Do you like to watch football? How about the biggest game of the year — which happens on February 4 (aka this Sunday)? If yes to either of these, then you’re in luck: I can tell you how to get the most out of the experience via connected smart home tech, gadgets and AV equipment. Set “indulge” mode to MAX.
There are plenty of TV options out there for your viewing pleasure, but the one that takes the cake in my opinion is the Sony Bravia A1E 65-inch 4K OLED HDR Smart TV. Why? Because it’s the smartest television around, in terms of how it makes use of tech, and that goes way beyond its Android TV-based OS (though that’s nice, too).
Part of the smarts come from Sony’s X1 chip, which is a dedicated image processor in the television that’s responsible for its unbeatable upscaling prowess. I immediately noticed that no matter the source resolution of the content I was playing on the Sony TV, the picture looked far, far better than it did anywhere else. Sony says this is because it’s using the chip to rebuild the image pixel-by-pixel, and using a reference library of thousands of 4K images taken from Sony’s extensive library of film and TV studio content to do that rebuilding intelligently, instead of just having to take a guess based on surrounding pixels, as other TV makers do.
The X1 also helps out with the unique in-panel speaker that Sony uses on this television, which literally turns the entire surface of the TV into an audio output device. It helps positionally track faces on the screen, so that when people speak, including from your favorite sideline commentators, their voices actually seem to be coming from their mouths. It’s so good, you might want to opt for that instead of your surround system, but more on that below.
Ultimately, this isn’t the cheapest TV out there (even among OLED models) but its picture quality is unmatched thanks to Sony’s tech, especially if you’re using a streaming signal (like the free one NBC is making available this year for watching the game).
A good setup needs a good remote, and the Logitech Harmony Companion paired with the Harmony Hub is pretty much exactly what you need for smart home control, including AV equipment like the TV above, as well as various smart devices like those listed below.
Logitech’s whole Harmony lineup is good for this, but the Harmony Companion + Hub bundle has the advantage of being full-featured and capable, while also not breaking the bank. The Hub is key for making sure all your smart home devices can be controlled (including via Google Assistant through Android running on the Sony TV, or also via Alexa), and the Companion remote is an uncomplicated affair, without the power draw of an integrated display, but with a bunch of flexibility thanks to being able to assign different activities to long and short presses of the various activity buttons.
It ships with not only the Hub, but also two IR extenders in the box, which make it easy to establish setups for both open- and closed-cabin AV stack installations. Setup of the software and app is also super easy, and can be done entirely on your smartphone — which becomes another controller using the app, too.
Philips Hue is still the smart light brand to beat, in my opinion, and they work great with Google Assistant, as well as Alexa and the Harmony remote. You can easily brighten the room with a voice command for when you’re taking a break for wings or nachos, and then darken the room again when halftime’s over and the main show is once again the focus of everyone’s attention.
Using stuff like IFTTT, or even preset smart device scenes with Google Assistant, you can trigger different lighting for different events — like color-coded touchdowns, for instance.
As mentioned above, the Sony Bravia OLED TV has speakers integrated into its screen surface that sound amazing, and work great with things like sports and commentary, but if you want to add a little more connected magic to the mix, there are a couple of good options in this category.
Sonos speakers are a great addition to a home theater, especially if you’re already invested in the system. You can craft a home theater sound setup using their Playbase and Playbar, and add a subwoofer for bass, too. But if you’re already super committed to Google Assistant and Chromecast (which is built-in to the TV), you can also pick up Riva’s Festival and Arena speakers, which have Chromecast features built in.
The benefit of that is that you can set them up in group and have the game-day audio broadcast around the house: That way, even in the kitchen or the bathroom, you’re still going to be able to hear all the action as it goes down. And again, you can control all this using voice commands with your TV remote or smartphone.
The post-game game
Once the game is done, or if you’re not interested in watching Justin Timberlake perform at halftime, the best way to occupy that time is to virtually experience your own Super Bowl at home by firing up Madden 18 on the big screen. The Xbox One X version is fully set for 4K HDR displays, so it’s the perfect pairing if you’re using the TV above or another one with those resolution and quality capabilities.
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Cold hands, warm stick: High school lacrosse player makes heated stick to beat icy conditions
Lacrosse is a physically demanding sport under the best conditions, but inclement weather adds frozen hands to the mix. Samantha Wolfe had enough of it and, as a 14-year-old freshman, thought, “why not make a heated stick?” Three years later, her idea has become a reality — the FingerFire lacrosse stick — and is being tested right now by teams in colder climes.
Wolfe goes to school in New York, and explained the rather self-evident problem when I visited her booth at CES.
“It gets so cold that even with gloves, your fingers get numb,” she said. She told her dad (who was also at the booth) at the time, why don’t they make sticks that warm your hands? It would sure make the games a lot more bearable.
Seems logical. But searching found no such thing, and eventually the Wolfes decided to take matters into their own hands, so to speak. They worked with a product design house Enventys Partners to do the engineering and prototyping, and it ended up being a two-year process to make the thing.
“It took us about ten months just to test different heating methodologies and looking at the tradeoffs among weight, heat and duration,” Wolfe explained, writing on the FingerFire site.
All self-funded, of course. VC firms don’t take a lot of meetings from high school kids.
Eventually they arrived at the current version, which keeps two hand-size sections of the stick at a steady 100 degrees F for an hour and a half before needing a recharge via USB. It’s been tested for durability and safety (can’t have sticks blowing up mid-game) and for the ideal temperature (earlier versions weren’t hot enough).
I tried it and, while it wasn’t exactly comfortable in the heat and crush of CES, I can definitely say I wouldn’t mind having it if I were playing in freezing temperatures.
Now the stick is set for testing this season by Division I teams at the University of Maryland, Syracuse and Johns Hopkins. (Don’t worry, there’s no rule against it — the US Lacrosse governing body approves.)
The goal is to get a manufacturing partner or sponsor, perhaps via word of mouth once champion teams see the utility of having a heated stick. Currently each team will have four to test, but a set of a dozen or two wouldn’t be too hard for a sponsor like Adidas or Under Armour to swing.
It’s an inspiring story to see someone pursuing a dream of invention like this from such an early age, especially a young woman, of which there is far too small a number in the worlds of engineering and hardware startups.
“My passion is for all girls to feel that when they are playing lacrosse they have the fire and confidence in them to play their best,” writes Wolfe. On the field and off!
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Notch can record your body movements
Notch creators Eszter Ozsvald and Stepan Boltalin have been working on their project since 2013 and are finally ready to unveil their final product on the Disrupt Berlin stage. The company, which received funding through SOSVentures and Hax Accelerator, allows users to scan their bodies in motion, allowing for powerful analytics on golf swings, gymnastics, routines and everyday activities.
The company is currently working with partners to create 3D recordings of various PGA instructions and pro golf players. One partner, 4DMotionSports, is creating 3D recordings of athletes for later playback.
“Notch is the first company to bring true motion capture to smartphones and the only platform for motion capture-based apps that offers SDK for Android and iOS for building consumer-ready motion analysis products,” said Ozsvald. “Compared to other products, Notch allows scalability from one to dozens of sensors and cost savings up to 10 times compared to products utilizing similar principles.”
You can order a six-sensor Notch kit for $387 and they’ve already sold 10,000 devices in the past few years.
“Haptic feedback basically extends Notch into one more dimension, making Notch not just an input device (that gets movement) but also an output device. We are definitely going to include haptic feedback functionality into our app. Triggers related to movement and based on timers are what we are deciding on right now. We call this kind of functionality ‘personal coach’, but it would be most exciting for us to see what use cases for haptic feedback developers will come up with,” said Boltalin.
The company also completed a successful Kickstarter and is working hard to release the new version of their hardware.
Garmin’s new Vivosport is an ideal lightweight smart activity tracker
If you’re looking to get pretty much all the benefits of a smartwatch without a watch, and to track your activity and sport performance with tools that are more than up to the task, Garmin’s Vivosport is a strong option, with a price tag that comes in well under that of most dedicated smartwatches. It works well with both Android and iOS devices, has a built-in heart rate tracker and GPS, and provides access to all kinds of preset activity types for a range of workout options.
The Vivosport is the first Garmin wearable I’ve used for any significant length of time, and it proved a capable companion both in a smartwatch capacity, and as an activity tracker. The lightweight band is mostly polymer and silicone, with a specially strengthened glass protecting the transflective touchscreen display. It’s waterproof for wear while swimming, too, and it can last up to a week while operating in smartwatch mode, or eight hours of dedicated GPUS use – figures which were backed up by my tests, and generally resulted in around four or five days of use between charges along with daily run tracking.
Vivosport’s small screen is only 72 x 144 pixels in terms of resolution, but it’s perfectly readable in both bright sunlight and in the dark thanks to backlighting. It’s also touch sensitive, and the UI is designed with maximizing information and readability while minimizing input required in mind. I found it occasionally frustrating to get it to move forward or back, with the input resulting in the wrong action, but mostly interacting with the device on my wrist was easy enough overall.
What I really enjoyed about the Vivosport was that it offered just the right amount of smart features, with a low-profile and comfortable design ideal for all-day use. The Vivosport is the perfect wearable companion for some who isn’t a watch wearer generally, in fact, or for anyone who wants to wear one while also still wearing a traditional wristwatch on their other arm (I fall into this latter category).
The flexible silicone used in the integrated band is also a strength of this device vs. other similar products. It’s stretchy enough that you can get a good, secure fit using the smartly designed clasp (which also has a great catcher for keeping the excess band in control). You can easily find a fit that seems tight enough that you’ll get good readings from the optical heart rate monitor on the Vivosport’s underside, while also not being so tight or inflexible that it feels uncomfortable to wear.
Vivosport also doesn’t really need you to be near your phone to work – it won’t get smart notifications if you aren’t around your device, but it can track runs and other activities independently, and store up to 7 total timed activities or 14 days worth of activity tracking data between syncing. It connects to your device using Bluetooth Smart, and it’s dead simple to set up and activate, too.
Additional features include the ability to provide basic weather info, as well as find my phone features and remote controls for Garmin VIRB action cams just add to the overall value, but you don’t need to really use any of those things to make the most of the Vivosport, which at heart is a great, learning activity monitor that can track sleep, automatically increment your step goal based on your fitness level, and even automatically pause workouts while in progress. I especially enjoyed the Move IQ feature that autodetects activity even if you forget to start one manually, which
In summary, Garmin’s Vivosport is something that offers all the smartwatch features most users need, along with key health and fitness elements that could inspire better habits and improve existing routines for those with active lifestyles. If I could change anything, I’d replace the proprietary charing cable (since it means you’ll have to buy a new one if you lose it), but the Vivosport’s $199.99 asking price is a good bargain for everything you get, from the color touchscreen display to the week-long battery life and connected smartphone features.
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