LG V20 smartphone review

YouTubers take note. If you’re looking for a great smartphone to further your video ambitions, the LG V20 could be the phone for you.

With advanced video and photo capabilities, the phone is a videographer’s dream.  I had a chance to play around with the V20 for a couple weeks to test and review. Continue reading “LG V20 smartphone review”

T3 Micro Twirl 360 smart curling iron review

I love testing out beauty gadgets, so when I heard about T3’s new curling iron which it says will create, “flawless curls, powered by science” I was more than a little interested.
The T3 Micro Twirl 360 is a 1.25″ barrel ceramic curling iron. While it looks like most standard curling irons, its lovely white sheathing makes it look ultra modern. But behind the nice styling is some serious technology, because this curling iron can curl your hair virtually by itself, because it has a built in gyroscope that whirls the curls for you. Continue reading “T3 Micro Twirl 360 smart curling iron review”

How to save Google maps directions for offline use & travel

Google-Maps 2 how to use offline no wifiGoogle Maps can get you out of a jam if you’re lost or trying to find a place, but it doesn’t help you if you’re travelling out of country and trying to a avoid roaming charges from your cellular provider. The fix is to save Google Maps directions offline so you can access the info without using data. Here’s how to do it. (Hint: do this before you go offline)

How to save Google Maps directions offline

For Apple Users:

1    On your phone or tablet, open the Google Maps app.
2    Make sure you’re connected to the Internet and signed in to Google Maps.
3    Search for a place, like Palm Springs, Madrid, you get the idea.
4    At the bottom of the page, tap the name or address of the place (in the white bar). If you search for a “place” like a restaurant, tap More.
5    Select Download.

maps download google maps offline use how to

How to store maps with no data – Use offline areas

You can save maps or areas for use later.  This is called “Offline Areas”.
After you download an area, use the Google Maps app just like you normally would. If your Internet connection is slow or absent, you’ll see a lightning bolt and Google Maps will use your offline areas to give you directions instead.
•    Get directions and see routes
•    Use navigation
•    Search for locations

It’s worth noting you can get driving directions offline, but not transit, bicycling, or walking directions. In your driving directions, you won’t have traffic info, alternate routes, or lane guidance. You also can’t modify routes like avoiding tolls or ferries.

For Android users:

Download an area to use offline
Note: You can store your offline areas on your device or an SD card. If you change the way you store your offline areas, you’ll have to download your offline areas again.

  1.   On your phone or tablet, open the Google Maps app .
  2.  Make sure you’re connected to the Internet and signed in to Google Maps.
  3.  Search for a place, like San Francisco.
  4.  At the bottom, tap the name or address of the place. If you search for a place like a restaurant, tap More .
  5.  Select Download .

How to store offline areas to an SD card
By default, offline areas are downloaded on your phone or tablet’s internal storage, but you can download them on an SD card if you prefer.

(If your device is on Android 6.0 or higher, you can only save an offline area to an SD card that’s configured for portable storage.)

  1.   On your phone or tablet, insert an SD card.
  2.  Open the Google Maps app .
  3.  In the top left, tap the Menu Offline areas.
  4. In the top right, tap Settings.
  5. Under “Storage preferences,” tap Device  SD card.

Android: Use offline areas
After you download an area, use the Google Maps app just like you normally would.
•    Get directions and see routes
•    Use navigation
•    Search for locations
If your Internet connection is slow or absent, you’ll see a lightning bolt and Google Maps will use your offline areas to give you directions.
Notes:
•    You can get driving directions offline, but not transit, cycling, or walking directions. In your driving directions, you won’t have traffic info, alternate routes, or lane guidance. You also can’t modify routes like avoiding tolls or ferries.
•    To save cell data and battery life, use “Wi-Fi only” mode. In this mode, when you’re not connected to Wi-Fi, Google Maps will only use data from the offline areas that you’ve downloaded. Before you use this mode, make sure you download offline areas. To turn on this mode, open the Google Maps app Menu Settings next to “Wi-Fi only,” turn the switch on.

Save money on roaming fees, save data usage and keep connected while travelling. Do you have map, gadget, or travel tips to share? Post them in comments below.

 

BEDDI Glow smart alarm clock review; it wakes with light, can call you an Uber

Beddi glow smart alarm lightCan BEDDI Glow smart alarm clock help me wake up better?

There are few sounds that irk me as much as the screech of my alarm clock. It goes off each day at 2:50am so I can snooze it a few times before I finally crawl bleary-eyed and groggy from my warm covers at 3:30 to head to work. Believe it or not, snoozing like that actually helps me feel like I got ‘extra sleep’. (Does anyone else do that?)

I’ve always hated the sound of ringing alarms. I use the radio sometimes, but I find it disconcerting to hear people talking in my room before I’m fully conscious and know what the hell is going on. It’s all the more unsettling when I realize the radio is tuned to Coast to Coast AM and they’re talking about a phenomenon of people waking up with the demonic Hat Man shadow-person standing over their beds. Shudder.

Better, more gentle wake up?Beddi glow smart alarm light

There has to be a better, more gentle way to wake up, and I think I may have found it.
I was recently sent a BEDDI Glow smart alarm clock for testing and review. BEDDI Glow allows you to wake with a simulated sunrise light, your own music, or FM radio. It’s also got a host of other neat features that makes it pretty handy.

BEDDI Glow alarm Features

The BEDDI Glow smart alarm clock gives you options for your wake up. I’ve been using the simulated sunrise feature and the ‘relax’ sound effect. Continue reading “BEDDI Glow smart alarm clock review; it wakes with light, can call you an Uber”

Christmas traffic; technology of when to avoid the road

It’s not your imagination; Christmas traffic gets crazy.  And there’s data to prove it. Waze, the guys who make the super cool traffic and navigation app, have released some info about when are the best and worst times to drive around some of the places that see a flood of vehicles around the holidays.

Is Christmas Traffic the worst?

How’d they do it? Waze analyzed Canadian user data from December 24, 2015 and flagged the busiest times for drivers and the worst periods for traffic. All of this lays out what times you should avoid certain destinations.   Continue reading “Christmas traffic; technology of when to avoid the road”

Top tech gift picks

There were so many great gadgets through my tech test center this year. I picked just a few as some of my most favourite for 2016.  Be sure to check out my longer “Top 10 tech gifts” list too. Continue reading “Top tech gift picks”

Where to get holiday + Black Friday tech in Calgary

I got a special sneak preview of two things I think readers of the blog will enjoy. One is an exciting new place to shop for tech and gadgets. The other is a heads up on some sweet tech deals for Black Friday. And I mean seriously good… skip ahead for a peek at what you’ll want to rush out and get for this holiday season! Continue reading “Where to get holiday + Black Friday tech in Calgary”

The Nanoleaf Aurora smart light is really amazing

nanoleaf-4First we had fire, then electricity. Tesla, Faraday, and Franklin pioneered the technology behind electricity, and then Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb. The way we light our homes really hasn’t changed much since that auspicious day in 1879. The lightbulb is round, it screws into a fixture, which requires a tradesman to install; electricity is dangerous for the uneducated.

Forget the bulb, there’s a whole new way

But now, a Canadian company has really, actually, reinvented the way we light our homes. Nanoleaf, based in Toronto, has invented lightweight, flat plastic panels that fully illuminate, change colour, morph and swirl. They’re bright, responsive and fully configurable, both in terms of how you place the lights, and how you operate them. This lighting system is called Aurora, and yes, it’s deliberately named after the Northern Lights phenomenon known as Aurora Borealis. Continue reading “The Nanoleaf Aurora smart light is really amazing”

Virtual reality for real people -Reviewing Google Daydream View

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If you think virtual reality is for kids, hipsters and gamers, think again. Virtual reality is about to come to the masses thanks to Google’s inexpensive and easy to use Daydream View headset that has just launched.

What is Daydream View?

Daydream View is Google’s virtual reality (VR) headset.  It’s essentially a pair of goggles that fits over your head to immerse you in a virtual world.  It pairs with a hand-held controller that can be used as a wand, a baseball bat, or any object you might need in your new virtual world. The headset itself is not powered or electrified in any way, so it’s completely cord-free. The viewing images come from your phone.

How does Daydream work?

The video picture is supplied by Google’s Pixel or Pixel XL phones, or using another smartphone device that supports the Daydream app; you slide the phone into the front of the headset, close the flap and secure it with the elastic loop.

The app splits the content in two so it can be viewed by each eye individually; it kind of looks like one of those old Viewmaster toys. Once inside the headset, your brain registers the individual views as one big image. As you turn your head, the image follows you.

Controllerdaydream-headset-22
The controller acts as a pointer or a guide that allows you to access menus, play games and to carry out movement or motion in conjunction with what’s happening in your virtual space. There’s a touchpad on the controller which lets you swipe and scroll or click, an app-access button to help navigate, and a ‘Home’ button which lets you re-centre your cursor if things get spun around.

Audio
Audio is supplied by your phone’s external speaker, and during my testing was plenty loud enough.  The device can also be used with headphones for a fully immersive audio-video experience.

Do I need Google’s Pixel phone?

img_6264Not necessarily.  But the Pixel or Pixel XL are optimized and built to work with the headset. Google says any “daydream-ready phone” can work, so basically as long as your phone manufacturer supports the Daydream app, you’re in.

Getting set up with Google Daydream View

Check out my Unboxing video (in which I RE-box the Daydream kit) to see firsthand exactly what’s in the package; basically a set of goggles (comes in a white, gray and a rust colour), and a controller.

You’ll need to have a phone separately.  Once you’ve downloaded and launched the Daydream app you’re basically ready to dive in. Slip the phone into the headset with the screen facing you, clip it in, and then adjust the headset so it’s tight but comfortable.

What happens when you enter Daydream Home?

Daydream 'Home"
Daydream ‘Home”

The app will set you down in ‘Daydream Home’ a forested, cartoony virtual world where you’ll learn how to interact with your environment.

You’ll be guided through using your controller, how to move around, and you’ll get a taste of what you can watch, see and do.daydream-world-2 daydream-street-view

the Home world, you can access Google Streetview maps to explore popular landmarks, like the Taj Mahal. You can watch YouTube videos, check out a VR movie, or view your Google Photos collection.

What kinds of things can ordinary people do with Virtual Reality?

Tour a home for sale or check out a vacation property
Buying a new home in a city across the country? Hoping to book a sweet suite in Spain next summer? Virtual tours are just one way real people are using VR to get educated about holiday destinations, and purchases. Take a virtual tour a condo complex under construction to help decide it it’s got the right feel for you – way more immersive and helpful than staring at 2 dimensional floor plans!daydream-view

Use Daydream view to take a virtual tour of that charming AirBnB rental or to swoop through the lobby of a local hotel.

Visit Museums, see masterpieces, learn science
Virtual reality devices like Daydream View can also allow you to re-immerse yourself in your vacation experience.  Start by using Google’s Pixel phone to take 360 degree photos of your cottage, downtown San Francisco, or the pyramids, then play them back over Daydream View. You’re instantly back there, and it’s not as though you’re looking at someone else’s anonymous snaps; with Pixel phone and Daydream View, you can look down at your own feet, or even see your spouse or family posing in the picture.

Watch TV
You can also use virtual reality to tour museum exhibits, learn about the biology of undersea mammals while watching them swim around you, or even to watch videos on YouTube. Content makers like HBO, Hulu NBA and Netflix are all also launching VR content this winter.img_6705

My experience with Google Daydream

First off let me say that while I love technology and gadgets, I’m not a gamer, and haven’t been one of those people who’s been overly excited about virtual reality. So it was with a bit of detachment I unpacked the Daydream kit, readied it and strapped it on.

I’ll say the system was very easy to set up; it’s as simple as launching an app and putting the phone in the goggles.img_6687

Once I was transported to the virtual world and kind of got my bearings, I was impressed. While the home world is animated, it’s actually a great place to begin; it’s obvious you’re in a virtual world, so there’s no weird, “what’s real? what’s fake?” acclimatization.

Google Daydream view wearing size
They look big and awkward in this angle, but they’re light & comfortable.

Using the cursor I was able to go through the turorial; learning how to re-centre the cursor, getting a taste of how to see my way around.  It only took a couple minutes for me to get my vision adjusted and used to the  inside of the goggles.

There were a couple of different experiences I was able to have during testing; some animated worlds, but also real street view and photo visualizations.

I found I was able to see pixels or stippling more in the animated worlds than with photos and more realistic content, but only if I was looking for it. It’s easy enough to take your focus off the details and focus on the bigger virtual picture.

Using other virtual reality headsets, I felt like they were bulky, heavy and uncomfortable. With Daydream View, the goggles were light, soft and comfortable.  The biggest issue was there was a bit of a gap at the bottom of the goggles. I was able to remedy it somewhat by tightening the strap, but then I had the strap as tight as it would go and it still could have been tighter to hold it more securely to my face. In the end, I was just able to focus past the gap and the slight light bleed.

Overall, I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed this virtual reality experience with Google Daydream View. It’s easy, the quality was good, the headset is comfortable, and the virtual worlds I was able to explore were really well done and immersive. If you’re looking to get started with virtual reality,  $79 USD is a great entry point.

Check out Google Daydream here.