Tag Archives: Tech

New App helps pay for college

Speshh is mobile based. Image from Speshh.com
Speshh is mobile based. Image from Speshh.com

College is great. You meet new friends, get away from home, and live new life experiences but along with all that also comes the enormous debt you pile on semester after semester when you actually attended college. Some of us are lucky, we have great paying jobs which makes it easier to afford colleges and some of us even get scholarships to pay for the tuition, but not everyone is that lucky and needs assistance to pay for college and everything that goes with it.

That’s where Speshh comes in. Speshh is a crowdfunding app that helps college students raise money, all through an app. With Speshh, college students can ask their friends and family but if their goal is not met or looks a little low, Speshh gets involves by asking their business partners to help donate to your cause.

“We found that one of the main reasons that campaigns fail are due to not being shared enough with potential donators,” says Sibel Suleyman, Co-Founder of Speshh. “Speshh could call on business partners who may be able to fund the rest of the campaign with CSR money that is dedicated to this type of activity.”

What makes Speshh different from other crowd-funding sites, like Indiegogo or Kickstarter, is it is completely app based, making it easier for college students to use and access. Speshh is a lot like Kickstarter though, having an “all or nothing” funding behind is. This means that if you don’t reach your goal, then you get none of the money you raised which could be a turn off for students since Indiegogo lets you keep whatever you raise.

Speshh also has a percentage it keeps, like Indiegogo and Kickstarter, but at the beginning of your campaign, Speshh lets you know what the percentage is and works it into the money you need donated so there is no loss for you.

Currently this app is only available to college students, meaning you need an edu email address to register for the app and to begin campaigning.

Speshh is set to release in June 2015 but is currently testing out the app and allowing people to register early.

Smartphone case lets you print photos

Photo courtesy of Prynt

Remember the good ol’ days when you got excited for a photo to develop? And then after three minutes of patiently waiting, you found out you had the perfect smile but your eyes were closed? Yeah, I miss the fun that came with instant photos too.

Polaroid discontinued film in 2008, and ever since then instant film photography has become this hipster trend. There are apps like Instant and Polamatic, which add white polaroid-like frames and filters to your photos. Cameras like Fuji Film’s Insta Max 8 and 210, have become a popular accessory for tweens and hipsters. But I don’t blame them. There’s just something genuinely special about instant film and holding something tangible. So I was intrigued when I heard about Prynt, a phone case that turns your smartphone into a modern Polaroid camera.

Prynt lets you print photos straight from your phone. Just attach the case to your iPhone or Android device and take a photo using the app. Within 30 seconds an image emerges from the case. You can even print photos from your camera album, Instagram and Facebook.

Like a Polaroid, the case comes with 10 “rolls” of photo paper, and you can restock on the digital film through the app. It’s powered by a battery and works offline.

In 2011, graphic designer Mac Funamizu came up with a similar concept called The Sophie. But unlike Funamizu’s product, Prynt has this augmented-reality feature. Each time you take a photo, the app records a short video. When you hold your phone over the printed image, your photo comes to life.

There are some downsides to this gadget though. The case is too bulky. So it probably won’t fit in your pocket. As of now, it’s only available for the iPhone 5 and 6 and the Galaxy S4 and S5.

According to the Kickstarter campaign, the product is currently under development. It’s expected to be released this summer for $99.

 Video courtesy of Prynt

 

 

 

 

Club Nintendo announces new rewards before service closes

Mourning the loss of Club Nintendo, with exclusive items from the program on display. Photo/Graphic by Caty McCarthy.

Club Nintendo is a U.S.-based rewards program by gaming giant Nintendo, offering digital and physical prizes in exchange for coins earned from registering first-party Nintendo games and filling out surveys. After its seven years of service, Club Nintendo is coming to an end on June 30, 2015, but not without some final prizes to offer members.

I’ve been a member of the joyous rewards program for as long as I can remember (I cannot recall anything in my life prior to 2008, apparently). I’ve redeemed prizes, hoarded coins, shaken my fist at the screen when I didn’t have enough for that rare gold nunchuk, used my Club Nintendo-exclusive Pikmin tote bag whenever a situation required it, for like, shopping and stuff. There were various instances where before purchasing a game I asked, “But can I register this game on Club Nintendo???” I even got the delightful invitation to attend the Wii U Experience at Fort Mason for being a Club Nintendo member, where myself and friends were able to play the Wii U before anyone else. We drank blue-tinted Jones soda and ate cookies that said #WiiU, and posed with Nintendo-related props for pictures. I love Club Nintendo and all it has to offer, and that’s why when Nintendo announced its closure a fortnight ago I got really sad.

On February 2, however, President of Nintendo of America Reggie Fils-Aimé parted the figurative clouds of Club Nintendo, revealing a staggering slew of new rewards. It’s their way of saying “spend your coins or you’ll regret it.” A host of 117 games total, including Earthbound, Super Metroid, Game & Wario, Super Mario 3D Land, and The Wonderful 101, and 13 new physical rewards are now available to Club Nintendo members. Among the most enticing of the physical rewards include exclusive posters, a classy 2016 calendar, adorable pastel-hued Animal Crossing playing cards, a Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask messenger bag, and even a Majora’s Mask jigsaw puzzle.

The final day to register games for coins is March 31, and the last day to redeem coins for rewards is June 30. On July 1, Club Nintendo will shut down for good to be eventually replaced by an as-of-yet unannounced new rewards program by Nintendo.

Alas, Club Nintendo is nearly dead and buried, and what a sad thing that is. But at least they’re going out with a bang.

You’ll be fit, just watch

Laura Devine runs on the track wearing her Fitbit Thursday September 25, 2014. (Martin Bustamante/ Xpress Magazine)
Laura Devine runs on the track wearing her Fitbit Thursday September 25, 2014. (Martin Bustamante/ Xpress Magazine)

Apple’s watch is coming, and soon we will all be fit.

Of course, that is exaggerating. Not everyone will buy the new watch and magically be more fit. But people are interested in this marriage of tech and fitness. So interested, it is now a $330 million dollar industry. The new Apple product, set to be on the market in early 2015, will work as an extension to the iPhone. From the watch, users can view the information they already monitor daily, like messages, events, maps, and email – all from their wrist. It might not sound much different other smartwatches, like the Pebble, but this data will also include statistics we are not exactly used to seeing on the same screen as our text messages.

The watch will come in two sizes, 1.4 inches by 1.6 inches, and 1.2 inches by 1.5 inches. It will be available in stainless steel, aluminum – even gold. The bands come in a few varieties as well, including a sports style and leather. A digital “crown,” or knob, located on the side of the watch will be the main control feature, allowing users to switch through texts, events, and maps by turning or pressing it down.

The band tracks movement, heart rate, minutes spent standing instead of sitting, and even calories burned. And if it did not have your heart before, it does now. It also allows users a more intimate type of communication by the ability to feel a friend’s live heartbeat on their own watch.

Other companies have already capitalized on this type of data collection. Fitbit’s bands inform users of steps taken, calories burned, level of activity throughout the day, and even their sleep cycle. The company’s most basic trackers starts at $60 and cap at $100 for the most comprehensive tracker that also monitors sleep cycles. Jawbone’s wristband called “UP” does all of the same things and can even work with a third-party application to give users “nudges” throughout the day when it senses they are close to a goal.

Misfit released one of the most affordable activity trackers yet this past September. Like UP and Fitbit, Misfit’s wristband, called “Flash,” also tracks calories, distance, and sleep, but for only $50.

SF State senior Laura Devine jogs and lifts weights about five days out of the week. She bought a Fitbit Flex in June because it seemed to suit her lifestyle.

“I’m one of those people who’s very aware of what they’re eating and their fitness,” she says. “And it seemed appealing. It tracks steps, distance. It helps you set up goals, it tracks your sleep.”

But the real value of the band is in the data aggregation. Devine views all of her up-to- date fitness statistics from her computer. It is easy and interesting to view, she says.

Her Fitbit Flex has also revealed things about herself she never thought about before. “I don’t think people realize how much time we spend sitting around doing nothing,” she says. “ It allows you to see, ‘Oh, wow, I was a bum that day.’ Fitbit is this reminder to get up and get moving, and it congratulates you when you do.”

Though innovative and comprehensive, Apple Watch is a bit late to the game. Rather than jumping in and quickly producing any type of band just to compete, the company planted its feet and waited. So, in typical Apple fashion, when the product is released next year, it will be inclusive and likely done right. And in January, many will probably line up at the doors for the watch because of the name behind it and quality guarantee they expect. Others will clamor for the product because of its non-fitness-related features, like reading texts and getting directions.

 

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But some will buy this for another reason: they now believe that their health – like finances and messages – is important and easy enough to monitor daily. This could be the starting point of a mass culture shift.

MobiHealthNews reported the fitness device market to be worth $330 million at the end of 2013. And research suggests it will reach $2 billion worldwide by 2018, according to the same report.

Wearable fitness technology could seriously change how we maintain our health. Instead of asking the doctor how you are doing, you will be able to see for yourself – and you will know the specifics. You will know that three days out of the week, you sit most of the day, and on those same days, your level of brisk activity hits an all-time low.

The purpose of these gadgets is to get people moving, but the strategy is upfront and personal. For the first time ever, people are seeing proof of what they did or did not do that day. They can see how much time they spent sitting at a desk or in front of a television. These customized, real-time updates are appealing to many, the numbers show.

It is impossible to gauge the positive long-term effects in health so early in the game. But recent data from Fitbit showed that its users increased their number of steps taken in a day by 43 percent on average since they began using the devices.

The trend is making waves in the business world as well.

Derek Newell, Chief Executive Officer of JIFF, a technology firm that provides digital health tools to companies, has seen an improvement. Speaking at a consumer electronics show earlier this year, he says that digital technology has improved employee wellness programs and lowered the cost of the company’s overall investment. He attributes this to the active, “real-time” nature of the applications.

But not everyone is excited about this high-tech form of fitness tracking. Freshman Martin K. does weight lifting a few times a week and he is hesitant to use wearable fitness trackers.

“I’m just not used to it,” he says. “It’s sort of new, and it takes time for someone to adopt it. I don’t feel comfortable wearing something like that when I work out. I don’t think I would find it useful.”

So not everyone is won over, and will sink $50 or more into a gadget simply because it is the next “it thing.” Still, the industry is steadily growing.

But with a company like Apple endorsing wearable fitness tech, it does not sound so crazy to say this trend could change things – in health and in healthcare.

James Milligan, community manager at Kaiser Permanente in San Francisco, says if the devices can do what they are intended to do, he expects a reduction in healthcare bills. But wearables are not the only a piece of the puzzle.

As of now, the watch is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, but that could change if lots of consumers with serious health conditions begin to depend on the watch for aid.

“Anything that gets people moving, like a Fitbit is a great idea,” Milligan says. “Whether it will reduce healthcare costs in the future… I presume it will if people can invest in healthy eating and active living.”

So Apple’s watch is coming early next year. We will be able to send our heartbeats to other users, we will be able to view our distance walked, and we will be able to see the number of times we stood up in the day.

But the milestone is bigger than Apple’s next “it” product. We will soon monitor our health as easily as we do our text messages.

Mix music with Crossfader

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Blare two songs at the same time and chances are it will sound like trash being dumped into a garbage truck. But sometimes it creates a pleasant surprise, like late at night in a Castro bar where Rihanna’s “Rude Boy” mixes perfectly with Iyaz’s song “Replay.”

It takes a well-trained ear to match two independent tracks into something audible, but there is now an app to make the process easier. Bay Area entrepreneur Seth Goldstein’s latest project involves a group of fourteen developers and audiophiles creating an interactive DJ platform for smartphones.

The app is called Crossfader, and it might sound intimidating, but it is not really — all it takes is tilting your phone to achieve the perfect remix.

The app divides a smartphone screen into two audio tracks. Leaning it one way increases the volume of the song on that side. DJs have categorized the music into packs of complementary beats that are played on a loop.

Each pack contains a dozen of these loops for the user to mix into rhythmic perfection. A quick scroll through two packs will blend artists like Lil’ Wayne and The Clash into an unexpectedly catchy remix. Lean the phone one way for a heavier rock vibe, or tilt it the other way for more rap.

The developers went to Amsterdam on October 14th to test Crossfader Live. This latest version of the app broadcasts users’ live remix sessions, which can be organized into sets for future playback.

One of the team members, Hannah Fouasnon, says she is pleased with how the app has done since its launch a year ago.

“The curation of the music has been very well received,” Fouasnon says. “A lot of people use the app for music discovery.”

While the app contains mostly remixes of electronic dance music, or EDM, there are also packs for other genres such as reggae, metal, and funk. Users have the freedom to match up Bob Marley against Slayer, but just because they can does not mean they should.

The app is most popular among males ages sixteen to twenty-four years old, and of these, the vast majority are EDM lovers.

“We’re trying to create a DJ community,” Fouasnon says.

If, however, Crossfader wants to expand its demographic, it will have to start promoting its other genres. Hailey Ackermann, a twenty-three-year-old student, felt she could not relate to the app.

“It’s fun, but I don’t know if I would ever actually use it,” Ackermann says. “I guess because it’s not the music I typically listen to.”

Crossfader has also had some glitches on the iPhone’s new operating system, iOS 8. Some users have tried opening it only to find it closes immediately. But for those who genuinely appreciate electronic remixes and want more control of the beat, this free app is still worth a try.

Apps to get you moving in the morning

Photo under  Creative Commons by Steven Lilley
Photo under Creative Commons by Steven Lilley

With summer officially over, fun late nights turn into study sessions and mornings become a challenge of how many times you can successfully hit the snooze button before being late.

The bad habit of hitting the snooze button can get some of us in trouble though, causing us to be late for whatever we originally set the alarm for in the first place. So what can we do to become more of a morning person and less of a late person?

There is an easy solution for that or a better way of saying it, there is an app for that. Companies are now creating apps that literally force you to put some work into turning your alarm off, virtually making it impossible to go back to sleep after the task is completed, honestly if you can go back to sleep after these, please YouTube it.

iPhone:

BetterMe

 

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Better Me is a free app that publicly shames you every time you hit the snooze button by posting a status to your Facebook saying you were too weak to get up. So if you don’t want to look like a weak, lazy person, the goal is to not hit the snooze.

Walk Up is an alarm that makes you literally get out of bed and walk a certain number of steps before the alarm will shut off. The worse part about this app is the alarm, which is a screaming male or female voice. You can program the app with how many steps you want to take and cost ninety-nine cents. This app is also available for Android but it is called Walk Me Up!.

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FreakyAlarm is the evil of all evil alarm clock apps. This baby has 30 different alarms that can go off and the snooze button will not work. The only way to turn your alarm off is to do a series of tasks which  include solving math, taking pictures of items around your house or scanning barcodes. It costs one dollar and ninety-nine cents in the app store.

Android

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Morning Routine which is also free, is even worse. In order to get your alarm to turn off you must walk around your house and scan the bar codes of items that are incorporated into your morning routine, like your toothpaste. Another app similar to Morning Routine is Alarmy also known as Sleep If You Can which is essentially the same except you take pictures instead of scanning a bar code. Yes, go ahead and selfie with your milk carton.

Alarm Clock Xtreme makes you do basic math questions and gets that brain working before the alarm will turn off. You can program the app yourself by designing how many math problems you want to complete and the difficulty of the math problem. This app would never work for me, I fail at math and would destroy my phone trying to turn the alarm off.

Alarm Clock Plus is the same thing as FreakAlarm but for the Android. It has a combination of task you much complete before your alarm will shut off. It has a cool nap feature on it, and who doesn’t like awesome naps but also can be displayed as a normal beside clock.

These apps would definitely help me wake up and in the morning and never be late to a class again. What about you? Would you consider using one of these apps to prevent being late?