Friday, June 23, 2017

15 Weird Smart Home Gadgets No One Should Ever Want

By Dan Price  

When you picture a smart home, what’s the first thing that pops into your head? Perhaps smart thermostats and intelligent security systems. Or maybe you’re more interested in whole-house audio. You might even think about stuff for your garden like smart sprinkler systems and automatic lawnmowers.
These gadgets are all very different, but they’re all undeniably useful. These days, they’re also all somewhat mainstream.
But for every useful and meaningful gadget out there, there are 10 that are utterly inexplicable. Some are so strange, it’s remarkable that anyone ever buys them.
Join us on a journey as we take a whirlwind tour through the weird and wonderful world of bizarre smart home gadgets.

1. Bruno

What It Does: Combines a vacuum cleaner and trash can into a single device.
Sure, no one likes vacuuming the house — that’s why Roombas were invented. Similarly, no one likes taking the trash out on collection day.These Robots Will Help You Clean and Wash Your House These Robots Will Help You Clean and Wash Your HouseToday’s consumers aren’t limited to robots that can vacuum. The market now includes droids that mop floors, clean windows, and even fold your laundry.READ MORE
Bruno can’t do either of those things by itself, but it can remind you when trash day is imminent, send you a notification when your bin is almost full, and hoover up dust through a slot at the bottom. All vital features, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Bruno is on sale for $199. A six-month supply of bags costs an eye-watering $40 per packet.

2. Flatev

What It Does: A pod-based tortilla maker.
The makers of Flatev have decided that mixing flour, baking powder, and water is too complicated for most people. If you want to make tortillas, you need to use “dough pods” — much like Keurig’s coffee pods.
The optimist in me says I’m glad they realized we’ve been doing it wrong for 12,000 years. My inner cynic, however, says the 79-cent-per-tortilla pods are the company’s driving motivation.

3. Orbnext

What It Does: Glows different colors to “visualize” information.
What’s one thing you’ve always wanted on your desk? A custom-built high-end computer? An expensive sculpture by a famous artist? A top-of-the-range intercom system? … An annoying glowing cube?3 Simple Ways to Save Money When Building a New Computer 3 Simple Ways to Save Money When Building a New ComputerThere are a few tips and tricks you should know to save even more money when building a PC.READ MORE
Orbnext glows different colors to inform you about everything from stock prices to the weather. Shell out the $129 and you’ll be the envy of your colleagues in no time. Or not.

4. Flosstime

What It Does: Reminds you to floss your teeth at regular intervals.
Smart devices in the bathroom aren’t as crazy as you think — they can perform important functions to keep your personal hygiene on track. But an intelligent floss dispenser? It’s a bit much.Smart Devices in the Washroom? It's Not as Crazy as You Think Smart Devices in the Washroom? It's Not as Crazy as You ThinkTechnology may seem out of place in the washroom, but these smart devices might just change your mind -- and your morning routine!READ MORE
Flosstime sticks to your mirror and dispenses floss when you tap it. It “smiles” at you when you’re flossing regularly, “frowns” when you’ve missed a session, and even times each individual clean.

5. Eight Sleep

What It Does: It’s a smart bed cover.
The Eight Sleep cover can turn any dumb old bed into a smart bed. It will monitor 12 vital sleep metrics (their words, not mine), give you a daily report on your sleep performance, and sync with other Wi-Fi gadgets in your home.
I’m not sure how our ancestors ever survived without one.

6. Porkfolio

What It Does: A smart piggy bank to help kids save money.
You know what today’s kids really need? A way to spend even more time staring at their smartphone screens.I Stared at Screens for 48 Hours and Here's What Happened... I Stared at Screens for 48 Hours and Here's What Happened...I recently agreed to do something very stupid: subject myself to as much screen time as possible over the span of 48 hours. How did this experiment affect me? Read on to find out...READ MORE
Porkfolio will achieve just that. It can count coins as they’re inserted (apparently, manually counting money is too strenuous), send updates on saving goals, and alert the owner if someone tampers with it.

7. June Oven

What It Does: A smart oven that knows what you’re cooking.
A smart oven isn’t inherently a bad idea. I’m sure we’ve all burned at least one dinner in our lives after getting distracted by something.
But an oven with built-in HD camera so you can watch what you’re making? What’s wrong with just peeking through the door?

8. Quirky Refuel

What It Does: Monitors your propane tank so you don’t run out of gas mid-barbecue.
The Quirky Refuel is one of the more sensible ideas on this list, but that doesn’t mean it’s not weird.
The device clasps around the neck of your gas tank and will send you a smartphone alert when you’re getting low. It can handle tanks of up to 20 pounds.

9. Hidrate Spark

What It Does: A smart water bottle that reminds you to drink regularly.
Okay, those last two gadgets were far too sensible, let’s get back to being weird.
Hidrate Spark is a $55 Bluetooth-enabled water bottle that will remind you to drink water at regular intervals. You know, just in case you don’t recognize that feeling of extreme thirst in the back of your throat.
On the plus side, it does look pretty when it glows…

10. Belty Good Vibes

What It Does: A smart belt that helps you lead a healthier lifestyle.
Nothing is safe from the smart revolution. Want proof? One manufacturer has deemed that we all need a smart belt.
Visit the website, and you’ll see one of the device’s key selling points is that it will “change your life simply by breathing.” I’ll say no more.
What? You do want to learn more? Okay, well it costs $395. Still keen?

11. Sensoria Socks

What It Does: A pair of smart socks, like a fitness band for your feet.
At $199, the Sensoria Socks are probably some of the most expensive foot garments in the world. Just make sure you don’t put a hole in them.
They can do all the usual fitness band stuff like count steps and monitor calories burned, but they can also give feedback on your foot landing technique and cadence.How to Get Your Best Workout Using Fitness Sensors How to Get Your Best Workout Using Fitness SensorsThere are lots of devices and apps that will help you exercise and stay healthy. Here are some of the latest innovations in the area of fitness sensors.READ MORE
If that’s the kind of stuff that keeps you awake at night, these socks are money well-spent.

12. Sobro

What It Does: A smart coffee table.
I know what you’re thinking. A smart coffee table is going to monitor stuff like food and drink intake, time spent with your feet up, and how many biscuits you dunk in your tea.
Wrong. Sobro has a refrigerator, two USB ports, two power outlets, Bluetooth speakers, touchscreen controls and colorful LED lights.
Useful? Maybe. But at this point, is it even still a coffee table?

13. Lovebox

What It Does: A “discreet” way to message loved ones.
If you’re in a secretive relationship, you might want to communicate in with your loved one in a discreet fashion since WhatsApp and SMS could be too risky.
If the manufacturer is to be believed, you need a Lovebox. When you get a message, the lid lifts up and the red heart on the front starts spinning.
Because it seems nothing says “discreet” quite like a spinning bright red heart.

14. HushMe

What It Does: Shields your phone conversations from curious ears.
The HushMe connects to your phone and covers your mouth. No one will be able to see or hear what you’re saying to other people.
But if you don’t fancy walking around with a human version of a dog muzzle covering your face all day, you could always try whispering instead.

15. Kerastase Hair Coach

What It Does: A smart hairbrush developed by L’Oréal and Kerastase.
When did you learn to brush your hair? I’d imagine it was around the same time you learned to tie your shoelaces and tell the time.
However, it seems L’Oréal and Kerastase think we all need a helping hand. The Hair Coach has three microphones, accelerometer, and gyroscope, all of which combine to give you “brushing tips” in the accompanying smartphone app.
Thanks, but no thanks.

Share Your Weirdest Smart Home Gadgets

There you have it. The 15 weirdest smart devices you can find anywhere in the world right now.
If this article has opened your eyes to some of the horrors of the smart home world for the first time, consider this: we are only just witnessing the start of the smart home revolution. Think things look weird now? Let’s talk again in another decade!
Which devices and gadgets have you stumbled across that deserve a mention? As always, you can leave your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.
Image Credits: Kues/Shutterstock  Source:

Meet Dr. A.I.: Can an App Diagnose Your Health Issues?

By Joel Lee  

When was the last time you had a non-emergency healthcare check? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Americans made 19 percent fewer doctor visits in 2010 compared to 2001. It’s not just that fewer people are going to the doctor — although that’s absolutely true — but even those who visit the doctor are making fewer annual visits.
Part of it has to do with a lack of time. It also has to do with unaffordable healthcare costs. And for some, it can involve a mixture of pride (“only weaklings go to the doctor”) and denial (“I’ll just wait it out”). Regardless, people are increasingly ignoring preventive care — which is a shame because preventive care saves lives and is cheaper in the long run.
So what if you could diagnose your ailments without ever visiting a doctor or the hospital, all with the help of artificial intelligence? With HealthTap’s Dr. A.I., this is now actually possible.

Get a Health Diagnosis Without Leaving Home

In 2011, The Marist Poll found that approximately 37 percent of Americans use the web to self-diagnose health issues “at least sometimes.” You can imagine how much greater that figure is today with the prevalence of sites like WebMD, Mayo Clinic, RightDiagnosis, etc.
Why take a trip to a clinic and spend a co-payment when you can get “the same” advice with a few Google searches? At least, that’s how many are starting to think, especially with concerns over rising healthcare costs. Despite the dangers of self-diagnosis, people are willing to take that risk.
But HealthTap is different.
Launched in 2010, HealthTap is a web service that offers personalized health advice instead of general web articles that tend to be too vague to be helpful. This personalized help is made possible by the 100,000+ doctors and experts who you can directly contact using HealthTap’s platform for a small fee.You Can Now Ask Alexa for Medical Advice You Can Now Ask Alexa for Medical AdviceAlexa has learned a new skill, and this one turns Amazon's smart assistant into a fount of medical knowledge. Just make sure you get a second opinion, eh.READ MORE
But while HealthTap’s affordable and convenient service has proven helpful to many over the years, it still isn’t as free or convenient as searching Google. Which is why HealthTap recently launched a new service called Dr. A.I.
Dr. A.I. is an artificial intelligence that pulls in billions of data points, statistics, and insights from health experts across the world over the last six years. This “knowledge” (or “expertise”) is then filtered and applied specifically to you based on your age, gender, lifestyle, medical history, current medications, and symptoms.
Dr. A.I. is the best of both worlds. Whereas a vague search like “headache above right eye” can only return equally-vague results, Dr. A.I. incorporates dozens of different factors to arrive at a more specific (and often more accurate) diagnosis of your ailment. If your diagnosis is serious, Dr. A.I. also offers follow-ups with real doctors and experts through HealthTap.
And yes, Dr. A.I. is completely free to use.

Step-by-Step Demonstration of Using Dr. A.I.

Dr. A.I. may sound a bit suspicious to you. Believe me, I was skeptical too when I first heard about it — so I waited until I wasn’t feeling good, then gave it a test run to see where its diagnostic powers led me. As it turns out, Dr. A.I. is easier to use and more helpful than I expected.
Download — HealthTap for Android and iOS (Free)
Step 1: Health profile. In order to use Dr. A.I., you have to first create a free HealthTap account. Once created, launch the mobile app and log into your account. You’ll need to set up a health profile, which includes details like age, gender, ethnicity, weight, height, conditions, medications, etc.
It’s mostly optional, but the more information you provide, the more accurate the app will be. You can also create multiple profiles (e.g. for others in your household). The good thing is that you only have to set up these profiles the first time you use the app (with the occasional update as your health changes).
Step 2: Symptom details. To get started, tap Find out why at the top of the app where it says “Experiencing symptoms?” Select the profile for whom the symptoms apply, update any changes to your health profile from the last time you used the app, then start typing in your symptom. If you don’t see the symptom you have in mind, try rephrasing it (“sore back” versus “back pain”).
Step 3: Refine symptoms. For each symptom you input, Dr. A.I. will ask several follow-up questions to help refine what you mean. For example, there’s a big difference between a headache that makes you dizzy and lose balance versus a headache that pounds and makes you sensitive to light.
You’ll have to repeat the follow-up process for every symptom you have, and each symptom has its own set of refinements. It may seem like a lot of work, but it’s necessary for greater accuracy in results. This level of detail is what separates Dr. A.I. from other symptom-checking sites on the web.
Step 4: View results. Once you’re done, Dr. A.I. will need a few minutes to assess your symptoms and find likely matches. In my case, I love how it tells me that “tension headache” is far more likely than “migraine” or “meningitis.” Can you imagine the undue stress I’d have if I was told I might have meningitis? No thanks.
The results may seem similar to what you’d get if you’d searched WebMD, Mayo Clinic, etc. The difference is that Dr. A.I. pulls in many more data points than those sites do, then combines artificial intelligence with a massive database to pinpoint the most likely results in your specific case. It doesn’t just find all possible ailments and list them for you to explore further on your own.
But perhaps the best reason to use Dr. A.I. is that it gets better over time. The more you use it, the more data it has on you. This informs the artificial intelligence and leads to even more specialized, more accurate answers with each future consult.
Dr. A.I. is still brand new with lots of room to improve, so don’t expect it to be 100 percent accurate or reliable. It’s better than searching on Google, but until you speak to an actual medical professional (on HealthTap or elsewhere), diagnoses should still be taken with a grain of salt.

AI Is the Future of Diagnostic Medicine

If you aren’t impressed by Dr. A.I., I implore you to reconsider.
According to the National Center for Policy Analysis, about 10 to 20 percent of all cases are misdiagnosed by doctors. Of these misdiagnoses, close to 30 percent are life threatening, lethal, or result in permanent disability. On the other hand, the supercomputer IBM Watson correctly diagnosed a patient’s rare form of leukemia while doctors were stumped.
What does this mean for us?
Whereas no one human could possibly store and reference the entirety of global medical knowledge, artificial intelligence can. Modern computers and software are more adept at crunching data, analyzing statistics, and recognizing patterns than us. AI can spot trends and details that humans regularly miss or overlook.
And if Dr. A.I. can bring that level of power to our fingertips in the form of a mobile app, wouldn’t that be great? Not only would it be great for us who lack the time time or money to visit a doctor, but there’s a good chance that it could be the more accurate (and preferred) method.
Of course, it isn’t a flawless solution.
For something like Dr. A.I., the results can only be as good as the one answering the diagnostic questions. Since laymen lack the expertise to properly describe and gauge symptoms, user error may lead to misdiagnoses anyway. And when misdiagnoses do happen, who do we blame?
It reminds me of the controversy surrounding self-driving cars: if an autonomous vehicle causes an accident with casualties, it feels worse. Even if the statistics say that self-driving cars are safer overall, are you willing to trust your life to them? Would you trust a computer to diagnose your health issues?See A Car Crash From the Perspective of Google's Self Driving Car See A Car Crash From the Perspective of Google's Self Driving CarREAD MORE
Maybe not yet, but give it time. Among other medical breakthroughs, Dr. A.I. is the future.
How do you feel about artificial intelligence in medicine? Do you prefer doctors even with the misdiagnosis rate? Share your thoughts with us below!  

This Trick Makes a USB Drive Work Perfectly With Windows, Mac, Linux, and Anything Else

By  Mihir Patkar 

A file system is the magic tool that lets an operating system read the data on any hard drive or USB drive. Unfortunately, there are a number of file systems out there, and not every operating system plays nice with each one. That’s why the default recommended choice is FAT32. But there’s a better choice: exFAT.
File systems are an unnecessary complication, but they aren’t going anywhere for now. For example, Apple computers use HFS+ (i.e. Mac OS Extended) file system by default, while Windows uses NTFS (New Technology File System). Unsure what’s behind your system? Here’s an easy way to find out!What A File System Is & How You Can Find Out What Runs On Your Drives What A File System Is & How You Can Find Out What Runs On Your DrivesREAD MORE
But for the sake of this article, we are focusing on FAT32 and exFAT, the two best file systems for external hard drives and USB drives.

What Makes FAT32 and exFAT Better Than Others?

If you have ever formatted a hard drive as NTFS, you know that there is a lot of trouble in getting it to work with Mac and Linux. While macOS recognizes and reads NTFS drives, it can’t write to them. Linux needs to be prepped to read NTFS as it doesn’t support the file system by default. In short, NTFS works flawlessly with Windows and not much else. Similarly, Mac OS Extended drives work flawlessly with macOS and not much else.
fat32 exfat ntfs windows
However, FAT32 and exFAT work with all operating systems by default. FAT (File Allocation Table) is the oldest of these file systems, and is hence recognized by every operating system. For personal computers, the first one used was FAT12, followed by FAT16, and then the current FAT32. Then came exFAT, made with USB drives and external drives in mind.
In short, the primary hard drive of your operating system should be the one that best matches the operating system. But your external hard drives and USB drives should use FAT32 or exFAT.

FAT32 vs. exFAT

Usually when you go to format a USB drive, Windows will suggest FAT32 as the default file system. But you might want to consider using exFAT instead.

Devices Supported

FAT32 is the most widely compatible file system. It will work on any operating system as well as video game consoles, Android USB expansions, media players, and other devices.Get Extra Storage On Android With A USB Flash Drive Get Extra Storage On Android With A USB Flash DriveWant to add more storage to your Android device using a USB flash drive? We can show you how to do that, step by step.READ MORE
fat32 exfat devices supported
In contrast, exFAT will work on 99 percent of the devices you use, but may not work on some media players and Android devices. Both Xbox One and PlayStation 4 support exFAT drives, but for some reason, Xbox One often faces issues with exFAT USB drives formatted on a Mac.
Some Linux distros also don’t support exFAT out of the box. You will need to install the package for that by opening a Terminal window and typing:
sudo apt-get install exfat-utils exfat-fuse
Once that’s done, type:
sudo apt-get update

Sizes Supported

FAT32 can only support files up to 4 GB in size and can only be used as the file system on hard drives that are 8 TB or less. If all your files are smaller than 4 GB, then FAT32’s excellent device support makes it a better choice. If you have ever seen the dialog box saying “Your file is too large for the destination,” ditch FAT32.
fat32 exfat 8 gb drive
In contrast, exFAT has no limitations on file sizes or hard drive sizes. This makes exFAT the best choice if you are going to use a portable drive that stores large files (like unedited videos or 3D projects) and is connected to different computers.

Speed: Which Is Faster?

Generally speaking, exFAT drives are faster at writing and reading data than FAT32 drives. You’ll find plenty of benchmarks online, but Flexense has the most thorough comparison.
fat32 exfat speed
Apart from writing large files to the USB drive, exFAT outperformed FAT32 in all tests. And in the large file test, it was almost the same.
Note: All benchmarks show that NTFS is much faster than exFAT.
The bottom line is that unless you are 100 percent sure that you will never have a file smaller than 4 GB, format the drive as exFAT. Remember, the file system you use while formatting is what you’ll continue to use for a long time, so it’s sensible to make the right decision at the start.

How to Format a USB Drive to exFAT

Any USB drive or external hard drive can easily be formatted as exFAT instead of FAT32.
For Windows
  1. Open This PC in File Explorer.
  2. Right-click on the USB drive and choose Format from the shell menu.
  3. Choose exFAT in file system.
Here’s a full guide with screenshots.How To Format A USB Drive & Why You Would Need To How To Format A USB Drive & Why You Would Need ToFormatting a USB drive is no different than formatting any other drive. But how often have you actually formatted a drive and did you ever wonder what the various options mean?READ MORE
fat32 exfat format mac
For macOS
  1. Open Spotlight (Command + Space) and run Disk Utility.
  2. Choose the USB drive in the menu on the left.
  3. Click Erase and choose exFAT in Format.
Here’s a full guide with screenshots.Preparing An External Hard Drive For Use With Mac OS X Preparing An External Hard Drive For Use With Mac OS XIf you've just purchased a new external hard drive for your Mac, it's important to take the time to prepare your hard drive for use with Mac OS X.READ MORE
For Linux
  1. Open a Terminal window.
  2. Type sudo apt-get install exfat-utils exfat-fuse and press Enter.
  3. Type sudo fdisk -l and press Enter.
  4. Note the address of your external drive. It should read as /dev/sd** (where the last two asterisk are a letter and a number).
  5. Type sudo mkfs.exfat -n NAME /dev/sd** where you replace sd** with the address you noted earlier and NAME with whatever you want to label your drive.

NTFS vs. exFAT vs. FAT32

As fantastic as exFAT is, don’t forget that NTFS is better in all aspects if you are only using the USB drive on Windows computers. But that’s not the norm any more, is it?
Which file system do you use on your USB drive? Have you ever faced the “File is too large for the destination file system” error?

15 Weird Smart Home Gadgets No One Should Ever Want

By Dan Price   When you picture a smart home, what’s the first thing that pops into your head? Perhaps smart thermostats and intelligen...