qudos, a high-intensity camera light that sits next to your GoPro, and other popular action cams, pumping out up to 400 lumens of brightness so you don't miss a single wipeout, even in the dark.



âGoogle is reportedly buying Twitch for $1 billion

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2014/07/24/google-is-reportedly-buying-twitch-for-1-billion/

What's the internet's most popular game-streaming service worth? About $1 billion, if VentureBeat sources have their story straight. Earlier this year, Variety and the Wall Street Journal reported that Google was in talks to acquire Twitch, but conceded that the two companies were only just starting negotiations. Now, sources familiar with the deal say an agreement has been reached, though its unclear when the reported acquisition will be officially announced. Naturally, there are some concerns that a Google acquisition of Twitch would stifle competition for rival services, but the tried and true platform could certainly bolster Mountain View's own streaming efforts. If nothing else, perhaps the deal will validate emerging market shared gameplay in the eyes of its doubters.

Filed under: , , ,


Source: VentureBeat


LG sells a record 14.5 million smartphones as profits nearly triple

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2014/07/24/LG-q2-2014-earningsi/


LG has just reported a record quarter for mobile phone sales, showing that it's taking advantage of a slump from arch-rival Samsung. LG sold 14.5 million handsets over the last quarter, its highest total ever and 20 percent more than last year -- with more than a third of those LTE models. It chalked up most of the success to its well-reviewed top-of-the-line G3 handset, along with strong sales of its mid-range L products. LG's mobile division scooped up KRW 3.6 trillion ($3.5 billion) and put an end to three straight quarters of losses. Home entertainment also performed well, climbing 3 percent on the strength of higher-margin UltraHD 4K sets. All that resulted in an operating profit of KRW 412 billion ($599 million) -- not nearly Samsung-level numbers, but at least LG's are going up, not down.

Filed under: , , ,


Source: LG


Future phones could house a terabyte of storage

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2014/07/24/future-phone-terabyte-storage/

Crossbar's resistive RAM

You may think that the 3GB of memory in your new smartphone is hot stuff, but that pales in comparison with what Rice University has in store. Its scientists have detailed a form of resistive RAM (RRAM) that can be made using regular equipment at room temperatures, making it practical for everyday gadgets. The trick is the use of porous silicon oxide where metals (such as gold or platinum) fill the gaps. Using the silicon material doesn't just give manufacturers something familiar to work with; it requires much less power than previous techniques, can last through 100 times as many uses and isn't fazed by heat. It's also far denser than earlier RRAM, storing nine bits per cell where even conventional flash storage stops at three. The result should be an easy-to-make RAM chip with the kind of capacity that you'd normally expect from much larger permanent storage, like an SSD -- as the company Crossbar hinted when it first discussed this approach, you could stuff 1TB into a component the size of a postage stamp.

That's just about ideal for mobile devices, and could mean that future phones and tablets won't have to worry about low memory errors for a long, long time. Crossbar's technology is due in later this year in chips destined for embedded uses like appliances and cars, so the breakthrough won't be noticeable at first. Research lead James Tour tells MIT that he expects a deal with an unnamed manufacturer in the next couple of weeks, though, so it's entirely possible that this super-capacious memory will become commonplace.

Rice University's new resistive RAM

Filed under: , ,


Via: MIT Technology Review

Source: Rice University


Pilot one of the robots from 'Pacific Rim' with Oculus Rift at Comic-Con

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2014/07/24/pacific-rim-jaeger-pilot-oculus-vr/

We're not sure how many of the new Oculus Rift VR kits have shipped out to developers already, but it looks like a healthy amount are in San Diego right now. That's where Comic-Con is happening this week and, following the X-Men VR demo we already heard about, Legendary Pictures and Oculus have teamed up for Pacific Rim: Jaeger Pilot. It lets attendees take control of the 250-foot tall Jaeger "Gipsy Danger" (no drift connection necessary) and do battle in a virtual reality combat simulator against the kaiju Knifehead (the first one you see in the movie). The whole experience is built in Unreal Engine 4 using the same assets Industrial Light & Magic worked with for the movie. Sure, you've seen the movie, and maybe even in IMAX 3D, but we're pretty sure even Guillermo del Toro's directing tricks can't add up to feeling like you're there, fighting an 8,700 ton monster off the coast of Alaska. It's all in Legendary's booth #3920 for all four days the show is open, from Thursday through Sunday. Don't have a ticket? There's a video preview embedded after the break, but it can't compare to diving into a VR world with Oculus -- maybe we'll be able to enjoy it at home by April 2017 when Pacific Rim 2 arrives.

Join the fight! 'Drift with the Rift' exclusively at the @Legendary booth (#3920) & prepare to pilot a 250ft Jaeger. http://t.co/C6CeXE7ldp

- Legendary (@Legendary) July 24, 2014

Filed under: , , ,


Source: Legendary Pictures (YouTube), Legendary.com