So Close, Yet So Far

Obligatory wingtip pic

In case you don’t already know, I’m currently away from my familiar Alberta stomping grounds as I spend a couple days away at a training course. This involved stuffing a carry-on roller bag on Wednesday night (what, you really think I’m going to trust baggage carriers to get a checked bag to me through a connecting flight?) and taking a cab to the airport at 4:30 AM yesterday morning with nothing but my pairs of socks and undies and the anticipation of a productive couple of days getting my learnin’ on.

How is this related to technology you ask? Well let me tell you! Not only did Google Now reap my itinerary information from the document I received from my email and let me know when I had to leave my house to make my flight, tell me the weather in Houston and Dallas, and present to me my hotel info – but to my great delight, my flights offered in-flight WiFi! Man, I have never seen a 4-hour travel day go so quickly! $10.95 bought me all-day access to all the cat videos and doge pictures I could ask for at blazing-fast 0.5 Mbps upload/download speeds.

Okay so the connection speed wasn’t breaking any records, but it beat thumbing through the SkyMall catalog and wondering if the life-size bronze bald eagle statue would fit in my living room.

Not only did the flights have WiFi, but the hotel has complimentary WiFi as well! This meant I could check in with the wifey once I arrived using Google Hangouts video chat, and was able to say goodnight to my baby daughter before going to sleep. I don’t believe there has ever been a time in the history of our civilization when we’ve had this kind of opportunity to stay so connected even while being (and whilst traveling) hundreds (even thousands) of kilometers apart.

Future Chat: Tech 7 – Wearables

Future Chat
Future Chat
Future Chat: Tech 7 - Wearables
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Tune in at 12:30 PM EDT on Saturday April 5th (event link)
Wearables: Because sometimes you just don’t care how you look using them [Source]

When discussing “wearables”, it is helpful (especially for the layperson) to distinguish what exactly one is speaking of when using the term. You could break up the tech category in any number of ways, so let’s take a look at a couple different approaches:

Fitbit Force [Source]

Lifestyle/Tracking Wearables

Devices such as pedometers and fitness trackers would fall under this category. While we may not have even considered pedometers as anything tech-specific like “wearables” in the past, the evolution of the technology into devices like the fitness trackers of today (e.g. Fitbit, Jawbone) has grown this wearables subcategory into a multi-billion dollar industry. These types of wearable target a broad demographic and have no real learning curve to use them; a lot of the time you just put them on and forget it, until the device gives you reminders throughout the day and you review the data summary on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. These devices integrate incredibly well with PC’s and Macs, and most have an iOS app. Android integration is quite a bit more rare, which is something I hope changes in the very near future.
Motorola S9 Bluetooth headphones [Source]

Functional/Purposed Wearables

I think I’m kind of making this category up, but I believe it is worth mentioning because it will only become a bigger part of our everyday lives as we see new advances in technology. In this subcategory, I would group together the devices that we use for short/intermittent periods of time that serve a specific purpose or activity. Devices such as stereo headphones, Bluetooth earpieces, microphones/headsets, and virtual reality/augmented reality devices (e.g. Oculus Rift, pictured at the top of this post) would fall under this classification. These devices would have a bit more of a learning curve than the set-it-and-forget-it type devices, but it’s the kind of thing that once you know how to turn the device on the rest of the experience kind of takes care of itself. The target demographic of these wearables would be probably collectively be just as large as that of the lifestyle/tracking wearable, but once you get away from the $10 discount bin headphones crowd, you’d be left with some of the more technologically-inclined types seeking out the latest and greatest gadgets in this subcategory.
Motorola Moto 360 [Source]

Enhancing/Complementary Wearables

This subcategory (again, completely made-up, but bear with me) is probably the most exciting and interesting of all the wearables subcategories you could come up with, and is definitely the area in which most tech companies are focusing their R&D right now. Now with Google Glass out in the wild (and surely many more devices of its kind to follow), the subcategory is expanding. These devices integrate with your existing technology (namely, your mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets) to enhance and complement the user experience. For the longest time, we really only had smart-watches in this category (with the Pebble as probably the first of its kind to break into the public consciousness), but with Sony, Samsung, and most recently LG & Motorola introducing products that have garnered international attention, we are likely going to see this market continue to grow and improve. This subcategory, in my opinion, has the largest learning curve as well as the most non-techy people asking “What use is that when I already have my phone/tablet?”. The main “issue” is that these devices display largely the same information and serve the same functionality that your main mobile device offers (e.g. displaying notifications, calendar alerts, receiving and replying to messages, getting map directions). The difference is that these devices allow you to optimize your interaction with your mobile device and present it in a streamlined way that is convenient and non-invasive.
In this week’s Future Tech Chat episode, we will be discussing the different types of wearables out there today, where this tech category has come from, and where it’s headed.Be sure to tune in LIVE on Saturday at 12:30 PM EDT at the video link at the top of the page, or you can check us out on our YouTube channel and Google+ page for the completed video to watch later at your convenience (or to watch it a second time after you experience the thrill of the live recording!)

Inside The Box: Google Chromecast

It’s hereeeeee!

Thank you, Mr. UPS delivery man! Better late than never!

I must say, the wait was worth it. Who am I kidding? The wait is always worth it! In case any of you were just dying to know what it was I was expecting in the mail – this is it! I ordered the Chromecast the moment I found out it was available for shipment to Canada. Yes yes, I know I could have ordered it off of Amazon or eBay, but there’s always something nice about buying something directly from the manufacturer without feeling like someone’s making a profit off of your desperation and eagerness (other than Google itself, of course).

I decided I would surprise the dear wife with this purchase; we had considered getting one before, but were disappointed when we found out it wasn’t immediately available in Canada upon its release (especially disappointing considering the sweet Netflix deal they had going on for a while there). Upon bounding into the house, bubble-wrapped prize clutched firmly in my grasp, I tore open the top and removed the contents from the dark enclosure in which it lay. I presented it triumphantly to the dear wife, anticipating some level of reciprocity of my already unbearable excitement.

“Did we want that?”
*sigh* Oh well. I tried.
As the dear wife departed for an evening of jovial socializing, my night of fun was just beginning as well – and the only invitees were my tech and a steak knife.

Upon opening the UPS package, I am greeted by a taunting preview of what I am about to encounter (in english and en francais – thanks to our multicultural and obligatorily inclusive nation).

The packaging is not unlike many packaging designs that you will find your tech arriving in: a sleeve/pocket-like outer jacket containing marketing materials, encasing the main vehicle for the product.
Jacket: Rear marketing materials (Man Of Steel was actually pretty good)
Jacket: Spine marketing materials (“Easy as 1, 2, 3!”)

 

We see the classic circular tape-like seal holding the contents within the aforementioned jacket – this is where the last element of the troika comes into play.
Adult supervision required
After releasing the contents from its captor, we begin to see the journey unfold before our eyes.
Free at last!
*Queue chorus of angels*
The initial impression of the Chromecast just begs the feeling of “simplicity”; from the “1, 2, 3” of the setup guide (no other user manual included, or required) to the Chromecast unit sitting in a white mold shaped to hug the dimensions of the device.

Immediately visible after removing the Chromecast insert is the only other contents you’ll need for the device to function: your power hookups (AC adapter for your wall outlet and a USB cord, to plug into the TV) and a cable extension for your HDMI port (in case the location of your HDMI port isn’t optimal to allow for the Chromecast to be protruding from it).

“Look Ma, no user manual!”

 

Female end of the HDMI cable extension
Male end of the HDMI cable extension
Micro-USB cable connection to the AC adapter

As alluded to in the accessory characteristics, the Chromecast comes with two main connection points – one male HDMI connector (to plug into your TV) and one female Micro-USB port (to plug into the power source connector). Immediately upon picking up the device, it feels like it has enough heft and robustness to feel well-built, however light enough to feel versatile and streamlined (however not cheap-light feeling). Visible on the front (or top, depending on how you want to look at it) of the device is the Chrome branding, a power indicator light, and what looks to be a APN pairing button on the side.

 

 

 

For $40 (plus S&H) and the promise that this little device offers, I can’t see how this can be considered a bad investment. While I fully expect the next iteration to come with even more features (Bluetooth capability, anyone?) I’m happy to be a first-generation user and I look forward to exploring the endless possibilities it has!

Stay tuned for an update on how the use of the Chromecast stacks up to the competition!