HearNotes offers hi-fi earbuds from out of the Bluetooth

Historically, enjoyment of hi-fidelity images has conjured up rooms with racks of equipment, speakers as tall as an NBA guard, and a deep seat that evokes memories of vintage Maxell commercials. But even audiophiles have not been immune to the demands that being on the go places on listening pleasure. There are many contenders among high-end wired headphones that cater to the discriminating listener, but most of the wireless products have been plagued by a range of issues, including that they’re often not truly wireless.

HearNotes has sought escape from the constraints of Bluetooth by tapping a dormant audio technology called Kleer. Kleer was developed expressly for the purpose of transmitting uncompressed hi-fi stereo music at low power. Beyond quality improvements versus Bluetooth, it claims better resistance to interference. However, because Kleer isn’t ubiquitous in smartphones the way Bluetooth is, the company has had to develop a tiny transmitter that plugs into the headphone jack. This also means that, unlike with some Bluetooth earbuds, you won’t be able to quickly switch into a phone call should one disturb your jam.

To minimize the inconvenience of transmitter, the company has created a little storage box that charges the transmitter and completely wire-free left and right earbud for about four hours of blissful listening. HearNotes has also put a good spin on the need for the transmitter, noting that it offers virtually universal compatibility, even with devices such as some MP3 players  and even old portable CD players that lack Bluetooth.

Connected Objects Kids/Babies Video Games

Playbrush uses interactive gaming to get kids to brush their teeth

Many parents with small kids know how hard it can be to convince some children to brush their teeth regularly, and to do it well.

Playbrush is a device that attaches to the end of any conventional toothbrush, transforming the brush into an interactive game controller that can be used in conjunction with iOS (and later Android) mobile devices. When the user starts the app on their smartphone or tablet, the gadget will automatically connect to it via Bluetooth Low Energy (Bluetooth Smart) technology. Playbrush costs $72 and will ship in December. Its maker is hoping to raise $51,887 by May 9.

Playbursh is a device with potential, especially for parents of young kids who either try and avoid brushing altogether or race through the process in just a few seconds. Turning brushing into a fun activity might very well be the trick to get at least some of them to change their ways. That said, it’s impossible to tell from the Kickstarter campaign video just how strong the initial game itself is. If it’s just one weak repetitive game, those kids may very well get bored after a week or two and parents will be left with the same problem they started with. To address this potential problem, the device’s maker plans to add multiple worlds, levels and characters.


Video Games

ZRRO Android console supersizes your favorite mobile games on your HDTV

Google’s Android platform is an absolute powerhouse, especially when it comes to gaming. With over one million games to choose from, a lack of choice is never a problem. Even so, the small screen sizes of both smartphones and tablets can’t compete with the gaming experience offered by a full sized HDTV.

patent-claimedThe ZRRO Android 4.4-based gaming console connects to any television and incorporates a proprietary, capacitive touch enabled controller capable of directly translating finger positioning onto the big screen. The controller’s zTouch technology detects fingers from up to 1.2 inches away from the screen, reflecting that positioning with circular cursors on the television itself to better guide users. This eliminates the problem of using a smartphone as a controller and inevitably having the user’s eyes glued to the wrong screen.

ZRRO is powerful machine, sporting a quad core processor, 2GB of DDR3 RAM, and 16GB of storage that can run the full gamut of Android apps with ease. Having access to the entirety of the Android app store from the outset makes it a far superior product to something like the Ouya, even if that access comes at a premium. Android enthusiasts looking to take their mobile gaming up a notich will certainly find ZRRO a compelling product. The $199 ZRRO is expected to ship in September of 2015 provided its campaign reaches its $200,000 goal by March 31, 2015.



Cell Phone Accessories Displays Input Tablet Accessories

Portable DAMO creates wall-sized touch screen for Android devices

While giving a corporate slide presentation, it would be handy to be able to control the images just by touching them on the wall or projection screen that they’re appearing on.

The DAMO from Taiwan is a portable accessory that connects via Wi-Fi to Android 4.2 and higher smartphones and tablets, and then displays whatever is on the Android device screen through any projector. The DAMO sensor connects to the projector via an HDMI cable. The touch screen that is created can be as large as 80 inches. When the user touches the wall or other surface with an included DAMO ring or pen device, an infrared signal is sent to the DAMO sensor and then back to the Android device. Interacting can also be done via hand gestures or controlled via the Android device screen.

The sensor can also be attached to a TV or computer monitor. Backers who provide $99 as part of an early bird Indiegogo special will get a DAMO system when it ships in August of this year. That’s $70 less than its expected $169 price. The money is going to be used to put DAMO into mass production. Its makers are trying to raise $90,000 by March 8.

DAMO holds promise. But the limited number of devices that it supports now will limit its potential customer base. It has some similarities to the cheaper Project Wedge, which supports more mobile devices, but otherwise pales in comparison to DAMO. The main customer for DAMO will likely be people who frequently make business presentations, although there could be some limited appeal among kids. The product’s name is a version of the Chinese name of a Buddhist monk, also known in English as Bodhidharma. Besides being credited with training Shaolin monks in martial arts, Bodhidharma is said to be the founder of Zen Buddhism, which is why charms in his likeness are popular in Japan. The green DAMO logo is a take on those charms, also known as Daruma dolls, the DAMO team says.

Cell Phone Accessories Chargers/Batteries

HDkey provides phone-to-phone charging, data sharing

There are times when it would be enormously handy to be able to use a friend’s cellphone to charge a cellphone. HDkey is a device that can be used to do just that. But in addition to phone-to-phone charging, it can also be used for high-speed data transfer of HD video and images.

HDkey offers high speed data sharing with more than 20 times times the speed of Bluetooth. Another key feature is integrated NFC that enables users to share business cards or perform any other kind of data transfer with others in the vicinity. With just a tap of HDkey on a client’s cellphone with NFC capability, the user’s contact details will be stored on the client’s cellphone. Backers can get HDkey for pledges starting at only $10. But it’s not clear how much the device will sell for at retail or when it will ship. WaferLabs is hoping to raise $500 on Indiegogo.

The device is promising. But it’s hard to gauge just how strong demand can be until the retail price is clear. It seems like a strong deal for its $10 or $11 early bird perk offers. However, backers will have to cough up additional money to have it shipped outside of India. HDkey will also only work on phones with microUSB connections.


Wearable WyOki myOki uses light to communicate, socialize with others

Wearable devices can be used for multiple applications, running the gamut from fitness tracking to taking photos and videos. The Brussels-based maker of the new WyOki myOki have added communication with light to the list.

The wearable myOki device can be worn around the wrist like a watch, around the neck like a necklace, or even worn like a button or badge on clothing or on a backpack. There are 16 customizable light-emitting diodes (LEDs) on the device. Users can choose and customize colored rings on the device that fit the mood or situation they are in at a particular moment. As part of the device’s social functionality, the wearer can potentially meet new people by bumping into others wearing the device if they are displaying similar looking rings.

The accompanying WyOki app for iOS, Android, and Windows smartphones enables users to organize different social media profiles to display them on the myOki device in an organized and uncluttered fashion. For example, the user’s favorite shade of blue can be used for Facebook notifications, or red can be used to remind the user of an important email. Potentially, all the fans of a sports team can program their devices to display the same color at the same time as a show of support for the team. Backers of the device’s Indiegogo campaign can get a device at $115 when it ships in May. The device’s makers are looking to raise $160,000 on Indiegogo to help bring the device to market. The hardware is nearly done, with most of the functional and product design work already finalized. A successful campaign will enable the device’s makers to start ordering tools and parts that are still needed.

There is no denying that the device features an original and intriguing user interface. But it’s questionable whether many consumers will be willing to pay more than $100 for a device that doesn’t have a heavily in-demand application like fitness tracking. The social functionality is potentially appealing to many consumers, but only when and if a significant number of other people are using the device.

Smart Home

Domus home automation system regulates your domicile’s energy

Smart home systems are all the rage these days. People love the ability to control and keep and eye on their homes when they’re away.

Domus is another smart home automation solution that monitors electronic devices in the home via an app for Android and iPhones. But the product goes one step further, allowing the user to also save energy by monitoring power consumption and calculating what the energy bill will be. It notifies the user if a space heater or other appliance has been on too long, which not only conservers energy, but also could prevent an accident.

The black remote control unit that serves as the system’s hub has a built-in Wi-Fi repeater module that enables the product to also extend the user’s Wi-Fi range. The user plugs a smart iPlug into any standard power outlet, then connects a device to the iPlug and downloads the app to control that device. Backers who pledge $39 CAD (~$33 USD) will get one smart plug, while those who pledge $49 CAD (~$41 USD) will get one remote control unit when Domus ships in June. The Vancouver company, Domus Living, is looking to raise $100,000 CAD (~$83,600 USD) on Kickstarter.

Domus Living’s combined focus on home automation and energy consumption regulation, along with the added Wi-Fi extender function add value to the product. But, as is the case with similar products, including Linkio, one drawback is that the more devices the user wants to incorporate into the system, the larger the cost because each one needs a separate smart plug.


GUARDOOR security system easy to set up, keeps intruders at bay

The main issue preventing many consumers from buying a home security system is the cost. Some consumers are also reluctant to set up a system because it’s too complicated to do it themselves.

GUARDOOR from San Francisco-based company, KIKTEC, offers a simple and relatively inexpensive way to keep home and office doors and windows secure, and it’s simple to set up. Each GUARDOOR is a small, triangular-shaped sensor that the user just has to stick to the corner of a door or window.

When the device senses movement, an instant alert is sent to the user’s Android or iOS mobile device. Backers who provide $59 in financing to the device’s Indiegogo campaign will get one GUARDOOR in April as part of an early bird special. That’s $20 less than its planned retail price and one month earlier than those who provide $79 in backing. KIKTEC is hoping to raise $10,000 to help with the cost of further development, manufacturing and production of the first prototype.

GUARDOOR is similar to Korner, another promising security device featuring small triangular tags that stick to the corner of a door or window. But GUARDOOR does away with the Fob device that is used with the Korner devices and must be plugged into a router. GUARDOOR, however, costs more money if the user is looking to use it with more than one door or window. A Korner starter pack including three tags for three doors or windows costs only $99.


YoBox remembers what’s in moving boxes, stores data digitally

The stresses of moving are endless. Putting everything in boxes can be tedious and finding them again is a nightmare. People label their boxes, but there always seems to be minutiae that gets lost in the move.

The YoBox personal storage management system was designed around an Android and iOS app that works in conjunction with multi-colored YoBox sticker labels that are NFC and QR enabled. The user just has to take photos of all the items being put in a box or list the items in the box using the app, seal the box with a unique YoBox sticker label, scan the label using the app, name the box via the app, and confirm it. Once registered, the YoBox info will be saved onto a secure cloud server and stored there.

For a $20 pledge, backers will get a set of 10 labels that each contain unique NFC and QR codes, allowing them to manage the storage of 10 boxes starting in April. The system’s Boston developer is looking to raise $20,000 on Kickstarter.

The storage management system seems cleverly designed. One downside is that the YoBox system may work better for Android device users than those with iPhones, which don’t provide NFC in reader mode. The QR code will still work on iPhones, but unlike NFC and other radio-frequency identification (RFID) technologies, QR codes requires line of sight, so the QR code must be legible to the camera. QR codes can also be damaged by environmental elements including extended sun or water exposure. Still, the idea is a clever way to match the convenience of digital with the necessity of keeping track of YoBox remembers what’s in moving boxes, stores data digitallyphysical items.


WorldPenScan X gives you the power to scan, translate by pen

Instant translation of foreign languages to native ones is a luxury commonly thought impossible. Imagine being able to translate a menu written in Japanese into English while sitting in a restaurant in Japan. The new WorldPenScan X digital pen for scanning and translating from Fremont, California-based PenPower USA does exactly that.

Using Bluetooth 4.0, the device recognizes multiple languages, barcodes and bank fonts, and will immediately translate and edit items in multiple applications. Recognized languages include Arabic, Chinese, English, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish. The user can transmit the digitized data to an iOS device or Mac or Windows PC computer. Backers who pledge $99 as part of a Kickstarter special will get a WorldPenScan X when it ships in April 2015. That’s $70 less than the expected $169 retail price. PenPower is looking to raise $30,000 by the end of January. The same company’s WorldPenScan BT sells on in a similar price range, but doesn’t support iOS.

If it works as seamlessly as its campaign video claims, WorldPenScan X could be an appealing product for many consumers. However, some will likely feel that free apps available on their mobile devices already perform the same basic tasks using their built-in cameras. PenPower points out that several steps are required when using a mobile device’s camera to scan and translate. Sometimes, if the ambient light isn’t good enough, that could severely impact the recognition accuracy of the camera. In conclusion, WorldPenScan X will have to work flawlessly, especially when it comes to translating, for consumers to see the device as worthy of their time and money.