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fitBarkVisual

Bored of quantifying your self already? Why not quantify your pet instead? FitBark is a Fitbit style health tracker for your under-walked canine companion. We’ve covered this (frankly) barking mad gizmo before, back in May, when its creators were exhibiting at Hardware Alley at TechCrunch Disrupt NY but they’ve now taken to Kickstarter to raise funds to get the device out in the wild. Again.

It’s actually FitBark’s second attempt at Kickstarting the gizmo. As Gigaom points out, its creators pulled an earlier attempt at crowdfunding the device in order to rethink the business model, scrapping the monthly subscription fee and opting for a fixed price-tag of $69 via Kickstarter or $99 for general retail.

FitBark are after $35,000 to cover manufacturing costs this time around, and are more than half-way to achieving the target with 32 days left to run on the campaign – so crazy or otherwise, this is one hardware startup that’s pretty much a dead cert for its first manufacturing run-around-the-park at least.

Now I say barking mad but that’s mostly tongue-in-cheek, being as FitBark is not the only health tracker angling for pet owners’ cash. Whistle, a startup backed by $6 million in Series A funding, launched a $99 wearable activity tracker for dogs only last month. There’s also Tagg, which combines activity and location tracking by including GPS in its device. So underestimate the pet-owning dollar at your peril.

So what does FitBark actually do? Attach it to your dog’s collar and it tracks daily’s activity levels, sending the data back to FitBack’s servers when your smartphone is in range, or throughout the day if you purchase a dedicated FitBark base station (and keep you pet penned up at home while you’re out). The latter scenario would allow owners to keep remote tabs on their pet’s activity levels when they’re not at home, but unless you own a mansion (or employ a dog walker) your dog isn’t going to be able to do a whole lot of running around without you. FitBark then crunches all the activity data, offering customisable daily activity goals, and delivering the results back to you via an app. So far, so kinda sane.

At its more barking mad fringe, the FitBark also lets pet owners compare – well, they say “unify” – their own fitness with their dog’s fitness/activity. So yeah, boasting that you are fitter than Fido is apparently a thing now…

FitBark is also the first platform that leverages existing APIs of human fitness trackers to bring you a unified view of your fitness level and that of your dog. From the outset, FitBark will seamlessly receive input from your Nike Fuelband, Fitbit, Withings Pulse, or Bodymedia Fit. We’ll look to expand the list as we learn about new open APIs or partnership opportunities. If you’re not only a devoted dog parent but are also serious about tracking your own fitness, you’ll love this.

IMG_9682

If you want a rangefinder-style camera with classic styling and relative affordability, Fujifilm’s X100, and its successor, the X100S are some of the very few options out there. But the X100 had quirks around autofocus that made a niche camera even more specialized. The X100S zaps some of those issues, resulting in a camera that, while still quirky, is much more lovably so, for amateurs and enthusiasts alike.

  • 16.3 megapixels, APS-C sensor
  • Fixed, F2 maximum aperture 23mm (35mm equivalent) lens
  • ISO 200 -6400 (100 to 25600 extended)
  • 6.0 FPS burst mode shooting
  • 1080p video recording
  • Hybrid electronic view finder
  • MSRP: $1,299.95
  • Product info page

The X100S retains almost exactly the same classic styling as its predecessor, which features a leatherette body with metal accents, and it looks excellent. This is a camera that you’re actually proud to wear around your neck, even if it does make you look slightly like a tourist, and one that resembles the Leicas that cost oodles more money.

The X100S might be a little bulky for a camera with a fixed lens that isn’t a DSLR, but it’s actually a good size. It won’t quite fit in a pocket as a result, but it gives photographers plenty to hold onto, and offers up lots of space for its ample buttons and physical controls without resulting in a cramped feeling. Plus the thing oozes quality; it’s a $1,300 camera, but it feels even more solid and well-designed than its tidy price tag would let on, and it’s durable to boot – I’ve carted it literally around the world with minimal protection and it’s as good as new.

Functionally, the control layout is the real star of the X100S. A physical dial for exposure compensation and for shutter speed, as well as an aperture ring on the lens and quick access to ISO settings programmable via the Fn button on the top of the camera make this a manual photographer’s dream – and possible an automatic photographer’s overburdened mess. But that’s part of the quirk, and the real appeal of this unique camera.

The X100S offers a lot in the way of features, including the excellent hybrid viewfinder that can switch instantly between optical and electronic modes thanks to a lever on the front of the camera within easy reach from shooting position. It’s the best of old and new, giving you a chance to frame with true fidelity optical quality and also with a preview akin to the one you’d see on the back of the camera via the LCD screen. You can preview exposure that way, and white balance as well as depth of field. The EVF also offers 100 percent coverage of the image, meaning what you see is what you get in the resulting photo.

Manual focusing also gets a big improvement with the X100S, which is great because focus-by-wire is traditionally a big weakness on non DSLR advanced cameras. It uses a new Digital Split Image method that works with phase detection to adjust focus with a high degree of accuracy, and it works remarkably well. To my eye, which is generally very bad at achieving consistently reliable level of focus accuracy on full manual lenses with my DSLR, the split image trick (along with the inclusion of existing focus peaking tech) works amazingly well.

The X100S is a much better camera in all respects than its predecessor, the X100, and that was a very good camera. Its “Intelligent Hybrid Auto Focus” that switches between phase and contract AF automatically to lock as quickly as possible works very well, though it does struggle somewhat in darker settings and at closer ranges still. It’s heaps and bounds better than the original, however, and makes this camera a great one for street shooting; a task which, to my mind, it seems almost perfectly designed for.

Combining a camera that looks suitably touristy, with a short, compact lens and a 35mm equivalent focal lens, with great low-light shooting capabilities and fast autofocus makes for a great street camera, so if that’s what you’re after I can’t recommend this enough. It performed less well as an indoor candid shooter, owing to some leftover weakness at achieving focus lock close up, but it’s still good at that job too. In general, the X100S is a great camera for shooting human subjects, in my opinion, thanks to its signature visual style that seems to compliment skin especially well.

The X100S is a photographer’s everyday camera. It might frustrate newcomers, unless they’re patient and willing to learn, but it’s a joy to use if you have any kind of familiarity with manual settings, and the fixed focal length is a creative constraint that produces some amazing results. This isn’t the camera for everybody, but it’s a more broadly appealing shooter than the X100 ever was, and it’s also even a steal at $1,300 – if, that is, you have that kind of disposable income to spend on photography tools. Know that if you do spend the cash, this is definitely a camera that will stay in your bag and/or around your neck for a long time to come, and a worthy upgrade for X100 fans, too.

edge-1-large

Smartphone companies have it pretty rough – they’ve got to sink millions into research and development every year, all in the hope of making their next shiny touchscreen gewgaw the fastest, slimmest, smartest, prettiest one ever. And every year we eat it all up, and take what we’re given.

But Canonical, the folks behind the incredibly popular Ubuntu Linux distro, isn’t your average phone smartphone company. It doesn’t have a huge production budget like Samsung or Apple, so it decided to crowdfund the creation of its first phone. Turns out that’s not the only thing they’re doing differently – Canonical founder Mark Shuttleworth is currently fielding questions on Reddit, and he’s expressed interest in having backers of this current project getting some sort of say over what goes in future models.

And thus, Mark may have just come up with the coolest backer perk ever. Quoth Shuttleworth:

“This first version of the Edge is to prove the concept of crowdsourcing ideas for innovation, backed by crowdfunding. If it gets greenlighted, then I think we’ll have an annual process by which the previous generation backers get to vote on the spec for the next generation of Edge.”

In case you haven’t been following the story, the Edge is an awfully handsome concept for a phone that will run Ubuntu and Android and sport a sapphire glass-covered 4.5-inch 1280 720 display, along with the “fastest available” multi-core mobile processor, 4GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. The internet being what it is, Redditors couldn’t help but throw out bits of hardware for Shuttleworth and the Edge team to consider for the current model anyway. IR blaster? A “cool idea,” he says. Wireless charging? Probably not going to happen.

Shuttleworth was pretty forthcoming when it came to lingering questions about the Edge’s design and proposed rollout. As it happens, the team is still having trouble figuring out what sort of speaker system to throw into the thing (my two cents: the closer to HTC’s Boomsound setup the better), but it Canonical has asked potential carrier partners to agree to take note of a set of conditions that should minimize bloatware if the Edge is ever picked up and sold with long-term contracts.

Now this all hinges on the notion that Canonical was right in thinking that enough people would believe in a company that has never made a smartphone before to basically pre-order one for (at least) $675. In a way, this is a perfect move – if the project hits critical mass, everyone gets a phone. If it doesn’t, well, no harm no foul. The crowdfunding movement has given a software company a shot at really making a mark in an industry dominated by giants, some of which are already feeling the pinch because their pricey flagship devices perhaps aren’t selling in the astronomical numbers they were hoping for.

And so far, things appear to be going rather well. Canonical’s Indiegogo campaign only went live three days ago and Ubuntu fans have already chipped in just a hair under $6 million. Of course, there’s no guarantee that sort of traction will continue for any serious length of time – the company has already had to add some less expensive device pricing tiers to keep the campaign from flaming out too soon, and it’s still got a ways to go before it hits the $32 million goal.

(Oh, and in case you were wondering, Shuttleworth seems to be tackling nearly every question being thrown at him – no Rampart shenanigans here.)