Best Camping Tech for 2021

If you are going camping this summer, you are going to want to check out this list of the best camping and outdoor tech.

While it is certainly nice to step away from the busy tech-focused world we live in, leaving our phones and computers behind, there is also something to be said for getting away on an adventure with the best outdoor tech and gadgets available. 

Check out my list of the best camping and outdoor tech for 2021 


BIOLITE CAMPSTOVE 2 – $299.95

I covered the BIOLITE CampStove 2 back in back 2017 when it was first released. The CampStove 2 is a portable wood burning stove that converts heat into electricity. 

BioLite’s patented core technology captures waste heat from the fire through a heat probe attached to the stove’s power pack. The captured heat is converted into electricity via a thermoelectric generator. This powers a fan and sends electricity to a USB charging port. Excess power is stored in the internal. The internal fan injects air back into the burn chamber which improves combustion and creating a cleaner, more efficient burn.

The CampStove also comes with an array of accessories such as a lamp, kettle and cooking grill.

Check out the BIOLITE CAMPSTOVE 2.  


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LUMINAID PACKLITE LANTERN – $49.99

The LUMINAID PACKLITE LANTERN is something I have never considered needing before. However, when I think back to every time my family and I have gone camping, one thing that inevitably happens is we arrive to the site late in the day and are trying to setup camp and cook dinner since we are all starving after a long drive. 

I have used trouble lights, oil lanterns or even our van’s headlights, but none of those are ideal. When I came across the LUMINAID I knew it needed to be on this list! 

The lantern is solar powered so you will need to do a bit of planning to ensure it has a charge to get you up and running. You can also charge via a USB port if solar is not an option, however.

Delivering up to 150 lumens of LED light at max power and can supply up to 50 hrs. of light in low power mode. 

My suggestion is to pick up 4-5 of these lanterns to illuminate your entire campsite. They are also waterproof with an IP67 rating so they can stay setup for the whole trip. 

Check out the LUMINAID PACKLITE LANTERN


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LIFESTRAW PERSONAL WATER FILTER – $25

The LIFESTRAW PERSONAL WATER FILTER is something you are going to want to have on hand if you are going to be away from a potable water source on your next camping or hiking adventure. 

The LIFESTRAW filter removes a minimum of 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria, 99.9% of waterborne protozoan parasites, and filters to 0.2 microns. It does this without the need for iodine, chlorine, or other chemicals. 

You can place this in any body of water like a river or stream and drink through the straw delivery clean, filtered water that will not harm you. A must if you are going to heading into the back county.

Check out the LIFESTRAW PERSONAL WATER FILTER 


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AKASO V50 PRO NATIVE 4K 30FPS 20MP WI-FI ACTION CAMERA WITH EIS TOUCH SCREEN – $189.99

Now we are into some real gadgets in the Gadget Syrup sense! You likely have not heard of AKASO before but think of them as a poor-man’s GoPro. And that is not a bad a thing! 

The AKASO V50 ACTION CAMERA records in up to 4K/30FPS, shoots 20MP stills and has WI-FI to transmit your content a smartphone for editing and sharing. 

This action cam also offers EIS or Electronic Image Stabilization to ensure your videos and images are stable and clear. There is also a 6-position gyroscope onboard to ensure the camera always knows which direction it is oriented. 

This camera bundle includes 2 x rechargeable 1100 mAh batteries, chargers, a remote-control wristband, and lots of other useful accessories. 

AKASO V50 Pro Action Cam
AKASO 14 in 1 Action Camera Accessory Kit

If you really want to step up your action camera game, you should also consider the AKASO 14 IN 1 ACTION CAMERA ACCESSORY KIT. This add-on kit only costs $24.99 CAD and includes useful add-ons such as the chest strap, mini tripod, and floating wrist strap. 

Check out the AKASO V50 PRO ACTION CAMERA 


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JBL FLIP 5 PORTABLE WATERPROOF WIRELESS BLUETOOTH SPEAKER – $149.98

The JBL FLIP 5 is one of the best rugged and waterproof speakers available and comes in a variety of assorted colours. Eleven to be exact.

Look at all those colours!

The 4800mAh battery provides up to 12 hours of playback time and the speaker is IPX7 rated, which means it can be submerged in up to 3 ft of water with no fear of damage. 

Its cylindrical design also makes the FLIP 5 easy to pack in your back, taking up minimal space.

The FLIP 5 also supports pairing with other “partyboost” speakers giving you the ability to create a stereo pair.

Check out the JBL FLIP 5 PORTABLE WATERPROOF WIRELESS BLUETOOTH SPEAKER


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JACKERY PORTABLE POWER STATION EXPLORER – From $259.99

A few years ago, the family and I went camping in Northern Ontario. The site we selected was a no-power site. We figured we would be fine without electricity and we could use the battery from our SUV to keep our cooler running overnight. Using the car each day to keep the battery charged for the next night would be fine. We woke up on day two and the battery to the SUV was dead and our food was warm.  

Sigh. We moved to a powered site immediately. 

Had we planned better we would have brought one of these with us. 

The JACKERY PORTABLE POWER STATION EXPLORER will let you power and charge your devices when you cannot get to a wall charger. You can power up to 4 devices at a time including smartphones, laptops, small heaters, and lights. 

The JACKERY PORTABLE POWER STATION EXPLORER also can be recharged via solar, but you will need to purchase the solar panel separately. 

Its biggest limitation is that it cannot power devices like a kettle because of the wattage requirements. 

Check out the JACKERY PORTABLE POWER STATION EXPLORER 


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VANKYO BURGER 101 3D PICO PROJECTOR – $276.99

The VANKYO BURGER 101 3D PICO PROJECTOR may be a bit of an unnecessary camping item, but it sure is a lot of fun. I have long been a user of the Motorola Z line of phone and Moto Mods. The mod I have used most has been the Incipio InstaShare Projector which snaps onto the back of the phone, turning it into a fully functional projector. 

The VANKYO BURGER 101 3D PICO PROJECTOR does not snap onto the phone, but instead connects via Wi-Fi or HDMI to your smartphone, tablet, or laptop. 

This projector provides up to the equivalent of a 100” screen size at 1080p resolution and has a built-in 5200mAh battery which is more than enough to get through a movie or a few TV shows on Netflix. 

All of this comes in a device that weighs about the same as an iPhone 12. 

The projector also supports 3D playback if you have 3D glasses, which are not included. However, I would not buy this for its 3D capabilities, but more for its size and convenience.

Don’t forget a big white sheet and some rope to create a makeshift projector screen!

Check out the VANKYO BURGER 101 3D PICO PROJECTOR 


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That is it! There are hundreds of other fun and useful gadgets you could take camping with you, but these are some of my favourites. I hope you enjoyed and let me know in the comments what type of tech you take with you when venture to the great outdoors.


If you would like to see other guides like this, send me an email HERE.

New Motorola Razr Comes With Nightstand Amplifier Because Why Not

The new Moto Razr is coming soon! Moto has shown off some new features including the box doubling as a nightstand amplifier.

Motorola’s new Razr is due in the US on February 6th, with other areas coming soon thereafter. As we get closer to the launch date Motorola US has started dropping videos on their YouTube channel highlighting some of the features of the Razr.

In this first video we see what the unboxing experience looks like. The video is short, but shows that the Razr comes bundled with a Turbo Power charger, “Razr Earbuds”, which will likely be USB Type-C, an accessory carrying case and a “Nightstand Amplifier”. Ok, it actually doesn’t come with that, but they are saying the box doubles as one. Motorola didn’t share anything more than that, so we will need to wait and see what this amplifier really does. I think we can likely assume it will simply function as an ersatz loudspeaker (like when you put your phone in a cup or paper towel tube).


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Check out the video below;

“Unboxing Razr”

You can check out more Razr videos on the Motorola US YouTube Channel here.

Blitzwolf® BW-VP1 LCD Projector Review

I’ve always liked the idea of having a projector as in my home theater but could never justify the price. Projectors, for years, have been very expensive and often don’t deliver as good as a result as a mid to high end TV can. I do think the latter is the case, but the former is no longer the case. Prices of projectors have come down a lot over the years making them something the average person may consider when setting up with home theater.

I’ve always liked the idea of having a projector as in my home theater but could never justify the price. Projectors, for years, have been very expensive and often don’t deliver as good as a result as a mid to high end TV can. I do think the latter is the case, but the former is no longer the case. Prices of projectors have come down a lot over the years making them something the average person may consider when setting up with home theater.

When my friends at Banggood.com offered me an opportunity to demo the BlitzWolf BW-VP1 projector I figured I would give it a shot and see how it went.


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First a few specs:

  • Resolution: 720p Out, 1080p Input
  • Lumens: 2800
  • Contrast Ratio: 2000:1
  • Lamp Hours: 50,000
  • Projection Size: 50″ to 200″
  • Built-In Speaker
  • Remote Control Included

Ports:

  • HDMI or VGA for Video In and Out
  • 3.5mm for Video In and Out
  • USB for Playing Video from USB Key

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So is it any good?

Before I answer that, you should read the review I recently posted of the BlitzWolf BW-VC1 smart vacuum. It was a bumpy ride to say the least. Check it out then come back…

BlitzWolf BW-VC1 Review


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… OK welcome back. So was the projector from a company that has made its hay making affordable audio accessories any good? Surprisingly, yes.

I used the projector in my basement home theater that has 3 small windows with black-out blinds. Point being, it gets very dark down there, at anytime of day. The projector was throwing an image about 9 feet from the wall which measured out to about 100″ display size.



There is not a whole lot to say about a projector since it serves a single purpose and either does it well or it doesn’t. In the case of the BW-VP1 I would say it performed very well for each use. Most of our use with it centered around light gaming. The NES Classic had made an appearance over the Christmas break and was the console of choice for my kids and myself. We played a lot of Mario Kart, Super Punch Out, F-Zero, Star Fox and for some reason, unknown to me, a lot of Kirby (awful game). For that purpose the projector was spectacular. However, I did hook up our Xbox briefly for some Call of Duty and Halo testing and the results we good, but not great. There was some visible image trailing or ghosting when things really got sped up, but most of the time it wasn’t too noticeable.


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We did watch a few TV shows on the projector, but we’ve been binge watching old episodes of Shark Tank, which isn’t a very demanding show visually. Regardless of the application though, colour quality and clarity was good and I would say I was pleased with the results considering this projector costs only CAD $105 at the time of this review.


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Should You Buy This?

So, should you buy this? I would say give it a shot. For the price point it sits at and the specs it delivers, it is worth trying out. It does lack things like digital focus, longer throw range and multiple inputs for more HDMI enabled systems. However, for $105 I think you can live with a few short comings. while saving a pile of cash. 1080p projectors with more inputs and other features can costs as much as 3 times more.

Want to try the BW-VP1 Projector out for yourself? Check it out over at Banggood by clicking the link below!

A Bird? A Plane? A… Vacuum??

Recently I reviewed my first smart vacuum. It was a mixed bag to say the least. It did a great job with the day-to-day dog fur and crumbs left behind by the kids, but it repeatedly accosted my Golden Retriever and finally gave up the ghost and stopped working altogether thanks to a lidar-related error that I am still working on with BlitzWolf support.

One thing I didn’t mention in the review was the obvious downfall of most smart vacuums. Stairs. Smart vacuums lack arms and legs, therefore they are stuck on whatever level of your house you decide it will live. But what if your vacuum could fly…

YouTuber and engineer Peter Sripol has heavily modified his smart vac to do just that. Check it out.



This is a pretty impressive bit of work Peter has done, and all for about $200. It does have its limitation though. Due to the lack of the needed sensors to navigate on its own while in flight, the vacuum does need to be piloted by a person and due to the downdraft from the fans it will blow around any dirt it hopes to clean up.

Those issues aside, this is just a proof-of-concept and more of a fun party trick than anything else right now. With time though, I do hope to see actual vacuum manufacturers finding ways for their vacuums to overcome stairs.

Anki Cozmo – New Version!!

If you have been following GadgetSyrup since the beginning, you likely know that I am a huge fan of Anki and their products. I first discovered Anki when their Cozmo robot was announced and have since reviewed every product they have released. The strides they have taken with their products and the amount fun the bring to our home are amazing. Overdrive, their AI-assisted racing game is guaranteed to to deliver hours of fun. As for Cozmo, we have two, the original and the Collector’s Edition with its Liquid Metal finish Every time Cozmo comes out, the kids go wild. I’m not going to lie, so do I!

Anki has recently announced their next big product, Vector, a more power and advanced version of Cozmo, but that doesn’t mean that Cozmo is going to scrap heap! In fact, Anki has just announced a new Cozmo edition, Cozmo LE.

If you have been following GadgetSyrup since the beginning, you likely know that I am a huge fan of Anki and their products. I first discovered Anki when their Cozmo robot was announced and have since reviewed every product they have released. The strides they have taken with their products and the amount fun the bring to our home are amazing. Overdrive, their AI-assisted racing game is guaranteed to to deliver hours of fun. As for Cozmo, we have two, the original and the Collector’s Edition with its Liquid Metal finish Every time Cozmo comes out, the kids go wild. I’m not going to lie, so do I!

Anki has recently announced their next big product, Vector, a more powerful and advanced version of Cozmo, but that doesn’t mean that Cozmo is going to scrap heap! In fact, Anki has just announced a new Cozmo edition, Cozmo Limited Edition.

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What is Cozmo Limited Edition?

It has only been two short years since Anki released Cozmo to world. Since then he has been one of the most successful toys, and I use the term toy loosely because Cozmo is so much more than that. Yes, Cozmo delivers lots of fun, but he also brings a powerful educational tool thanks to the Cozmo Code Lab.

Thanks to the wild success of Cozmo, who was the #1 best-selling toy on Amazon in the US, UK & France in 2017, Anki has continued to celebrate that success by giving us Cozmo in “Interstellar Blue”. He is the same lovable WALL-E-like Cozmo, just with a fresh coat of paint.

Where Can You Get Cozmo Limited Edition?

Cozmo Limited Edition is being sold exclusively at Best Buy Canada. He was released on September 23. For other countries, keep an eye on Anki’s website for additional regions.

Cozmo Limited Edition is retailing for $249.99 CAD at Best Buy, and for those of you in the US, Cozmo will set you back $179.99 USD.

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Final Thoughts

I am happy to see that Anki is continuing to support Cozmo with Vector on the way later this year. They are even “working on an entirely new way for Cozmo to express his personality for this Holiday season”. I am very excited to see what kind of fun the Cozmo team can bring us for Christmas.

It is also nice to see new colour combinations coming to Cozmo, and I hope that Vector sees some similar options, but what would be even better would be a system where customers can customize their own Cozmo. Something not too far off what Motorola used to offer with the Moto X line of phones, Moto Maker.

Check out Cozmo at Best Buy Canada today and let me know what you think of the newest Cozmo version in the comments below. I would love to hear from you!

Meet Anki’s Newest Family Member: Vector

Anki has announced what they have referred to as  “an older brother” to Cozmo. His name is Vector and based on my early impressions of him, he is going to be great!

Vector, unlike little brother Cozmo, has that “always-on” functionality and will be able to zip around on his own. No precious phone WiFi connections need to be sacrificed. Vector also has upgraded internals making him more powerful than before, which should also lead to improved battery life. 

You all remember Cozmo. The incredibly lovable, WALL-E-like, robot from Anki. I reviewed Cozmo, and the special edition Cozmo last year and was blown away by how fun and playful this little guy was. Recently, while on vacation we had the “Cozmo Brothers” out, as my son calls them, and even after being with us for about a year the kid’s eyes lit up when Cozmo turned to them and called out their name. 

If there was one thing that left us wanting more with Cozmo was that he lacked an “always-on” feature. To use Cozmo you needed to sacrifice your tablet or phones WiFi connection to connect and run Cozmo. Once connected, you could let him roam around the area and he would do his own thing, prompting every so often to play a game or let you know he needed some attention. Don’t get me wrong, it was fun, but it always felt a tad forced and not as natural as we had hoped.

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Today, that seems like it is about to change. Anki has announced what they have referred to as  “an older brother” to Cozmo. His name is Vector and based on my early impressions of him, he is going to be great!

Vector, unlike little brother Cozmo, has that “always-on” functionality and will be able to zip around on his own. No precious phone WiFi connections need to be sacrificed. Vector also has upgraded internals making him more powerful than before, which should also lead to improved battery life. 

Another major development over Cozmo is in the sensor area as well. Vector has a capacitive on his back which lets him feel when you are patting him on the back or petting him much like you would your dog or cat. We’re also going to see improved gyro sensors too, which will enhance the experience over Cozmo when moving Vector from place to place.

There are dozens of other improvements that Vector has of little brother, Cozmo, but the last one I’ll point out today is his microphone array. With a four-mic array Vector will be able to hear considerably better than Cozmo and from further distances, making him quicker to react and will save you having to raise your voice to get his attention. By itself, this is great and a welcomed addition, but when paired with Vector’s always-on WiFi Anki was able to incorporate smart assistant functionality akin to Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Vector’s assistant functionality will not be on par with that of Google or Amazon, but setting things like timers, trivial web searches, tell you the weather, and more. That is all expected at launch, but if Cozmo’s development path is any indicator, the Anki team will work tirelessly to improve Vector over time, adding as much functionality as possible.

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Vector launches today (8/8/18) on Kickstarter and should be available early to mid-October of this year. That’s right, just in time for Christmas!!

Let me know what you think of Vector and also check out my other Anki content and reviews by clicking the link below.

GadgetSyrup | Anki

Navatics MITO Underwater Drone Preview

Meet the Navatics MITO, launching today on Kickstarter. It is an underwater drone that is being touted as the “most stable underwater drone that makes marine photography accessible for everyday consumers and professionals alike. Well, that’s a big claim if you ask me, let’s dive into this a bit further.

The market for drones has been and continues to, grow rapidly. They offer a lot, whether it is for business or pleasure, a drone can be a very useful investment. There is a new segment of the drone market that is growing even more, and that is underwater drones.

Meet the Navatics MITO, launching today on Kickstarter. It is an underwater drone that is being touted as the “most stable underwater drone that makes marine photography accessible for everyday consumers and professionals alike. Well, that’s a big claim if you ask me, let’s dive into this a bit further. Sorry; not sorry for the bad pun!

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What is the Navatics MITO

The MITO is an underwater drone capable of exploring at depths of up to 130 ft and can shoot 4k video at 30 frames per second.

The MITO also comes equipped with a 50 meter/165 foot tether to ensure your drone does not wander too far. The 165 ft tether is required for use, however, the tether comes with a buoy that is also a wireless transmitter that extends the range of the MITO an additional 500 meters.

There are many use cases for an underwater drone whether you are a diver, work in marine maintenance or a professional marine videographer. 

Key Features

Outside of the obvious 4k30fps video capabilities, the drones optics are also stabilized using a four-axis active stabilization algorithm developed by the Navatics team. According to Navatics, this stabilization system will allow for the MITO to “hover” and keep its orientation in various underwater conditions for up to four hours. I think this is pretty impressive, but take note, that is not 4 continuous hours. The MITO comes equipped with an 80 Wh battery which has a range of 2 to 4 hours of usage, depending on the marine conditions you’re operating in.

The MITO is also controlled by your smartphone. Not a proprietary controller, which is a key point for me. Being able to leverage to power of your phone and its various types of connectivity, MITO pilots can instantly share or stream video and pictures from the MITO app to Instagram, Facebook and WeChat. Note: 1080p limitation when streaming.

Speaking of the app, have a look at the user-interface below. By all accounts, it appears to be chock full of functionality but does not appear to be overwhelming. 

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Full Specifications

  • Components: Navatics MITO, a tether floatation and a remote controller
  • Stability: Advanced four-axis active stabilization algorithm
  • Weight: 3 kg / 6.6 lbs. (including battery)
  • Dimensions: 360mm x 300mm x 135mm / 14” x 12” x 5”
  • Mobility: Equipped with four thrusters enabling it to tilt up and down to 45° angles while holding its
  • depth, heading and orientation
  • Recording / Images: 4K video recording up to 30 fps (mp4) and 8 MP still images (JPEG)
  • Video Transmission: 1080 HD at 30 fps live video within 500 m / 1640 ft. (powered by Senseplay)
  • Storage: 64GB Micro SD card
  • Depth: maximum 40 m / 135 ft.
  • Tether Length: 50 m / 165 ft.
  • Tether floatation: 4-hours runtime, equipped with a solar panel to extend the duration of usage
  • Speed: Up to 2 meters per second / 4 knots
  • Interchangeable batteries: 80Wh, providing a minimum 2-hour runtime
  • Lighting: 2 1000 lumen LED lights
  • App: Available for both iOS and Android
  • Colour Correction: Integrated into smartphone app for easy correction
  • Social Sharing: Share directly to Instagram, Facebook and WeChat

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MITO Gallery

Where To Buy The Navatics MITO Underwater Drone?

The MITO is available for pre-order today (May 29th) on Kickstarter for a super early bird price of $1,199 USD. For this really low introductory price the MITO ships with a 4k camera, one battery, a remote controller cradle for your smartphone and a 50-meter/165 foot tether.

Navatics expects the MITO to start shipping in September of 2018.

If you would like to back the campaign or learn more about the MITO underwater drone check out their Kickstarter page or visit www.navatics.com.

Let me know what you think about the Navatics MITO Underwater Drone. Will it be making it onto your wish list this summer?

Best Surface Book 2 Accessories

The Surface Book 2 may be the most “complete” notebook on the market in 2018. It checks all the boxes, but like any device, the experience is dramatically improved with the correct accessories.

Check out my list of the best Surface Book 2 Accessories!

The Surface Book 2 may be the most “complete” notebook on the market in 2018. It checks all the boxes, but like any device, the experience is dramatically improved with the correct accessories.

Check out my list of the best Surface Book 2 Accessories!


Megoo Surface Book Tempered Glass Screen Protector

 The Surface Book 2 had a gorgeous touchscreen, so taking care of it should be of the highest priority!

 The Megoo Tempered Glass screen protector is a must. Spec’ed at 9H hardness the Megoo can stand up to scuffs and scratches from nearly any object.

Some lower quality screen protectors cause the display to look faded or dull. That won’t be that case with the Megoo, since it is highly transparent, allowing 94% of light through from the display.

It is also only 0.2mm thick, so added weight and bulk on the display will not be an issue.

You can pick up the  Megoo Surface Book Tempered Glass Screen Protector at Amazon.ca for around $25 CAD.

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Xbox One Wireless Controller

The Surface Book 2 packs some serious power. The review unit I have been spending time with of late ships with a Nvidia discrete GPU w/2GB GDDR5,  an 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8650U at 4.2 GHz, and 16 GB of RAM.

With all that power, you’d be doing Microsoft a disservice by not using it for gaming, and you can’t game, properly, without an Xbox One controller.

Selling at the Microsoft Store for $74.99 CAD, the Xbox One controller will work with both your Windows 10 PC and Xbox One game console.


StarTech.com USB-C Docking Station

Surface devices have suffered from a lack of ports to allow users to connect various peripherals and displays. The Surface Book 2 is no exception offering only two USB 3 Type A ports, one USB Type C port and an SDXC slot. Actually, that is better than say the Surface Laptop which peers only a single USB Type A and mini DisplayPort connection, but given the performance abilities of the Book 2, I would have hoped for more connectivity options.

Thankfully, many companies offer various docking station options which give users a variety of ports. One solid example is the StarTech.com DK30A2DH docking station.

The DK30A2DH allows users to connect dual 4k displays, six USB Type A devices, Ethernet, and 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks. All of this connects to the Surface Book 2 via a single USB Type C connection.

The  DK30A2DH sells for just over $227 CAD from Amazon.ca

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Surface Pen

Any Surface device wouldn’t be complete without a Surface Pen. Since the original Surface release, the Pen has seen dramatic improvements with each new release. The current Surface Pen iteration is incredibly precise with 4,096 pressure points which makes drawing and sketching nearly lag-free.

The Surface Pen doesn’t come cheap though. It will set you back $129.99 CAD.


That’s it! Those are my picks for some of the best Surface Book 2 accessories? Agree? Disagree? What did I miss? Let me know in the comments section below!

 Don’t forget to check out my Surface Book 2 Review while you’re here!

Motorola Moto Mod Insta-Share Projector Review

Check out the GadgetSyrup Review of the Motorola Mod InstaShare Projector.

I pint sized projector that snaps onto the back of your phone!

Motorola was kind enough to send over a few Moto mods to test drive with the Moto Z I have on hand. 

If you’re not familiar with the Moto Mod concept, it is Motorola’s take on the modular phone, allowing you to snap various different modular devices to the back of any one of Motorola’s Z series phones. 

The mods range from very simple mods like a faux-wood grain back cover to a $300+ Hasselblad camera with 10 X optical zoom.

One of the Mods I have been using over the past few weeks has been the Motorola Insta-Share Projector.

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Specs: 

  • 50 Lumens
  • 480, up to 70″ screen size
  • 1100 mAh battery with USB C
  • 10,000 lamp hours
  • 125g in weight

Those specs won’t blow most, actually any, other projectors out of the water. But that’s not the goal. The value-proposition of being able to snap this projector to the back of your phone and instantly have 70″ projection screen is what really stands out. Much like printing photos on your ink-jet printer at home compared to taking them to photo lab. At home, it will be lower quality, but the immediacy of being able to print them right away, rather than wait is a major benefit. The projector mod also comes with a handy carrying case to keep it protected when on the go.

How does it work?

The Insta-Share projector, like all Moto Mods, connects to the back of any Moto Z series phone via a combination of magnets and contact pins. The magnets hold the mod in place, while the contact pins allow for data transfer between the mod and the phone.

To use the projector, there is a power button to the right of the projector lens which turns it on or off. Once powered, the focus of the projector is controlled by a jog wheel to the left of the lens. 

The projector, once powered, automatically displays the image from the display of your phone. No extra intervention is needed. Simply connect the mod and power it on.

The mod, thankfully, charges overs USB C connection, which is welcomed since the Moto Z also charges over USB C.

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Is it any good?

Surprisingly, yes! The first time I snapped the projector on the back of my Moto Z I was ready for a grainy, dull mess but, I was blown away by just how good the picture was. The brightness was better than expected, clarity was much higher than expected and on top of it, the ease of use was incredible.

The mods 1100 mAh battery is rated to provide up to an hour of projection time before your phone battery takes over and starts to drain. In my use of the projector so far, it does not even come close to that 1-hour rating. Within 30 or so minutes the projector battery was depleted and the phone’s battery started draining, fast!

The build quality was rather impressive too. When fitted to the phone, the mod feels like it belongs there. The buttons are tactile and responsive. The kickstand provides excellent resistance, keeping the phone at any desired angle and also stays secure when close thanks to a few magnets.

 

Why would you want this?

It really comes down to the immediacy factor of being able to pull the projector out and fire up a video on the spot. My wife and I have 3 small children. When you’re on the go and need them to stop climbing the walls for a few minutes, pulling the projector from your bag and snapping it to the phone makes them stop dead in their tracks and suddenly are sitting cross-legged waiting for the video to start.

I guess you could say the mod is nothing more than a cool party trick or instant child tamer, but until you have used it and experienced the versatility of the Moto Mod eco-system, you cannot really appreciate how useful and fun they can be.

Should you buy this? 

Before even considering the mod itself, you have to ask yourself if Motorola it’s the right ecosystem for you in general. Motorola does an excellent job of keeping Android as vanilla as possible while also making great improvements with utilities like Moto-Voice and Moto-Actions, but they tend to be very slow with OS updates. My Moto Z is still stuck on Android 7.1 Nougat, while Google is full steam ahead on Android P development.

If you can live with Motorola shortcomings and after intrigued by the mod ecosystem, I’d absolutely recommend the Insta-Share Projector. The price tag, however, may deter you. When launched this mod retailed for around $400. It has been heavily discounted, but will still set you back $224.99.

For me, I have always enjoyed Motorola’s phones, but their camera tech has always considerably subpar, driving more towards the likes of the Google Pixel. With add-ons like the Mods, however, I may consider giving Moto a go as my daily driver. That does hinge on if Moto doubles down on mods beyond their 3-year commitment, or decides to retire the form factor after the Moto Z3.

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What did you think of the Insta-Share Projector? Is it enough to make you consider the Moto Z line of phones? I’d love to hear what you have to say, so feel free to comment down below!

Moto Mods – “Modify Your Smartphone”

Motorola was kind enough to send along a few Moto Mods to test drive with the Moto Z2 Play that they have also sent for review. Check out the Moto Insta-Share Projector and the Polaroid Insta-Share Printer!

In 2016 Motorola made a splash when they launched their Moto Z line of phones which come with a unique ultra-thin design with an array of exposed pins on the back which allow you to connect various members of Motorola’s “Mod” family of devices. Their success to date has been debatable since many “mods” are targeted to very niche audiences. 


What Are Moto Mods?

As I mentioned above, the Moto Mods are attachable devices that allow users to augment or modify their phones functionality by connecting via magnets and pogo pins to the back of any Moto Z phone model. At the time of this article, there are currently seven members of the Motorola Z line, released over two years. We will see more Moto Z branded phones in 2018 as well since Motorola committed to supporting the Moto Z design-language for at least 3 years, perhaps longer (depending on how well Moto has done with mods).


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Meet The Mods

Motorola was kind enough to send over two mods to test out and see how they perform. I will be diving into a full review of the mods once I take delivery of the Moto Z2 Play, which is currently in-transit.

First up, we have the Moto Insta-Share Projector mod. This mod, as all mods do, snaps onto the back of your phone and instantly turns your phone into a multimedia projector capable of projecting the equivalent of a 70″ screen on any flat surface.

The resolution is not incredibly high, coming in at WGA, which is 854×480. Otherwise referred to as 480p. The contrast ratio is 400:1 and the brightness is listed at 50 lumens. The Insta-Share Projector will set you back about $200 (USD). Compare that to a middle of the road Epson projector selling for $800 at Best Buy (Canada) it is no match. The Epson is capable of full HD 1080p resolution, 15000:1 contrast ratio and 3100 lumens. It’s no match, clearly. But the Insta-Share snaps to your phone and weighs only 125 grams, to the Epson’s 5.95 kg.

The projector also comes with a small built-in battery which gives your phone an extra hour of battery life according to Motorola and can be recharged via USB-C.

The amount of use the average person may get out of a projector is perhaps minimal, but it is a pretty handy accessory.



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The second mod I received is perhaps even more niche than the projector. The Polaroid Insta-Share Printer mod is a zero-ink printer (ZINK™) that prints 2″x3″ photos with an adhesive backing that allows you to “stick them anywhere to share the fun.” The printer mod does have a camera shutter button, which is an excellent add-on and takes me back to the good old days when I carried the Lumia 1020 and Lumia 1520 which, like most Windows Phones, had a physical shutter button.

It is also worth noting that the printer can print any photo stored on your phone, but just recent shots from your gallery. As mentioned, the printer is a zero-ink, so you never need to replace an ink cartridge at all. The only consumable is the zero-ink paper. Included with the mod is a starter pack of 10 sheets. Replacement ZINK™ packs come are available in 20 and 30 packs for $9.99 and $14.99 (USD) respectively. On the low end, you are looking at $0.50 per print. Comparing that to Costco Photo, which is $0.12 per 4×6 print, the printer mod is extremely expensive to print from, so you will need to use it sparingly.

Like the projector, the printer also contains a small battery and charges over USB-C.



Overall I think the Moto Mod ecosystem is very fun and exciting, these two mods included. I look forward to putting through their paces over the next few weeks.

Stay tuned for the full review shortly!

GadgetSyrup Geeky Gadget Gift Guide 2017

Christmas is right around the corner. Time to start thinking about the geeks on your shopping list.

Check out the GadgetSyrup Geek Gadget Gift Guide for 2017!

The holiday season is coming up quickly and let’s be honest here. The “geeks” in your life are not the easiest to buy for thanks to their introverted-ness and sometimes less than effective communication skills. With that in mind, and myself, being one of those “geeks” I just described, I have put together this short list of items that are sure to please even the pickiest of geeks.


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Anki Cozmo & Anki Cozmo Collectors Edition

 Cozmo CE & Cozmo
Cozmo CE & Cozmo

First up is Anki Cozmo. He was the must-have toy of the year last holiday season and it is looking like he will be right near the top again this year. However, you will have to make a choice if you plan to put Cozmo under the tree this year. Do you go with the classic white and red theme or do you pick up the Cozmo Collectors Edition which comes in a Liquid Metal paint finish. My vote; get both!

Check out my two Cozmo reviews HERE.

In Canada, Cozmo and Cozmo CE are available at Best Buy. Check them out!


Anki Overdrive Fast and Furious Edition

If you have been on the site before you know that I am a big fan of Anki and the great products they have released over the past year. Last year I reviewed and talked a lot about Anki Overdrive. It is a very fun and easy-to-play racing game that mixes in Artificial Intelligence into its software to take the game to a level not seen in this type of game. You can read my review of the original Overdrive game HERE and more recently, my unboxing and overview of the Fast and Furious Edition.

The inclusion of the Fast and Furious franchise into the Overdrive family has been tremendously done. The cars from Overdrive and even the original Anki Drive are compatible with the Fast and Furious app giving you endless amounts of possible race combinations.


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Google Home

If you have been keeping score in the smart speaker battle between Google’s Home and Amazon’s Echo/Alexa you would likely place Amazon in the lead, and you should. Alexa is literally everywhere and showing no signs of slowing down. However, I would recommend that a prospective smart speaker buyer get their feet wet with Google’s offering. 

The Google Home has been doing a wonderful job of playing catch up to get near feature parity with Amazon, but that is not the reason I would recommend the Home over the Echo. The functions of the Home will be familiar to most users, especially Android users since the Google Assistant is more or less the same when comparing the smartphone to the Home versions.

If you’re looking to get started with a smart speaker that is familiar and easy to use with hundreds of useful integrations the Google Home would be my pick.

Check out the Google Home HERE.


Aukey EP-B61 Bluetooth Headset

This Bluetooth headset from the accessory maker, Aukey, is, for all intents and porpuses, a budget alternative to those looking for the Apple-Beats X headset released earlier this year.

I reviewed this headset in early November and was pleased by the overall, quality of the audio provided. The biggest let down was more the fault of Bluetooth 4.2 issues than of the headset itself. 

One of my favourite features is the ability to have a simultaneous connection with two devices, making it easy to bounce between phone and laptop audio quickly.

Check out my review of the EP-B61 Headset HERE.


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ZUS Smart Tire Safety Monitor

 ZUS Tire Monitor (Image: Digital Trends)
ZUS Tire Monitor (Image: Digital Trends)

Let’s be honest, the tire pressure sensor and monitor that is built into your vehicle from the factory is pretty much useless. Some vehicles are better than others, but in the case of my two vehicles, a Ford and Dodge, they do not provide any information until one of the four tires are low on pressure. Once that alarm is sounded, I’m on my own to stop and manually check the pressure of each tire to see which tire is causing the alarm.

The ZUS Smart Tire Safety Monitor system is a must if the factory options provided by your automaker is as useless as mine.

Check out the ZUS Smart Tire Safety Monitor HERE.


August Smart Lock

 August Smart Lock (image: CNET)
August Smart Lock (image: CNET)

Do you need a smart lock? No, not really. However, all geeks and nerds alike feel that they need a smart lock. If you do decide to bestow a smart lock upon your geek, I would recommend the August Smart Lock.

Recently refreshed with a new lineup of more affordable locks, August is one of, if not the industry leader in this space.

You can see the full August lineup of smart locks HERE.


SNES Classic

Last year people were either trampling each other trying to get the last of a small shipment of NES Classics from their local Best Buy or actively trying to scam desperate parents out of hundreds of dollars so they could give little Jimmy an NES for Christmas. 

This year Nintendo has released the SNES Classic which has already shown to be in demand as much, if not more than the NES from a year ago. 

Nintendo has committed to more stock, and that appears to be the case despite stock selling out almost instantaneously when it comes available every few weeks or so. 

The SNES Classic comes with 21 games installed including the previously unreleased “Star Fox 2” which never saw the light of day during the original SNES glory days.

Pro Tip: The I have been able to get the line on the SNES Classic more than once this year by following Best Buy Canada’s gamer channel on Twitter. The account (@BBYC_GamersClub) does not tweet often, but when they do, it is usually to announce the availability of new games and consoles. I suggest following this account and turning on Tweet notifications to be ready for the next SNES Classic stock drop. Also, check out the site BrickSeek. It can send you notifications so you know when a retailer has stock online or instore.


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BITTBOY Handheld Gaming System

 A trio of BittBoy handhelds.
A trio of BittBoy handhelds.

If you were not lucky enough to find a SNES but still want to give your geek a retro-game fix the Bitt Boy is a handheld system that is more-or-less a classic GameBoy knockoff.

The Bitt Boy, unlike official Nintendo retro releases, does not run official games, but rather runs an NES emulator that comes stocked with about 300 different titles.

The build quality is certainly not going to be the greatest here, but for the price paid, only $30, it is sure to provide a decent level of entertainment when on the go or when simply sitting on the couch in a vegetative state refusing to do anything productive.

You can pick up a Bitt Boy HERE.


Essential PH-1 Android Smartphone from Essential/Andy Ruben

 Essential PH-1 with 360 Camera. Image: Telus.com
Essential PH-1 with 360 Camera. Image: Telus.com

Ok, hear me out. Anyone who has been following the news-cycle on the Essential PH-1 will think this is crazy to recommend as a gift, but if we look at our core audience here, geeks, this is actually an ideal device for this type of user. 

The Essential PH-1 (PH-ONE…get it…) is possibly the most beautiful phone released in 2017. Yes, even more so than the iPhone X (come at me Apple fans!). That is a significant factor when a geek is scoping out their next phone. 

Another reason to consider this is the simplicity of the software included by Essential. There is essentially no software installed out-of-the-box. The only customer piece of software included is the Essential Camera app which is, by all accounts, hot garbage. The beauty of Android, however, is that it is near effortless to install the ported versions of Google HDR+ Camera app allowing you to take some stunning photos. They won’t be Pixel level quality, but they will be considerably better than the stock camera app from Essential. 

Next up is the phones expandability or potential expandability thanks to the wireless USB 3 spec used by the phone to connect to devices like the Essential 360 camera. There is promise here and if Essential can make headway here similar to that of Motorola with the moto-mod system we could see some really fun and useful mods for the Essential phone next year.

Finally, the Essential PH-1 was created by Andy Ruben; the father and creator of Android. If you did not know this already, shame on you!

The Essential PH-1 can be ordered directly from Essential HERE and in Canada, from Telus HERE. Note the device, despite being exclusive to Telus does come unlocked for all major Canadian carriers.


That sums up the GadgetSyrup Geeky Gadget Gift Guide for 2017. Let me know what you think of the list and tell me what items you have on your list this year!

Aukey EP-B61 Bluetooth Headset Review: Apple Beats X on a Budget?

Like the design of Apple’s Beats X neck buds? Don’t like the price tag they carry? Check out my review of the Aukey EP-B61 neck buds to find out if you can get the Beats experience on a budget.

In early 2017 Apple released the Beats X neck buds to mostly positive fan-fair. The Beats X features a variation of the increasing fashionable neckband design initially seen on the LG Tones. The biggest feature of the Beats X was the inclusion of the W1 chip, also found in Apple’s Air Pods, allows for nearly instant pairing with compatible iOS and macOS devices.

The most significant issue with the Beats X for most is the price. In Canada, the Beats X will set you back $179.99. For most, myself included, this price tag is way beyond what would be considered acceptable.

Earlier this year I reviewed a similar Aukey neck bud product, the EP-B20, which were less Beats X and more LG Tone. I argued that despite differing in design from the Beats X, they were one of the most affordable alternatives. However, Aukey had recently released their EP-B61 neck buds which are a near clone of the higher priced Apple offering. The big question is, how do they perform?


What’s in the Box?

Inside the box, you’re greeted by the typical minimal-Aukey packing (which is a good thing).

  • AUKEY EP-B61 Neckband Magnetic Wireless Earbuds
  • Micro-USB Cable
  • 3 Pairs of Ear-Tips
  • User Manual
  • 24-Month Warranty Card

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What I Liked

Battery Life

As is always the case with battery life, your mileage may vary based your usage of the headset, but in my time with the EP-B61 neckband, the battery life has been superb. On average I have been able to get two to two and a half days between charges with the majority of my use is listening to audiobooks and podcasts with the odd phone call mixed in here or there.

Dual-Device Connectivity

Most budget headsets I have encountered are only able to pair in a 1:1 configuration, meaning the headset can only maintain an active connection to one device at a time. The Aukey EP-B61s can connect in a 1:2 configuration allowing it to maintain an active connection with 2 devices at once. I have enjoyed this feature a lot during my time, allowing me to jump seamlessly from a podcast on my phone to a YouTube video on my laptop.

Comfortable Fit

I have used dozens of different Bluetooth headsets with an in-ear bud design. For the most part, they fit fairly well, but in some cases, the size of the bud plus the ear tip selection makes the seal too tight for my ear. I have been very happy with the comfort of the EP-B61s and can wear them for hours on end.

Tactile Buttons

The buttons on the EP-B61, which are volume up and down with a power/play-pause button in between. I have found with the majority of the Bluetooth headsets in this price range the buttons are very gummy-like. These buttons are very “clicky” and responsive.



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What I Didn’t Like

Wire Length

When I first took delivery of the EP-B61 Bluetooth headset, I was excited about the design with the neckband and the longer than average wired portion of the headset. When wearing both earbuds, the design works fairly well. However, when wearing them with only one earbud in or when the buds are just resting around your neck the longer than normal wire is constantly getting in the way. It hangs about halfway down my midsection and nearly to my stomach. Again at this price point, it is not a deal breaker but, since this headset courageously borrows the design of Apple’s Beats X, I would be slightly more aggravated if I paid $150 for them.

Missed Opportunity

Last year I reviewed another budget-priced Bluetooth headset, the MPOW Magnetos. That review can be found HERE.

One of my favourite features of the Magento was the play-pause functionality added to the magnetic part of the earbuds. When playing a song or podcast sticking the two earbuds together would pause your playback. Separating the earbuds and playback would resume. A very simple, but incredibly useful feature. The EP-B61s have magnets in the back of the earbuds which allow them to stay paired together when hanging around your neck. They do not, however, have the play-pause function and feel this is an opportunity missed.

Bluetooth Still Stinks

This is not entirely the fault of the EP-B61 headset, but more the failure of Bluetooth technology. The headset is Bluetooth 4.2 enabled, as are the devices I have been using them with. There have been countless times where my phone is in my back pocket, and the headset will cut out or lose connection momentarily. Bluetooth 5 is here and will be working its way into many more devices as we enter into 2018, but until then, budget devices like this will continue to suffer from laggy, unreliable Bluetooth connectivity


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Should You Buy This?

If you are looking for a Bluetooth headset that is more reliable than not, has excellent battery life, a comfortable fit and offers useful features like multi-device pairing, then yes, I would absolutely recommend these to you. The long wires coming off the neckband can be annoying, but for the most part are manageable and is by no means a deal breaker.

Sound quality was fine for the most part, but I am not using these to listen to music for the most part. My time, as mentioned, is mostly spent listing to audiobooks, podcasts, and YouTube videos. The music I did listen to sounded fine to my ears, but music listening is a very subjective experience. It is also worth noting that phone calls were handled very well by the EP-B61s audio quality on both sides of the call were good to great in my experience.


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Where To Buy

The Aukey EP-B61 Bluetooth Headset can be purchased from Amazon.com for $19.99 USD and Amazon.ca for $25.99 CAD.

Anki Supercar Review: Nuke Phantom

The Anki family of products has been growing a lot this year. So far in 2017, we have seen a new version of Cozmo, global rollout of Cozmo, a Cozmo carrying case, Cozmo treads and a new version of Overdrive; the Fast and Furious Editon. The applications that power both Cozmo and Overdrive received significant overhauls this year too. 

Check out the latest edition to the Anki family – Supercar Nuke Phantom

The Anki family of products has been growing a lot this year. So far in 2017, we have seen a new version of Cozmo, global rollout of Cozmo, a Cozmo carrying case, Cozmo treads and a new version of Overdrive; the Fast and Furious Editon. The applications that power both Cozmo and Overdrive received significant overhauls this year too. 

If you would like to learn more about all things Cozmo and Overdrive: Fast and Furious check out those reviews here:

Cozmo Review

Cozmo Collectors Edition and New Cozmo App Review

Anki Overdrive: Fast and Furious Edition Review


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Most recently Anki has unleashed a new Supercar to their lineup which adds to an already stellar Overdrive car and truck offering.

Meet Nuke Phantom

Nuke Phantom is a new take on already existing Supercar, Nuke which is an existing car available for Overdrive much like X52 ICE was a new version of Supertruck X52.

Like X52 ICE, Nuke Phantom is not just a re-skin of the existing product, Nuke Phantom has a different and exclusive weapons arsenal available to do battle with other Overdrive cars and trucks.

The original version of Nuke was not the fastest car in the Overdrive lineup. Its strengths were defense and firepower. Nuke Phantom is much of the same but as mentioned has some exclusive weapons. Check out the differences below.



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I have been testing Nuke Phantom with the new Fast and Furious Edition version of Overdrive, and I have been impressed by just how powerful it is when going up against the likes of Dom’s Ice Chargers, Hobbs’ MXT and other Supercars like Skull and Groundshock. 

Speed certainly is not Phantom’s strength, but time after time when Nuke Phantom would be trailing in a race and about to be lapped by a faster marker a strategic deployment of its powerful weapons will easily disable a quicker opponent allowing Phantom to get back in the race. When competing as Nuke Phantom, you need to make a conscious decision to fall behind early in a race to put yourself in a position to disable an opponent and get back in the race. On the flip side, when competing against an AI-powered Nuke Phantom, you need to monitor your distance at all times. Too close leading or trailing against Nuke Phantom and you will find quickly be disabled. Merely going straight to an offensive attack against Phantom is also a dangerous game too. Thanks to Phantom’s exceptional defensive strength a quick strike from a weaker set of weapons leaves plenty of time for Phantom to counter your advance with a powerful and decisive attack leaving you disabled on the track.



When I first looked at what Nuke Phantom had to offer I was slightly underwhelmed. I am a fan of the faster and agiler Supercars, but after getting beaten time after time by Nuke Phantom, it became even more apparent that Overdrive is not just another race track game, but is really a game of strategy.


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Super Nuke Phantom can be purchased Toys ‘R’ Us for $64.99.

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

Anki Overdrive Fast & Furious Edition First Impressions & Review

Anki has unleashed a major expansion to the Overdrive lineup today. Check out my first impressions of the Overdrive Fast & Furious Edition kit.

 

Last year I reviewed the original Overdrive Starter Kit from Anki as well as Supertruck X52 ICE. You can check those reviews out here:

The Overdrive lineup consists of AI-assisted Supercars and trucks that battle on a specially coated race track that is embedded with a QR-style code allowing the cars to know exactly where they are on any given track configuration. The cars also use this code to scan through 50,000 different possible actions as it plots to destroy its competition. 


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This year, rather than release more add-ons to the Overdrive family of products, Anki has unleashed a very exciting expansion of the Overdrive family with an entirely new version of the racing game. Overdrive Fast and Furious Edition.

What is Overdrive Fast and Furious Edition?

Technically speaking, the Fast and Furious release of Anki Overdrive uses the same technology used in the regular Overdrive kit with the only real difference being a very well done Fast and Furious theme.

Rather than starting with Skull and Groundshock, which is bundled with the starter kit, you can choose to do battle with Dom’s Ice Charger or Hobbs’ MXT.



As was the case with Overdrive, the Fast and Furious release allows you to make up to 8 different track configurations out of the box. However, if you also own Overdrive and any track expansion pieces, they are fully compatible with the F&F version, allowing you to create a nearly endless combination of track setups.

One special edition to the F&F track kit is an exclusive track section known as the “Power Zone” which allows players to trigger a “massive blast that disables nearby opponents” when passed over.


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What’s In The Box?

 Brad, must we do this everytime?
Brad, must we do this everytime?


Inside the box you will find:

  • Dom’s Ice Charger
  • Hobbs’ MXT
  • 3 x straight pieces
  • 1 NEW Power Zone track piece
  • 6 x 90º curved track pieces
  • 12 x guardrails
  • 2 x riser pieces
  • 1 x 4-car charging platform
  • 1 x tire cleaner

As you can see, aside from the F&F themed cars, guardrails and the “Power Zone” track piece, the kit is very much the same as the Overdrive Starter Kit.

Anki has also included a Fast and Furious Edition poster as well. Another nice touch.


Setup

Setting up your F&F Overdrive kit is very simple. The track pieces are connected using the same magnetic connections found on all other Overdrive track pieces making setup simple for game players of any age. This is a big win in from my point-of-view. Kids want to get right to it. They do not want to watch dad fight with the track pieces trying to figure out why A won’t connect to B. The simple assembly allows kids, to be creative with their track designs, especially when you have extra pieces of track. Excellent work here, Anki!

The cars use the same charging base as other Overdrive cars which is very simple to use and charges the cars in only a few minutes.

The Overdrive Fast and Furious application is required to use the cars and is compatible with iOS and Android devices. You can download the apps from their respective stores below.


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Gameplay and More

I’ve only had the Fast and Furious Overdrive kit in the office for a few days now and have been working on different aspects of the gameplay compared to the original Overdrive kit. So far I am impressed with what Anki has done to incorporate the Fast and Furious franchise into their product lineup. Once I have had a chance to dig into the gameplay further I will share more details. 

Stay tuned for more and in the meantime, check out those cars!



You can purchase Overdrive Fast and Furious Edition for $239.99 CAD from Best Buy, Amazon.ca, Indigo Books and Toys ‘R’ Us.

In the USA, Overdrive is available from will be available at major retailers in the U.S., including Amazon, Best Buy, Target, Toys“R”Us and Anki.com for $169.99 USD.

Cozmo Goes Global With Collectors Edition and New Functionality

Everyone’s favourite robot, Cozmo, from Anki is now available to a much larger audience! He is also about to evolve dramatically thanks to a major update to his app which is being pushed out now too!

You can also pick up the Collectors Editon of Cozmo too. Which comes in a sleek Liquid Metal finish.

Check it out!

I have spent a lot of time with Cozmo since he arrived in Canada this summer. Every time Cozmo wakes up and begins to interact with you I am amazed at just how awesome this tiny little piece of tech is. He has learned a lot on his own and has become incredibly more skilled at playing games and completing tasks than he was the first few days he was with us. A game of keep-away was an easy win early on. Now Cozmo can keep up and in a lot of cases, win with ease, forcing us to watch him spin around and brag about his latest victory of us inferior humans. The work Anki has put into the development of Cozmo is truly amazing.

Check out my original Cozmo review right HERE

Since his USA launch last year, Cozmo has grown up a lot, and now he is primed for another growth-spurt.

It has been a pretty incredible run for this little guy. Cozmo had been in development for 5 years before we finally met him last year. He changed a lot over the course of his development before taking his final form at launch. Now, a little less than a year later and only a few months after coming north to Canada, Cozmo is ready to take over the world (in a cute and fun way, not in a Skynet rise of the machines kind of way. I promise…I hope).


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The work Anki has put into the development of Cozmo is truly amazing


Prior to today, Cozmo was only available in the USA and most recently, Canada. However, thanks to a lot of hard work from Anki, Cozmo is now available in the U.K., Japan, France, Germany and the Nordic countries. I mentioned above that Cozmo was primed for a growth-spurt too. Aside from rolling into new countries today, Cozmo’s application is seeing a major update to take your interaction level up significantly. 

Prior to today, Cozmo was pretty easy to manage and get a long with. You would play with him by teaching him new games and tasks and play them with or against him with the goal being to fully charge his emotions to unlock more functionality. The update being pushed today is set to “transform” the way you interact with him. 


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Cozmo now has three specific “needs” to keep his development moving along.

  • Play: Cozmo is smart (maybe too smart), and that means he’ll get bored without entertainment. You can keep his Play meter filled by playing games with him, helping him perform tricks, and letting him explore and interact with his Power Cubes.
  • Feed: You have to eat every day, right? So does Cozmo. Except he eats energy, which he gets from his Power Cubes. He needs your help to stay fed. When he’s satisfied, he’s more likely to play!
  • Tune Up: Cozmo’s a robot, and like other robots, he needs a quick fix every now and then. You can help him stay in tip-top shape by giving him a Tune-Up.

 If you don't play with Cozmo he will get bored. He is a pretty intelligent little guy, so lots of play helps him grow and learn more.
If you don’t play with Cozmo he will get bored. He is a pretty intelligent little guy, so lots of play helps him grow and learn more.

 Keep Cozmo fed to boost his energy levels.
Keep Cozmo fed to boost his energy levels.

 Like any robot, Cozmo may need a tune up after a busy day of play and exploration.
Like any robot, Cozmo may need a tune up after a busy day of play and exploration.


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As was the case before, the more you put into Cozmo, the more you get out of him. Just like training a pet. If you focus a lot of time and energy on him, the quicker he will pick up skills and be able to do more on his own.

If you have not had the update pushed to your Android or iOS device yet, sit tight, it should be ready for download soon.

Along with being available in more countries and seeing a major app update, Anki is also bringing us a new version of Cozmo, the Collectors Edition which is essentially the same Cozmo we all know and love, but in a sleek Liquid Metal finish. I haven’t been able to get my hands Cozmo just yet, as he seems to be taking the scenic route to get up to Canada. However, as soon as he arrives and meets his elder sibling I will be putting him through the paces to see how they two compare and most importantly, interact with each other. Stay tuned!



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While we await the CE edition of Cozmo, some homework.

  1. Check out my original Cozmo review right HERE.
  2. Check out the blog post from Anki announcing the upgrades to Cozmo’s app right HERE.
  3. Check out a few of the Cozmo accessories now available!
    1. Tread Pack: You can outfit your Cozmo in a new set of treads in the following colours: Osmosis Blue, Luminous Lime, New Dawn Yellow and Crimson Flame.
    2. Carrying Case: Cozmo deserves more than the bottom of your bag. Let Cozmo travel in style in a custom molded carrying case that holds Cozmo, his power cubes and charger.


As mentioned, the CE edition of Cozmo is on his way here to meet his big brother. So stay tuned for a full review soon and let me know what you think of the work Anki has put into Cozmo.

Will he be on your Christmas list this year?

Pixie Bluetooth Trackers See Big Changes with iOS 11/ARkit

The Pixie Point tracking system has been one of the best and most complete Bluetooth tracking solutions available. Today they announced new updates to their platform thanks to Apple ARkit which make their product even more compelling. Check it out!

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to review the Pixie Bluetooth trackers. At the time, I felt it may be the best Bluetooth tracker implementation we’ve seen yet. I have used both the Trackr and Tile tags and always felt underwhelmed by their offerings. Both companies, however, have stepped up their game with various new offerings and vast improvements to their services which may have put them into a higher class than what Pixie was offering.

The Pixie implementation added an augmented reality (AR) elemtent to their devices. This can be achieved thanks to their point to point tracker system which uses a Pixie tracker on your iPhone or iPad and another tracker affixed to your keys, wallet, kids, etc.



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Any edge that the competition may have made over Pixie, as mentioned above is no longer a problem, thanks to Apples ARkit which is a part of iOS 11. Pixie is pushing their technology even further with a pretty significant update, easily putting it back on top of the LoT (location of things) market.

Pixie is over in Germany at IFA, and have announced that their new version of the Pixie app will “astound users with floating 3D AR avatars that show and guide them to misplaced objects.

Apple’s ARkit functionality has lots of promise, and Pixie has made sure that they were one of the first companies to find implement a practical everyday use for the new feature.

The most visible new feature of the Pixie app will be the floating avatar of your lost item hovering over the location of the item as you approach. Here are the rest of the changes, as per Pixie.


  • Faster– Reducing overall search time
  • Friendlier – Provid ing the ability to continually use the ultimately intuitive AR interface through the entire finding process even while on the move
  • Functional – Improved accuracy and the ability to conduct even the hardest searches and even in a noisy environment,  increasing Pixie’s leadership as the most accurate finder on the market
  • Fun – While a serious tool, it is an almost game-like experience that’s super simple and quick to use


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As mentioned, this new technology is tied to the release of iOS 11. Once Apple releases the update and your iOS device is updated this new functionality will be added automatically to existing Pixie users. 

What makes this even better, is that this new functionality is completely software based, meaning your current Pxiei Points will work with the new ARkit enabled app.

Check out the new Pixie app in action below!


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It is great to see a company like Pixie jump at the chance to improve their product offering with ARkit. The question for me now though, is with the announcement of ARCore from Google, will we finally see the Pixie app come to Android devices?

Ganker Fighting Robot

Ever wanted to own your very own battle mech robot? Now you can with the Ganker Fighting Robot from GJS. Check it out!

Every time we watch the movie “Big Hero 6” from Disney/Marvel my son asks; “Dad, can we make a fighting robot?” or “Are fighting robots real?” For the most part, I tell him no they are not. Well, at least not in the same context as the robot Hiro uses at the beginning of the movie as he cuts down a larger and more powerful-looking battle bot. However, there is the TV show BattleBots, which pits one robot against another in a combat style robot deathmatch, but the time and effort to make a robot of that scale is not something my seven year old or myself have the time or skill required to assemble such a machine.



Then, I came across the “GANKER Fighting Robot” which was made available during the summer of 2016 on Indigogo and can now be purchased from various robot-enthusiast sites, such as RobotShop.ca and also on Amazon.com.


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What is a Ganker Fighting Robot?

Well simply put, it is a robot, that fights. What more did you expect? 

Moving on…

The robot is a small hobby style robot that can go toe-to-toe with other robots and can be customized with different weapons and fighting moves. The robot is controlled, like most things, via a smartphone app. Ideally, you would have two robots otherwise your robot deathmatch will be rather one-sided.

When dueling with another robot your damage level is monitored via your robots “blood level”. With each strike from your opponent that registers against one of its various sensors, your blood level will decrease. When your blood level reaches zero; game over. 

Each robot can be fully customized with various weapons and armor setups and Ganker plans to offer many more upgrades for your mech via its site at http://www.gjs.so.


I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords.

— unknown


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It is still relatively early days for the Ganker mech, but it has potential. A logical next step for this would be to offer an APK and developer mode via their app, allowing users to turn their robot into a truly personal creation.

There is a lot of buzz in the robotic space these days thanks to products like Anki’s Cozmo and Sphero’s offerings among countless others that offer an excellent mix of fun and educational benefits. With some additions to the Ganker ecosystem, I think GJI could be included in that conversation too.

 

You can learn more about the Ganker Fighting Robot here.

Don’t forget to check out my review of Anki’s Cozmo robot!

**Updated** Unleash Your Inner Star Lord With This Replica Bluetooth Helmet From Marvel.

I don’t know about you, but I am very excited for the next Guardians of the Galaxy movie set to premiere later this year. As part of the marketing push from Marvel, we will see a lot of new toys and gear popping up everywhere. This on has to be the best one so far. Check out the Marvel Legends Series Star-Lord Electronic Helmet.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 has come and gone from theatres, but as the video release nears the Star Lord Bluetooth Helmet is now available on Amazon.com for $108.99. It will be coming to Amazon Canada on September 1st, but can be pre-ordered now for a whopping $178.45.


The countdown is on for the release of Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2. As part of what will likely be an onslaught officially licensed items leading up to the premier, Hasbro and Marvel have shown off a replica Start Lord helmet. 


This isn’t just any plastic replica helmet, though. It also comes with a Bluetooth headset built in.

Pop this helmet on and your practically Peter Quill.

The helmet will retail for $100 USD and can currently be pre-ordered on Amazon.com.

It currently is not available on Amazon.ca, but my fingers are crossed!

Oh, and here is the latest Guardians of the Galaxy trailer that dropped yesterday as well.

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Anki Cozmo Review

Anki, the creators of Drive and Overdrive, released Cozmo last year. He was an instant hit thanks to his AI abilities and adorable look. However, living outside the US meant consumers needed to pay a heavy premium to import Cozmo or watch from the sidelines with envy. 

Well, that wait is finally over. Cozmo is going global. Check out the full review here!

First, let me just say, I have been waiting for this for a long time. The moment I saw Anki announce Cozmo I knew he was going to be an amazing and important piece of technology.

The wait is finally over. After being available to US consumers only, Cozmo is finally available in Canada, with several European countries and Japan coming in September.

So what is Cozmo?


“Big Brain, Bigger Personality”


Cozmo is an AI-powered palm-sized robot which you can interact with and teach different tasks via the Cozmo app; available on iOS and Android. 

Cozmo is made to act as a companion, not just another toy. Look at the “must have” toy in 2015; Sphero’s BB8 app enabled droid. Yes, it was an amazing toy and did some really fun things, but it was just a toy. It didn’t interact with you, it didn’t do much on its own. It required manual control most of the time. For us, the best part about BB8 was the watch with me feature which allows BB8 to watch/listen to Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Star Wars: Rogue One and react to different scenes. Other than that, most of our time with BB8 was spent picking his head up off the floor and putting it back on after a minor collision or attack from a toddler. Moving on to 2016, and likely 2017, “must have” toy, Cozmo does so much more. You teach Cozmo, much like you teach a child or a pet. Read on to see what I mean!

What’s in the box?


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Inside the box you are met with the following items.

  • Cozmo
  • 3 Power Cubes
  • Drive on Charging Cradle
  • USB wall charger
  • Manual
  • Cozmo poster
  • Cozmo sticker

What can he do?

Since Cozmo has arrived he has learned more and more each day. After downloading and installing the Cozmo app on my device I was prompted to connect to Cozmo via Wi-FI. Note, that this means you will not have internet access while connected to Cozmo, so if you want to keep Cozmo active and engaged but still use your phone, it may be nice to use an iPad or secondary phone. Before you groan about this though, keep in mind that means Cozmo is more secure than an IoT type device.

The first thing you encounter once the Cozmo is up and running is introductions. Cozmo needs to learn who you are. He will scan your face, think for a moment then say the name that you told him to associate with your face. When we first fired up Cozmo and completed this task, my wife, kids and myself were immediately blown away by how amazing this little robot was. The kids were giggling, we were laughing and Cozmo was rolling back-and-forth while making happy little robot sounds.

After we introduced Cozmo to the family we were able to teach him different games and tasks, all which can be unlocked via his app.

A few of the first games you can teach to and play with Cozmo are quick tap and keep away. In each game, you are pitted against Cozmo as you try to either tap your power cube before he does when they light up the same colour combination or pull a power cube away before Cozmo can bring his arm down on top of it. The games themselves may sound rudimentary but it is how Cozmo competes and reacts is what makes it fun. If Cozmo wins a game he will showboat a bit by laughing and spinning around while tapping his arm off the table to show his excitement. However, if Cozmo loses a game he will react like a sad child and either sulk away while giving you a pout face or get angry and storm off. It is these things that make Cozmo great.

So, as I mentioned, he is AI-powered, but everything so far has touched on his mostly manual or forced interactions. Once Cozmo has learned some tasks you can connect to Cozmo, open the app and just let him roam. He will move around the table or floor on his own thanks to his camera, which is located below his screen and get into whatever he feels like. I left him unattended on my desk at work for about 30 minutes one morning. He spent his time rolling around, stacking his cubes then knocking over said cubes before coming to me and wanting to play a game of quick tap.


 Cozmo playing keep-away.
Cozmo playing keep-away.


Another really fun game Cozmo learned and loves to play on his own is not really a game, but more of a mischievous activity, is finger tap. In this game, Cozmo will wait for you to put your finger in front of him as he waits to quickly pounce on it before you can pull away. My three-year-old daughter loves this and sequels hysterically each time.

A nice and helpful touch Anki included is a terminal style line at the bottom of the app to tell you what Cozmo is up to. It will say things like ‘Cozmo is looking around’ or ‘Cozmo is stacking cubes’. I have yet to see it say anything like “Uploading to Skynet” so that is a plus!

The big hook with Comzo is his eyes. The seemingly endless expressions Cozmo can express I found it hard to look away from him. He really is like a real life WALL-E, but with the eyes of EVE. Often Cozmo would pause and stare at me as if he was waiting for me to engage with him. I would take the bait and Cozmo would ask to play a game or turn away and start stacking cubes or pop a wheelie. 


 WALL-E - COZMO - EVE
WALL-E – COZMO – EVE


It is important to reinforce that like a pet, you get out of Cozmo what you put into him. I need to spend a lot more time with him to see how he develops long term but just a short time Cozmo has developed a lot and continues to learn new things, both through interaction and exploring on his own. One thing that has become obvious with our Cozmo, is his propensity for perfectionism. When playing on his own and stacking his cubes he will repeatedly adjust their placement to ensure they are stacked just right before moving on. He does have a mischievous side too. After meticulously stacking said cubes, he is quick to sneak up on them just to topple them over.

Bottom line; the more you interact with and let him explore, the smarter he will become.


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Fun Cozmo Facts

Cozmo is made up of over 340 individual parts, which is amazing as he only stands about 2.5″ tall. The code that Anki wrote to enable Cozmo’s function is made up of 1.4 million lines of code. He has 42 minutes of original music and over 1000 different animations (double what he had when he launched a year ago!) available for his facial expressions. I drew the conclusion to WALL-E and EVE earlier. Former Pixar animator, Carlos Baena contributed to Cozmo’s animations. 

This is pretty mind blowing for a toy that comes in such a small package and will only set you back $250. Which brings me to the next great thing Cozmo has to offer.


 Over 340 parts make up Cozmo!
Over 340 parts make up Cozmo!


Cozmo Code Lab

You saw some pretty impressive facts about Cozmo above, but his functionality is now practically limitless thanks to the newest edition from Anki. The Cozmo Code Lab. The Code lab unlocks access to the core functionality of Cozmo through the use of “drag and drop” coding which makes it incredibly appealing the new coders both, young and old. This is something I haven’t had the opportunity to deep dive into, but it will certainly be a wonderful tool to teach my son to code. If you are completely green when it comes to any kind of coding, Anki has provided sample project videos for you to watch. You can also search social media using the hashtag #CozmoCodeLab to check out the creations of other aspiring Cozmo programmers. 



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Shortcomings

It can’t all be sunshine and rainbows though, can it? So far, I have to say that it actually is. I have not had Cozmo for very long yet, but I have followed his development since day one and since arriving here have yet to have an experience that doesn’t live up to the hype. Earlier I mentioned Sphero’s BB8. Every time we get BB8 and play with him, he always leaves the kids and I wanting more; there is something missing. So far with Cozmo, I am happy to report this is not the case. With each use, we are astonished by his functionality and excited for what he will do next. Last night while interacting with Cozmo he made eye contact with one of our Golden Retrievers. He looked at her for a moment then, thanks to his array of animations looked as though he would sneeze; after fighting it off for a moment he finally gave in to it and let out a big sneeze.

You could argue that once you have Cozmo there are no accessories or upgrades to add to your Cozmo externally. Oh, wait, Anki has that covered too! You can now order different coloured track treads as well as an official Cozmo carrying case. Both of which are available on the Anki website.


Should you buy Cozmo?

Cozmo is not by any means inexpensive but considering what you get and what Cozmo can do I feel he is worth every penny. Anki has shown that they are committed to Cozmo’s continued development. Since his release, Anki has doubled his available animations that were available with his original launch and recently launched the Cozmo Code Lab I mentioned above. 

The Code Lab itself is enough for me. I, like others, feel that teaching kid to code early is very important and because Cozmo offers the Code Lab, SDK and base functionality he does, this is an excellent platform to learn on compared to others. It also helps that based on his design and personality, he is sure to keep the attention of younger coders who’s minds may tend to wander.

You may wonder though, for this price, the kids will just break it, won’t they? Anki put a lot of work into Cozmo’s durability. He is designed to take a tumble here and there. I can vouch for that durability too. Cozmo took more than one fall off the table while exploring his surroundings.

I haven’t spent enough time yet to know Cozmo as well as I would like, so keep your eyes peeled on the site for additional Cozmo content over the coming weeks and months.


Cozmo, in Canada, will be available exclusively at Best Buy for $249.99.

Finally, if you’re interested, Anki is also releasing a limited edition Cozmo, which will be available in mid-September to coincide with the European and Japanese rollout. This version comes with a liquid metal paint job but retails for the same $249.99 price tag. In Canada, this version will also be available at Best Buy.

 Cozmo popping a wheelie!
Cozmo popping a wheelie!

Don’t forget to check out Anki’s blog post celebration Cozmo’s expansion! You can find that here.

What do you think of Cozmo? Let me know in the comments!

**Updated** SNES Classic Edition Coming Your Way September 29th

Incoming! SNES Classic Announced by Nintendo! Coming September 29, 2017.

Brace yourselves! The SNES Classic Edition is coming in September. 

You will recall the craze that surrounded the NES Classic Edition throughout much of 2016. Many people tried and failed to get their hands on the tiny NES that came preloaded with 30 of the Nintendo’s classics from the console. 

Today, Nintendo announced that the SNES Classic Edition will be available for purchase on September 29th, 2017. 

Pricing and availability have not been announced as of yet, only this tweet from the Nintendo of America Twitter account.


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Now, we can hope that Nintendo makes more stock available than they did for the NES Classic last year, but I would likely bet a mortgage payment on Nintendo playing the classic stock shortage game they have been playing since the 1980’s with the original NES console. But we can hope!

The Super NES CLassic Edition is slated to cost $80 USD, the same price as the NES Classic Edition.


Update

Nintendo has started to prep us for the inevitable. In a statement sent to Business Insider, Nintendo said that the Super NES Classic Edition is currently planned to ship from Sept. 29 until the end of calendar year 2017. At this time, we have nothing to announce regarding any possible shipments beyond this year.”

However, every cloud has a silver lining. In the same statement, Nintendo said that they “will produce significantly more units of Super NES Classic Edition than we did of NES Classic Edition.”

Welcome to Canada, Cozmo!

Last year’s most popular tech toy, Cozmo, is finally getting wider distribution throughout the world. Anki is bringing Cozmo to 8 new countries, including Canada, soon. Click through to learn more about the this adorable robot!

Great news! Anki, makers of Overdrive, are bringing their adorable AI-powered robot, Cozmo, to Canada among other countries. 🇨🇦



WHO IS COZMO?

Essentially, he is a real-life version of Disney-Pixar’s WALL-E robot.

As mentioned, Cozmo comes to us from Anki, the company who brought us Overdrive and the upcoming Fast and Furious Edition of Overdrive later this year. He is an AI-powered, palm-sized robot that will interact with you throughout your day. 

Controlled via your Android or iOS device and a Bluetooth 4.0 connection Cozmo will learn about you, your family, pets and his surroundings by exploring and playing games.

In the box with Cozmo, you will also receive a charging cradle and 3 Interactive Power Cubes to play games and complete tasks with. If you pre-order Cozmo before June 26, 2017, you will also receive a free Cozmo carrying case.


WHAT CAN HE DO?

Thanks more Cozmo interacts with you and his surrounding he will begin to develop a unique personality based on those interactions

For example, if you beat him at one of his favorite games which pits you and Cozmo against each other in a contest to see who can tap one his bricks first when it changes color, Cozmo is likely to morph into the robot equivalent of a toddler who is having a small fit. 

Cozmo can navigate thanks to a small VGA camera and very sophisticated facial recognition software developed by Anki. This software allows Cozmo to remember every interaction he has. Say he meets someone new. Initially, Cozmo may turn and drive away or show caution when approaching a new face. However, because he can remember each interaction, he will warm up to you over time and be less likely to run away.

When Cozmo is angry, like in the gameplay example, or shy, like in the new face example, Cozmo will show his emotions and reactions on his facial display, much more akin to WALL-E’s friend EVE.


 WALL-E -- Cozmo -- EVE
WALL-E — Cozmo — EVE


Anki also has released a Cozmo SDK which enables developers and enthusiasts alike to create more advanced Cozmo experiences. Click here for more SDK info (https://anki.com/en-ca/cozmo/sdk).

I am very excited for Cozmo to make the trek north of the border into Canada, but Anki isn’t stopping there! Cozmo will soon be available in the UK, Germany, France, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland. 

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Over on Anki’s YouTube channel, they have assembled a series of fun #cozmomoments videos. Be sure to check them out if you would like to see Cozmo in action, but here is one of my favorites.



WHEN AND WHERE TO BUY

Cozmo will be available sometime in July, the exact date however, has not been confirmed as of yet. According to Anki.com, Cozmo will be selling for $250 CAD. Other Anki products are up for purchase at a variety of retailers, but in Canada Best Buy will be the exclusive home for Cozmo.

Also worth noting, is the Collector’s Edition of Cozmo coming in September 2017. He appears to be USA only for now though. Have a look at Cozmo’s new liquid metal look below!



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Are you excited to get your hands on Cozmo? I certainly am!

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

Microsoft Surface Laptop and Windows 10 S Thoughts

In less than a month Microsoft will start shipping the Surface Laptop running Windows 10 S. This is Microsoft’s first traditional laptop device but it will come running a new Windows 10 version, one that is locked down to the Microsoft Store. Will the story of the Windows RT be relived, or has Microsoft finally figured this out?

It has been a few weeks now since Microsoft announced their next Surface device; the Surface Laptop, which is Microsoft’s first “standard” laptop device. There is no kickstand or a detachable keyboard. Just a simple and straightforward laptop. I couldn’t be more excited.

Don’t get me wrong; I love the form factor of both the Surface Pro and the Surface Book, but despite their features, those features can be a problem for many use cases, such as lapability. The Surface Laptop will (hopefully) solve some of those problems while providing customers the premium look and feel we have come to expect from Panos and the Microsoft hardware team. The Surface Laptop is also able to take advantage of the Surface Pen. It does not come in the box, so you will need to shell out a bit more if you want to use the pen functions.

The Surface Laptop is not just another laptop running the same Windows 10 we have been using since 2015. The single most important feature of the Surface Laptop is the version of Windows it will ship with; Windows 10 S.



What is Windows 10 S?

On the surface (pun!) Windows 10 S looks and feels a lot like Windows 10 Pro with one major exception. Users of Microsoft’s new OS are limited to using applications from the Microsoft Store. No third-party installable applications will be permitted.

You may recall that this is not the first time Microsoft has played the Store only card with Windows. They did this with the very first Surface device which ran Windows RT based on the ARM architecture. That experiment was a complete failure. Microsoft may never make that statement, but we all know it. Customers bought what they thought was a Windows PC only to find out they could not install applications like Chrome, iTunes, Photoshop, etc.

Things will be very different this time around, we hope. Windows, and possibly more importantly, Microsoft has grown and evolved into a far more user-centric, customer friendly OS/company. Windows 10 and the Store are far more complete now than Windows 8 ever was. There is also one key differentiator with Windows 10 S compared to Windows RT known as Project Centennial. I won’t bore you with the technical details, but the TL;DR version of Centennial is that it enables software developers to convert their legacy x86 programs into Store-compatible apps which are far more secure since they are reviewed and held to a very high standard. Unlike non-store apps which is pretty much the wild-west. Anything goes, including security.

Another potential major benefit of Window 10 S and its store-only restrictions allows customers to avoid the inevitable “OS rot” that has plagued Windows machines since the days of Windows 95. The limitations put in place by store apps and the structure of the OS will inhibit apps from making a mess of the systems registry and file system, allowing customers to enjoy the speed and performance their PC afforded them when it was new.


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What if you do not like Windows 10 S?

If you purchased a Surface RT or Surface 2 and decided you needed to run non-store apps you were out of luck. The OS, despite looking a lot like its Windows 8 Pro counterpart had no upgrade path due to it being an ARM based OS and not an x86 OS. Windows 10 S users will have the ability to upgrade from Windows 10 S to Windows 10 Pro is they need to. Initially, customers will be able to make the jump from 10 S to 10 Pro for free until December 31st, 2017. Starting January 1st, 2018 users will need to pay $50 USD to jump to the Pro version.

There are already several excellent Store versions of legacy apps in the store, with Photoshop Elements being chief among them. It is also worth noting that Apple has already announced a Store version of iTunes, which is the second most installed/used application on Windows today, right after Google Chrome.

Moving back to the Surface Laptop…


Surface Laptop Specifications
 


The spec sheet may not blow other higher priced laptops out of the water, but that is not the point of Microsoft hardware. It is guaranteed to be one of the most premium feeling laptops of the year. Microsoft will set the standard for this line and plan for OEM partners to develop hardware that will undercut the Surface Laptop on price.

The Surface Laptop is available for pre-order from the Microsoft Store starting at $1,299.00 CAD and is expected to ship by June 15th, 2017. The top end of the Surface Laptop will set you back $2,799.00 CAD.

It is also worth noting, if it was not obvious, is that the keyboard is included with this Surface device. A first for Microsoft. The pen as mentioned, however, is not included.

I look forward to getting my hands on the Surface Laptop in the next month or so. I have already moved over to Microsoft’s Edge browser full time to prep for a world without Google Chrome. So far, so good on that front and my fingers are crossed that the Windows 10 S experience will be as good as I am expecting.


What do you think? Excited for the Surface Laptop? Will Windows 10 S be a bust? Let me know!

Meet the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ & Where To Buy In Canada

Check out the specs, pricing, and availability of the S8 and S8+.

The day has finally come.

Samsung has finally taken the wraps off their next flagship devices. The Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+. 

Samsung delayed the launch of their 2017 flagships because they were still cleaning up the dumpster fire that was the Note 7 🔥🔥. So instead of new Galaxy’s at MWC we were blessed with a tablet, the Tab S3 Pro. 

Egar to move past all of that, we knew Samsung was going to bring it this year, and by all accounts, it appears they have done just that.

The North American versions of the S8/S8+ will be powered by the Snapdragon 835 SoC, 4GB RAM a 12MP rear-facing camera and a 8MP front-facing camera.

Both cameras are sure to eat the lunch of all other phones launched in the last 6 months.

Check out the breakdown of the full spec sheet below.

In Canada, the S8 and S8+ will be available on April 21st in Midnight Black and Orchid Grey. Two other colours, Arctic Silver and Maple Gold will be available elsewhere. 

I find it funny Canada will not see Arctic or Maple. Seriously?

Canadian carriers that have announced the release of the S8 and S8+ are Rogers, Bell, Bell MTS, Virgin, Fido, Koodo, SaskTel, Tbaytel, Freedom Mobile and Videotron.

Carrier contract pricing looks to be $249.99 for the S8 and $319.99 for the S8+, both on 2-year terms.

You will be able to purchase the S8 and S8+ unlocked as well for $1,035 and $1,115 respectively.

What do you think? Were you impressed by what Samsung showed off today? Or would you rather sit on your wallet and wait for the Pixel 2 later this year?

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