Category Archives: Toys

Angry Birds Christmas Goodies



If you can’t get enough of Rovio‘s Angry Birds (or Angly Birds as my daughter says), then you can satisfy your avian needs over at the Angry Birds on-line store. I’ve seen Angry Birds toys gradually appearing in shops, but I’d no idea there was such a wide range of things, from the expected soft toys to children’s costumes.

Angry Birds Fancy Dress Costume

Anyway, as we’re now officially in the run-up to Christmas, the Angry Birds store has a festive selection from Christmas stockings to tree decorations.

Blue Bird Christmas StockingChristmas Tree Decorations

The Bad Piggies Egg Recipes looks like an eggscellent (sorry) stocking-filler with around 40 egg-based recipes from the classics to the more interesting – the table of contents is shown on the website.

Bad Piggies Egg Recipes

There’s plenty of other merchandise to choose from too, including iPhone cases and flip-flops! Prices feel a little high at times for what are novelty items but the shop does appear to ship worldwide.


Boogie Board Rip Hands On Review



Boogie Board RipThe Boogie Board Rip from Improv Electronics is an electronic clipboard that will save handwritten notes and drawings to Adobe‘s .pdf format for later transfer to a PC via USB. You draw or write with the included stylus on the pressure-sensitive 9.5″ dark monochrome LCD screen, which results in light coloured lines and writing.  When you want to save your work, you simply press the “Save” button at the top. To start over, the “Erase” button wipes the screen. It’s that easy.

Here’s a few scribblings and the complementary .pdf. I’m no artist. That’s an A4 notebook behind it for scale.

Improv Electronics Boogie Board Rip

Improve Electronics Boogie Board Rip PDF

I’m not sure exactly how the stylus and the screen work together to record the image as any stylus can be used to write on the screen, but only writing from the included stylus will be recorded in the saved .pdf. Sometimes, I found that I wasn’t pressing hard enough for all the lines to be recorded; if you look at the picture of the hedgehog, you’ll see that the drawing is much spikier than the .pdf. This was an early trial picture and you get used to pressing that little bit more firmly.

Boogie Board Rip Hedgehog

Boogie Board Rip Hedgehog PDF

The internal memory is only 8 MB but this is sufficient for around 200 .pdfs. Getting the .pdfs off the device is simple – just connect up via micro USB and the Rip appears as an external drive. I had no problems connecting it up to both Windows and Linux machines. The Rip has an internal rechargeable battery which charges via the USB and lasts ages – the manufacturer suggests a week of normal use and I can see no reason to disagree.

I found the Rip to be a great partner for tools such as Evernote. I could take notes in a meeting and then transfer the notes into Evernote, creating a chronological record of meetings and discussion. Personally, I was looking for a simple paper notebook replacement that was a relatively cheap and robust, and nowhere near as expensive as a full tablet.

In the end, I had mixed feelings about the Rip. It does what it does well, but it’s not the complete package that I need it to be for the Rip to replace my A4 notebook.

First, the 9.5″ screen is too small. Being used to A4 notebooks, I struggled with the narrower page and often used the Rip in landscape mode rather than portrait to get extra width.  If you are a Moleskine person, more used to the A5 format, it will perhaps be less of an issue but I look forward to a larger screen.

Second, the “resolution” of the screen and stylus combination isn’t detailed or fine enough. When I write with my normal handwriting, it’s difficult to read the writing on the screen because the lines are quite broad. As a result, I have to write larger which compounds the small screen issue. To be fair, the saved .pdf does record the handwriting accurately so perhaps I just need to get over the display and rely on the .pdf.

Boogie Board Rip Handwriting

Boogie Board Rip Handwriting PDF

I admit that I have specific needs so I would also emphasise the Rip’s good points.

First it’s very easy to use. There are two buttons, “Erase” and “Save / Wake” and when you do press the buttons, the device responds almost instantly. There’s no PIN or password to enter.

Second, it’s lightweight with little difference between it and a paper notebook.

Third, the saving of drawing and notes straight to a .pdf is the brilliant bit. No need for scanning or special paper. I can instantly upload the .pdf to Evernote (or Microsoft’s OneNote) for a historical record of meetings and other activities.
Finally, it’s fun and you’ll never run out of paper.

In summary, Improv Electronics’ Boogie Boards are styled as paper replacements and they’re not far wrong but for me it’s just not there. At the moment, the Rip is best suited to drawings and sketches but falls short for handwriting, so I’ll be keep my A4 notebook for now. However, I genuinely look forward to the Rip 2, which will I’m sure will have a larger screen and a more detailed stylus.


GQ’s Watches for 2012



Time is the fire in which we burn” wrote Delmore Schwartz in Calmly We Walk Through This April’s Day, but fortunately a good watch can make time’s passing a bit more bearable. I’d love to be a watch connoisseur, or rather, I’d love to have the money to be a watch connoisseur. However, in the absence of the cash, all I can do is peruse the likes of GQ’s Watch Guide 2012 which shows off over 90 great watches. Not all of them are costly with both Casio and Swatch appearing, but there are some eye-wateringly expensive models in the collection.

Regardless if you don’t know a tourbillon from from a touchpad or a complication from a compiler, the designs of some of these watches depart considerably from the two hands and 12 numbers model. Here are a few choice examples.

The  Giuliano Mazzuoli Contagiri is modelled on a pressure gauge. Quite what happens when the dial reaches 12:30, I’m not too sure, but it’s great for those of us who has an “ish” view of time.

Giuliano Mazzuoli Contagiri watch

The De Grisogono FG One is in similar vein, but I’m uncertain which is the minutes and which is the seconds, or which is the hour and which is the date!

De Grisogono FG One watch

This relatively inexpensive Diesel model can tell the time in four different time zones, with three analogue dials and one digital. Not sure why you’d need to…

Diesel Watch

The Longines 24 Hours dispenses with the usual 12 hour dial, replacing it with a 24 hour one. What looks like 6 o’clock on this watch is actually 12 noon. Very cool.

Longines 24 Hour Watch

The Girard Perregaux John Harrison commemorates William Harrison’s four-month journey from Portsmouth to Jamaica in 1761-2 to test his father John’s H4 chronometer, designed to calculate longitude at sea. Simply beautiful.

Girard Perregaux John Harrison watch

Enjoy looking at the rest of the watches in the article.


Ford Uses Gestures To Open Liftgate



Ford Escape SUVFord today announced that the new Ford Escape SUV would come with a powered liftgate that opens and closes when you kick your foot under just below the bumper . Using gesture-based technology similar to games consoles, it ensures that the liftgate doesn’t open accidentally.

Todd’s Noytes: Having actually seen this work at a Ford Demo today. It’s pretty cool and unlike anything I have seen on a car.. You can essentially kick/wave/wiggle your foot just under the bumper from almost any angle and so long as you have the key on your person.

Combined with Ford’s Intelligent Access key-less entry, owners can unlock the car and open the liftgate without even getting the keys out of their pocket or bag. Very handy if your hands are full and need to dump stuff in the back before you drop it all! The ‘gate can be closed again with a similar motion: again handy if you are taking stuff out of the car.

The hands-free power liftgate is yet another innovative Ford technology that makes customers’ lives easier,” said Jason Sprawka, Escape brand manager. “New Escape owners will be able to load their vehicle without ever having to set packages or gear down.

The system is like that used in games consoles and has a pair of sensors to detect the shin and the kicking motion. This stops other motions, say, from an animal, or bumps on rough roads, from operating the liftgate by mistake. It’s the first time the technology has been used in this market segment.

The new Escape will debut at the Los Angeles Motor Show on 16 November and will go on sale in the US in the spring.

I was going to run with a headline about Ford “giving the boot a boot” but didn’t think enough people would get the joke…


Magazines are iPads That Don’t Work



Watch the video below and let me know how you feel after watching it, but for the purposes of discussion, remember two things first. One, to avoid any pro- or anti-Apple bias, ignore the fact that it’s an Apple iPad and assume that it’s just a generic tablet. Two, take what the video shows at face value as one could easily make a case that some of the actions with the magazines are normal behaviour and don’t show anything special.

Add your comments below. I’ll chip in later.


Boogie Board Rip



As a project manager, it’s essential that I take notes during meetings. I’m a big fan of an A4 notebook, with each meeting on a new page, written in pencil or ink. The advantages are that it’s cheap, robust, in date order and it’s easy to refer back to previous meetings. The big disadvantage is that it’s difficult to share my notes without either scanning the pages or typing them up.

I have tried using a tablet to directly type into a document. It works, in that if I’m careful with filenames I can create a timeline but it’s slower to type notes in and drawings aren’t easy to do. The tablet’s also expensive and not that robust. The great benefit is that the notes from the meeting can be circulated almost as soon as I get back to the office. However, I’m not convinced that it’s the best solution.

Into this space comes Improv Electronics‘ Boogie Board Rip eWriter which I’m very keen to try out. When combined with a tool such as Evernote, I think this could be a very effective notetaking tool bringing together the freedom to write and draw with the ability to store the notes digitally.

If you haven’t come across the orginal Boogie Board (.pdf), it’s a pressure sensitive LCD tablet that you write or draw on with a stylus (or finger) and that’s all it does. Think of it as a replacement for a sheet of paper that you simple draw on, but when you are done, you press a button at the top and the page erases so you can start again with a blank page.

The latest version, the Boogie Board Rip (.pdf), uses the same idea but also has a save function, which will store a copy of your notes as a .pdf file for later transfer to your PC. For me, that’s what makes it a compelling solution.

The Rip will be available in USA and Europe from 1st November for $130, £100 or €120, with pre-ordering now. I hope to bring you a hands-on review shortly.


eBooks with a Sound Track?



US company Booktrack has just released a new concept onto the literary market – ebooks with a sound track. Yes, you read that right, ebooks with a sound track. To quote from their website, “Booktrack represents a new chapter in the evolution of storytelling, and an industry “first” in publishing, by creating synchronized soundtracks for e-books that dramatically boost the reader’s imagination and engagement. The company’s proprietary technology combines music, sound effects and ambient sound, automatically paced to an individual’s reading speed.

One of the first Booktracked novels is Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and The Adventure of the Speckled Band. Plenty of scope there for creepy sound effects but…

…does anyone else think this sounds (sorry) doomed to fail? I’m all for new ways of experiencing stories but we’ve done pretty well with books, radio and TV / film. Each medium has its own strengths and for me, the attraction of a good book is that your imagination creates the world in your head. Now when I read that the door creaks open, I hear it too. Surely if I want a story with sound effects, I get an audio book? Maybe I’m being too critical.

If you want to try it out, it’s available from the Apple App Store for the iPhone et al. There’s only five books available at the moment, two for adults and three for children. On reflection, children may well respond to this approach and it might encourage reading, so that changes my opinion a little. Great idea for kids, bad idea for adults.

What do you think?


555 Timer IC Footstool



Looking for a cool and geeky DIY project? Then this 555 Timer IC footstool might be just the thing for you. Imagine a small little chip scaled up thousands of times and you’ve got a something that would make a perfect footstool. Here it is and that’s the actual chip in the foreground.

Put together by the guys’n’gals over at Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories, it’s a straightforward project, especially if you have access to a CNC router. Based on the Signetics 555 timer IC from 1971 but still in production today, there’s full instructions on the Evil Mad Scientist site.

All photos by Windell Oskay.

 


MIYA Customised Headphones



If you feel that white headphones mark you as just one of the herd, and that black headphones are a bit dull, then you’ll want to check out MIYA headphones, because these come in more colour combinations than you can possibly imagine.

Each set of headphones has 18 colour changeable parts and you can build your own headphones from the builder on the MIYA website. There’s a picture of it below. Now you can have headphones to match your clothes – imagine a set in lurid colours to go with your Lycra sportswear.

They’ll work with any device that has an audio 3.5 mm jack, so that’s most mp3 players, iPods and so on.

Price is HKD 388 (Hong Kong dollars) but there’s HKD 150 off if you order before the end of June. There’s a checkout code on the website for the discount. For comparison, HKD 400 is about US$ 50 or GB£30.

Can’t comment on the audio quality as I haven’t got a pair myself. Let us know if you get a set.


Quirky – Social Product Development



I love these entrepreneurial websites such as Kickstarter. It’s a vicarious pleasure in seeing other people’s ideas and helping these people succeed by investing in their products. I found a new one today – Quirky – which I think takes the idea development to the next level. Quirky refer to it as a “A Socially Developed Product (TM)” and they help you take a product from the idea through product development to production and sales.

Here’s Quirky’s product development process.

The Quirky Process (courtesy of Quirky)

What seems to be unique about Quirky (and to be fair, I haven’t exhaustively researched the topic) is that part of the process is to encourage feedback from Quirky members to improve the product. They call it “community curation”. It’s a great idea especially if it leads to better products.

Taking it further, Quirky has this notion of influence. You earn influence by submitting ideas or commenting on products, and influence converts into a proportion of the profit from those objects that you worked on. The explanation is a bit opaque in places and I’d be interested to see what sort of money people make but it seems to be way to reward everyone who helped make the product a success.

There are some really interesting products on the site and the one that currently has my eye is the Converge docking station. It’s probably less docking station and more charging station but it looks great and solves a problem that many of us have.

The Converge is in pre-sale and so far it looks like it has garnered only 69 orders out of the 1300 needed to put it into production, so I don’t know how many products actually make it from pre-sale to production.

Overall, I like the idea and I’ll be following along but with all of these things, exercise caution. If you’ve got a great idea, it might be an excellent place to get a product into the market. But you need to read the small print and understand ownership of the intellectual property and design, your portion of the profit and so on – I haven’t delved into any of these things yet. If you aren’t happy, walk away.