TVs become art & Augmented Reality for all – new tech

New tv technology tech gdgetsThe holidays are one of the busiest times of year for technology. Retailers are getting ready for the rush by learning about what’s new. I recently had the chance to attend a mini technology trade show as manufacturers touted their newest gadgets and tech to London Drugs.

Smart TVs are amazing

TVs are no longer giant furniture-sized room hogs. Today’s newest TVs can blend seamlessly into your room by doubling as art. Samsung’s Frame TV is one of them. Engineered to hang on a wall with a slim and near-invisible cable, the Frame also has a large built in art gallery of masterworks and photography so when it’s not broadcasting television, it displays hyper-real art that looks like an actual painting, not like a shiny TV screen. It’s impossible to describe accurately in words; the effect is worth seeing for yourself.

LG has also gone the route of TV-as-art. Its new set is a sheet of glass that also features access to professional artworks. While it doesn’t have the option of getting wrapped in a wooden frame like Samsung’s does, it’s still ultra thin and the video picture is stunningly realistic in 4K resolution.

Sony showed off its near-flat TV that also features something called Acoustic Surface. Essentially it’s got a speaker built into the TV screen so the audio on a singer’s lips, actually sounds like it’s coming from her lips, not a tinny speaker under the set.

See how these Art TVs work in my YouTube video.

Augmented Reality for real people

One of the most amazing demonstrations I saw came from ASUS. The company showed off its new phones that come equipped with Augmented Reality capabilities.  Why might you need that? ASUS demonstrated the ability to virtually place furniture in your room using the Wayfair app; just use the phone’s video camera to view your room, then virtually place the furniture in your exact space. The effect is amazing, and brilliant.

Asus Zen Phone Augmented reality demo BMW car tourI saw an amazing demonstration from BMW and ASUS where you can take a virtual tur inside and outside a car, using Augmented reality and just your phone.

New tv technology tech gdgets samsung gear iconxWireless earbuds are getting better

If you’ve looked into wireless earbuds recently, you know battery life has been an issue. After all, getting just 2 hours on average from a set of buds isn’t going to do much for anyone. Fortunately manufacturers have been working hard to improve the hardware. Samsung’s IconX earbuds now boast more than double the battery life of before, going from about 2-3 hours to 7.

Similarly Jabra is now making its own fully wireless earbuds that delivers 4.5 hours of play time, coupled with a portable charging case that gives you a total 13.5 hours of power at your disposal. The Elite Sport earbuds are small and completely wire-free making them perfect for athletes or commuters.New tv technology tech gdgets

Both of these wireless earbud options now making investing in a pair of these worthwhile.

That’s just a snippet of the cool new tech I was able to see and test out in 24 hours. Watch for all the products named here to be in stores and online at London Drugs.

 

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”

How to be a better photographer: getting help in Calgary

Photography by Kristian Bogner © 2012
Photography by Kristian Bogner © 2012

Kristian Bogner is still haunted by a photo he didn’t get. A professional photographer, Bogner was in the front row for Canada’s gold-medal winning hockey game at the Vancouver Olympics when Sidney Crosby took a pass from Jarome Iginla, wound up, and shot, winning bragging rights for all Canadians.

Though Bogner got hundreds of amazing images from the game, the one he wanted was not meant to be; a shot of the puck touching, then leaving Crosby’s stick as it headed for the net, and a place in history.

“I think if I’d just been half a second quicker, I’d have the shot no one else did,” says Bogner.

We all have regrets when it comes to shots not taken, or photographic misses. Sometimes missing a shot is just luck, or timing, but often there’s skill involved in getting consistently great photos. That’s where Bogner comes in.  A Nikon ambassador, he also works with GoPro and Manfrotto, and enjoys educating amateur photographers about his craft, with helpful tips, tricks and basic education.

Bogner will be just one of the photography experts taking part in London Drugs #LDFotocon this month, where experts are available for advice and education at Calgary-area stores.

“I like to get them stoked and energized and to help them not be afraid to take their photography to the next level,” says Bogner, “It’s very rewarding, and one of the best parts of what I do.”

#LDFotocon aims to help photographersDSC_0892

You can take part in #LDFotocon events at many local London Drugs locations.  #LDFotocon is a series of workshops and info sessions where recognized experts in photography take you through various aspects of the craft.  Want to learn about using a DSLR? Maybe even a specific camera brand like Canon, Nikon or Pentax? You can get information, expertise and an education all month long at London Drugs.

Tips from a pro can really up your game

I’ve always been interested in photography, but I’ve only ever guessed at how to take a good photo.  So recently I decided to take a class with well-known local photographer Neil Zeller.  In just a couple hours, many of the basics of photography had been demystified for me.

I learned what all the dials and buttons on my hand-me-down DSLR did, what exactly an F-stop was, and how to adjust my settings based on lighting conditions.  The bottom line is, getting some pro help can make all the difference not just to your finished photos, but to your confidence too. I know because it worked for me.

DSC_0905Don’t let those pics gather digital dust!

You can also get help with what to do with all the photos that are gathering digital dust on your hard drive.  London Drugs also has classes designed to show you how to make the most of enlargements or gallery wraps, or how to get printed photos onto aluminum panels to create show-stopping home art. It’s all as close as your nearest participating London Drugs location.

But learning about what to do with your photos is just the beginning. Other learning opportunities at #LDFotocon include

•    Face-to face workshops with camera vendors from all the top brands
•    Learning about retouching and colour management
•    Preview the hottest new cameras, hardware or software products
•    Get point-and-shoot photography tips
•    Take part in a DSLR showcase from top brands: Nikon, Canon, Pentax
•    Compact system camera (CSC) photography and showcases
•    Learn about drone photography
•    See how to take better photos on your smartphone
•    Find out how to build a Moments photo book or calendarDSC_0860

Photo help in-store, without feeling intimidated

I’ve learned so much about photography lately that I’ve decided it’s time to upgrade my circa-2002 camera to something a little sleeker, smarter, and easier to use.

London Drugs is stop number one on my shopping excursion, because the selection is huge, and it’s right in my neighbourhood. I don’t need to go downtown or to a mall; I can get expertise and great prices right where I live.Photo 2016-04-23, 9 54 33 AM

When I went in to get hands-on with the cameras on my shortlist, the gent I spoke to was helpful, patient, and if there was something he didn’t know, he looked it up for me on the spot.

Bogner is also a London Drugs fan, having started shopping there well before he signed on to teach workshops.

“London Drugs is my saving grace whenever I needed equipment, filters, whatever; I’m always impressed with what London Drugs has to offer. And I’m always amazed how they have all the stuff I need, whether it’s LowePro or Apple, or Nikon, they have a good selection of accessories in particular. I’ve shopped at London Drugs for years, because it’s very convenient and nice to know they have all the high end products.”

Bogner is looking forward to being able to share some of his wisdom with participants, like the advice he often gives to new photographers; “if you see a moment and think, ‘oh, I’ll get it later’, it’s never the same.  Capture it now, don’t wait, because later will never be the same. It’s a unique moment”.

Take a look at the events, workshops and guest experts at London Drugs this month, by following the hashtag #LDFotocon on Twitter or Instagram. You can also find Kristian on both those platforms @KristianBogner

London Drugs #LDFotocon stops in Calgary on June 4th and June 5th, 2016. 
Click here for the schedule of events and to register.

img_2754

This post is sponsored by London Drugs. 

My Great Plan to Avoid Christmas Shopping Chaos

I was rushing around and stressing about the holidays. My husband and I are leaving on a trip later this week, and I was frantically making a list of all the Christmas shopping I needed to do: get travel size bath and beauty items for the trip, pick up gifts for our neighbours and some things to bring as hostess gifts for a few holiday parties we’re invited to, plus I needed to stock up on snacks and treats for when we have guests over.

The longer I spent on the list, the longer it was getting: don’t forget the stocking stuffers (the mall on Christmas Eve last year was a full-on zoo!), pick up a few ready-to-give gift packs when someone gives you something and you forgot to pick up something for them. Plus I needed more wrapping paper…. UGGHHHHHH.

My husband looked at the list and said, “Can’t you get all that at London Drugs? It’s 5 minutes away, and you can avoid the mall.”

He was right, and I wish I’d thought of it first, but London Drugs would indeed have most of the items on my list, which would save me driving all over Santa’s half-acre, fighting parking duels at the mall, and plus, I’d only need to make one trip.IMG_8449

I wanted to high-five myself as I cruised into the London Drugs parking lot, but since that would be weird, I palm-fived the steering wheel; there were plenty of parking spaces, and I’d managed to avoid the traffic nightmare that lurks around most malls.

While the store looked busy, it wasn’t crazy, and there were so many people working.  In fact one staff member saw me come in the front door and do that searching double-take people do when they’re trying to figure out which way to go, and came right over and offered directions.

 green-check-box-smallGetting Travel-Ready

IMG_8416I started off at the top of my list with the travel sized items for the trip. Into the mini-wheeled shopping basket went soap, shaving cream, shampoo and conditioner, and other sundry items.  Nearby I snagged sunscreen and again felt smart, since that’s usually the one thing I forget when heading to a tropical destination.

green-check-box-smallEndless Gift Ideas

From there I started wandering the aisles, hoping some gift ideas would pop out at me; and they did. Slippers for my mother-in-law went into the basket, as did some hair accessories and a pair of flannel PJ’s for my niece, and a scarf for my sister. This was going to be easier than I thought! I was actually surprised at all the really nice gift items that were in stock. I picked up a really cool Stanley Growler-and-cup set for my brother too.

IMG_8440
I absolutely LOVE this retro-themed Pyrex!

I also found the cutest retro-themed glass Pyrex food storage containers that I couldn’t leave without. I have a collection of retro Pyrex from the 60’s and 70’s that’s the envy of my sisters, so I thought this would be a perfect gift for them.

I couldn’t believe the luck I was having at checking so many items off my shopping list, so I kept going.

green-check-box-smallStocking Stuffers Galore

I cruised the cosmetics aisle and picked up a perfume gift set for a coworker, and loaded up on things like Chapstick in several flavours, nail polish, and manicure sets that work perfectly in stockings.  I picked up some magazines too, since those are a great Christmas Day afternoon entertainer. I also snagged things like socks and one of my tech must-haves, touchscreen gloves, that round out a stocking nicely.

Thinking I was done with all my stocking stuffer needs, I rounded a corner into what can only be described as Candyland. Every brand of holiday chocolate was stacked floor to ceiling.  Not to mention small sized bars perfect for stockings.IMG_8429

green-check-box-smallHoliday Party Planning Made Easy!

A box of fruit jellies went into the basket for our neighbours, as did some candy canes and other assorted treats. Looking at all the candy reminded me I needed some snack items for when guests came over after we’re back from our trip south. Since we’d be back quite close to Christmas I certainly didn’t want to have to rush to the grocery store right away.

I often forget how well-stocked the food aisles at London Drugs are. Chips, crackers and a few assorted staples were added to the pile. I may need to hit a grocery store eventually, but my list will be significantly shorter.

green-check-box-smallTech Toys for Everyone (Including Apple gear! and Smart Home gadgets)

Having had so much success so far, I decided to try my luck with a few more gift items, so I browsed the camera and electronics department. (I think at this point I was shopping for me!) I’ve written before about the fantastic selection of tech gifts London Drugs stocks, and since both my husband and I needed new Apple-branded iPhone charging cables, (but I’ve been dreading having to fight the crowds at the Apple Store) I just decided to grab those on the spot.

I also had a look at the new Fitbit fitness bands, and cruised the selection of cameras. London Drugs has pretty much every electronics gift that’s on anyone’s list including Microsoft’s Surface tablets, flat-screen TVs, as well as a personal favourite of mine; the Belkin WeMo line of smart home devices, which I personally love and have written about before.  Right beside the electronics section was the small appliance empire where I could spend an hour!

green-check-box-smallToys for Kids and TeensIMG_8442

Having had success with the adult gifts, I found the toy aisle and decided to try my luck.  I found quite a good selection of toys, endless games and a tonne of children’s books. I also found what may be my crowning glory this Christmas; a lava lamp for $20 for my tween nephew!

The lava lamps were such a great deal, I decided to pick up a second one for a great initiative at London Drugs this year: the Toys for Teens Campaign.

green-check-box-smallHelp for the Holidays
While underprivileged small children benefit from numerous donation campaigns at Christmas, teens and tweens often get overlooked, so London Drugs partnered with Jack FM Radio for the 8th annual Toys for Teens. The idea is to pick up a gift for a young person aged 10 to 17 and leave it in the donation bin right at the store. All Calgary donations go the Salvation Army Family Christmas Assistance Program. Donations in Airdrie go to the Airdrie Lioness Club Christmas Hamper Program.

IMG_8441
Adult colouring books are all the rage!

While I went for a funky gift option, there were plenty of things like those fun new adult colouring books and pencil crayons, or even phone cables, cases and other cosmetics and beauty items that would go a long way to making a less fortunate tween or teen pretty happy this season. Particularly given the economic climate this year.

With my basket now overfull, it was time to go.

In all, I was in and out of London Drugs in about an hour, but while I was there, I got great friendly service and my bill was more than reasonable for everything I piled into that little wheely basket.

While I was a bit ahead of the game this year, normally I’m not, so I’m going to give you  a piece of advice: if you want to avoid the mall, and still get everything on your list, London Drugs is the go-to destination for stocking stuffers, holiday treats, gifts and even all those last minute items you’re going to need.

IMG_8421

This blog post has been sponsored by London Drugs.

Watching Your Health? Qardio Arm Blood Pressure Monitor Review

qardio vase-arm-cup-table
It’s a pain, and a time-suck going to the doctor.  You have to find parking.  You sit and wait.. and wait… and wait some more.

What if you could take care of some of the routine tasks you see a doctor for, at home, WITH the permission of your doctor? A new gadget I found can help you do that.

The QardioArm is an at-home blood pressure cuff that works just like the one in your doctor’s office. You just strap it to your arm, pull the velcro closure tight, and use your smartphone to take a reading.

How it worksIMG_5105
Download the Qardio app for iPhone or Android, and set up an account.  It’s quick and takes barely any time.  Once you have an account, you unroll the cuff, and slip the QardioArm over your arm, then cinch it tight.  A small box on the outside of the cuff holds all the technology. When you’re ready, tap the app to tell it to take a reading.  The cuff inflates, just like the one at your doctor’s office, and in a minute you have your blood pressure and heart rate, plus more:

What it measures
>Measures your systolic, diastolic blood pressure as well as heart rate, includes irregular heart beat detection.
>Tracks your measurements over time with smart charts, trends and stats.
>Supports multiple users.
>Fully integrates with the Qardio product family using the companion Qardio App which automatically stores all your data in Qardio’s secure cloud.
>Allows you to share your measurements and progress automatically with your doctor and family.

The app keeps track of your readings, and can chart your progress over time. It’s infinitely portable, rolling up inside the cuff, which also acts as a cover.  Plus it’s small enough to take just about anywhere with you.  Qardio says, “unlike traditional blood pressure monitors, QardioArm wireless BP monitor is cleverly designed with an integrated cuff serving as a protective cover. It’s portable, stylish and blends seamlessly into your daily life.”

IMG_5108QardioArm also has some cool features, like its “Places” function, which allows you to monitor your blood pressure across multiple locations and, as Qardio explains it, helps you “understand how your lifestyle impacts your health.”

The Friends and Family function lets you follow others or allows others to follow you, “creating a support network for better health outcomes,” according to the company. Using the app you can also set reminders, notifications or track your monthly stats and averages.

The device also comes in an array of fun colours, so it doesn’t look like a medical device.  It looks.. cool.

Is it accurate?
I’m not a doctor.  And I have no major medical problems that require me to take my blood pressure every day.  So with that out front, let me say I can only recommend this gadget on the basis of it’s technology, and ease of use.  I can make no claims about its accuracy.  For any medical advice or recommendations about this device, you can contact Qardio directly, and/or speak to your doctor.

On the subject of the Arm’s accuracy, Qardio says,  “QardioArm smart blood pressure monitor is clinically validated to accurately measure your systolic and diastolic blood pressure along with your heart rate. Easily perform a triple measurement average for the most precise feedback. QardioArm also has irregular heart beat detection and will store the data, providing your doctor with more actionable insights into your heart health.”

The Review, from a patient
I lent the device to a friend who does have a need to measure blood pressure a few times each day.  He found the device very easy to use and quite accurate, saying he appreciated that the app will coach you through the process of taking readings, as well as showing what the readings mean; whether they’re in a normal range or high, or into hypertension territory.

He took measurements using both the blood pressure cuff his doctor had provided him, and the QardioArm.  I’ll attach a copy of his readings over a few days.  The readings he got from each device were not identical, but they’re very close.

IMG_6419
My friend loved that he was able to get his readings on his smartphone and then text them to his doctor right away.  His doctor appreciated that too.  If my pal had one complaint, it’s that he found the device itself a bit bulky and a touch hard to apply with one hand.  He says he was able to get used to it but it does require a bit of dexterity. His doctor told him he was happy with the readings it was giving him.

Overall

I found the QardioArm very easy to use and set up. The data is easy to read, and fully shareable.  If you have aging parents, or know someone who needs to keep a closer eye on their health, this is a great gadget to have.  Plus it’s simple enough that even a non-tech savvy person could operate it with ease; if you can use a smartphone, you can use the QardioArm.

You can get one of these little devices for about $124  from Qardio’s website or from Walmart, Staples, London Drugs, or Amazon.

IMG_5110