Stephanie Greenall

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It seems like only yesterday that wearable devices exploded onto the scene and sent us all into a step-count panic. The wearables industry has since cooled and spent time learning from its mistakes by focusing on developing products that consumers might actually purchase. With over 250 wearable exhibitors earlier this year at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) the floor proved that wearable tech isn’t dead—as some may claim—but very much alive and kicking!

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Virtual Reality: Cutting the Cord

It can be entertaining to watch a family member experience virtual reality for the first time. However, this delight can quickly turn to terror for the device owner when the immersed family member is spooked by a shark, panics, and practically yanks out the tether connecting the headset to the system. The wired connection is a necessary evil when it comes to capturing seamless movement from the physical world and transferring it to the virtual experience. This year companies are tackling the troublesome tether.

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KwikVR and TPCast are among the saviors who are unleashing the HTC Vive VR headset. Both companies have managed to physically unlink the headset from the computer—which you will still need to power the system—and allow for more exaggerated movements.

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While KwikVR’s gadget clips to your belt, TPCast attaches directly to the top of the headset. Both weigh less than one pound and promise not to compromise performance. There’s no word when KwikVR will launch their gear, but TPCast is expected to arrive in the second quarter of 2017 ($249 US).

Virtual Reality: Bringing in the Body

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Seeing is often believing when it comes to VR, but without the ability to interact with your virtual environments the user is missing out on the complete experience. Many companies are focused this year on how to make VR even more immersive. Cerevo recently debuted Taclim, a set of interactive shoes that allow the user to experience instant haptic feedback. Each shoe features three tactile devices that help to generate a sense of stepping on the ground or kicking an object in a virtual space. Taclim may only be in its prototype phase but it’s a step in the right direction for engaging our bodies in a virtual world.

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With the latest HTC Vive accessory, called the HTC Vive Tracker, users will be able to bring real world objects along for the ride. The Vive Tracker is a disc-shaped device that features a data port on the bottom. The port can be used to add just about anything into the experience. This means that you will be able to hold an object that feels like the virtual version set before you. Weighing in at 85 grams, the device will use the infrared signals emitted from the base stations to calculate its position in the room. Developers have already begun to get their hands on the device and have started building third-party accessories. From baseball bats to fire hoses, the tracker will allow users to feel truly immersed in their environment.

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From the Pages of Science Fiction to Your Home: Social, Companion and Educational Robots To Look Out For This Year

Science fiction has always played a role in how we view robots. From Metropolis’ False Maria to everyone’s favourite droid R2-D2, sci-fi has shaped our expectations and fears surrounding the future of robotics. It’s unlikely we will be cowering down to robot overlords anytime soon, but with the current advancements in technology it’s inevitable that our everyday lives will be touched by robotics in one way or another.

Below are a few examples of how this exciting new technology is impacting our lives today.

Domestic Robots
As a child I dreamed of life in Orbit City, spending my days zipping around in a flying car, hanging out with the Jetsons, and lounging in my Sky Pad, complete with my very own Rosie the Robot. I might not be commuting in a flying car anytime soon, but having a metallic maid could be in my not-so-distant future. If January’s CES (Consumer Electronics Show) event is any indication, domestic robots are ready for us, but are we ready for them?

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Kuri
With emotive eyes and a friendly disposition, Kuri ($699 US) is your Pixar character come to life. Making his official debut at this year’s CES, Kuri warmed hearts as he rolled across the showroom floor chirping to his own beat. The intelligent home robot responds to voice commands much like Amazon Echo or Google Home and is packed with sensors so he doesn’t fall down the stairs or bump into furniture. His expressive eyes can do more than communicate his responses, they feature a built in HD-camera that can capture photos and video. Using the smartphone app, voice commands or IFTTT (If This Then That) applications, Kuri can patrol your home, play with your kids, and control smart home devices. He might not be Rosie, but he’s definitely not a Roomba!

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BUDDY
Another contender for cutest robot at CES is BUDDY ($980 US). Featuring a camera, ultrasound, infrared and thermal sensors, a range-finder sensor, a temperature sensor and ground detectors, BUDDY has a lot to offer. From recommending recipes in the kitchen to testing kids on their homework, this robot is ready to join your household. Unlike Kuri, BUDDY features an 8-inch tablet that acts as an interface and can be used for video calls and commands. This computerized companion not only wants to be a part of your family, but wants to democratize robotics. BUDDY is built on an open-source platform that makes it easy for developers around the world to build applications. With BUDDY the possibilities are endless.

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Cutii
Our world is currently facing an aging population and this change in demographics brings a host of new challenges. For many seniors, independence is not something they are willing to give up, and to remove them from their home prematurely is heartbreaking. Yumii for Cutii is a French startup that has developed a companion robot specifically designed for the elderly. Cutii (Cost TBD) works entirely through vocal commands and is designed to allow seniors to interact with their family, caregivers, and doctors. The companion resembles a tablet on wheels and can take users on virtual tours of museums, or sign them up for a local yoga class. By simplifying everyday interactions, Cutii can help seniors stay connected to their community.

Not Just For Kids
Getting older doesn’t necessarily mean growing up, and for those who will always be a kid at heart, CES featured robotic toys that will make your inner child scream with delight.

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Ziro
Imagine being able to control a robot with a wave of your hand. With ZeroUI’s new robotics kit, you can animate and control your robot with their new smart glove, Ziro ($249 US). Whether you’re using a pre-made kit or your own design, just attach the motors and see your creations come to life. The smartphone app allows the user to map seven different gestures that will inform the movements of the motors. This kit might be aimed at kids, but Ziro can be a powerful tool for roboticists of all ages to quickly prototype their ideas.

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LEGO Boost
LEGO has brought joy and creativity to millions of children (and adults) over the years, and with the changing landscape of toys they continue to evolve their brand. This year, LEGO launched their Boost ($160 US) kit that includes a set of motors and programmable bricks that can be used with existing LEGO blocks to create motorized toys. The set also comes with instructions for five models including Vernie the Robot, Frankie the Cat, and the Guitar 4000. With help from the companion app, the user will be able to program their creation with drag and drop modules. LEGO Boost will be available in August 2017, so have your credit card ready!

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Life According to Your Lens.indd

Humans are innate storytellers. From the cave drawings in El Castillo to shaken Polaroids of the 1970s, our species has used storytelling to share our experiences, educate one another, and to entertain. Visually mapping out our history, we have continued to document our existence. As technology evolves, so too do our storytelling tools. With unique perspectives from point-of-view (POV) cameras, and immersive 360 degree experiences, we can reinvent how we chronicle our realities.

Wearable POV Cameras

For example, portable, body-worn video cameras allow your friends and family to see the world as you do, and there are a variety of devices at your disposal to help you parlay how you see and experience the world.

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Spectacles

I may not be an avid Snapchatter, but I was intrigued when the social media platform launched its wearable camera. Positioned at a demographic (ages 12-24) that uses content, images, and video as their preferred vernacular, Spectacles add a new layer to their language.

The funky-looking glasses have quickly made their mark on the wearable world. Many wearable cameras have come and gone with little success, but Snap Inc., has found a new way to market the technology for a social-savvy demographic that’s eager to share. Where Google Glass failed, Spectacles have prevailed. Instead of hardware that resembles something from Star Trek’s line of Borg accessories, these sunglasses feature a fashion-forward design that both users and spectators are more comfortable with and intrigued by. To put bystanders at ease, the frames feature a ring of LEDs that illuminate when the device is recording, so stealth shooting is more difficult—and less creepy!

With just a click of the button, the stereoscopic two-camera system records 10 seconds of live video, and uploads it to the SnapChat app. Forget about fumbling for the phone and attempting to unlock and record what lays before you, Spectacles provide an easier way to capture that fleeting moment. The device allows you to show your friends how the world looks to you, with the help of a 115-degree field of view, you will be able to take your followers on a personal journey.

However, the most frustrating part about Spectacles is trying to get your hands on a pair. Currently, the specs are circulating the United States in a vending machine that resembles an oversized minion. Dubbed the SnapBot, it appears in a random location without warning for 24 hours, and is met with mile-long lineups of people dying to purchase a pair. With a choice of three colours (teal, black, and coral), and a case that doubles as a charger, the camera retails for $129.99 US. For those of us who are unable to take a road trip across the states, we are relegated to the likes of eBay and Amazon—but be forewarned: you will pay triple the price,

Whether this camera is just a fad or craze, Spectacles have done for wearable cameras what Pokemon Go did for augmented reality; it made the technology simple to use, provides socially shareable content, and prepared the public for what’s to come!  www.spectacles.com

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GoPro HERO5 Black

From the depths of the ocean to the edge of space, there is no camera that has conquered the world like GoPro. A true action cam and a companion to any daredevil or global traveller, GoPro continues to lead the market on wearable cameras. Some may argue that past releases have made GoPro Inc.’s pedestal wobbly, but the company is back on stable ground thanks to the Hero5 Black ($399.99 US).

Not just a camera company and industry heavy weight, GoPro have proven themselves as a media company. Their ability to inspire users to create and capture unique content, and share it with the world has been nothing short of impressive. As an expanding community of adventurers continue to flood their social media newsfeeds with non-stop POV gold and showcase experiences that many of us only dream of.

The latest member to the GoPro family is the second camera to feature a touchscreen, and the first to include GPS technology. In addition to shooting in Narrow, Medium, Wide and SuperView the Hero5 Black has added linear mode. This allows you to fix the distortion caused when recording wide-angle photos and video.

Shooting video at 4K is pretty much standard now, and this camera can record 4K at 30fps. It’s compatible with existing GoPro mounts, including the new drone, Karma. If you are one for surfing, rafting, or just splashing around, you will be happy to know that Hero5 Black is waterproof without housing for 33-feet (10-metres). Because the design had to be altered to create a watertight fit, the door concealing the USB-C and micro HMDI ports can be a little tricky to pry open. But that’s a small price to pay for a gadget that can go skinny-dipping.

If there is one new feature to make note of, it’s the introduction of voice commands. So the next time you are barreling down a ski hill, you can inform your device to stop recording … in seven different languages! www.gopro.com

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MeCam Classic & Neo Mini

If glasses seem a little too goofy, or you don’t want to dish out big bucks for a high-performance device, there are cameras that are available to help you dip your toe into the wearable tech waters. MeCam — a startup based in Los Angeles — developed a line of body-worn cameras that are designed to capture the moments you don’t want to forget. The MeCam Classic ($69.99 US)  weighs an ounce, and is easily pinned to your shirt, hat, or worn as a necklace (supplied in the box).

Wearable cameras are not just for the RedBull addicted athletes, but for the parent who wants to record their child’s birthday party, or for the traveller who wants to document their vacation. We become spectators in our own lives because we spend much of our time living through lenses. MeCam wants you to put down your smartphone and enjoy the moments, as they are being recorded, not after.

The latest camera to be added to the firm’s collection is the MeCam Neo Mini ($129.99 US). Smaller and lighter than its predecessor, it comes in at 1.6-inches square, and weighs less than an ounce. With four standard mounts (clip, suction cup, magnet, and sticky) the camera is extremely versatile and portable. It shoots full high-definition resolution (1080P and 8MP), and the user can record in wide angle (120 degrees), or standard angle (98 degrees). The smartphone app—available on both iOS and Android—provides a variety of shooting abilities including time lapse, and 15-second captures, all of which can be uploaded to your social media channels.

So, whether it’s a night out with friends, or a hike through a canyon, MeCam has a lifelogging gadget for you. Start living your life, not just documenting it!  www.mecam.me