iRobot improves app, adds mapping & Amazon Alexa integration

Regular readers and viewers know I’ve become pretty attached to my iRobot Roomba vacuum. (Read my review of the newest iRobot 980 here, or the BraavaJet 240 mopping robot here to see why.)

This week iRobot announced it was making some pretty serious upgrades to the cloud connectivity of the iRobot app. You’ll remember from my Roomba 980 review that in the newer generation of robots you could control the vacuum from outside the home via the app and cloud, and that it has better ‘sight’ to find its way around your home and obstacles. Now the 900 series devices have mapping capabilities so you know exactly what’s getting cleaned and what’s not. Continue reading “iRobot improves app, adds mapping & Amazon Alexa integration”

Carpets that glow; the future of flooring

luminous

It can be hard for a business to stand out. Signs and email marketing campaigns are old school. How about making an impression from the ground up?

What are Luminous Carpets?

Brand new lighting technology is allowing for LED lights to be imbedded in carpet, meaning companies can display directions or even advertisements to people in ways they’re not expecting.

A system called Luminous Carpets lets you touch your smartphone or tablet, and then lights under your feet brightly display images or words. Even dynamic moving images are an option.

Just a few ways Luminous Carpets can be used:

  • Draw in crowds at tradeshows, with eye-catching floor displays
  • Greet and guide hotel guests, making them feel welcome
  • Go hand in hand with the aesthetics of your building, with high-quality carpet material that looks good even when the lights are off.

 

luminous_carpets_teatro_madrid“Luminous Carpets combine Philips LED technology with resilient but luxurious looking Desso carpet, explains the website for the technology, “The result is a durable, stylish flooring solution that you can use to greet, impress and inform people in new and exciting ways.”

Luminous Carpets can be connected to electrical or IT infrastructure, and synced to run a variety of pre-programmed light displays. Or, you can change the lights on-demand from tablet and any other networked devices.

How Luminous carpets work

The thin LED panels and lights pair with ‘light transmissive carpet tiles’ to allow light to shine right through the carpet on the floor. The LEDs are built into enclosed units that are strong enough to be walked on while still protecting against liquids or spills, and they’re designed not to overheat.

While the business and commercial applications are obvious, it could be pure fun to have something like this in a  home. Sick of your boring beige carpets? Why not sparkle things up with gold lights? Celebrating a birthday? You can write a bold welcome message for the celebrant’s arrival. Think of the fun you could have.

Want to find out more? Check out the website.luminous_carpets_cubics

Philips Hue lights get wireless motion detection

Philips Hue Motion Sensor - Box ShotRegular readers know how much I love smart lights.  They give so much versatility to your home’s ambiance and colour.  The Philips Hue line is a popular kit that allows you to easily get started with adding smart LED lighting, timers, colours and more to your house.  Today, Philips has announced more smart functions are coming to its system, with the addition of a motion sensor for the Hue line.

Philips Hue line includes the Hue bulb starter kit, which can be placed into any regular light bulb socket, allowing lights to be controlled via a smartphone or tablet (or the wall switch). There’s also the Hue Go lamp  which I’ve written about previously; it’s actually the light I use to subtly wake me up at my 3am alarm time.

Philips Hue preview; hands-free motion detection

The new Philips Hue motion sensors were demonstrated for me in a private, advance Skype call.  Philips Hue Motion Sensor - Hallway & BedroomThe sensors work quickly, triggering the lights to come on in half a second in the live demonstrations I was shown. You can walk into a room, and instantly, any Philips connected lights will come on and allow you to see, without ever touching a switch, or digging for your smartphone.

“The Philips Hue motion sensor not only provides hands-free control but also helps deliver peace of mind. You can be guided safely throughout your home at night with lighting,” said Sridhar Kumaraswamy, Business Leader, Home Systems, Philips Lighting. “Plus, you no longer have to remind the kids to turn off the lights when leaving a room. The reliable detection the motion sensor provides when you exit supports this and also helps you be more energy efficient.”

Sensors know if it’s 2am; light adjusts accordingly

Philips Hue Motion Sensor - Use Case

Cleverly, these motion detectors also have a daylight sensor, which will adjust the level of light so that if you get up at 2am for a crying baby or to pee, the lights will only come on at a low level so you’re not getting blinded. Now that’s putting thought into your design.

Philips Hue motion sensors are battery powered; no cords!

The detectors are individually battery powered so you can stick them anywhere; wall mount them, leave them on a table, or tuck them on a shelf, or the top of the frame of a painting; you’ve got versatility.  With two AA batteries, Philips tells me in our call that the sensors will last about two to three years with ‘average use’ of a few times per day. The sensors are also said to have a great range, and can see about 100° in all directions. Hue Motion Sensor - AppI’m hopeful I’ll be able to test these out for myself later in the fall when the sensors become available.

Of course, what colour the lights come on, when, and how is all infinitely customizeable via the Hue app.

Philips enhances colour saturation in Hue line, adds new bulbs

Philips has also re-engineered its Hue line lights to have richer colours than before.  Where it was sometimes hard to achieve rich, true saturation, in the newest generation of lights, Philips tells me it’s now been able to achieve far better colour.    I hope to be able to compare the new colours (using the old bulbs/lights) in tests later this year.

Philips has also added new bulbs to the line; the GU10, popular in Canada (hallogen fixtures) and the BR30 spot light.

The new Hue motion sensors sell for $39.95 (CDN or USD) and will become available in October 2016.

 

New Ring Video Doorbell has smaller design, adds Live View

doorbell_proRing, makers of the very popular and easy to use Video Doorbell, are rolling out a brand new gadget dubbed Pro. Made as an upgrade from the existing doorbell, the new Pro version is smaller and slimmer than the original,  and has advanced features, like Live View.

Ring says the ability to peek in on homes at any moment, with a live video feed has been the number one most requested new feature, so it’s now available in the Pro model.

I’ve been a fan of Ring since first reviewing the original model and now one keeps watch over my home. Read my review here.

The new ultra slim wifi video doorbell with advanced features available today on pre-order for $249. Ring will now offer two choices for smart doorbells, Ring Video Doorbell, which offers dual power and super easy installation for $199 and Pro which requires doorbell power and has a handful of advanced features for $249.screen-motion-pro-b3c5ab536239238cce5b1e39e151f4bf

Interested in other home security options, like padlocks that work with your smartphone (no keys!) and wireless alarm systems? Check out those gadgets here.

pro-colors-31f91f13608b5561d672b9a837f7332a

 

Fitbit launches 2 new trackers: Blaze and Alta

img_1453One of my all time favourite gadgets has to be Fitbit. The slim Fitbit Flex fitness and activity tracker has been my go-to for step counting, sleep monitoring and basically helping keep me active. (Read why here)

I haven’t looked at upgrading my Flex until now; mainly because it continues to work great, and I like its slim profile and the ability to pop the tracker unit out of the band, and hide it in my sock or bra if I want to ditch the rubber band-look. The recent addition of Tory Burch accessories has helped bring a more fashion forward look to the athletic devices, (see Tory’s Fitbit accessories and read more about Smart Jewelry here) but with Fitbit’s launch of two new bands, it seems everyone can be happy with both the looks and the functionality. In fact, Fitbit’s made these two new bands for people who are less hardcore about fitness (a serious athlete would want to look at the Surge), and more interested in keeping active while looking stylish.

Meet Fitbit Blazeimg_1443

The Blaze is Fitbit’s first foray into what could be thought of as a smart watch. The styling of this band makes it look more like a timepiece and less like an athletic tracker. There’s a colour screen, and improved exercise tracking, plus smart alerts from your phone.

I’m currently testing the Blaze, and will post a full review soon, but one of the things I’m already loving about it is that it to has a removable tracker unit that you can hide in your clothes, or slip into either an athletic band or a more jewelry-inspired band.

Fitbit Alta is fashion and functionFITBIT ALTA ONE

The other new band introduced by Fitbit is the Alta. This slim band looks a lot like the original Flex, but it comes with a variety of slick and pretty band options. I’ll be reviewing this Fitbit too, so watch for a full story soon.

Do you have questions you want answered about either of these new bands? Let me know!

Brand new Fitbit Alta is slim, pretty and does more

Fitbit-Alta_Family_GoldFans of original Fitbit Flex’s low profile, slim design and ease of use, rejoice!  The best things about the Flex have been carried over and improved upon in a brand new band, the Alta.

Fitbit Alta is a new stainless steel tracker, with a satin finish and a sleek, modular design that includes a quick-release feature that allows you to swap in new bands.  Fitbit-Alta-Family-2

You can now pick from classic fitness bands or  chic-er versions, like luxe leather bracelets or a  silver bangle. One of my favourite parts about the new bands? Tory Burch has once again partnered with Fitbit to design new styles specific to the Alta. I just love the Tory Burch jewelry-style accessories released last year for the Flex, and this only looks like there’s more options to love.

As for the new features that take the Alta up a notch from the Flex:

  • Reminders to Move to help you stay active and reduce stationary time
  • SmartTrack automatic exercise recognition, weekly exercise goals and all-day activity and automatic sleep tracking
  • Call, text and calendar notifications right on your wrist when your phone is nearby through on-screen messages and a gentle vibrating alert
  • An easy-to-read, vibrant OLED tap display shows your activity stats and the time
  • Works with Android, iOS and Windows mobile devices and computers

Fitbit-Alta_Cooking

Fitbit Alta is available today for $169.95 (CAD) for presale with retail availability starting in March 2016, joining the recently announced award-winning Fitbit Blaze Smart Fitness Watch. Alta will be available for preorders at Best Buy, Indigo and London Drugs, and at a number of other retaillers later on.

I’m hoping to get my mitts on one to test and review. Watch this space for more when they’re released! Meantime, read my review on the Fitbit Flex, or the Misfit Shine, or the Basis Peak.

Fitbit-Alta-Lineup

Chromecast in Canada; Google Ups their Game

Screen Shot 2014-10-11 at 2.12.58 PMGoogle Chromecast was the last of the TV streaming devices to launch in Canada, and while it’s still deep in catch-up mode with products like Roku or Apple TV, it is making some improvements to content available in Canada.
Case in point, Chromecast launched with just 6 apps here in Canuckistan, in March of 2014.  By October, it has 18.

So what can you do with your Chromecast now?
Chromecast launched with the Google suite of apps including GooglePlay Movies and Music, Netflix, YouTube, Vevo, Songza, and Plex, now there are several more options.  Click to read the full blog about what’s now become available and what you can do with the apps.

Screen Shot 2014-10-11 at 2.14.06 PM

Thumb-sized TV Streaming Device Just Announced in Canada. And it’s only $59!

Click HERE to read full article.

Getting content from the web to your TV has almost always involved 2 things; 1)  hooking your computer up to your TV, a complicated process best reserved for techno geeks, or 2) purchasing a third party box or web-enabled TV.  Well now you have options, and Roku has just announced what may be the most pocket-friendly option; the Roku Streaming Stick,

 stick

Preorder now at Futureshop.ca.

 This little gadget looks like your standard USB stick, but inside is a wealth of video options, or as I saw one TechCrunch writer put it, “it makes dumb TVs smarter”.  The Roku Streaming Stick allows you to stream content direct to your TV, simply by plugging this little gadget into the back HDMI slot.  Roku says it contains instant access to 700+ channels (in Canada)……

 Click HERE to read full article.