FloJack Brings NFC to Apple Devices For First Time

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Apple has been noticeably reluctant to bring near-field communication technology (better known as NFC) to the iPhone and iPad, but now one company hopes to beat Apple to it.

Flomio, a startup that provides a platform for developers to build NFC and RFID-enabled apps, has launched a Kickstarter campaign to develop a dongle for iOS devices called the FloJack that would bring NFC payments to the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch for the first time.

The FloJack is described as a pocket-sized NFC reader and writer that plugs into iOS devices through the headphone jack — similar to the dongle that works with Square. With FloJack attached, the iOS device will be able to communicate wirelessly with other devices around it. NFC technology is typically thought of in the context of enabling mobile devices to transit payments, but Flomio is focused on other features.

In addition to FloJack, the company has an app called Flomio NFC Actions, which lets users customize actions they’d like to perform between devices. For example, you can set up a trigger that automatically sends your friends directions or exchanges contact information on the go.

This isn’t the first time Kickstarter has come to the rescue to solve a problem Apple is reluctant to take on. Earlier this year, there was another campaign for a special iPad keyboard case called Brydge that effectively transforms the device into a true laptop.

So far, Flomio has raised just more than $18,000 on Kickstarter out of its total goal of $80,000, with 15 days to go.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/11/11/flojack-brings-nfc-to-ios-devices/

Turn Your iPhone Camera Into a Right Angle Lens

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Instead of shooting what’s directly infront of you, a Kickstarter project lets you make more use out of your iPhone camera. HiLO Lens is the first lens that turns your iPhone or iPad into a right angle camera.

It can be hard to get up close to the action when photographing children or pets, or when trying to capture the crowd at a concert. The right-angle design allows for different positioning of the phone to make better use of your camera. The lens sticks to your phone through sticky tape developed by 3M. Clean the sticky side with water and soap and it renews its stickiness each time.

Laying your iPhone on any flat surface turns that surface into a tripod. Use the accompanying app to set a timer for group shots or self portraits with an adjustable shutter delay.

The creators have raised $23,519 of their $27,500 goal with 11 days remaining. What creative ways would you use a right-angle lens? Let us know in the comments.

iPhone Lens

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/11/09/iphone-camera-lens/

Did a Robot Find Amelia Earhart’s Plane?

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TIGHAR Equipment

It’s not much more than a couple of pieces of landing gear, but 75 years after Amelia Earhart’s Lockheed Electra airplane went missing, a pair of robots may have found its final resting place.

The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recover (more easily remembered as TIGHAR), announced last week that its robot search team (which consists of an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle [AUV] from Bluefin robotics and a remote-control unit from Submersible Systems, Inc. known as the TRV 005) captured images of a debris field that may be from the ill-fated plane.

The two robots had been searching the Western Pacific in an area known as Nikumaroro, which is part of the Phoenix Islands. TIGHAR researchers chose that location because they believe Earhart and her navigator Frederick Noonan landed the Lockheed aircraft on reef before it eventually washed over and broke up in the ocean.

Robots at Work

The AUV and submersible actually worked in tandem to discover what appears to be a set of landing gear lying on the ocean floor. After scanning the target area with a hull-mounted sonar device, the researchers released the AUV. This self-navigating, battery-powered, torpedo-shaped robot used a side-mounted sonar to map the area. Researchers then used the remote-controlled submersible to first relocate the target zone and then deliver high-definition real-time video and images back to the team on the TIGHAR expedition boat.

News of the discovery comes nearly a month after initial reports, which emerged on the actual 75th anniversary of Earhart’s disappearance, said the TIGHAR team failed to find the aviator’s plane

“Early media reports rushed to judgment in saying that the expedition didn’t find anything,” Ric Gillespie, executive director of TIGHAR, told Discovery News. He said that while researchers originally thought they’d find “large pieces of aircraft wreckage,” they soon realized that the rough current would naturally have torn the aircraft to pieces and “we would be looking for debris.”

Discovery Channel, which helped sponsor the expedition, aired a special on the findings on Aug. 19.

Do you think what the TIGHAR team found is, in fact, Amelia Earhart’s crash-landing site? Let us know in the comments.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/20/a-robot-found-amelia-earharts-plane/

iBell Combines with iPhone to Wake You Up Retro Style

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Feeling nostalgic for the old-school sound of a twin-bell alarm clock?

If you’re tired of waking up with ringtones, the iBell lets users rise to the “metallic sound of bells,” according to the accessory’s official site.

At $38, the iBell takes the classic look of an alarm clock and combines it with an iPhone docking cradle. While no batteries are required, users do need to download an app for the alarm to work.

For more on the iBell and its smaller cousin, the iBell mini, watch the video above.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/10/07/ibell/

Apple Working On Pandora-Like Service

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apple-spotlight-event-600 We know Apple is vehemently against being copied, but the iPhone maker might be taking a page out of Pandora‘s playbook. It may be, according to a report on the Wall Street Journal, creating a similar service.

The music service from Apple would supposedly work with all Apple’s existing products. It would operate similarly to Pandora in that users could select a musician they like and a station would play songs by similar artists.

The WSJ article says Apple is attempting to negotiate its own licensing deals with record companies as opposed to the government-set rates paid by Pandora. The story also suggests this new service might be unveiled at Apple’s big event next Wednesday, Sept. 12.

Apple’s iTunes is a top destination for song downloads, but streaming audio sites like Pandora and Spotify offer up some competition.

Would you use a music service similar to Pandora, but from Apple? Sound off in the comments.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/09/06/apple-pandora-service/

Data Missing From Malaysia Airlines Pilot and Other News You Need to Know

Welcome to this morning’s edition of “First To Know,” a series in which we keep you in the know on what’s happening around the world. Today, we’re looking at five important stories.

  • Pro-Russian forces quietly took over the Ukrainian naval base on Wednesday. While no shots were fired, men swept in and raised the Russian flag over the building, the Washington Post reports.

  • Malaysia’s defense minister said some information had been recently deleted from the home flight simulator of one of the pilots aboard Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, The Wall Street Journal reports. Investigators say they are trying to retrieve the files; the information it contained is still unclear, but the defense minister emphasized the pilot is innocent until proven guilty.

  • The Federal Reserve is set to issue plans on Wednesday for its monthly bond buybacks, along with forecasts for interest rates and inflation, The Wall Street Journal reports.

  • Google announced Android Wear, a new software platform specifically for wearable devices that will push voice prompts, Google Now and health monitoring features to smartwatches.

  • Sony unveiled its Project Morpheus virtual reality headset on Tuesday at the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.

Check out the video above for more on these stories.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2014/03/19/malaysia-pilot-simulator-brief/

What’s So Great About the Pebble Smartphone Watch?

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We would wear our smartphones on our bodies if we could — now Pebble makes that possible. Pebble is a watch that syncs to your iPhone or Android and makes your smartphone more accessible by being on your wrist.

The promo video on the group’s Kickstarter page shows a man wearing the watch while doing dishes; he just looks at his wrist to see the number of the incoming call. In another video example of Pebble’s usefulness, a woman is running and simply switches songs on her iPhone by clicking the watch rather than taking a bulky-by-comparison phone out of her pocket or purse.

The device doesn’t create new apps, but uses existing ones on your smartphone. It grabs your music, apps and even alerts you to incoming calls with the number appearing on the screen, and shows text messages.

With a battery lasting seven days, a glare-proof e-paper screen and Bluetooth capabilities, the demand for this watch quickly surged after its Kickstarter campaign launched in April. Eric Migicovsky and his team of six developed Pebble and launched an amazingly successful Kickstarter campaign that raised $10.6 million — its goal was $100,000. Ironically, the group couldn’t find funding for their watch at first.

Sure, not everyone wants to be connected to their phone 24/7, which is perhaps why Pebble has myriad useful functions. The watch doubles as a pedometer, with GPS and an accelerometer that works for bicyclists. How often do you go for a run, bike ride or workout at the gym and check your phone for messages or missed calls? The watch makes it easier to see who’s trying to get in touch with you, all while providing a useful function (pedometer) during your workout.

Since launching an open SDK, anyone can create an app for Pebble.

Inspiration Behind the Pebble Watch

Other smartphone-enabled watches were for Android devices only. In fact, Migicovsky was the maker of an Android-only watch called InPulse, developed in 2010. A number of features on the Pebble were improvements to the InPulse, says Rahul Bhagat, head of operations for Pebble.

“The idea was rooted in finding efficient ways of better supporting people’s lifestyles with the information they have available to them,” Bhagat says. “These days, a large segment of the population carries around smartphones, which have access to all sorts of data. Unfortunately, the smartphone form factor is not conducive to making the best of this information — every time you want to know who’s calling or check your pace while on a run for example, you need to grab your phone out of your pocket, bag or purse. Many times, that just detracts from the task you were doing in the first place.”

Changing the Game

The makers of Pebble categorize it as a “wrist-worn smart device.” Customers have the ability to choose from a variety of faces and eventually, apps, to use on the watch. The open SDK, week-long battery life and price of the watch sets it apart from other similar designs on the market, Bhagat says.

“Pebble is a take on wearable technology that aims to better disseminate information through a wrist worn form factor. In many cases, it’s less distracting and provides a more efficient method of getting the information you need rather than having to grasp a phone,” he says.

From the Kickstarter campaign, the team now has 68,000 orders for about 85,000 watches. Pebble ships to Kickstarter backers this fall and to the general public in the first quarter of 2013.

Bhagat said he imagines people will initially be drawn to purchasing the watch due to its customizable interfaces. “But as they customize Pebble and download apps that are more directly applicable to them, I think people will really appreciate the utility that a wrist worn smart device can have,” he added.

“I would like to think that Pebble is part of a larger movement towards consumer electronics that better integrate with user’s daily lives while minimizing disruptions that occur while using them,” says Bhagat.

What do you think about the Pebble watch? Would you buy one? Tell us in the comments.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/08/07/pebble-watch-smartphone/

Microsoft to Give New Tablets, Phones to Employees

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Microsoft will be giving its employees a new Surface RT tablet, a new Windows PC and a Windows Phone 8 device, company chief Steve Ballmer revealed at Microsoft’s annual employee meeting in Seattle Thursday.

Microsoft has more than 90,000 full-time employees, and they should be receiving the tablet and the phone by late December. As far as the PC goes, employees will have the possibility to choose between a desktop, laptop, ultrabook and tablet.

The meeting was not open to the public, but some employees shared the good news on social networks such as Twitter. Some even compared Steve Ballmer to Oprah, who is known for giving away presents to its studio audience.

Microsoft is known for making sure its employees are using the latest company software and hardware. The company did something similar back in 2010, when it gave all its employees a Windows Phone 7 device.

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Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/09/14/microsoft-employee-giveaway/

How Social Media Helps Romantic Relationships Thrive

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Once upon a time, all singles needed to worry about was waiting long enough in between dates to place the next phone call. Now, daters must think about the “right” time to send a Facebook request or start Twitter following the person you’re dating — in addition to refraining from Internet stalking a new crush.

Besides the obvious — like, not friending your new boyfriend or girlfriend’s pals before meeting them — we’ve spoken to leading relationship experts for the nitty-gritty.

Below are some modern social media guidelines that will propel new, and long-term, romantic relationships.

When Done Right, Social Media Is Like Glue

Self-described Internet geek, wife and mother Alexandra Samuel, Ph.D., believes that the Internet sustains and builds relationships.

Social media is a daily point of contact for Samuel, the director of the Social + Interactive Media Centre at Emily Carr University, and her husband of 12 years Rob Cottingham. Social media allows the busy couple to connect while apart.

“We’re all really busy and it’s very hard to find time for your partner,” Samuel tells Mashable. “Rob and I stay in touch throughout the day. We can also stay in contact indirectly because we monitor each other on Twitter.”

The couple uses Twitter to keep in touch, cheer each other on and “share the love.”

Their regular tweet conversations have garnered fans. The Twitter couple won a Shorty Award for the website WeTweet.ca that pulls all their tweets to each other into a stream.

“People will also tweet at us about what a cute Twitter couple we are,” she says. “These little reflections on your marriage or on your relationship from other people are incredibly valuable.”

For the couple, social media came naturally with equal interest. With other twosomes, one person could be more active on social media, Samuel says. If social media preferences are off balance, then couples will need to have a talk to lay out guidelines.

“You have to sit down and have a conversation about what you feel is private and what you feel like is enough attention when you’re together,” Samuel says. “What things about the relationship are okay to post and what hours it’s okay to be online.”

The duo has learned from experience to follow some guidelines. One rule prevents oversharing. “Our policy is I wouldn’t tweet something he said or vice versa without asking,” Samuel says.

Samuel also suggests that couples should not get mad at each other for missing or seeing public tweets. “You need to assume that anyone you see has read nothing that you’ve posted,” she says. “But equally, consider the possibility that anyone you know could have read or seen anything you’ve posted.”

Social Media Guide for New Couples

Meeting someone new used to be more exciting. Being able to Google someone and read their Facebook, Linkedin, About.me and Twitter profiles in full, takes all the initial mystery and intrigue out of getting to know someone.

This is the new dating mistake many are making, says Julie Spira, online dating and netiquette guru and author of The Perils of Cyber-Dating.

“When your relationship is new, I say avoid connecting on social media sites at first,” Spira tells Mashable. “Sure he or she may be excited about your relationship and can easily follow you on Twitter, but if you receive a friend request before or after a first date, it’s best not to accept it.”

A Facebook request or Twitter follow may seem harmless. However, experts warn being fast friends on social media could result in hurt feelings.

“Remember that it’s a new relationship and one may still be playing the field while the other only has eyes for you,” Spira says. “Becoming friends prematurely may result in hurt feelings when you see his photo posted hugging another woman. Even though it may be his cousin, your feelings will be hurt and you might be jumping to conclusions.”

How long should love birds wait? It could take a couple weeks or a couple months. It really depends on the individuals in a relationship, experts say.

“I think once you’re dating somebody, if you’re not at the stage where you feel comfortable asking them if you can follow them on Twitter and Facebook, then you’re probably not ready to follow them on Facebook or Twitter,” Samuel says.

But, it’s important to remember, “there’s a difference between friending someone on Facebook and just seeing their stuff as it comes up and going through their entire Timeline. You don’t need to go through the archives,” Samuel says.

Guidelines for Long-Term Couples

Social networks are a place for sharing the great moments in life. But, experts warn not to overdo it.

Coupled up individuals may prefer to present themselves differently online, so it’s always best to talk about what to post and what not to post.

“One might want to post a photo with a passionate kiss, where the other may view social networking sites as a business networking tool, so don’t tag your sweetheart in a photo that his or her boss shouldn’t be viewing,” Spira says.

Even with serious partners, individuals should give each other some breathing space. It’s easy to obsess over a girlfriend or boyfriend’s every move. However, romantic duos should showcase trust by avoiding cyber stalking at all costs.

“Understand that every couple needs space, both online and offline,” Spira says. “Keep separate profiles and avoid staring at and obsessing about what they’re doing during your busy day by checking to see their whereabouts on Foursquare.”

Dr. Karen Ruskin, a licensed marriage and family therapist, believes social media is a great way to propel the relationship. But, like anything good in life, social media is only valuable with balance.

“I am thumbs up, high up there for the use of technology in connection for social, fun, pleasure, for growing a relationship and enhancing a marriage,” Ruskin says.

When it becomes too frequent or invasive for one person, the couple should take a step back, Ruskin says.

“It absolutely can be too much, if it’s too much for one partner and not the other,” Ruskin says. “If one person feels it’s smothering, that can be very uncomfortable. They can feel enmeshed rather than feeling individuated. You’re constantly together even though you’re supposed to be independent individuals.”

Even with social media, it’s important to maintain “healthy individuation,” experts suggest. Limits are up to the couple to decide.

“We often identity who we are in our relationships and connections with the other person or people we’re with,” Ruskin says. “We don’t want to lose ourselves in our connection with others through technology.”

Other Helpful Online Tips for Couples

  • Take down your old dating profile once you’re serious about someone.

  • Don’t do anything on social networks that you wouldn’t tell your partner about.

  • If mentioning the other person, ask before posting.

  • Reminder: Social networks are public. Always avoid posting details about your sex life.

  • Avoid airing dirty laundry or having “digital spats on Facebook and Twitter,” Spira says.

  • Be aware of the effects of social media on your lives. “No matter what type of romantic relationship you’re in, you want to think consciously about how you want your time spent online to support your own love life,” Samuel says.

How do you use social media in your romantic relationship? Share with us in the comments whether or not protecting your partner’s privacy and autonomy is a priority.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, IsaacLKoval

Read more: http://mashable.com/2012/07/09/new-social-media-love-rules/

Archos Beats CES Rush and Unveils Step-Counting Fitness Tracker

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Wearable fitness trackers are sure to be a big trend at the 2014 International CES next week, and Archos is beating the rush by unveiling its candidate a few days early. The Archos Activity Tracker is a wristband that can measure your steps, view your history and let you compete with friends.

Similar to the Fitbit Force, the Archos band has a small display that can relay basic data, like the number of steps taken in a day or the amount of calories burned. A full charge of the battery is said to last an entire week, and it charges via USB, just like the Nike+ Fuelband.

Of course, the Activity Tracker pairs with a dedicated app, which gathers the data from the band wirelessly. In addition to rendering the data graphically, the app will let you compete with up to eight people, similar to “teams” and small-scale social networking favored by other fitness-tracking ecosystems, such as Jawbone’s.

In addition to the wristband, Archos is planning a whole line of connected devices for unveiling at CES, including a connected scale, a blood-pressure monitor, a home weather station and a 7-inch tablet designed specifically for “smart home” applications.

No prices or release dates have yet been announced.