Category Archives: Interview

SolarGaps Solar Panel Smart Blinds at CES



The trouble with solar panels is that they take up a fair bit of space, typically on the roof of a property, which means that those living in apartments or condos often miss out on the opportunity to generate electricity from the sun. SolarGaps have a solution to this issue, with solar panels that also work as blinds, both generating power and shielding the interior. Todd talks to Erik at SolarGaps to find out more.

SolarGaps smart blinds are fitted to the exterior (or interior) of windows and automatically track the sun to maximise electricity generation and minimise heating effects. Installation is straightforward and each panel on the outside generates around 100 W-hrs per square meter so a south-facing 3 bedroom apartment could produce around 4 kW per day. As the blinds track the sun, the output is typically 20% higher than the equivalent static photovoltaic pnel. The blinds can be fitted inside too but this reduces the power output.

SolarGaps is launching on Kickstarter in February with a price around US$480 per square metre, rising to around $1000 per square metre when the product is launched, so if you are interested, get in early.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Shift from Qwertyfree Helps Visually Impaired at CES



For the visually impaired, typing on a smartphone or tablet keyboard can be tricky as the small keys can be hard to pick out. The team at Qwertyfree are developing a replacement keyboard with just five keys to help those with poor vision. Todd finds out more from Craig.

The idea behind the new keyboard is that in English eight letters are used over 60% of the time so why not focus on those and make those letters the easiest to use. Called Shift (as in shifting gears on a manual transmission), the app has a four areas; up, right, down, left, with a selection of letters in each – it’s a little like the directional pad on a remote. The user swipes once to get a primary letter and then swipes again to get a secondary one, with the keyboard reading out the selected letter. So just swipe left for E, or right for N.

The new Shift keyboard should be available by the end of the quarter, though it may be Android only. No news on price.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Switchflip Switches Sockets at CES



You might think that a switch flip is a skateboard move but in this case Switchflip lets you control new power outlets from a wall switch with no extra wiring. Todd gets a demo from Ryan on maximising those hard-to-reach sockets.

Currently seeking funding via Indiegogo, the Switchflip works like this….let’s say you have a power socket that is controlled by a wall switch but you’d prefer that the wall switch worked with another socket (or sockets) on the other side of the room. So you plug the Switchflip transmitter into the original switched socket and a Switchflip receiver into the socket(s) further away. Now when you switch the wall switch all sockets come on (or go off).

The Switchflip uses its own wireless connection so there’s no Bluetooth or WiFi connectivity to mess around with. It’s plug’n’play, or as Switchflip says, “Simple is smart”. Range is up to 100ft, depending construction.

The crowdfunding is going well, with the Switchflip currently over 200% funded with a month to go. There are still a few Early Bird Specials to available, and US$35 will get a transmitter and a receiver. Delivery is expected in October 2017.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Olloclip Pivot Grips Smartphones at CES



Olloclip is well-known for its clip-on lens system for the Apple iPhone, though new at CES is the Olloclip Pivot, a grip for smartphones, cameras and GoPros. Todd finds out more from Patrick.

The Olloclip Pivot grip is a bit different from an ordinary handheld smartphone holder as it incorporates an articulating hub which provides 225° of rotation so that the camera can be positioned conveniently to capture the best shot, whether skating, boarding or simply at the beach. The Pivot is water resistant so can be taken swimming or snorkelling.

The Pivot holds smartphones between 4″ and 5.5″ wide, and also takes a GoPro. There’s an integrated cold shoe mount too for lightweight accessories like a light or microphone.  Priced at US$49.99, the Pivot is available now. I want one!

In addition to the Pivot, Olloclip have a new set of lenses for the iPhone 7, including wide angle, fish eye and macro. The core lens set is US$100.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Kanex Wins with the GoPower Watch at CES



Kicking off GNC’s video production for CES, Todd’s at award-winners Kanex with Tracy, who shows off some of their latest accessories for the Apple Watch.

Kanex won a “Innovation Honoree” at CES 2017 for their GoPower Watch, a portable battery charge for the Apple Watch. Priced at US$99 and shipping now, the GoPower Watch will wirelessly recharge a Watch around six times from the 4,000 mAh battery. There’s a USB port round the back for charging other devices too and it’s Apple Certified as well. A mini-version with a smaller battery and smaller price (US$59) is coming shortly.

For those who don’t need to charge on the go, Kanex have a table-top charger for the office or beside the bed coming shortly. It’s US$59 and will be available in February.

Todd Cochrane is the host of the twice-weekly Geek News Central Podcast at GeekNewsCentral.com.

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Zappar Brings the Page to Life at WTS



Zappar LogoReturning to my interviews from this year’s Gadget Show Live and the Wearable Technology Show, I’m with Jeremy from Zappar. Their two dimensional Zapcodes generate a three dimensional augmented reality, bringing the printed page alive within the Zappar app.

ZapcodeA Zapcode is a printed symbol like the one on the right, which has 4 billion different combinations. It’s recognised by the Zappar app (available for Apple and Android) using the smartphone or tablet’s camera and then overlays animations and other content onto the real-world as seen through the camera. For example, a flat architect’s drawing shows a 3D model in the Zappar world or a comic book about planets whizzes with rockets and spinning worlds. Very cool.

Here’s what a Zappar augmented book looks like – the printed page is on the left with the app view on the right.

Zappar Sun Zappar AR Sun

Here’s a quick demo of a building.

Zappar’s client list is impressive featuring brands like Asda, Coca-Cola, BBC Radio 1 and Mothercare. There are plenty of demo Zaps on the Zappar website, so download the app and try them out. The app works fine with computer screens so there’s no need to print anything out – just point the camera at the monitor.

 


RollyCat Pet Toy at Gadget Show Live



RollyCatCats are possibly the laziest animals on the planet but they shouldn’t be completely indolent. They need regular exercise but it needs to be on their terms and most cats won’t go on a lead for walkies. At Gadget Show Live, Raido from Wazombi Labs tells me about RollyCat, the world’s first cat companion and fitness tracker.

RollyCat BallThe RollyCat is small remote controlled ball which coaxes the cat into play. It can work in two modes, one manual and one automatic. In the manual mode, the owner can control the ball from his (or her) smartphone via a RollyCat app. In automatic mode, the RollyCat teases the cat with the occasional movements to encourage the cat to play.

RollyCat AppMuch like any activity tracker, the cat’s play is tracked and recorded in the smartphone app. At the end of the day, the owner can review the cat’s activity and see whether the pussy has been getting enough exercise for the breed, age and weight. The RollyCat learns from the cat’s behaviour to encourage it to play at the most active time.

The RollyCat charges wirelessly via a small pad and communicates with the owner’s smartphone or tablet via Bluetooth. The ball can go around 4 days between charges.

Regrettably, RollyCat’s Indiegogo campaign didn’t reach its target of $50,000 so the project is on hold. If there’s any further news on the RollyCat, I’ll update GNC readers when I hear.


Ding Smart Doorbell at Gadget Show Live



Ding LogoIn the last of my interviews with participants in the British Inventors’ Project, I’m with Avril from Ding Labs and their Ding Smart Doorbell. She tells me more about it.

At first glance, the doorbell looks the part, dressed in “on trend” minty green. Broadly, there are two parts, the Ding Chime and the Ding Button. Obviously the Button goes outside by the door for visitors and pressing the Button will ring the Chime. In addition to ringing the bell, Ding will make a voice call to the owner’s smartphone so that a two way conversation can take place between the caller and the owner.

Ring Smart Doorbell

The Ding Chime connects via WiFi to the home network and in addition to connecting to a smartphone, there are other communication options such as a text message or a call to a land-line. It’s intended that the Ding Chime will be an easy user fit.

The Ding Smart Doorbell is still under development but the team are aiming to keep the costs down to around GB£100. A Kickstarter is expected in September with delivery in April 2017.


KiddieRail Saves Children on Stairs at Gadget Show Live



KiddieRail LogoWith our penultimate visit to the British Inventors’ Project at Gadget Show Live, I’m with Lesley from KiddieRail. She saw that for children banisters on stairs were too fat and too high for them to use comfortably so it’s hardly surprising to see that children under 5 have over 58,000 accidents on stairs every year in the UK, with larger numbers in the USA. As a result, she designed KiddieRail, a child-friendly height-adjustable handrail systems that grows as the child does.

KiddieRail

The tubular handrail is fixed to an existing banister or wall with special mounting brackets that hold the handrail in place. As the child grows up from toddler to pre-schooler and beyond, the handrail can be moved up to be at just the right height. The other clever feature of the mounting brackets is that they can support the handrail at any angle, whether the stairs are steep, shallow or even on a flat landing. If that’s not enough, if the child is holding the rail, they’re not putting sticky hands on wall.

The KiddieRail is expected to go into testing shortly and it’s hoped to be on the market before the end of 2016. The price hasn’t yet been fixed but the team is aiming at less than GB£100 for approximately 3 m (10 feet) of stairs. There’s more detail at the KiddieRail website where you can sign-up to receive updates on the project.


CleanGrow’s Nutrient Analyzer at Gadget Show Live



CleanGrow LogoFor anyone who uses water on a daily basis, knowing the quality of the water is essential. For these people, CleanGrow has developed a “laboratory in a suitcase” which is able to analyse six water-based nutrients in one go. Ian from CleanGrow tells me more about it at Gadget Show Live.CleanGrow Sensor

Developed for food growers and other industries that need to accurately measure nutrients and ions in water, the Nutrient Analyzer measures six different ions at once. Using a top-secret membrane to attract the ions, the analyser detects and quantifies six from calcium, chloride, magnesium, potassium, sodium, ammonium, nitrate and (coming soon) phosphate, before sending the data to an iPhone or iPad. The system is very easy to use – put the water in the bottle, stick the multi-sensor in the bottle and the Analyzer tells you what’s in the water. The sensors can detect from as little as 0.05 ppm to 60,000 ppm with a sample typically taking less than 20 seconds to be analysed.

CleanGrow Suitcase

The CleanGrow system is available now for around GB£2,500.