I’ve been following and penning (virtually and literally) my thoughts on technology for more than half my life. I’ve seen a lot of great things, a lot of misfires and a few things in between. I can say without a doubt that 2015 has been a great year for tech and I hope you agree. There haven’t been a lot of advancements in a few areas, but we’ve seen a lot of good things in the world of wearables, smarthome and streaming. Here’s a look at some of the fresh new technology in each category.
A new Wearable: Microsoft Band 2
I sat in awe through the big tech briefing last month as Microsoft revealed the second generation of its Band wearable. For lack of a better term, the sheer number of “things” the Band can do is fantastic. It’s without a doubt the most comprehensive wearable I’ve seen. The new Band has been redesigned with a much more comfortable and breathable body, and that’s just for starters. A curved Gorilla Glass display screen allows you to access your data from multiple angles and that’s where much of the fun begins. As a standard fitness tracker, Band 2 features near instantaneous data offloading to the Microsoft Health App. As a series of features exclusive to the Band, you get 11 different sensors for different purposes, like smarter golf tracking (including its ability to distinguish between a regular and practice swing!) and a barometer for the sense of elevation tracking. However, the best feature (in my opinion) is the Microsoft Band 2’s ability to estimate your oxygen usage through its VO2 Max system and algorithm generation. This is the first time that something like this has ever been offered in a wearable.
Band 2 also joins forces with a couple dozen major brand name partners in order to offer you a more comprehensive and integrated experience. Best of all, it fully charges in less than 90 minutes.
New in Smarthome: Myfox WiFi Home Security Camera
The Myfox HD WiFi Home Security Camera comes out of the box in a recognizably Canadian shape. As you can see, it looks a lot like a hockey puck. It features a 130 degree view of the surrounding area and a very bright, clear night vision feed too (something a lot of its competition does not do well.) It also features a security shutter door for the purpose of privacy—use the app to close the shutter over the lens and suddenly there’s no way the camera can see anything!
The number one question I’ve received from people interested in buying these sorts of in-home security devices is how they screen for privacy during recording. Well, most security products don’t. They just record continuously and you sluice through the recordings yourself for the interesting things. Myfox does. With a built-in app setting, you can activate a privacy “door” that slides over the recording area, keeping your home private when you want it to be (like when you are home).
Perhaps you always want to prevent any recording while you’re at home? Myfox is working on a Geofencing option that could potentially allow for the camera to automatically go in and out of privacy mode only when your corresponding device is a certain distance from it (such as near or away from home.) Geofencing is a very new feature to smarthome devices in general and definitely not something you see in these security cameras at all, so I can’t wait to try it out when it does become available.
In a few ways, the Myfox is ahead of the curve and will only grow and get better over time I’m sure. The Myfox Wi-Fi Indoor HD IP Camera is now available too.
New Media Streaming: Google Chromecast TV and Chromecast Audio
The new Google Chromecasts have me really interested. My wife and I have owned the original Chromecast since before it came to Canada and she’s actually got Netflix streaming on it right now (a nightly ritual) while I’m writing this. I have a few concerns about it, however. It always seems to run really hot, isn’t very reactive and has actually misfired on us a few times. Still, it’s served us well but I’m looking to upgrade. That’s why I’m definitely going to pick up the new Chromecast for my TV.
Many of the frustrating issues that I felt previously have been fixed with the new Chromecast TV. First, Google’s removed the single antenna and added 3. That should lead to a better reaction time between your device and the Chromecast. There is also a new “Fast Play” capability. Rather than your Chromecast just acting to your commands, it proactively detects that you have an app that’s open that could use it. In Google’s original demo, it predicted that Fast Play can sense and start your media stream up to 80% faster. You’ll cut down a lot of that wait time where your device is sending, syncing and pushing information to Chromecast. It will already be done by the time you’re ready to think you’re ready to watch the new season of Orange is the New Black and then get sidetracked by reruns of Star Trek: Voyager. You know, I kind of liked Kate Mulgrew better as Captain Janeway anyway.
I personally didn’t think the old “stick” format was all that bad, but mine’s plugged into the side HDMI feed of my TV where it has plenty of room to sit. Those with wall facing HDMI ports (and wall mounted TVs) with no room to negotiate will be happy to know that this one has the technology built into a flatter coin-shaped face and a flexible HDMI out wire feed. That should clear up the battle for space and sit your TV closer to the wall again. It’s also a clever design trick of Google’s. This means that the Wi-Fi base sits farther from other devices it would otherwise interfere with.
The Chromecast Audio is great too. A separate device for audio was a bit controversial to begin with (considering the original Chromecast could stream audio) but it allows you to stream to your regular audio systems using the .35mm audio jack and its own Wi-Fi feed. That means you’ve got a new breath of life for those older devices. Most old speaker system can now operate like cutting edge audio systems, streaming internet radio and songs stored on your smartphone, tablet, computer …. Both the Google Chromecast TV and Chromecast Audio are available now.
Whether you need something to help you keep an eye on the house, keep an eye on yourself or a simply something for your streaming needs, there’s a look at some of the newest and latest tech out now to help enhance your life.
By Matt Paligaru, Editor Emerging Technology
I’ve been an avid gamer and gadget enthusiast from the first time I picked up a Colecovision controller at a young age. I’ve written for XBox Addict, Vancity Buzz and Rebellion Media, covering everything from Gaming to Mixed Martial Arts. I am also co-host of the G3 Podcast. Follow me on Twitter “@paliontology” and I’ll be more than happy to talk shop with you.