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2 weeks ago

ASUS ZenFone AR hands-on: It will probably be great once it works

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This is where my ZenFone AR hands on would be, if that were possible.

ASUS hopped on stage and announced two thin, light, and beautiful new phones for everyone to enjoy. We've spent some time with the ZenFone Zoom and look forward to seeing what that new camera and snappy new software can do in the real world, but the ZenFone AR isn't quite as ready to be used as its sibling. That makes some sense when you consider this phone isn't coming to market until much later than the ZenFone Zoom, but it also means most of the really cool things this phone is supposed to be capable of aren't quite ready for evaluation.

We've got some photos for you to look at, and some thoughts on the design of the exterior, but it'll be a little while before we can fully appreciate everything this phone is capable of.

The outside

A lot of the exterior of this phone is not exactly standard for ASUS. The back of the phone is a textured material that feels somewhere in between faux leather and plastic, which is a good thing. It doesn't seem likely to get scuffed up like Moto leather, and there's no squish to take away from how solid the phone feels. The aluminum band around the outside is polished smooth and helps the phone feel thinner than it is, with a plastic rim in between the glass front and the bezel so you're not setting the phone on anything that could scratch the display when you set it face down.

ASUS built all of the Tango functionality on Android 6.0, and when the upgrade to 7.0 happened none of those AR-related features survived.

The things that are most interesting about this phone, as the name suggests, are on the inside. This is the first phone with a Snapdragon 821 processor that has been optimized to handle Google Tango, complete with a camera array that differs wildly from Google's first Tango partner, Lenovo. As the first phone that can handle both Daydream and Tango, there's a lot of testing to be done to see how well all of this comes together. Unfortunately, none of the Tango stuff is available to try out yet. ASUS built all of the Tango functionality on Android 6.0, and when the upgrade to 7.0 happened none of those AR-related features survived. It'll be a while before that changes.

The potential

While Tango isn't ready to be tested, there are some interesting software decisions being made that are worth talking about. For example, ASUS has a separate notification setting for when you're using VR that switches over immediately when Daydream is launched. This is a huge deal if you've ever had a standard Android notification drop down and totally disorient you when you're in the middle of a Daydream app, and like any other notification setting it can be set to allow specific users to interrupt if they're really needed.

It'll be a little while before we're able to see if a phone really needs 8GB of RAM.

It'll be a little while before we're able to see if a phone really needs 8GB of RAM and how well a phone so much thinner than the Lenovo PHAB 2 Pro handles Tango before things like heat become a problem. Despite that, ASUS set out to make a Tango phone you'd actually want to carry around and use as your personal phone, and that's a massive step forward for Tango. Where other Tango have been clearly purpose built for specific use cases, the ZenFone AR is shaping up to be a decent phone that also does cool VR and AR things. Assuming the performance really does work out, this could be a fantastic phone to own.

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2 weeks ago

Best Micro-USB cables

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Best Micro-USB cable

Wherein we help you pick a great Micro-USB cable.

Whether you have a smartphone, tablet or wearable, odds are that you've got a Micro-USB cable (or three) laying around. They're ubiquitous. Just in case you don't, here are some of our favorites.

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2 weeks ago

How to make a fitness app part of your daily routine

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Technology is transforming fitness.

It used to be that fitness apps were primarily used to count calories, and check in after workouts. That's no longer the case. There are dozens of fantastic apps out there, and they cater to what you are specifically looking for. Whether you're always looking for a new fun app to help motivate you along, or you've never been inclined to look into them at all, fitness apps can help make your average day healthier.

Keeping fit is easier than ever

Most of us get some amount of exercise every day, just by living our lives. We walk around, in some cases all day long. Plenty of fitness apps will track this and let you know what your activity level is like each day, including the number of steps taken and calories burned based off of your height and weight. There are apps which do this without ever even needing to be opened after you initially set them up.

Fitness doesn't have to be a chore, at least not with these apps.

If you're just starting a fitness routine, there are apps that can help build workout plans, count calories, give you videos so you can workout at home and much more. It might seem a little strange at first to have an app tracking your fitness level. By integrating these apps into your day you can see how active you already are, without ever having to hit the gym. That isn't to say that all fitness apps are made for that purpose. They've branched out, and the abundance of choice lets you determine what you need out of a fitness app.

More: 4 interactive apps that will keep you entertained

If you're looking for something that turns fitness into a game there is Zombies, Run!, The Walk, or even Pokémon Go. Nexercise is an app that turn fitness into an actual game, letting you earn experience points, level up, add friends and win prizes. Charity Miles donates money to a charity of your choice for the distance you run. Fitness doesn't have to be a chore, at least not with these apps. They take what you're already doing, and put a spin on it to make it fun and encourage you to do more.

One size fits all fitness is a thing of the past

Even if you aren't particularly fitness-minded, integrating an app into your life can be a benefit. With unobtrusive tracking apps, you can see your daily activity levels. While that might not seem like much, if you're a city dweller you could be walking miles every day without ever realizing it. These apps can help with your health as well, outlining when you have more energy for activity, or what your stamina is like. Some games even have fitness benefits that are purely accidental, like Ingress where walking around to capture portals is a game mechanic. Apps like Aqualert can even help to make sure you're drinking enough water. Fitness apps are no longer just for the people who live and breathe getting, and staying in shape. They're built now to be friendly to everyone no matter what your level of motivation might be.

With the ways that fitness apps have diversified, there really is something out there for absolutely everyone.

These aren't the apps from years ago which were tailored for a specific type of person to use. Rather, they have spread their influence and tried to find new niches for people who might not usually use a fitness app. The analytics and data can be fantastic if you're a fan of graphs and charts, but even better is the fact that using these apps can actually help you to live a healthier life. We only get one body, so why not treat it right with the help of technology?

It doesn't matter what your activity level is like on a day to day basis. Everyone can benefit from having a fitness app in their life. It can be something small like simply tracking your activity levels, or detailed down to your caloric intake and workout intensity. No matter where you sit on the fitness spectrum, there is an app for you. So are you using any of these apps, or is there a fitness app that you stand by already? Tell us all about it in the comments!

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2 weeks ago

Lofelt Basslet is more than just a subwoofer for your wrist

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This vibrahaptic wearable has more potential than simply shaking along to your tunes.

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Honestly, I'm not into the idea of wearing a smartwatch full-time. I've never been a watch person and having something on that big feels almost intrusive. But weirdly, I found myself excited about the Lofelt Basslet, despite the fact that all it does is vibrate on your wrist.

It sounds kooky, I know. Why the hell would anyone want anything as plain and simple as this little wristlet that buzzes along to your music? Well, I hate to offer this kind of explanation, but it's not for everyone — it's for enthusiasts.

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2 weeks ago

Meet Lynx, the walking, talking home robot powered by Amazon Alexa

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Robot assistants are the natural progression once we've nailed down artificial intelligence, right?

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AI assistants such as Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant are cool, but you're still essentially talking to a speaker or your phone when you use them. Ubtech Robotics is looking to change that with Lynx, a talking and dancing robotic assistant that's powered by Amazon's AI.

Ubtech is a Chinese company that's responsible for creating educational and interactive humanoid robots like Alpha Series, and with Lynx, they've combined their proprietary robotics tech with the speech recognition, language comprehension and search utility provided from Alexa to create a unique human-to-robot interface that's super cool for some, and admittedly a little creepy for others.

This is #LYNX! 👋🏻🤖 He's a #robot that's been designed to work seamlessly with #AmazonAlexa, and he just launched today! #CES2017 #Amazon #ShowStoppers

A video posted by Android Central (@androidcentral) on Jan 5, 2017 at 6:59pm PST

Lynx is designed to be an in-home companion, a physical extension of everything you'd expect from Alexa. Talk to Lynx to control music, set reminders and calendar events for yourself, find out the latest news or weather updates, and much more. With Lynx, Ubtech has added a built-in camera to the mix, which is used for facial recognition, remote video access for keeping tabs on your kids or pets, and the ability to conduct video calls over Wi-Fi. Put all those parts together, and you've actually got a pretty capable little device, that'll literally be able to follow you around the house, waiting for your next command.

This little robotic assistant is just more proof that Amazon is building out an impressive and capable operating system that we'll begin to see integrated in more tech, going far beyond Amazon's Echo speakers. At CES, we've already seen Alexa begin to be incorporated into appliances and autos, and now we can add robots to the list.

The future is here, folks. I, for one, welcome our new robotic overlords.

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2 weeks ago

Watching two Google Homes trying to have a conversation is the best thing you'll see today

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In the future, computers will be able to talk to one another. Perhaps intelligently.

Today, though, all we have is this: two Google Home units sitting in the same room having a conversation. Twitch channel seebotschat have managed to whip together a Cleverbot API hook that keeps the units speaking in a way that yours wouldn't be able to, and suffice it to say the outcome is, well... you just have to watch.

Watch live video from seebotschat on www.twitch.tv

A log of the conversation is being kept next to the video stream for context, but that's difficult to find when most of it makes no sense.

Google Home leverages Google's Knowledge Graph to give it access to the company's vast array of growing search results. But try to have a chat with it and you'll fail hard very quickly. Until then, you'll have this.

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2 weeks ago

Top 5 Android predictions for 2017!

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After the dumpster fire that was 2016, it's time to look forward to a whole new year of Android-related goodness. Of course, 2017 will see a familiar pattern of device launches, Android updates (or lack thereof, depending on your phone), and undoubtedly some surprises that we couldn't predict (hey there Note 7).

Predicting the future is always a tricky game, but we've narrowed our expectations down to this top five Android trends for the coming year. Agree? Disagree? Be sure to share your thoughts down in the comments, and keep watching throughout the year to see how things unfold!

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2 weeks ago

Hands-on: WeMo Dimmer and Google Home make home automation seamless

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Google Home + WeMo is a recipe for home automation bliss.

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Belkin's WeMo brand has been in the business a long time, and by now it knows how to make a good product. Dimmer is WeMo's latest must-have connected home accessory, especially since it works seamlessly with the new Google Home.

WeMo Dimmer will be available in the spring for $49.99.

What was your favorite CES 2017 announcement? Let us know in the comments below!

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2 weeks ago

Everything you need to know about Qualcomm Quick Charge

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Quick Charge

Being able to charge your phone or tablet faster at home — and more importantly when you're on the go — may be one of the biggest improvement we've seen in mobile tech in some time.

And while one of the many cool things about living in 2017 is not necessarily needing to understand how a lot of the tech around you works, if you take the time to better understand what you are using there's a good chance you'll get more out of it. A perfect simple example is the power supply you use for your smartphone.

If you've purchased a new phone recently, there's a good chance the power supply in the box is capable of charging your phone significantly faster than any of the other chargers you have in the house. This little slice of magic is called Quick Charge from Qualcomm, and it's a two-step process that promises to safely charge your phone faster than any other tech out there right now.

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2 weeks ago

Google's Amit Singh on what it takes to certify a phone for Daydream

Amit Singh

There's more to a phone than individual specs.

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If you're looking to make sure your next phone can handle Google Daydream, you may have a list of things to expect from a phone. Google's documentation for Daydream is complex, but the essentials boil down to being able to handle a pair of 60fps streams and a very low latency and persistence rate. This means the phone can display VR without jittery images, without motion blur that could potentially disorient you.

Not all of these rules are set in stone, especially when it comes to things like display technology and processor architecture. With the latest batch of Daydream-ready phones, Google VR created exceptions for the Kirin processors as well as displays that appear to meet the bare minimum of what it takes for a quality Daydream experience. We sat down with Amit Singh, the VP of Business and Operations for Google VR, to learn a little more about what it takes to make a phone Daydream-Ready.

Read more at VR Heads!

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2 weeks ago

Common HTC 10 problems and how to fix them

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Having problems with your HTC 10? Here are the most common ones, and how to fix them.

The HTC 10 is a beautiful device that's a good size with plenty of power and lots of features. However, like all phones, it can run into problems every now and then. Here are some of the problems users have encountered most, and how to deal with them.

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2 weeks ago

How to install Kodi on a Raspberry Pi

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Kodi and a Raspberry Pi makes for one of the easiest and best media centers you can make yourself.

Kodi is a great way to make your TV smart. It's the continuation of XBMC, a free and open-source application that is a great media player and complete replacement for just about any other media-centric software. It's not a streaming server or DVR. It's the software you use to watch video content and listen to music through any screen with an HDMI connection.

Because it's open-source, Kodi runs on just about every platform known to man — Windows, Android, iOS, macOS and a gazillion different flavors of BSD and Linux.

Several of those operating system platforms also work really well on the Raspberry Pi. A marriage of the two makes for a cheap media center that's easy to set up and has all the features you'll find on expensive alternatives. It's a DIY project that anyone can do and the results are incredible.

Getting started

You'll need to buy a few things:

  • Raspberry Pi 3
  • A case of some sort
  • A power supply
  • A microSD card with an adapter to plug it into your computer

You can run Kodi on an earlier model of Raspberry Pi (and plenty of folks do) but the better hardware in the third revision makes a big difference. The power supply needs to provide 5 volts at 2 amps through a Micro-USB port. Any microSD card will work, but faster cards are better — try to get something Class 10 or higher. You'll also want one at least 8GB in size.

The case needs to have decent airflow because things can get hot. It should also stay together if the cat or a roaming infant gets behind things and pulls on cords. And you'll need a cable that can take HDMI with audio from the Raspberry Pi to the screen you want to see your stuff on.

The easy way is to buy a kit that has all this stuff in it. You'll save a couple dollars and a lot of time. I went with this kit from CanaKit and it has everything you need to get started and it's decent quality stuff.

See CanaKit at Amazon

You'll also want to have a keyboard and mouse you can use directly with your Kodi box. Almost any keyboard and mouse will work, but after trying a whole bunch of them through the years on various small electronic projects I have to recommend the Logitech K400. It's bigger than many others, but it works on everything without any setup or hassle — even the PlayStation 4 which can be finicky and hates peripherals.

I have like three of them around the office and they've held up just fine.

See Logitech K400 keyboard at Amazon

Putting things together

Gather up your handful of parts and find a nice flat spot to put them together on. I'm going to recommend you find a static-free place to work because everyone recommends it. I have a big static mat that covers half my desk that I leave there and use as a mouse pad. If you don't have a static mat, just be really careful.

Also, round up any tools you might need to put your case together. You might need a screwdriver or a small socket driver. The packaging it comes in or any instructions will tell you. The one I bought for this just snaps together and I'll never go back to one that needs to be screwed or bolted together again. Follow the directions and get your Raspberry Pi placed in the case and then make sure all the various ports and holes aren't obstructed and that your wires and SD card will fit easily.

Find a spot to put it when you're finished where the cords aren't bent at an extreme angle and nobody will trip over it. If you're going to use a remote (either a USB receiver type or a more DIY LIRC IR style) make sure the signal will be able to hit the receiver. Once installed, you'll not need to touch any of the hardware for a long time, so take a minute or two and find the right place for it.

Install the software

I recommend you use OSMC (Open Source Media Center) as the operating system unless you know what you're doing when it comes to Linux. OSMC is Linux (Debian stable) but the front end and all admin is done through the simple OSMC skin for Kodi. And it's simple to install. You download an installer for Windows, Mac or Linux, plug your SD card into your computer and follow a couple of simple steps to configure your network. Tell it where your SD card is and press a button.

To get started, point your web browser to OSMC.tv's download page and pick the right version for your computer. Download it, run it and follow the super-simple instructions. Take some time to read a bit more about the project and see if you want to donate to this 100% volunteer project. Building an open source media center is fun for a lot of people, but servers on the internet cost money. Lots of it.

Once you have everything on your SD card, plug it into your Raspberry Pi. Put it where it's going to live, plug in the keyboard and HDMI cable (and Ethernet cable if you want a more robust wired network) then plug in the power. If everything worked (and it should have) you can turn on your TV and keyboard and go through the setup. It's simple — you need to let the software know what language to use, what time zone you're in and what your new Kodi box should be named. Then you're finished. Kodi is set up and running on your Raspberry Pi and you can do the same things with it that you can if it were running on a PC or Android TV or anything else.

Next steps

There are some things you'll want to do to get started watching video content and listening to music through your new Kodi box. You might need to buy licenses for MPEG-2 and VC1 hardware decoding. They're cheap and easy to buy over the internet. I think you should spend the few bucks to buy them instead of finding other ways to acquire them.

You might also want to set up Plex and the PleXMBC add-on to decode and stream video to your new Kodi box. Kodi is a player that can attach to your storage or countless streaming servers via the internet. If you have a large media library of your own, Plex is an easy-to-set up media server that works great with Kodi to watch and listen to everything you have.

You can also install support for your own DVR backend or an HDHomeRun tuner or set things up to watch recorded PlayOn streams. Look at the Add-ons settings for all the legal and Kodi project approved ways to get content from the internet to your screen. Of course, there are plenty of places on the internet to get more information about services you can add to Kodi, but we'll let you find those on your own.

OSMC is a skinned version of Kodi that's easy to install. That means you can use any Android Kodi remote app to control things. I like Kore but there are plenty to try, Just search Kodi remote in the Play store.

The next step is to lean back and enjoy it.

Questions? Problems?

We're here to help! If you have problems getting Kodi to work on a Raspberry Pi, leave a comment down below and we'll try to answer it!

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2 weeks ago

Google Calendar now integrates with Google Fit to track your workout goals

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It's good to have goals.

New Year's means New Year's Resolutions, and everyone wants to help you lose weight, exercise more, eat better, or whatever else you drunkenly decided to do over the holidays. Even us. Google Calendar wants to help you with them, with their Goals on Google Calendar.

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2 weeks ago

Everything you need to know about Google Daydream

What is Google Daydream?

Without being overly technical, Daydream is a new way to experience games and video on your phone. Instead of looking down at your screen and swiping or tapping, you can put your phone in a specially made headset and experience a 360-degree immersive environment that allows you to really step into the world instead of viewing it on a small screen.

Read more at VR Heads

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2 weeks ago

Keep five of your devices charged up with this Quick Charge 3.0 charging station for just $20!

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Aukey is currently offering its five port USB desktop charging station for just $20 with coupon code AUKUSBC5, a savings of $5. Don't get stuck looking for multiple outlets to charge up your gadgets, and instead just use one to get them all charged. This hub has 4 regular USB ports, along with one USB-C port for easy charging on just about anything you have around. Being Quick Charge 3.0 it will charge compatible devices up to four times faster, and it is still completely safe to use on anything that doesn't support QC 3.0.

Remember, you will need to use coupon code AUKUSBC5 for the $5 savings here. If you've got a bunch of devices to charge up, this is definitely the easiest and best way to do it.

See at Amazon

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