Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on Your Head? Consider the Air Umbrella

There’s some simple things that just don’t need to go high tech. Duct tape would be one (still useful in its native form on most high tech gadgets in fact), a wine glass might be another, and naturally you’ve got toilet paper (well until they perfect the three sea shells from “Demolition Man” of course).

Seriously, how does that work?

I would have thought that umbrellas might be another, but there’s a couple of inventors named Je Sung Park and Woo Jung Kwon working on a pretty cool idea for an upgrade in the invisible “Air Umbrella”. Essentially it is just a baton like object that takes air from the base of the device and shoots it to the top to create a barrier between the user and the elements that spreads for full coverage. Features allow the user to adjust the air flow to compensate for how heavy a rain (or snow) is present, and the baton itself is retractable for ease of carry.

The more you think about the idea behind the air umbrella, the more you see the advantages. For one thing, if you’ve ever been in a crowded public area with everyone carrying an umbrella, then you know the often comical, but sometimes dangerous, problems it causes which this device could theoretically eliminate. Also the low maintenance design of the air umbrella makes the other worst part of owing a traditional umbrella, lugging it around indoors, irrelevant.

While a really cool idea, it’s not all singing in the rain though when you look at the design, as I still wonder how the device would hold up in strong winds, and about the potential trouble it could cause for passerby hats (or short skirts if directed improperly). Finally much like the dome umbrella, or a Snuggie, this is a look that isn’t meant for everyone despite how practical it may be, as some people will always just feel out of place carrying a giant baton functioning as an invisible umbrella instead of the classic design.

The Penguin, for instance

Want a Nexus 4? Apparently So Does Everyone Else

Ever since its release, the LG Nexus 4 has been garnering praise from all corners due to it’s much improved camera, enhanced overall system speed, baffling array of high-end powerful features, and one of the most beautiful displays on any smartphone. Despite its notable lack of 4G LTE service (at least in the US), there are few out there that are denying it is one of the most technically impressive phones available.

Odds are good though you haven’t had a chance to experience what all of the hype is about, as it’s proven to be one of the most difficult to get phones on the market. Since launch, buyers have been scouring the internet looking for rare windows to purchase one at reasonable retail prices. Ideally, this would be done through the Google store, and sure enough yesterday for the first time since the Nexus 4’s release  they were offering the phones back in stock.

However, it  now looks like no real celebration is in order since as of today attempting to buy the phone will only warn you of its 8-9 week delivery time for the 8 GB model, and month minimum shipment date for the 16 GB version. Considering how long the window of opportunity was, it would seem that the sale was either an aberration, or that the Nexus 4 truly is the hottest phone of the holiday season.

In either case, the shortage of available phones is making some fans remember the madness surrounding the Nexus 7 tablet earlier this year, where even buyers who believed they purchased an in-stock tablet found themselves suddenly waiting and waiting for a unit to free up and ship out. Although, this time Google has taken precautions to insure those same expectations are kept more in check.

Considering that the Nexus 4 was meant as a high end smartphone at a competitive price, the sudden lack of options has changed the outlook of the the device so that it is now a high end smartphone at absurd prices. To fetch one, you have to turn to suspicious third party sites, or gouging eBay sellers, and deal with price inflations that are ranging anywhere from $150 to $300 or more. If you must have one by Christmas though (or in 2012), it would seem that may be the only option though.

There are more high quality smartphones on the market than ever before, and yet it seems in the mind of consumers the real race is now between the Nexus 4, the Galaxy SIII, and the best selling smartphone ever in the iPhone 5 for the crown. Considering most buyers won’t even be getting a Nexus this year, I’ll be interested to see how the hype and mania around the new model carries over to the other big two’s inevitable new designs in 2013.

Film Controller “Hold On” Lets You Punch Chuck Norris, and Get Away With It

As video games grow to mimic movies more and more, the desire to experience the two in harmony with each other is greater than ever.

What I mean is that sensation you suddenly get when playing “Uncharted” to watch “Indiana Jones”. Or, the opposite that makes a “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” viewing lead to a “Red Dead Redemption” marathon. The examples go on, but for media junkies the combination of gaming and movies provides the ultimate fix.

Now two inventors, Emilie Brout & Maxime Marion, are unifying that media relationship in a very interesting way, courtesy of their device called “Hold On“. Exhibited at the recent GAMERZ festival, “Hold On” uses a very simple set-up that includes two buttons and a joystick (the basic arcade cabinet) and allows you to manipulate characters and situations in some of your favorite movies. Examples so far include turning a nature documentary with dung beetles into a puzzle game, attempting to delay the death of your film crew in “The Blair Witch Project”, navigating the halls of that infamous haunted hotel in “The Shining” on Danny’s tricycle, and perhaps best of all, controlling Bruce Lee in his infamous film fight against a young Chuck Norris from “Way of the Dragon“.

The creators say they’ve been able to incorporate 15 interactive movie moments so far, all of which offer some sort of basic manipulation of the scene on display that work similar to the classic arcade title “Dragon’s Lair” in terms of your abilities. It’s not so much about the complexity though as it is the intriguing idea of combing a familiar fictional situation with the enhanced emotional attachment of personal involvement, as well as an uncertain outcome, as the user it not necessarily bound to the same results as the film scene, and certainly not the same path.

So far, outside of an extremely entertaining and well received demonstration, there isn’t much in the way of plans for “Hold On” at this time. However, it would be interesting to see a more developed version turn into something similar to the party game “Scene It”, or for it to be incorporated into major home video, or digital streaming, releases to give the user interactive options (trivia and mini-games via special features would probably be the best bets) during some of their favorite films.

In whatever capacity the tool is eventually used in, it’s already pretty clear that between this project, and the group’s other (a modification of Google Earth that lets you explore movie worlds) that they are fanatics of both film and technology, as well as skilled practitioners in the use of both. It’s the biggest reason why this device, while not unprecedented in its technology, may go on to success in whatever endeavor it  chooses, and provide film and game fans with the greatest tool to relieve and personally experience their passions yet.

Tired of Fish Poop Doing Nothing For You? Read On…

Thanks in part to dystopian sci-fi films that depict a world overrun by technology and devoid of natural elements, many people think that technology and the “green” world are at conflict.

Realistically though, responsible applications of modern technology could be greatly beneficial in helping nature, much as it has helped humans. For a great example look no further than the organization Back to the Roots who are constantly looking for new ways to help both individual users and companies like Whole Foods minimize their environmental impacts with products like a kit that can take coffee grounds and grow fresh mushrooms from them.

However, their most intriguing product is currently up for funding on Kickstarter, and it’s called the Home Aquaponics Kit. Basically it’s a fish tank with a small growing area atop for potted plants. The tank automatically filters the fish feces to the plants above to provide them with necessary nutrients needed for them to grow fuller. In essence then, you are getting a self cleaning fish tank that doubles as a personal home garden in one package.

As you’ve probably heard from that celebrity everybody wishes would shut up, or that activist girl you acted interested in for a while until you got…uninterested, we can all be doing more for the environment. The Home Aquaponics Kit not only allows you to contribute a little more green to your world, but if you’ve never cooked with truly fresh herbs, it lets you discover the flavors you have been missing.

It’s currently a $50 minimum contribution on Kickstarter to buy one of the Aquaponics (assuming the funding goal is reached), and for the urban gardener, fish enthusiast, or someone looking to just class up their apartment a little, it may prove to be worth it.

An Auto Pet Feeder for the Busy/Lazy Among Us

Pets really are great for many, many, reasons, the least of which being that they really don’t require much. Some water, some food, and the occasional toy are nice, but what any expert will tell you is that in the end what they really need is a healthy amount of love and personal attention.

Of course, if you’re being practical, if it is between personal attention and food, you should probably go with food.

Which is why there is an idea like the Pintofeed out there that recognizes you can’t always be around to feed your pet. For those times, it provides 5 and 10 pound storage areas that allows you to automatically feed your pet in pre-set portions via a mobile app.

The Pintofeed is smartly designed to function as a perfect “while you are away” feeder, with features like the ability to control several at once via your mobile app for multiple pets, being able to set food measurements down to the half cup, and even receiving an alert once the feeding is complete. The device works off of your in home wireless network, is available for multiple users, and is currently attempting to reach its $50,000 donation goal on indiegogo.com, with 29 days to go if you are interested.

It’s a shame when you can’t be around to feed your pets like you want to be, but when those times do happen, it’d be great to have the ability to still insure they’re fed with complete ease. Because in situations like that, the only other option is to trust your neighbors to do it, and really who knows what those weirdos are up to.

Oh He’ll Feed Your Pet, The Question Is To What?

Grubhub Wants You to Know Exactly Where Your Delivery is

You may have not known this, but like millions of Americans, I suffer from pre-mature delivery anticipation.

It’s a horrible condition where you wait and wait for a food delivery until you are absolutely sure that something has gone wrong, and decide to call up the restaurant only to hear the doorbell ring  during the call and realize that your food has arrived. It strikes with such consistency that it can make the uninformed believe the order was magically withheld until a call was placed, and always leads to flushed faces and ashamed mumbles when you utter apologies to the disgruntled employee on the other end of the line.

In the spirit of continuing to improve the delivery experience and bringing it into the new world, delivery site grubhub.com is launching a new feature that will allow customers in six cities to receive an alert when their pick up order is ready, or when their delivery has left the restaurant in order to more accurately communicate estimates beyond vague delivery times in 15 minutes increments. Even better, is the expansion of that service which is being offered to New York and Chicago based users that will allow them to actively track their en route delivery with a GPS feature available via the Grubhub app.

It’s called track your grub, and it’s all part of a recent larger effort by Grubhub to expand their growing company and provide a fresh range of services to both restaurants and customers. Although no official plans have been announced for expansion past the initial regions, it’s hard to imagine that more areas wouldn’t want this service available if possible, especially as an industry that promotes laziness, and just a little bit of gluttony, seemingly has nowhere to go but up at this point in American history.

Although, it is a shame to think that one of the last bastions of laziness during work, the delivery guy, may soon be facing an age where their actions are no longer anonymous and they may actually be forced to do their jobs with efficiency.

Then again, if it means I won’t ever have to call a restaurant an hour into an estimated 45 minute filled with misguided anger when a delivery guy knocks at the door simultaneously, perhaps it’s one of those “noble” sacrifices.

It May Look like Midday, but he’s Really Riding Into the Sunset

New Mace Case for iPhone Brings new Meaning to FaceTime

Irresponsible iPhone users can be a dangerous lot.

That’s because in anyone else’s hands, that device is really just a phone. But in the hands of the irresponsible user, it becomes a weapon that allows them to text while driving, destroy relationships with ill-advised, at the bar Facebook updates, risk their careers over a chance to beat their “Angry Birds” high score during a meeting, and even have access to the combined knowledge of the world, should they ever get around to it after updating their Pinterest boards, and browsing Netflix.

However, not content with the tools of destruction already allowed to iPhone users, a company called Spraytect is giving them a much more tangible weapon in the form of an attachable pepper spray canister.

The device is very simple, as you install the compatible case on your iPhone (which comes in 4 colors with matching canister, including pink). From there, should the need arise, you simply remove the safety clip on the back and fit the cartridge in while rotating it until the yellow label of the cartridge is facing forward. Then you just  turn the phone sideways so you may press down on the top of the cartridge and fire your pepper spray burst. Additionally, each case set includes one test cartridge filled with harmless aerosol, and one of the real deals. A replacement cartridge will set you back $18, while the case bundle retails for $39.95 from the spraytect website. Currently it is only available for the iPhone 4 or 4S model.

With smartphone thefts growing every day, and crime in general not threating to fall anytime soon, I’m sure that this device was created with the best of intentions. However, we’re more likely to see this become a favorite tool of the frat guy market, as well as a host of Instagram users who can’t resist posting an “OMG pepper spray! LOL” section than we are to hear of it actually preventing theft. I also question the integrity of an item that recommends using the canister as a kickstand for your phone right above the safety section of its own website. I don’t care how many safety precautions the device has, when it can jet out a cloud of burning spray that’s as strong as law enforcement models, you should probably sooner advise to factor in a degree of human precaution, and not encourage people to use it as a way to watch “Doctor Who” easier.

All in all, for my iPhone security needs, I’ll stick with the iShank.

Recommended in Red to Hide Splatter Stains

CannaBliss: Must Have Smoking Accessories

Congratulations to the re-elected president Obama, as yesterday after a long campaign you and your team claimed victory and will lead this country again in the next four years.

But sir, with all due respect, you did not have the biggest headline from yesterday. Instead that would go the states of Colorado and Washington which became the first US states to approve the long awaited legalization of marijuana for recreational use.

Or, as the great Homer Simpson put it, you could “…walk up to the President and blow smoke in his stupid face and he’d just have to sit there groovin on it”

With that in mind, if you live in one of the recently impacted states, it may be time to consider the an upgrade to your smoking equipment in celebration. After all, now that you don’t have to shame hide your pieces in old socks, or cupboards any more, it may be time to add a little more class to your glass. To help you, here is a quick rundown of the best paraphernalia on the market.

Water Bong

The centerpiece of any respectable collection is a good bong. Many smokers own one with a variety of “trippy” colors, a funky name, a few fun stories, and maybe a skull or two. However, there are few brand names that serious smokers swear by, and among them the best may be Sovereignty Glass.  Of that particular collection, the jewel in the crown would be the Peyote Pillar Perc.

This 19 inch beauty is made of some of the finest glass work available in this particular field. However, unlike other flashier models, it isn’t meant to impress just by looks alone, but rather with its functionality. Sporting a multi chamber base, you can load the bong with more smoke than any other model, while producing a cleaner pull than you ever felt possible. It is a model of dangerous design and efficiency and is the absolute head of its class in every measurable way. As a testament to its quality, it retails for a hefty $1,200 and is regularly sold out.

Pipe

Ideally a pipe is going to be your on the go piece, or similar option. As such, you don’t have to invest as much in it, and there are a variety of ways to go. Since so many pipes are of good quality, don’t be afraid to go for a little more style, or something that reflects your personality.

Or, if you want a really cool and extremely practical option, just go with the Monkey Pipe. A handy little wood model, the Monkey Pipe is extremely portable in its native form, is easy to maintain, looks cool, and is still very reliable. Now that residents of Colorado and Washington will be able to smoke freely in the great outdoors, a Monkey Pipe is a perfect solution for smoking on the go.

Vaporizer

A more modern solution to smoking, there is no substitute for the vaporizer. The unit heats up to a high degree and evenly burns your marijuana with minimal effort and maximum effect. Even better, it produces virtually no smoke and is kinder for your lungs. Every smoker must own one.

But which to buy? For years the answer was, without argument, the Volcano. While it is still a great way to go, I must recommend the Exteme Q vaporizer from Arizer. It’s cheaper than the more popular Volcano, has memory settings for temperature, comes with a remote, and unlike the Volcano has traditional hose as well as a bag option for your toking pleasure. Wrap it up in a well designed package, and for an even $239.00 you’ve got the only home piece you’ll ever truly need.

Grinder

If you’re new to the smoking game, you may underestimate the value of a good grinder, but you do so at your own peril. It crushes and breaks up your marijuana in an instant, and not owning one is the equivalent of peeling all of the potatoes you will eat for the rest of your life by hand, and not using a peeler.

You’ll be wanting the best then, so you’ll be wanting a four piece Space grinder. It’s output consistency is impeccable, its durability is unquestionable, it features magnetized top seal, and has a mesh screen for collecting that most potent of smokeables, crystallized kief. There’s no going back from one of these, but considering how well they work, that’s a good thing

Snack

 

Not technically an accessory, definitely not a gadget, but without a doubt a necessity. There are an impossible number of ways to go for snacking, from the bag of chips, to cookies and candy. However for something salty, sweet, creamy, and satisfying it’s hard to argue against Ben and Jerry’s “Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night Snack” ice cream.

It’s vanilla bean ice cream with a salty caramel swirl and fudge covered potato chips, as well as evidence, besides the recent de-criminalization acts, that smoking has definitely planted roots in the mainstream.

Glow in the Dark Roads: An Intelligent Idea for a “Smart” World

The idea of the “smart” device has changed our lives pretty significantly in the last decade.

It’s all based around a, somewhat ironically, simple concept that basically states “Why should you just have a (blank) when you can have a (blank) that (blanks)”. The pursuit of that idea has led us to many world changing innovations, but has also contributed superfluous gadgets like refrigerators that are twitter capable.

Now there’s an entirely new “smart” object in development in the Netherlands, and it’s hard to tell which category it will ultimately fit in.

Creator Daan Roosegaarde is currently working on a five year plan that will add interactive lights to the major roads of the Netherlands. Essentially, the project will replace the more traditional road markings with a powder that gathers up to 10 hours worth of charge during the day, so that it may shine at night and give them a glow in the dark effect. The idea is to replace the more traditional street lights which can be expensive, cumbersome, and visually unappealing with a more organic (in a design sense) and attractive alternative. The lights will also be in tune with the conditions of the road as the idea is that below freezing temperatures they will form a snowflake shape that will instantly alert drivers to dangerous conditions.

Roosegaarde and his team are not only trying to bring roads into the modern world visually, but also see some larger practical benefits to the dynamic paint. Particularly when it comes to cost, as they estimated that hundreds of thousands of dollars can be saved annually by this new system once it is in place on a large scale. The need for a cheaper light source is highlighted by the recent decision by UK authorities to dim or turn off lights by 9 PM on certain motorways due to the rising cost of keeping them running at full capacity 24 hours a day.

However, the idea of a “glow in the dark” highway is just one of many concepts the team is dreaming up, with the larger goal being to create a truly smart roadway system that will also incorporate ideas like wind power lights, proximity lights, and electric car only lanes that can help charge the car along the way. Already, their ideas have won the ‘Best Concept’ award at the Dutch Design Awards, and as they slowly come into production, the creative team at the helm is imagining expansions to other regions of Europe, Asia, and the U.S. west coast which has romantic ties with the highway system and is a forefront of transportation innovations of their own at the moment.

300 meters of the road paint will get its first trial by 2013, and from there the reception will dictate the implication of some of the other smart concepts.

Considering we live in a world where various intriguing ideas are introduced at a blazing speed, it can be difficult to predict if even the most creative of which will end up being successful. However, regardless of the reaction to these “Smart Road” concepts, it opens up an interesting idea of modifying one of our most basic institutions (the road) to work more intelligently in a world constantly doing the same, and as such makes it pretty easy to root for.

Of course, if the actual product ends up as beautiful as the concept, we could be looking at a new world where keeping your eyes on the road is the distraction.