Ion Audio Gets The Party Going at CES 2015

Ion Sound Experience

The great thing about Ion Audio is that they concentrate on fun audio products: seriously, who else puts a speaker in plant pot? At CES, Ion has continued in the tradition of fun with two products for two very different environments. Todd listens in with Wendy Fortin, Ion Product Manager.

First up is the Block Party Live, a 50W PA speaker on luggage wheels complete with light show. No really, there’s a light dome on top that projects coloured lights. Music can be streamed via Bluetooth and there’s an Apple and Android app to control the lights. Available now for $199.

Coming inside, the Sound Shine are wireless stereo speakers with built-in LED lighting. Screwed into a standard lamp holder the two speakers can either work as independent mono speakers or can be paired up for stereo sound. As with the Block Party, music is streamed via Bluetooth and both the music and light output can be controlled via an app for both Android and Apple devices. Available in Q1, $69 buys a single lamp and $129 gets a pair.

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

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Bracketron Expands Earth Elements Magnetic Mount Line

Bracketron Earht Elements Ti Smartphone Power DockBracketron has announced new additions to its Earth Elements series that use specialized plates to securely mount your smartphone in your vehicle. They have models available for your windshield, cup holder, dash, and even your car’s 12V port for charging. These magnetic mounts allow you to keep your devices powered up and out of your hands while driving.

To use the Earth Elements mounts, you need to adhere the included mounting plate to the back of your device. Or, you can slip the mounting plate between your phone and its case with no attachment needed. In your car, place the phone on the magnetic mount and it will quickly snap in place to remain mounted when you hit the road. The magnets are capable of working through the case on your smartphone, so you won’t need to remove the case if you don’t want to.

The Earth Elements Ti Smartphone Power Dock (shown above) plugs into your vehicle’s 12V port and offers two USB ports for dual-charging capability. Its flexible gooseneck design allows you to adjust and position your smartphone in any angle. Support feet keep your phone securely mounted while traveling or while driving over bumpy roads.

Bracketron H20 Smartphone Cup Holder Mount

The H20 Smartphone Cup Holder Mount its snugly into your vehicle’s cup holder. It can expand to fit different sized cup holders up to 3.75 inches. The mount works with large phones, GPS devices and phones with cases, featuring the same support feet to keep the phone securely mounted.

Bracketron Zn Smartphone Windshield Mount

The Zn Smartphone Windshield Mount attaches to your vehicle’s windshield providing a stable, secure and easily accessible mounting solution attached to the glass. It has the same gooseneck design as the Ti Smartphone Power Dock, which allows you to position your phone vertically, horizontally, and at any angle most convenient for you. Integrated cord management will keep cables out of the way.

The Bracketron OS Smart Pack is a weighted dash mount for smartphone GPS devices that also doubles as a convenient carrying case. It is easily stored in the glove compartment or center consile when not in use.

Bracketron OS Smart Pack

The new Earth Elements magnetic mounts by Bracketron work with virtually any smartphones including popular models like iPhone 6, Samsung Galaxy S5, Samsung Galaxy Note, and Google Nexus.

YEZZ Introduces Firefox OS Devices at CES

YEZZ Firefox OS DevicesYEZZ introduces two new devices that feature Firefox OS with 3.5” and 4” displays at CES. Both models feature well-rounded lines and crisp colors with Mozilla’s mobile operating system, Firefox OS.

YEZZ now offers Firefox OS running web-based apps. These web apps provide access to device functions formally available only to native apps, such as camera functions. Mozilla has allied with 18 (and counting) partners for their operating system including the giant Telefonica with YEZZ as one of their recent global suppliers. YEZZ with Firefox OS will address the global need for affordable smartphones, opening the gates of the mobile web to those previously denied access due to the inaccessible pricing of smartphones.

Visit YEZZ and check out their new Firefox OS Devices at South Hall Stand 31 247 at CES.

Face Recognition Comes To Simplicam

Simplicam Logo

Back in 2014 when ArcSoft launched the simplicam home monitoring system based around a high-definition webcam, it borrowed face detection technology from digital cameras. With this tool, the monitoring system was able to differentiate between persons and pets, ensuring that only important alerts were sent through to the owner who would otherwise be swamped with notifications when their cat or dog took a wander round the house.

SimplicamArcSoft has now announced at CES that the face detection feature in simplicam powered by Closeli can be upgraded to (beta) face recognition, meaning that not only does the system recognise people vs pets, it can now tell who has walked into the house. Those expected to be at home can be ignored with strangers immediately flagged.

The new Face Recognition Manager in the Closeli app allows users to register and store up to ten people. After a short setup, home owners can configure privacy settings for each individual and customise notifications, choosing to receive alerts when a specific registered person or an unrecognised person is in the house. The app can be set to automatically save or delete footage based on who is home.

ArcSoft is a pioneer in Face Detection and Face Recognition technology, and we are excited to bring this expertise to the connected home. When we released simplicam powered by Closeli earlier this year, we got invaluable feedback from customers and press. Now, new and current users can provide us with feedback directly from within the Closeli app that may be incorporated into the product,” said Caroline Tien-Spalding, Senior Director of Marketing, ArcSoft.

The standalone simplicam is $149 and a year’s worth of Closeli’s 1-Day Recording Services brings the price to $199. The Closeli service is needed for the face detection and recognition.

I think this is a great step forward as when I previously reviewed a home monitoring kit from another manufacturer, one of my concerns was that I felt I was spying on my family.  All activity in the house, whether my business or not, was being detected, recorded and forwarded to my smartphone. I think this goes a long way towards addressing those concerns.

Hexoskin Smart Shirt Now Comes In Small

Hexoskin LogoCanadian outfit Hexoskin has been in the wearables market longer than most, starting out in 2006 and now has a range of smart shirts with a built-in body metric system to measure heart rate, breathing, activity and sleeping using sensors woven into the fabric of the shirt.

Hexoskin, with the support of NASA and the Canadian Space Agency, created sensors made of textile, leaving almost no hardware in the shirt – there’s no watch or tight fitting chest band required. There is a small recording unit that slips into a side pocket on the shirt and communicates with a smartphone via Bluetooth. Both iOS (Apple) and Android phones are supported, and a downloaded app keeps track of all the data. With over 42,000 data points recorded every minute, there’s a fair amount of data.

In addition to the usual metrics, the Hexoskin system also measures heart rate recovery, heart rate variability, breathing rate, breathing volume, activity level, acceleration and cadence, all in real time. These metrics give users the information they need to plan their training programmes and surpass their fitness and athletic goals. Essentially a wearable precision lab, Hexoskin provides its users with high quality metrics in real time – these are tools for people serious about their performance.

Today, Hexoskin announced child and youth sizes for the Hexoskin shirt, making it the world’s first biometric smart shirt tailor-made for kids and teens. Adapted to fit all the same sensors of the adult shirts into the smaller shirt size, the Hexoskin Junior will be available in sizes XXS to XL.

Hexoskin Kids

Youth athletics are popular all over the world,” said Pierre-Alexandre Fournier, Co-Founder and CEO of Hexoskin.  “Whether it’s hockey, baseball, football, soccer, volleyball or track & field, kids are part of intense training programs that are training them to become champions and Olympians.  With the addition of Hexoskin Junior, we’ve set out to provide coaches, parents and kids the invaluable tools our adult shirts provide.

By reviewing the data before, during and after workout sessions, users can exert maximum training effort, while still avoiding fatigue, overtraining and injuries.  This is particularly important with young athletes, especially since they are still growing and can be at a greater risk for injury than adult athletes.

Hexoskin Junior is available for pre-order in sizes XXS to XL and will retail for $149 for the shirt alone. A full starter pack with monitoring devices is $379. Not cheap but if you are going for gold, it’s probably money well spent. For more information, visit www.hexoskin.com.

Free Beer from Alcohoot at CES!

Alcohoot Logo

Alcohoot are offering free beer for visitors to their stand at CES (booth 74549). On the surface, it’s a cheap trick but as they sell breathalyzers there’s a certain relevance to it. No doubt the merit of personal breathalyzers will continue to be debated for years to come but focussing on the technology, Alcohoot have produced a portable breathalyzer that plugs into the headphone jack of both Android and Apple smartphones. The Alcohoot uses an FDA-registered fuel cell sensor built into a hand-sized pocket device to record the owner’s alcohol level as he or she breathes into the unit.

Alcohoot and Phone

The complementary app is available on both the Android and iOS platforms and lets the owner track his or her consumption. Handily, it can provide contact details for taxis when over the legal limit for driving.

App Screens

The Alcohoot was a winner of the Red Dot Design Award, 2014, which puts it in good company along with Apple, Beats By Dre, Bose, BMW, Nest, Nespresso, Blackberry, Lenovo, Nike+ FuelBand, LG and many more.

Available in three colours – black, white and red – the Alcohoot can be bought from their store for $99.99 along with extra mouthpieces.

If you want to learn more, pop into Alcohoot’s CES booth 74549 at the Sands Expo Center for a few beers. Cheers!

The Curve Continues at CES with the LG G Flex2

LG LogoLG today announced at CES the second iteration of its curved smartphone, the G Flex2. Building on the innovation and success of the first generation G Flex, the Flex2 arrives with a more advanced design, faster performance and most importantly, greater convenience.

The G Flex2 goes beyond its predecessor’s ground-breaking curved profile. The new smartphone incorporates a range of curves from a radius of 400mm to 700mm across the front, back, sides and top-to-bottom edges. The curved layers deliver a sleeker and more dynamic appearance to the G Flex2. It does look good.

LG G Flex2
Spec-wise, the LG G Flex 2 sports a 5.5″ full HD curved P-OLED screen at 1080 x 1920 pixels (403 ppi) driven by a Qualcomm Adreno 430 GPU. The phone itself is powered by a 2.0 GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 with 2 GB of RAM and 16 GB RAM, running Android Lollipop out of the box. Usefully, there’s a micro SD slot to expand the storage if needed.

Other features include a rear 13 MP camera that has optical image stabilisation (OIS+) and uniquely in smartphones, a laser auto-focus. The front camera is 2.1 MP cameras which is less than some other smartphones but I think that’s fine for a selfie or video call. As expected, it’s a 4G / LTE unit with Wi-Fi 802.11ac and Apt-X capable Bluetooth. Best of all, the battery doesn’t skimp at a sizeable 3,000 mAh. There’s also a fast charge feature that will boost the battery up to 50 percent in under 40 minutes.

Seasoned GNC readers may remember the original G Flex came with a self-healing back, which keeps the phone looking new even through the nicks and scratches from normal everyday use. This has also been improved with significantly faster healing time, reducing the time from about three minutes to around ten seconds at room temperature.

The original G Flex demonstrated LG’s pioneering spirit and with the G Flex2 we have refined the curved form factor, staying true to our philosophy of innovation for a better life,” said Juno Cho, president and CEO of the LG Electronics Mobile Communications Company. “The G Flex2 not only has the stunning looks, it also has the powerful guts to be at the cutting edge of current smartphone technology. Simply put, it’s a true head-turner in every sense of the word.

The LG G Flex2 will be available starting at the end of the month in Korea to be followed by additional global markets, including the UK at the end of February. Price was not disclosed.

Visitors to LG’s booth at CES 2015 (Las Vegas Convention Center, Central Hall #8204) can experience LG’s newest mobile devices, including the G Flex2.

TrackR Bravo Goes to CES

Trackr LogoIndigogo darling TrackR is at CES 2015 to show off the latest incarnation of its mini trackers, the TrackR bravo. If you aren’t familiar with TrackR products, they’re small, coin-sized devices which easily attach to valuable items that you want to track, from keys to laptops and pets. And if you do misplace something precious, the TrackR app for both iOS and Android, can locate any lost item in seconds by ringing your missing item or point the way using TrackR’s Distance Indicator. If it’s really lost, you can use Crowd GPS to track it down.

Trackr Bravo

The latest version, the TrackR bravo, raised over $1 000 000 in funding at Indigogo and is in the closing stages of development with full production expected in February 2015. It’s only 3.5 mm thick and 31 mm across, making it easy to attach and there are accessories such as a pet collar attachment and a waterproof housing. The TrackR bravo can be pre-ordered for $29.

TrackR received a batch of the latest development samples just in time for the CES and they’ll be at the Sands Expo Booth #74335. Pop round and see the TrackR bravo in person.

Archos Boosts Entry-Level 4G Smartphones for CES

Archos LogoArchos today announced the new Archos 50 Diamond 4G smartphone as the new top-of-the-line model in Archos’ sub-$200 4G smartphone range. French company Archos has a long history with Android tablets and smartphones and 50 Diamond takes over from the Helium 50 as the Archos’ flagship devices. Revealed at “Paris CES Unveiled”, the new phone will run Android 4.4 KitKat out the box and presumably an upgrade to Lollipop is in the offing, though it’s not confirmed.

Archos 50 DiamondSpec-wise, the phone is powered by a 1.5 GHz octa core Qualcomm Snapdragon 615 with 2 GB of RAM. The 50 Diamond sports a 5″ full HD IPS screen and 16 GB RAM. Usefully, there’s a micro SD slot to expand the storage if needed. Other features are as expected in this price range with 16 MP and 8 MP cameras. In terms of 4G and LTE, the radios support 800 / 1800 / 2100 / 2600 MHz frequencies with LTE cat 4 150 Mbps / 50 Mbps. Interestingly, the 50 Diamond can take dual micro SIMs, which could be handy for frequently travellers or those who have to juggle personal and business phones.

In 2014, consumers don’t have access to high performance handsets from traditional smartphone vendors below $500” says Loïc Poirier, General Director of Archos. “With the Archos 50 Diamond, we are pushing forward the same advanced technology but we make it accessible to all consumers.

In related news, Archos also announced the refresh of Helium smartphone line plus new tablets: the 80b Helium 4G, an “over-equipped” Android tablet (their words, not mine!) will retail for $150. It’s an 8″ tablet and joins 7″ and 10″ siblings in the Helium tablet line-up.

For more information about Archos and its entire selection of smartphones and tablets, visit Archos during CES 2015 at Sands Expo Hall A-C, Booth 70437 or at www.archos.com

Archos Connected Home Comes to CES

Archos LogoIn advance of next week’s CES, French firm Archos have announced a bundle of good news relating to their Smart Home which I reviewed a few months ago.

First, Archos is opening up the Smart Home ecosystem to the market standards for devices operating on the 433 MHz frequency, including compatibility with other major brands in the home automation market like Somfy, DI.O Chacon, Blyss, Otio and Conrad to control everything from blinds to heating and security. With the new “Learn & Control” feature, users can connect and control all their connected home accessories from their tablet or smartphone whether inside or outside of the home.

Archos Smart Home

“We are in an era where we want to control everything, and the home is central in this trend: no matter if we’re at work or anywhere else, we like knowing what’s happening at home and we want to be able to manage it, even when we’re not there. With the open Smart Home system, Archos is aiming to be a leading player in the home of the future” says Loic Poirier, CEO of Archos.

FoscamIn addition, the Archos Smart Home is now compatible with Foscam cameras, one of the market leaders in IP cameras. Owners can stream video directly on their smartphone or tablet, taking full advantage of the their IP camera’s features (HD video, IR night-vision, movement detection, PTZ movement) within Smart Home programs, e.g. opening a door activates a video recording, which is then streamed to a smartphone.

The Smart Home worked previously with the Tasker app but for those wanting to get into the Internet of Things, the features of the Archos Smart Home can now be mixed into IFTTT recipes to automate common activities.

And finally, the price of the Smart Home halved from an RRP of GB£199 to £99 with similar price cuts in the US. The Archos Smart Home system wasn’t without a few flaws, but at this price it’s an enticing entry point.

For more information about Archos and its entire selection of connected devices, visit Archos during CES 2015 at Sands Expo Hall A-C, Booth 70437.