Smartphone Apps Gadget Syrup Cannot Live Without

We can do nearly anything on our phones today. In fact, I can run my entire site from my phone. Want to see how? Check out the apps Gadget Syrup cannot live without.

As time goes on, we can do more and more day-to-day work from our smartphones. Some people I know run their entire life off their phone, never sitting down at a computer to get things done.

I recently started looking at home much I actually do from my phone and I was quite surprised how much I do, or can do from my phone.

As a result, I wanted to compile a list of the apps and services I use on mobile to run Gadget Syrup. Check it out!



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WordPress

This first one is self-explanatory. This is the WordPress mobile app. It allows me to monitor stats, create or posts and reply to comments, among other things all from my phone. You can even write a whole post from the mobile app. However, not only is it a lot of work to create a quality post on a screen this size, a lot of WordPress blocks are not compatible or able to be added from the app.

WordPress

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Asana

Asana is a take management application that I have been a religious user of for last 3-4 yrs. Ideally, you use it with a team of people but for a content and admin planning tool it is a must. Best of all, for most of what you need, you can use Asana completely free of charge.

Asana

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Google Analytics

Another obvious one by the title. Google Analytics gives you details on anything you could ever want to know about your websites traffic. It is far superior to what the WordPress stats offer.

Google Analytics

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Creator Studio

This one is new to the list. From Facebook, Creator Studio gives you analytics on your Facebook page tied to your business or website. It focuses a lot of video creators, but still works well to triage comments.

Facebook Creator Studio

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Buffer

Planning is everything when it comes to running your own site and social channels.

I have been a Buffer user for a decade now, using it to schedule Tweets and Facebook posts for Gadget Syrup.

Buffer can also setup Instagram posts among other social accounts, but it works best for Twitter and Facebook.

Buffer


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Later

Later is a service I have used off and on for the past year. It allows you to schedule social posts, like Buffer, but I only use it for Instagram posts. It is very handy if you find your best time to post is a time where you may not be there to post. Set it and forget it!

Their Instagram account is also a great follow!

Later

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Canva

I am not a graphic designer, but I like to pretend! Canva enables users of any level to create axing designs using their templates. They offer various presets for posts like Stories and Feed posts on Instagram as well as Twitter, Facebook and others ensuring your creation is the proper ratio for the given network.

Canva

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Snapseed

Snapseed is a powerful photo editing app that has been available for years.

It is owned by Google l, and they have been rolling a lot of the features of Snapseed into Google Photos. However, Snapseed still has a lot to offer if you want to add a little more to your pictures.

Snapseed

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Regrann

Regrann is the best all-around Instagram repost app available, on Android at least.

You can repost to your feed, stories or just save the image/story to your camera roll.

It is worth the purchase for the upgraded version too allowing you to remove watermarking and the “posted with Regrann” message from your posts.

Regrann

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PanoramaCrop

PanoramaCrop is another new one I have used only a few times. The app helps you create perfectly sized divided images for your feed that flow from left to right like one single image.

PanoramaCrop

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Pexels and Unsplash

I grouped Pexels and Unsplash together because for all intents and purposes they are the same thing. Each app has an enormous collection of free stock images to use. I have started using them both to generate feature images for the pages pf Gadget Syrup, as well as the hero image for some blog posts.

Both services also offer their services on the web to use from your PC.

Pexels
Unsplash

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Snapmod

This is one of my favourite apps. Snapmod contains hundreds of smartphones renders and through this very well-designed app you can insert screenshots from your device onto a render of your device or any other.

You’ll also notice that all of the app screenshots in this article were created with Snapmod!

There are a few caveats to be aware of now that many devices come with different screen ratios and the placement of any notches or camera cutouts will make your screen shot look out of place.

I’ve also noticed the developer for this app is slow to add new models, sometimes months after a phones release. In time, my feeling is that this app will stop being updated. Fingers crossed I am wrong!


Snapmod

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As you can see it is a pretty long list of apps. Do you use any in your day to day? Are there any other apps you would suggest I look at? Let me know in the comments below.


Check out some recent posts from Gadget Syrup

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Syrup Drop: Turn Off Google Maps Turn-By-Turn Audio.

Turn off turn-by-turn audio in Google Maps with this handy tip!

I was listening to the All About Android podcast recently, and the show’s crew was talking about the annoyance of Google Maps barking out directions while driving that was more disruptive than helpful. One of the show hosts, Ron, said that he had never come across the option to reduce or silence Google Maps voice directions in all his years of using Android.

This is a feature I have used for years while using Google Maps as a passive timer and route avoidance tool. I was pretty surprised to hear someone on an Android Podcast say they had no idea that this feature existed. I also got a laugh out of Ron stating he was too busy with twins to sit down and learn about things like that. This was funny to me, because I too have twins, but they are kid number 4 and 5!

Regardless of the humour and surprise, I thought that if the AA crew didn’t know this function, many of you might not know about it as well.


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Enter Syrup Drop; A series of posts that will feature a quick and useful tech-related tip that you may find helpful!

By default, Google Maps has all voice navigation unmuted and provides users with turn-by-turn directions while navigating from place to place. While this feature is beneficial when visiting a new destination, it can be somewhat distracting and in some case annoying when using Maps to plan you busy drive to work or some other location.

It is a pretty straightforward function to alter as well; there is no Apple-style digging through the settings to find this. The setting is staring right at you during your navigation. Check it out below.



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The options are as follows;

  • Unmuted – Full voice navigation. Each turn, a different route or traffic issue is announced.
  • Alarms only – You’ll hear alerts like traffic, construction, and crashes. You won’t hear the constant turn-by-turn navigation.
  • Muted – This one is pretty self-explanatory. When active, Google Maps will stay completely silent. The only issue with this option is that should Google discover trouble on your route or a faster route, you’re likely to miss the onscreen pop-up.

That is it for this one! Hopefully, we can all get back to travelling soon and put this handy feature to use.


If you have any other tips and tricks like this, please get in touch with me HERE.

My Favourite Apps: Microsoft Office Lens

Microsoft Office Lens is one of my favourite and most useful apps. Check out my mini-review of this must have app.

My wife and I have recently embarked on a Marie Kondo-Esque type clean up of our house. We moved in just over a year ago, and like with any move, many boxes of miscellaneous things ended up shoved into the storage rooms of the basement. As a result, more and more junk ended up was added to those rooms. Inevitably, the storage rooms were a complete nightmare. Our messy storage room, amplified by the welcoming of twins to the family (five kids now in total), started to spread into the rest of the basement. It was time to do something! It was time to be ruthless and finally rid ourselves of all of those things that would have been sure to spend many more years in a box.


One of those many things in boxes were old pictures, documents, schoolwork, certificates, awards, etc. Were we ever going to display them? Read them? Use them in any way, shape or form? The answer was NO. We didn’t want to throw out all of these memories, but the idea of scanning them on our now antiquated HP all-in-one wasn’t an inspiring option either. My wife suggested to me to take pictures of the papers we were planning to toss, but me being me, I had to find a more technologically involved method.


I had considered Google’s photo scanning app but, having tried that in the past, I decided it was a non-starter. Google’s offering requires you to take four shots of the same picture to capture it. Nope, not happening!

Enter yet another Microsoft app tucked away in my app drawer rose to the occasion to save the day. Microsoft Office Lens.



What is Microsoft Office Lens?

You can think of this app as a document scanner for your phone but backed by robust, well-thought software. Thanks to the far more powerful camera on your smartphone, results are better than the scanner attached to your printer.


Why I Like Office Lens

Effortless Use

Using Lens is as simple as using your camera. Open the app, line up the document, picture whiteboard or business card you are trying to capture and click.


Powerful

As you can see in the image, lining up, the whiteboard, or whatever you are capturing, doesn’t require a perfectly aligned head-on shot. Shooting from the side will yield the same result.


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Connects to All The Things

I initially used Lens to capture whiteboards in meetings at work. Since then, Microsoft has added a lot of features that make it appealing to use for personal reasons too. For example, this house clean up and capturing old school work and pictures from years past. Having the ability to seamlessly switch from personal and work accounts is a big value ad for Lens


Flexible

Lens lets you save a document in a handful of different locations and file formats at the same time. After capturing the image, you can save the output as a PDF or JPEG to your OneDrive account, add as an image to a OneNote notebook, add to a PowerPoint slide, save to your phones camera roll or if it is a text-based document use Microsoft word and OCR to output as an editable text document.


Overall, I have found Office Lens to be a big help at home and at work. It is available for download on Android and iOS at the links below.



My Favourite Apps: Your Phone Companion from Microsoft

Sharing some of my favourite apps with you. First up, You Phone from Microsoft!

Trying something new…

Every so often you find an app that fundamentally changes how you use your phone. Some of those apps quickly make it into the mainstream and are covered excessively by tech media, while others can often sit in a small, but vocal niche. I thought it would be fun to share some of those lesser known niche apps with you in the form of a mini review and see what you think. Who knows, maybe you will find them as useful as I do.

First up, an app from a little known company in the Seattle area, Microsoft.

What is Your Phone?

You Phone is a take on other services that have existed, or still exist like Push Bullet or Air Droid, but with a far more modern and simplistic approach. It also has one major advantage over its predecessors, Windows 10 and nearly a billion users. Essentially, it is a link to your phone from your Windows 10 PC.

The app allows you to do the following

  • View camera roll
  • Send and receive SMS text messages
  • View phone notifications

The camera roll function as of this writing is currently limited to the last 25 photos on your phone, but Microsoft is currently rolling up an update that will remove that restriction, allowing you to view the last 2,000 images stored on the phone.

Sending and receiving SMS from your PC has been possible for sometime thanks to Google’s Messages app and browser tie-in, but having it nested inside a dedicated application is great.

The phone notifications feature is a bit lacking, since you cannot interact with the notification, but at the very least it allows for a quick triage of a notification to see if picking up your phone is actually required. In the future I would like to see some changes allowing me to interact with some notifications that support it on the phone. For example, I use Asana for work, and can comment on a mention via the notification on on the phone. Being able to do this from the Your Phone app would be a greatly appreciated addition.

It may sound kind of limited, but being able to see and interact with these core functions of my phone has done wonders for productivity. I am one of those people who spends entirely way too much time picking up my phone just for the sake of it, to check and see if I have anything that needs my attention. Often times, there is something to action, but there are many times throughout the day where I pick up and unlock my phone for no reason at all.

Your Phone is also receiving a major update as I write this that will enable users to interact with phone calls coming from your phone. This is a great addition and one I am really looking forward to. The fewer times a day that I need to take my hands off my mouse and keyboard, the more I can done.

Make and Receive calls on your phone from your Windows 10 PC!

Once the update is live on You Phone users will be able to do the following phone related tasks;

  • Answer incoming calls on your PC
  • Initiate a phone call form your PC with the You Phone Windows 10 apps phone dialer or from your contact list
  • Reject calls and send a predefined text to the caller
  • Reject a call, and send it to voicemail
  • See recent call history
  • Transfer calls from your PC to your phone and vise versa (this one really excites me)
  • Click to call from the web on your PC

For an app that has already changed the entire way I work with my phone during the day, these call features easily make this one of the most useful apps I have ever used, and certainly on of my favourites.

You Phone is currently only available on Android, and due to the locked-down nature of Apple, will likely never be available on that platform. So if you’re using Android 7.0 or above, and running Windows 10 you should consider giving Your Phone a try. Now, if you spend little to no time in front of a PC, this app won’t be much use for you, but users such as myself will find this app to be incredibly useful.

Where Can You Get You Phone?

What do think of Your Phone? I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback in the comments section below!

MSN News Rebranded As Microsoft News

After giving the UI and UX of its News app a major overhaul in January of this year (2018), Microsoft made another major move today by renaming the News app to Microsoft News.

The Microsoft News app on Android and iOS have been “completely redesigned into a modern and beautiful experience.”

What originally started as the Bing News and spent a short period of time under the name MSN News, has now been renamed again. This time, to the name it should have had all along; Microsoft News.

After giving the UI and UX of its News app a major overhaul in January of this year (2018), Microsoft made another major move today by renaming the News app to Microsoft News.

The Microsoft News app on Android and iOS have been “completely redesigned into a modern and beautiful experience.”

I have always been a big fan of Microsoft’s offerings on Android and iOS so it is nice to see Microsoft keeping on top the design of their apps and also catching up with some of the ones that have started to look dated. Now if they could speed up apps like OneNote for Android we’d really be in business!

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A few of the main features of the redesign and name change noted by Microsoft in a blog post announcing the changes are:

  • New personalization upgrades, including the ability to tailor interests to follow in your news feed – such as World News, Personal Finance, Fitness and many more – and to roam interests across devices and local news options for top cities
  • Easy to configure breaking news alerts
  • A new dark theme, enabling better night reading
  • Simplified access through seamless integration with iOS and Android widgets
  • Continuous reading, for a smooth content experience

The personalization features appear to mostly unchanged from the old app and with what is available in the Windows 10 version, but the ability to quickly add or remove a new topic/section is much more user-friendly.

I’ve seen a lot of comments on the dark theme being such an “amazing” feature. I personally rather a beautiful white theme, much like what we are seeing with Google’s suite of apps, most notably the Google News app and Google Podcasts app.

One major thing Microsoft calls out in their announcement is the AI functionality in the backend of Microsoft’s news service.

Every day, our publishing partners send us more than 100,000 unique pieces of content. Our AI scans the content as it arrives, processes it to understand dimensions like freshness, category, topic type, opinion content and potential popularity and then presents it for our editors. Our algorithms suggest appropriate photos to pair with content to help bring stories to life. Editors then curate the top stories throughout the day, across a variety of topics, so our readers get the latest news from the best sources.

— Rob Bennett / Editor in Chief, Microsoft News

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AI is the number one buzzword over the past few years, and shows no sign of slowing. Microsoft has been doubling down putting AI into everything can. Most of this is just machine learning, but nonetheless, it is nice to see Microsoft putting this to use in their applications.

There has been nothing official announced regarding Microsoft’s other apps such as MSN Weather, Sports and MSN Money, but I would be inclined to think that over time, these apps will be either updated with the new design and name or possibly rolled into the Microsoft News app.

You can check out the refreshed apps on Android and iOS below.

Snipaste Review: Upgrade Your Screenshots On Windows 10

The built in snipping tool in Windows 10 is fine. Not good, not bad, just fine. However, for many users, myself included, it just doesn’t do enough. There are alternatives like Tech Smith’s “Snagit”, but Snagit comes at a cost.

I recently stumbled upon Snipaste in the Windows Store and was pleasantly surprised by how powerful this screenshot tool was, and even even better, it is free!

The built in snipping tool in Windows 10 is fine. Not good, not bad, just fine. However, for many users, myself included, it just doesn’t do enough. There are alternatives like Tech Smith’s “Snagit”, but Snagit comes at a cost.

I recently stumbled upon Snipaste in the Windows Store and was pleasantly surprised by how powerful this screenshot tool was, and even better, it is free!

By taking advantage of the Function keys, Snipaste has the ability to perform various different functions, and it does them very, very quickly! 

Pressing F1 opens up the capture window which allows users to change the capture shape, insert arrows or other pointers, add markings via pencil or highlight and text. There are three additional options as well, which are copy to clipboard, save, and possibly the most useful one for me so far is pin to screen page.

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This “pin to” page function is incredibly helpful in cases where you are trying to transpose a snippet of information but do not want to open it in a new window or save the file and open it as an image. It is very, very helpful. I have been using it when working in Excel to grab a formula format from one place and pin it above the sheet I am working on to complete the formula.

 Snipaste Hot Key Settings
Snipaste Hot Key Settings

Settings are fairly robust as well, allowing users to set various hotkeys, which can speed up the process for times where you want to snip and copy directly to the clipboard, as one example.

Delayed snip is another useful feature for cases where you need to access a sub-menu or share a flyout menu before starting your capture.

 Snipaste Mouse Settings
Snipaste Mouse Settings

 

 

There are also a series of mouse gestures users can enable to further the functionality of this application.

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Snipaste runs in the system tray and captures can also be initiated with a single-click of the Snipaste logo if you wish to forgo the hotkey assignments. To access the preferences to adjust the app’s behavior, right-clicking the icon from the tray will reveal that menu.

 

 

 

There are many other powerful features available within Snipaste, and as I mentioned earlier this app is free from the Microsoft Store, so it is absolutely worth a try if you take a lot of screenshots on your PC.

Twitter Lite for Windows 10

There is a wide selection of Twitter apps available for Windows 10 users. However, from my experience most of them a guaranteed to let you down at some point due to reliability issues. What is the solution? What is the best Twitter app for Windows? Well, it may not even be an app at all. At least not in the traditional sense. Check out a short review of Twitter Lite.

Trying to find the best Twitter app for Windows 10 has not been an easy task, but I think I have found a solution and it may not even be an “app” at all.

The official Twitter app for Windows 10 has improved a lot since it was released in 2016, but it still leaves a lot to be desired. It feels very Windows 8/Windows Phone 8 when using it. Third party solutions like Tweet It!, Fenice and Aeries look great but suffer from reliability issues. Power users who are used to Tweet Deck may resort to Tweeten which is a native Tweet Deck client in an Electron app (Chrome app wrapper), but it too suffers from reliability issues despite its robust feature-set.


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So what is the solution? Well, as I wrote above, the best app is not an app at all. Not in the traditional sense anyway. 


 Twitter Lite Screenshot running on Windows 10
Twitter Lite Screenshot running on Windows 10


Twitter Lite is a PWA or “Progressive Web App” which is mostly a website running with an app like experience that provides the same user experience on any platform, can deliver notifications and offers features like offline access. If you would like a full explainer on Progressive Web Apps head over to this Wikipedia entry for more.

Users can access Twitter Lite by visiting mobile.twitter.com and using it in your browsers. However, if you would like the full app-like experience that this PWA can offer you can add it to your desktop and pin to your start menu, and it will look like any other application. 
To do this with Google Chrome, navigate to mobile.twitter.com > select the ellipses menu from the top left of the browser window > select “More tools” > select “Add to desktop…”.


 How to add Twitter Lite (and other PWAs) to your Windows desktop.
How to add Twitter Lite (and other PWAs) to your Windows desktop.


That’s it! Now Twitter Lite will be on your desktop, and you can easily drag it to your taskbar. Unlike older web apps it will stay there even if you close all other browser windows.


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The app itself is very reminiscent of the native experience offered by proper Twitter clients on Android and iOS. However, thanks to the way Apple handles Safari pages, you will not have the app-like experience on Apple’s platform like you will on Windows and Android.

If you are searching for a reliable and easy to use Twitter app for Windows 10, check out Twitter Lite.

Anki Cozmo Collectors Edition Review and App Update

A few weeks back I shared that Anki was releasing a major update to the Cozmo robot app alongside a new Liquid Black Collectors Edition Cozmo. Well, I have spent some time since then getting familiar with the update and Cozmo CE. Read on below for more!

A few weeks back I shared that Anki was releasing a major update to the Cozmo robot app alongside a new Liquid Black Collectors Edition Cozmo. Well, I have spent some time since then getting familiar with the update and Cozmo CE. Read on below for more!



I enjoyed working and playing with Cozmo when the original version first arrived earlier in the year. However, one issue I had was that some of the functionality when teaching Cozmo new abilities was that it seemed somewhat tedious. Considering that most of what Cozmo is about is geared towards kids. Having to put too much effort into playing with him would be likely to lead to a lack of interest in playing with Cozmo once the novelty wore off. With the new update, Anki has done an excellent job of fixing that issue.

Cozmo now has three basic functions or requirements for use;

  1. Tune Up
  2. Feed
  3. Play

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TUNE-UP

Tuning up Cozmo is very simple to do. Tapping the Tune-up button from the app will launch a scan of Cozmo’s major parts, his head, his tracks and lift. Now to be clear, the parts scanned do not require any actual tuning up. It is really more of a way to think of Cozmo like a pet that needs care and attention physically to stay healthy. 



When the scan is complete it will identify which area needs attention. Depending on how longCozmo has sat since his last use or how long you have been playing will affect which parts need to be tuned. As you saw above, only Cozmo’s lift needed some work. Tapping the small red exclamation mark will allow you to calibrate the part. This is done by tapping the arrows in the order directed by the app. Once you have completed the correct order, Cozmo will follow suit and repeat the sequence. That’s it! Cozmo is now tuned up and ready to go.



FEEDING

Feeding is done via the power cubes Cozmo uses to perform tricks and play games. Tapping the Feed button will launch the tutorial for feeding. Pick up a power cube and shake it vigorously to charge it. When charged you drop it in from of Cozmo and he will place his lift on top to absorb the energy stored in the cube. If he gets too hungry he will mope around the table. Again, thinking of Cozmo more like a pet shows kids that the key to learning and having energy comes from taking care of yourself through

Keeping with tradition, Cozmo’s very emotive face goes wild as he sucks up the cube-goodies. Once you have filled his belly you can move onto to play some games. 



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PLAY

Playtime is required to keep Cozmo happy, engaged and wanting to learn new things while he explores. If you do not play with him he will bug you for a while to play a game, or since a song, but after a while, he will begin to disengage with you, so a healthy amount of play is essential.



Like with Tuning and Feeding, tapping the Play button will launch Cozmo’s play mode. Using the sparks, you accumulate from playing with Cozmo over time you can “spark” him to perform a random trick that he has learned or to prompt you to play a game of his choosing. You also have the option to pick for Cozmo from the green “Tricks and Games” section to the far right of the play screen. Once you charge Cozmo’s play meter to push emotions to the max level, you are rewarded with more sparks allowing you to continue working with Cozmo. 


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Cozmo Collectors Edition

When Anki first released Cozmo in 2016, they spoke about his durability and quality design. With the original Cozmo, I was amazed by the build quality and attention to detail put into his design. The Collectors Editon of Cozmo is much of the same but with a way cooler paint job.

Overall functionality, from what I can tell, is identical to the original Cozmo and that is perfectly fine. The experience out of the box was moderately different, but any differences were a result of the app update and not the setup and operation of Cozmo himself. 

The most significant let down for me with the Collectors Edition was the lack of interaction with my other Cozmo robot. The two have met face to face a few times and have ignored each other for the most part. In one case Cozmo did see his liquid metal sibling and started making his robot noises showing that something had caught his eye. However, the terminal output that tells you what Cozmo is up to reported that he had seen a “pet.” 

Over time, I hope to see Anki add increased functionality for Cozmo to interact with other Cozmo’s as well as some recognition of other Anki products like Overdrive. Now I understand that most people will not have multiple Cozmo’s and Overdrive, but for the enthusiast that do, seeing some more cross-fucntionality would be very welcomed.


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Have you had a chance to try out Cozmo or any other Anki products? If so, let me know and don’t forget to check out my other Anki related content!

Anki Cozmo Review

Anki Cozmo Carrying Case Review

Anki Overdrive Fast and Furious Review

Android Wear 2.0 Causing Your Google Reminders Disappear?

Android Wear 2.0 was supposed to be a major improvement for those users still supporting the Wear platform. There were many excellent additions and updates made. However, one major bug that was introduced with Wear 2.0 causes Google Now/Assistant reminders to disappear immediately after being triggered. There is a fix, but it comes with a caveat. 

If you are one of the few people who still actively use an Android Wear device and were fortunate (or unfortunate depending on your point-of-view) enough to receive the update to Android Wear 2.0 you may have noticed that Google Now/Assistant reminders seem to disappear into the abyss immediately after they are triggered.

Here is a quick and easy fix for you, but it does come with a few caveats.


My device pairing is a Google Pixel XL and the Motorola Moto 360 Sport. I can confirm that this issue was present on other Android devices running both Android 7 and 8. This problem is also only present on Android Wear devices running version 2.0. Previous versions are not affected.


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The Issue

Setting a reminder with Google Now/Assistant shows momentarily on your device then is automatically cleared from the notification pane. Checking the reminders part of the Google App will show your reminder as “Ongoing.” 


The Solution

  1. Open Android Wear
  2. Select the gear icon in the upper right-hand corner to open settings
  3. From the settings screen select “Block app notifications.”
  4. Click the + sign at the bottom the screen
  5. Select “Google” from the list of apps available to block


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That’s it! You will now receive your Google Now/Assistant reminder notification but only on your phone. Since you have prevented the Google App from sending notifications to your Wear device, they will not be seen. The other caveat here is that not only will reminders not be shown on your wrist, but nothing from the Google App will be passed through. This means that traffic, weather, sports, etc. will only show on the phone and not the watch. For me that is fine. I use my watch for text/email notifications and, well, obviously to see what time it is.

Google is said to be aware of this bug, but given the amount of time it has taken to roll Android Wear 2.0 out to supported devices, I would not hold my breath on waiting for a proper fix.

Are you suffering from this bug? Did this fix help you at all? Let me know!

Facebook Messenger Digital Assistant “M” Rolling Out In Canada

Facebook is rolling out “M”, their digital assistant, which lives inside Facebook Messenger in Canada.

In 2015 Facebook announced and released its digital assistant, known simply as “M” in the USA. However, other countries have been left waiting. Well, as of today, Facebook is rolling out “M” in Canada (and the UK).

“M” is supposed to operate much like Google Assistant or Cortana with one major caveat. It works exclusively in Facebook Messenger. However, it appears to operate more like a chat bot rather than a full fledged digital assistant. 

For example, if someone were to ask you where you are in Messenger, “M” will helpfully offer to send your location with a simple tap, as seen below.



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Here is a short list of the some of the functions “M” can perform.

  • Sending stickers – personalised suggestions for stickers like ‘Thank you’ or ‘Bye-bye’.
  • Sharing location – If the conversation is about your location, so someone asking “Where are you?” for example, M will suggest that you share your location.
  • Making a plan – If you are trying to organise a plan with a group, M will suggest using Messenger’s planning capabilities.
  • Creating a poll – If you and a group are having a difficult time deciding on a subject, M will suggest creating a poll to decide once and for all.
  • Birthdays – If the person you are speaking to in a one-on-one conversation is currently celebrating their birthday, M will surface a suggestion to wish them happy birthday in one of the many ways Messenger currently supports; these include stickers, cards, and videos.
  • Saved – When content is shared in a message that M decides is worth you saving for later, a suggestion will pop up for you to use the Saved extension. This can be used for URLs, videos, Facebook posts, events, and pages.
  • Starting a voice or video call – If you’re in a one-on-one message and one of you suggests you actually speak, M will suggest initiating a call within the app.

Will I use it?

I am a big user of digital assistance on my devices, with most of my use being Google Assistant or Cortana based. As for “M”, I highly doubt the features will be incredibly useful to me. That said, I won’t actively avoid or turn off “M”. I will likely leave it as is when it hits my devices and if it gives me a useful prompt from time to time, great. If not, oh well.


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What do you think? Is Facebook “M” a big deal, or just another me too product in the digital assistant space?

You can become a Magikarp master with Magikarp Jump on iOS and Android

Check out Pokemon’s latest mobile game. Magikarp Jump, allowing Pokemon trainers to teach their Magikarp to jump higher than the rest. 

Magikarp is the single most useless Pokemon a trainer can have. Its only possible move is Splash, which is entirely ineffective in almost every single battle scenario. Despite this famous uselessness, everyone has an affinity for this useless pocket monster. Now, once you work a Magikarp up to level 15, or collect 400 Magikarp candies in Pokemon GO, this flopping fish can evolve into the powerful and highly sought after Gyarados.


Why am I telling you this? Well, that is because the Pokemon Company has just released a new game which is entirely dedicated to Magikarp.



Available for iOS and Android Magikarp Jump allows aspiring Pokemon trainers to catch, raise, train and enter their Magikarp in various “Jumping Leagues.”

As you can probably discern from the title, the goal of the game is to train your Magikarp to jump higher than other Magikarps

There is more to just raising and competing with your Magikarp; there will be encounters with other Pokemon throughout the game including Slowbro, Piplup, and Pidgey. 

After spending a bit of time with the game, it is, as with most Pokemon games, easy to pick up and despite its simplicity, surprisingly addicting.

Sphero is at it again: Now you can own your very own Lightning McQueen

Love your Sphero BB-8 App-enabled Droid? Then you’re really going to love what Sphero has come up with next. Check out the Ulitmate Lightning McQueen, just in time for Cars 3.

I love my BB-8 droid from Sphero. Being able to have your own app-enabled, semi-autonomous robot that can roam around, project messages and watch Star Wars with you is every geek’s dream.  Add in a Force Band, and you’re living the dream. Now imagine if you could also have another nostalgic app-enabled gadget to do these same things with or at least some of it. Well, now you can.


Sphero is at it again with their latest release. With the next installment in the Cars franchise, Cars 3, right around the corner, the company has teamed up with Disney-Pixar to release the Ultimate Lightning McQueen. And by all accounts, they have brought their A-game with this one.



All previous Sphero devices have been round or cylindrical shapes (hence Sphero), but Lightning McQueen is a full-fledged car with a ton of the life like personality kids and adults have enjoyed while watching the Cars movies.

Lightning McQueen has animated LCD eyes, an animatronic mouth, running LED headlights & taillights and emotive vehicle suspension allowing him to convey his feelings while he interacts with you.

Controlled via Bluetooth and the Lightning McQueen app which is available for iOS and Android devices users can take advantage of the following Lightning McQueen features:

  • Driving – Emotive suspension allows Lightning to move like a champion.
  • Drifting – Drift and do donuts Lightning-style with authentic movement.
  • Reactive Touch – Master Lightning’s latest moves with a simple tap.
  • Build Strategy – Match wits with Lightning and sharpen your skills.
  • Acting Studio – Create animations for Lightning to perform.

As mentioned, Lightning is Bluetooth controlled and has a range of about 30 meters. He also can drive at speeds of up to 6 mph with an approximate 40-minute battery life.


Ultimate Lightning McQueen App – Available for iOS and Android devices:


Sphero is doing a lot of really amazing things right now with both their consumer-focused and educational-focused robotics products, and I am sure the Ultimate Lightning McQueen car will continue that trend.

 

 


I hope to get my hands on the Ultimate Lightning McQueen shortly for a full review and showdown with BB-8.

What do you think of the Ultimate Lightning McQueen toy? You can pick one up here for $299.99 USD.

Oh, and while you are there. Have a look at the app-enabled Spiderman tease too

Special Anki Overdrive “Fast and Furious” Edition Coming in September

Anki is back it with an upgraded special edition Overdrive Kit featuring some of your favourite cars and characters from the Fast and Furious franchise.

Last year I reviewed the Overdrive Starter Kit from Anki, makers of the Cozmo robot. We had a lot of fun testing these AI-powered Super Cars out using the included specialized start track. Check out that review here.


There is a bevy of different Supercars, Supertrucks and track accessories available for purchase to keep the fun going, but Anki is bringing something new this fall, just in time for the holidays.

Anki has formed a partnership with the Fast and Furious franchise to release the Fast and Furious Edition which will be available this September for $229.99 (CAD) or $169.99 (USD).

The special edition will give Overdrive fans Dom’s Ice Charger, Hobbs’ MST and a “new exclusive track piece.” This new track piece is listed as the “Power Zone” in the specs for the new kit. It is also worth noting that the new kit ships with one less straight track piece than the standard starter kit and includes in 12 guardrails.

It is worth noting that users will need to download a different version of the Overdrive app, designed specifically for the Fast and Furious Edtion. 

Anki also told me that Hobbs’ MXT and Dom’s Ice Charger will not be made available as stand-alone vehicles for purchase. So, if you are looking to experience Overdrive the Fast and Furious way, you will need to purchase the entire kit. 

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Pre-Orders for the Fast and Furious Overdrive edition begin May 16. You can sign up for notifications on Anki.com.

You can read the full press release from Anki here

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Pixie: A Better Bluetooth Tracker?

Always losing your keys or wallet? Kids forgot where they stashed your iPad? TV remote swallowed by the couch? Check out the Pixie Bluetooth tracking beacon. The Pixie is a slightly different take on Bluetooth trackers that mixes in augmented reality.

I reviewed the Tile last year, and despite a few complaints such as non-replaceable batteries and too thick I found the Tile to be useful and in many cases, a necessary accessory. Tile actually released newer slimmer Tiles mid-2016 as well, which addressed one of my primary complaints.

One of the features the Tile was missing for me was a more discrete way to hunt for your missing item. You press the find button in the Tile app and your Tile if in range, will begin to play a tune. What if you’re looking for your keys and trying not to wake a sleeping baby? Good luck!

Then I was introduced to the Pixie tracker and immediately took an interest thanks to its “pixie-dust” feature.


What is the Pixie

The Pixie is a Bluetooth-enabled tracking device called a “Pixie Point” that can connect to your phone, wallet, keys, kids, etc. When you are hunting for any of those items, the Pixie app will help you track them down.

**Note: The Pixie app is currently only available for iOS devices. However, they have advised me that an Android application is something we can expect to see in “late 2017.”**


What’s in the Box

The kit Pixie sent me contained the following:

  • 4 Pixie Point Trackers
  • 2 Keyfob Pixie Point Carriers
  • 3 Extra Adhesives
  • 1 Curved Screen Adhesive
  • 4 Cleaning Wipes
  • Quick Start Guide

Pixie also sent along a Pixie Point iPhone 6/6s case


How does it work?

Like most other Bluetooth trackers you must be within the range of the device (150 feet clear line of sight or 30-50 feet indoors). 

Finding your missing Pixified item is relatively straightforward. Open the Pixie app to show your connected Pixie Points and simply tap the item you’re hunting for.

Most other Bluetooth tracking devices like the Tile simply offer a find button which prompts your tracker to ring until you tell the application you have found it.

Pixie uses a different approach. 

First, you require your primary device, an iPhone  6s in my case, to act is a master Pixie point. That point then calls to the other points 

Upon selecting your missing item, you will be prompted to complete a panoramic scan of your area which allows the app the pinpoint the location of the item. Once Pixie has located your item the application will display Pixie dust, highlighting the location of your lost item. It is a simple augmented reality implementation that is fairly well implemented. 

As you approach your item, within five ft, the Pixie app enters a sort of “metal detector” mode to navigate you to the exact location of your item with a series of beeps.


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Experience

I found the Pixie application and Pixie points to be very easy to setup. Adding points to your application are as easy as clicking the “+” sign and place the point at the top left of your iPhone or iPad. Once pairing is complete you can name the point to match the device it will be keeping track of.

There were a few instances where the Pixie app sent me in the wrong direction. One instance during testing sent me out to my front yard looking for my keys, which were sitting on the arm of the couch. 

The need to perform a panoramic scan every time I was looking for a device was very tedious compared to using the Tile app and tracker, but my suspicion is that this is required to allow the augmented reality of the application function with the degree of accuracy that it does. However, the Tile app doesn’t pinpoint my items location like the Pixie. Tile offers more of a general “over there” location.

My favourite part of using Pixie was the Pixie dust. Often, the item I am hunting for is hiding in plain sight. I don’t need to use the app to the point where it enters the metal detector mode. Once I see the Pixie dust light up in the AR overlay, I can mark my item as found and get it. Compared to the Tile tracker, you pretty much are forced to play the audible alert each and every time.


Need to Know

Pixie points, unlike the Tile trackers, are IP67 certified for water and dust resistant.

Pixie points do not have replaceable batteries. This is unfortunate. Pixie does not offer a tracker recycling program like Tile. Something I would like to see them implement in the future. Battery life of your Pixie points can be checked from within the Pixie app by swiping left on any given point and entering the point settings.


Cost and Where to Buy

You can purchase Pixie direct at GetPixie.com; pricing breaks down like this:

– Pixie 2 Pack: $49.99 USD
– Pixie 4 Pack: $99.99 USD
– iPhone 6 or 7 Series Case: $8.99 USD

The iPhone case is currently free with the purchase of a Pixie Pack. Even if it was not, spring for the case. It is good quality and makes the phone Pixie point far more manageable than sticking it to the back on your phone


Should You Buy This?

If you are always looking for your keys and wallet or trying to find where your kids have stashed your iPad. Yes! Buy a Pixie Pack. You won’t regret it. Despite a few small annoyances, which make the system work as well as it does, this is the most intuitive and useful Bluetooth tracker implementation I have used to date.

Check out the promo video and let me know what you think about the Pixie Bluetooth tracker system.

Super Mario Run Launches Tomorrow, March 23rd, on Android

March 23rd is finally the day Android users can download and enjoy Super Mario Run! Are you ready? Or is Mario passed his prime?

I wrote on Mario Day (March 10th – MAR10) that the perfect time for Nintendo to spring Super Mario Run on Android users was that day. 

As we all know, that day came and went with no Super Mario Run. About a week later Nintendo, broke the silence on Super Mario Run and its long-awaited arrival on Android, announcing that March 23rd will finally be the day.



So what is Super Mario Run?

Well, we all know who Super Mario is so that I won’t explain that, but for those who are in the dark about what the game is, which launched on iOS in December 2015, let me explain.

Super Mario Run is a side-scrolling, auto-runner game much like several other popular Android and iOS games. The difference here is Mario. This is (was) Nintendo’s first non-Nintendo platform game that features Mario. There have been other Nintendo games on Android such as Mitomo, but this is the first time we’ve been able to enjoy Mario on another system.

The gameplay is fairly easy as Mario is always on the move. The way the player taps the screen affects how Mario jumps through each level. 

The game itself is free to download and players are able to work their way through 3 levels before you are hit with a $9.99 USD one time purchase to unlock the whole game.

This price of $10 may seem excessive, however, once a play beats the game you can go back trough, trying to improve on your previous score at each level.


Are you ready for Super Mario Run? Or is the Demo + Purchase format Nintendo has opted to pass on Mario?

You can pre-register for Super Mario Run now on the Google Play Store.

Cornerfly: Add Round Corners to Any Android Device

Rounded display corners are the hot new design theme with 2017 Android flagships. However, you can enjoy the look of rounded corners on your current Android device with this simple, yet useful app. Meet Cornerfly.

The LG G6 and the soon to be announced Samsung Galaxy S8 are not cutting any corners with their displays this year. The two manufacturers have opted for a rounded approach to the corners of their screens with this year’s flagships.

Exact reasons for this are not 100% known, but it likely has to do with the razor-thin bezels and equally rounded edges of the devices themselves.

Many people have been put off by this design choice, but just as many have taken a liking to it. Myself included. Now, I’m not likely to spring for either the G6 or the GS8 this year; my Nexus 6P still has plenty of life left in it. However, I would love to take advantage of the rounded screen effect found on those devices. 

Thanks to this very useful app users can add this rounded effect to any Android device.

Setup is relatively straightforward, allowing you to set a one-time global setting which will allow the rounded corners to sit above or below your navigation and notification bars. You may need to toggle the overlay, shown below, depending on if your device uses on-screen navigation keys or capacitive keys.



The application requires that you are running at least Android 4.0.

By default the settings allow you to shave 12 pixels off of each corner, but this can be adjusted to give a more dramatic effect. To enable this, you will need to jump the premium tier of the app via an in-app purchase of about $1.50 (CAD).

Shown in the screenshots below, you can see the aesthetic appeal this adds to a consi2derably boring rectangle.



Cornerfly is available on the Google Play Store

What do you think? Is Cornerfly a useful hack or not?

**Update** Happy Mario Day! Will Super Mario Run For Android Launch Today?

Will March 10th – MAR10 Day – finally be the day Nintendo releases Super Mario Run to Android users? 

Update: Nintendo has made March 23rd the official release date for Super Mario Run.  

 Are you excited or is it too late? 

Happy Mario Day!

Today is March 10th, which is also Mario Day, you know, because MAR10.

We all had hoped that today would be the big day for us Android users. The day where Super Mario Run finally made its wa over to Android, so we could join all our iOS user friends in playing the game that we have waited so long for.

Well as of 11:00 am EST there is still no Super Mario Run in the Google Play Store. At the time of this post, the first banner ad on the Play Store is still telling us that Mario will arrive soon.


 Is today the day, Mario?
Is today the day, Mario?


There is still a chance that Mario will make his long-awaited debut for Android today, but knowing Nintendo, we will be left waiting.

I hope that by then end of the day I have updated this article and my wallet will be $10 lighter. Fingers crossed!

At the very least you can have another look at the Play Store screenshots.


HERE WeGo Review

It has been a long journey (pun intended) but HERE WeGo may be the best all around mapping solution available today. Yes, yes, “Google Maps” I hear you yelling – but hear me out…

Once upon a time a company you may have heard of, Nokia, was a juggernaut in the mobile phone market. During their reign atop the phone industry they created one of the first and best mobile mapping solutions. That application was know as HERE maps and worked with Nokia’s Symbian operating system.

At the time of the last update (2012) HERE Maps on Symbian offered everything from turn-by-turn directions for driving or walking, live traffic visualization, offline map support and “city lens” augmented reality. For its time, it was jam-packed with extremely useful features.

Fast forward 5 years, throw in the end of Symbian, Microsoft buying Nokia (but not the Maps part); then shuttering Nokia, HERE maps being bought by a conglomerate of German auto makers, and an entry into iOS and Android operating systems and we are left with a re-branded and fully loaded HERE WeGo mapping solution.

As mentioned, HERE WeGo (HERE) is available on Android and iOS. HERE Maps still lives on in a way for those running Windows Phone 8.1, as well as in Windows 10 thanks to Microsoft licencing HERE mapping data for their own Windows Maps app. You can also use HERE via the web at https://wego.here.com

Most of this review will focus on HERE for Android, but the experience is very much the same on iOS.


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What does HERE offer?

  • Turn-by-turn navigation
  • Online or Offline mode
  • Real-time traffic data (where available)
  • Public transport, walking and bicycle navigation
  • Taxi hailing (limited availability)
  • Destination collections with current location sharing/saving
  • Indoor venue maps
  • Nearby point-of-interest recommendations

HERE WeGo was recently renamed from the aforementioned HERE Maps since it was felt that ‘HERE Maps’ was too generic of a name, causing it the application to be lumped in with “other, lesser apps”. The new name is designed to place the focus on what people really want from an app like HERE, which is “getting to places”. 

Using HERE is very easy and the app is overall very intuitive. It is feature packed and those features are very easy to access. One of the primary gripes I have with Google Maps is it does so many things that navigating the app and understanding some of those features can become overwhelming.

 Left to right - Maps, Drive, Collections
Left to right – Maps, Drive, Collections

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Accessing the side menu via the hamburger button reveals some top level settings and options. Much like Google Maps, users can select Map (default), Drive and Collections (more on collections later). 

You will also be able to toggle the extremely useful offline mode that HERE has always offered.

Offline mode allows you to download maps for entire countries or specific regions such provinces and states. There is some loss of function with offline mode. You can still search for addresses and some POI’s, as well as turn by turn navigation. However, searching using generic search terms, live traffic and other connected only options such as venue search will not function the same way as when online. To download all available HERE maps will take up a total of 10GB of space on your device.

The UI, as you can see in the previous images, is fairly basic, which is welcomed. Many mapping options available on Android, especially those offering offline navigation are over saturated with UI elements that can make the application challenging to use. This is not the case here.

Driving directions are clear and concise and HERE also offers drivers parking options near your destination, then will automatically switch to walking directions from the parking spot to the final destination. Another UI element I really like when using HERE is the ability to swipe left on route options to highlight the alternative routes available for your journey.

Possibly one of my favourite features of HERE is the aforementioned Collections function. Much like save places in Google Maps, users can save places to their favourites. With HERE you can sort them into customizable collections making it easy ti plan out a trip a head of time, or add places you encounter and want to circle back to. I have used this for many trips including time spent last year in Florida, Prince Edward County and Mikasew Provincial Park.

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Here also has a very active Beta program for those looking to provide feedback and be on the bleeding edge of what HERE has to offer. On Android, you can visit the app page in the Play store, scroll the end of the listing and add yourself to the beta stream. 

Overall, HERE WeGo does not offer as many features as the current King of the Hill, Google Maps, but it overall I feel that this application offer a more pure and simple mapping application. The implementation of “real” offline maps (sorry Google, you did it wrong) also adds the appeal for those who may want to avoid chewing through their data while travelling abroad or simply travelling locally with heavy map use.

You can download HERE WeGo from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store

GadgetSyrup Kids: Endless Alphabet Review

If your children spend a lot of time in front of screens, make sure they are putting that time to good use! Check out the GadgetSyrup Kids Review of Endless Alphabet from Originator Inc. 

It is a favourite in our house, and I am sure your kids will enjoy it too!

Our children, mine included, spend a lot of time watching screens of various shapes and sizes, but it doesn’t have to be an endless parade of YouTube videos, Angry Birds and the like. There are dozens of excellent learning applications and games available for Android and iOS. One application that my wife and I love for our kids is Endless Alphabet from Originator Inc.


Endless Alphabet is a spelling and reading app for children who are learning to read or looking to hone their pronunciation of letters and words.

Containing 100 puzzles via a one-time in-app purchase, Endless Alphabet uses adorable little monsters that encourage building on your child’s vocabulary.



Each word puzzle begins a short animation featuring the monsters as they act out the meaning of the word. Once they have completed their work, the monsters make a mess of the word, leaving only an outline of the word.

Your child then has to drag-and-drop each letter of the word onto the letter shapes left behind by the monsters shenanigans. 

It isn’t simply drag-and-drop though. Each letter, when touched, makes the letters sound while also coming to life and dancing about while moving around the screen.

Check out the preview video from Originator below!



Possibly the best part of this application and others from Originator is that there is no high scores, failures, limits or stress. You child can only focus on having fun and learning rather than be concerned with beating their high score from previous gameplay or that of other players. Learning is supposed to be fun and stress-free, not a competition, and Originator nails this perfectly with Endless Alphabet.


Bottom line, if you are looking for something a fair bit more productive for your child to do during screen time check out Endless Alphabet and other apps from Originator.


Don’t forget to follow GadgetSyrup on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook!

Anki Overdrive Review

After talking about Anki and Overdrive for months, I finally got my hands on the Overdrive Starter Kit to review.

If you’re still looking for that big gift for the kids, this may be exactly what you are looking for!

I’ve been talking a lot about Anki’s products over the last few months. It started with Cozmo, which is giving the NES Classic Edition a run for its money in the battle for top toy supremacy this holiday season. 

After I had learned about and fell in love with Cozmo and Anki, I discovered their other AI-powered product, Overdrive. 

Overdrive, as I have explained it, is akin to a Hot Wheels track on steroids combined with Mario Kart. It is app enabled and AI driven. It is also loads of fun! 

Thanks to the folks at Anki, I have now had the opportunity to test out the Overdrive Starter Kit. Read on for the full review!


WHAT’S IN THE BOX

 Relax, Brad. It's just a race track.
Relax, Brad. It’s just a race track.

Inside the Overdrive starter kit, you will find the following.

– 2 Robotic Supercars named Skull and Ground Shock
– 6 curved track pieces
– 4 straight track pieces
– 2 track riser pieces
– 1 tire cleaner
– 1 charging base, which accommodates up to 4 cars

Once you have unpacked and set up your track in one of 8 possible configurations, you will need to head over to the Apple App Store or Google Play Store to download the Anki Overdrive application. Sorry Windows Mobile users…

The Overdrive app is available on devices running iOS 8 and up, and Android 5 and up.


HOW DOES THE AI WORK

So how exactly does artificial intelligence drive this “toy”? Well, you have a lot of input, and control over your own Supercar, but the cars you are racing against will use their AI to scan the track, allowing them to set the best racing course. Your opponents also use AI to understand your racing habits while it plans out how to track you down and disable you. 

Each car and virtual commander can consider more than 50,000 possible actions to defeat you on the track. Anything from zipping around you on the last turn or disabling you with a flurry of weapon attacks from the onset of the race.

Each car has a unique set of attributes and arsenal of weapons to use during a race. Skull, for example, is not the quickest Supercar, nor does he have the greatest defense, but his firepower packs enough of a punch to take down nearly any opponent. Whereas, Ground Shock packs a lot less firepower but can use his speed to stay far enough ahead to avoid weapon blasts.

SETUP AND GAMEPLAY

After setting up the track, which clicks together using magnets, you are ready to go. Launching the app on your phone or tablet then prompts you to place your Supercars on the charging base so they can sync with your device and perform any needed updates. 

Once that it is out of the way, the app will prompt you to place the cars on the track and choose from one of the following game modes.

– Race – First across the line wins
– Battle – Take our your opponents, scoring points to win
– Time Trial – Race the clock
– King of the Hill – Hold the lead longer than the rest of the pack to win
– Tournament – Battle the AI through various challenges. Take them all down to win!

The controls of the app while racing is very easy to figure out. My only gripe with the app was that I could not flip the controls horizontally on the screen. I was forced to use my left hand to control my cars speed. I would have preferred to flip it, giving speed controls to my dominate hand.

Before you start racing, each car needs to learn the track configuration you have setup. To do this, the Supercars are equipped with dedicated CPUs and IR camera scan the specially coated track 500 times per second. The cars will now know exactly where they are on the race track.

Once the track scan is complete, this is where the real fun began for me. The race to an observer may be rather boring to watch, but being in control of one of the cars is a lot of fun. 

You start off at full speed and jump ahead of your opponent, only to look down and see your being pulled in by a tractor beam. Once you’ve been reeled in, you are now under fire from a short range missile attack. Firing back with your tractor beam brings your opponent back into range will allow you to take them down with something like a plasma cannon. That may not be enough, though. To deliver the final blow and pull away from your enemy, you may need to slow down to crawl, get in line with them and drop a depth charge to stop them in their tracks. Now you can floor it and take the lead for the remainder of the race.

All of the above is done with your smartphone or tablet with a few simple controls. I should also add; you can steer your car by tilting your device left of right to move across the four racing lanes.

Between the gameplay on your device and seeing the cars zip around the track is a lot of fun. Kids are sure to love it, and even the kid in all of us will enjoy joining in on the fun.

 You're dog may want to join in on the fun too!
You’re dog may want to join in on the fun too!


QUALITY

The quality of the track, cars, and app are all excellent. 

The track, as mentioned snaps together using magnets. Not once did I encounter any issues with it staying together,  even when using the riser pieces to add a small hill to the racing environment.

The cars are made mostly out of plastic, especially the outer body. I had no issues with their durability during my testing period, however, over time there could be cause for concern if you frequently use the collision figure 8 track setup or introduce the much larger, heavier Supertrucks into the mix. I do not think this is a major concern, but something to consider.

Back to the track. I was amazed at how well the cars clung to the track. I recall growing up; I had a race car track that used remote controlled, motorized cars that held onto the track with the weakest of magnets. Every turn at high speed would send your car sailing off the track. This was never the case with Overdrive. With the tight turns, banked corners, and moderate collisions the cars stayed on the track. Even when the clipped the edge of the track, the AI was able to get you car back on track and remain in the race.


BOTTOM LINE – SHOULD YOU BUY OVERDRIVE

Absolutely! The cost of this product may seem high when compared to other similar products, but the gaming experience and the intelligence of the AI-powered opponents make it worth the extra investment.

There are also several ways you can add to the Overdrive fun by adding additional track pieces, other cars, and trucks which can inject new life into the product once the shine wears off.

You can buy Overdrive starter kits addition Supercars or Supertrucks and accessories from Anki, Amazon, and Toys R’ US.

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Improve Your Notes With The Livescribe 3 Smartpen

If you have ever tried writing on a tablet or phone screen, you know that it is a less than amicable experience. Especially, when you have horrible handwriting such as myself, writing on a screen leads to an illegible amount of scribble that ends up being completely useless. Check out the Livescribe 3 Smartpen for a possible solution!

If you have ever tried writing on a tablet or phone screen, you know that it is a less than amicable experience. Especially, when you have horrible handwriting such as myself, writing on a screen leads to an illegible amount of scribble that ends up being completely useless.

Sometimes paper simply beats digital. The experience of writing on a tablet, no matter how far the technology in touch screens and digital pens has progressed, is sub-par at best. 

However, even though writing on paper is better than glass, you don’t want to wind up having several notebooks piling up around you. Nor do you want to take the time to scan each page into your PC for viewing later.  With the Livescribe smartpen, you can now take notes on paper and have them automatically be replicated digitally with zero effort.

HOW DOES IT WORK

The Livescribe Smartpen looks like a simple (slightly large) pen. However, it connects to your tablet or smartphone and syncs with the Livescribe application which is available on iOS and Android. The pen pairs to your device with a Bluetooth connection.

The caveat with the Livescribe is that you have to use the Livescribe “Dot Paper” notebooks which contain a specific dot pattern, allowing the pen to know exactly what you have written, and where.

You can also record audio along with your written notes by tapping the record icon on the dot paper notebook. This could come in helpful while conducting an interview, for example. A useful feature which is highlighted in the video below.

The pen contains a small about of memory as well, allowing you to save a small amount of written text on the pen should you be away from your smart device while taking notes.

As mentioned, you’re bound to using the Livescribe Dot Paper for your note taking. However, you are not bound to the Livescribe application for storing your notes. The Livescribe pen has third party integrations for Beesy for iPad, Noteshelf for iPad, Microsoft OneNote, and Evernote.

The cost of the Livescribe pen may give pause, but if you take a lot of notes and want to sync and store them digitally, and with ease, it may be worth the investment. 

The Livescribe 3 is available on Amazon Canada and Best Buy Canada for around $250 CAD.

What do you think? Overpriced gimmick, or a great solution to your notetaking woes? 

4moms Self-Installing Car Seat

Installing a car seat is a scary thing. You never truly know if it was done properly. It does not have to be that way any longer. The Self-Installing car seat from 4moms ensures that your seat is installed correctly and that you baby is riding safely.

As a father of 3, I have installed and reinstalled many car seats over the years. It is never fun, and you never know if it is 100% correct. Is it uneven? Is it tight enough, too tight? No matter how many times I have installed the seat, I always have a small amount of doubt in my mind and fear that it was installed incorrectly.

If only there were a way to ensure it was installed correctly. Sure, you could go to a car seat clinic usually put on police or fire services, but again, they are also eye-balling the installation and hoping for the best.

Now there is. The 4moms self-installing car seat will give you that peace of mind that your seat was installed correctly and your baby is as safe as possible.

Once you have placed the seat base in the car and connected the anchors on both sides of the seat, the automated portion of the installation takes over from there. Using the 4moms application on your smartphone, the seat will tighten the UAS anchors to correct level of tension. Next, the app will signal the seat to level-out, ensuring that it is completely level with the ground below.

Not only does the application show you this information, but the seat base itself also has an LCD screen as well.

It does not end there, though. By way of the application, the seat will be continuously be monitored, alerting you to any issues with latching, leveling, tension, battery and child size.

One thing we always have had a concern with regarding the installation of our infant carrier was if the baby was too big to stay in the carrier. Or perhaps the harness is too high/too low. The 4moms application covers this as well.

It is great to see a company like 4moms investing in technology add-ons for devices such as car seats. It is known that 4 out of 5 car seats are installed correctly, yet, most manufacturers do little to improve their products to ensure a correct installation. 

The 4moms self-installing car seat can be purchased directly from 4moms for $499.99 and is available in gray or black. They ship for free in the USA and Canada.

It is also available from Amazon US for $479.99 USD. It does not appear to be available on Amazon Canada.

Super Mario Run is Launching on December 15th

Super Mario Run is only one month away from launch. The game launches on December 15th on iOS devices.

Back in September, at a recent Apple event, Nintendo announced that they would be launching a new Super Mario game for iOS devices later this year. Well, that time is nearly here.

Super Mario Run will launch on December 15th for iOS devices only. You can download and try the game for free, but there will be a one-time in-game purchase of $9.99 USD to unlock the full Super Mario Run experience.

The game will offer three different game modes, which can all be tried within the free version.

Along with this announcement, Nintendo has also launched a gameplay trailer that should help to get you excited for the launch.

I’m not sure about you, but I am very excited for the release of this game. The game looks like a good mix of old-school Mario and new-school Nintendo.

As mentioned, the game will only be on iOS for now. There is no official statement from Nintendo for an Android release. However, after the Apple event in September Nintendo did say that Super Mario Run will come to Android at some point. So hang tight! If you’re running a Windows Mobile device, hang in there!. Never mind, you know the drill by now.

Nintendo is primed to pull in some hefty profits between the launch of Super Mario Run and the NES Classic Edition this holiday season.

What do you think about Super Mario Run? Does it bring back your childhood nostalgia for these games or has the Mario franchise ran its course and needs to fade into the sunset finally?

Microsoft Teams is here… Watch out #Slack

Look out Slack… Microsoft is coming for you!

Microsoft has finally lifted the veil on their Slack competitor, which will be known as Microsoft Teams.

Teams, like Slack, is a chat-based work-space. Since this product is from Microsoft, it will rely on you having an Office 365 account.

As of the November 2nd, Teams is available as a preview to Office 365 customers in 181 cuountries, and 18 languages. As mentioned this is for Office 365 customers, but at this time, that is limited to Enterprise and Business customers.

Why develop a tool like Teams? Microsoft sees that there has been tremendous change in how teams communicate with each other, as well as tremendous opportunity opportunities to improve communications even further.

With Microsoft Teams, we aspire to create a more open, digital environment that makes work visible, integrated and accessible—across the team—so everyone can stay in the know.

— Office Blog – Kirk Koenigsbauer, corporate vice president for the Office team.

Should Slack be worried? I think they should, and apparently are since they felt the need to take a full page ad out in the New York Times. With Microsoft Teams having full integration into Office 365, which is a clear leader in this space, the ability to integrate with you existing workflows will be or should be seamless. Here are a few reason Microsoft mentioned in their blog post helping to drive that message home.

  • Exchange is the undisputed leader in corporate email and according to Gartner has “80 percent share of companies using cloud email with revenue above $10 billion.”
  • SharePoint provides intranets and content management solutions to more than 200,000 organizations and 190 million people.
  • Yammer is the social network for work, enabling cross-company discussions for 85 percent of the Fortune 500.
  • Skype for Business provides real-time voice, video and conferencing and hosts more than 100 million meetings a month.
  • Office 365 Groups is our cross-application membership service that makes it easy for people to move naturally from one collaboration tool to another.

Teams is expected to be out of preview by early 2017. Check out the full post on the Office Blog!

Kickstarter Spotlight: Dot: The Physical Push Notification

Welcome to the first in a series of “Kickstarter Spotlights” where a fun and useful Kickstarter project will be shared.

First up is the “Dot” a “Physical Push Notification”

Welcome to a new series on Mobile Canuck. Each week (maybe more!) I will spotlight a new and exciting Kickstarter project that is worth having a look at.

Kickstarter Spotlight

First up in the series is “Dot: The Physical Notification”.

What is Dot?

The “Dot” is a location based tracking tag of sorts that will perform a specific task based you have assigned to it when you enter the area that the Dot is secured.

For example, when you enter the garage after arriving home from work, the Dot can alert you to start dinner, or to take the trash out.

Think of Dot as a physical “IFTTT” (If This Than That) device.

The Dot connects to your smartphone via a Bluetooth connection. As mentioned, when you get within range of your Dot it will understand where you are and remind you of only the notifications relevant to that location.

Dot can also be used to control smart home devices such as light bulbs or thermostats and since it is specific to your device, any family member can set it to adjust those devices to their preference when they enter the space.

You can also use Dot for more simple things such as seeing if your roommate is home and if they are busy or not. A Dot placed on their door can indicate if they are they and based on colour selection, can be used as a visual queue to say “C’mon in!” or “Go away!”.

The Dot is controlled via the companies iOS or Android app, as seen below.

The Dot team has opened their API up to developers making the use cases for this device endless.

How much is Dot and when can I get one?

Currently, the Dot has based their Kickstarter goal almost 5 times over with a little under $100,000 pledged buy 1,400 plus backers.

With 7 days remaining, a pledge of $20 will get you one Dot, while $55 will net you three Dots. You can pledge all the way up to $5,000 for 20+ Dots and a “Small Business Tracking Solution”

The Dot team expects delivery of the Dot to backers for March of 2017.

Check the Dot out on KICKSTARTER

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