Olloclip 4-in-1 Lens for Samsung Galaxy Review

Olloclip LogoFor the “point’n’shoot” photographer, smartphones and their built-in cameras have almost completely replaced the compact camera which has seen a huge drop in sales over the past few years. Despite the handiness of the smartphone camera and the myriad of post-processing effects beloved by Instagram, there are times where the problem is getting the right image in the first place. Smartphones with macro or wide-angle lenses aren’t common.

This is where Olloclip saw a gap in the market and via a Kickstarter campaign back in 2011, developed a selection of clip-on lenses for the iPhone and iPad, including macro, fisheye and wide-angle lenses. These have become fairly well-known and I’ve even seen a few people using Olloclips on their iPhone in real life. Not content with Apple owners having all the fun, Olloclip have launched a version of the 4-in-1 lens for the Samsung Galaxy S4 and S5. Let’s take a look.

The 4-in-1 lens system for the Galaxy S4 consists of a mounting bracket that holds two macro lenses and two additional feature lenses that screw in on top of the macro lenses. One of the lenses is a fisheye and the other wide-angle. The bracket is well-made, with metal inserts to hold the screw-in lenses and the lenses are glass; by using different threads on the bracket, it’s not possible screw in the wrong lens. The bracket can be attached from the left or the right to get the correct lens in front of the phones camera. Take a look at the pictures of the Olloclip below to see how it all works.

Olloclip with Lenses

Olloclip with Lenses Removed

Samsung with Olloclip

In use, the Olloclip is straightforward – clip on the bracket with the lens you want to use in front of the camera and then start taking pictures using your favourite camera app. Simples!

To test out the Olloclip 4-in-1, I used a Samsung Galaxy S4 borrowed from a colleague and got snapping. Here are a few macro pictures that I took of a coin and the detail is impressive.

Olloclip Macro

Olloclip Macro

Olloclip Macro

And here are a few photos of a local landmark using the normal S4 camera, the wide-angle lens and the fisheye lens. I’m no Ansel Adams, that’s for sure.

Native S4 Camera

Olloclip Wide-Angle

Olloclip Fisheye

I was impressed with the Olloclip and with more interesting subject matter, I could have a lot of fun. I particularly liked the macro capabilities and the fisheye was fun too; I was quite surprised at the width of the field of view. Overall, the 4-in-1 was easy to use, clipping on and off in seconds, and significantly increased the photographic possibilities of the Galaxy S4. . On the downside, you do have to remember to bring the Olloclip with you, and the on/off and volume buttons are obstructed by the bracket when in use. The other problem can be with Samsung cases, which often replace the smartphone’s back. If you have one of these cases, you’ll find that the Olloclip won’t clip on and you’ll need to revert to the original case.

The Olloclip 4-in-1 for the Samsung Galaxy S4 or S5 is available direct from the website or through other on-line retailers. Priced at a penny under US$70 or GB£60, it’s more than an impulse purchase but if you are photographer or want to get more from your camera, it’s worth forking out for. Hopefully enough Galaxy owners will purchase to persuade Olloclip to look at other popular Android smartphones as well.

Thanks to Olloclip for the review 4-in-1 lens and to Jacinta for the loan of the Galaxy S4.

Night Stars Landscape Lights Add Sparkle to your Home

Night Stars Landscape Lights LogoAre you someone who struggles to put up (and take down) Christmas lights? I know that it is a bit early to start thinking about Christmas decorations. Even so, if you plan ahead you might be able to save yourself the hassle of putting up your outdoor Christmas lights after the weather gets cold and icy.

Night Stars Landscape Lights are laser lights that come in three different varieties: green, green and red, or green, red, and blue. They are designed to be used either indoors or outdoors. They project points of brightly colored lights onto walls, landscapes, pools, and whatever else you point them at. The purpose is to add some decorative effects and atmosphere to a party or celebration.

The lights have an optional flash/pulse setting. There is an RF remote that lets you control your Night Stars lights from anywhere in and around your home. They also have a built in timer that can run for 2, 4, 6, or 8 hours. There are instructions on their website that tells you how to set up the lights. It appears to be extremely important that you follow the directions and use the product only as directed.

The first thing I thought of when I saw these lights was that they resembled Christmas lights. The Night Stars Landscape Lights might be an interesting alternative for those who are not looking forward to climbing ladders, untangling cords, and going out into the cold to put up lights this year. The lights can be reused to add atmosphere to birthday parties and other celebrations.

Wearables Come To SXSW

SXSWAt times it feels like SXSW has become a mini-CES, with all the hot innovations popping up. Wearables combined with health and well-being are definitely where it’s at and this year Philips are hosting a Dragon’s Den-style Digital Innovation Challenge, with three companies pitching their tech for a week’s advice and guidance at Philip’s High Tech Campus in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

First up are Atlas Wearables, pitching their fitness tracker for the serious workout enthusiast. The Atlas “measures your heart rate, calculates the calories you burned and tracks your body on the x-, y- and z-axes, so it knows how many laps you swam and if you did push-ups or triangle push-ups. It’s preloaded with the most popular exercises and can learn new exercises you teach it so you can instantly see your progress, analyze your form, anticipate plateaus and find what makes you stronger, faster.” Definitely for the hardcore fitness fanatic.

Incomparable Things is very much softer – they’re building an app to bring together the myriad of data sources – “In our app, people scrapbook the stories of their adventures. We collect all the media people already create when they’re being active – from photos to location data, NikeFuel to tweets – and weave them together to tell visual, personal and complete stories that others can collect and aspire to. They are more memorable than a photo album and more inspiring than an activity data score. It is used by everyone from daily walkers to training triathletes, neighborhood arborists to polar expeditionists.” Sounds a bit like Field Trip meets Pose! I love the idea of these apps but I simply don’t have the time to curate the photos and tweets.

Finally, Push is back to circuits and training with another fitness tracker that seems very similar to the Atlas one. “Rugged and durable, PUSH straps comfortably to your arm. It communicates with your phone, transmitting movement feedback that’s too fast for the human eye to capture. The data is displayed on the PUSH App, providing you with crucial, scientifically-validated metrics about each and every rep, helping you optimize your training.” It’s kind of symptomatic of the space that there’s going to very similar devices competing for attention. Push’s USP is that it can measure strength, not simply calories burned.

If you want to see these three companies pitch, you need to get yourself round to the Next Stage in the Convention Centre at 12.30 CDT today.

ThingCharger Eliminates Cable Clutter

ThingChargerDevice chargers are the bane of modern life with a complete rat’s nest of cables and connectors behind the average desk. Todd chats to Seymour Segnit from ThingCharger about their Indiegogo campaign for a cord-free charger.

The ThingCharger plugs directly into a power socket, with the device’s charging connector on the top of the unit, and pass-thru power outlets meaning that you don’t lose the socket but even more cunningly, you can stack the ThingCharger to charge multiple devices at the same time.

A range of interchangeable charging connectors – Apple 30-pin, Micro-USB, Mini-USB, Apple Lightning – will be available so that different devices can be charged from the same charger and cleverly, the connectors can be stored in the ThingCharger so they’re much harder to lose. It’s brilliant all round, so much so that ThingCharger raised nearly $650,000 against a £25,000 target.

ThingCharger is expected to be available in Q3 of 2014 and you can pre-order now for $29.95.

Interview by Todd Cochrane of Geek News Central for the TechPodcast Network.

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Fitbit Recalls Fitbit Force After Allergic Reactions

Fitbit logoThose of you who are currently using the Fitbit Force need to be aware of a voluntary recall on it. Fitbit chose to recall the product after learning that some people are having allergic reactions to it. More specifically, some people are experiencing allergic contact dermatitis after using Fitbit Force.

Only 1.7% have reported any type allergic reaction. Even so, Fitbit has issued an apology to anyone who has been affected. As a person who has severe allergies (including some that result in allergic contact dermatitis) I applaud Fitbit’s willingness to empathize with people who had an allergic reaction to one of their products.

I do not currently use any of Fitbit’s products. If, later on, I decide I want a wearable activity tracker, I will consider Fitbit over other companies who sell similar devices. Personally, it feels like the products from Fitbit could be more “allergy-friendly” than the products from competitors.

How did the allergic reactions occur? Fitbit hired independent medical experts to investigate. It appears that the allergic contact dermatitis that some people are experiencing is a reaction to either the nickel present in the surgical grade stainless steel that is used in the Fitbit Force. Or, it could be a reaction to the materials used in the strap or the adhesives used to put the product together.

So, Fitbit offered an apology and did a voluntary recall of Fitbit Force. They also took things two steps further. Not only have they stopped selling Fitbit Force, but they also are offering a refund directly to customers for the full retail price of their Fitbit Force. I think Fitbit made excellent decisions after learning that some customers were experiencing skin irritation from Fitbit Force.

iRing the First Motion Control Device for iOs

ir2iRing is the first motion control device that works with the iPhone and iPad. It will work with various music apps including The Groovemaker and VocalLive  and more. The iRing FX/Control app runs in the background and talks to the other app, meanwhile the iOs camera picks up and follows the motion. The ring has controls on both sides. Instead of moving your fingers back and forth on the apps. You control the beat by moving the ring back and forth over the apps and the pitch by moving it closer and farther away from the app that you are using.

The iRing can be used by someone who knows very little about music but also by an experience musician. Although right now the ring  just works with music apps that IK Multimedia has created, but according to IK Multimedia there is no reason it shouldn’t work with other types of apps. They are offering an SDK and licensing to app developers in hopes that more apps will be built that use the iRing. The iRing will be available starting the 1st quarter of 2014. It will cost $25.00 for two rings and the utility app.

Interview by Don Baine, the Gadget Professor.

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iSwimband Offers Portable Drowning Detection

iSwimbandAquatic Safety Concepts has introduced the iSwimband. It has been described as a wearable “appcessory” for swimmers. The purpose of iSwimband is to reduce the incidence of preventable drowning.

It is intended as an added safety measure that parents and caregivers can use when children are swimming or using a bathtub. It is not meant to be used as a replacement for diligent supervision.

The iSwimband is wearable Bluetooth sensor that is worn by a child or toddler. It can be worn as a headband or attached to a swim cap or water goggles. If a child has been submerged for too long a period of time iSwimband will alert a parent or caregiver through his or her iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch. It comes with a free companion iSwimband app.

There is also a tamper resistant version of iSwimband that can be worn by toddlers. It is comes in the form of either a wristband or a clip that will send an alert if the toddler accidentally enters (or falls into) the water.

One iOS device can monitor up to 8 iSwimbands. The “appcessory” functions up to a 100 foot range (dependent upon environmental conditions). There is a one-time setup that only takes a few minutes.

Voice Bridge by Swissvoice

Voice BridgeDoes your business require a landline number but you want the convenience of a mobile phone, well Swissvoice may have a solution for you.  Swissvoice is showing off the Voice Bridge at CES 2014. SwissVoice’s Voice Bridge links traditional land line telephones and mobile device. It allows you to carry on a call that comes in on your landline phone on your mobile device both smartphones and tablets. Now you can tell who is calling you on your DECT-phone . You can use your mobile device as a walkie talk for communication within a building at no additional cost. Employees can be added to conference calls by simply tapping on the app on their mobile device

The Voice Box is a small box like device which connects directly to any router and has an easy plug and play installation. Then you install the app on your iPhone, iPad or Android device and you are ready to go. You can assign a fixed line to up to five smart phones and tablet at one time. Perfect for a small office, allowing multiple employees to use one landline number, while having the convenience of using their mobile phone.

The Voice Bridge will be available in the U.S, South America and Europe during March or April 2014 for $79 USD or 79 euro. Swissvoice will be at Booth 31417 in the South Hall during CES 2014.

Two New Products from iSmartAlarm at CES

iSmartAlarm switchHome security is very important. We all want to ensure that our families, homes, and “stuff” are safe. Those of you who are considering getting some home security devices this year may want to take a look at iSmartAlarm. They have not one, but two, brand new products at CES 2014. Each of them can be used to extend the capabilities of the existing iSmartAlarm Home Security System.

The iSmartAlarm Doorfront is a new control tool. It will alert you via your smartphone when someone comes to your front door or rings your doorbell. It enables you to see, hear, and speak to the visitors – even if you are away from home. You can do that through your smartphone.

The iSmartAlarm Smart Switch is a natural extension of the iSmartAlarm Home Security System. It is a switch that you can use to remotely control the lights in your home. Use it to control electrical outlets, monitor if your lights have been turned on or off, and ensure that potentially dangerous appliances have been turned off (when they aren’t in use). It also lets you monitor energy usage.

These two brand new products can be set up within minutes without the need for professional installation. Each is part of the iSmartAlarm home control ecosystem. They are compatible with both iPhone and Android devices.

You can check out the new products from iSmartAlarm at CES 2014. They will be part of Pepcom’s Digital Experience Press event at The Mirage. You can also find them at booth #6717.

June Measures Sun Exposure at CES

Netatmo June BraceletConsumer electronics company Netatmo have announced June, a sun exposure monitoring bracelet aimed at women. June tracks UV intensity and total sun exposure during the day, feeding information to the app which then provides advice on how to best protect their skin. As most of us know, excessive sun exposure causes sunburn and leads to premature skin ageing.

Depending on the user’s skin type, the app calculates the suggested maximum daily UV dose and then presents the percentage of sun exposure as the day goes by. The app can notify the owner when its time to protect her skin by putting on a hat, applying sunscreen or seeking shade.

Designed by French jewellery designer, Camille Toupet, June can either be worn as a bracelet or a brooch and comes in three colours; gold, platinum and gunmetal. June will be available in the second quarter of 2014 priced at US$99 from select fashion, beauty and consumer electronics stores. The June app will be downloadable from iTunes for iPhone 4S and above.

The June bracelet has won two CES Innovations Design and Engineering Awards in both “Wearable Technologies” and “Tech for a Better World” categories. The bracelet will be on show at CES in the Convention Centre, South Hall 2, Stand 26 700, if you want to take a look.

I really like the concept behind this and as a parent, I could see a great deal of mileage in a waterproof version for children (and watersports enthusiasts) to wear. If little Johnny spends too long in the sun, the alarm goes off on Dad’s mobile phone.