Okay Smashers, it’s time for episode 4 of The SmashCast! In this episode, we discuss Black Friday Madness, Taylor Swift brawling it up with Spotify, Facebook At Work, and our new weekly segment RIDICITECH where we find ridiculous technology on the internet and discuss how to make it better. Get listening SMASHER!
Click the button below to listen to/download episode 4 of The SmashCast. (Right click and select “save link as” if you want to download the episode to your computer for later.)
Ok smashers, it’s time for episode 2 of The SmashCast! In this episode, we will talk about ApplePay and Google Wallet being disabled, Amazon’s latest announcement: the FireStick, HP’s stylish smart-watch the HP Chronowing, and Google’s latest developments in health technology. We even feature a fellow smasher’s question about smart-watches. Why are you still reading this?
Click the button below to listen to/download episode 2 of The SmashCast. (Right click and select “save link as” if you want to download the episode to your computer)
Apple is rumored to be prepping to integrate its Force Touch technology into the upcoming iOS 9 and iPhone 6S release. The Force Touch function will presumably enable users deeper control of the interface and Apple will eventually be providing developers the ability to leverage the hardware as well. It is unlikely that we will see this technology announced at WWDC as it is a hardware dependent feature and it would not follow Apple’s regular annual pattern to announce the iPhone 6S AT WWDC.
9to5Mac was one of the first to report on the matter. According to one of their inside sources, “To go with the new hardware [iPhone 6], Apple has designed iOS 9 to be Force Touch-ready and is working to let developers integrate Force Touch into App Store apps.” A few of the rumored actions that will leverage Force Touch include dropping a pin on a map, adding new events on the calendar, improved media player scrolling, and more.
Force Touch uses a pressure sensitive screen to enable users to interact with content using various levels of force on the screen. The feature requires a pressure sensitive screen and Apple’s Haptic Engine to let the user know the amount of pressure being applied to the screen. Because it will rely on new hardware, it is unlikely that Force Touch will majorly impact the overall design and functionality of Apple’s updated OS as there will be 8 previous models of the iPhone; many of which will be compatible with iOS 9.
This marks the third device type into which Apple is now incorporating its Force Touch technology. Apple began with its MacBook and Macbook Pros released early this year and later incorporated the technology in their latest wearable: the Apple Watch. As the Apple Watch sports a much smaller screen than most devices, a second way to interact with on-screen content became a crucial bedrock to the UI. Now, Apple is set to release the same technology in their upcoming iPhone 6S.
Will this really improve the user experience?
The question becomes, “if Force Touch is only available on one of Apple’s many devices, how much will it really improve the overall user experience?” This is a valid question and a bit indicative to what the hardware/software combo may be used for. Most of the actions that have been mentioned thus far are those that are currently accommodated by a press and hold gesture on the iPhones of today. This will mean a faster and more responsive experience when doing things like dropping a pin, adding a calendar appointment, opening a link in a new window, and more. While the difference is less than seconds, it’s often that we don’t notice how much we appreciate a second or two improvement until we have to use an older device and are forced into tapping and waiting.
Think about it, it’s hard not to wonder whether Apple’s operating system was partially inspired by the user interface in the movie Minority Report. This was appealing and futuristic because it was a much faster way to manipulate imagery, access files, and interact with content. Take a look at the clip below from Minority Report. Notice that there are zero gestures that involve waiting.
99% of human beings abhor the action of waiting. (I made this statistic up, but I’m pretty sure it’s true.) The less time we spend waiting, the more we are likely to enjoy a device. Press and hold slows down the entire tactile experience. Force Touch could be the solution to the need for a faster form of “right-click” in the touch screen world. As Apple heralds the way, others are likely to follow. Microsoft take notes. This could also be your solution to the current mouseover challenge that those using touch-screen Windows currently face.
What are your thoughts on the Force Touch rumor for the iPhone 6? How do you think it will improve the user experience? Sound off in the comments below.
If you’re a criminal in Silicon Valley, watch out for the K5! A company known as KnightScope (a likely undercover subsidiary of Nightrider) is looking at new ways to fight back against crime using technology. They’ve assembled a human size robot known as the K5 that provide a deeper level of surveillance and intimidation to criminals. These robots coming in at 5 feet tall and weighing a whopping 300 pounds, use lasers, high sensitivity microphones, and a 360 degree camera to guard the perimeter of an area. The lasers are, unfortunately, non-lethal as the robots are designed more for intimidation purposes than actual defense.
The multiple sensors enable the robot to navigate around the perimeter of a building to keep an eye on unusual activity. Video stream and alert information is then sent off to the company’s security department alerting them to threats and enabling them to take action. According to CBS, one of the co-founders of KnightScope stated how this is done, “The robot is looking at the video, listening for glass breakage, any loud sound that breaking in would cause. We’ll get the license plate, picture of the vehicle, geotag location, and time.” CNET provides some great coverage in a video they created below:
Additionally, KnightScope did not disclose what specific companies have employed these robots in the Silicon Valley, however, they claim that around 4 dozen companies are on a waiting list to purchase a K5 robot.
I would be interested in getting one of these for my home and seeing if I might be able to reprogram it to run over intruders. At 300 pounds on wheels, who needs lasers?
What do you think of the robots? Do you think they will provide a more effective way to deter criminal behavior? Let us know in the comments below.
Do you remember Rock Band? Hours upon hours were probably spent in the basements of your parents home rocking out with your best friends. Nowadays Rock Band seems like a thing of the past. While Rock Band had some great success in its time, the series lost steam and hasn’t recovered since RockBand 3 was released in 2011. however, there seems to be a glimmer of hope for us wannabe Rockstars!
This week Harmonix, Rock Band’s developer, announced its plans to release Rock Band 4 later this year forXbox One and PlayStation 4. While this is exciting news for Rock Band enthusiasts, Harmonix’s plans for Rock Band 4 are a little different from past games. According to an interview with IGN, Project Manager Daniel Sussman states:
There are a lot of things that I think we can do, both on the publishing side and the development side, to sustain Rock Band 4 as a product. Rock Band 4 is a sequel relative to Rock Band 3 and that 4 is really an indication of our commitment to innovation in this space and the idea that this is a bona fide evolutionary step from Rock Band 3 in a lot of ways. It does not imply that there will be a Rock Band 5, 6, 7, and 8.
We think that there’s an opportunity this time around, given the technology to interact directly with our audience and also to react to the feedback that we get directly from our audience to sort of expand upon a core game of Rock Band 4. So Rock Band 4 will expand through title updates, through content updates, over the long span. We view Rock Band 4 as the Rock Band for this console generation, and it will continually evolve through a dialogue with our community. I think Rock Band is a great title to utilize that approach in the console space.
From this statement it appears that instead of creating a ‘new’ Rock Band annually, the plan is to simply update Rock Band 4 with more songs and features. While this seems like a great idea, this likely means ongoing DLC (Downloadable Content) that will likely come at a cost. But hey, paid for content is better than no content at all.
To get you pumped up for the new Rock Band, check out the video below.
Can you feel your Thunderstruck fingers getting ready for action. Of course you can! With that said, what are your thoughts? Is the resurrection of Rock Band a good decision? Will Rock Band regain its once incredible popularity? Let us know what you think in the comment section below.
Last month we reported on a leak from top executives in the television industry that Apple was working on its own television service to rival the likes of Sling TV. Today, the Wall Street Journal reported further details on Apple’s rumored service according to sources “in-the-know.” The service is intended to be a “slimmed-down” version of cable that is accessible via the internet on Apple devices such as iPhones, iPads, Apple TVs, etc… The question remains whether the price of the service and its channel offerings will be sufficient to entice customers to make the switch.
According to the Wall Street Journal:
Apple has been talking to Walt Disney Co., CBS Corp., and 21st Century FoxInc., among other media companies. The idea is to offer consumers a “skinny” bundle with well-known channels like CBS, ESPN and FX, while leaving out the many smaller networks in the standard cable TV package.
Apparently this “skinny” bundle will reportedly offer around 25 total channels. Offering significantly less channels than traditional cable, Apple would is reported to offer the service at a cheaper rate. According to the WSJ’s same sources, the service should be priced between $30 and $40 dollars. Additionally, the service is said to be announced this June with a target launch date of September. Apple has a lot of work to do to get this service into our hands.
How does the price compare?
According to a report put out by the FCC mid last year, consumers pay an average of around $64 dollars for “expanded basic cable service.” This would put Apple’s service between 53% and 37% cheaper based on final pricing. However, the channel offering is significantly less. Nielson.com reported last year that the average U.S. home received 189 channels into their home. This would put Apple’s service at only 13% of the average channel volume offered by tradition cable. However, Nielson also reported that “consumers have [only] consistently tuned in to an average of just 17 channels. ”
Nielson’s report is evidence that consumers are paying for far more than they are actually using when subscribing for cable/satellite. As such, Apple may be onto a viable television model that provides consumers with the channels that they need without all the “fluff.” What needs further analysis is whether those 17 channels are relatively consistent across the consumers, or whether their preferences are sporatic across the board. The results to that question will dictate whether or not Apple’s TV service offering will be viable to the masses.
Additionally, something else to consider is that often times consumers are buying both internet and cable in bundles; making the price of each service significantly cheaper. For example, Comcast offers the XFINITY Starter Double Play service for $79.99. This service includes 140 channels and internet speeds of 50 MBPS. Comparatively, you can purchase solely the XFINITY internet at the same speeds for $34.99. If Apple’s TV service releases on the higher end at $40 per month, then combined with internet, the consumer is paying $5.00 less at the expense of 115 (82% less) channels. Using this comparison, Apple’s television service may not be as initially impressions.
What else might set the service apart?
Considering that this service isn’t likely to be substantially cheaper than the alternative, it is highly likely that Apple has another card up its sleeve regarding how they plan to revolutionize the television industry. One thing is certain, consumers are moving in the direction of consuming the majority of their media content via online streaming. A study put out last year by Frank N. Magid found that a whopping 83% percent of US television watchers stream online content; up 9 percentage points from last year’s reported 74% percent. With streaming on the rise, if Apple can re-invent the way we stream with betters ways to discover and consume content, the company could be onto something.
There has always existed a delineation between live TV and internet streamed media. Often, if you want to watch a new episode of your favorite seasons’ episodes as soon as they release, it’s required that you watch on traditional live television. The online streamed alternative is typically available the next day. There are a few exceptions to that rule, but most of them require that you have a cable or satellite subscription to gain online streaming access any earlier.
While I couldn’t find any large-scale data to support my theory, the primary reasons that I have heard from people regarding why they stick with cable is to watch sports. While local channels cover some of the games, to get access to the majority of each season’s competition, you’re going to need a cable or satellite subscription.
I would also argue that one of the key elements that is missing from online streaming services is an improved way to discover new media. While there are plenty of algorithms to recommend new content to you, it just isn’t the same as scanning through channels and finding shows that catch your eye. The cover art and description of a show is only so enticing. If Apple can solve for both of these problems AND bring the benefit of streaming content on-demand, they will have a very competitive product offering.
What do you think Apple needs to bring to their TV service to be competitive? What would entice you to cut the cord? Let us know in the comments below.
After two years of success with their Roku 3, the company has decided to stop resting on its laurels. Hardware upgrades have now been applied to their current lineup and software updates given to a surprising number (6) of legacy devices still supported reaching back to 2011. The newest version adds a new remote which has dedicated Voice Search capability. This new Voice Search function allows you to pull up and navigate to any channel on vocal command. The specifications of the internals are not yet known, but it is said that the outgoing Roku 3 is basically the new Roku 2 without the special remote and an added headphone jack.
On the software side, a new feature called Roku Feed will allow you to follow specific movies as a type of wish list. It’s billed as a place to look when you just don’t know what to watch! Many of us have felt Netflix search fatigue, and such a feature will surely help alleviate that decidedly first-world problem. (I’m glad we solved this prior to world-hunger…Sarcasm)
For years Roku has had the market cornered on company-sponsored channels and private, indie channels alike. The ability for anyone to push out content within a private channel on Roku has helped move their reportable numbers into the thousands of channels. This is somewhat of a meaningless statistic because most of those are completely uninteresting, but when compared to Apple’s ecosystem of (classically) fewer than ten supported applications, the difference is stark.
However, as other devices are competing with Roku’s lineup, they’ve seen their numbers slip year after year. Presenting at this year’s CES, Parks Associates showed that Roku had decreased from 46% to 29% market share since 2013 as both Amazon and Google have introduced multiple alternatives. These alternatives, Chromecast and FireTV (and Stick), are sold at very competitive price points with compelling media streaming service options. Now with these competitors and the coming age of a la carte TV, HBO Go, and Sling on other streaming boxes, Roku will need to keep innovating features and aggregating services to continue to compete.
What do you use to stream, and why do you prefer it? Let us know in the comments.
If you haven’t already heard, Roku recently released a feature that enables you to mirror your Android and Windows smart phone to your TV through the Roku%203 Streaming Media PlayerRoku 3, andRoku Streaming Stick. Currently, this feature is in beta meaning that they are still working out the bugs. Additionally, this beta is specific to Roku owners in the US, and UK. If you are wondering how this is done, read on! Follow the steps below and you will be mirroring your smart phone to your TV in no time!
Verify that the screen mirror is enabled on your Roku player. From the navigation menu:
Go to Settings
Go to Screen mirroring
Verify that the “Enable screen mirroring” is checked
Verify that your Android/Windows device and Roku are connected to the same wireless network
If you did everything correctly, you will now be mirroring your smart phone to your TV.
Go have fun! Once you have had time to play around with this new Roku feature, let us know what you think. We want to know your thoughts: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Tell us in the comment section below.
Most Android phones allow you to add up to seven home screens to your phone, which enables you to utilize the space for widgets and frequently used apps. While I don’t personally know anyone who has filled seven pages with apps and widgets, I’m sure you’re out there! But what do you do when you decide to go through some spring cleaning on your phone? Do the unused pages just sit there? Luckily there is a solution! Not only does Android allow you to add pages, they also allow you to remove them.
If you have unused pages and are looking to get rid of them, follow these easy steps and those pesky extra pages will be gone in no time:
1. Tap the “Home Screen” button to make sure you are on your home screen
2. While on your home screen pinch your fingers together (while touching your screen). As if you were to zoom out on a picture or map
3. Drag any unwanted pages to the trash bin on the top of your screen (image below).
That’s it, you should no longer have any unused home screens. While you are still in the home screen edit page mode, you also have the ability to add additional home screens by tapping the “+” symbol. Users can also choose a default home screen. This will be the screen that your phone will go to when you select the home button. Simply press the little house on top of the page you would like to make your default home page. If you do not like how your pages are arranged you can also rearrange your home screens by dragging the desired page in front of or behind other pages.
While we do not anticipate you having any issues when performing the steps above, please let us know if you do. You can post any questions or concerns in the comment section below.
Dongle. Just the word gives you feelings of joy. Small dongle streaming sticks have revolutionized the streaming device industry. With Google’s Chromecast, Amazon’s FireStick, and Roku’s…Stick; you have a variety of options to choose from. The Roku Stick may be the most expensive of the dongles on the market, but that premium comes with “endless possibilities.” Hopefully our review will help you make a decision on what streaming dongle is right for you.
Let’s start with the Roku Stick’s greatest strengths, and that is its streaming options. The Roku Stick has more available streaming content than you have hours left to live in your life. (Assuming you’re not pre-fetus that is.) The device has over 1,500 channels with nearly every heavy hitter on the list. Yes, it has Netflix. Yes, it has Hulu Plus. And yes, it even has Amazon Instant Video. (That’s more than the Chromecast can say.) I could list every app out for you and make this review a long enough to wrap the planet, or I could just provide you a link so that you can look to make sure your desired app is available. Click here to see all streaming channels. Needless to say, if you’re wondering if it has an app for the service you want to watch, it likely does.
As you begin going through the giant list of free apps, the one downside is that a number of the apps require that you enter your cable or satellite subscription information. If you’re anything like me, you might feel as if that defeats the purpose of cutting the cord and picking up a Roku Stick. There are a number of free channels but most of the ones that are worth your time are going to either cost you a monthly subscription (such as Netflix or Hulu) or require that you have a cable subscription (Such as Disney or ABC.) Even if they aren’t all free, the fact that so many channels are available is a great benefit.
One of the streaming channels I want to highlight is the Roku Media Player App. This app will allow you to stream content from computers on your network to your TV. Anyone that has a large hard drive full of (presumably legal) movies will love this feature. In my testing, the services works flawlessly. The most challenging part is getting your computer setup to share your media folders. (Windows challenge not Roku.) Once that’s setup, the Roku Stick picks up on the media immediately and streams it just as well as any of the other streaming media channel.
You can also cast video from your phone in a manner very similar to the Chromecast. Simply open the app, tap the same icon you want to stream to any other media player, and select the Roku Stick. However, you must have the associated app downloaded and installed on the Roku Stick before you can cast from your phone. While it doesn’t take long, it is less convenient than the Chromecast’s ability to just select a video and beam it to the screen without having to deal with the hassle of downloading apps. The Roku Stick won’t even pop up as an option on your phone unless the channel is downloaded and installed on the Roku Stick.
While not perfect, the Roku Stick has a TON of streaming channels, a flawless DLNA media streaming app, and the ability to cast media from your phone. Many of the “Free” apps do require a subscription, and the cast from your phone isn’t as convenient as competitors. However overall, the Roku Stick nails streaming options. Streaming Options – 95/100
Design and Utility
The Roku Stick can be summed up in one word: functional. Roku didn’t spend a ton of money designing the stick to look nice. It’s more than likely going to stay out of sight behind your TV. It is slightly longer than the Chromecast but thinner than the Chromecast’s wide rounded area.
The biggest design flaw with streaming dongles in general is caused by a current technical limitation. Most standard HDMI ports do not supply power to devices. As a result, you have to plug the dongle into a power source. What looks extremely clean and minimalistic in commercials becomes cluttered with a dangling cord down to your outlet. Many televisions have a USB port that provides power which can remedy the problem. Power over HDMI is on the rise (likely thanks to streaming dongles), so hopefully the next iteration of the Roku Stick will be powered by HDMI. We will see.
Streaming options aside, another competitive advantage that the Roku Stick has over the Chromecast is a dedicated remote and its own interface. (Amazon FireStick also has a dedicated remote.) This means buying a Roku Stick for your grandma who is still trying to figure out how to use that Motorola Razr, can benefit from streaming media. (Assuming she can figure out the difference between the 1500+ channels.) This also makes it a much better choice than the Chromecast for families with kids. Instead of having to provide a tablet, kid cell phones, or other connected device to allow your kids to stream media, the remote allows it to be a standalone device.
The remote connects via bluetooth so you don’t have to worry about installing a mirror above your TV. I did run into some pairing issues with the remote when I did a factory reset of the device. While all instructions say that it will connect automatically, it simply wouldn’t connect. It wasn’t until I started fidgeting around with the device that I noticed a small button under the battery cover that re-pairs the remote with the dongle. I thought the Roku Stick was toast for a few minutes until I found that button. (Thank goodness for hidden buttons.)
The small form factor is extremely nice for moving from room to room. You would think it would be a great device for bringing with you while traveling due to its size. However, most hotels require you to authenticate your room using a web browser and the Roku Stick does not have a browser to enable you to authenticate. If you look on Roku’s blog, they recommend you bring a travel router to share your internet connect with the Roku Stick. While not rocket science, it’s also not a super simple process for Joe Schmo to share his internet connection and clone his MAC address. Most people don’t even know what a MAC address is, let alone the process for sharing internet from your laptop to a router for wireless sharing with a Roku Stick. This is one area where the Amazon Firestick pulls ahead in that it offers the capability to sign into hotel wi-fi using the built-in browser. Hopefully, Roku will address this with a software update in the future as it is a serious omission.
From a design perspective, the Roku Stick sticks out (pun intended) due to its dedicated remote and small form factor. It did fall short in simple remote pairing, hotel wi-fi use, and the clutter of power wires. (Though the last one is an inherent flaw to all current streaming dongles due to a technical limitation.)Design – 80/100
Specs and User Interface
The Roku Stick is able to output via HDMI and supports up to 1080P. (Sorry you 4k lovers.) While Roku doesn’t share the power of the processor or the amount of RAM on the device, it is not likely the powerhouse of Amazon’s dual core processor and 1 GB of on-board ram.
While I wouldn’t classify the interface as sluggish, it definitely is not zippy either. It is about on par with what we have come to expect with cable and satellite controls. You’re not getting twitch-shooter like response times, but also don’t feel like you’re dragging a tortoise across the room. It is definitely manageable. If you’re looking for speed, the Roku 3 is supposedly 5 times faster. We have not yet tested the Roku 3 yet to verify such claims.
Overall, the user interface is functional and it is still a nice addition to the lack of a user interface on Google’s Chromecast. From a speed perspective, the only thing that stuck out to me during use was how long it took to boot up Netflix. From the time that I clicked the Netflix icon to the time I was able to start a movie, it took almost 2 minutes. While that may not seem like a long time, when you’re waiting for a screen to load, it is an eternity. This is not entirely Roku’s fault as Netflix could definitely work to better optimize their app, but for you impatient Netflix viewers out there, this could be a deal-breaker. All of the other apps that we tested loaded and ran at acceptable rates.
The setup process for the Roku Stick is extremely simple. Simply plug it in, connect to your wi-fi, choose your channels, and you’re ready to stream. No complicated menus, no fuss, just streaming.
The device supports dual-band wi-fi including a/b/g/n protocols. This means if you have a more advanced router capable of higher speeds, you can leverage your bandwidth for a higher quality streaming experience. While it doesn’t offer compatibility with the latest wireless protocol, 802.11ac, you don’t likely need those speeds as you’re not streaming in 4K yet. (The time will come!) The device also supports Dolby 7.1 and 5.1 surround pass through.
From a specs and user interface perspective, the Roku Stick is functional. While not the most zippy of user-interfaces, it’s better than not having a user-interface as all. Netflix takes a while to load. The setup process is extremely simple and the device supports most wireless protocol and Dolby Surround sound options. Specs and Performance – 83/100
In conclusion, the Roku Stick is an incredible offer. For only $50 you get access to 1,500+ channels loaded with content. While not all of it is free, you have a number of free and paid options to choose from. The device isn’t the most powerful dongle on the market nor the best from a design perspective, however the Roku Stick provides significantly more streaming options than its competitors for only $10-15 dollars more. If you’re looking for a streaming stick for all of your entertainment needs, the Roku Stick is the one to choose. Ready to buy one? Here’s a quick link to Amazon.Overall – 86/100