Tag Archives | technology

Alexa-powered microwave brings us one step closer to having a personal chef

Amazon

Ok, maybe it’s not the same as a personal chef, but let’s face it, an item that can heat up food while we sit on the couch is a win.

Amazon has just introduced its AmazonBasics Alexa-powered microwave, letting you tell Alexa to start heating things up. Even the installation (if you can call it that) is easy, provided you have the Amazon Echo already set up (it is required for the microwave to respond to voice commands). Just plug in, connect to the app, and away you go!

You’ll have the option to activate the microwave the same way you do with Echo, by saying “Alexa”, or you can hit the “Ask Alexa” button on your microwave and proceed with your instructions. Voice presets will help eliminate the need for you to know how much cooking time is required. For example, you can tell Alexa to cook a potato, defrost peas, or reheat a cup of coffee. It’s practically magic.

Can’t get enough of stay-in movie nights? If you so choose, you can sign up to automatically reorder popcorn. Alexa will keep track of how many times you use the Popcorn button or voice command, and reorder popcorn for you when it knows you’re running low.

For those of us that aren’t quite ready to embrace voice technology, the microwave still has the “old-fashioned” keypad.

For the affordable price, the compact size, and the ease of use, this microwave is perfect for your dorm room!

Size: 17.3″ x 14.1″ x 10.1″
Cavity Size: 0.7 cu.ft.
Power levels: 10
System requirements: Alexa app, Echo device
Price: $59.99 USD
Buy: Amazon.com

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DOSS SoundBox Touch: A bluetooth speaker for when you need music, but also need to save

Amazon

When you’re grinding through those hefty assignments, having a pump-up playlist in the background can make all the difference in keeping you going. With hundreds of bluetooth speakers to choose from, a student-sized budget can really narrow down the options. However, not all inexpensive speakers are poor in quality!

The best, most affordable bluetooth speaker we’ve come across is the DOSS SoundBox Touch, which comes in at a delightful $28.99 and comes in four colours – blue, red, white, and black. It boasts a high-def, 360 degree stereo sound and fingertip controls and up to 12 hours playtime for your all-nighters (though you should expect 9 to 10 hours). It’s sleek and attractive, and both looks and sounds more expensive than it is – which is always a plus!

You’ll only need to connect your phone to the speaker once; from then on, the speaker will automatically connect to the last used device.

Keep in mind this speaker isn’t water-resistant, so you may want to refrain from using it for pool parties, but the sound is loud enough that you’ll be able to add a soundtrack to your sunny days in the park.

Overall, it’s hard to find cons for this device – for the price, the quality is superb!

Sound: 12W high-performance drives; <1% harmonic distortion; 360-degree stereo sound Battery Life: Up to 12 hours at 75% volume; recharge in 3-4 hours
Compatibility: Connect to bluetooth-enabled devices up to 33ft; aux-in; micro SD card
Colors: Black, white, blue, red
Size: 6.6 x 2.9 x 2.7 in
Accessories Storage bag, aux cable, USB charging cable, audio adapter
Price: $28.99 USD
Buy: Amazon

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5 Reasons Employees Love ‘BYOD’

Bring your own device

Photo by EigenmannZaak on pixabay.com

Most employers can’t keep up with changing technology as easily as their workforce can, so adopting a “bring your own device” policy is common for businesses these days. It allows employees to do work on their own laptops, tablets, and smartphones instead of company-issued equipment.

The widespread adoption of BYOD (bring your own device) to work has changed the nature of how connected we are — or are expected to be — in an office setting.

As our availability shifts, so do expectations that we should be more connected to work 24-7. Employees don’t even seem to mind this as they’d rather use their own devices for business purposes than unfamiliar work-issued equipment. Why? Here are five reasons.

Work & Play

The line between work life and personal life can be pretty blurry sometimes. Whether we like it or not, our smartphones connect us to both personal and professional endeavors. Many of us embrace the blurriness because it’s all part of “life,” and we tend to spend most of our waking hours on work related stuff anyway, whether at home or in an office. But it can be intrusive if you let it, which is why striking a balance may be necessary. Versatile business devices, for example, separate business apps from personal apps so you can use your device for both work and play. It beats having two separate phones.

“Considering 20 percent of the 1,500 job seekers surveyed by FlexJobs last year would take a cut in pay for more flexible work options, the BYOD trend is necessary to creating more work-life balance,” states an article on Entrepreneur’s site. “Not to mention, working from devices that employees are already familiar and comfortable with can help them complete tasks quickly and efficiently.”

Efficiency Queens & Kings

Instead of learning how to use computers or technology you’re not familiar with, it’s easier to stick with what you know as it saves time. When companies allow you to use your own mobile device, they are basically letting you choose the tool you see most useful to get the job done. Just imagine if a painter couldn’t pick his own brushes or if a mechanic couldn’t use her own tools. Similar philosophy, right?

Keep the Talent

Millennials and creative types especially like flexibility in the workplace because they often work outside of the 9-to-5 office paradigm. BYOD is a good recruitment and retention tool as many tech-savvy workers see their personal devices as an employee benefit. They can work either in the office or at home on the weekends and evenings with more fluidity than switching between devices. BYOD is particularly important for tech-heavy jobs like graphic design, UX design and programming because different operating systems support different products.

Expanded job titles

Speaking of creative types, our super mobile society has widened the job possibilities endlessly. In the marketing field in particular, technology is transforming the old marketing landscape with new career opportunities in a huge range of content channels. If you’re in marketing, you could actually help companies look at gaps in the their marketing plans and offer skills that will help a potential new employer step up their game and separate themselves from the competition.

Morale Booster

Even though the employee is usually the one who ends up paying to use their own equipment, which doesn’t seem that enticing on the surface, there’s still a sense of freedom or independence associated with being able to use your own device. Sometimes it’s the simple things that encourage employees to stay with a company, especially if the employer actually pays for the device of your choice.

This article was contributed by guest author Devin Morrissey.

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The Return of the Intercom

Image from amazon.com

Have you been to a house built in the 1970’s and noticed that weird speaker system in various rooms? Intercoms were very popular in this era, allowing parents to tell their kids when dinner was ready without yelling across the house.

It seems that now, texting and instant messaging have taken over that role, but it’s possible that intercoms are coming back in a new, modern form.

Amazon just introduced an intercom feature on their Echo devices, allowing you to converse across rooms. It uses a teleconferencing software called Drop-In, and will work with your connected devices once set up on the Alexa app.

All you need to do is name the devices (ie. “Kitchen,” “Bedroom,” “Den”). Then you can activate the intercom simply by instructing Alexa to call that room. The intercom also works from the Alexa tablet and smartphone apps – so you can place calls to the Kitchen straight from your phone.

We can see it now – you’re on your way home from school and starving. You open the app and say, “Hey Alexa, call the Kitchen,” and it would probably immediately be followed by, “Hey mom, what’s for dinner?” Whether your mom will like this feature or not is to be determined.

An interesting feature with the intercom is that it doesn’t work on Wi-Fi – meaning you can connect devices that are in different locations. Now, this is something your mom probably would like – especially if you’re away at school and you bring an Echo device to your dorm.

If you’ve already got Echo devices, the intercom feature is available with the latest app update. If you don’t have Echo devices, here’s where to start for more information.

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3 Ways Tech is Changing Lives

Image by paulbr75, pixabay.com

We know technology has grown exponentially over the past 20 years in ways that make our lives fun and efficient, but it has also made life easier and safer for some. Here are three tech advances in 2017 that are really changing lives:

1. Smart watches for blind people
Think about the last time you had trouble finding where you were going. Now imagine being disoriented again, only this time you’re blind. Sometimes we take things like vision for granted, and Sunu is changing things. Fernando Albertorio is co-founder of this company, and legally blind. He recognized a need for a product that could help him navigate without bumping into objects, and created a wristband that emits ultrasound waves and uses varying levels of vibrations to let him know how close objects are. Not only is this product practical for the blind or visually impaired, but it increases their confidence and way of living. Albertorio even ran a 5K race wearing it.
Price: $299
Availability: Starting August 2017

2. Self-driving wheelchairs
You’ve heard of self-driving cars – so it’s only logical that self-driving wheelchairs would be just as possible. A Canadian research team has claimed to develop technology that would allow wheelchairs to drive themselves. The idea has presented itself before, however, the price for one of these was in the range of $30,000 – not exactly affordable. Toronto’s Cyberworks Robotics and the University of Toronto say they can create one for a cost of $300-$700. Self-driving wheelchairs would assist those who have low mobility in their upper body and may not be able – or find it difficult – to use joysticks and similar features on current motorized vehicles. While still a work in progress, it’s a good move towards improving the quality of life for those confined to wheelchairs.
Price: TBD
Availability: In development

3. A device to prevent sexual assault
Sexual assault cases are constantly in the news, and MIT researchers wanted to develop a way to help detect it and prevent it. Too many times on campus, students are intoxicated and end up in situations where their judgment isn’t clear. The Intrepid Smart Sticker was created with the idea that it can be fastened to the inside of your clothing and sync to your phone. The sticker recognizes when clothes are being removed, and sends a notification to the wearer’s phone asking for consent. If a response isn’t received, the phone will start buzzing loudly, and if a response is still not received, the identified contacts in the user’s “safety circle” will be notified and receive their location and a phone call. The app will also start recording the phone call and any other noises. Based on input from assault survivors, volunteers, and users, the Intrepid team believes this device could really help cut down the number of assault cases.
Price: TBD
Availability: In development

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The Power Of Technology: How To Use Your Phone To Make School As Easy As Possible

Image by William Iven, unsplash.com

Image by William Iven, unsplash.com

Cellphones are no longer mere communication devices. With the advent of advanced systems on chip products such as the Qualcomm Snapdragon series, you can now carry an entire PC in your pocket. Additionally, there are services that allow for complex data manipulation via powerful remotely-accessible computers. This change in how data is interacted with in real-time has broad implications for many aspects of everyday life – including education. Here’s how powerful your mobile phone can be:

Mathematics
Equations of various difficulties from basic arithmetic to advanced calculus can be input into online knowledge engines such as Wolfram Alpha. This allows for math to be made very easy with minimal preexisting knowledge. The skillset needed to solve almost any everyday mathematical problem is now basic data entry – instead of having to memorize formulas, you can simply enter information into a text box to get instant answers.

Science
Whether you have to balance a chemical equation or find information on a specific organism, all you have to do is type. Between Google, Wikipedia, and Wolfram Alpha, you have unlimited information at your fingertips. The answer to virtually any question can be found quickly with simple searches.

History
Search engines are our new best friend. Do you need to know when a specific event took place? What about where a battle happened or why? Google has you covered. For more in-depth knowledge, provided links can be explored in detail, but the text underneath each result is often enough to solve your query.

Languages
Are you unsure about how to spell a word, or wondering if your grammar is correct? Just Google the way you think it should be written, and precise results will be provided instantly. Additionally, text can easily and accurately be translated into foreign languages: with Google Translate or Babelfish, many people now check their phrases to make sure they sound natural.

Smartphones have fundamentally altered education as we know it. With data security and touch ID our phones are more accessible and safer than ever! With growing computational power, the impact of phones will only increase in the future to the benefit of us all. Don’t be left behind as computers evolve dramatically – use technology to enhance your learning experience and make your schooling a breeze.

This article was contributed by guest author Kara Masterson.

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Droppler: Stop Wasting with the Shazam for Water


Nascent Modular Consumer Electronics from Nascent Objects.

Ever wonder how your water bill got so high? When are you using all this water? Is it your roommate or a family member?

Researchers have found that when people are aware of how much water is being used (ie. if they’re being timed while the water is on), they use up to 30% less. In places like drought-ridden California, 30% is a big number. In comes Droppler.

Droppler listens to your water usage – yes, listens. The company that invented it, Nascent, programmed Droppler to “hear” the sounds of water on different sinks (you can imagine how much time this took), and to block out other miscellaneous house sounds like footsteps, cooking, etc. Droppler starts off with a full bar of light in the morning, and as it hears water being used, the light depletes, and information is synced to an app. It’s supposed to make you aware of how much water is being used throughout the day.

When it’s not monitoring water usage, it can also be separated to act as a speaker or home-monitoring camera. Go figure!

Droppler has raised $62,499 USD on their Indiegogo campaign.

The Details:

  • Shell: Porcelain
  • Wifi & Bluetooth enabled
  • Microphone
  • Light: LED
  • Camera: 720px home-monitoring
  • Speaker: Wifi streaming
  • Price: Unknown
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iPhone 7 Removes Jack, Beefs Up Everything Else

Image via pixabay.com

Image via pixabay.com

September Apple announcements have become something students, businesspeople, and the general public look forward to every year. We all want to know what innovative concepts will be in our hands in the coming months, and this year, it was the iPhone 7.

The biggest rumour (well, not a rumour anymore) was that Apple would get rid of the headphone jack. But don’t worry – you still like the feel of your old-school headphones? They’re including a Lightning adapter with each phone, so they’re not obsolete (yet). They’ve announced AirPods, wireless headphones which will quickly connect to your phone (and perhaps get lost just as quickly). But that’s for another day.

The newest iPhone is now water-resistant (thank goodness), so no need to be afraid of splashes any longer. The battery life is longer (supposedly 12 hours), which is always a plus for those classrooms without outlets, and the camera has a larger aperture, plus optical image stabilization to help get clearer pictures. The front-facing camera has also been bumped up from 5MP to 7MP – hello, selfies!

You’ll find the home button on the new iPhone doesn’t feel quite the same, because it’s using Force Touch. It’s no longer a “button”, but it’ll be able to do more things using different pressures – so once you’re used to it, it’ll be great.

Apple has also added stereo speakers to the iPhone – one speaker at the top and one at the bottom, to give you an almost “surround sound” feel. This will be great for adding music to your workouts.

This iPhone is truly next generation, and whether you’re using it on its own or syncing it up with your Apple Watch, it can enhance your regular, mundane activities both at school and at home.

The Details

  • Size: Same as the 6S (4.7 inch screen)
  • Home button: No longer a button, uses Force Touch
  • Water-resistant
  • Camera: rear camera has a larger aperture; front camera now 7MP. Introduced image stabilization
  • Speakers: one at the top, one at the bottom
  • Battery: lasts up to 12 hours
  • Processor: A10 chip is 40% faster than the A9
  • Colours: Jet black (only available in 128, 256GB models), matte black, rose gold, silver, gold
  • Price: Pre-order starting September 16 from $649US
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Understanding How Information Technology is Influencing your Education

Image by Helloquence, unsplash.com

Image by Helloquence, unsplash.com

Information technology has been changing the world of education for over a decade. It’s constantly evolving and providing more opportunities for individuals from every walk of life to receive schooling. Prior to the evolution of information technology, individuals were enrolled at brick and mortar institutions for 12-16 years depending on the level of education. Now, students all over the world can be involved in higher education through various online learning platforms offered at colleges and universities.

Far-reaching Capabilities
Perhaps the most significant development in information technology as it relates to education is the ability to reach anyone with an internet connection. Individuals no longer need to relocate in order to pursue their dreams of higher education. Students can pursue a degree in an internet cafe in Southeast Asia or in a cushy high-rise apartment in New York City. As an added bonus, the diversity of students has also increased. People in completely different countries can be in the same class and still be able to interact virtually in online discussion boards and group assignments. It provides a different perspective for discussion topics that students might miss out on if they were to attend a community college with the same people they live around.

Convenience
Due to the technology that schools have continued to build upon, students can even pursue graduate degrees online. It is so much easier to receive an online master’s in library and information science, because the materials you previously would have needed are now available through the Internet. In a study as specific as library science, which entails a lot of research, having entire databases to search through can be exhausting. With the online databases available today, there are keyword searches and specific filters you can apply to your search that will cut down your research time significantly. It also allows students to have more information at their fingertips instead of just what was available at the university’s library.

Information technology has had a significant impact on the society we live in. It has even started to eliminate the need for large, expensive textbooks and an obscene amount of composition notebooks. Research papers, notes and assignments can be stored and turned in on cloud storage services so it is always accessible no matter what device you are using. The convenience and other added benefits have proved to be indispensable in the education field and to students today.

This article was contributed by guest author Lizzie Weakley.

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The Newest Thing in Coffee, Funded by You

Image by GIR, Voltaire via Kickstarter

Image by GIR, Voltaire via Kickstarter

How many times have you screwed up your coffee in the morning because your brain is still half asleep? Let’s face it, this is a common occurrence. But what if you had a coffee machine that was smarter than you? Introducing the Voltaire Smart Grinder. It not only grinds your beans and brews your coffee – it can also tell you just how fresh your beans are with the connected app. This battery-operated grinder is portable and can last for up to three weeks and grind 3lbs of beans on one charge.

GIR, the company behind Voltaire, explains the science behind stale coffee beans and how the staling process is invisible, but what you need to know is that Voltaire has a sensing platform that figures it all out for you and tells you when to replenish your bean stock via the app. It’s one of the secrets to good coffee.

What we particularly like is the portable aspect – the idea of brewing fresh coffee outside, away from home, or even in your dorm room without using up an outlet is fantastic (why isn’t this a thing yet?).

Voltaire has a collection of companion products as well, that include Ever Cup travel cups (insulated with locking lids to keep drinks hot or cold and spill-free) and an AirVault Smart Container that keeps your beans fresh.

It’s just recently been funded by a Kickstarter campaign, bringing in an amazing $150,241 to get the ball rolling. By just meeting their stretch goal of $150K in the last day of the campaign, GIR is now offering a choice for the metal finishes – copper or silver. If you’re an on-the-go coffee drinker, this is one product to check out.

The Details

  • Use the app to measure bean freshness
  • Stock up on beans through the app
  • It comes in silver or copper finishes (shown above)
  • Add companion products like the AirVault or Ever Cups
  • Battery charge can last up to 3 weeks and grind up to 3lbs of beans
  • Received $150,241 from the Kickstarter campaign in August 2016: now in production
  • Estimated delivery for backers: March 2017
  • Price: not available yet
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