‘Magic Wand’ is a reality on Kickstarter

Magic wands are the stuff of sci-fi and Cinderella. While once upon a time a Fairy Godmother used a special stick to sprinkle magic and turn pumpkins to coaches and mice into horses, it turns out a magic wand, of sorts, may actually exist.

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Developed in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, the Gestor is “wireless air mouse” that can be used to control your computer, power point presentation, even your smart TV or smartphone.

How does the ‘Magic Wand’ work?

Gestor is a cool looking stick-shaped device with touch-ring buttons. If you rotate it in your hands, it scrolls the content on your screen. What makes this mouse different is that it doesn’t need to touch any surface to work. It functions by touching and holding its ring buttons, and pointing it; you can move a cursor on your computer screen by tilting Gestor up or down, back and forth. You can use it with any computer or any device that supports a traditional USB mouse. Gestor buttons have gentle ‘haptic feedback’, which means when you touch the buttons they vibrate gently back at you so you know it’s working.

Watch the video of how Gestor works

Using Gestor does feel like magic

I had a chance to play with a Gestor at CES 2016 where the company that makes the devices gave us a private showing. It’s actually a really neat experience and feels like you’re using some futuristic gadget.  It’s a bit strange to get used to the motions and gestures of using a mouse off a surface, but it worked perfectly and was very responsive.

Helpfully, Gestor will work with both Mac OS and Windows operation systems.

Made in Calgary, Canada

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While many companies outsource their production overseas, Gestor is making their air mouse locally. The company explains in their Kickstarter campaign they use, “local companies in Calgary for plastic injection molding, metal tubes cutting, painting, PCB manufacturing and final assembly.”

To check the Gestor campaign on Kickstarter click HERE.

  


 

 

Seeing Panasonic’s Invisible/Transparent TV

It turned out to be the coolest thing I’ve seen in technology in the last few years. At the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, Panasonic was showing off its futuristic Transparent TV.

While the model on the show floor was a prototype, the Panasonic rep told me this TV could become reality in about 2-5 years!

The screen is almost perfectly see-through when turned off, and it’s easy to see art or knick-knacks behind the screen. Once it fires up though (with some cool sound effects) the screen goes completely opaque and a gorgeous high-def looking video picture emerges. I was standing pretty close to the prototype, and I couldn’t tell that it had any transparency when it was playing videos. It truly looks like a regular HD TV.

The screen can slide up and out of the way completely when it’s not in use.

While it’s still technically future technology, it looks like it could become real soon, and I can’t wait!

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How to publish your own book in 3 easy steps

img_9945You’ve always had a dream of publishing something.  Perhaps it’s writing a praise-worthy novel, or children’s book, or maybe even just getting some family photos or recipes together and sharing them with loved ones.

Publishing used to involve shopping your work around, and facing an endless string of pre-formatted rejections before giving up dejectedly.

Today, publishing your book is no longer so hard.  Self publishing has become far more common and far more inexpensive than ever before.

Like Blurb.  Blurb is a publishing website/platform that allows you to lay out your own book, then pay to print as many copies as you wish, as quickly as you want. I recently used it to publish a children’s book that I wrote with my husband.

How to Publish with Blurb in 3 steps

Step 1: Create

The first thing to do is write your great novel. Or illustrate that kids’ story. Or pen your comic book. Maybe you want to publish all your family recipes, print a wedding or anniversary book, a baby book or even a family history.  Well, now’s the time to get cooking, literally and figuratively!

Trust me, this will be the hardest step and 90% of people reading this won’t ever see step 2. Writing requires drive, dedication, determination, self-motivation and yes, preferably talent. (Though with self publishing, fortunately that last one is now optional because no one is judging you before you go to press — yay!)

Once you have the hard work behind you, the rest is easy.

Step 2: Layout

Once you have your material, and it’s been edited or otherwise proofed, you can download the free Blurb “Bookwright” software for Mac or PC. The software is super easy to use and is quite intuitive. You simply select “Start a new book” and then import your photos, images, drawings or text.  The software stores them in the layout software for you so you don’t have to go hunting every time you want to add a page. Trust me, dumping all your content into Bookwright up front will save you time and hassle down the road.

You can select how many pages long you want to make your book, and it’s easy to add pages as you go whether at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of the book so you don’t need to be too concerned with exact pagination yet.
Getting a look at your projectScreen Shot 2016-01-11 at 2.47.30 PM
The software is very easy to navigate. You can see all your pages at a glance down the left-hand side of the screen. In the middle and taking up the largest piece of real estate is your work screen. It gives you two pages side-by-side to look at and work on, with a list of your photos or images up above and some formatting tools.
From your image list, it’s as simple as grabbing and dragging each image and placing it on the page. Once the images are placed, you can adjust their size, zoom in or out, even add text.
Playing with Font, Style, Colour
Other features within the software are the ability to add page numbers and style them as well as such the background color of each page if you need it.
Bookwright watches over you
One of the features I found very helpful is that when you add each image to your book, the software gives it a little checkmark in the corner, which means you can see at a glance which photos or images have already been placed in the book, to avoid duplication or confusion.
Once done, the software checks for low res images and will also perform a final spell check. You can also make a last minute adjustments to paper, book size and style before sending it to print. You can also opt to pay about five dollars extra and have the book in PDF format as well, which in this day and age is genius.  Pay the $5.

Step 3: Print!

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 The book I selected is a Standard Landscape, 10×8 in, 25×20 cm with a total of 26 Pages. The cost to print it was $42 CAD.  Extras included the $5 for PDF/digital version plus shipping ($11) and tax ($3). That put the grand total around $62 CAD for a single copy.

Blurb Tips I learned along the way:

It took me MONTHS to get my book printed from the time I finished the content, until it was delivered to my door. Why so long?  Life got in the way. I started doing the layout, then got sidetracked here and there hunting down missing images etc. Then I needed to adjust the images from low res to high res, and had to re-find all the high res images I needed. Then I travelled, I worked my day job… blah blah blah. Finally I just decided to buckle down and get to it, but I learned a few tips along the way.

  • Making your book will take longer than you think. Trust me: It will take you a long time. Particularly if you are creating your content from scratch. Don’t expect to have a published book in a week.
  • Don’t tell people you’re publishing a book.  It adds unnecessary pressure.  Work at your own pace and save the social media sharing for when the book is in hand. Also, everyone and their uncle is a wannabe author with nothing to show for it.  Wait until you get the goods before blabbing about it.
  • Make sure you’re using hi res images. If you get in too deep with poor quality images, you’re wasting time.
  • The undo button is your friend. Use it. Love it. Experiment.
  • Gather up all your images, photos, pieces and parts and store them in a folder on your desktop. That way your productivity won’t be slowed by having to hunt for missing pages or images while you’re trying to do your layout.

**Contest is now CLOSED – Winner is Kate!**

Win $50 off YOUR Blurb Book! Enter below!

If you’re keen to try publishing your own book via Blurb, I’m giving away a promo code for $50 off a Blurb book!

Contest Runs January 12-17, 2016. Enter by writing a short note in the comments section on this blog telling me what kind of book you’d publish (Children’s, novel, comic, etc.).

You may enter once per day for the duration of the contest.

The Contest Fine Print:

I’ll pick one winner at random from among all the entries on this website. Only 1 entry per person please per day; extra entries beyond these parameters will be discarded. Contest closes at 11:59pm MT  January 17, 2016. Odds of winning depend on the number of entries received. Canadian entries only but contest is not valid in Quebec.

The winner will receive 1 prize: a $50 coupon code for a Blurb book provided courtesy of Blurb. ErinLYYC.com is not responsible prizes not delivered, delayed, or misdirected, or not redeemed after their expiration date, or for problems or difficulties encountered on the Blurb site when redeeming the code. Use of the code is at the sole discretion of Blurb. Offer is good for a discount off Blurb book publishing and can not be combined with any other offers or discounts. Prize has no cash value.

I’ll get in touch with the winner via the email address provided when you add your comment below. Non-response within 48 hours, and I’ll redraw under same 48 hour timeframe until I get a winner.

Winner’s name will be posted to this website and social media after the drawing.

If for any reason the Internet portion of the Contest is not capable of running as planned, including infection by computer virus, bugs, tampering, unauthorized intervention, fraud, technical failures or any other causes beyond the control of this website which corrupt or affect the administration, security, fairness, integrity or proper conduct of this Contest, ErinLYYC.com reserves the right at its sole discretion to disqualify any individual who tampers with the entry process, and to cancel, terminate, modify or suspend the Contest. Prize may not be exactly as show in accompanying photographs.

By entering this contest you agree you have read and accept the rules and are to abide by them.

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My Top 10 tech & gadget picks from CES 2016

The  annual Consumer Electronics Show  in Las Vegas is known (much like its venue) for being showy and over the top; it has a dazzling array of new gadgets, advanced appliances, and blow-your-mind new technology.
There were some amazing things that I saw; probably dozens of them. But I’ve whittled all the awesomeness down to a few great things from CES 2016

#1 Panasonic Transparent Display


This conceptual TV from Panasonic is essentially an invisible television. The screen is a retractable sheet of glass, which can hide inside furniture like a bookcase, then drop into view on command. When it’s enabled, the glass is transparent, allowing you to see your knickknacks or artwork behind it, until you’re ready to watch TV on it.
When the screen fires to life, it’s an ultra high definition picture that looks fantastic. When you’re done, the TV shuts off and/or retracts back into the furniture, allowing you to have a living area that is completely free from an ugly black television screen taking up space on furniture or hanging on a wall.

#2 LG V 10 Smartphone

I’m an Apple user, and have never tried an android smartphone. But this phone from LG I would get just for its amazing camera. The V10 camera comes with advanced image stabilization  which is perfect for taking videos handheld. It also has a feature I’ve been dying to see in a smartphone (and quite frankly I thought Apple should have had long before now); the V 10 allows you to adjust the focus on your video to focus only on certain objects in the frame. This lets you ‘blur’ out boring backdrops or create nice looking depth of field. While this is possible with other advanced specialty video cameras, this is the first time such control has been added to a smart phone’s video camera. If you’re a YouTube star or just a wannabe, this is the phone you’ll want to get to make fantastic videos.

#3 Playbulb Lighting

I love the look of this whole line of lighting, and can’t wait for a chance to review all of the individual pieces. The Playbulb line of smart lighting from Mipow features LED light strips, a digital candle that you can blow out, a gorgeous glass globe lamp that you can adjust with your smart phone or by touching it. Readers will know how much I appreciate smart lighting, and this whole line looks like a great addition to the household.

#4 PureGear Cases and ‘Magic’ Screen Protector

The PureGear booth at CES stopped me in my tracks. The company had laid out of an entire line of smart phone cases that were crystal-clear; some with subtle etching, others that are just designed to let your phone show through. Once I got to chatting with the representatives there, they blew me away with an amazing feature in one of their thin film screen protectors. The Smart + Buttons high definition glass screen protector  allows you to add ‘magic’ invisible buttons to your  iphone. How? The film will allow you to touch what’s in the top left or right corners of your phone, but transferring the touch surface to the dead space along the bottom of your phone as a substitute invisible button.  It means no more using 2 hands to reach way up to the top of your iPhone 6plus! It’s kind of hard to explain, but once I had it shown to me it blew my mind! I’ll post a video on this in the coming weeks.

#5 Withings Aura Lamp & Alarm

I love the look and versatility of this new Withings product. Though it somewhat resembles a tuba, or the smokestack on a large cruise ship, this funny looking gadget is designed to emit soft colorful light to wake you up each morning. Just use it like a regular alarm clock, and instead of a nasty buzz to shock you from sleep, the light begins to wake you until it’s bright enough to rouse you. If you like to wake up to music, it also works with Spotify to give you just the type of sound you want first thing in the morning. I’m also hoping to get hands-on with this device at some point in the next weeks or months.

#6 iLuv Pillow Alarm


Speaking of sleep, I also got a look at this unusual alarm clock which is a small flat disc that is designed to slip under or inside your pillow. You set the time and when it’s ready to wake you up, it starts to buzz and shake right underneath your head, giving you a gentle but effective wake up. It will also work with other projects in the iLuv line such as smart lightbulbs, so you can coordinate your lamp to fade on when the pillow alarm begins to buzz. So cool and smart; particularly for people out there like me who wake each day at 3 AM.

# 7 Whirlpool Pantry Fridge
IMG_9849One day soon I’m going to need new appliances in my kitchen. Unfortunately for me now (how will I ever choose?!), I have several amazing options. One of my favorites is the Whirlpool Pantry style refrigerator. It’s meant to be laid out more like a proper pantry and then a refrigerator; meaning everything is visible and reachable no matter its size.

One of the interesting features is that it has shelves or ledges that run around the inside rim of the refrigerator. They are perfect for small or narrow items that often get lost at the back of the fridge. I also really like the array of small hidden compartments that are visible in the bottom floor of the fridge for small things like cheese sticks and deli meats, plus the cool compartment crisper drawers let you store long narrow items loose, such as carrots or celery or cucumbers, without them getting squashed or lost underneath bigger items. The crisper drawers are also large enough to hold large boxes of lettuce which is very convenient. Of course this refrigerator is also smart meaning you can get updates on your smart device as to temperature, humidity, etc.
Where are 8, 9 and 10?  Check out some of the other cool gadgets I previewed and showed on CTV Tech Talk to see ; including a GPS suitcase and a levitating speaker–> Click here!

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Some COOL gadgets & things at CES

img_8990Expect an array of COOL gadgets to fill your feeds this week! It’s CES week;  the annual Consumer Electronics Show. (Read what it is and why it’s a big deal here).

I’m in Las Vegas covering the show, and already there are some amazing gadgets I’ll be seeking out because they’re unique and unusual.  Here’s a preview.

Oree Stylograph: ‘Magic’ Pen & Paper

This has to be one of the coolest things I’ve seen recently. I tried to get a sample to show on TV, but CES is crazy busy  (and so is Oree) and I wasn’t able to show it off on CTV.  Oree Stylograph takes your drawings, doodles and notes from a special notebook and pen combo, and automagically transfers them to your smart device.

Orée Stylograph from Orée on Vimeo.

BlueSmart Luggage: Connected carry-on luggage

bluesmartThis luggage will not only charge up your phone and any other connected device, but if your bag goes missing, Bluesmart combines GPS and 3G technology to track your suitcase anywhere in the world.It also boasts a secure (and TSA approved) digital lock to keep your stuff safe. Toss in the built-in scale and special easy-access laptop compartment and this bag is business traveller’s dream.

Mars Speaker by Crazybaby: a Levitating Speaker

Want to impress your friends, or just stare into something soothing? This levitating speaker will give you audio amplification, plus it’s an amazing showpiece.

Never Worry About Forgotten Keys Again: Dog and Bone Smart Padlock

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I think smart padlocks are brilliant.  The new Dog and Bone lock is made of secure steel, you open open it using your smart device. You can track who uses the lock each time it’s opened,  you can grant others (gardener, nanny) access too, either one time, regular times and days or all-access. You can even open the lock by granting digital access to someone from across the world.

Ampware Crank Case: Make Your Own Power

ampware caseA generator built into this phone case lets you crank up one amp of power. What does that mean?  About 5 minutes of cranking gives you about an hour of charge; more if you want to kick into standby mode. The case also provides protection against drops. This case would be excellent for outdoors types, who might spend a full day away from a power outlet (gasp!).

I’ll be posting more updates with really cool things from January 6-9 so check back to see what’s new! Follow my CES posts too on Twitter and Instagram, both are @ErinLYYC

No key? No problem! Digital padlock opens via your phone

IMG_9112Who hasn’t momentarily forgotten their combination on a padlock at the gym, the back gate, or on the shed? I’ve misplaced (or outright lost, forever) the key to the padlock on my bike, meaning I need to both buy a new one, and find some bolt cutters to take care of business.

Now, a new product out from Fuz Designs (they made the really cool felted case I featured on CTV Morning Live and the blog not long ago!) shows that you no longer need those keys, or your faulty memory to open a padlock! Check out the 3 minute video of how Noke Digital Lock works: either with your smartphone or a Morse Code-like series of long and short clicks.

If you’re looking for other neat security gadgets, check out the uber-easy MyFox camera, or the Gatekeeper key fob that makes unlocking your computer with a typed password obsolete!