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JUST for Geeks

The Stove Gets Connected Smarts

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The Stove Gets Connected Smarts

No piece of kitchen equipment appears to be safe from the addition of app-powered connected smarts-- a startup called Meld presents a pair of devices providing customers with automatic and precise stove control.

The Meld system consist of a motor-powered smart knob (replaces existing stove knobs), a thermometer one clips onto pots or pans and an obligatory smartphone app tying the two together. Essentially, the user sets a desired temperature on the app before the thermometer and the knob work in tandem via Bluetooth connectivity to maintain said temperature.

The result? Perfect cooking, every time. Or so the company claims, at any rate.

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WSJ: Google Preps VR Android

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WSJ: Google Preps VR Android

The Wall Street Journal reports Google has "tens of engineers" working on an Android version designed for virtual reality applications, part of the search giant's plan to rival the Facebook-owned Oculus VR.

The VR Android will be freely distributed to headset OEMs, just as Android is for smartphones, tablets and wearable devices. Reportedly leading the development team is Clay Bavor, VP of product management and one of the people behind the cheap-as-free Google Cardboard VR headset, the WSJ adds.

One also has to keep in mind Google is a lead investor in Magic Leap, a mysterious startup working on augmented reality software.

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Valve Takes on VR

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Valve Takes on VR

Game developer turned retailer Valve confirms its virtual reality ambitions as it announces it will show off a previously unannounced "SteamVR" hardware system at the Games Developers Conference (GDC) 2015.

The GDC demos will also involve an updated version of the Steam Controller, as well as mysterious "new living room devices"-- perhaps meaning the company is working on own versions of the "Steam Machines" living room PC concept?

Either way, Steam Machines have been a long time coming. Valve first announced the initiative back in September 2013, with plans to "bring a variety of Steam gaming machines to market during 2014." The console-style PCs were meant to ship with the Steam Controller, but since that particular piece of hardware remains unfinished Valve pushed back the launch (or "release window") to 2015.

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Toy Bird Becomes Bionic Drone

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Toy Bird Becomes Bionic Drone

One of the more charming CES 2015 offerings brings to mind a childhood toy-- the Bionic Bird is a 21st century update on the mechanical toy bird, being an app-controlled flying drone created by the grandson of the creator of the original Tim Bird.

Initially funded back in November 2014 on Indiegogo, the Bionic Bird is described by its creators as nothing less than a "furtive drone." Like the mechanical bird toys of old it does little more than flap its wings to fly, if with the inclusion of battery power and remote control via Bluetooth, mobile device and companion iOS and Android app.

Taking care of charging duties is an egg-shaped "Turbo-Charge" accessory holding enough power to charge 10 flights lasting up to 8 minutes each.

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Connected Smarts Reach the Wallet

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Connected Smarts Reach the Wallet

StreetSmart suggests not even the humble money holder should be lacking in connected smarts as it debuts the SmartWallet-- supposedly the "world's smartest wallet," featuring built-in GPS locator and 1000mAh battery.

The GPS locator uses Bluetooth LE, and pairs with smartphones to prevent the loss of both devices. Should it get unpaired, the SmartWallet saves the GPS location it was last paired at before sending an alert on a companion SmartWallet app. If one lose their phone, a button on the wallet makes the device ring.

The app also helps one find the wallet, with direction range of around 15-45m.

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App Controls Reach the Coffee Maker

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App Controls Reach the Coffee Maker

The coffee maker is the next appliance to get smartphone app-based connectivity courtesy of Bruvelo, a machine claiming to be "simple smart, and do one thing-- extremely well."

The smartphone app and wifi connectivity allow users to decide exactly how the machine brews their coffee, with "Recipes" providing custom settings for temperature, ground-to-water ratio and steep time. The less obsessive of coffee drinkers can also stick to a trio of preconfigured "flavour profiles" (delicate, balanced or robust).

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Will.i.am Takes on Smartwatches

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Will.i.am Takes on Smartwatches

Black Eyed Peas singer and tech entrepreneur Will.i.am reveals his take on the smartwatch at Dreamforce 2014-- the PULS, a "smart cuff" his CE company, i.am+, has been working on for the past 2 years.

The PULS features a 2-inch curved touch display and, unlike most smartwatches, a SIM card slot, meaning it does not need to be tethered to a smartwatch in order to make calls, send emails and text messages or stream watches. In fact, Will.i.am insists "this is not a watch, by any means… This is a new type of communication."

At the presentation an AT&T executive also said the PULS "enabl[es] a millennial to fashionably tweet from her wrist while clubbing," possibly the first time such words have ever been put together in a statement.

As for technical details, the PULS features a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor, 16GB of onboard storage, 1GB RAM, GPS, pedometer, accelerometer and a battery that goes around the bracelet. It runs on an Android-based platform, and connectivity comes through wifi and 3G.

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A Social Robot as Connected Home Hub

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A Social Robot as Connected Home Hub

Dr. Cyntia Breazeal believes the families of the future need something more than a tablet or PC to handle their general computing needs-- which is why she and her team created Jibo, the world's first "family robot."

Looking like something out of a slightly sinister science fiction movie, Jibo is essentially a pod on top of a 3-axis motorised swivel. The pod carries dual cameras, 360-degree microphones, a 5.7-inch circular display, a quad-core ARM processor and wifi radios, as well as software handling artificial intelligence, facial recognition and natural language processing.

The Jibo pitch video has the robot act much like a physical version of voice-activated mobile device personal such as Siri and Google Now. However, unlike a smartphone Jibo can recognise faces, rotating its cyclopean "face" (complete with animated eye) to directly address the speaker and even moving its 2-part plastic shell in an approximation of body language.

According to its creators Jibo can manage all of its users mobile communications, with a smartphone app pushing emails, messages and call notifications. It can also act as a videoconferencing device, search for information on the internet, take photos, call for deliveries and even show interactive eBooks on its circular face/display.

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Meet the Smartphone-Connected... Cup

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Meet the Smartphone-Connected... Cup

Do you know what and how much you are drinking? Just in case in case you want to learn more about your hydration, the Vessyl might prove to be something of an app-connected "smart cup" solution.

The Vessyl is the brainchild of one Justin Lee and Jawbone designer Yves Behar. It looks like a fancy oversized (380ml) container, and carries sensors allowing it to detect what is inside. Apparently it can tell between different strengths of coffee or brands of drinks (such as Pepsi or Coke), with a tilt-activated display letting one know what they are drinking.

More impressively it also pushes the drink's nutritional data to smartphones via Bluetooth and companion app, and even tells users how much they should drink via "Pryme," a NikeFuel-style metric for overall hydration.

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