Cell Phone Accessories Technology

InstaMote instantly turns your smartphone into a remote

Consumers continue to be attracted to new solutions that reduce the need for multiple remote controls in their homes. The InstaMote from Switzerland is the latest device that allows a smartphone to be used as a remote control, eliminating the need for all other remotes cluttering the couch and coffee table.

InstaMote attaches to a smartphone and transforms it into an infrared remote. Every infrared electronic device in the home is compatible with InstaMote, including air conditioners, fans, DVD players, Blu-ray players, game consoles and TVs. InstaMote is compatible with all iOS 5 and newer smartphones, as well as all Android 2.3 and newer smartphones. InstaMote has a built-in battery that will last about six months under heavy usage, and can be easily replaced. The device also has a larger working range, at up to 15 meters, than typical remote controls and more compatibility than standard universal remotes also. The first functional prototype of the device is ready now, but its maker doesn’t say at the campaign’s Indiegogo site when the final version will ship. The early bird price is $9 and its regular price is $12. Its maker is looking to raise only $500 by mid January.

Once upon a time there were easily a half dozen such devices on the market. There is little about InstaMote that breaks new ground and users of Windows Phone and other smartphone devices that aren’t Android or iOS are out of luck. But the price is right for Android and iOS smartphone owners and should make it worth a try for many of them.

Technology Wearables

SmoothEye goggles combat DWI; tell you when to call a cab

Driving while intoxicated remains one of the largest safety issues facing the United States today. Thousands of people die in DWI-related car accidents each year.

The new SmoothEye, from a New Jersey company of the same name, resembles typical safety goggles. But attached is an infrared diode and small black camera that tracks the user’s eye movements to accurately measure alertness and focus level. The device is programmed to conduct the same sort of field sobriety test that’s used by police to estimate alcohol intoxication. Consumers can also use the device to discover what distracts them and what helps them focus. Backers who make a pledge at the early bird price of $149 or more are expected to get the device in March. Its maker is looking to raise $30,000 in crowdfunding.

SmoothEye lacks the fashion sensibility of a wearable device like the Vive Smart Bracelet, which was developed by students at the University of Washington and featured at Microsoft’s Design Expo, that can also measure a user’s intoxication level. SmoothEye is just too bulky for the average consumer to travel with it to a bar or other location outside of the home where it would most come in handy. The fact that it, at least initially, must be attached to a Mac or Windows PC to be used only makes matters worse. It is not yet compatible with any mobile devices. Still, the notion of a device that may prevent DWI’s is certainly welcome on the market, however awkward it may be.

Automotive Connected Objects

DRIVE drives smartphone interaction with your hands on the wheel

It may be the case that more recent models of cars have integrated smartphone connectivity, but usually they’ve done it in uninspired ways that don’t take in account the unique issues driving brings to the table. It isn’t like the only thing to do is stick a touchscreen and a dock in the middle of everything and call the job done. There are very particular design challenges that stem from the fact that we’re in two ton metal boxes with wheels. Because of this, safety is of upmost concern even if it doesn’t quite seem like it is.

Luckily for RISE Devices, their new DRIVE shows that they have safety on the mind. Along with deftly handling phone calls with its three mics, DRIVE reads out notifications and messages and allows the user to respond utilizing their own voice when it’s convenient. Two infrared beams shoot out of the device and a flick with both hands interrupts them, giving you an easy and unobtrusive way to activate DRIVE. Because of how it works, there aren’t buttons not any janky voice recognition or commands to get in the way. Its companion app facilitates the use of most messaging services and platforms like iOS, Android, and Windows, and since it connects via Bluetooth LE, other uses like music control are possible.

This device is both elegant and simple, but for that you’ll have to pay. As much as it gets done, it could use a few more bells and whistles as it has lots of potential. The product has an estimated delivery date of July 2015 and is currently going for $149, shooting up to more than $199 after the campaign’s end. For DRVINE, $88,000 is the goal to launch it into production.

Smart Home

Homey will get your back when it comes to controlling your home

The Premise. Since Star Trek, homeowners have always wanted to be able to control their home devices with simple spoken commands. Now that the smart home is quickly finding adoption around the world, a voice-controlled module will greatly propel that market into a must-have for anyone.

The Product. Homey is an attractive little orb that can control devices across seven of the most common wireless protocols (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Zigbee, NFC,  Infrared, and more) with simple, spoken voice commands. The device is designed to be easy to use and adjust as more and more devices can become controlled by taking to one’s home.

The Pitch. Athom, developer of Homey, has put together an attractive video that shows users adjusting the thermostat, queuing up movies with subtitles, and even setting the mood in the bedroom. Athom is far along in the development process, but are raising money through crowdfunding to keep retail costs down and fund the manufacturing process, with a goal of €100,000. Stretch goals are available at €200,000 to create if-then flow commands that will automate things even more, and at €300,000, multiple colors will be available including a Pokémon-themed Poké Ball color scheme.

The Perks. Setting up a home with a Homey will take a pledge of €229, with an extra €20 for shipping in June 2015. For €239, the Geek Edition is available, giving developers two wireless transceivers, jumper cables, and access to the development kit to add more features to the device. Homey can be had a little sooner for €399, arriving in April instead of June.

The Potential. Home automation is an industry that everyone wants a piece of, and Homey looks like it might become the interface that people want to adopt. Bearing more than a passing resemblance to the Google Nexus Q and adopting a similar feature set to the EmoSPARK, the Homey already might look like a copycat device, but the sheer number of wireless connectivity options and flexibility of functions makes it an intriguing option. Another chief competitor for the Homey will be the Ubi, which right now might be a little less powerful in terms of precise control, but also offers users the ability to answer basic internet questions by asking them out loud. With so many choices, it’s the little differences that will separate the success stories from the footnotes, and it seems like Homey might be able to edge out most of the competition when it comes to features and design.