Category Archives: Accessory

Breathe Underwater With “Artificial Gills” from Triton



triton swimmer in poolHumans have been able to swim underwater safely for decades using equipment like SCUBA gear. But that type of underwater apparatus can be expensive and difficult to use. What if a swimmer could just put on a simple mask-like device that would allow him to breathe underwater without the need for oxygen tanks or other bulky gear? The developers of the Triton Artificial Gill Re-Breather are hoping to answer that question.

The Triton team has created a prototype “artificial gill” system. This so-called “re-breather” uses a special respirator that a swimmer holds in their mouth to be used with an attendant mask that covers the eyes and nose. Triton claims that this system will allow a swimmer to safely breathe underwater for up to 45 minutes without the need for external oxygen tanks or other breathing equipment. The artificial gills are made from microporous hollow fiber that keeps water out but allows oxygen to pass. A powerful lithium-ion battery then runs a compressor that feeds a small onboard oxygen tank, making it possible to breathe underwater.

Triton is launching its re-breather thru an Indiegogo campaign that’s been wildly successful. The team was hoping to raise $50,000 and the campaign has already taken in more than $800,000 in pledges. A contribution of $299 will net you a production-model re-breather and save you $100 on the expected retail price.


NexPaq Modules Bring Versatility to IoT



NexPaq logoThe recent boom in smart, connected technology has given consumers more opportunities than ever before to command and control different devices. But if you want to bring the so-called “Internet of Things” into your home, you’re faced with potentially having to buy a small army’s worth of new devices to replace your old ones. What if there was a platform that allowed you to create your own IoT system using modules that could be configured to do almost anything? That’s what NexPaq is doing with its modular products.

Aylee met with Steve Safarowic, Chief Marking Officer of NexPaq. Steve showed off his company’s innovative system that uses modules to do specific things. First, he demonstrated a special smartphone case that interacts with the phone. Users can add modules to extend battery life or create programmable hotkeys to do certain tasks like turning on lights or making a phone call. NexPaq also has a standalone device that uses its modular system without a smartphone. NexPaq also has a developer kit that can be used to create new modules. Developers can even submit their modules to the NexPaq store where they could become available to sell to other NexPaq users. NexPaq smartphone cases and modules are available for purchase thru the NexPaq shop.

Aylee Nielsen is a video host who specializes in covering live events for Plughitz Live.

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BenQ at 2016 CES



Todd CochraneBenQ Zowie interviews Ronald Kim from BenQ. They discuss BenQ’s new line of Zowie line of competitive gaming accessories. BenQ brings in professional gamers to help them validate their gaming accessory designs.

Ron shows three models (they offer a total of seven models) of gaming mice that are specifically designed to give the end user the best possible gaming performance. They include the ZA Series, the EC-A Series, and the FK Series mice. Top-level professional gamers still prefer wired mice over wireless mice for the best possible lag-free performance. BenQ Zowie mice offer the ultimate in adjustable precision.

The mice are all priced at $59.99 each and are available now. The BenQ Zowie mouse pads are priced from $25 to $45 dollars on Amazon.

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Product Review: 1byone Outdoor/Shower Bluetooth Speaker



1byone logoIt’s a basic rule of safety when using personal electronics: water and electricity don’t mix. It’s super important to take caution when using electronic devices in bathrooms or outdoor environments. Fortunately, there are products that are designed specifically to be used in these situations. With this in mind, I was given a new 1byone Outdoor Sports & Shower 4.0 Bluetooth Speaker to test out and review.

1byone Bluetooth speaker box
1byone Bluetooth speaker box
1byone Bluetooth speaker unboxing
1byone Bluetooth speaker unboxing
1byone Bluetooth speaker unboxing
1byone Bluetooth speaker unboxing
1byone Bluetooth speaker unboxing
1byone Bluetooth speaker unboxing

The speaker comes with a user manual, a hook for hanging the speaker and a USB cable for charging and connecting to a computer. Using the speaker is pretty straightforward. Hold down the power button and when the speaker powers on, a voice prompt lets you know if the device is connected to an external sound source, either via Bluetooth or USB. Pairing the speaker to my iPad worked flawlessly, triggering another voice prompt from the speaker indicating that it was connected via Bluetooth.

I tested the Bluetooth speaker by sending spoken-word audio from a couple of different podcast apps. The connection worked but it had some issues. By nature, spoken-word audio has some gaps of silence. And when the podcasts I was playing would have a moment or two of silence, the audio stream would cut out and “skip” to the next portion with audible speaking. This made it difficult to listen to spoken-word audio via the Bluetooth speaker. (For the sake of troubleshooting, I tried a couple of different podcast apps and two different Bluetooth devices but the problem never went away.)

I also tested the Bluetooth speaker by playing some music (most likely what the speaker is designed for) and in that case, it operated as expected without any of the issues I experienced while listening to podcasts. I suspect the speaker itself is designed to go into some kind of “low power” mode when the incoming audio drops below a certain threshold. Thus, causing the speaker to try and “turn off” when the podcast audio reaches a silent part.

The speaker is charged over USB and it can also be connected to a computer to use as a USB speaker. When I connected the speaker to my Mac, a voice prompt announced that the device was in USB mode. But the speaker never appeared as an available sound source in my Mac’s Sound System Preferences. The speaker can also play back media from a TF/Micro SD card but I don’t have a card in this format so I can’t test that out.

The 1byone Bluetooth speaker has no display. It provides its status thru voice prompts. The device is controlled by a series of buttons on its side. This includes power on/off, play/pause, volume up/down which also doubles as track forward/backward, a “phone” button for answering/ending phone calls and a “mode reset” button. The controls are molded into the chassis of the device and they are difficult to see in low-light conditions. Having the volume and track controls be shared by the same buttons can be a bit awkward as it’s necessary to hold the buttons down to adjust volume, while pressing the buttons once will skip ahead/rewind depending on the type of app you’re using to send audio to the speaker.

1byone Bluetooth speaker controls
1byone Bluetooth speaker controls

I tested the speaker by letting it play in the shower, The speaker has more than enough volume capacity to be heard over the running water. And while I didn’t position the speaker in a place where it’d get too wet, it did get some water on it and it came thru just fine. It probably wouldn’t be a good idea to fully submerge the speaker (why you’d want to do that is beyond me, anyway) but you shouldn’t have to worry about operating it in damp environments. Also, the speaker is very sturdy. It’s covered by a rubber shell that should protect it from most of the accidents that can occur in a typical day.

The 1byone Bluetooth speaker is available direct from the manufacturer for $45.99 (link above) or at a nice discount from Amazon for $19.99.


Never Get Caught In a Downpour Again with Oombrella



Oombrella LogoI live on California’s Central Coast. We’re in the midst of the rainy season here and weather patterns are often unpredictable, with overcast days that could produce a downpour at any moment. It’s tough to know when it’d be a good idea to bring an umbrella or leave it behind. Fortunately, the makers of Oombrella are working to change that.

Scott met up with Clement Guilot of Oombrella. Clement showed off the Oombrella chip, a small device that monitors the weather around you and also pulls in weather data from other sources to give you the most accurate meteorological predictions possible. Oombrella sends notifications to your smartphone to let you know if you should bring your umbrella or leave it at home. Oombrella also uses Bluetooth to notify if you accidentally leave it behind. So, you’ll never lose another umbrella! The product is still in the planning phase but Clement is optimistic it’ll be in users’ hands by Fall of this year. Oombrella should retail for around $85 but backers to an upcoming Kickstarter campaign will be able to get the device at a discount for $65.

Scott Ertz is a software developer and video producer at F5 Live: Refreshing Technology.

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Wireless Power Consortium at 2016 CES



Qi EverywhereScott Ertz interviews Arun Kumar, partner presenter at the Wireless Power Consortium booth.

They discuss the current state of wireless charging technology. They demonstrate a 15 watt wireless charger hooked to a laptop. It will soon be possible to integrate wireless charging circuitry directly into laptop computers for the first time, perhaps within a year.

Scott also interviews John Perzow, vice president of market development, about longer-distance charging. John demonstrates that it is now possible to charge a Qi device up to an inch away through an inch thick block of wood. Distance charging is problematic since electrical charging efficiency drops off very quickly with distance.

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Altec Lansing BoomJacket Bluetooth Speakers at 2016 CES



boomjacket-blue-front-1024x512Scott Ertz interviews Jill Byeff, marketing for Altec Lansing Speakers. They discuss Altec Lansing’s BoomJacket line of waterproof, shockproof Bluetooth speakers for active outdoor lifestyles.

The BoomJacket speaker is priced at $199.00 and is IP67-rated waterproof, sandproof, shockproof and snowproof construction. It is also floatable and submersible and has a 50 foot Bluetooth range. It has a 40 hour battery life at spoken word volume level. The BoomJacket also features a built-in universal mounting mechanism for easy attachment to equipment and structures like bikes, kayaks, jet skis, and motorcycles.

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Toast Custom Wood Smartphone Covers at 2016 CES



ToastScott Ertz interviews Matias Brecher, founder of Toast, a manufacturer of wood and leather covers for mobile tech devices.

From the toastmade.com website, customers can order and customize a wide variety of custom wood and leather covers for their smartphones, tablets and gaming consoles at affordable prices. Customers can provide their own graphics to be etched into the cases. The price for the plain wooden Note 4 case at left starts at $34.00. Custom graphics and text can add from $5.00 to $10.00 to the price.

The base price for a wooden top cover for a MacBook starts at $59.00. Add a bottom wooden cover for $30.00.

Walnut is the most popular type of wood customers pick.

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dreamGear Retro Arcade Gaming at 2016 CES



DreamGearNakia Mann interviews Oliver Tesoro, product manager for dreamGear, a manufacturer of a variety of video gaming accessories.

They discuss dreamGear’s latest retro plug and play 8-bit and 16-bit retro games that sell at a variety of prices for under $40. Some are designed to look like miniature versions of old-style video arcade games that used to eat quarters.

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ChargeHub at 2016 CES



chargehub-round-red-1Scott Ertz interviews Rock Smeja, vice president of operations for ChargeHub. They discuss the ChargeHub, which is a round 7 port USB charging hub. You can charge up to 7 USB devices simultaneously while being connected to one power source, either AC house current or and included automotive 12-volt adapter.

The ChargeHub is priced at $59.99 and is available at many different retailers such as Best Buy, Staples, Amazon, etc. The ChargeHub value pack, which includes USB cables and the 12-volt car adapter is priced at $89.99.

The ChargeHub is designed to communicate with many different types of devices and has high enough wattage that it can adapt to charging as fast as any particular device can accept a charge.

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