Tech the halls with awesome electronics

Eight smart gifts of gadgets, toys and accessories for electronics lovers

Plug into fun this holiday season with these awesome devices and tech toys that will make the holidays  electric.

We will, we will Roku

Binge watchers will love the ultimate top-of-the-line streaming device, Roku Ultra, that streams high-quality HD and even 4K video with a slim design that neatly tucks into TV cabinets or looks sleek on a shelf. For those who want to lie in bed and turn up the volume on their favorite action series and not wake up their partner with every explosion or gun battle, Roku offers private listening, which allows an individual to listen with headphones connected to a jack on the Roku remote or on a smart phone using the latest Roku app. Another great feature on the Roku remote is the ability to control volume and power up and turn off a connect TV. Like other models in Roku‘s lineup, the Ultra also offers dedicated buttons to popular networks, like Netflix and Hulu. New this year to Roku is the brand’s own free channel, chock full of premium movies and shows. Roku Ultra is available for $99 at retailers nationwide.

Thinking in a vacuum

Neat freaks can take a break from constant cleaning with iRobot’s Roomba, a vaccum robot that will do the work for them so their home can have that just-vacuumed look all the time. The original and most tech-forward of the automatic vacuum brands, Roomba has developed an army of round robots designed for a variety of carpet and floor surfaces, with its most advanced units, like the wi-fi connected Roomba 980 ($899), featuring smart technology that allows Roomba to be operated and programmed using an app or with voice- command devices like Echo or Google Home. While Roomba doesn’t do windows, it’s a great helper around the house that won’t complain about chores, and with its endearing Jetson-esque robotic voice, Roomba may just become your next pet, that picks up fur instead of shedding it.

Click tap, my phone was taking a bath

For the tech enthusiastic who has everything, give them the peace of mind of a bacteria-free cell phone with phone soap ($59.95). This sanitizing unit that looks like a mini sunbed, uses UV lights to kill germs on your phone in 10 minutes. The unit features an opening to thread through a phone cable, so the phone can charge while it’s in use. Available at www.phonesoap.com.

Tic Talk

The Mobvoi TicHome Mini ($99) is a great new entrant into the works-with-Google-Assistant family. This speaker has rich audio quality, especially for its size, and this portable, compact unit comes in a variety of attractive colors to spruce up your countertop, desk, bathroom vanity (it’s splash resistant) or wherever it sits, ready to respond to your commands. Using the Google Assistant app, it can access the massive knowledge base of Google search, and can play music from a number of streaming services like Pandora. Also, the TicHome Mini can untether from its USB charging cable and run on its internal battery, either operating as truly wireless Wi-Fi streaming speaker or a Bluetooth speaker.

Own your stuff

While you cozy up in front of the TV this holiday season, save some money for your family with a TP-Link Archer CR700 Wireless Dual Band DOCSIS 3.0 Cable Modem Router ($159), a modem-router combination that can replace the unit that the cable service provider makes you pay to lease each month. Owning your own equipment is not only more convenient and less expensive in the long run, you will own the most advanced technology that often can perform better and faster than the no-frills devices the cable companies buy in bulk and rent to subscribers. The Archer CR7000 also features Parental and Access Control using a web management page that allows you to safeguard your network, restricting who can join and what content users may access while on it. Check compatibly with your cable service provider.

Strong arm

Spark the engineering spirit in young builders with the Hearthsong Hydraulic Arm Edge ($49.98, ages 10 and up), a working arm that kids assemble and then learn to maneuver using sequences that move its six water-powered levers to make the arm turn, lift, lower, and move blocks and other items to create structures using the arm’s grippers and its super-strong suction cup. As a feel-good bonus, when consumers purchase a STEM toy from HearthSong before December 11, 2017, and Bayer will donate the full value of that toy to Toys for Tots to buy STEM toys from HearthSong at a discount and donate up to $250,000.

Fast and curious

Kids can ramp up on the latest augmented reality technology with Osmo’s latest fun, mind-challenging game, Hot Wheels MindRacer ($59.99 on Amazon, ages 5 and up). This interactive game expands the boundaries of play with the classic play experience of Hotwheels cars with the power of mobile computing. Using tokens for a boost and real Hot Wheels cars – each with their own unique skills and personality quirks, players rev up and launch the toys into a fantastical computer-generated racetrack where winning takes both speed and smarts. A special note: this game is the first-ever Hot Wheels product marketed on the package, “For boys and girls!” (iPad sold separately)

Just watch

Give the gift of peace of mind to yourself or love ones with the Honeywell Lyric C2 Wi-Fi Security Camera ($169.99), an easy-to-install and use security system that keeps on eye on your home while you’re away, or inside. Using the Lyric app on a phone or tablet, the C2 streams live video and records using free secure cloud storage (up to 1 GB) and 8GB SD-card storage for back-up, so that you can download surveillance clips from the past 24 hours. The system features voice control capability using the Alexa app, sound detection, night vision, and an HD 145-degree wide-angle view that captures video in sharp 1080p high definition.

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MePHOTO makes the perfect road trip companion

The latest in compact tripods comes loaded with features, including a selfie stick

The MeFOTO Road Trip Air tripod with built-in selfie stick is a great option for serious photographers that want a steady shot but need portability and options for a full on SLR camera or a smart phone camera, to adapt to the shooting situation.

The tripod features a convenient click-and-lock system for the legs and center column. It took a few minutes to figure it out, but with a firm twist each leg section locks in place.

The ball head and pan head can also be locked or loosen to be fluid. A full-size SLR camera or other small or medium camera with a bottom screw hole can be easily mounted on and removed from the platform using the universal quick release plate.

For mobile shooting, with a twist of the collar and a knob at the bottom of the telescoping center pole, the selfie stick slides out and can be used as a mount for a smart phone with a digital remote.

The center column is also reversible using a retractable weight hook at the bottom of the center column, so that the tripod can be placed ideally for close-up photography and shooting difficult-to-reach objects.

The tripod is available in a variety of chic colors and it also comes with a super nifty and sturdy carry bag with heavy-duty dual straps and a impressively large slide lock.

For a compact Tripod system, the Road Trip Air is a kit with a lot of versatility and features. While it folds up relatively small, it is still a bit weighty at 2 1/2 pounds, so it will fit in a backpack, but it may be more weight than you want to carry if you’re climbing Everest.

The MePhoto Road Trip Air is available on Amazon or at http://www.mefoto.com/ for $175.

Osmo STEAM experience helps kids learn coding and music

Check out our new site at www.outwithmommy.com

Coding Jam is the video game-like system that teaches kids to code while they play

The other day my son commanded Google Home to play a custom playlist he had created on a Pandora. Two things occurred to me about this. First, wow. The digitally connected future vision of the The Jetsons was coming true; and then, my more mundane thought was, “That music is awful. My 10-year-old child could write better arrangements,” and thanks to Osmo, he can.

Like many other kids who love video games, my son craves leveling up and learning how to improve his skills, and Osmo has harnessed this excitement in a new technology experience, Coding Jam, that allows kids to create music through basic coding. Using colored building blocks and a system that interacts with an iPad or iPhone, kids can arrange and play musical notes in strings and sequences to write…

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Hotel apps gain favor with guests

Mobile apps are becoming as central to the hotel guest experience as soft pillows, extra towels and a competitive price, according to J.D. Power

The new mantra from front desk clerks is at savvy hotels is, “Enjoy Your Stay—and Have You Downloaded Our App?”

According to the J.D. Power 2017 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study,SM released today, incorporating mobile apps and functionality into a hotel stay is associated with higher guest satisfaction. Integrating this technology also makes guests more willing to share their positive hotel experiences on social media.

The risk for hotels is that greater use of mobile devices for booking means some guests might secure a room with an online travel agency (OTA), which is associated with lower satisfaction. The industry is currently emphasizing direct booking, where a hotel guest rents a room directly through the hotel rather than another way. Pushing for more guests to become rewards members will likely enhance this effort. While OTAs remain popular among many guests, there are some disadvantages to their use, such as the need to deal with a third party if problems arise with a reservation.

“As mobile usage becomes increasingly ubiquitous for guests, the challenge for hotels becomes twofold: First, they must persuade guests to book directly with them, and second, they must encourage easy utilization of this technology,” said Rick Garlick, practice lead, travel and hospitality at J.D. Power. “By forging direct relationships, hotels can become guardians of the guest experience, but at the center of these relationships is an establishment’s mobile strategy.”

The study, now in its 21st year, measures overall guest satisfaction across eight hotel segments: luxury; upper upscale; upscale; upper midscale; midscale; economy; upper extended stay; and extended stay. Seven key factors are examined in each segment to determine overall satisfaction: reservation; check-in/check-out; guest room; food & beverage; hotel services; hotel facilities; and cost & fees. Satisfaction is calculated on a 1,000-point scale.

Following are key findings of the 2017 study:

Direct booking: When guests book through an independent travel website or mobile app (e.g., Expedia, Travelocity) instead of directly with the hotel, they are more likely to experience a problem and to be less satisfied with their stay.

Membership matters: Hotel rewards members are far more likely to book directly with a hotel or on a loyalty member site than those who are not members (75% vs. 47%, respectively), and their satisfaction is higher. The number of those who book through OTAs is increasing (19% in 2017 vs. 16% in 2013), despite the concerns some guests have ranging from earning hotel rewards to strict cancellation policies.

Mobile mania: In 2014, 14% of online reservations were made using mobile means (smartphone or tablet), and now that percentage is 25%. Those utilizing mobile reservations are more likely to be younger or business travelers.

Not so mobile mania: Among guests who have a hotel’s app on their mobile device, 38% don’t use it during their stay. Only a tiny percentage of check-ins (4%) and check-outs (1%) occurs through mobile apps, but when it is used, it is associated with higher guest satisfaction.
Get ’em to try the app: Guests who download and use a hotel’s mobile app are more satisfied and have greater loyalty to that brand. While only 19% of all guests have downloaded a hotel app, 70% of rewards members have done so.

Social media surprise: Despite the perception that people posting to social media only do so to complain, guests describing their experience via these channels appear to be more satisfied overall. At the same time, those who do experience a problem are extremely likely to post to social media (86%).

Reading is fundamental: Slightly more than half (52%) of guests have read a review of a hotel, industry news or an online forum in the past month, and 46% of those guests wrote a review in the past six months. Review readers and writers are also more likely to have higher guest satisfaction.

Hotel Segment Rankings

“While The Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott rank highest in the luxury segment, both of these Marriott-affiliated brands appeal to different types of customers,” Garlick said. “It’s important to remember that this study measures guest satisfaction among a hotel brand’s own customers and doesn’t directly compare hotel brands to one another. Often, the type of guest becomes an important element in determining satisfaction rankings.”

The following hotel brands rank highest in guest satisfaction in their respective segments:

Luxury: JW Marriott and The Ritz-Carlton1 (tie)
Upper Upscale: Hyatt
Upscale: Hilton Garden Inn (for a second consecutive year)
Upper Midscale: Drury Hotels (for a 12th consecutive year2)
Midscale: Wingate by Wyndham (for a third consecutive year)
Economy: Americas Best Value Inn
Upper Extended Stay: Staybridge Suites
Extended Stay: Candlewood Suites

The 2017 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study is based on responses gathered between June 2016 and May 2017 from more than 63,000 guests in Canada and the United States who stayed at a hotel in North America between May 2016 and May 2017.

Sports Wireless headphones from JVC hit the sweet spot

JVC appeals to the competitive athlete with a new streamlined sports headphones

While a lot of headphone manufacturers jumped on the Bluetooth wireless bandwagon after Apple revealed its iPhone 7 headphone-jack-less design, JVC went for a more niche audience of serious sportsters who had their own specialized needs for high performance headphones with its series of sports wireless headphones.

For starters, serious athletes would obviously only wear in-ear headphones, so JVC came up with a number of styles that are geared for this audience with anti-slip, water resistant materials. Their latest headset, the HA-ET50BT-A ($79.95), has a pivot motion fit, which is basically is an inch-long elbow-shaped rubber fin that can be rotated to nestle into the curve of the ear. The benefit of this fit is that it helps keep the headphone in the ear, of course, but also it allows the user to wear sunglasses over the ear or helmets and hats without any interference.

This headset also features an open type earbud with notches cut into the earpiece to allow ambient sound for safety when running or cycling along the roadside or other activity in an environment where you need to hear your surroundings. The open earpieces can be switched out for more dynamic sound as desired. The earphones come with a standard size earpiece and then five other sizes to choose from in the open and regular styles.

The USB-cable rechargeable 9-hour battery, which also doubles as the control center and microphone, is compact and lightweight, about two inches long, a quarter inch wide and about as thick as a flattened pencil. The control fob features raised buttons so the user can feel them rather than having to look at them to control them. The ear phones themselves contain magnets, so when draped around the neck the ear phones cling to each other to hold them together like a necklace, so they will not fall off when worn around the neck when they are not in use. For those fashion-conscious athletes, the headphones are available in a choice of purple, yellow or black.

Bedsides all the fit features, these headphones deliver JVC’s renowned awesome robust and rich audio quality.

The concept behind these headphones is that serious athletes need stress-free headphones that stay in place so they can enjoy and be motivated by music while concentrating on their training.  JVC smartly appeals to serious athletes with this line of headphones, because as we all know, competitive athletes always want an edge, and these headphones are clearly designed to give that.

 

 

Nanit baby video monitor evaluates baby’s sleep

nanitFirst comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the Internet of Things in the baby carriage.

After Baby Gigl, the smart baby bottle that notified caregivers via an app of the quantity of nutrition babies received and detected bubbles that could cause colic, now there’s Nanit, the “Tesla” of baby monitors and the first video monitor which can measure sleep and evaluate how well the baby is sleeping— without a wearable device.

Going beyond mere surveillance, Nanit provides comprehensive reports that measure a baby’s sleep behavior throughout the night. Since it launched, Nanit has been featured in Forbes, Fortune, BabyCenter, and The Today Show. In December 2016, Business Insider included Nanit in its “Best startups to launch in 2016” list.

The creators say Nanit is the most advanced baby monitor ever created, using cutting-edge computer vision technology to deliver scientifically-backed insights designed to help babies and entire families sleep better.

Nanit features a mobile app experience that allows parents and caregivers to share important information with each other via Nanit’s private social feed. Other key features include an easy set-up floor stand, a night light, a “white noise” maker, six nature soundtracks, a fully integrated cable management system, sound/motion notifications, and HD surveillance of the nursery.

Nanit is designed to help new mothers (and fathers) for whom baby’s sleep is as elusive as those sheep jumping over the fence.  It might even help those weary parents get a few extra winks too.

Check out the video here: https://youtu.be/qASwMefxodM

 

Nanit costs $279, not including an additional monthly subscription fee for analytics.
 

Serius heated gloves – the smartest gloves you’ll ever wear

DSC_1377Serius thermal gloves are the first gloves for which I’ve had to read a instruction manual. That said, the instructions were pretty simple. Charge the batteries for about three hours, insert the batteries into the wrist cuff and press the button to the desired heat level. Oh yeah, and don’t forget, you can swipe away on your smart phone screen while wearing these gloves.

Within 30 seconds, the gloves were toasty inside, and on cold mountain tops these are a hand saver. After all, cold hands is a major reason that I have to head back to the lodge earlier than I wanted to.

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The gloves are attractive, and of course they will work with or without the batteries to stay warm, but the battery-powered system is what makes these gloves truly unique.

The gloves come with an interior liner, which could work alone and may be an option for less frigid days. When you truly need the extra warmth, the liner gloves slip into the exterior glove, which has a metallic like lining inside.

When put together, it is rather snug fit, and you must be careful when tucking in the cables that are used to charge the batteries and to connect them to the heating mechanism with in the glove, because if the cables are not tucked in correctly on the outer side of the battery, you will feel the hard plastic connectors, about the size of a small AC adapter connector, pressing into your wrist, which could be uncomfortable.

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One other design issue is that once the temperature selection is made on the inner glove, and the outer glove is slipped on over it, it’s possible if you’re not careful to hit the button on the outside and change the setting unintentionally. Also, because once the outer glove is on you cannot see the setting, you would have to remove the outer glove to check it.

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Lastly, the care and laundering of these gloves is a bit different from others, whereas you can toss most gloves into the dryer you cannot do that with these, which should be wiped off if dirty and let dry naturally if wet. If you have any other questions, there’s always the manual, which you can access on your smartphone, wearing your gloves of course.

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