STRIIV Turns Fitness Monitoring into A Game

The more you work, the more you win.

Pedometers and fitness monitors get more and more sophisticated, but it’s hard to call them fun. Striiv offers a new twist on monitoring your caloric output by turning it into a fun activity. The motivation to use it is built in.  You get games that open to new levels, personal goals that make real-world sense, and you even get the opportunity to do well through donations made on behalf of your hard work.  The more you work out the more you’ll be rewarded.

And Striiv counts everything you do — the steps to the bathroom, the walk up the stairs, the mopping of the floor.  You get a complete picture that extends beyond your workouts.

The device itself is cleverly  and elegantly designed. It’s small enough to easily hook on to a key chain, belt clip, or pocket and has easy to read touch screen and keys. Its founders call it a daily “Walkathon” in your pocket since you can make every step count towards a charity.  And games like MyLand, the company’s first, will open new levels the more you work.  Fun messages that put exercise into perspective come up too. For example “ You’ve just climbed the equivalent of the Eiffel Tower.

From a geek’s point of view the cool thing about Striiv is it’s combination of accelerometers/ gyroscopes and who knows what else, because the unit knows if you’re running, climbing, or just strolling.

The product ships this October and is priced at $99. But I guarantee it won’t be alone.  There are a number of new and exciting variations on fitness monitors that you’ll be hearing about as we get closer to CES.   And many of last year’s fitness monitors like BodyMedia Fit and Fit Bit are busy revising their products.

For consumers the news is all good.  Personally, I’m not above a little Skinnerian reward for doing my daily caloric burn and the idea of burning it off for charity makes the product resonate even more. I’ll let you know how I do as soon as I get it in my pleasantly plump hands.

Disclosure: You’ll be able to see Striiv in our Sports and Fitness booth at CES in January and hear David Wang, one of the company’s founders on our panels. .

. To pre-order Striiv, visit www.striiv.com.  To watch the video

Pew Reports on the Perceived Value of Online Learning

Based on a national poll of the general public and a survey of college presidents done in conjuction with the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Pew Research Center just released a study about the value of online learning, the prevalence and future of online courses, use of digital textbooks, the internet and plagiarism, and technology use in the classroom, as well as college presidents’ own use of technology.

Some top line findings: Just three-in-ten American adults (29%) say a course taken online provides an equal educational value to one taken in a classroom. By contrast, about half of college presidents (51%) say online courses provide the same value.

More than three-quarters of college presidents (77%) report that their institutions now offer online courses, and college presidents predict substantial growth in online learning: 15% say most of their current undergraduate students have taken a class online, 50% predict that ten years from now most of their students will take classes online.

Read the full report.

 

Millenniata: A New Disk Writing System Promises Data in Perpetuity

Hammurabi chiseled stone and now Millenniata believes that they have a way to chisel a disk so that it, like Hammurabi’s, will endure in perpetuity. It’s a way cool idea that by the very nature of the process may prove to be a complicated sell.

The Problem:  All of those disks that you write – the ones that store your photos, music, important data – have a shelf life depending on lots of variables. In a word, like ink on paper, they are deteriorating from the moment we create them.

The Technology: Instead of the normal process, Millenniata uses DVD storage discs (called “M-Disc”) made of a new material, and then etches it deeply, like a chisel on a tablet. The disks are can hold up to some serious long-term abuse, and can also be played on any computer’s DVD drive. The technology does seem to have a lot going for it, and they have the test results to prove it on their website. The M-Disc looks like a standard Blu-Ray or DVD, but to save your data on M-Disc you’ll need Millenniata’s special hardware writer. To create the writer, Millenniata teamed up with power players LG and Hitachi. ZD Net did a nice job summarizing the test results. http://www.zdnet.com/blog/emergingtech/a-stone-like-optical-disc-that-lasts-for-millennia/2709

Bringing the Product to Market Could Be Messy: The M-Disc is comparable in costs to traditional media; no problem there. But buying a disc writer is already a complicated process that most people don’t think about – computers come standard with writable DVD drives, and we can store information on thumb drives and enormous capacity external hard drives that can fit in your pocket. Add to that some confusing packaging plastered with corporate logos: LG (distributor), Hitachi (creator of hard drive), and M-Disc (the product). Plus, the packaging touts compatibility with DVD and Blu-Ray, which could sound confusing.

Who Needs Data That Lasts Forever? The disc writer will be available this October and the company is targeting average-Joe consumers. Now, I know that consumers love their photos and songs, but I think we may actually be used to settling for finite life spans. Many of us have moved from film and vinyl, to iPods and DVDs already. In fact, this idea of actually etching the data into the disk sounds a lot like the vinyl recording technique – which could give a sort of “dinosaur” impression of the technology.

My guess is that ultimately the first generation of adopters will be archivists, genealogists, museums, publishing, military, doctors and others with a real business need for archives that last. If my doctor can produce the kids’ records in another 25 years, I think we’re on to something.

Big Apps on Campus, Part 3

For our final instalment, we invite you to check out some Apps for the Rest of the Time:

GPark

Platform: iOS

It was late. The lots were full. You lent the car to a friend. Whatever the reason, G Park lets you make note of where you parked and then retrieves it when it’s time to go. Just park your car and hit the park me button. The GPS coordinates mark a pin where you’ve parked, and you can also add a note like “Quad Row A”. It’s received mixed reviews from users but give it a whirl anyhow. For 99 cents you can’t go wrong.

Pennies

Platform: iOS

Ahh, freedom, independence, your own checking account…too bad it’s empty. Having trouble keeping track of where all that pizza money went? Pennies is a relatively simple app that was one of the first to be produced for the iPhone. It’s basically a money fuel gauge – you input how much money you have to spend for the month and it’ll keep track of how much you have left. You can also export your expenditures to an Excel file and categorize your purchases to see where you’re using (or wasting) the most. You’ll spend $2.99 on the app but at least you’ll know where your money goes.

BudgetBuster

Platform: iOS

On the same lines as Pennies but a little less sophisticated, BudgetBuster is a free app that lets you track your daily, weekly, and monthly expenses from your iPhone. For the overworked, underpaid, and loan-funded college student, BudgetBuster is a must.

Mooch!

Platform: iOS

If you’ve got a needy roommate around always asking to borrow your stuff, check out Mooch! For only $1.99, you can have a pretty sleek application that helps you keep track of everything you’ve ever borrowed or lent. The app will send email reminders, take snap shots of the items in question and display a history of things you’ve lent out to your friends.

PDANet

Platform: Android

If you’re working somewhere where WiFi is not to be found you want PDANet. It lets you use your laptop by tethering it to your smartphone and creating your own personal hotspot. The best part? Tethering doesn’t cost you anything if you have a data plan from your carrier, which most smartphone users already have. The app is free, with a premium version that can go to secured sites.

Astrid

Platform: Android, iOS, Windows Mobile, PalmOS, BlackBerry

Astrid is a to-do/task management app connected to the popular Remember the Milk app –the mother of all list keepers. Astrid is free, devoid of ads, and feature-packed. It chides you when you’ve let things go too long and gives you inspirational messages as well. The catch? You need to pay $25 for the Remember the Milk app first.

Rate My Professors

Platform: Web/Facebook

I’ve got mixed feelings about this one because professors tend to be rated on their ability to entertain and grade on the easy side of the spectrum as opposed to their actual ability to teach. But Rate My Professors can be useful when you’re deciding which courses to take and the site now has a Facebook application.

Wolfram|Alpha

Platforms: iOS, Android

Wolfram|Alpha’s motto is “Get Answers”: ccess expert knowledge, wherever you are, whenever you need it. Whether its finding out how much Vitamin D comes from 5 minutes in the sun or learning the GNP of any country in the world, Wolfram is like the Jeopardy of academics. For stats and quick answers, it’s unbeatable at $1.99 on all platforms, plus iPad. Wolfram also has related apps for calculus, geneology, and more.

iTunes U

Platform: iOS

Let’s say your professor is the worst but you really need to master the subject matter.  Chances are you can find the best of breed professor on any subject on iTunes U. Harvard, Stanford, MIT, and other top tier schools have their professors’ great lectures for you to play on your PC, iPad or any iTunes enabled device. And it’s all free.

And there we have it, folks. Smart phones, smart apps, smart college kids.

Big Apps on Campus, Part 2

With Part 2, we bring you a smorgasbord of Apps for Study-Time:

Cram

Platform: iPhone and iPad $3.99

SimpleLeap’s Cram is the OCD test-taker’s best friend. It’s got you covered on every inch of the testing process: studying, sample tests, and tracking of your score history. You can use digital flashcards to study, and access a database of thousands of user-generated tests to help in the study process. Cram’s app is available for the iPhone/iPod for $3.99. The app focuses on the test review and works along with a companion $30 program for the Mac called Cram.

BrainScape

Platform: iOS

BrainScape is a set of make-it-yourself flashcards on steroids. You can create your own Brainscape study cards or you can use what others have created and posted to the website.  The brainy part of BrainScape is its adaptive learning technology; they call it “Confidence-Based Repetition”. CBR is a combo repetition, active recall, and “metacognition”.  Basically, BrainScape asks you how well you feel you know the answer to a question. It’ll quiz you more on the questions you’re less comfortable with.  BrainScape is only available for iPod/iPhone. The study sets will set you back between $0.99 and $7.99, and some of them are free. Several of the paid sets also have free versions.

Wikipanion

Platform: iOS

Despite whatever emotions the faculty has about the viability of Wikipedia as a reference, you are bound to use it.  Using it from a browser on your phone can be pretty slow going.  Wikipanion gives you near immediate access to the Wikiservers: as you type your page choices appear. A new Plus version lets you queue up pages to read. Wikipanion is free and the Plus version is $4.99.

MindNode

Platform: iOS

Seeing connections between disparate subjects wins you big brownie points in college.  This brainstorming tool lets you create professional-looking mindmaps to see connections that may have gone unnoticed before. There is both a free version and a $20 pro version for Mac, as well as a $5.99 app for the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad.

Inigral School App for Facebook

Platform: Facebook

Facebook may have been born of the .edu world, but it’s become a bit of a morass for college students. Inigral School App is a third party Facebook app to get kids focused on the .edu part of life. It’s all about student engagement. Find a friend who’s as nuts about rock climbing as you are, start a study group for your theatre class, find folks with similar majors, similar educational backgrounds and reach out. Studies have shown that this type of engagement and activity increases student retention, so much so that the Gates Foundation has partnered with Inigral.

Soshiku

Platform: Phones that can text message

Suppose your phone is not all that smart, and is instead vintage. Take a look at Soshiku. Written by a guy at the tender age of 17, you can use SMS messaging and email to organize your semester by class and then keep track of assignments, notes and instructions. You’ll get a notification via email or SMS.  It’s free.

The final instalment is coming right up…

Big Apps on Campus, Part 1

Do They Make You…

A: Smarter

B: Dumber

C: More Organized, or

D: All of the Above?

We can debate whether today’s campuses foster smart kids, but there’s no debating the fact that those same smart kids all carry smart phones. If only phones could get diplomas. So smart kids…take your smart phones and hit up these apps (and app-related tools) that will help you make it through the school day.

Apps and Tools for Class-Time…

Kno

Platforms: iPad, Facebook, Web

A tool that hopes to drive printed textbooks into oblivion, Kno is a free app that can be used for downloading and reading e-textbooks on the web, Facebook, and iPad. The free part, of course, ends the moment you finish downloading the app and start buying textbooks. But even elementary student math tells you that e-books are a better value than their printed counterparts.  Plus, you can do nifty things with it like take notes – without messing up the margins of your book.

The Kno developers just rolled out the iPad version; their own website also has several excellent new features. You can access your text from any browser device and even your Facebook account – leaving the unprepared student with no excuses. Kno is today’s best reason to ditch your backpack of books. The Kno team’s original gameplan was to create an educational tablet; they changed their focus to software this past year; their change is every student’s gain.

EverNote

Platform: iOS, Android, Windows, Internet Explorer, FireFox , WebOS

EverNote is like the Lexus of note-taking programs. A note here, a web citation there, a bit of data, a voicememo to self, a photo, a sound bite, a scribble, a PDF: this is the stuff the college kid’s day is made of, and EverNote handles them all. EverNote is the king of minutiae and will come in handy during class, at the library, or even as the A-HA moment hits you in the shower. There are other note-capturing apps out there, but EverNote has been around long enough to mature and have a number of extensions that work with things like Dropbox. A new extension, Note Peek (only on the iPad 2), lets you use the app like a flashcard by using the iPad2 cover to hide and reveal answers. Notes can be accessed from any device, are searchable, and able to be organized into handy notebooks. Because EverNote runs on so many platforms, you’ll have access from everywhere. The basic version is free with 50MB of data storage, and premium plans with more storage are available.

Notational Velocity

Platform: iOS

Another note-taker app that’s gaining momentum with the nerdier crowd is Notational Velocity. It caters to those who see connections. Unlike Evernote, with its multimedia strength, Notational Velocity focuses on text. Jot down a one line observation and save it for a rainy day. According to its creator, Zachary Schneirov, when you type the title of a new note, Notational Velocity displays any existing notes whose bodies or titles contain matching text, and are thus presumably related. Your notes become self-organizing. The shorter the note, the more effectively you can locate information. In a nutshell, a thought is a note, and notes are searchable from the very first key you enter. Again, the magic sauce is that you can access your notes and add to them from anywhere. The open-source app is hosted on GitHub which means anyone can modify and improve the code.

LiveScribe Pen

Platform: LiveScribe ($99 and up)

It’s not actually an app, but it could save your college life. LiveScribe is a pen-computing platform with the focal point being a hardware pen. The pen itself is slightly thicker than normal. Inside the pen is a (really!) powerful computer that not only lets you take handwritten notes, but records every written and spoken word as you’re writing.  The magic is the specially gridded paper that is smart enough to know that your written notes corresponds to an exact portion of the lecture. Livescribe matches the recording to your note. Save your combo audio/note recordings as pencasts and share them with your community. If you’ve ever looked at your class notes and wondered “What was the hell was he taking about” or “how did my pen just nod off the paper like that”,  this is your savior. And if you believe that handwriting causes some deeper connection and jotting and drawing are an important part of typing notes then you’ll become an addict. In addition, there are a number of apps available for the pen, including a language translator, a calculator, and study guides.

iStudiez Pro

Platform: iPad and iPhone

After “just showing up”, the next most important element for success in college is keeping organized.  Wall calendars do the trick if you’re a dorm body, but on the road, one of the ways to manage class schedules, sports practice, assignments, exams and even the weekly movie is with iStudiez Pro. Think Outlook for school with really nice graphics and multiple views of what your life looks like. Strongest feature?  Uses the Cloud to synchronize your calendar amongst devices and accounts. Downside? With color coding, notes, grade information, etc, you can spend so long organizing that you never get anything done. For $2.99 it’s a good tool, when used responsibly.

Stay tuned for Part 2…

Robin Raskin talks about going back to school

Robin Raskin talks about going back to school

Intel’s Holiday LineUp Is a HeadScratcher

Study Suggests We Love our Gadgets Even More than Family or Food
Today, at Intel Tech Wonderland in New York, the company featured its holiday best – but the message bordered on bizarre. The new technologies were presented along with a survey that could make you embarrassed to be an American. Those surveyed, it turns out, like their high tech – maybe too much. A majority of Americans would rather give up their favorite food for an entire year than part with their gadget. But the real survey zinger was that 61% of Americans wouldn’t give up their gadgets even if it meant spending more time with their family. And in the ultimate of selfish statistics, 27 million Americans have hid a gadget from someone so they wouldn’t have to share. Intel’s interpretation of the data is that we love our tech; mine is that we’re selfish bastards with a heavy dose Peter Pan syndrome.

 

UltraBook Technology The technology fared better than the survey. The most exciting thing you’ll see is a new category of notebook PC Intel is calling an Ultrabook. The Ultrabooks will use the Ultra Low Voltage 2nd generation Intel Core processor , which translates to long battery life, a slim design and near instanteous start up. Expected price is under $1,000 which makes it a perfect machine for those who need more power than a tablet or netbook but hate the bulk of most notebooks.
Built into the processor is Intel Quick Sync which can burn a DVD or Blu-ray, edit video and transfer it to other devices at what Intel claims is twice the speed of the previous generation. And Intel Insider is sort of Intel’s own little world of content from a number of movie studios that you can download to purchase or rent. (Historically, Intel has had little success in the content delivery market, but never say never. In an innovative move the company is working with both Bollywood and Hollywood).
Clearly the next generation Intel Core processor is an improvement, but the types of improvements most people are looking for these days involve cross platform mobility and cloud based applications. Notebooks have been growing increasingly ultra (faster, slimmer, cheaper) for years. A new Ultras needs to focus on the new applications. (See Tom’s Hardware for a great analysis)
You get the feeling that sometimes Intel is so enamored of their own technology that they forget to think about what real people do most of the time. And as for the survey? Why tout America’s obsession with toys? You can borrow my gadget for a piece of peanut butter chocolate pie anytime.

Have you noticed that today’s kids don’t have their own superheroes? Batman, WonderWoman, Spiderman, Superman – seriously, isn’t it time forsome new blood in the hero-sphere? Herotopia is here to save the day!

Herotopia can best be described as a cross between Carmen Sandiego meets Pajama Sam (this is a memory test for kids media mavens). Superkids become superheroes with superpowersas they travel to exotic world locations, uncovering clues and facts through interactive games.

The play has a bit of everything. Visit Paris and learn a few facts about the Eiffel tower. Adopt an Orangutan sidekick and it’s your own Tomogatchi to keep healthy and happy. There’s a global social change component where kids earn points for charitable deeds. And there’s a social network that makes Club Penguin rather juvenile and dated. Of course you can play acertain amount for free, but if you want real superhero accessories, multiple superpowers, superhideouts, herograms (er, email) and more you’re going to need the all access membership which starts at $5.95 a month.

I found the art charming, and the idea of a globetrotting superkid appealling. Let your kids try the free version, gauge the reaction and see where it takes you. You may turn out to be the hero of the family.

Study Suggests We Love our Gadgets Even More than Family or Food
Today, at Intel Tech Wonderland in New York, the company featured its holiday best – but the message bordered on bizarre. The new technologies were presented along with a survey that could make you embarrassed to be an American. Those surveyed, it turns out, like their high tech – maybe too much. A majority of Americans would rather give up their favorite food for an entire year than part with their gadget. But the real survey zinger was that 61% of Americans wouldn’t give up their gadgets even if it meant spending more time with their family. And in the ultimate of selfish statistics, 27 million Americans have hid a gadget from someone so they wouldn’t have to share. Intel’s interpretation of the data is that we love our tech; mine is that we’re selfish bastards with a heavy dose Peter Pan syndrome.

 

UltraBook Technology The technology fared better than the survey. The most exciting thing you’ll see is a new category of notebook PC Intel is calling an Ultrabook. The Ultrabooks will use the Ultra Low Voltage 2nd generation Intel Core processor , which translates to long battery life, a slim design and near instanteous start up. Expected price is under $1,000 which makes it a perfect machine for those who need more power than a tablet or netbook but hate the bulk of most notebooks.
Built into the processor is Intel Quick Sync which can burn a DVD or Blu-ray, edit video and transfer it to other devices at what Intel claims is twice the speed of the previous generation. And Intel Insider is sort of Intel’s own little world of content from a number of movie studios that you can download to purchase or rent. (Historically, Intel has had little success in the content delivery market, but never say never. In an innovative move the company is working with both Bollywood and Hollywood).
Clearly the next generation Intel Core processor is an improvement, but the types of improvements most people are looking for these days involve cross platform mobility and cloud based applications. Notebooks have been growing increasingly ultra (faster, slimmer, cheaper) for years. A new Ultras needs to focus on the new applications. (See Tom’s Hardware for a great analysis)
You get the feeling that sometimes Intel is so enamored of their own technology that they forget to think about what real people do most of the time. And as for the survey? Why tout America’s obsession with toys? You can borrow my gadget for a piece of peanut butter chocolate pie anytime.