close

Tech

LifestyleTech

MePhoto Road Trip Air is the little tripod that could

air_img5

The latest in compact tripods comes loaded with features, including a selfie stick

The MeFOTO Road Trip Air tripod with built-in selfie stick is a great option for serious photographers that want a steady shot but need portability and options for a full-on SLR camera or a smart phone camera, to adapt to the shooting situation.

The tripod features a convenient click-and-lock system for the legs and center column. It took a few minutes to figure it out, but with a firm twist each leg section locks in place.

The ball head and pan head can also be locked or loosened to be fluid. A full-size SLR camera or other small or medium camera with a bottom screw hole can be easily mounted on and removed from the platform using the universal quick release plate.

For mobile shooting, with a twist of the collar and a knob at the bottom of the telescoping center pole, the selfie stick slides out and can be used as a mount for a smart phone with a digital remote.

The center column is also reversible using a retractable weight hook at the bottom of the center column, so that the tripod can be placed ideally for close-up photography and shooting difficult-to-reach objects.

The tripod is available in a variety of chic colors and it also comes with a super nifty and sturdy carry bag with heavy-duty dual straps and a impressively large slide lock.

For a compact tripod system, the Road Trip Air is a kit with a lot of versatility and features. While it folds up relatively small, it is still a bit weighty at 2.5 pounds, so it will fit in a backpack, but it may be more weight than you want to carry if you’re climbing Everest.

The MePhoto Road Trip Air is available on Amazon or at http://www.mefoto.com/ for $175.

read more
FamilyLifestyleParentingTech

Osmo adds STEAM to kids’ coding with new music creator system

2017-10-03 (21)

Coding Jam is the latest gameplay system that teaches kids to code while they play

The other day my son commanded Google Home to play a custom playlist he had created on a Pandora. Two things occurred to me about this. First, wow. The digitally connected future vision of the The Jetsons was coming true; and then, my more mundane thought was, “That music is awful. My 10-year-old child could write better arrangements,” and thanks to Osmo, he can.

Like many other kids who love video games, my son craves leveling up and learning how to improve his skills, and Osmo has harnessed this excitement in a new technology experience, Coding Jam, that allows kids to create music through basic coding. Using colored building blocks and a system that interacts with an iPad or iPhone, kids can arrange and play musical notes in strings and sequences to write their own tunes.

The coding system, designed for kids 5-12, was created by former Google techs as the next generation of award-winning Osmo STEAM-fueled hand-on gameplay that helps children learn valuable coding skills that they can build upon to understand more complex coding, i.e., become the next genius engineers to save the world, or at least they can have fun and create some cool music.

The system works by helping kids learn music fundamentals such as chord progressions, leading into patterns and sequences. As they get to know coding’s creative side, they develop an ear for rhythm, melody and harmony. And more good news for parents: new research finds that high-school students who studied music appreciation scored 61 points better on their verbal SATs and 42 points better on their math SATs.

Once their arrangements are composed, kids can safely share their jammer mixes with family and friends. As they build the system with more blocks, they can create literally millions of combinations and programming options.

Here’s a short glimpse at what the experience is like: https://youtu.be/E9eAMARTnAk.

Osmo system are available at Amazon, Target, ToysRUs and online at the Osmo store.

 

read more
AdventureEnvironmentLifestyleOutdoorsScienceTech

How to safely view the total eclipse

eclipse

This astronomical event is a must-see, but see it safely

Unless you’ve been under a rock, you know that August 21 is the date of a total solar eclipse, the first mainland America has seen in yearly 40 years. During this historic event, the sun, which is 400 times larger than the moon, will cross pass with the moon which is 400 times farther away from the earth then the moon. During this time, the sun appears to be blocked out by the moon, except for its blinding halo formed by the sun’s gaseous atmosphere that shines around the moon’s silhouette. This will be something you and your children will want to see and experience, but viewing it must be done carefully so that the sun’s rays do not damage the naked eye.

Anytime you stare into the sun you can damage your eyes. This can happen in as little as 30 seconds. The reason an eclipse is more dangerous to the eye is because it causes people to look directly into the sun and for extended periods of time. The only time it’s safe to look directly at the eclipse is during the 1 or 2 minutes that the moon completely blocks the sun, and only people watching from a narrow band from Oregon to South Carolina—known as the path of totality—will witness that.

If you’d like to view this fascinating spectacle, make sure that you wear proper eyewear or use a viewing device. It is not advised to even use a camera or other lenses, as the rays can damage lenses and filters; and it is definitely not recommended to look through any sort of lens, binoculars or telescope. The best advice is to wait until after the event and view images in media taken by professionals using the proper equipment.


It is not safe to use regular sunglasses to watch an eclipse, though inexpensive eclipse glasses I readily available online and it many retailers for the price of about $5 to $10. Make sure to purchase your glasses from a reputable source, as several brands of these glasses on Amazon were recalled due to safety issues. Check out companies approved by the AAS Solar Eclipse task force.

If you have not purchased your glasses yet, you may be out of luck, because most vendors are sold out. But you can still make a pinhole viewer. Using this method, you pass the sunlight

read more
LifestyleTechTravel

Mobile apps prove a boon and bust for hotels

hotel-apps

Mobile apps are becoming as central to the hotel guest experience as soft pillows, extra towels and a competitive price, according to J.D. Power

The new mantra from front desk clerks is at savvy hotels is, “Enjoy your stay—and have you downloaded our app?”

According to the J.D. Power 2017 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study,SM released today, incorporating mobile apps and functionality into a hotel stay is associated with higher guest satisfaction. Integrating this technology also makes guests more willing to share their positive hotel experiences on social media.

The risk for hotels is that greater use of mobile devices for booking means some guests might secure a room with an online travel agency (OTA), which is associated with lower satisfaction. The industry is currently emphasizing direct booking, where a hotel guest rents a room directly through the hotel rather than another way. Pushing for more guests to become rewards members will likely enhance this effort. While OTAs remain popular among many guests, there are some disadvantages to their use, such as the need to deal with a third party if problems arise with a reservation.

“As mobile usage becomes increasingly ubiquitous for guests, the challenge for hotels becomes twofold: First, they must persuade guests to book directly with them, and second, they must encourage easy utilization of this technology,” said Rick Garlick, practice lead, travel and hospitality at J.D. Power. “By forging direct relationships, hotels can become guardians of the guest experience, but at the center of these relationships is an establishment’s mobile strategy.”

The study, now in its 21st year, measures overall guest satisfaction across eight hotel segments: luxury; upper upscale; upscale; upper midscale; midscale; economy; upper extended stay; and extended stay. Seven key factors are examined in each segment to determine overall satisfaction: reservation; check-in/check-out; guest room; food & beverage; hotel services; hotel facilities; and cost & fees. Satisfaction is calculated on a 1,000-point scale.

Following are key findings of the 2017 study:

Direct booking: When guests book through an independent travel website or mobile app (e.g., Expedia, Travelocity) instead of directly with the hotel, they are more likely to experience a problem and to be less satisfied with their stay.

Membership matters: Hotel rewards members are far more likely to book directly with a hotel or on a loyalty member site than those who are not members (75% vs. 47%, respectively), and their satisfaction is higher. The number of those who book through OTAs is increasing (19% in 2017 vs. 16% in 2013), despite the concerns some guests have ranging from earning hotel rewards to strict cancellation policies.
Mobile mania: In 2014, 14% of online reservations were made using mobile means (smartphone or tablet), and now that percentage is 25%. Those utilizing mobile reservations are more likely to be younger or business travelers.

Not so mobile mania: Among guests who have a hotel’s app on their mobile device, 38% don’t use it during their stay. Only a tiny percentage of check-ins (4%) and check-outs (1%) occurs through mobile apps, but when it is used, it is associated with higher guest satisfaction.
Get ’em to try the app: Guests who download and use a hotel’s mobile app are more satisfied and have greater loyalty to that brand. While only 19% of all guests have downloaded a hotel app, 70% of rewards members have done so.

Social media surprise: Despite the perception that people posting to social media only do so to complain, guests describing their experience via these channels appear to be more satisfied overall. At the same time, those who do experience a problem are extremely likely to post to social media (86%).

Reading is fundamental: Slightly more than half (52%) of guests have read a review of a hotel, industry news or an online forum in the past month, and 46% of those guests wrote a review in the past six months. Review readers and writers are also more likely to have higher guest satisfaction.

Hotel Segment Rankings

“While The Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott rank highest in the luxury segment, both of these Marriott-affiliated brands appeal to different types of customers,” Garlick said. “It’s important to remember that this study measures guest satisfaction among a hotel brand’s own customers and doesn’t directly compare hotel brands to one another. Often, the type of guest becomes an important element in determining satisfaction rankings.”

The following hotel brands rank highest in guest satisfaction in their respective segments:

Luxury: JW Marriott and The Ritz-Carlton1 (tie)
Upper Upscale: Hyatt
Upscale: Hilton Garden Inn (for a second consecutive year)
Upper Midscale: Drury Hotels (for a 12th consecutive year2)
Midscale: Wingate by Wyndham (for a third consecutive year)
Economy: Americas Best Value Inn
Upper Extended Stay: Staybridge Suites
Extended Stay: Candlewood Suites

The 2017 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study is based on responses gathered between June 2016 and May 2017 from more than 63,000 guests in Canada and the United States who stayed at a hotel in North America between May 2016 and May 2017.

read more
Decor

A bedroom for all seasons

TedBaker_BlueBeauty_OH_01

Make your bedroom a refreshing retreat, any time of year

Many a travel-weary soul has exclaimed, “There’s nothing like being home in your own bed.” Your bedroom is your private sanctuary, so make it an inviting place where you can rest, sleep and feel restored, surrounded by pure comfort and beauty.

Blooming bed

Bring a lasting bouquet beauty of seasonal blooms into your bedroom with Ted Baker London floral bedding.  The designer known for its rich, vibrant hues and elaborate prints is launching a new line of luxury linens for spring, including the Blue Beauty collection, inspired by souvenir photographs taken by the designer on a bicycle ride around Holland’s tulip fields. The tonal blues create a striking statement against a pristine white backdrop.

The soft 100-perfect cotton comforter sets, coverlets, and decorative pillows are available at Nordstrom.com, priced between $65 to $285.

Counting sleep

Sleeping in total comfort not just a dream. PONS bedding has made it their mission to create the ultimate environment for perfect sleep. The PONS mattress (starting at $599) will help you rest well not just because of its gel infusion for cooler sleep, its breathable knit cover for airflow and its body-conforming foam with three levels of pressure point relief for restful shuteye, but you will sleep well knowing the materials under you are 100-percent eco-friendly and CertiPUR-US certified from head to toe.

The mattress contains no ozone depleters, mercury, lead, and other heavy metals, or formaldehyde or phthalates, and low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) emissions for indoor air quality (less than 0.5 parts per million). PONS made the perfect match to its mattress in a bedframe ($1,199) equipped with USB ports for recharging while you sleep. Soon PONS promised to offer cooling and ultra-dry sheets, comforters and pillows.

Airbn-be-better

Nature’s bounty of trees, plants and flowers, as well as our beloved animals, bring us beauty and joy that make our house a home, inside and out; but they also bring into the home pollen, dander and other indoor pollutants that can be harmful to our health and comfort. Blueair Classic 405 ($599) air purifier filters out the polluting particles to clean unhealthy air in your home environment. It operates quietly, and its modern design discreetly blends in with home décor. Integrated smart technology allows it to be operated remotely with a smartphone.

The clean-air companion to the Blueair air purifier is Blueair Aware ($199), a sleek, small air monitor that continuously measures indoor air quality and quickly detects airborne pollutants, including ultrafine particulate matter (PM2), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde and benzene and carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2). You don’t need to know what any of these chemicals and contaminants are – just that when the Blueair Aware indicator shines blue, the air you breathe is A-OK. If the indicator light turns orange, it’s time to shut the windows or eliminate other sources of air contaminants.

Clean case

Feeling good under the covers begins with a fresh, clean bed and pillows. Cover your mattress and pillows with an allergen-barrier to keep down dust mites, pollen, pet dander and other household allergens. AllerEase Ultimate zippered mattress protector ($55.99) and pillow protectors ($9.99) fully encase mattresses and pillows in antimicrobial, hypoallergenic fabric to reduce exposure to irritants; and because the top fabric is soft and pliable, the covers do not alter the feel or breathability of your sleep surface. As an added benefit, the waterproof coverings offer protection from spills, and they can be machine washed and dried for easy care.

read more
LifestyleTech

Going wireless with JVC FIT Sports headphones

JVCHA-ET50BT-A headphones

JVC appeals to the competitive athlete with a new streamlined sports headphones

While a lot of headphone manufacturers jumped on the Bluetooth wireless bandwagon after Apple revealed its iPhone 7 headphone-jack-less design, JVC went for a more niche audience of serious sportsters who had their own specialized needs for high performance headphones with its series of sports wireless headphones.

For starters, serious athletes would obviously only wear in-ear headphones, so JVC came up with a number of styles that are geared for this audience with anti-slip, water resistant materials. Their latest headset, the HA-ET50BT-A ($79.95), has a pivot motion fit, which is basically is an inch-long elbow-shaped rubber fin that can be rotated to nestle into the curve of the ear. The benefit of this fit is that it helps keep the headphone in the ear, of course, but also it allows the user to wear sunglasses over the ear or helmets and hats without any interference.

This headset also features an open type earbud with notches cut into the earpiece to allow ambient sound for safety when running or cycling along the roadside or other activity in an environment where you need to hear your surroundings. The open earpieces can be switched out for more dynamic sound as desired. The earphones come with a standard size earpiece and then five other sizes to choose from in the open and regular styles.

The USB-cable rechargeable 9-hour battery, which also doubles as the control center and microphone, is compact and lightweight, about two inches long, a quarter inch wide and about as thick as a flattened pencil. The control fob features raised buttons so the user can feel them rather than having to look at them to control them. The ear phones themselves contain magnets, so when draped around the neck the ear phones cling to each other to hold them together like a necklace, so they will not fall off when worn around the neck when they are not in use. For those fashion-conscious athletes, the headphones are available in a choice of purple, yellow or black.

Bedsides all the fit features, these headphones deliver JVC’s renowned awesome robust and rich audio quality.

The concept behind these headphones is that serious athletes need stress-free headphones that stay in place so they can enjoy and be motivated by music while concentrating on their training.  JVC smartly appeals to serious athletes with this line of headphones, because as we all know, competitive athletes always want an edge, and these headphones are clearly designed to give that.

 

 

read more
TechThought

Tech over sex and other signs of smartphone addiction

cellphoneaddict

Choosing texting over sex and other shocking revelations about our cell phone behavior in the tech age

Smartphones are so much a part of our lives that we can’t leave home without them, but when has our need to check our phones gone beyond the pale? Tech-buying site Decluttr.com surveyed 1,000 U.S. smartphone owners age 18 and up to find out just how addicted they were to their phones.

Highlights from the survey include the following.

  • Family Focused: Overall, smartphone owners look at their phones more when they’re with friends than during family time, but men do so more during either occasion: 67% during family time and 63% while spending time with friends. Multiple respondents also stated that they make a conscious effort to put their phone aside to focus on quality time with family.
  • Distracted Dating: 67% of males, in comparison to just 13% of females, admitting to checking their devices whilst on a romantic night out.
  • Sobering Sacrifices: Alcohol and video games were the top two things that men and women would give up before handing over their phones, but one of the biggest difference is giving up sex. Though not at the top of the list, twice as many women than men would rather give up sex than give up their phone. Sorry, fellas. Maybe it’s the distracted dating.
  • Serious Streamers: 83% of men (in comparison to just 17% of women) say the worst part about not having their trusted smartphone with them is not being able to watch videos or stream movies and TV shows.
  • Postponed Parting: Even if their phone had a cracked screen, 52% of men would put off getting it fixed because they can’t be without their phones.

Liam Howley, marketing director at Decluttr, comments: “While smartphones can be an extremely useful tool for information and entertainment, they can also lead to users missing out on what’s actually going on around them. Our survey suggests that men may be zoning out important occasions such as weddings in favor of checking their phones or falling short of paying attention to their family members, friends or even their date.”

However, when it comes to taking a break from their phones, 43% of men say a digital detox would be beneficial. The same goes for women, with 56% stating a detox would be good. Several respondents said that they use vacations as the perfect occasion to take a break from their phones. With Summer fast approaching, maybe it’s time for a break during a break.

Decluttr’s tips for weaning yourself off your cell phone:

  • Gradually leave bigger gaps between checking your messages or social media posts. If you normally check every 15 minutes, make it once an hour, if every hour, leave it for 2-3 hours etc. Build up to only checking two or three times a day. You can let friends/work colleagues know in advance that you’re going to be doing this and that if there’s an emergency where they need an urgent response from you, they can call you.
  • If you think you’ll get bored without your phone to turn to, think of ways you can fill your time instead. Read a book or listen to music when you’re travelling on public transport or waiting around. You could also make better use of your time learning a new skill or doing some exercise.
  • In social situations, only use your phone if you’re sharing something with the people you’re with – looking up information or posting a social media post that includes your friends.
  • Don’t check your phone when you’re on a date, or with someone you’re meant to be spending one to one time with. Focus on whoever you are with and give them your full attention.
  • Be fully present and start to appreciate being in the ‘here and now’. Take notice of what’s going on around you, connecting with real people in the real world.

 

read more
LifestyleTech

What If There Were More Women in Tech

grow-laptop-coffee-mobile-thumb

By Kavita G. Sahai, HaveBIGplans.com

Have you ever heard the statement that when women lead countries, there are fewer wars? Knowing this, would it surprise you to hear that Fortune 500 companies who had at least three female directors saw increases of 53% return on equity, 42% return on sales, and 66% return on invested capital?

The tech industry is certainly not a war zone, but it is hyper-competitive not only for producing software but also for attracting and retaining talent. It is also an industry that has had consistent problems with not only attracting female employees but also retaining them and promoting them to executive and C-suite positions.

Why is This Important?

No matter your political or social stances, the lack of women in tech should be an important issue to everyone. Experts estimate there will be 1.4 million jobs available in computer science in the US alone by 2020, but we’ll only have enough qualified college graduates to fill 29% of those available jobs.

Of those college graduates, only 3% will be women.
That is astounding. There is an opportunity right in front of us to provide jobs to 1.4 million people in the United States, and as it stands now, we won’t be able to maximize that opportunity. If left unfilled, tech companies will fill the jobs with qualified foreigners or ship them overseas.

We have the solution, and we know it. Women. Women make up 47% of the American workforce, yet only a small percentage go into the computer science field.

Why haven’t we figured out how to better tap into the enormous female workforce for computer science jobs?

The Sad Reality

The sad reality about girls and women in tech is that we know they are interested in computer science, but somewhere along the way, they are deterred either before selecting pursuing a computer science program or after a few years as part of the tech workforce.
47% of middle school girls express interest in STEM programs, but only 0.4% end up in computer science programs.

What’s worse, of that percentage that ends up completing a computer science degree, 56% of women end up quitting their tech jobs at the height of their career. That’s twice the rate of men.

The number of women decreases as you move up the ranks in tech companies. In Silicon Valley, only 11% of executive positions and 9% of CEO positions are held by women.

Between 2011 to 2013, 6,793 businesses were backed by VCs. Only 2.7% of those VC-backed businesses had a female CEO. Some expect this is due to most VC being led by men who tend to back male-led ventures despite data showing female-led companies tend to earn 12% more than male-led companies.

But Really, What If There Were More Women in Tech?

So far, the data has shown that female-led companies generate higher ROI in invested capital, equity, sales, and earnings.
Apart from the hard numbers, employees of female leaders feel that women make better leaders in 12 of 16 core leadership competencies, including initiative, self-development, integrity, and drive for results.

Installing more women in leadership positions would not only help the bottom line regarding revenue but also regarding encouraging the employee development (particularly for women) and decreasing employee turnover.

Tools Available for Women in Tech

For young girls, more programs are starting to become available to encourage studies in computer science at an early age. Some popular ones include Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, Girls Learning Code, and Code.org.

Beyond schools and programs, women cite having a female mentor in the tech field as one of the best resources as they progress through their career. However, given the state of women in tech, women have found it hard to find a mentor within their own company.
That’s why some of these programs have partnered with companies to create mentorship programs for the program’s graduates. This is exactly what Girls Who Code did in partnership with Intuit and Jack Dorsey of Twitter.

Going beyond what already exists for women, we must look at state and federal policies to mandate quotas for the percentage of women who hold board or executive positions. Strategies like this have worked in Norway, although they are heavily debated. Some states, like California, are talking about instating this kind of quota in 2020.

Innovative maternity leave policies will also help women in tech and other fields feel that they won’t be penalized for having a child or like they need to make a decision between work and family.
Companies don’t need to wait for state or federal governments to make mandates on quotas or maternity leave. They can lead the charge and find the best ways to encourage growth and equality for women in the workplace.

Company Culture Needs to Change

A key barrier to entry for girls at a young age is the stereotype that math is for boys. Despite having participated in coding programs for girls and enjoying them, by the time they reach high school, girls have abandoned the thought of pursuing a career in programming because of this notion that math isn’t for girls.
Once women earn their computer science degree and find a job in tech, they find themselves thrown into a culture that’s overwhelmingly male. It’s the underlying biases and condescension coming from male colleagues and superiors that ultimately drive that 56% of women out of their jobs.

This damaging culture needs to change to encourage women to enter and stay in the tech field. Tech companies need to invest in manager training to deal specifically with gender issues and tackle bias head on within their teams. Managers should install open-communication policies to help men and women understand the gender biases that exist within the company and on the team will help women feel heard.
There is a long road ahead, and it will not be easy. The tech industry recognizes there is a gender disparity and is taking measures to fix it, but it’s also up to women to step up and explore careers in tech and overcoming the biases that exist in tech.

read more
Tech

Serius: The smartest gloves on the mountain

DSC_1377

DSC_1377Serius thermal gloves are the first gloves for which I’ve had to read a instruction manual. That said, the instructions were pretty simple. Charge the batteries for about three hours, insert the batteries into the wrist cuff and press the button to the desired heat level. Oh yeah, and don’t forget, you can swipe away on your smart phone screen while wearing these gloves.

Within 30 seconds, the gloves were toasty inside, and on cold mountain tops these are a hand saver. After all, cold hands is a major reason that I have to head back to the lodge earlier than I wanted to.

DSC_1373

The gloves are attractive, and of course they will work with or without the batteries to stay warm, but the battery-powered system is what makes these gloves truly unique.

The gloves come with an interior liner, which could work alone and may be an option for less frigid days. When you truly need the extra warmth, the liner gloves slip into the exterior glove, which has a metallic like lining inside.

When put together, it is rather snug fit, and you must be careful when tucking in the cables that are used to charge the batteries and to connect them to the heating mechanism with in the glove, because if the cables are not tucked in correctly on the outer side of the battery, you will feel the hard plastic connectors, about the size of a small AC adapter connector, pressing into your wrist, which could be uncomfortable.

DSC_1374

One other design issue is that once the temperature selection is made on the inner glove, and the outer glove is slipped on over it, it’s possible if you’re not careful to hit the button on the outside and change the setting unintentionally. Also, because once the outer glove is on you cannot see the setting, you would have to remove the outer glove to check it.

1087-heattouch-component-outter1087-heattouch-component-inner

 

1099-heat-touch-battery-set

Lastly, the care and laundering of these gloves is a bit different from others, whereas you can toss most gloves into the dryer you cannot do that with these, which should be wiped off if dirty and let dry naturally if wet. If you have any other questions, there’s always the manual, which you can access on your smartphone, wearing your gloves of course.

read more
Tech

Giveaway of the Xess Alexa-enabled Smart Home Hub and bonus remote camera – the next generation of smart devices

41jg6lgm60l-copy

The next generation of smart devices is here, to make your life easier, and more fun!

41jg6lgm60l-copy

The joke among tech geeks at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show, the annual massive showcase of new gadgets, was “Does it work with Alexa?”

Indeed, Alexa will soon be commanding the market – or rather we will be commanding Alexa – and the innovators at the helm are the ones finding new and exciting ways to incorporate the voice controlled app into our homes and lives.

counter

One of the most anticipated incarnations of this technology is TCL’s Xess, pronounced “excess,” the next generation of Amazon Alexa enabled devices, in the form of a tablet. Similar to Amazon’s Echo and its offshoots Dot and Tap, and Google Home, the device uses the Alexa wake word, or it can be programmed with the user’s chosen word, to turn respond to voice commands. In addition to following voice commands, the Xess 17.3-inch touch screen responds to hand gestures, which can control functions like scrolling, taking pictures and other tasks.

81o-pg6wwl-_sl1500_

Xess also comes with a home security camera that can remotely monitor a room on 1/3 of the screen or on the full-screen, to keep an eye on kids, pets, or an area of a home.  Tapping on the camera icon can activate a video recording or capture still photos.

unbox

Using Alexa app on Xess I am able to turn lights on and off and dim them, and I can also raise or lower the room temperature of my Honeywell Lyric thermostat.  I can also listen to my New York Times or NPR news briefs, get the weather or traffic report, find my phone with a tracker, ask Alexa to tell me a joke, and even be inspired by a daily motivational quote or guided in meditation or lulled to sleep by various skills I have enabled for those purposes.

My favorite companion for Alexa is the Lutron app, which works with Lutron’s Caseta wireless lamp plug-ins and remote controls as well as other peripherals, such as Sonos.  At this time Xess and Echo and its offshoots are not Alexa-enabled to use voice commands to control Sonos, but using the Lutron app I can play music on Sonos using scenes.

lutron

Using programmed scenes on the Lutron app, which I can assign custom names and icons on the Lutron app, I can set lighting and music to match a desired mood or activity, such as dimmed lamps and mellow music for nighttime, or pop music and bright lights for my workout, which I can activate with the commands, “Alexa, turn on Sonos Chill-Out,” or “Alexa, turn on Sonos for Workout.”

Another terrific aspect of using the Lutron Caseta wireless platform is that the plug-in lamp dimmer acts as a range extender, which relays the wireless signal between smart devices, giving me an extra 30 feet for spacing devices.

At this time Xess is not integrated to use voice commands to play music from Amazon Music or read Audible books from Amazon and the like, but you can use these services on Xess just as you would on any tablet by selecting their apps on the screen and using the tablet interface.

One big difference between Xess and Echo/Tap/Dot and Google Home is that Xess can be controlled by hand gestures, such as an open hand to stop playback, a swipe motion to move screens or turn pages, a countdown with fingers for photos, and a shushing finger-in-front-of-the-mouth gesture to mute Xess.

Whereas the speaker-style Alexa enable devices are designed to be discreet, tucked away on a shelf or residing unnoticed on a countertop, the Xess is made to see-and-be-seen.

bedroom

The Xess is basically a portable mini flat screen TV. It features a retractable carry handle and an adjustable stand, so it can be set down on any flat surface and set a variety of angles. It comes loaded with a couple very useful apps, such as Kitchen Stories, a step-by-step cooking demo app loaded with recipes, making it a great chef’s assistant.  It also has a pop out hub for connecting USB devices, headphones and inserting memory cards.

dsc_1439

As an Alexa addict, I love having two dimensions in which to interact with the Alexa app. I still love my Echo, for its awesome seven-speaker sound capabilities, but Xess offers another dimension with its visual capabilities, plus it features JBL built-in audio for decent sound; and besides, when I am not using it to control my smart home, it’s a carry-anywhere oversized tablet, for homework, online shopping, or streaming video, like this great video series of Xess how-to videos:  https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLnby6EE00VpVsaAP8pPR39Kgvddasgers.

If you would like a chance to own a Xess, compliments of TCL, valued at $499, please follow these easy steps to be entered into a random drawing, to be held April 6, 2017.

  • Like TCL’s Facebook page and on Twitter using the hashtag: #TCLXess.
  • Like this blog’s Facebook page and Follow us on Twitter
  • Post a comment on this post stating what feature(s) of the TCL Xess would get the most use in your home.

Extra chance:  Tweet and share this story on Facebook for one extra entry!

The recipient of the Xess giveaway will be notified by Twitter and Facebook. Good luck!

 

 

read more