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  • Author: Mitchell Kossoris

Author: Mitchell Kossoris

Bragi Dash Smart Truly Wireless Earbuds Review

As we move further into the age of wireless audio with the iPhone 7 abandoning the ever-so-present headphone jack, a new category of “truly wireless” earbuds has been popping up. So you may be asking, what does “truly wireless” even mean? Well, as you may have seen, many earbuds that have claimed to be “wireless” actually have a wire in between the buds that generally goes around your neck. So, a few companies, such as Bragi, decided to do away with any and all wires, leaving us with Bragi’s first product, the Dash.

The Dash started as a Kickstarter project back in February of 2014, with an enormous amount of support, raising just under $3.4 million with the promise of earbuds completely free of wires and with loads of other features. These features included activity tracking, touch controls, on-board storage, water-resistance, and more. The campaign had initially intended to ship out the Dash units in October of 2014, but due to many setbacks, they started shipping out units in early- to mid-2016. With initial reports of problems with the microphone and Bluetooth connectivity, it seemed, at first, like the Dash could be just another Kickstarter flop. Instead, however, the company dedicated a lot of time into creating new updates to the firmware that drastically improved, if not completely solved these issues.

The Sound

DSC01138An earbud can’t be good without sounding good, of course. So, how does the Dash stack up to the competition? After all, the price for these is not cheap, coming in at around $300. Well, they’re actually pretty good! I wasn’t expecting amazing sound from a device so small, yet packed full of components. What I found was that the Dash produces a good, clear sound, though certainly preferring the mids over the lows and highs. That said, I am quite a bass-lover myself and I’m coming from using a V-Moda Crossfade M-100, so I’ve been spoiled, and for earbuds, the Dash does a good job producing the bass it does. If I had to compare it to some other earbuds, I’d compare the sound to something like the “wireless” (but not completely wireless) Jaybird Bluebuds, which are quite good themselves.

Bluetooth Connectivity

Now, a common issue with truly wireless earbuds is their often lacking performance in their ability to hold a strong Bluetooth connection. In the beginning, there were lots of complaints from users experiencing poor connection even if the phone was placed only as far as the user’s pockets. Obviously, that’s a huge issue, but also one Bragi appears to have fixed through their updates. I can confidently say that I have had virtually no issues whatsoever with the connectivity of these earbuds, other than maybe one or two micro drops in connection. I tested the Dash by walking around a room and was able to go as far as 10 to 15 feet away from the source without experiencing any connectivity issues. Additionally, just the process of using and connecting the earbuds is really simple. All you do is take them out of the case and put them in your ears. The buds sense when they’re in and automatically turn on, connect to each other, and connect to your phone or other device.

Comfort and Design

DSC01125Another historically common problem with this category of audio products is the ridiculous look of the product or their inability to stay in ears due to the sheer weight they carry. Luckily, this is not an issue with the Dash. While you may get some head turns while using this product, people often just don’t care, and the Dash really doesn’t look bad at all. Additionally, these earbuds were surprisingly comfortable to wear. They come with multiple sleeves to fit your ears (XS, S, M, and L), and once you find the right fit, the earbuds fit snuggly and quite comfortably. I haven’t had too many issues with the buds falling out, which has always been a problem for me, whether or not the earbuds I was using were wireless. Yet another check mark for the Dash.

Gestures/Controls

A neat feature of the Dash is the way you control them. There are multiple ways that you control the Dash, including through the app, touch sensors on the outside of each bud, and head gestures. For instance, if you receive a call while using the earbuds, just nod or shake your head to answer or deny the call. Playing and pausing is easy, with just a tap on the right earbud, or start tracking activities with a tap on the left. One of the issues I noticed is that the touch sensors aren’t only sensitive to your fingers, so putting on a winter hat caused the earbuds to do some unwanted actions. After looking around a bit, though, it looks like Bragi addressed this issue by including a touch lock that can be implemented by holding down on both the right and left touch sensors, which worked well and solved my problem.

Other Features

DSC01143The other features included with the Dash are a microphone, onboard storage, a heart-rate sensor, and a case that charges the buds 5 times on-the-go. To start off, the microphone had quite a few complaints in the early days, with users claiming it was unusable and that the person speaking sounded robotic over the phone. This is yet another area where Bragi has used its firmware updates to address an issue. When I was using the microphone for phone calls, some people said there were no problems at all, while others said it sounded a bit muddled, but they could still hear me and know what I was saying. As for the onboard storage, there’s not much to be said about it. Songs can be added through a computer and using it works as described. Next up is the heart-rate sensor, which seemed to be relatively accurate, though I didn’t have another device to compare it to at the time. This is a really nice feature for athletes looking to listen to music without an annoying wire and no need for a smartwatch. And lastly, the charging case. The case is built quite well, with an aluminum sleeve and a strong metal or plastic where the earbuds actually rest. The earbuds flash when they’ve been connected properly, and a magnet holds them in place. My only complaint is that I feel like I will drop the earbuds when trying to get them out of the case because you have to take the sleeve off, hold that, hold the battery part, and then fiddle with getting the buds out. That said, overall, the battery case is a nice feature, as the battery life on the buds isn’t spectacular at about 3 hours.

Conclusion

So, what are my overall thoughts of the Dash? Well, I like them. I don’t know if I, personally, would quite want to spend the $300 for them, but I could understand why some would. The features work well and the sound quality is pretty good, considering everything that’s built into them. I think Bragi’s next product, the Headphone, could also allow a lot more people to purchase their products, with reportedly better sound quality and a much lower price of $149. However, that new product does strip the Dash of many of its capabilities, including the water-resistance, touch controls, onboard storage, and heart rate sensor. So it really comes down to what you want. If you want the smart capabilities, there really is no other product out there that offers all of the Dash’s capabilities, but if that does interest you, the Headphone is probably the way to go.

2in1cable’s Micro USB/Lightning Charging Cable Review

For a long time, Apple and Android users have fought over which of their phones or operating systems are best, all while never actually accomplishing anything. Luckily, a company called 2in1cable decided to resolve one of the biggest 1st-world problems: your friend always has the wrong charging cable. The interesting part is how they went about solving the issue.

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The interesting part is how they went about solving the issue. One may think they just created a splitting cable, where you have one USB end that connects to two different ends (one a micro USB end and the other a Lightning end). But that would look weird and not many people would be fond of it. So, the company came up with the novel solution of just combining the two ends into one single end that can fit into either a micro USB or Lightning port. Simple stylish, and most importantly incredibly useful. Now you can charge your friend’s Galaxy S7 even though you have the 6S.

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Another pretty cool thing the team did is create a lot of different styles, from a simple white cable to cowboy blue jean or various colors of leather. If you’d like to pick up one of these neat cables, head on over to their website at http://www.2in1cable.com/. Also, check out the images of some of the cables below: Pic 3

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Z4 Aurora Smart Projector Raises Over 100K on IndieGoGo

There are two categories in the tech market that have been making quite a splash recently: projectors and crowdfunding. In the case of the XGIMI Z4 Aurora, those two combined to make a very popular campaign on one of the largest crowdfunding websites, IndieGoGo.

So what makes the Z4 special? Well, a few things.

For starters, the projector outputs a 700 lumen, 1280×800 resolution picture at up to 300″, and for just $449.00 (that’s the current offering on IGG; will increase to $699.00 after the campaign). The projector is also able to receive inputs of up to 4K quality, and can output a 3D image with active-shutter 3D glasses. Additionally, the internal bulb is rated to last 30,000 hours, so you should get plenty of movies out of it.

Z4 Aurora 3Of course, none of this is entirely special, until you look at the other built-in features. The first of which is sound. Projectors are commonly associated with having very poor internal speakers, and XGIMI wanted to change that. As a result, they have constructed the Z4 with a custom Harman Kardon stereo speaker set, which should theoretically sound awesome, as HK is known to have very high-quality sound products.

Next up is connectivity. Built into the Z4 system is WiFi, Bluetooth, HDMI, USB, ethernet and AV ports. This allows for a very versatile system. You can hook your computer up to it via HDMI, plug in a flash drive, or stream wirelessly from your laptop, tablet, or phone.

Z4 Aurora 2Moving along, we’ll now talk about some of the cooler features the Z4 has to offer. For one, that record-player-looking thing on the top is actually a 3D gesture control, allowing you to play, pause, fast forward, and control the volume. For example, let’s say you want to raise the volume. Well, all you need to do is swirl your finger in a clockwise direction above the “record”, and that’s it!

Last but not least, one of the awesome features found on the Z4 is the custom Android OS built into the system. This means you don’t actually need any other device to interact with the Z4. Find a video on the YouTube app or watch a movie with the Netflix app. Simple.

I really look forward to seeing how this product turns out, as it is quite innovative for the projector market, and that extra boost may be exactly what the market needs to truly become a commonality within homes. If you’d like to view the campaign and/or back the project to get one of your own projectors, click here.

 

Google Pays $12,000 to Man Who Owned Google.com Domain for 1 Minute

You may remember back in September of last year when a man named Sanmay Ved purchased the world’s most valuable domain name, Google.com, for $12. The former Google employee said he found the domain up for sale on the listings, and decided to try purchasing it just for fun. He didn’t think the transaction would go through, but much to Ved’s surprise, he was able to charge his card the $12 and own the domain name… for one minute.

Of course, Google was quick to notice something wasn’t quite right when they all of a sudden didn’t own their domain name anymore and cancelled the transaction just after it was originally created. However, as payment for Ved noticing the error, Google told Ved they’d send him a payment for $6,006.13. Why such a specific amount? Well, if you look closely, you can see that 600613 is GOOGLE in numbers (or at least as close to it as you can get).

Ved immediately chose to donate the money to a charity, and when Google found this out, they doubled the payment to $12,012.26. The money was donated to the charity Art of Living India Foundation, a non-profit that runs schools in areas in India that are high in poverty for free.

Google has been known to pay their users for errors found in Google’s system, including over $35,000 for a security researcher working on checking Android for problems. So, if you happen to run across a security issue with Google, be sure to let them know, as you may get some cold hard cash for your Internet stumbling!

Apple to Use Drones to Revamp its Maps Application

You all remember the Apple Maps problem when it first came out, right? Like when it would direct users to drive across an airport runway? Well, Apple has since fixed a lot of these problems, but it still doesn’t come close to the accuracy and usefulness of other systems like Google Maps. So, Apple has a solution: drones.

Yes, that’s right, Apple intends to fix all of its Maps problems using the developing tech, and it may actually add some really neat functions. Specifically, Apple may use this method to keep Maps updated at a much quicker refresh rate than currently available, meaning you’ll know about the annoying closed exit earlier than you otherwise would.

The idea for the drones is that they will be able to analyze road signs and road conditions to update the maps in a more real-time sense. Current methods Apple has been using are vans with many cameras and sensors, but this just doesn’t cover all the needs of collecting such a large amount of data.

None of this is definite, but speculations have been running pretty high recently. Apple actually applied for exemption to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) law against commercial use of drones in 2015 before the more specific regulations from the FAA rolled out. Apple was later granted the exemption, stating Apple could “operate an unmanned aircraft system to conduct data collection, photography, and videography.”

Additionally, to further develop Maps and compete with Google, Apple is said to be looking at adding more indoor maps functions, meaning users can more easily find stores in large malls or the correct hanger in an airport. These are functions that Google has been developing for a while, but with Apple’s acquisition of Indoor.io last year, it seems clear that Apple intends to join that innovation with their app as well.

Overall, Apple seems to be looking to make major changes to their app to make it more usable not just for its customers’ navigation needs, but also for developers. Probably the largest problem Apple had when they still had all of their major issues in the Maps app was the lack of accurate data for developers to use. This made apps like Uber and Lyft less usable, and potentially discouraged devs from using Apple’s platform until it was fixed.

I, for one, am excited to see what updates Apple will come out with and find out if these changes will be significant or just a slight improvement.

OLO Turns Your Smartphone Into a 3D Printer

3D printing has recently become quite a big trend among hobbyists and tech-lovers. Where it hasn’t reached yet is the consumer market, and the company OLO wants to change that. How? Make it cost only $99 and use one of the user’s already-existing devices.So how does this work? Well, OLO used a method similar to how current SLA (stereolithography) printers work. Essentially, a base comes down into a pool of liquid resin less than a millimeter from the bottom, uses a light to harden the resin, lifts up a small amount and repeats. This slowly builds up the object layer by layer. The main difference between a current SLA printer and OLO is that OLO uses visible light rather than UV light to cure/harden the resin. By doing so, the light source doesn’t have to be a special projector or laser, but instead use something as simple as a phone.3D printers have had a difficult time making it big in the consumer market, and by harnessing the technology we already have, OLO was able to reduce the cost of SLA printing from thousands of dollars to just $99. Additionally, people are resistant to learning the operations of 3D printing, but OLO requires just pouring in the required amount of liquid (told to you through the app), placing your phone in the device, and letting it do its thing! Come back a few hours later, and your object will be done.Controlling the device is also supposed to be quite simple, just finding thing object to print on the app, and pressing go. OLO says their device can be used with any phone up to 5.5 inches screen size. The device runs on four AA batteries, making it entirely wireless, a very nice feature for a 3D printer. Additionally, the company says the device is virtually silent, with no fans on projectors, and the lack of loud motors.The OLO can be used with many different resins the company offers. These include different colors, clear, hard, flexible, and even castable, meaning you could turn your creations into jewelry. 3D printing with OLO can allow you to create tons of different types of objects. Check out some of the picture below for an idea of the quality of prints and different ideas of objects!All in all, OLO is quite an awesome idea that could have the ability to revolutionize the market, making 3D printers completely accessible to consumers. So far, the company has raised over $1M on Kickstarter in just five days. Check out the campaign here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/olo3d/olo-the-first-ever-smartphone-3d-printer.OLO 2 OLO 3OLO 4 OLO 5 OLO 6

Google’s Project Skybender – 5G Internet Delivered Via Solar-Powered Drones

Google never seems to stop dropping crazy ideas on us, do they? Well, they’ve done it again, so here’s the latest innovation the tech giant recently announced: Project Skybender.

This initiative is quite similar to Google’s Project Loon, which was a project announced in June of 2013 meant to send large balloons into the atmosphere for the purpose of beaming 4G Internet from the sky. This project is still on-going, but that didn’t stop Google from also considering other opportunities, bringing us to Skybender.

Skybender is quite a unique idea, which uses solar powered drones to send down high-quality 5G Internet.

Google is currently testing prototypes out at the Gateway to Space airport in New Mexico. They built a flight control center in a nearby town to control the drones, and they are currently testing a new method of delivering high-speed Internet using millimeter-wave radio transmissions.

This new method has been rated at approximately 40 times as fast as current 4G LTE Internet, and could be the answer to jumping up a 5G level.

Google’s ultimate vision for this project, if it is deemed successful, is to have hundred to thousands of their drones flying around delivering high-speed, high-quality Internet to the world. Of course, they’re going to have to get through the FCC first, with their recent activities cracking down on even hobby drones.

The company started working on Project Skybender’s construction last summer with communication stations at Spaceport America.

Spaceport America

The system uses drones Google created when they acquired the startup Titan Aerospace. The drones they created are high-altitude and solar-powered, which is perfect for a project like this, and some of these drones are quite large, with wingspans of up to 160 feet. Of course, being as high in the atmosphere as they are, the size isn’t much of an issue.

Google plans to continue tests until July this year, when permission from the FCC is terminated, to determine the possibility of this project being successful. Hopefully we’ll hear more about the project in the future, but it wouldn’t surprise anyone if the project is never heard of again, as with many of Google’s projects.

UO Smart Beam Laser Projector Review

If you’ve been paying attention to the trends in tech, you may have noticed that projectors have been making a push in the market. Specifically, many companies have been coming out with pico projectors, which are very small, portable, battery-powered projectors for on-the-go use. One of the options out now is the United Objects Smart Beam Laser projector, which is a small cube-shaped projector that packs a punch.

DSC00792First of all, let’s take a look at the design of the UO Smart Beam. The projector has been built very well, and feels really solid in the hand, with what appears to be an aluminum body encasing the internals. It can probably take a beating, which will be great for on-the-go use. The projector measure in at 2.2 inches cubed, meaning it’s incredibly small and portable. It also weighs just under a 0.5 lbs, making it very light. In addition, the projector looks very modern and professional, allowing business professionals to use the projector in meetings without it being an eyesore.

Now for the features. For such a small size, it’s pretty amazing what the company was able to fit inside. The projector boasts a minimum of 60 lumens, 1280 x 720 resolution, a laser-driven light source, 4200mAh battery, and wireless streaming from some Android, iOS and Windows devices. Now, 60 lumens may not seem like much when compared to other full-size projectors, but it is easily visible in low-light to completely dark settings. The battery is enough to last about 2 hours according to the company, which is about right based on my testing, meaning a full-length movie can be watched just with the battery.

DSC00803Setup is incredibly easy. Plug in the projector to a power source (or if it’s already charged, just turn it on), plug in a video source via the DLNA/MHL/mini-HDMI port or stream from a PC, Android, or iOS device, and that’s it! The projector has built-in speakers, which are alright and good for on-the-go use, but I would recommend using a different audio device by plugging your video source into a different speaker for better sound if possible. Focusing is done automatically, thanks to the laser-driven light source, so you don’t need to worry about that. The only drawback I found with the setup is the lack of any keystone adjustment from a laptop or Android device, meaning the projector has to be at the right height to get a rectangular image. However, if you are streaming from your iOS device, you can adjust the keystone in the SmartBeamLaser app. The best solution to the keystone issue (if you’re using a laptop or Android device) and one I highly recommend is the tripod with projector mount you can purchase from UO for $20.

DSC00826As for the picture, I was truly surprised at how good it looks. The image above shows about a 40″ image with overcast daylight coming through a large window on the side (the camera makes it seem darker than it actually was), and everything could easily be seen. I also tested projecting about a 120″ screen, and movies look pretty good, though dark scenes are a bit difficult to see.

All in all, if you want to save some space with a small projector, or you want to bring one with you on a trip for presentations or entertainment, the UO Smart Beam Laser is a fantastic option! It’s a bit pricey at $379.99, but it can be used in many different scenarios, and I would definitely recommend it if you are considering a pico projector. The projector can be purchased from KDCUSA’s website, and I do recommend purchasing the tripod as well.