Snapchat Spectacles

If you are a Snapchat user, you know that it can be a fun social media platform to share a quick picture or video of what you’re up to with your pals. It’s loaded with tons of features that are constantly improved and updated; from filters, stickers, and funny face-changers, to plug-ins like Bitmoji to personalize your snaps. With millions of daily active users, there is no doubt that this app is both successful and popular. The company has recently re-branded as Snap Inc., as well as implementing a new gadget to improve user’s experience with the app: the Snap Spectacles.

Image result for snap spectacles

These glasses, or Spectacles as they are branded, contain cameras in the frames that allow the users to film their daily activity without using their phone’s camera. Snaps can be shot in first person view, allowing Snappers to shoot amazing footage to share with their friends. Gone are the days of, “Hey, film me doing this!” With the Snap Spectacles, you can film your antics as they happen, and share stories shown in your perspective. When you’re done, put them back in the case to charge them, simple as that. According to spectacles.com, the Spectacles can record up to 100 10-second snaps in one charge. They come in Coral, Teal, and Black, and cost $129.99 USD.

Snap Inc. has also developed a marketing scheme that some are calling genius. By combining a “scavenger-hunt” style acquisition, and a limited quantity to be sold, Snap Inc took its users’ world by storm with the SnapBot.

Snapbot is a cute, friendly, travelling vending machine that looks almost like a Minion from Despicable Me. Customers must track down the vending machine’s whereabouts in order to get a pair – and even with this inconvenience, the glasses sold out in many of Snapbot’s visited locations.

Fortunately for consumers, and due to high demand and popularity, Snap Inc has recently made the glasses available online for anyone to purchase. Considering that the Snapbot only travels in the USA, this makes things a lot easier for anyone living outside of the States.

Cameras in glasses are nothing new. While many outside the target demographic might think $130 for a social media accessory is ridiculous, the sheer popularity of the app, coupled with the fairly young (and impulsive) demographic of 12-24 made this product a huge success for Snap Inc.

Do you snap? Would you buy these, and do you think they would get used often, or that the novelty would wear off after a while?

Steam Game Publishing

For anyone who is not familiar with Steam, it is an online entertainment platform which allows members to purchase and download different games onto their personal computers. Other platforms, such as Blizzard’s Battle.net, Origin, and Ubisoft, restrict the available content to games developed by their own companies. Valve Corporation’s Steam, on the other hand, has a much more open policy for which games can be uploaded by independent developers, and in turn, download by Steam’s members.

In recent years, Steam has used a system called Greenlight to regulate which games can be uploaded to the distribution platform. Greenlight operates on a popular vote basis. Steam users vote or pledge support for the games they think will be good, and Valve then takes the most supported titles and works to get them up and running on the Steam platform. Unfortunately, many of the games don’t turn out to be as good as they look; some are poorly coded, badly scripted, etc. This left users feeling cheated and mistreated after they purchased the titles. Steam attempted to curb the flood of shoddy games by implementing a $100 fee for listing a game on Greenlight, however it seems that this was not enough.

Now, Steam is making another change in the way its games are added to the platform. Can you guess what the new Golden Ticket is? You guessed it: money. In the near future, independent developers will be able to pay a publishing fee to have their games published on the Steam platform. Steam hopes that this will discourage the flood of submissions of bad games. This new system will be called Steam Direct.

Valve hopes that Steam Direct will stop the bad games from coming in, but they are not sure that it will work. However, it may also bring in a lot of good games that otherwise wouldn’t have made the cut. Why is this? With the previous Greenlight system, developers depended on thousands of votes from Steam users to finally get published. Many agree that it would be much easier to pay a fee than to rely on the public’s vote. While the dollar amount for the fees have not been officially decided yet, the new Steam Direct will cost developers anywhere from $100- $5000, which is much less than the cost of releasing a game to platforms such as PlayStation or Xbox. Games that are successful and popular will earn back some of the money they paid.

I think this is a really cool opportunity for independent game developers to get their work out on the market. You can’t always rely on popular vote to carry through your work, and this will give serious developers the chance to “make it” in the industry.

Smart Fridge

For those of us who have ever bought groceries, we know that it can be expensive. And what’s worse than spending your hard-earned money on some irresistible foodstuffs? Putting it in the fridge, forgetting about it, and finding it a couple weeks later, untouched by anything but mold. Personally, I try to write things on the magnetic white board on the fridge, so I can try to remember to eat them. But let’s face it, it still happens.

SAMSUNG brings us a possible solution: The Family Hub Refrigerator.

Image result for family hub

This ultra-futuristic fridge is loaded with features and a huge, touch screen display. It has 3 interior cameras, so you can keep track of what’s in your fridge. It’s also Wi-Fi enabled, which gives its capabilities a boost. It can connect to your phone via apps, and let you view the contents from anywhere. Alternately, if you don’t want to leave the house and look for food, there are apps available (namely, Shopping by MasterCard) that let you do your shopping, online, straight from your fridge.

But the Family Hub’s capabilities not only make managing food easier, it manages your life too.  The Hub uses apps that allow you to manage your day to day tasks, just like the traditional calendars, photos, and reminders we might stick to the door of the fridge. Its calendar can be synced with the entire family’s personal calendars, making sure nobody is left out and no appointment is forgotten. Notes can also be sent from the family’s phone straight to the fridge. And don’t forget those touching family photos. Why choose one or two when your fridge can display them as a slideshow on its vibrant screen?

On top of these capabilities, its Wi-Fi connection allows it to stream music! You can jam out while you cook, play relaxing music for a dinner, or play something sweet on date night. Don’t want to miss your show while your cooking? Mirror your TV screen to the fridge and keep an eye on your favorite stories. Need to check the weather before sending the kids out to school? The Samsung Family Hub can do that too. In fact, it has full internet browser capabilities just like a tablet or smart phone.

I could see this being very useful for me. I love to cook, and this would be an easy way to keep track of recipes, play music, and make sure I’m using up all the food that I purchase. Unfortunately, this fridge costs about $6000, while their regular refrigerators are about $2000. Maybe someday!

 

Microsoft Surface Book

As a student studying design in IMA, the idea of drawing tablets has always been appealing. Sure, I have a ‘drawing tablet’, but it’s a traditional, cheap, drawing-pad type with no digital display. While it is handy, the slight disconnect that occurs while drawing on the pad and looking at the screen leaves the user wanting more. I dreamed of the day I could afford a professional drawing tablet, the kind where the tablet is built into the screen. I imagined it would feel more natural to see the lines show up where you touch with the pen.

On our first day, we were shown the beautiful Cintiq monitors at the back of room 422. I know I wasn’t alone in that my instant thought was, “I NEED to try that!” After trying out the screen, my next thought was, “I NEED one of these!” Unfortunately as students, none of us really have the extra 3 Grand available just to purchase a monitor, never mind the tower with all the hardware capable of running the programs we use for designing. Most of us were just concerned with getting a laptop so that we can complete all our work and coding.

There is a product, produced by Microsoft, that offers a (somewhat) more affordable compromise of the two; the Surface Book.

This product functions as both a laptop and a tablet. The keyboard and screen detach at the hinge, allowing the user to use just the tablet portion, and then reattach to use as a functional laptop. The screen can also be attached ‘backwards’, creating a clipboard style drawing surface without losing battery life by detaching the screen. The screen carries about 25% of the Surface Book’s total battery power, allowing about 3 hours of use on its own.

Image result for surface book clipboard

 

The keyboard contains the other 75% of the battery, as well as the graphics card and processor. This means that when in ‘laptop mode’, the Surface Book is capable of gaming and rendering. The tablet portion is still capable of completing the drawing tasks in programs like Photoshop or Gimp. The stylus for the tablet is also magnetic and attaches conveniently to the side of the screen for storage and quick access.

Some people say that the gap between the keyboard and the tablet, when closed, is unsightly. I rather like this, however, because it creates a slightly angled surface. This would act as a small easel to tilt the screen towards the user when it’s laying on a table.

While it’s not exactly cheap, the Surface Book is about $1500, half the price of the Cintiq monitor. Personally I would love something like this down the road. This model came out in 2015, and I can only imagine what improvements will be made by the time I graduate/ can afford one!

VW Heated Windshields

As people who reside in the Great White North, we are (somewhat) accustomed to the cold weather. We know that we need to start the car early to warm it up, and that in the depth of winter, we will most likely need to spend a couple minutes chipping away at the frost and ice on our windshields. Volkswagen has developed a new technology for their windshields, a “silver lining” that could potentially solve a lot of those problems, without the flaws of previous models.

Other companies have implemented heated windshields before; it’s nothing new. “Ford Quickclear” is one of the top examples of a heated windshield technology. However, in Ford’s (and others’) case, the heated windshields used thin filament wires to heat the glass and clear away ice and snow. The problem with these filaments is that while they are mostly invisible, drivers reported that, especially in bright or direct lighting, the filaments were distracting and annoying. Imagine driving down the highway and having every passing car’s headlights reflecting off the thousands of tiny filaments in your windshield. I think I would rather spend the extra couple minutes scraping off the ice than deal with that.

The new type of windshield uses a thin layer of electrically conductive silver instead. This layer can handle up to 400-5oo watts of electricity to warm up the windshield, and is completely invisible to the driver! While the other methods surely got the job done, this new method trumps its predecessors because it isn’t distracting or annoying like the others. Additionally, the bottom sections have extra filaments to keep the windshield wipers from icing up.

As a bonus, Volkswagen claims that the ultra-thin layer of silver is not only beneficial for winter driving, but for summer as well. According to VW, the silver layer actually reflects some of the heat from the sun, keeping the interior of the car cooler. As opposed to the traditional green/blue tinting of windows, the silver keeps the car a whole 15 degrees cooler in sunlight. While I’m sure these new vehicles would come with A/C, getting into a car that’s been parked in the sun all day would be slightly less vomit-inducing.

The wireless, filament-free windshield is an optional extra for European Volkswagen models, however it is not available in North America at this time. I find this kind of ironic because typically we deal with more frost and snow than a lot of European countries. But with the rapid improvement of technology in cars, I’m sure it won’t be long until we see something like this here.

 

QWERTY or KALQ?

Typing is a core skill for computer use, and is considered to be an important skill for employment. Most of us have been typing and using computers for as long as we can remember. And now, with the boom in popularity of smartphones and tablets, typing is almost second nature to much of the population. But, have you ever stopped and wondered why the keyboard is set up the way it is? And will it stay that way?

The most common setup for English keyboards seen today is the “QWERTY” setup, which corresponds to the first six letters on the top row of the keyboard. But why do we use this setup? Would it not make more sense for the keyboard to be alphabetical, which is already familiar to us?

Well, as it turns out, the first keyboards were, in fact, alphabetical. The first typewriter, patented in 1868, used 28 letters arranged alphabetically on a piano-like keyboard. The problem with this alphabetical keyboard, however, was the internal mechanism. The typists became so good at using the typewriter that the keys would actually become tangled, requiring expensive visits from mechanics to fix. The QWERTY setup purposely put commonly used letters further apart. This way, the fast typists did not have to worry about the keys getting tangled.

Additionally, a popular theory points out that the top row of the QWERTY keyboard contains all of the letters to spell out the word “typewriter”, which would have allowed salesmen to show off the capabilities of the machine. The salesman would not need to know how to type or spend the time picking out the letters, and could show the capability of speedy typing without the actual skill.

Today, we are still (for the most part) using the QWERTY keyboard. Although we now have electric keyboards, with keys that don’t get tangled together, we have stuck to this setup. It’s what we are used to and what has been taught for over a century. There have been several variations of keyboard setup through the years, but QWERTY prevails… or does it?

With the ever-rising use of handheld devices for typing, another keyboard has been developed to make it easier to type with only your thumbs: the KALQ keyboard.

Image result for KALQThe KALQ Keyboard

 

KALQ is named, similarly to QWERTY, for the string of letters in the last, right-hand row. Developers believe that with as few as 8 hours practice, users would be able to type just as fast as (or faster than) the QWERTY keyboard due to the optimized layout. The division of the keyboard allows for users to type using their thumbs on larger devices like tablets, leading to a better user experience.

Many replacement keyboards have tried and failed to replace the QWERTY layout. KALQ was developed in 2013 and is available from the Google Play Store, however it doesn’t seem to be taking over as the developers had hoped.

Would you try learning the KALQ keyboard? Have you ever heard of it before? Leave a comment!

 

KALQ Is A New Split-Screen Keyboard Layout Designed To Speed Up Thumb Typing On Tablets & Big Phones