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In a connected world, how do we find a moment of peace?

In a connected world, how do we find a moment of peace?

One minute i'm watching a TV show, it goes to an advert break, and i'm checking Instagram. What do I think i'm missing out on? Why do I feel the need to look? 

The truth is, I don't. There's no need, there's not even any want. It's habit. 

We live in this hyper connected world, where everything is connected. We go into a city centre, and our proximity settings ping up app suggestions, we go into a store and don't even need to reach for our card anymore and when we go home, we can set the thermostat before we even get there, and turn the lights on. 

We've stumbled our way into a world that would be unrecognisable today to someone even just 30 years ago, maybe even as little as 20, and that is in equal parts exciting as it is sometimes scary. The future of technology and our connected world is developing at record speed, and we've seen so much good come from this - new developments in healthcare, communications, transport, disaster relief, education... the list goes on. 

But how do we turn off when we need to? It's a common question and often vital for our attention span, creativity and wellbeing. We all need that down time, and I personally think that in a world so connected, it's no bad thing to also realise how technology can help us achieve that, whether it's through controlling mood lighting, listening to a sleep app or simply by making our lives more streamlined, more efficient. We don't all have the ease of access of being able to escape to the quiet of the countryside for an evening to get away from the constant buzz of the city. Most of us are just trying to muddle through and find some peace amongst the constant distractions. 

Step one - take advantage of your phones night time settings - They're there, and they're great. If you want your phone to dim at 8pm and have it stay that way until 8am, then get all over those settings. The softer yellow light is gentler on the eyes and not such a shock when the alarm goes off in the morning either. 

Step two - turn off your notifications, or at least limit them - I did this a long time a go and i've never looked back. If I want to see if i've got a new Facebook message, then i'll check the app, if it's urgent, they will phone me. Call me ignorant, but I don't like the feeling of being constantly available. 

Step three - embrace it and download an app like 'headspace' or something similar to get some down time. A bit of mindfulness never hurt and you can engage with the content without needing to interact with the app too much. Recognising that technology can actually help you in achieving some down time isn't defeating the point entirely,  I promise. 

Step four - find some real people and have a conversation. Apparently 55% of all human communication is non-verbal body language and 38% is tone, leaving only 7% verbal, so how is that supposed to work over a text? Even the best emoji can only express so much...

Step five - throw your phone out of the window and run off into the great unknown...but don't forget to Instagram that gorgeous view first...#sunset. 

Written by 

Katherine Thomson 

 

Apple iPhone 7 -This much we know

Apple iPhone 7 -This much we know

They've done it again haven't they. They've graced the world with another spectacular example of design, except as always, it's more than just that. Never have Apple made an announcement which hasn't been exciting, and that's part of the joy of their work, the hype, the anticipation, the big reveal. 

As per, the rumours regarding this announcement have been gaining traction for months... though basically it's been since the last Apple iPhone launch. We heard that the new iPhone will come in a few different colours, and blue would be one of them - they were wrong about the blue, and i'm glad, because i'm way too excited about the double black versions that have been announced. We heard that the headphone jack would become obsolete - they were right and there's these super sleek looking AirPods taking their place (though in the box there will be lightening connection headphones). We heard that the screen would stretch around corners - they weren't right (but for that one, personally i'm glad). 

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Let's clear up a few of the other rumours and see if they were correct - 

Waterproof - 👍🏻

Dual 12MP cameras on the plus - 👍🏻

Increased storage models - 👍🏻

Replacement of home button - 👍🏻

Plus sized version - 👍🏻

Stereo speakers - 👍🏻

3D screen - 👎🏻

Longest battery life ever - 👍🏻

I've never been disappointed with an iPhone launch, but I have felt slightly underwhelmed in the past, and even as a complete Apple user, I have even been tempted to leave and try something new, but they always manage to reel me back in! I've got high hopes for this new camera technology, i'm impressed by their claims and I want to try it out! There's a few new features, including the waterproofness and the stereo speakers which has made this an exciting launch. 

iOS 10 definitely does not disappoint. Much the opposite. It's bigger, bolder and more exciting than ever. 

Just a few things to look forward to - 

  • Send a message in your own handwriting
  • Hide a message that can be swiped to reveal it
  • Send a 'reaction' back to a message
  • Draw over videos and pictures
  • Replace words with emojis 
  • Make table reservations through OpenTable or book an Uber all through Maps
  • Control your smart tech with the new Home app
  • Raise your phone to wake it
  • Apple pay in browser

Thanks Apple, you've given us lots to look forward to and it's exciting to see where the developments lead.

The new iPhone will be released on September 16th and you can pre-order on the 9th.

Tweet us and let us know what features you're most excited about. 

Written by 

Katherine Thomson 

 

What can we expect to see in 2016?

What can we expect to see in 2016?

1 – Mobile Shopping via TV and connected devices

 

This year, we saw Amazons Dash buttons capable of ordering household favourites at the touch of a button when connected to the users Prime account through an app. The device works by instantly placing an order and sending an order confirmation to your phone so that you don’t have to go to the hassle of logging in, finding your product and ordering it. Some would argue this is sheer laziness, and others would argue that it has been made with convenience in mind. Which ever is closer to your view, this kind of shopping shows no slowing down in 2016 and in fact, it seems like it will increase! Programmatic video is probably going to bring mobile shopping to TV, from customised ad experiences to being able to watch your shows and purchase outfits that the characters are wearing or products that they’re using.

 

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2 – Hyperloop

 

Elon Musk unveiled in 2013 that he had been working on a design for a Hyperloop solar-powered supersonic pod-train, capable of accelerating to 335mph in as little as 2 seconds. In Summer2013, it seemed like some sort of futuristic dream, but fast-forward a mere 2 and a half years and Musk has announced plans to start work on an open-air test site in Nevada. The aim for 2016 is that the 2-mile long tube track will levitate a pod and accelerate it to over 700mph.

 

3 – Batteries

 

This might not sound like the most exciting development, but when you take in to consideration that we use batteries in some form every day, this could have a big impact! In particular I want to talk about Sodium-ion batteries and foam batteries. Sodium-ion batteries that use salt have been used in laptops following the creation of a prototype by French network, RS2E. The battery is one that would be suitable for use in electric cars as well as laptops and the 6.5cm battery can manage 90 watt-hours per kilogram. The other exciting development comes from Prieto who is the first company to develop a battery, which uses a copper foam substrate. There are multiple benefits to these batteries including their longer battery life, faster charging ability and safety, which is due to having no flammable electrolytes. There’s a good chance we will see these developments in 2016, but if not, they’re not far away!

 

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4 – Drone Delivery


Amazon have already announced ‘Amazon Prime Air’, which is a new delivery system designed to get packages to customers within 30 minutes using unmanned aerial drones. This form of delivery has not been done before and if implemented will change our expectations of ordering online forever. This isn’t something, which is going to happen overnight. The testing for Amazon Air has already begun in the UK, USA and Israel, but more development is required and this will not launch until all safety features are 100% complete. Amazon is not the only company interested in developing this feature; Google, Alibaba and others including a burrito company are also experimenting with this form of delivery. The initial deliveries to be made via this method will be of low value due to the delivery from the drone to the ground…


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5 – Smart Clothes

 

Yep, that’s right, Smart clothes. Let’s look at Project Jacquard for instance; this is an exciting and rapidly developing project. We live in an increasingly interactive world, and there are many items, which have remained the same for hundreds of years, such as clothing. Sure, the styles change, the colours vary and the materials fall out of fashion, but the overall principle stays the same. Project Jacquard changes that and makes it possible to weave interactivity into any textile using standard industrial looms. These new conductive yarns have been created in collaboration with industry partners and combine thin, metallic alloys with natural and synthetic yarns. The end result of doing this is to create garments, which have gesture sensitive areas or sensor grids, which can create interactive surfaces. The electronic components are engineered to be as discreet as possible, and intend to be no larger than a button and make it possible to capture the gesture data to wirelessly transmit to mobile phones or other devices. This is a very exciting step for developers, designers, and consumers and adds a whole new level to the connected world. 

Written by

Katherine Thomson

10 Beautiful Designs - December

10 Beautiful Designs - December

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1 – Grovemade Tabletop Collection

Kevin Do, Grovemade industrial designer describes the tabletop as a ‘vehicle to enjoyment’. This collection is an example of sleek yet practical items, which are aesthetically pleasing and minimalist. This perfectly weighted dishware, is crafted from porcelain and looks beautiful sitting on the collection of wooden placemats which are not a traditional rectangle shape and feature a subtle geometric pattern. All products are made in house, and attention has been paid to all of their pieces, from the curved edged plates to the salt and peppershakers. This is a full and beautiful collection of tableware.

2 – Sennheiser Orpheus System

Sennheiser are known for their beautiful design and perfect sound quality, but this time, they’ve really gone an extra mile and achieved a design, which looks sleek and if I’m honest, I think is absolutely perfect. The Orpheus headphone system is housed in an Italian marble body, which is offered in a range of colours, and offers a new concept of amplification, which combines elements of both the transistor and tube amplifier. No expense has been spared in choosing components fit for this gorgeous design and as a result, not only does the Orpheus offer stunning audio quality, it provides visual quality too!

3 – The Aron Chair

This is a subtle yet beautiful piece of furniture from Mexican artist, Luis Luna of Namuh Studio. Handmade from walnut, this is a gentle construction with sweeping contours and fluid connections. The short back provides the unobtrusive support that you would expect from a chair yet the long legs are typical of stool.

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4 – ELMA

Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without a lamp! Designed by Tommaso Caldera, this beautiful lamp features a metal diffuser to radiate a gentle glow in the surrounding space. The design draws inspiration from traditional nomadic lamps, creating a simple form. The milled plywood creates support for the lamp in a contrasting natural wood. Available in a selection of colours including dark red and sea blue, this is a gorgeous piece of design.

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5 – ODO

This clever piece of design comes from Brussels based design studio, NAB. Constructed from powder coated steel and solid ash, this interesting design resembles a dragonfly face. The rolling steel tabletop curves under to resemble eyes and the solid ash joins the curves together and completes the face.

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6 - Giàcolu

This is more than just a lamp.  This design comes from Italian Studio, Delaneo Design and encourages interaction and engagement. The user has complete control of the form they wish their lamp to take, and can be adjusted to suit almost any function or aesthetic. I think the beauty in this design, lies within the fact that it compromises of so few elements, that the range of possible shapes are even more impressive.

7 – Hummingbird Bike

Imagine a bike which weighs less that 15 pounds but yet is 5X stronger than steel. Designed by Peter Craciun, this bike is both practical and beautifully designed. Being light weight and foldable means that is ideal for taking on the bus, the train or the trams so is ideal for urban commuters and people living in smaller spaces. The chain tensioner can be removed to make it safer and cleaner so that it won't fall catching on the bikers leg and getting chain dirt on you. The hummingbird bike is a carbon fibre frame which makes it shock absorbent for a smoother ride. Available in four colours and two wheel sizes, this is a practical design, which is also stylish.

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8 – Stop the Time Watch

Swiss company, ‘What?’ recently stopped to think why we keep track of time in the first place. Launched in Brooklyn, their collection has re-conceptualised the purpose of a watch and allows the wearer to ‘stop time’. By stop time, I don't mean in some sort of superhero way, the stopping time feature allows you to send a ‘timestamp’ to a supporting app whenever a noteworthy moment had occurred. Pressing the red button on the watch lets you expand upon the moment which you've deemed noteworthy and let's you add photos or notes etc. This company are essentially reinventing the wheel when it comes to watches. You are allowed five noteworthy moments a month which may not seem like a lot but when you consider how new technology is being integrated into classic designs like the watch, this is a clever new play on an old technology and its exciting to see where it could lead.

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9 – Beeline, Intuitive Navigation

For all the cyclists out here, I'm featuring this simplistic yet beautifully designed navigation system which strips back the tech and makes a design which leaves only the essentials. Based on a compass’ naturally occurring movement, this piece of design lets you find your way to your destination and tells you the distance to go. With an accelerometer, digital compass and gyroscope, this smart little device gives you just the right amount of information for you to find your way home. Waterproof and with a battery which lasts for months, this is such a versatile design which has thought of lots of practical features. Currently funded on Kickstarter!

10 – Pewter Cast Desk

This Pewter desk from Max Lamb is his largest cast to date, and he molded it on a Cornish beach using only a kitchen knife and a metal rod. At 4.30am, Lamb began carving his mold to coincide with the tide, as he knew he needed at least 6 hours to complete his work.  By 10.30am, the Pewter was ready to be melted (which took 30 camp stoves and several assistants). Lamb poured the Pewter into the sand mold and an hour later, revealed this stunning piece of geometric design which is decorated by the raw texture of the sand. 

 

Written by

Katherine Thomson

5 Christmas Gadget Gift Ideas

5 Christmas Gadget Gift Ideas

There’s nothing wrong with being prepared right? 🎄

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1.     Parrot Hydrofoil Drone

This is the ultimate big kids toy! A propeller driven unit sits on top of the body and travels at speeds up to 5.4 knots (6mph), lifting it clean out of the water by about 2 inches! Not only is it water based, the structures can be separated allowing the structure to fly through the air.

2.     Bowsers & Wilkins P5 Wireless Headphones

If this isn’t a good gift, then I don’t know what is, though on the pricier end of the Christmas gifts list scale, I’d save this item for someone you really want to buy for, and not a Secret Santa or something! With no wires, this set of Bluetooth headphones keeps the great sound quality that you’d expect but with the convenience of not getting tangled in cables. The headphones have a 17-hour battery life and are supplied with a USB cable so you can conveniently charge them through your laptop.

 

3.     Classic Blutune DAB /Bluetooth sound system

This gorgeous classic looking radio allows you to surf the airwaves as well as streaming from your own device using Bluetooth! Roberts Radio has a great selection of vintage looking DAB radios, which look effortlessly cool and are beautifully designed. This is the perfect gift for someone who wants a slice of the modern world but loves traditional looking items.

4.     Gameband

This is the ultimate gift for Minecraft players, enabling them all of their created worlds in one place, playable off Mac, Pc or other Linux-based computers. Wherever the wearer goes, they have all of their data with them, ready to play whenever they like. Not only is this a storage band, it also works as a watch and comes in several variations.

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5.     Happy Plugs Sound Piece

Swedish brand, Happy Plugs, have delivered a sleek looking speaker with changeable grills to suit your style and mood. This Bluetooth speaker has two 20W speakers as well as bass vents for when you really want to kick out some bass. This speaker looks absolutely amazing in so many different colours and patterns. I am pleasantly surprised by what a lovely shade the mint green grill is.

 

Written by 

Katherine Thomson

The world of Virtual Reality

The world of Virtual Reality

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Google gave a glimpse into virtual reality when they gave away ‘Cardboard’ at a conference in 2014. Stunned by the simplicity of the giveaway, people assumed it to be a joke. Were they mocking VR giant 'Oculus', or pulling a prank on attendees who were expecting something more along the lines of a free smartwatch? The reality was that Google had just equipped everyone in that room with a device, which would turn their smartphones into a DIY, low-cost virtual reality headset.

Virtual Reality is meant to be a big game changer, likely to have influence over film, gaming, travel, communication and education. VR technology feels very futuristic currently but the era has already begun developing and shows no sign of slowing down. People who try Google Cardboard are never disappointed, and even such a simplistic device, seems to prove to skeptics that Virtual Reality is on the way, and it really will be as good as it says it is going to be.

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Here in the G2 office, we have a couple of Google Cardboard headsets kicking about; the pretty basic app features are amusing enough when taking a virtual tour of museum artifacts or Google street view but are not overly impressive and the novelty soon wears off. That is, until now. If you were feeling underwhelmed by the Cardboard apps, then fear not, as things have started to get a lot more exciting indeed. 

In early November, Google announced that you won’t only be able to use your phone to view the specific VR content, but also YouTube content in new theatre mode. There are so many new free VR offerings out there, which make Google Cardboard much more exciting, it’s just a case of finding them. Available already, are a selection of apps designed to make you feel like you’re walking with dinosaurs, at a theme park, on a rollercoaster or travelling through space. My personal favorite is the Insidious VR app as it is almost like being in a game where you travel through different levels, however it can get pretty scary when you’re on your own with your headphones in.

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Content developers are taking this technology to new levels, allowing users to get up close and personal with Paul McCartney performing Live and Let die in full immersive 3D sound and a 360 degree camera rig or taking a glimpse into the world of watchable VR with developer VRSE who are offering a growing amount of content ranging from on set experiences to documentary material.

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With Oculus Rift expected to launch in 2016, we’ve had a glimpse into the world of Virtual Reality, and it’s likely to live up to expectations. Google Cardboard has allowed the world to see what can be possible with £10 and a smartphone, so imagine what is going to come next!

 

 

 

 

Written by

Katherine Thomson 

 

Welcome to the Future

Welcome to the Future

It’s the 21st of October 2015, which might just sound like a regular day to most, but I’m here to tell you, that it’s not!

Today is ‘Back to the Future Day’!

In Back to the Future II, the Doc and Marty crash into the future on this very day, (at 4.29pm if we’re being precise).

Let’s take a look at what they got right and what they got very wrong!

 

-       Fashion

Okay, so in BTTF 2015, Marty McFly is wearing a self-drying jacket, self-lacing trainers and jeans with the pockets pulled out, but if you look past those tech features, (10/10 for channeling wearables though), his bomber jacket is actually pretty on trend (if you ignore the fact that it comes with an inbuilt hairdryer). The trainers, although self-lacing, are not dissimilar to a pair of Kanye West’s Adidas high top Yeezy Boosts and Nike filed a patent for the automatic lacing system in 2009.

-       Transport

"Where we're going, we don't need roads..." Well, not quite, we don’t have flying cars just yet. Though there were some predictions, which weren’t too far from our reality. Vertical takeoffs aren’t the norm, and we don’t throw our rubbish into a car’s ‘Mr Fusion Energy Converter’ to create fuel but converting waste into power for vehicles isn’t completely unheard of. In Bristol and Bath, efforts have been made to power busses with treated waste from sewage and food.

Another similarity is when Biff pays for his taxi fare using his thumbprint, which isn’t too dissimilar to how we pay for things now, with cashless touch paying systems like contactless and Apple pay.

We don't have hover boards though, which I personally think is a huge disappointment. But we do have smart balancing electric scooters, so it's swings and roundabouts I guess. 

-       Jaws 19

Thankfully, they’ve not made 19 Jaws films. That’s all there is to say about that, just be happy about that one. 

-       Technology

Throughout the film, almost every character uses some high tech specs, which can take photos, access an information database and magnify objects. Google glass, which is going through a bit of a reinvention right now, has the ability to display data from the Internet to the viewer through natural language voice commands, take photos and record HD video. 

When it comes to home entertainment, BTTF was closer to the mark. The roll-up flat screen shown in McFlys home is similar to the flexible panels LG showed off at CES this year, and voice controlled televisions are a reality thanks to Smart TV’s and Amazon and Apple boxes. 

BTTF didn’t give a fully accurate prediction of the future, there are some similarities and many differences, though non of that really matters when you consider how excited everybody is about it today.

What a time to be alive. 

Written by

Katherine Thomson

 

Tech for Cold Weather

Tech for Cold Weather

Dark, cosy nights, hot chunky soup, jumpers on while sitting in front of a roaring fire. Sounds pretty dreamy right?

What I’m neglecting to tell you, is that getting out of the hot shower in the morning is about to become a vicious test just to make sure you’re awake enough for the day, defrosting the car windscreen means you have to get up 15 minutes earlier than usual (later defrosting your fingers in front of the car heating system which only seems to get to an adequate temperature when it’s time to get out), commitment to after work plans dwindle as the call of the cosy slippers is too difficult to turn down and the transitional period from summer jacket to winter parka almost always means that on certain days, you’ll either be sweating or freezing as the weather decides if it’s getting cold or not yet.

But hey, don’t despair. I’ll admit, I love it, even with all of those negatives I listed above I still live for the colder weather! Though I do understand that some people actually just wait for these months to pass until Summer is back again and so I’m going to offer a helping hand (kinda), the helping hand comes in the form of five pieces of technology/design, which will make the cold life easier, I promise.

 

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1. Hot Rod Heated Travel Mug

Yeah, that’s right, a HEATED travel mug, running off the 12V power outlet in the car. What better way to get through those frosty mornings than to have a beverage which stays warm for the duration of your journey, well, unless you use public transport where this becomes irrelevant (sorry).

2. Nest Thermostat

This smart bit of tech, could save you from those reluctant cold shower departures and instead make getting out of the shower an easy, pain free experience. Nest learns your routine after only a week. If you like being cosy when your alarm goes off, but cooler while you’re sleeping, then Nest will learn. Being able to remotely control your central heating adds another layer of convenience and connectivity to modern day life, and is likely to even save you money.

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3. USB Toast Hand Warmers

If, like me, you always have cold hands, then this might just be the solution for you. Those times that even when the heating is on and the rest of you is toasty, you notice that you’re typing away and you’ve got ‘bath hands’ (the name I like to give to hands which are so cold that they’re wrinkling up like you’ve been in the bath for too long). Those times are the worst, but here is the solution. Voila.

4. Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS2

This 14MP camera is perfect for getting those snaps on freezing cold winter days. A very durable little camera which is waterproof and freezeproof making it the perfect winter device. This versatile piece of kit may be more willing to brave the elements than you are, but incase you get brave, it’s right there with you.

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5. Cuisinart Soup Maker

Winter just screams soup, and soup is just waiting to comfort us on those days when it’s so cold that we’re frozen to the core. Imagine a world though, where soup making requires no waiting around for the veg to cook, no messy transfer from the pan to the blender and pretty much no effort… this is a world I want to live in. Perfect for smoothies, ice crushing and making chutneys too, this is one multi-purpose blender!

 

 

 

Written by

Katherine Thomson

Apples big announcement

Apples big announcement

Was it all that we had hoped for?

My personal opinion is that yes, yes it was.

No, we didn’t get an iPhone 7 that some people thought we would, and we don’t have a screen which stretches from corner to corner or touch sensitive volume controls, or an iCar or an iPad the size of a car door (I digress) but what we do have, is exciting.

We probably got a bit ahead of ourselves with all of that anyway, so let’s put on the brakes and take a peak at what the new announcements actually were.

iPhone 6S & 6S Plus

·      12MP Camera

·      5MP Facetime

·      4K Video

·      Live Photos

·      3D touch (which looks super cool)

·      64 bit A9 chip

·      Advanced fingerprint sensor

·      Faster 4G and WIFI

·      iOS 9

·      A new colour (rose gold – little bit iffy on this, wish they’d just bring back pure black)

 

iPad Pro

·      A9X Chip

·      Two app multitasking

·      Four new high fidelity speakers

·      Smart Keyboard for iPad

·      Apple Pencil (Yeah, a Pencil… I’ll tell you more in a bit)

·      Touch ID

·      12.9 inch screen

 

The Apple pencil is a lot better than it sounds, I promise. So, this is for those of you out there that have been using the iPad and thought, I wish I had more precision. It’s true; sometimes we need the precision that our rounded fingers aren’t capable of. Even if it’s not precision which you’re after, the pencil is capable of so much more – reacting like a regular charcoal pencil would to pressure and tilt. With virtually no lag, you can take creative charge of what you want to create, and with a 12-hour battery life, you can keep creating for hours. 

 

Apple TV

·      Games and apps for TV

·      Redesigned interface

·      Siri Remote

·      Touch Surface Remote

All in all, it was a good, strong announcement from Apple with plenty to look forward to and some fab new tech coming along!

 

iPhone available 25.09

iPad Pro available in November

 

Tweet us, let us know what you think!

Written by

Katherine Thomson

 

Apple Iphone 6S? 7? 7 Plus?...

Apple Iphone 6S? 7? 7 Plus?...

 Oh lets face it, it could be anything...

Ahead of tomorrows announcement, lets take a look at what we know so far.

Apple is pretty good at keeping secrets when it comes to the release dates and specs of their new iPhones. Apple fans around the globe are eagerly waiting to see what the new technology will look like. Apple have a large and dedicated following and it’s not uncommon to hear of long queues forming outside big Apple retail stores or people camping for days to ensure a prime spot in the queue to get their highly anticipated new phone.

Tomorrow at 6pm, we finally get to see what Apple have been hiding from us for so long. So what will it be? Should we expect an iPhone 6S? Or are they skipping straight to a 7?

Rumour has it, that there will only be one iPhone launched. Apple have announced that the new iPhone will be significantly different and better than the iPhone 6 and so it is possible that they will skip straight past the 6S and instead call it the iPhone 7.

Great, an iPhone 7, but what will that actually mean? Well, predictions state that physically there will likely be two different sizes available, a 4.7-inch model and a 5.5 -inch model in space grey, gold, silver and maybe even rose. It is likely that it will be considerably thinner but also stronger than previous models so that there isn’t a repeat of ‘bendgate’. Internally, it is expected that Apple will announce a dual lens, 12Mp camera, capable of DSLR-like picture quality for the rear-facing camera and a hike in the front facing camera quality too. Expected to operate iOS 9, with features like battery saving mode to allow users to get an extra 3 hours out of their handset and a new maps update featuring public transport links. Visually, it’s not expected that the dreams of a curved display, or 3D screen will come true, however, the rumour of an edge-to-edge screen, don’t rule it out!

We can speculate and dream of the lovely new features that they might announce but the truth is, we won’t know until tomorrow at 6pm. Either way, they’re bound to announce something pretty special and rumour has it, that it might not even be the iPhone which is the star of the show.

Check back here on Thursday for a review of the announced product(s). 

Written by

Katherine Thomson

Prediction VS Reality: Transport

Prediction VS Reality: Transport

Predictions made at the start of the new millennium were not so far off the reality of life today. But rewind that 50 years, and you’re faced with a completely different picture.

So what happened to the hover cars and hypersonic jets that were dreamt up?  

In the early 19th and 20th centuries technological developments were advancing so quickly that there seemed no limit to how fast or how far we could travel. Inventors imagined flying cars, rocket propelled bicycles and monorails running above houses. We were in a hurry to get places faster and to go further than we’d ever been. The reality is quite different but only in the form the travel takes. We’re still looking for ultra fast speed; we’re just looking elsewhere for it. The new supersonic airplane from Hypermach is due to be twice as fast as Concorde (which went out of use in 2003 due to the expense and high levels of pollution) and used as a business jet with a top speed flying at 2664 mph at a height of 62000 ft, to allow passengers to observe the curvature of the earth.

In the mid-20th century when the nuclear age dawned, there was a feeling of limitless power at humanities disposal and there were dreams of railways under the sea and travel from New York to Paris taking only 90 minutes. The reality is that these ideas didn’t happen, whether that was because they were over-hyped, under-funded or that they weren’t commercially viable.

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Some concepts did work as prototypes and an example of this is George Bennie’s Railplane. The Railplane was a suspended carriage with propellers. But due to lack of commercial backing, Bennie went bust in 1937.

Today, we may not have flying cars, but we are on the cusp of having fully autonomous vehicles. We might not have interplanetary travel, but as previously mentioned, we may be getting a supersonic passenger airplane in the next decade or so. So what, if we don't have hover cars, Lexus have announced their new development, the hoverboard and all I can say is...never say never.  

The transport dreams of the 50's we're a little ambitious and in some cases, completely impossible. Although we've not got the products that were predicted, we have advanced in other ways. In 50 years, we'll look back and compare to the predictions of today, chances are, we'll have been a bit wrong too. 


Written by

Katherine Thomson

R&D Tax Relief: Is R&D spending a victim of austerity?

R&D Tax Relief: Is R&D spending a victim of austerity?

Is R&D spending a victim of austerity?

The Office for National Statistics recently released some data about government spending on R&D (here) and we’ve been having a closer look at it. If you were to ask a UK manufacturer if it’s up or down you could expect a negative answer, as budgets are slashed further each year in this age of austerity. The reality is a bit more complicated. UK public spend on Science, Engineering and Technology in 2013 (the last year we have data for) was £10.9 billion, an increase of 9% versus 2012 and on the face of it good news. It also reverses the downward trend in R&D expenditure that’s been there since 2009, but it’s still far from the pre-recession peak. There are winners and losers within these figures though, so let’s take a quick look at them.

Research Councils stay steady over a longer period

The government funded Research Councils invest in research, covering academic disciplines from medical and biological sciences to astronomy, physics, chemistry and engineering, social sciences, economics, environmental sciences and the arts and humanities. Their budget was increased for 2013, but when you take into account inflation it’s in real terms stayed at it’s 2008 level, following an increase from £2.5 billion to £3.4 billion between 2002 and 2008.  

University R&D spending

A similar story can be seen with UK higher education spending, with a slight increase from £2.1 billion in 2002 to £2.4 billion in 2013, again affected by inflation. The grassroots pressure group Science Is Vital says that the apparent rise is further misleading though, as the total figure includes an increase in capital spending but also a drop in cash funding for science projects.

Who lost out in R&D taxpayer spending?

There have been specific increases in expenditure from 2002, but the overall budget has stayed quite steady, so who has suffered? R&D in defence, dropping £2.1 billion since 2002. It’s subjective and controversial as to how defence R&D should be regarded, but it’s clear this is where the savings have been made. 

Our R&D spending versus our neighbours and competitors

Back to the bigger picture; the overall R&D figures put us in the position of spending the lowest proportion of our GDP on R&D of all the G8 countries (see below), with 0.5% spent, compared to an average of 0.8%, and this doesn’t compare favourably with our European competitors like Germany (0.89%) and France (0.82%) or our cousins across the pond with their 0.86% spend on R&D. We believe research and development is vital to the UK’s future (it’s why we do what we do) and while it’s great to see R&D spending starting to increase again, more is needed to keep the UK competitive.

 

0115 824 0402

 

1:  UK Government Expenditure on Science, Engineering and Technology, 2013

2:  The G8 is: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States

 

The rise and continued success of Apple

The rise and continued success of Apple

Founded in 1976 by Steve Jobs, Steve Woznik and Ronald Wayne in a garage in California. Apple now has record-breaking profits and enough money to buy most of the worlds biggest companies. Apple holds $178 billion, and although bigger than Intel and Amazon, Apple is smaller (possibly surprisingly) than both Google and Facebook. 

Record iPhone sales have reported Apple profits of $10.7bn (£6.9bn) on revenues of $49bn (£31.5bn) in the past three months. This comes as iPhone sales have been increasing through April to June when they would typically slow off in anticipation of the new handsets released in autumn. In addition to this, a quarter of the companies’ revenue has come from China, which is an amazing result as it’s a market, which Apple found difficult to succeed in, in recent years.

Apples key to profit dominance lies in comparably higher prices to their competitors and even though Apple Mac only accounted for around six of every one hundred computers sold, they still captured more than half of industry profits in 2014, according to Bernstein Research.

“The dominance of Apple is something that is very hard to overcome,” - Denny Strigl, former chief operating officer of Verizon Communications Inc.

The launch of Apple Music is a big step for the company diversifying it’s music offering and has been coupled with the launch of their new radio station, ‘Beats 1’. The move to release a streaming/radio service offers us a glimpse into Apples future. Showing us how easily it can operate outside of it's core hardware business. Though even though Apple has had a successful affiliation with the music industry since the iPod release in 2001, competitors don’t appear to be quaking in their boots as it was predicted. Google and Samsung announced before Apple music was even launched that they would be taking on the corporate giants new streaming service and radio station by offering six-months free music streaming to anyone who buys one of Samsung’s latest smartphones. Though all this hysteria has been somewhat exaggerated and Spotify and Google Play aren't out of business or losing customers at an alarmingly fast rate. 

However, that being said, it is only a month old, so I think it's a case of watch this space...

Apple Pay launched this month, however their UK launch was spoilt by lackluster support from some of the major UK banks. HSBC was one of the most noticeable missing from the list that have since joined and Lloyds are promising to support Apple Pay this autumn. Barclays, Halifax, TSB and Bank of Scotland are still missing from the list of supporters with no confirmed dates to join the Apple Pay system. The UK has been getting used to using contactless payments for a while now and in 2014 the use of them was up 255%. Transport for London is the most used for Apple Pay with Pret a Manger coming in second. According to Brandwatch, the feelings associated with Apple Pay use with TfL were almost equally positive and negative, whereas Pret gained more positive responses.

Apple started in 1976 with three men in a garage developing and selling the Apple I personal computer kit. No one could have predicted how significant that was, or the global success it has led to. Electric vehicles are on the cards for Apple and according to the Sydney Morning Herald, Apple wanted to start producing an electric car with autonomous driving as soon as 2020.

Apple have come a long way in the last 40 years, image what the next 40 will bring, or at the rate at which they develop, even the next 10!


Written by

Katherine Thomson

4 reasons to be excited about tech

4 reasons to be excited about tech

1 – Android M – Due for release in October/November on a new Nexus phone and then other Nexus devices. (Though not on other phones and tablets until a few months later). This update will focus heavily on bug fixes but their other announcements are particularly interesting. One of these announcements is ‘Doze’, a very intelligent battery saver that has the potential to double your battery life. This deep sleep state is only for devices running Android M, which uses motion detection to determine when a device is not in use. You will still receive important notifications but with the lengthened battery life, you’ll be able to receive them for longer without worrying about your battery! Android M will also standardise fingerprint sensors used to lock and unlock your phone, which will tie in nicely with the new Android pay system.

 

2 – iOS9 – The final version of iOS9 is expected to launch with the new iPhone (we’ll get on to that in a sec) expected in September and will be available on all devices which can run iOS 8. Siri is expected to be smarter, capable of rivaling Google Now, including being able to understand what you’re talking about in relation to the app you’re using, suggesting appointments to add to your calendar and perhaps the most promising is the location based knowledge. The smarter location knowledge means if you’ve been listening to audio in the car, it will bring up what you were listening to last time. Perhaps the best development for iOS 9 is that it will tell you when to leave for an appointment, rivaling Google’s app. Let down by battery life, iOS 9 will be no rival to Android M with only an extra hour of battery expected with Apples new low power mode.  

 

3 – iPhone 7? 6S? 6S Plus? 6C? – Likely to hit the market in September, the greatly anticipated new iPhone has already got people speculating about what to expect. It is thought that Apple will release two phones, perhaps even three with the potential to have a 6S, 6S plus and maybe even a 7. Chances are that the new iPhones won’t be different dimensions but will be slimmer. Battery life isn’t expected to be enhanced, however the introduction of iOS 9 will improve battery life on all iPhones. The iPhone camera is expected to be offering DSLR like picture quality. This will be a huge step as Apple continues to rival camera manufacturers and the iPhone Photography awards enter their 9th year.  The truth is, no one except Apple knows the full details just yet, but what is rumored is very exciting indeed!

 

4 – Oculus Rift – Okay so there’s no release date yet, and it is likely to be next year, but the prototypes are out and the reviews are more than positive. The Oculus Rift takes gaming to a whole new level and virtual reality is something which has baffled developers for the last 30 years. Virtual Reality has previously left users with motion sickness and headaches, which is something that had to be confronted when making a consumer product. Oculus, so far, seem to have achieved it with the Rift, which is a lightweight headset, with Velcro straps and soft materials, comfortable to wear. 

The general consensus is that Oculus Rift is going to be well worth the wait, and as creator Palmer Luckey stated during the Oculus conference, ‘this is only the beginning’.


Written by

Katherine Thomson

Animal Technology

Animal Technology

We make amazing advancements using technology. These technologies are not just for human benefits though, I’m going to look at how these advancements are used to save and enhance lives, everyday in our World.

Derby the dog is a heartwarming example showing that it’s not just humans reaping the benefits of 3D printing. Derby was born with two shorter, under-developed legs, which impacted his mobility. After being taken to the Peace and Paws Dog Rescue by his previous owners who could no longer care for him, Derby was fostered by Tara Anderson, director at 3D systems, a 3D printing company. After trialing a wheeled cart to aid his mobility, Anderson suspected her team of designers could do better. The designers at 3D systems began crafting a set of custom prosthetic legs that would help Derby to move more naturally and freely. After a few different trials, Derby was ready to try his finished set of prosthetics! Derby now runs freely using this technology and has newfound freedom of movement, the ability to run on concrete and the ability to play with other dogs too.

Bionics and prosthetics are changing the way we treat our best furry friends, with pioneering work-becoming mainstream and with shows like ‘Supervet’, we’re hearing about these procedures more and more.

It’s not just our pets that are benefiting from life-changing and life-saving treatments. Technology is helping to protect and save wild animals too.

Buttercup the duck was born with his foot turned backwards, which left him struggling to waddle. After being adopted by the Feathered Angels Waterfowl Sanctuary, they enlisted the help of a 3D modeling company. Due to the flexibility needed in a ducks foot, 3D printing wasn’t an ideal way of making a foot for Buttercup, however it was possible to make a 3D printed mold in order to create a foot made from flexible Silicone instead. Buttercup waddled around fantastically with this foot, but struggled to swim, which is when a special swim foot was created for him. After some uncertainty, Buttercup began swimming effortlessly through the water, navigating no differently than the other ducks.  

In the wild, technology is helping to protect endangered species and is providing research about how we interact with them, in the hope of reducing human-animal conflicts. Smart Collars are a great development for endangered species as they use GPS and accelerometer technology to not only track the animals location, but to see how it is moving, when it is hunting and indeed, what it is hunting too. It is hoped that by using this technology we can better understand the animals and predict their behavior, and will hopefully be a complete game changer for how we interact with animals in the wild.

As technology gets smarter, humanities capabilities increase and with it our ability to help other species in the most unique way.


Written by

Katherine Thomson

Keeping cool in Summer

Keeping cool in Summer

5 ways to keep cool through summer and the inevitable heatwaves

STAY INDOORS WITH A FAN BLARING COLD AIR INTO YOUR FACE WHILST SITTING IN AN ICE BATH!

Nah, just kidding.

I’m not going to lie to you; I dread the really hot weather, summer is like a heatpocolypse to me. Even British summer time gets pretty warm and a heat wave is usually inevitable. Now regardless of if you love it or hate it, you probably don’t want to get too hot and you want to keep your cool and look like the blaring sun and soaring temperatures don’t faze you. So I’m going to help you achieve that, (aren’t I nice) and recommend some of the best tech and gadgets designed to keep you cool!

1 – Dyson AM06

If you actually want some power from your fan then this is probably the fan for you. Some fans lack power but are quiet, others, are powerful but loud. This Dyson fan has triumphed in being both powerful and quiet. The new generation of Dyson designs have improved airflow, and reduced power consumption. The improved airflow paths reduce air turbulence, allowing air to pass through the machine with greater efficiency. Having trouble sleeping in this heat? Well the Dyson AM06 can be programmed to turn off after a range of pre-set intervals ranging from minutes to hours.

2 – UV Sun Sense Wristband

If you actually like being out in the sun (what a crazy notion, but I hear some people do) then you need to protect your skin! These colour-changing wristbands can help you do just that! When applying your sun cream, simply coat the wristband too. The band is sensitive to UVA and UVB rays and will turn brown when it’s time to reapply sun cream. When your skin has reached its MED (mean erythema dose) threshold, the band will turn peach, signifying that it’s time to seek out some shade before your skin burns.

3  - Corkickle

Refreshing drinks are a must for the hot weather! How better to keep your cool than by sipping on a cold beverage? The lovely people over at Corkickle have designed a range of products designed to keep your drinks cool for the duration of your drink. No longer must you worry about ice watering down your delicious concoction. The Corkickle range of products have got your back, they know how annoying it is to have melted ice in your drinks and have a design for pretty much every drink you can think of. The Chillsner looks to be my personal favorite! With its in-bottle design, the ice-cold wand fits into your bottle and allows you to drink through the chiller. See it to believe it friends.

4 – Chili Bed

This is a pretty fantastic way of controlling your temperature in bed. Water flows through soft coils in the mattress pad, actively adjusting the temperature of the surface of the bed and then depending on the direction of the electron flow, the water is either cooled or heated. So as you can see, this isn’t just a mattress for summer (because that would be a right pain having seasonal mattresses), this is a mattress to see you through all the seasons.  With the mattresses timer, you can go to sleep nice and cool and then retain room temperature in the middle of the night when the outdoor heat drops.

5 – Summer Blast Umbrella Fan

How about a fan for the garden parasol? That’s exactly what this is! Running off six D batteries, this fan attaches to your parasol and provides air circulation whilst you’re sitting in the shade! The shade is great, and a perfect retreat from the scorching rays, but without a gentle breeze, the shade can be just as hot and muggy as sitting in the sun.


I hope these gadgets have shed some light on how to keep cooler in the blaring sun.

Now go out and have fun! 


Written by

Katherine Thomson

The Future of Coding

The Future of Coding

In England, 2014, the new computing curriculum was introduced. Computer sciences have increased in presence on the curriculum in recent years, and the 2014 curriculum changes demonstrate the pressure on children to keep up with their peers in other countries. Universities want to reverse the decline in applicants for computer science courses, gaming companies want more programmers and the government wants more high-tech start ups, so the shift in the curriculum was probably inevitable. The demand for coding and computing skills has increased significantly and people of all ages are starting to go out of their way to learn.

Out of the curriculum, Code Clubs have made an appearance in and out of schools to engage young people in learning about how their technology works. Code Club is a nationwide network of volunteer-led after school coding clubs for children aged 9-11. There are 2498 code clubs in the UK run by volunteers who know how to code, teaching children in their local libraries and primary schools.

Raspberry Pi, the cheap, credit card sized computer is a perfect example of taught at home coding. Raspberry Pi plugs into a monitor or TV, which enables people of all ages to explore and learn about code and computing. The kit has been hugely successful and there were millions of orders before it’s release last year. More products geared towards computing and code are coming to the market. The Kano Kit is one of these products. This hugely fun kit built with Raspberry Pi, is a story, complete with books, which contain simple steps to build a computer, make things and explore the world of computers and code. Engaging and interesting, the Kano kit highlights the demand for children to learn about code. Minecraft have developed an add-on called LearnToMod, which aims to teach children coding skills whilst playing. The clever, highly engaging program costs £18 per year and unlocks badges as the player progresses and learns more. There are tons of tutorials on the online modding studio and a private server to test and share mods.

With the introduction of coding into schools, the curriculum has had to adapt to a new way of making computing appealing to children. Previously ICT was a subject focused on teaching kids how to use computers, but not how to understand how they are programmed and how they operate. Understanding how technologies work is very different to knowing how to use the technology.  Kano, LearnToMod and Raspberry Pi, demonstrate the growing demand for coding education both from home and in schools. There are numerous apps to help children learn about coding and programming, whilst making it fun to learn.

ScratchJr is aimed towards children between 5-7 years old, and enables them to create their own interactive stories and games. This app is a new type of literacy, similar to how writing helps to organise your thoughts and express ideas, the same is true for coding. Using this app, young children learn how to express themselves with the computer and not just to interact with it. Available on both iPad and Android tablets, this interface is designed to develop sequencing skills that are foundational for later academic success. Kandu, is an iPad app designed to enable kids to learn about the overall structure of coding through developing their own games and animated pictures. This app doesn’t actually use any code, well, not like you’d expect. Kandu uses toolbars on the left and right to allow kids complete control over characters, backgrounds and objects. Kandu’s main focus is ensuring seamless user experience that is easy for kids to interact with, meaning they can hop on the platform and get creating.

In conclusion, it is clear that software is the language of our modern world and is becoming critical in our lives. We are facing a future, which will possibly be as challenging to those who do not know the language of computers as today can be to those who are illiterate or innumerate. Coding provides a new way of looking at the world and understanding the software we use on a daily basis and is beneficial to understanding future technology too. It's time to future proof ourselves. 

Written by

Katherine Thomson

Technology for Summer

Technology for Summer

Summer is on it’s way, and contrary to what ‘Game of Thrones’ keeps telling us, Winter is actually very much behind us now, so we better crack out the coolest cooler and get our shades on.

Coolest Cooler?’ I hear you ask. I’m going to explain that, and also open your mind to some of the best summer tech out there.

So the ‘Coolest Cooler’, really is very cool. It is basically summer in a stylish box. Don’t believe me? Let me explain. Not forgetting that the cooler is there to keep all your favorite beverages and snacks cool, it also has these super cool features to enhance your summer… 

1.     The Coolest Cooler has a 5-watt Bluetooth Outdoor Speaker with dual drivers and a resonator plate for excellent clarity base and volume. Bluetooth 4.0 allows you to stream music from up to 30 feet.  Let the party commence!

2.     Not only does this Cooler have an amazing speaker, but it also has an accessory desk which lets you store your personal accessories in a safely secured and hidden from view deck compartment.

3.     You know those beautiful sunny days when all you want is a refreshing drink filled with ice? Yet you’re out in the garden enjoying the weather, and the kitchen just seems so far away. Well, the Coolest Cooler has a built in 18-volt ice-crushing blender, enabling you 6 gallons worth of pure blended joy. Frozen ice tea, anyone? Most certainly!

4.     Did I mention that the Cooler has a 20-volt battery? Well, it does, and with the speaker and blender, you can get even more out of it. The USB charger is fully waterproof and allows you to recharge your gear wherever you are!

5.     The lid keeps the party going all night with built-in LED lights at the push of a button. By this point, you’re no longer dreaming of being at a summer party, you are the party and complete with the extra-wide, easy-rolling tires, the party goes wherever you go.

6.     I guess by this point you’re getting a bit peckish, it’s mid afternoon and you’re all partied out, time to recharge your own batteries with a snack from the cooler. If only you had a plate for your snacks, and a chopping board to whip up some cucumber batons to accompany your well-chosen dip selection…well, you guessed it, there is! While your drinks and snacks are busy chilling, the cool box divider doubles up as a chopping board, and the integrated storage contains four colour matched reusable plates and a sharp rust-proof knife.

Do you really need more points to be convinced?

No?

I didn’t think so.

Now lets look at what summer tech you can use if you don’t want to constantly party for the next 5 months.

If you’re more the outdoorsy type and nothing excites you more than a walk into the wilderness with nothing more than a flask and a childlike sense of adventure, then let me introduce you to Earl.

Earl is an android powered, solar-charged, two way radio enabled, waterproof tablet. Full solar powered charge lasts for 20+ hours so you’re never left in the dark about where you are or how to get in touch with the authorities if you’re in an emergency situation.

Earl’s GPS chipset gives you a precise reading of your location, direction and elevation. Combine Earl with ‘everytrail.com’ and instantly have access to over 300,000 trails so you can get the most from being outdoors. If you would like to keep track of your heart rate, pace and cadence then you can do this too, all you need to do is connect ANT+ or a Bluetooth 4.0 device.

Mother Nature will never catch you out because Earl’s internal weather sensors accurately forecast the weather even in the most remote location.

This is the ultimate outdoor tool for when you want an escape from everyday technology, but not from all communication. Earl’s built in waterproof radio lets you tune in to the world no matter where you are, and the built in walkie-talkie means you’re never far from being able to reach out too. Water/dust/shock and mud proof, this durable device works in temperatures between 0-50 degrees and altitudes up to 40,000 feet. The glove friendly touchscreen means this device will work in almost any condition.

Looking for something for your camping trip? It get’s pretty cold in the woods at night, and sometimes you just want some hot food and a cuppa to warm your bones. Alas, the woods don’t have streams of hot soup or waterfalls of tea, so you’re going to have to sort this one yourself.

This is where the ‘BioLite CampStove’ comes in. Burning only wood, the CampStove creates a smokeless campfire that can cook food and boil water.

Did I mention that this super efficient fire also produces electricity? BioLite’s core technology captures the waste heat from the fire and converts this heat into useable electricity. The USB attachment on the side, allows you to charge your phone, gadgets, torches and more.

This product folds into itself for ultimate space saving convenience so you don’t need to allocate tons of space in your rucksack to take this stove with you, and it weighs only 2.06ibs!

Like to Kayak to a beat or wish you could party in your canoe? No, probably not, but at least now you have the option. The ECOXBT waterproof Bluetooth speaker is the ultimate pool speaker. With a 12-hour battery life, you’ll not have to worry about your music stopping while you’re out.

Being fully waterproof, the ECOXBT also floats, so you can drop it in a pool, or whatever watery setting you’re in and not have to worry about it sinking or malfunctioning.

The British weather is so unreliable’, I hear you cry.

Don’t despair! Just download a good weather app. BBC Weather keeps you up to date on all the latest weather, breaking it down hour by hour so you know exactly when to plan your adventures, when to get your party going and when to pack your raincoat.

Well, there you go. You’re all set!

Written by

Katherine Thomson

Top apps to manage your health

Top apps to manage your health

To celebrate World Health Day, i’ve assembled a list of 10 of the best health managing apps for you to take a peak at.

So, in no particular order…

10 – Argus – This app is an all in one activity tracker and food diary. Without compromising your privacy, Angus is designed to monitor your lifestyle using mobile computing. Designed beautifully, this app makes lifestyle tracking easy with a honeycomb layout displaying all information tracked from your day, including your food and water intake, exercise, sleep duration, step count and heart rate.  Argus calculates your active calories compared to your resting calories, allowing you to see how many you have burnt through exercise alone and how many you have burnt by simply functioning.

9 – Yoga Studio – This app makes Yoga accessible from wherever you are! Whether you’re in your home, in the park or even waiting for your train (if you’re particularly eager). Yoga studio puts the power of yoga into your hands at a time when it’s convenient for you! For £2.99 this app includes 24 hours of ready-made HD video classes to allow you the freedom to choose the workout you want to do. Perfect for beginners all the way through to experts, if Yoga is something you want to try or something you’re proficient in, this app is the perfect yoga companion for you. (I think I’m going to have to download it myself.)

8 – Headspace – ‘Your Gym membership for the mind’. This app uses meditation and mindfulness to help you live a healthier and happier life. The app works on a subscription basis, which opens up hundreds of hours worth of Headspace content, with guided and unguided exercises at varying lengths to fit around your lifestyle. The app offers a free program designed to help you learn the basics of meditation and mindfulness in ten-minute sections over a ten-day period, just to make sure it's right for you.

7 – Zombies, Run! 3 – Yes, this app is exactly like it sounds, running from zombies (well, imaginary ones) for fitness. With over one million users, this app is a popular choice for those wanting to run further and faster. Ideal for both beginners and practiced runners, if you like the thought of being spurred on to run by a horde of Zombies then this app is probably the one for you. The app works through your headphones while you’re running to create a zombie scenario in-between your own customised playlists as you earn critical supplies for running further and faster. The app allows you to build your own base, which your supplies help to sustain.  

6 – Fitstar  - This app basically transforms your phone into a personal trainer. The developers of this app understand the difficulties of working out around work and other commitments and so have designed an app which enables the user to fit exercise in around other activities. Fitstar allows you to rate your workout on level of difficulty, which allows the app to show you new fitness sessions to help you progress and improve without getting bored of the same workouts over and over again. Another member of the Fitstar family is ‘Fitstar Yoga’, which works in the same way as Fitstar personal trainer except with yoga.

5 – Lumosity – Developed by Neuroscientists, this app is for Brain health and memory. It designs special programs, targeting the abilities important to you, such as problem solving, attention span and memory. Lumosity lets you track your progress over time to see how your brain workouts are improving and allows you to compare your results to people similar to you.

4 – MyFitnessPal – This is a simple to use platform to track your daily food intake. It’s a great tool to be able to count your calories and the app calculates your daily intake allowance based on your height, weight, and if you would like to lose, gain or maintain your weight. The app works with your phones camera to scan barcodes on food you eat to show you all the nutritional information and allow you to add it to your diary. As well as adding foods by barcodes, many restaurants have their nutritional information on the site and you can add your own meals too. Recent foods display in your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks categories for ease of selecting frequent foods. The app allows you to add your friends who are also on the app and track your weight over time.

3 – Nike+ Training Club – This app is your very own personal trainer in the palm of your hand. The app allows you to select your fitness level and then creates a workout plan to work for you. Aimed at helping you to achieve your goals, whether you want to get lean, toned or build strength. Your motivation isn’t likely to dip from this app, as you are able to add your friends and connect with the Nike training club community, which shows you a newsfeed worth of other people’s workouts to spur you on.

2 – Map my Fitness – Using GPS this app tracks your activity route. With pre-programmed routes around your location you have the option to follow a planned route knowing the time and distance you want to travel. This isn’t just an app that tracks when you have signal though. Even if your GPS fails while you’re out and about, your route will still be tracked and your calories burnt will still be counted (trust me, I’ve been there). If you’re looking for a complete app with the ability to log foods, create training routes and connect with your friends, then this is the app for you.

1 – Sickweather – Want to know what illness is troubling the area where you live to better your chances of not getting it? Well, believe it or not, you can. The Sickweather app takes public information from Facebook and Twitter when people post updates with their location on such as ‘This flu is horrible’ and translates it into a sick bubble around the area they live to build up a picture of what illnesses are going around different areas, even traceable to the street where they live. Alternatively you are also able to report how you’re feeling anonymously to report symptoms or illnesses. 

Written by

Katherine Thomson

Tech in Medicine

Tech in Medicine

The Medical field is no stranger to new technologies and pioneering experiments, now more than ever we are seeing technology revolutionising the world of Healthcare. 

Only 60 years ago was the first successful open heart surgery. An operation, which was revolutionary at the time, now trumped by the minimally invasive surgical methods of the 21st century with the assistance of robots! It’s just incredible how far we’ve come in such a short amount of time.

It’s not only Scientists and Doctors who are pioneering this new exciting technology, which we see today. Apple and Google (Google X) are finding their place within the Medical world. Outdated methods are being championed by new technologies allowing fresh ways to collect patient data for research and for storing medical records.

I'm going to talk you through 7 different technological developments, which are revolutionising the way we treat and diagnose. 

1 – 3D Printing – Not only for use in Japan for printing doll size replicas of yourself, 3D printing has countless, invaluable medical uses. With constant leaps forward in technology, its no surprise that 3D printing is readily available for more advanced uses.  3D printing organs is not just an idea anymore; it’s fast becoming a reality and bioprinting is enabling the creation of replacement organs by using human cells. We are already at the stage of being able to print body parts; heart valves, artificial bones, joints, ears and skin grafts, and these exciting advancements in Bioprinting show no signs of slowing down.

2 – ResearchKit – This is how Apple are making their mark in Medicine. Focusing on Medical Data, ResearchKit turns the iPhone into a diagnostic tool able to harness large amounts of patient medical data ready for study into different medical conditions. 5 apps have already been developed to assist people suffering from Asthma, Parkinson’s, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease and post-treatment Breast Cancer patients. This way of capturing data, has never been done before and enables medical researches to have a much broader and diverse set of results to analyse.

3 – Brain Computer Interface – As computers evolve, as does our understanding of the human brain. Brain Computer Interface (BCI) is a technological breakthrough and has amazing sci-fi possibilities. BCI technology paves the way for exciting developments for blind and deaf people. It’s now almost possible to transmit signals directly into someone’s brain allowing them to see, hear or feel sensory inputs. Another exciting area of BCI research is the development of devices, which can be controlled by thoughts, enabling artificial limbs to be operated only by the signals coming from implanted electrodes in the brain.

4 – Robotics – Think more the robots used to build cars and less C-3PO in medical scrubs. These medical robots are used in surgeries and take up a decent sized room. The benefits of using these robots are that their ‘hands’ are super small, high precision instruments. The robots don’t carry out the surgery; they are simply instruments for surgeons to use as they offer a greater level of precision. The future for medical robots looks impressive with the next generation of surgical robots being developed to seek and destroy cancers and the ability to set bones. 

5 – Exoskeletons – An exciting development that may help paralyzed patients walk. Movement is controlled by the brain, which sends a signal down the spinal cord and the surrounding nerves. However, in Paralyzed patients, the spinal nerve structures are damaged and therefore the signals can’t reach the legs or arms, thus leaving the patient unable to walk or move certain body parts. A Hybrid Assistive Limb (HAL) Exoskeleton, can pick up these weakened signals through sensors attached to a persons skin, and can set motors, (located in the pelvic and knee joints) in motion allowing the person to move.  The patient always remains in control of the suit as it is controlled directly by neurological instructions.

6 – Scanadu – This Company could completely change how we look at our health, and how we respond to our symptoms when we do get ill.  The Scanadu scout is an ‘Indiegogo’ funded campaign which allows you to check all of your vital signs on your smartphone by holding the device to your forehead for ten seconds. Scanadu can identify illness and the device also has camera scanning to identify rashes and skin conditions, the app then suggests the best course of action, including if any treatments should be used and at what dose. The Scanadu is competing in the ‘Qualcomm Tricorder X Prize’ competition. The £6m ($10m) competition to develop a real life ‘Tricorder’ (as used in Star-Trek) launched in 2013 challenges anyone to develop a wireless device, which is capable of detecting a wide range of diseases. The finalists have been announced and the teams will be judged later this year with the awards ceremony in January 2016. 

7 –Bionics – Prosthetics are nothing new, but Bionic limbs are a game changer. We saw Dr. Hugh Herr at South by Southwest (SXSW) this year with two bionic limbs attached to his body using smart skin. The double amputee is living proof of the advances in bionics. His revolutionary work in Bionics is paving the way for enabling disabled persons new freedom of movement and ease of life. Implanted prosthetics is a different kind of prosthesis, and is one, where the prosthetic is actually connected to the bone, muscle and nerves, which moves us even closer to touch sensation bionics. Bionics don’t just stop with limbs, scientists at Newcastle University are working on a microchip implant for the brain, which receives signals from a camera in a bionic eye. They hope to be able to restore sight to people who have lost their vision.

These are just some of the ways that tech is revolutionising healthcare. Now more than ever we are seeing the development of products enabling us to take our health into our own hands, and understand our own bodies. With the developments underway with the Tricorder X prize, the hope is that one day we will be our own first call for diagnosis, without needing to see a Doctor straight away. 

Written by

Katherine Thomson