Mentos Beatbox

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Not only does Mentos create some pretty awesome candies, but their marketing group creates some fun websites. Check out their latest interactive site, the Mentos Beatbox. Take a few photos of your face in the various stages of beatbox with your webcam, and the site will set you up with a pretty sweet video of you rocking a beat. You can download the video, or embed it into your various social networking sites. You can see me dropping the mad beats below.

Paste the URL to your own beatbox in the comments.

My New Isotoner SmarTouch (techie) Gloves

gloves front

I normally don’t do clothing/fashion reviews here, but I prefer to think of my latest purchase as an electronics accessory and not fashion, though I really do look hot in my new techie gloves. A few weeks ago I got my hands on (or rather hands in… HA!) a new pair of Isotoner SmarTouch Gloves, and they’ve turned out to be really handy (OK, I’m done with the glove jokes now, I promise). So what makes these gloves so special? They allow you to use touch screen device without exposing your hands to the elements with a bit of conductive thread on the thumb and forefingers. There are several types of gloves on the market that I looked at before deciding to go with Isotoner’s SmarTouch. I knew I didn’t want gloves with cut-off fingers so that left me with a few choices from gloves using conductive material. Out of those, Agloves and Glider Gloves were near the top of my list.

I didn’t go with the Agloves because I read several reviews that said they weren’t very warm. They were more a cool weather glove, and not a cold weather glove. The nice plus for the Agloves if you don’t need the extra warmth is that they are made entirely out of conductive material. So where the SmarTouch just have thumb and forefinger, the Agloves have the conductive stitching throughout. The stitching is actually silver, which is where these gloves get their name (Ag is the chemical symbol for silver on the periodic table).

gloves fingers

After reading that the Agloves weren’t very warm, I dug up another type of touch screen friendly gloves called Glider Gloves. Glider Gloves are made by a company in Canada, who if you think about it probably know cold weather pretty well. Similar to Agloves, these are also made with the conductive material throughout the entire glove. They generally get good reviews on their performance, but I didn’t end up going with these either. I didn’t like how they looked. They’re much lighter in color than the Agloves, and have a lighter speckled look to them. I’ve got a black coat to wear them with, and just wanted something a bit darker. I assume they work really well, and supposedly keep you hands very warm, but totally based on my personal tastes on the cosmetics of these gloves, I didn’t end up choosing them.

gloves backIn the end I ended up purchasing the Isotoner SmarTouch Gloves. They offered warmth (they are fleece lined) and the look (they are all black minus the conductive material on the fingers) that I wanted. I actually ended up ordering them twice because of some size issues. I measured my hand like the website instructed me to do, and came to the conclusion that I needed a medium-sized pair. Well, they arrived and were pretty tight on my hands, so I placed an order for large, which were just right. So the lesson learned here is that they run a little small, so I’d recommend getting a size bigger than your hand measurements tell you. Once I got the correct size, it was time to test them out. I expected them to be a bit finicky and need a little more pressure than just my bare skin on the screen. I was pleasantly surprised at how well they worked. I use these mainly with my HTC Evo 4G phone. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not the same as using your bare hands on your touch screen. They do have a little more bulk, and need a bit more pressure than your fingers, but it’s not bad at all. I can manipulate the phone just as well as I do with my fingers. That includes zooming in and out on the browser and even typing which I thought would tough to do with the additional bulk added to my fingers (those little letter buttons are kind of small!). On top of them actually performing pretty well, they are also warm. The fleece lining does its job. I have worn these for a couple of negative-temperature days and they’ve kept my hands as warm as my previous thick winter gloves. The gloves also have a nice rubbery mesh on the palms which help to keep my phone from sliding off my hand when I’m using it. All in all, I’m very happy with the purchase, and would recommend them to anyone who needs to manipulate a touch screen device while standing outside on a cold winter’s day.

This is a video of the gloves being used with my HTC Evo 4G phone.

Hot Wheels Video Racer

Playing with Hot Wheels just got a lot more fun (not that it wasn’t fun to begin with). The Hot Wheels Video Racer appeared at this year’s CES event. It’s a regular-sized Hot Wheels car, but it has a small point-of-view camera built into it, as well as a little monitor on the underside of the vehicle. So you can feel like you’re driving the car through the ups and downs and loopty-loops of your Hot Wheels track. The car is supposed to hold 12 minutes of video, and it comes with a USB cable to hook it to your computer. It is also packaged with editing software so you can refine your racing videos. It is supposed to be out in Fall of 2011 and will sell for about $60. This almost makes me want to dig out my old Hot Wheels tracks again and “go play cars.”

2010 Holiday Gift Guide

Another year has come and gone, and with it, comes another iteration of my holiday geek gift guide. The gift lists are chosen because they appeal to me, and the people I shop for. Feel free to let me know if I’ve missed any lists that you find helpful, and I’ll ad ’em to the post.

(Guides from previous years: 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004)

A Tiny Lens for my Camera Phone

I got a present in the mail yesterday straight from China. The tiny little macro/wide angle lens I purchased had finally arrived (apparently free shipping from China takes a while). Yes, you read that correctly. I purchased a lens for the crappy camera on my phone. I figured this was a $10 experiment to see if a lens for a camera phone would actually work, and surprise-surprise, it doesn’t do too bad of a job.

The lens came in a blister pack which included the actual lens, which is pretty sturdy with a metal housing. It also includes a lens cap and a little magnetic bottom cap with a tiny lanyard on it. The way the lens works is by attaching to the back of your phone with a small magnet ring around the bottom. If your phone doesn’t have anything for the magnet to stick to, they include two small metal rings (like little tiny washers) with peel off adhesive on them that you can stick to the back of your phone. I ended up sticking it to the case I have over the back of my phone. The lens itself is made two pieces screwed together that change depending on the type of photos you want to take. The lower, smaller piece is the macro lens, and the upper wider piece, when screwed on is the wide angle.

I was somewhat skeptical of how well a lens for a camera phone would work, but have been pleasantly surprised with my experiments. I started with a few macro shots and it does a pretty nice job. See the examples below. I took some shots of a few small items I had laying around. For the macro shots, I took a normal shot of the Old Capitol, then one with the wide angle lens. The wide angle shots aren’t as nice as the macros, but all in all, it’s a nice little tool to have.

If you want to own one of these yourself, I bought my from Deal Extreme, but they are all over ebay as well.

MapCrunch (random teleportation)

Do you want to take random trips around the world (via Google Street View)? MapCrunch allows you to teleport around the word to some pretty beautiful places on Google Street View. It also looks like you can submit you own cool places via Twitter (@mapcrunch) to be the “View of the Day” on MapCrunch. I also like putting it into slide show mode and hitting the full-screen button in the corner. Someone needs to figure out how to make a screensaver out of this.

Maybe artist Bill Guffey can use this site to help him find places to paint.

MapCrunch - Random Google Street View

It only took me about 25 tries to find a shot from Iowa.

Remote Controlled Ghost

Happy Halloween a bit late. Did you get a lot of candy two nights ago? Michael at Utah Aerials was dive bombing kids as they collected Halloween candy with his homemade remote control Ghost (which he lovingly named “Mr. T”). Take a look at his construction video.

I think he needs to make a flying turkey for Thanksgiving, and a flying Christmas Tree, for Christmas. There needs to be a mini helicopter character for every holiday!

Old Smartphones

I ran across an article yesterday that took me for a little trip down smartphone memory lane: From Brick to Tile: We Look Back at a Decade of Smartphone Evolution

Kyocera 6035

Kyocera 6035

The article walks through a brief history of smarphones, starting around the year 2000 and moving to recent phones dominated by Android and the iPhone. This little write-up reminded me of my own smartphone past. I’ve not owned anything other than a smartphone starting with my very first cellphone, the Handspring Treo 300 back in 2003, which was not only my first phone, but also my first cell phone service. I remember doing a lot of research before jumping into the cellphone world, and had my eye on several phones at that time. I remember following a couple Kyocera phones before going pulling the trigger on a purchase. The first one I remember looking at was the Kyocera6035, which was a black and white Palm PDA in the form of a phone (it was big!), and then shortly after that, the Kyocera 7135, which had a much more compact flip phone form (and a color screen!). I can also remember keeping a close eye on the Danger Hiptop (later named the Sidekick), which was a pretty cutting edge phone at that time. I ultimately settled on a Handspring Treo 300 (pdf) as my entry into the smartphone revolution. It was a great little phone, and I loved being connected to the internet wherever I was at.

It’s been interesting to watch where things have gone since the early smartphone days, and as they become much more common, it will be fun to see what the future holds.

Mentos Media Winning Awards

A couple pieces of Mentos media (a video and comic) have been in the news the past few days for  winning a couple awards.

The first is from a Mentos Fresh Goes Better contest on deviantART. The contest provides a template with a “before Mentos” box on the left, and an “after Mentos” box on the right.

Everyone knows Fresh Goes Better with Mentos, but did you know that since 1991 they’ve also made countless situations better? That’s right, the simple act of popping a single Mentos mint into your mouth, helps enhance and improve circumstances and events of all kinds. The equation is simple. Bland, boring, and average quickly become flavorful, exciting, and amazing once Mentos enters the mix. Help make your day great with the addition of Mentos!

You can view contest entries in this deviantART collection. An artist form Wilsonville, Oregon looks to have won 2nd place in the contest.

The second Mentos award was from for a Mentos commercial where a spider does some unexpected things which is supposed to represent the predictability of a roll of “Mentos Rainbow” candy. You know what’s going to come next since they follow the colors of the rainbow.

e7 Flash Game

I just ran across a fun new flash game by Jonas Richner. The game is called e7, and even though it’s nothing elaborate, it really pulls you in. You’re goal is to save the earth…

“It’s force is huge
Earth will be dust”

You’re dropped off in a pod of some sorts by your spaceship onto a planet which is kind of acts like big bowl of jello. It shifts and pulls based on how you move your pod over it. Your missions is to head east and find a missile pointed at earth. You need to navigate your pod through the planet avoiding obstacles and enemy ship lasers. Your weapon is your pod which you use to smash enemies by jumping and bouncing off of hills and valleys on the planet. It sounds simple, and looks simple, but really is a beautiful game. The soft soundtrack rounds everything out nicely and puts you into the world of the game.

Play e7

CrosT Application for WebOS

For the past several months, I have been working with a colleague of mine (Matt) on a mobile app for WebOS (Palm Pre and Palm Pixi).  It started with an idea from Matt’s wife while they were waiting at the port of entry in Nogales to cross the border back  into the US while visiting some family in Mexico. If you’re unfamiliar with crossing the border, it can take a very long time just sitting in a long line of cars waiting. The idea was to create a mobile app that you could look up the current wait times at any port of entry into the US (we added Canada too). This issue we got the ball rolling on an application called CrosT.

We decided to jump into this app using WebOS since it had a pretty simple, straight-forward development environment. The end product we came up provides quick access to current border crossing times (commercial, passenger, or pedestrian) into the US from Mexico or Canada, or into Canada from the US. CrosT will also provide a listing of the nearest ports of entry to your current location, using your device’s built-in GPS function. If you have a WebOS device, and a need for quick access to border crossing times on your WebOS device, give CrosT a download.

CrosT provides border wait times for entry into the United States and Canada conveniently formatted for your Palm Pre or Pixi, in the NAFTA zone language (English, French or Spanish) of your choice. CrosT can also tell you where the nearest crossing is and allows you to bookmark the reports you most frequently access for quick review. CrosT is the only application available for WebOS that provides this information for both the northern and southern borders of the United States in all NAFTA zone languages.

CrosT is the first of what will hopefully be a series of mobile apps we create. As we develop more apps, we’ve set up a small company called Pivotal Cog to serve as a central point for our future development.