Stephanie Greenall

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Tech Fails to Avoid When Travelling.indd

While you might be tempted to unplug on your next vacation, I’ve got a couple of gadgets you won’t want to leave behind. Plagued with stress-induced headaches my last trip could have been saved with just a little bit of tech. To help you learn from my mistakes I have outlined travel essentials that will help you avoid any vacation fails.

Bluesmart the world’s first smart luggage (Custom)

Luggage You Can’t Lose
Travel is stressful. There is no doubt about that. From the arguments about how early you should arrive before your flight to the last minute sorting of liquids, travel can induce a strange sort of panic. But there is one moment that can stop my heart and bring a cold sweat to my palms, baggage check-in. When you toss your bag on top of the scale and hope you haven’t reached the limit, you close your eyes and pray to the travel gods that you will one day see your bag again. If the very thought of misplaced baggage sends your stomach into somersaults, I would like to introduce you to Bluesmart, the world’s first smart luggage ($395+ US). Developed by frequent flyers, the smart luggage system consists of a series of suitcases with the modern traveler in mind. With GPS+3G location tracking, you can locate your bag anywhere in the world. Built-in sensors provide accurate weight data to the companion app, and each suitcase has the ability to charge a variety of devices. Whether you’re stranded at the airport in need of a charge or having a nervous breakdown around the luggage carousel, Bluesmart is the answer to your travel woes.

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Block Out Screaming Babies
Packing a carry-on bag is an art. I’ve spent years perfecting the combination of gadgets, liquids, and clothes to get me through a long flight. For my audio needs, I typically opt for a set of earbuds and a pair of over-the-ear headphones. On my last trip, I was seated next to what I can only assume was a possessed child. The blood-curdling screams started before the landing gear had retracted and continued while we waited for our luggage. It was on this flight I began to understand the importance of noise-canceling headphones. For my daily commute, I cannot say enough about Apple’s AirPods, but if there is a screeching two-year-old hell-bent on polluting the air with spine piercing wails, I would highly suggest investing in a pair of Bose QuietComfort 35 wireless headphones II ($349 US). With 20 hours of battery life and plush ear cushions made from a synthetic protein leather, you will be able to enjoy your in-flight entertainment and land with your sanity intact.

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Avoid Poolside Book Embarrassment
When it comes to reading, there is nothing better than the smell of the paper and the sound that the pages make when flipping through a book. But that feeling can be short lived when you’re on day three of your vacation, and you’ve already finished your novel. If you’ve only brought the one book, you are met with the terrifying realization that you might have to explore the resort’s “library” — and I use that term loosely. With a depressing collection of romance novels that feature the usual distraught milkmaid in the arms of an overly buff stable boy, you are left with only one choice — unless you’re all for the fantasy farmer — download a book to your phone. In an attempt to fight the glare from the screen, you engage in a combination of towel forts and strategically placed palm tree leaves, but in the end, all efforts are futile. In anticipation of your ability to speed read, packing an e-reader could save you from the blinding glare of your mobile’s screen. The latest edition of the Kindle family is the Oasis ($249 US). Featuring a 7-inch, 300 ppi display, an ergonomic design ideal for one-handed reading, and an adaptive front light that automatically adjusts the brightness, the Kindle Oasis is the perfect poolside companion. Oh, and did I mention it’s waterproof?

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5 Ways to Get Healthy With Tech.indd

For the last month, I have been gorging on cookies and pretty much every sweet treat that came across my desk. Going home for the holidays also didn’t do much for my waistline. From pints of eggnog to the revolving door of cheese platters and baked goods I’ve emerged from the holiday season with a little extra winter weight. Instead of launching myself into a panic-fuelled starvation diet I’ve decided to enlist a couple of gadgets to help guide me on a healthier path.

Nadi Smart Fitness Pants

Nadi Smart Fitness Pants web

If you’re looking to give your downward dog an upgrade, I would check out Wearable Experiments’ Nadix X smart yoga pants ($179 USD). Developed by a company whose mission is to improve quality of life through design and technology, the pants have the ability to communicate and correct your form during practice. Yoga is made up of a series of poses which at times can be incredibly intimidating–particularly for beginner yogis! In each position you must consider hand placement, alignment, hip rotation, and at the same time trying to stay physically and mentally balanced. With the help of subtle electronic sensors embedded in the fabric, the pants track your body’s movements and use haptic feedback to guide you into position. Forget staring at your smartphone screen or craning your neck to see if your leg is at the right angle, these vibrating yoga pants just became your best mat mate.

Smartphone Fitness Apps

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I’ve lost count how many times I’ve used the excuses that “I’m too busy” or “the membership is just too expensive.” Well, there is really no excuse when it comes to working out when one of the best fitness resources fits in the palm of your hand. It’s estimated that more than 3.4 billion smartphone users worldwide will have a health-related app on their phone by the end of 2018. There are thousands of apps out there, but what’s right for you? When it comes to finding the right fitness companion, you can either narrow it down by the type of exercise or diet you are working on, but I look at the motivational aspect when deciding on my digital coach.

If you’re looking to be taunted and mocked CARROT Fit ($3.99 USD) is the sadistic app that will whip your “lazy carcass” into shape, or else! This fitness overlord will bribe, inspire, threaten, and ridicule you as you sweat your way through a 7-minute science-based method workout.

If you want something with less teasing and more terror, Zombies, Run! is the app for you. It’s survival of the fittest as you join the immersive story as a jogger who needs to make it to the last remaining outpost during a zombie outbreak. By running, jogging, or walking, you gather supplies, rescue survivors, and defend your home. The app syncs with your regular playlist, but when you start to hear the undead rising, that’s your cue to pick up the pace.

For those who aren’t inspired by the ravings of a vicious AI trainer or the prospect of being eaten alive, there’s Charity Miles. In addition to improving your health, the app gives back to your charity of choice (40 organizations to choose from). Once you’ve picked your charity and your activity (indoor run, outdoor run, or outdoor bike), the app will pair you with a corporate sponsor that will be responsible for the donation—for my latest cycle session it was Brooks. If this isn’t motivation to go the extra mile, I don’t know what is!

Ulla Smart Hydration Reminder

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No matter how many times I’ve been told to drink more water, I always forget. It’s not until I find myself with a headache and a parched throat do I remember to pick up a glass. With a menagerie of glass, plastic, and aluminum bottles, the thought of purchasing an additional smart water bottle had me shaking my head. Thankfully I came across Ulla ($19.60 USD). This handy little device attaches to an existing bottle or cup and reminds you to drink up. The intelligent hydration monitor uses a high-precision accelerometer to track your intake and glows when you’ve missed the ideal interval (twice every hour). What I love most about this gadget is that it’s simple! Ulla uses an easily replaceable coin cell battery which lasts up to six months, so there is no need to add another charging cord to your collection. I can confidently say that since purchasing Ulla I have consumed more water, although my productivity may have suffered with the increase in bathroom breaks.

VirZOOM VZ Bike Controller

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Usually breaking a sweat in virtual reality is a side effect, not a goal. I’ve played my fair share of Fruit Ninja—which can really steam up your headset—but when I was invited to try out VirZoom’s VR connected bike ($399 USD) I was intrigued. I hopped on to what looked like a typical stationary bike with gamepads attached, strapped an Oculus Rift to my face and begun to peddle. I was transported to the Wild West where my bike was now a trusty steed, and I was attempting to lasso the local bandits with the controllers. It’s not your typical workout but it had me sweating. If you’re planning to give fitness in VR a go I recommend keeping a sweat rag nearby! The bike works with mobile, PC, and Playstation VR and the company will soon be offering a VZ Sensor that will hook onto any stationary bike and transform it into a VirZOOM cycle. I’m not sure If I’m ready to add this exercise to my weekly routine, but I would definitely throw it in for a little variety.

Philips Hue White Ambiance Starter Kit

Philips Hue White Ambiance Starter Kit 01 web

It turns out a good night’s rest is vital to one’s health and on my mission to improve my lifestyle I looked at what would help me catch some quality ZZZs. When it comes to light in the bedroom, your smartphone screen is not one you should be basking in. The blue light that’s emitted from your phone can delay the release of sleep-inducing melatonin, increase alertness, and reset the body’s internal clock. If you’re looking to minimize the blue light in your life, I would suggest the Philips Hue White Ambiance Smart Bulbs ($49.97 USD). With a variety of color temperatures, the bulbs mimic natural light which can help you fall asleep. Using the Hue app, you can set “routines” and customize the light levels in the morning to wake you and dim in the evening at bedtime. The perfect lullaby of light to send you off to the Land of Nod after a long day at the office—and of course that quick jog after dinner.

Whether it’s an app or a VR connected bike, its time to get off that couch! Take a jog around a neighbourhood full of zombies or strap on a pair of vibrating yoga pants and work up a sweat. Join me as I take on the new year with a healthy attitude and a collection of fitness tech! How will you get fit with tech?

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 8 Ways to Upgrade Your Summer Entertaining with Tech.indd

Tech Products That Will Make You the Best Host This Summer

If you are anything like me you’ve spent the dark wintery months clad in a parka that could rival the Stark Family’s Winterfell collection. I have finally climbed out of hibernation in hopes of spending quality time with family and friends before I disappear back into my sea of duvets. Tis the season for backyard barbecues and s’mores around the bonfire, but how can you upgrade your summertime festivities?

Check out how these tech gadgets can improve your summer get-togethers.

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Husqvarna 450X Automower – Robotic Lawn Mower
For many, lawn care is an art, a way to demonstrate the power one wields over nature. I have seen first hand a suburban siege where neighbours waged war over a single blade of grass. While some may stand in their yard and survey their property like their very own pride lands, I prefer to wait until my yard begins to look a little unruly and my neighbour takes pity on my haggard lawn. For those of us who would rather enjoy a cocktail than sweat it out with a mower, there’s the Husqvarna 450X Automower ($3,499 US). With the help of a perimeter wire, the mower will recognize the boundaries of the lawn and your no-mow zones, like a shed, pond, or lawn gnome. After you’ve set the bot’s border, the app — yes, there’s an app for that — can be used to program cutting height, angle of path, proximity to boundary wires, and set the mowing schedule. So, while this outdoor Roomba is saving you from an afternoon of turf torment, you can try out those margarita recipes for your next backyard barbecue.

Bartesian 02 (Custom)

Bartesian the Ultimate Home Cocktail Machine
The right libation can liven up a party, but you don’t want to spend more time mixing than mingling. There’s nothing worse than being relegated to the kitchen to shake up another tray of martinis and miss the evening’s shenanigans. If you still have your heart set on winning over your guests with a variety of cocktails, I suggest hiring a bartender or investing in the Bartesian ($299 US). The capsule-based cocktail machine has been called the “Keurig of Cocktails” and features four reservoirs for your staple liquors: vodka, rum, gin, and tequila. The single serve capsules currently come in six flavours and can be adjusted to deliver drinks from mocktail to triple shot strength. With just the press of a button, you (and your guests) can be enjoying premium cocktails without the muddling or the shaking.

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Sengled Boost Smart Bulb
It seems that our very survival depends on the availability of WiFi. We can’t walk into a coffee shop or mall without inquiring what the network password is. It’s as if we are unable to breathe unless fully synced with the matrix. Your home is no different. When your friends arrive, one of the first things they ask for is access to the network. Now if your house is anything like mine, it offers WiFi dead zones and the largest dead zone of all, the patio! If you want to keep your guests from huddling around a weak signal like caveman around a fire, I suggest adding a Sengled Boost Bulb ($49 US) to your yard. This LED light bulb is a WiFi repeater that can extend your signal up to 100 feet. Just screw in the bulb–which fits any standard light socket–and download the app to complete the setup. This device should help quell the panic and rid you of your dreaded dead zones.

Weber iGrill 2 00 (Custom)

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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!

kwikvr 2017

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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Robots to Rock Your World.indd
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?

Kuri robot 03

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