Thunderclap SPUD!

What is Thunderclap?

Thunderclap is "the first-ever crowdspeaking platform that helps people be heard by saying something together. It allows a single message to be mass-shared...so it rises above the noise of your social networks."

Basically, Thunderclap is a service that allows multiple people to agree to post a single social media message simultaneously. With enough support, this can give the message "trending" status, gaining even more exposure. It's free to participate in any campaign.  Speaking of campaigns...

 

Support the SPUD Thunderclap campaign!

Help us get the word out about our Kickstarter launch! We're getting as many people as we can to send out a message about SPUD on launch day, and your help would be great! The whole process only requires a few clicks and should take you less than a minute. Just click the "Join this Thunderclap" button and follow the instructions. For a step-by-step description of the process, scroll down!

 

Thunderclap Support: Step-by-Step

1. Go to http://thndr.me/BU1E3I or click the "Join this Thunderclap" button to the right.

2. Click the "Support with Facebook," "Support with Twitter," or "Support with Tumblr" button to select the social media platform you want to use. These instructions use Facebook as an example:

 
 

3. Thunderclap will show you a preview of the post. Personalize it with your own custom message at the top, then click "Add My Support."

 

4. Log in to your social media account by clicking the "Continue" button.

 

5. Give Thunderclap permission to post the message. Note that this will only give them permission to post this one time.  If it gives you the option, make sure the visibility is set to "Public" to maximize the number of people who see it.

 

6. You can sign up for updates made to the Thunderclap campaign. If you've signed up thruogh Facebook or at http://arovia.io, you're already getting all the latest info. Select "No Thanks." If you still want to receive updates on the Thunderclap campaign, be sure to uncheck the checkbox shown below (unless you want to receive not-SPUD-related general updates from Thunderclap).

 

7. You're scheduled! The message will automatically be posted to your account when we launch our Kickstarter campaign. If you'd like to share this Thunderclap campaign immediately (to get more people to sign up), click one of the share links at the bottom of the message.

 

If you have any additional questions about Thunderclap, check out their Frequently Asked Questions page:
https://www.thunderclap.it/faq

 

Why VR/AR May NOT Be the Next Big Thing

HTC Vive

HTC Vive

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are two technologies that some prognosticators think could be the next big thing.  Virtual reality is a display that you put on your head that completely obscures your vision and immerses you in an activity (e.g. gaming which is currently the most widespread use case for VR).  The two most prominent virtual reality systems are the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift.  Augmented reality overlays digital information on the physical world (e.g. Pokemon Go).  Many companies are developing systems that go on your head like the Microsoft Hololens to create a head mounted augmented reality experience.     

While at Arovia, we think VR and AR are cool, we obviously think there is plenty room for displays that everyone can see and don’t require putting something on your head, like SPUD.  Additionally, for many VR/AR applications like gaming there is a need for a supplemental display, and SPUD is perfect for that.  Based on interviewing thousands of you and our own research, here’s 3 reasons why VR and AR may not be the next big thing, despite the billions of dollars being spent:

Stereoscope

Stereoscope

  1. Historical evidence that head mounted displays fail (e.g. Stereoscopes, 3D TVs, Google Glass)

    • One of the earliest examples of head mounted display failure is stereographic viewers (e.g. stereoscopes).  Stereoscopes came to prominence in the 1800’s along with traditional cameras and photographs.  Unlike traditional camera images, with stereo camera and stereo camera, you could see in psuedo 3-D using the parallax effect!  Cool, right!? Well, it turns out overwhelmingly the public referred traditional 2D images due to the ease of use (for both taking pictures, being able to view images without putting something up their head, and being able to easily enjoy the viewing of pictures with others, instead of taking turns).
    • More recently both 3D TV’s and Google Glass prominently failed to gain widespread adoption, further demonstrating that a lot of people do not want to put extra hardware on their head to consume and create content.
  2. Steep hardware requirements
    • VR  requires high end computing systems due to the massive amount of high resolution data needed.  Remember, with AR/VR you are putting the display right next to your head, which means if the pixels are not super dense it detracts from the experience (unlike SPUD which you use farther away like a traditional TV or desktop monitor).  
    • These high end requirements mean there is a large barrier to entry (thousands of dollars) and make these systems non-portable.  
  3. Social and anthropological barriers

    • Let’s face it, what enabled humans to take over the world was our social tendencies, as described in the interesting book Sapiens.  VR/AR obscure our interactions and place another barrier between us and each other.  Ultimately, we are better off when we interact with each other and do not retreat into our own world (though it is sometimes good to get away once in a while!).   When seeing the explosion of VR companies at South by Southwest this year, what struck us the most was just how weird people looked using VR and AR!

    • Additionally, many places have banned Google Glass due to head mounted displays being incongruent with our cultural norms.  The social and anthropological might very well be the bottleneck in VR and AR adoption.

You look weird using it.

You look weird using it.

Well there you have it, our 3 reasons:  (1) the history of consumer rejection of head mounted displays (2) steep hardware requirements (3) social/anthropological barriers

What do you think?!   

How to Reduce Stress as a Traveling Professional

Do you find it difficult to get things done while on the road?  Do you dread the stress of a business trip?  If so, you’re not alone.  In a 2012 CWT Solutions Group study, researchers found that the major stress factors can be grouped into 3 main categories:

  1. Lost time: situation in which work is difficult or impossible (e.g. Flying economy on long haul)
  2. Surprises: when an unforeseen event occurs (e.g. Lost or delayed baggage)
  3. Routine breakers: inability to maintain one’s habits (e.g. Unable to eat healthily at destination)

There are a few relatively simple things you can do to address these factors and reduce the stressful impact they can have.  We have compiled a list based on lots of feedback from frequent business travelers: 

Pack wisely - Many people pack at the last minute and don’t put much thought into it.  However, there are lots of potential stress factors that can be avoided with a little bit of planning.  First, if possible, don’t check bags.  This allows you to skip the baggage delays and to completely avoid the risk of the always-dreaded lost bag (which ensures a stressful trip).  When packing, take a few minutes to look up wrinkle-free packing tips on the internet (for example, how to fold a suit), since time not ironing is time that can be used productively.  It also helps to store small items in a predesignated location in your suitcase: your cables, connectors, dongles, devices, and anything else that can be easily lost or misplaced.  Don’t forget to pack for weather, since time to go buy a warm jacket or an umbrella can add another layer of stress.  

Arrange for voice and internet access BEFORE you go - Getting stuck without access will seriously limit your productivity and add to your stress level.  Make sure you have a plan in advance!  Confirm that the hotel has Wi-Fi, and come up with a “Plan B” if it doesn’t (for example, tethering your laptop to your cellphone).  For international travelers, understand what it takes to get your cellphone working in your country of destination, and get it all set up in advance.

Exercise and eat on schedule - Don’t let the trip derail your normal exercise routine.  Yes, the schedule is tight, and it’s easy to think that skipping your 30 min morning jog makes sense, or that there’s no time for breakfast.  However, not only will that throw you off your routine, it will also reduce your overall energy throughout the day.  It’s okay to call the hotel in advance to find out what kind of exercise options they have, or even bring your own portable exercise equipment.  Food is just as important!  Sticking with your exercise and eating routines will keep your energy up and allow you to be productive, which will help keep that stress down.  And of course, keep hydrated!

Don’t forget your medicine(s) - When you’re trying to be productive, nothing can add to your stress quite like a bad headache or an allergy attack.  It never hurts to be prepared.  Bring little medicine packs just in case!

Understand or determine your perfect jet lag curve - For those longer trips that span multiple time-zones, learn how your body reacts to jet lag and plan around it.  Maybe an early morning flight works best for you.  Maybe a red-eye flight gives you the opportunity to get your sleep on the plane.  This one is a bit more trial and error, but for a good starting tip: Only sleep if it’s nighttime at your destination.  This will keep you from getting into a bad cycle and allow you to adjust more quickly to the destination time.

Create an office space - Working directly from the hotel bed sounds nice and relaxing, but it just isn’t a productive space (especially when you fall asleep!).  Set up a real workstation at the room desk, in the business center, or even at a local library.  Use a SPUD to give you that productivity-maximizing dual-screen setup anywhere you choose to work.  Make sure to bring a portable (and comfortable) mouse to use.  If you’re sensitive to ambient noise, or just in case they give you a room right next to the elevator, it’s not a bad idea to have some noise-cancelling headphones on hand to really create a distraction-free environment.

Consider being loyal to a business - If you can stick to a single airline or hotel chain, you may be able to earn some significant loyalty rewards from first-class seats on the plane to an upgraded hotel room.  If you’re not the one making the travel plans, consider using a credit card with rewards during the trip to give yourself that little extra bonus.  

Charge everything - If you want to keep productivity up on the plane, or even during taxi rides, make sure all of your mobile devices are fully charged in advance.  That includes your laptop, cellphone, wireless keyboard or mouse, SPUD, wireless headphones, and anything else with a battery!

Give yourself rewards - Remember to reward yourself: if you can get X and Y done on the plane, you’ll have time to go see the world’s largest ball of twine on Saturday morning!  Setting goals keeps you productive, and rewarding yourself will certainly help to manage that stress.

Which Video App is Right for You?

Everyone needs a great video player app.  This will be especially true for you when you get your hands on a SPUD and have a big screen anywhere you want!   This week we decided to take a look at the best apps out there to give you a summary of your options.  We’ve focused on apps that play all the major video file formats, and have not included the major streaming services like YouTube and Netflix (you should have those already anyway!)  The chart below gives a high level comparison of the major strengths of different video apps available today:

Kids Lock Swipe Gesture Support Multi-core Decoding HW Acceleration Network Streaming Floating Window Support Android iOS Open Source Ad Free Google Play Rating # Reviewers (as of 6/27)
Archos Video Player x x x 4.0 11,601
BSPlayer x x x x x x 4.4 123,428
GPlayer x x x x x 4.3 33,652
KMPlayer x x x x x 4.2 220,054
Kodi x x x x x x 4.5 100,659
MoboPlayer x x x x 4.2 7,667
MX Player x x x x x x 4.4 3,589,420
VLC Player x x x x x x x x 4.4 450,949

Archos Video Player – With some advanced features like network playback support and subtitle downloader, Archos Video Player is a solid video option.  However, it really shines because of its impressive library view and automatic retrieval of series or movie details and artwork.  If you’re looking for a great way to browses through your collection, Archos Video Player is worth a try.

BSPlayer – This app stands out with a variety of skins you can use to really customize the look of your app.  Gesture support and its “pop out” viewer give the user some advanced options within a very simple user interface.

Gplayer – Gplayer has become known as one of the first players to support playing multiple windows in windowed mode, which means users can view multiple windows simultaneously.  Another lesser known feature is the groups sharing capability, which enables media file sharing over Wi-Fi directly through the app itself.  If you’re always sharing media files with your friends, take a look at GPlayer.

KMPlayer – As very popular video player, the KMPlayer has lots of fans out there already.  Other than being a solid video player, KMPlayer gets additional points for its built-in cloud support: you can natively view content stored in Google Drive.

Kodi – One of two open source players on this list, Kodi is a feature-packed portable media hub (formerly known as XBMC, for you XBOX fans out there).  While it might be a big intimidating to set up, it has tons of features and a rich developer and user community to back it up.  If you don’t mind getting a bit technical, Kodi might be just what you’re looking for.

MoboPlayer – MoboPlayer, while it’s a relatively small competitor, claims its spot on this list because of its extensive support of video file formats.  It handles those less popular ones that not all players support through software decoding.  If you’re looking for a player that can play that one mystery file, give MoboPlayer a try.

MX Player – It would be tough to find a list on the internet that DOESN’T mention MX Player as one of the best video apps available.  It is a reliable player that is extremely stable, full of great features and file format support.  If you trust the internet mob (and we usually do), you can’t go wrong with MX Player.

VLC – Finally, there’s VLC player.  This open source player made a name for itself as a media player on PCs, and it has now moved into the mobile space.  While some folks out there claim that this player is still a bit buggy, it can play virtually any video format out there right “out of the box.”  It has some great features and a strong support community.  If you want to impress your computer-savvy friends, and you can deal with a bug here and there, go with VLC.

Just How Important is the Projection Screen?

We all know that guy in college that had the projector setup in his dorm room.  It was fun for parties and great for playing movies in the background, but the picture never looked that great.  The projected image always looked washed out, and you could see every dent and scratch on the wall!  But movies shown in theaters today use projectors, and they look amazing!  What was college guy’s problem?

It turns out the surface you’re projecting on, usually a projection screen, can be just as important as the projector itself.  College guy was projecting directly onto the dorm room wall, where textured paint, bumps, and scratches all act to reflect the light away from the eyes and cause the picture to look dim and washed out.  

Light reflects randomly off of a textured wall.   Source: http://evilrealm.org/

Light reflects randomly off of a textured wall.  
Source: http://evilrealm.org/

 

Projection screens are designed to reflect the light directly back to the viewer, which keeps the image nice and bright.  However, there is a tradeoff: the more directly the light is reflected back (or the higher gain), the maximum viewing angle is reduced.  In contrast, a screen with perfect diffusion would allow viewing from much wider angles, but the overall brightness would be reduced.

A screen with perfect diffusion would look great from any angle, but brighness would be lower from any specific point. Source: www.projectorreviews.com

A screen with perfect diffusion would look great from any angle, but brighness would be lower from any specific point.
Source: www.projectorreviews.com

A screen with high gain would look very bright when viewed from the center, but the screen would not be viewable form other angles.   Source: www.projectorreviews.com

A screen with high gain would look very bright when viewed from the center, but the screen would not be viewable form other angles.  
Source: www.projectorreviews.com

 
Modest gain screen vs high gain screen.   Source: www.projectorreviews.com

Modest gain screen vs high gain screen.  
Source: www.projectorreviews.com

 

Projector “uniformity” refers to the brightness of the image across the entire screen.  In other words, are the corners of the image as bright as the center?  While this is mainly driven by the quality of the projector itself, projection screens can help to diffuse the light more evenly.  Some screens add an optical coating to increase the total light uniformity.

A projection setup with good uniformity would fill the entire screen evenly.  Source: www.mycockpit.org

A projection setup with good uniformity would fill the entire screen evenly.  Source: www.mycockpit.org

 

Finally, projection screens play a large role in maintaining image contrast.  Since projectors do not actually produce the color black, a projection screen is required to keep contrast high, especially in an environment with ambient light.  High contrast gray screens work well in this situation.  The gray screen absorbs ambient light that a white screen would reflect back, and in doing so, the black level on the screen is maintained.  

Gray screen (left) vs matte white screen (right).   Source: www.projectorreviews.com

Gray screen (left) vs matte white screen (right).  
Source: www.projectorreviews.com

 

The point is, a great projected image is much more complicated than simply pointing a projector at a wall!  As we continue to develop SPUD, we are considering all of these aspects of the projector-to-screen setup to ensure the best viewing experience.  You’ll always have a great picture wherever and whenever you want!

Thank You Maker Faire!

You’ve probably met some exceptionally creative people in your life.  Remember that girl in your neighborhood that was always tinkering in her garage?  Or the classmate that would spend his days creating masterpieces of art on the cover of his textbook?  Or the engineer who is always trying to improve the latest tech devices?  Maybe you know someone that believes coming up with an idea is good, and actually implementing that idea is better.  From the part-time tinkerers to the full-time creators, these people are out there, always working to make something new and improve the world around them.  And last weekend, they were all in one place: Maker Faire Bay Area!  We were lucky enough to be able to join in on the fun.  We met a lot of interesting makers, and we got to see some amazing (and sometimes ridiculous… in a good way) projects.  We wanted to share some of our photos from the weekend.  But first…

What is Maker Faire?

Maker Faire is the greatest show (and tell) on Earth!  It is an event created by the publishers of Make: magazine that brings together “tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors” to “show what they have made and to share what they have learned.”  These do-it-yourselfers all come together to celebrate creativity, to show off their work, and most importantly, to learn from one another.  Maker Faire is continuing to grow in popularity, with events all over the world!

We have attended a few of these Maker Faire events, and each time we’ve gotten valuable feedback (and encouragement!).  So, from your fellow makers, thank you Maker Faire community for being so awesome!

How to Survive the Family Road Trip

The school year is coming to an end, and it will soon be time for the Family Summer Vacation!  Time to pack the kids (and the spouse) in the car and head out into the world.  The road may be long, but it is no match for the well-oiled travel machine that is your family: songs will be sung, books-on-tape will be discussed, and your youngest little one will sleep like an angel the entire time.  The kids will learn about new places, and you parents will get that needed dose of relaxation.  Your trip will be the envy of parents everywhere.

Sure, it's never actually happened like that. But this time it will be different.  This time you will be prepared!

Crayola MyPhones - Kids will do a lot better in the backseat when they are entertained, so why not let them listen to their music and movies with these durable headphones made for kids.  A built-in volume limiter protects their ears, and the included stickers and markers allow them to personalize to their heart's content.  If you have multiple little ones, don't forget to bring a headphone splitter... sharing a single pair of headphones often leads to fighting over a single pair of headphones.

 

RAVPower Xtreme 23000mAh Power Bank – Since your family is so high-tech, you’ll be needing some extra power to keep things running smoothly.  Go Xtreme with this large backup battery, which allows you to charge multiple devices at once (or a single device like an iPhone up to 12 times).  No longer fear the words “my phone is dying!” which is almost always followed by “are we there yet?”  Drive with the knowledge that your family will stay well charged!

 

VTech Kidizoom Spin & Smile – Your kids will see you taking lots of pictures on vacation, and obviously, they want to be just like you!  They’ll probably ask if they can use your camera.  Your very expensive camera.  Don’t worry, the folks at VTech have you covered.  While the Kidizoom camera is made just for kids, it still has a 4x digital zoom, built in flash, color screen, built-in and expandable memory… certainly enough to keep them busy!  Plus, it might be interesting to see your vacation through your kids’ eyes for a change!

 

 

weBoost Drive 4G-X Cell Phone Booster – The biggest battery in the world may not help you if you can’t get a cell signal!  If your route will take you down some old country roads or into some less populated areas, your connected devices may need an extra boost to keep a signal.  The 4G-X will give you that boost (at the hefty price of $500).  The extended cellular signal range means a more reliable and consistent cellular connection as well as faster data downloads. 

 

 

 

J-Pillow – Trouble sleeping on the road?  Sounds like you’ve never tried the J-Pillow, the best-selling travel pillow on amazon.com, and winner of the British invention of the year in 2013!  It’s the only pillow that keeps your neck fully supported with the ‘J’ curl under your chin, which prevents the dreaded head-nod.  Or, let your kids use it in the back: this pillow can handle any sleeping position your imaginative children can throw at it!  Remember, the more you can get all your kids to sleep during those long hauls, the more you win.

 

 

 

Spontaneous Pop-Up Display – When can you use a portable device that pops open to a 24-inch TV screen?  In the car?  Yes.  In the hotel room?  Yep.  Out on the patio?  Of course.  You can’t really go wrong when you have a 24-inch screen wherever you need it!

 

How to Wear Your Technology Everywhere

Last week, I overheard someone saying that the collapsed SPUD looked like something Batman could wear on his utility belt.  That got me thinking about the quickly growing world of wearable technology, and I soon found myself digging into the newest wearables out there.  There’s no shortage of ideas: the options range from ridiculous to potentially life-saving.  For those of you who simply must have your technology with you wherever you are, check out the latest and greatest in wearables:

AirJamz Wearable Air Guitar - When you play the air guitar, YOU can hear that perfect solo in your head, but what about everyone else?  Now they can too, with AirJamz!  This wristband connects to your mobile device via Bluetooth, enabling your rock star motions to be translated into real music instantly.  “The technology inside is light years ahead of standard Air-Guitars.”  Enough said.

 

Zepp Multisport Sensors - Zepp’s new “smart coarch system” uses a sensor you attach to your golf glove, baseball bat, or tennis racket.  The sensor records data about swing speeds and angles, then transmits that back to their mobile app to analyze and generate coaching advice (like highlighting areas that need the most work).  If you want to improve that swing, maybe this wearable is just what you need.

 

Neopenda: Wearable Vital Signs Monitor for Newborns - In developing countries around the world, over 46 million newborns require additional care and monitoring due to complications at birth.  The Neopenda is a hat with a built in sensor array that continuously measures an infant’s heart rate, respiratory rate, blood oxygen saturation, and temperature.  In the critical first few days of life, closely monitoring these vital signs can save a baby’s life, and unfortunately, many hospitals in resource-constrained settings can’t monitor all of their newborn patients fast enough.  The Newpenda could help significantly reduce the nearly 3 million newborn deaths in the developing world.

Nike HyperAdapt 1.0 - Well it’s about time.  This was supposed to exist back in 2015!  Nike has finally announced their first “power lacing” sneaker, potentially making the time-wasting activity of tying your shoes a thing of the past.  Tiffany Beers, the project’s technical lead, explains how they will work: “Your heel will hit a sensor and the system will automatically tighten.  Then there are two buttons on the side to tighten and loosen. You can adjust it until it’s perfect.”  I believe this means flying cars are just around the corner.

Apple Watch - Okay, the Apple Watch may not be the newest wearable in the world, but it felt too weird creating this list without mentioning it.  While the jury still seems to be out on this type of wearable technology, the potential is intriguing.  The Apple Watch, and smartwatches like it, connects to your smartphone and allows you to display and reply to messages, make calls, download apps, track your steps, and do pretty much anything else your smartphone can do… but from your wrist!  I believe it also tells time.

 

The Posting Tail - This one is my favorite.  We may soon live in a world where dogs can take pictures, then upload those pictures to Facebook.  According to Saatchi & Saatchi, they have created a device that your four-legged friend can wear that includes a camera and some sort of tail wagging sensor.  When your dog is happy, the sensor detects the “happy tail wag” (they specifically note that the device is capable of distinguishing a regular tail wag from a happy one) and takes a picture, tags it with a GPS location, and uploads it to Facebook.  I can’t wait to see what pictures my dog will take!  I imagine there will be lots of suspicious-smelling grass pictures.

e-skin: Ultraflexible organic photonic skin - Lastly, we have e-skin, a technology that is still being tested in the academic space but has some pretty significant potential.  Tokyo’s Graduate School of Engineering has created a protective film that is less than 2 mm thick, yet strong enough to attach PLED’s to create on-skin displays.  We may see this one day used as a pulse rate monitor or blood oxygen sensor… or maybe some programmable body art.

 

Rice University Supports Startups Like Arovia

“It’s official, I’m a student again,” Alex thought to himself as he walked into the classroom.  He was starting the next chapter of his life as a Rice MBA student.  He had enjoyed working as an engineer, but he really wanted to understand things from the business perspective.  And while it had been years since college, he was excited to dive back into school.  But it already felt different.  Everything was now digital, and all students carried around a laptop or tablet everywhere they went.  Everyone was always on the go: students worked in conference rooms, groups met in coffee shops, and classmates submitted their assignments from wherever they happened to be.  As Alex became one of them, he realized that his 13-inch ultrabook didn’t give him enough screen space for all of his research, Excel tasks, and large editing jobs.  He needed another screen.  He needed to invent SPUD.

“Interesting,” George thought to himself, as he listened to Alex pitch his idea.  He knew Alex was a business student, but in Alex’s defense, he did have an engineering background.  And the idea wasn’t half-bad.  In fact, it seemed surprisingly well thought-out.  George had come to Rice University as a mechanical engineering student, and he had always loved designing and building things.  As Alex continued, George couldn’t help but start the design in his head:  The screen had to be large and collapsible.  It would have to be light-weight, but sturdy.  The mechanics had to be easy and fast.  George knew that creating SPUD would be very challenging.  He could feel himself beginning to smile. 
 

 

Since we (Alex and George) teamed up, our vision of SPUD is quickly becoming a reality.  Rice University has been extremely supportive of our work, and instrumental in our early successes: Entrepreneurship Rice has helped us built up an amazing team and that gave us valuable connections in the startup community.  We have participated in (and won funding from) multiple business plan competitions, and we were awarded a $50k grant from the National Science Foundation!  We were selected to exhibit at SXSW this year, and we got to meet lots of our supporters in person.  Currently, we are finalizing our industrial prototype, which will be the consumer-ready product we will use to launch our upcoming crowdfunding campaign (sign up here to be notified when it launches!).  And we’re very excited to be competing in the Rice Business Plan Competition starting on Friday.

Thank you Rice University and the Houston startup community for all of your help and support!

How to Get the Most Out of SPUD

We’ve had lots of excited folks tell us how they would use SPUD, often in ways we had never even considered!  We love hearing new ideas, and thought we would share a few of the more memorable ones:

How will you use your SPUD??

How to Make an Impact through Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is tough!  The idea is to find interested people to help fund your business during the initial design and manufacturing phases, and ideally boost that business to a point where it can sustain itself moving forward.  Campaign “backers” benefit by seeing a project that they believe in come to life, and they often receive additional benefits such as early access to the product.  However, many people don’t realize how difficult (and expensive!) it can be to launch and run a crowdfunding campaign: tasks like website development, professional video production, social media management, and online marketing all get added to the existing (and often full-time) job of product design, test, and manufacturing. 

As we are preparing for our own campaign for SPUD, we wanted to give a shout-out to some interesting and promising crowdfunding campaigns that have not yet reached their funding goals… and time is almost up!

iBlinds – by HAB Home Intelligence, LLC – $23,490 / $45,000 – ends 3/31/2016!

This DIY device allows you to open and close your blinds with your smartphone or tablet, or to automate opening and closing at certain times.  The device is battery powered and can be recharged through a USB connection, or you can purchase the add-on solar panel to keep the battery charged.  It’s a simple idea that would be so nice to have (as I sit here staring at all of the closed blinds in my house).

Virtuali-Tee – by Curiscope – $88,089 / $96,957 – ends 3/31/2016!

This team has created a t-shirt that comes to life, giving kids an interactive and fun way to learn about human anatomy.  All you need is the t-shirt and smartphone to start exploring in fully animated 3D.  It could also be used as a cool party trick…

Panoporter – by Misafes – $27,745 / $30,000 – ends 3/31/2016!

This small, 360 degree HD camera will let you record up to 2 weeks of footage remotely on a 64 GB microSD card, using groundbreaking single lens technology.  It’s definitely a cool product that will hopefully make high-quality 360 degree cameras more affordable for everyone!

MakerGirl Goes Mobile – by MakerGirl - $28,500 / $30,000 – ends 4/1/2016!

MakerGirl, a non-profit organization, has been hosting 3D printing sessions for young girls as a first step to encourage more leaders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).  They want to take their sessions on the road and to reach young girls in areas that may not have many STEM-related activities available, and they need our help! 

Smart Mirror – by Joe Montano – $1,665 / $3,500 – ends 4/2/2016!

Because sometimes you just want to support the little guy!  Joe took the smart mirror idea and made it much more customizable, and he shows an impressive prototype.  It’s built on the Android OS, making it very accessible to developers.  The next big step will be to upgrade the hardware and create a consumer-ready version.  While he still has a lot on the to-do list, a little support will go a long way!

 

We wish the best of luck to all of these crowdfunding teams!

How to Netflix Like a Pro

Millions of people watch Netflix at home.  Since SPUD was designed for portability, you will soon be able to stream on a 24-inch screen wherever and whenever you want!  It’s time to step up your game and start using Netflix like a pro.  These tips will help you make the most of your streams and binges:

Perfect Your Settings!

One person can use multiple profiles!  Keep your "movie moods" in order.

One person can use multiple profiles!  Keep your "movie moods" in order.

  • Create Multiple Profiles for Yourself – Most people know that Netflix allows you to create different profiles for your multiple account users, which is nice for keeping personal ratings and preferences separated.   But why not use multiple profiles as an individual?  You can create accounts for different moods or movie types.  I like having a “so-bad-it’s-good” account so I can rate movies like The Room without muddying my “good” movie list.

  • Perfect Your Settings – View or delete your history (no one needs to know you watched Love Actually seven times this month), customize subtitle font and color, limit your data usage, and enable/disable auto-play.  Find these options in the "Your Account" menu.

  • Know your Keyboard Shortcuts – A wireless keyboard will give you some pretty good playback control: F toggles full screen, SPACE pauses and plays, M mutes the sound, and SHIFT + Right Arrow and SHIFT + Left Arrow fast-forwards and rewinds respectively.

Make the Most of Chrome Extensions!

NEnhancer shows you ratings while browsing Netflix!

NEnhancer shows you ratings while browsing Netflix!

Super Browse gives you direct access to all Netflix categories.

Super Browse gives you direct access to all Netflix categories.

  • NEnhancer – Let’s start with my favorite Chrome Extension!  NEnhancer automatically adds IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes ratings to most movie selections.  It also gives you the option to launch a pop-up movie trailer, for those times when the ratings alone aren’t enough to solidify your choice.  Prepare to be shocked that you’ve gone without this functionality for so long!

  • Netflix Pause Remover – Don’t you hate it when you’re trying to binge-watch a show, but the next episode takes a grueling 20 seconds to automatically start?  It almost makes you want to get up and get something done!  Almost.  Get rid of those pesky breaks between episodes! 

  • Netflix Party – Designed to let you watch movies with that “long-distance special someone,” this Chrome Extension synchronizes video playback for the multiple watchers.  It also adds a chat window to simulate someone constantly texting you during a movie.

  • Super Browse (also available as Firefox add-on) – You may have heard that Netflix groups movies and TV shows into a bunch of “hidden” categories, which you can find on websites like http://netflixcodes.me/.  This “super browse” extension adds an additional option to the Netflix navigation bar, which gives you a searchable list of all available categories.  These can get pretty specific (for example, Netflix differentiates “slapstick comedies” from “screwball comedies”).

Enhance with the Web!

  • Flix Roulette – Have you ever had trouble picking a Netflix movie or TV show?  Just kidding, of course you have.  Flix Roulette will choose one for you!  You can also use some limited filters, including general category, rating range, director/actor names, and keywords.

  • What’s on Netflix – Find out what’s new, what’s coming soon, and more importantly, what’s leaving soon.  If there’s any news you need to know about Netflix, you’ll find it here.

  • FlickSurfer – This website gives you the functionality that you’ve always thought should have been built directly into Netflix.  Sort movies and TV shows by genre, year, language, rating (IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Netflix, or Average), search terms, and more!

You now have all the tools you need.  Once you have a SPUD , you’ll be able to go out and share this knowledge with the world!

Our Ten Favorite Austin Restaurants Without the SXSW Crowds

Austin TX has some of the best food in the world.  As a Houston based company only about 2½ hours away from Austin, we’re very lucky to have an Austinite on the team to give us tips on the best food in the city.  This is especially helpful during SXSW (where we have a Trade Show booth, come check out our Spontaneous Pop-Up Display, Stand 1546!).  Since nearby food spots are sure to be extra crazy at this time of year, we asked him to list his favorite food stops outside of downtown (and hopefully away from the crowds!).  Here’s his list, just as he originally sent it to us:
 

Tex-Mex
(A) Tacodeli – My favorite taco place!  They have a whole list of tacos to choose from, each with a unique flavor and look.  Most importantly, you MUST order the chips and queso… I’ve found no other molten cheese that can compare!  One downside: they’re only open for breakfast and lunch (sadly, they close at 3:00pm every day).

(B) Trudy’s – A tex-mex place known for their Mexican Martinis.  One Mexican Martini is much larger than it sounds, since the fancy martini glass comes with a separate shaker filled with “the rest” of your drink.  If you’re as classy as me, you can have them hold the glass and just put a straw in the shaker!  Keep in mind, this is a serious drink, and they cut you off at two.  The food is also great (try the stuffed avocado for a ridiculously rich and tasty meal), though full disclosure, I don’t think I’ve ever tried the food before getting halfway through my drink…

(C) El Arroyo – A tex-mex restaurant known not only for their food, but also for their sign!  It’s great for happy hour, with a large variety of cheap frozen margaritas.  Since their 5th street location will probably be packed, their second location is up north off of Far West Blvd is just as good (without the sign, unfortunately).

BBQ
(D) Salt Lick BBQ – One of Austin’s most famous BBQ joints.  If you want some serious Texas BBQ, and you don’t mind a 30 min drive south (assuming no traffic), then the Salt Lick is what you want.  It’s one of those things you have to taste to understand.  And as it should be, it’s BYOB… bring your cooler(s)!

(E) Rudy’s BBQ – For everyday bbq, Rudy’s is my favorite.  You order meat by weight here, and they give it to you on a large piece of paper.  Plates would only get in the way.  The BBQ sauce is AMAZING, and the sides are just right. 

Burgers
(F) Hopdoddy Burger Bar – This is the “fancy” burger place, with lots of different burgers on the menu along with daily specials that keep things interesting.  It isn’t surprising to see a line forming out the door (during non-SXSW times!), but things tend to move pretty quickly.  It isn’t cheap: expect to spend $10+ for the burger alone, and you’ll probably want to add fries, along with a drink from their full bar, to your order.  Keep in mind, the burgers are giant and great for splitting.

(G) Mighty Fine Burgers – Simple menu, delicious burgers!  They focus on one thing, and they do it right.  I strongly recommend the milkshakes, but only if you have enough willpower not to finish the whole thing before your burger is ready… It's not easy to do.

Sushi
(H) Uchiko – Now, I’m not really a sushi guy, but this place is amazing!  I went with a small group and tried lot of different dishes.  Everything was great!  That being said, it’s a pretty expensive restaurant.  If you want a great meal and are willing to pay for it, Uchiko won’t disappoint!

Thai
(I) Madam Mam’s – My favorite Thai place, with great food and huge portions!  I tend to be boring and stick to the Pad Thai (I can’t help myself, it’s delicious!), but I have ventured out a few times and have never been disappointed.  I’ve only been to the Guadalupe location, which is probably still a bit too close to the SXSW crowds.  I’m betting the north location is just as good!

24/7
(J) Kerbey Lane Cafe – The 24/7 cafe that serves breakfast anytime (and other stuff too).  They have consistently great food, and they’ve managed to capture that “Austin atmosphere” that everyone loves (even at their strip mall location, which is impressive).  A great place to go any time of day or night!


We hope this list points you in the right direction.  Come see us at the Arovia booth on the SXSW expo floor (Stand 1546).  We would love to compare notes on the best food spots in town!

How to Win Your March Madness Pool

The Madness will soon begin…

People everywhere have started working on their March Madness Tournament brackets, determined to finally win that office pool or earn bragging rights over their friends.  Last year, some estimates suggested that March Madness “activities” during work hours accounted for up to $1.9 billion worth of lost wages (Challenger 2015 March Madness Report).  Surprisingly, many companies out there actually view this as a positive event that boosts employee morale and encourages employee interaction (or maybe they’re just afraid of an employee riot if they tried to stop it!). 

If you want to get in on the action but don’t know where to start, you’re in luck!  We’ve laid out the basics for you below, including some essential online resources that will get you ready for the madness!

What is March Madness?

March Madness is a 64-team NCAA basketball tournament (not counting the “First Four” opening round, which is not part of the traditional 64-team bracket).  All 64 teams are given a ranking, or seed, based on their performance during the regular season, and this seed and bracket spot is announced on Selection Sunday.  The format is single-elimination, meaning after each round the number of teams remaining is cut in half: From 64 to 32 (Round of 32), to 16 (Sweet Sixteen), to 8 (Elite Eight), to 4 (Final Four), and to 2 (National Championship).

An office pool usually consists of each person submitting their own “bracket,” showing their predictions of which teams will win and which will lose, all the way through to the National Championship game.  The person who earns the most points for correct predictions wins.  While this may sound simple enough, 64 starting teams means there are 2^63 (over 9 quintillion) possible bracket outcomes!  Since all teams weren’t created equal, a little research can go a long way…

Online Resources

  • Odds: Odds Shark, The Spread – Vegas has some experience setting the lines for games, so it never hurts to factor those into your decisions.
  • Stats: NCAA.com, TeamRankings.com, kenpom.com, statfox.com – If you love digging into the data, or if you have way too much time on your hands, many websites have the team and player statistics from the regular season.  This may help you decide some of those tougher matchups.
  • Analysis: ESPN.com, CBS Sports – ESPN and CBS will have LOTS of analysis and predictions of game outcomes, but keep in mind, almost everyone with a bracket will see these same predictions.  Sometimes it helps to separate yourself from the crowd.
  • Bracket: Printable Bracket (ESPN) – Because sometimes you want to use a pencil and paper.

How to Watch

Once you have your bracket finalized, all that’s left is to stream the games.  Here’s where the Spontaneous Pop-Up Display really comes in handy: you can connect to your laptop, tablet, or smartphone and stream the games to a high resolution, 24-inch screen!  For streaming options, check out:

  • March Madness Live App – Official NCAA app for iPhone/Android/Windows.  Live streaming of all games (paid TV subscription required for TBS, TNT, truTV games, no subscription required for CBS games).
  • CBS Sports – Free to stream the games on CBS.
  • Sling TV – Free 7-day trial, $20/month after.
  • ESPN Gamecast – Not a video, but a play-by-play text/graphical feed of every game.  It’s free, so great for keeping track of other (less interesting) games.

Good luck, and remember: when in doubt, always choose the team with the best mascot!

How to Lose the Wires and Keep the High Definition

The HDMI cable has been accepted as the standard for wired HD content transmission, but the race to find the wireless standard is just getting started.  There’s no clear winner (yet) in the handful of incompatible standards out there today.  We spent a lot of time researching the different wireless options to integrate into the Spontaneous Pop-Up Display.  Since we never found a great summary of all of the options, we decided to create one!

Also known as UltraGig, WirelessHD was designed and optimized for wireless display connectivity.  The picture quality is great since no compression is used, and there is virtually no latency, but the high 60GHz frequency transmission requires direct line of sight.  WirelessHD seems to be the front-runner at this point.

WHDI, or Wireless Home Digital Interface, is a WirelessHD competitor that seems to have a bit less support in the industry.  It stands out as the wireless interface with a significantly longer range that does not need line of sight (meaning it can go through walls).  However, there is some concern that the 5GHz range could interfere with Wi-Fi signals in that same range.

WiGig, or Wireless Gigabit, is similar to WirelessHD in that it uses the same 60GHz range, giving it high data rates but also requiring direct line of sight.  It is part of the Wi-Fi family, and as such, it is not specifically targeted at the television space.  However, the high data rates and low latency would allow the transmission of uncompressed high definition content.

WiDi (Wireless Display), based on the Miracast standard, was created to allow you to mirror your phone or tablet’s display on your television.  It is similar in performance to Wi-Fi solutions, but WiDi uses a direct connection to the display device which keeps the latency lower.  HD content is compressed using the H.264 mpeg codec.

 

There are a few Wi-Fi based solutions out there, like the Apple AirPlay or Google Cast.  These devices use the existing Wi-Fi network to stream HD video (H.264 mpeg compressed) to the display.  Some devices, like Chromecast, can stream content directly from the internet.  In other words, that Youtube video isn’t streamed from your phone to Chromecast: your phone tells Chromecast which video it should go find and play.

Standard Frequency Resolution Max Distance Video Compression Connection Type Latency Data Rate
WirelessHD - 60GHz 1080p, 60Hz 10m (line of sight) Uncompressed Direct < 1ms 10-28 Gbps
WHDI (Wireless Home Digital Interface) - 5GHz 1080p, 60Hz 30m Uncompressed Direct < 1ms Up to 3 Gbps
WiGig (Wireless Gigabit) 802.11ad 2.4GHz, 5GHz, 60GHz 1080p 10m (line of sight) Uncompressed Wireless Access Point < 1ms Up to 7 Gbps
WiDi (Wireless Display) / Miracast 802.11(a,b,g,n,ac) 2.4GHz, 5GHz 1080p 7m H.264 mpeg Direct < 150ms Up to 600 Mbps
Apple AirPlay 802.11(b,g,n,ac) 2.4GHz, 5GHz 720p/1080p Range of wireless network H.264 mpeg Wireless Access Point 180ms+ Dependent on network conditions Up to 600 Mbps
Google Cast 802.11(b,g,n,ac) 2.4GHz, 5GHz 1080p Range of wireless network VP8, H.264 mpeg Wireless Access Point 180ms+ Dependent on network conditions Up to 600 Mbps

As the battle for wireless dominance continues, we're sure of one thing: We're very excited to see a wireless SPUD in action!!

For more information, check out Geoffrey Morrison's article on CNET, which gives a great description of some of these options.

How to Get Rid of Laptop Aches and Pains

If you’re reading this from a laptop, FREEZE!  How is your body positioned?  If you’re anything like the average laptop user, chances are you’re leaning slightly forward, with your head and neck forward and down (aka “hunched” over your laptop screen).  When typing, you might strain your shoulders and awkwardly bend your wrists because of a desk that is too high or a lap that is too low.  You already know your posture is bad, and you probably forced yourself to sit perfectly straight after reading the last two sentences.  You also know that you’ll probably be back to your hunched over position in the next few minutes.  Or is there something you can do about it?  This week we decided to dive into the world of ergonomics and come up with some rules of thumb for healthy laptop use. 

Researchers have been studying the ergonomics of laptop use for years.  Bowman et al. showed that “common laptop habits can have severe physiological effects ranging from eye strain, poor posture, upper extremity pain, and other injuries resulting from overuse.” Moffet et al. studied the causes of musculoskeletal pain related to laptop use and found multiple common positions that resulted in “high muscle load levels in the trapezius and deltoid muscles.”  Hamilton et al. showed that laptop users have report musculoskeletal complaints at a higher rate compared to desktop users. 
The bottom line: more people are using laptops for longer periods of time, and laptops were designed for portability, not ergonomics.  The poor body positioning associated with laptop designs, when repeated often or over a long period of time, can have significant physiological effects on the user.

You can greatly improve your body position by focusing on two main areas: (1) Head and neck balance, and (2) Wrist and elbow position.

Image Source: A very in-depth whitepaper from the folks at ergotron.com.  Yeah, they did the math.  Check it out here. 

Image Source: A very in-depth whitepaper from the folks at ergotron.com.  Yeah, they did the math.  Check it out here

(1)   Head and Neck Balance
When hunched forward, your heavy head (10+ lbs!) can cause significant strain on your neck and back.  “For seated workers, the optimal position of the head is centered over the midline of the body… If the head is held out of the neutral position, the force exerted on the spine is compounded by a factor of ten for every inch off center.”  We often end up in this hunched forward position when using a laptop because the viewing angle is not ideal.  “Current research and technical standards recommend that… the top of the screen should be no higher than eye level and the center of the screen should be about 15º to 30º below the level of the user’s eyes” (Comfortable Portable Computing: The Ergonomic Equation). 

(2)   Wrist and Elbow Position
ecause the keyboard is attached to the screen, laptop users often find themselves optimizing the screen position at the expense of proper elbow or wrist positioning.  Elbows should stay close to the body and be bent at approximately 90º.  Hands and wrists should not be bent or turned, and should remain straight.  “When you type, keep your wrists straight, with your hands a little higher than your wrists. Relax your shoulders when your arms are at your sides.”  Taking good care of your wrists and hands can help avoid long term issues like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (Source: WebMD).

ElbowWristArm.gif

Image Source: atmac.org.  Follow the link for more tips on preventing arm pain!

The Takeaways:

  • Use an external monitor like SPUD, which can easily be positioned anywhere due to its light weight.  SPUD will help to ensure the top of your screen is at eye level, which will keep your posture straight and your head and neck in balance.
  • Use a wireless keyboard to give you additional flexibility when setting up your laptop workstation.  Separating the keyboard from the screen will help maintain proper arm and wrist form that will no longer be impacted by the position of your laptop. 

How to Take Your Tailgating to the Next Level

Most people know the basics of tailgating:  You need cold drinks, great food, and a bunch of friends.  But how do you do it in style?  We’ve collected a list of the latest in tailgating technology that will make YOUR tailgates really stand out above the rest. 

Food Tech:  The backbone of any good tailgate is the food.  Make sure your party has nothing but the best with these great cooking gadgets.

  • Pizzacraft Pronto Outdoor Pizza Oven – Powered by a small propane tank, the Pizzacraft Pronto cooks 12-inch pizzas in only 5 minutes!  It can help you serve a small army of tailgaters in no time.
  • Weber Propane Grill – This super-portable grill gives you all the functionality of a standard grill, but it will fit in the trunk!  Cook all the classics on this little guy.
  • iGrill – Make sure those burgers are always cooked to perfection with a meat thermometer that connects to your smartphone via Bluetooth.  Because you can!

Drink Tech:  The OTHER backbone of any good tailgate.  Anyone can throw some cans into a cooler… why not stand out?

  • EdgeStar Deluxe Mini Kegerator – Tired of cans?  Get that draft beer you want at a perfectly controlled temperature (holds one 5L mini keg).
  • Remote Controlled Rolling Beverage Cooler – Okay, this one is cool.  Is there any reason not to have a cooler that you summon to your side via remote control? 
  • Coolest Cooler – A Kickstarter project that has passed the test of time.  This cooler is packed with handy little tools to keep the party flowing smoothly.
  • Magnetic Koozies – No table?  No Problem!  Just stick your beer to the side of the car.

Live-Streaming Tech:  As you already know, the Spontaneous Pop-Up Display allows you to take your tailgate to the next level by streaming games straight from your smartphone to the big screen.  You don’t even have to worry about plugging anything in, since SPUD has more than enough battery power to last through the entire game!  Since the only hard part now is figuring out how to stream the game online, here’s a cheat sheet from Rick Stella’s digitaltrends.com article (check out his full list here):

Games:  Okay, it can’t ALL be high tech.  No technology can replace a good old-fashioned pigskin to throw around, and there are probably some low-tech games (MegaPongo anyone?) that could add some excitement to the party. 

No matter the group, this list will keep everyone at your party happy.  For me, I’m happy with just the game on the SPUD and a beer in my hand.  I’ll see you at the parking lot!

How to Ditch Your Expensive Cable Bill

Many of you probably have heard of “cord cutting,” the practice of cancelling your cable subscription and viewing all your content online, whenever you want.   The reason for doing so is clear: the average cable bill is about $100 a month according to BGR.  Many people simply do not need thousands of TV channels and only watch a handful of preferred channels.   The prospect of saving $100 a month is appealing to anyone, but only recently have the services and hardware emerged to enable you to cord cut without sacrificing your access to content.  As the upcoming release of SPUD will add a new portability dimension to cord cutting, now is the time to brush up on the latest available services!

The most prominent popular services to replace your favorite TV channels and watch your content whenever you want include:

Netflix

  • $9.99 a month
  • Includes thousands of movies and TV shows in addition to high quality original    shows such as Daredevil, Narcos, and House of Cards

Amazon Prime

  • $8.25 a month or included in Amazon Prime Free 2 Day shipping service
  • Includes thousands of movies and TV shows and original programming

Hulu

  • $7.99 a month
  • Includes current TV shows, movies, and original programming

HBO Now

  • $14.99 a month
  • Includes access to virtually all of HBO’s TV shows and movies

Sling TV

  • $20 a month
  • Includes access to ESPN, ESPN2, AMC, Food Network, A&E, History, TNT, El Rey, HGTV, IFC, Disney, Polaris, Maker, TBS, Travel Channel, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, CNN, H2, ABC Family, Lifetime, Galavision, Bloomberg

Youtube

  • Free

If you purchased all of these services you would pay $61.22 a month, but carefully review the offerings and you’ll probably see you don’t need all of the services (I personally only use Netflix and Youtube regularly).  

A common content problem for cord cutters is accessing live sports content.  However, many networks now stream sports content including last week’s Super Bowl and the NCAA Tournament.  Additionally, if you have a friend or family member who still hasn’t cut their cord you can use their cable login information to access ESPN, Fox Sports, CBS Sports (often does not require login including the Super Bowl and NCAA Tournament), NBC Sports (also often free during Sunday Night Football), and ABC Sports.  You can also use that same cable service login to access non-sports content on demand, if you prefer to not purchase Hulu.  

The hardware for replacing your cable box includes various dongles and boxes that connect to a TV via HDMI (since many of us prefer not watch to watch content on a small phone, tablet, or laptop screen):

Google Chromecast

  • $35
  • Use your Apple phone or tablet, Android phone or tablet, or Chrome (on laptop or desktop) to send content to your TV
  • Pros: Easy to use, low price
  • Cons: No Amazon Prime Video support (due to controversial reasons) unless you cast directly from the Chrome Browser

Roku

  • $49.99-$129.99 depending on option (comparable option to Chromecast is $49.99)
  • Use Roku Remote to control choose what to watch
  • Pros: Support a huge variety of content
  • Cons: Some may find interface difficult to use

Amazon Fire TV

  • $34.99-$99.99
  • Use Amazon provided remote to choose what to watch
  • Pros: Best vehicle to watch Amazon content
  • Cons: Tends to favor Amazon content

Apple TV

  • $149 to $199
  • Use Remote or Apple device to choose what to watch
  • Pros: Support ITunes content (if you’re already heavily invested)
  • Cons: High price relative to other options

I personally use Chromecast and mostly watch Netflix and Youtube.  I recently started using my SPUD prototype (connected directly to my phone via HDMI) as my go-to streaming setup, meaning I can stream content to a big screen virtually anywhere I can get a cell signal.  Two days ago I was able to stream the big game (and Eli’s excited reaction to his brother’s big win) to my SPUD, which I easily set up right next to the grill.  Now that’s what I call cord cutting!

What’s your favorite cord cutting setup?

 

 

 

How to Make the World Your Home

Traveling can be difficult.  You’re always on the move, so you need to pack small and light.  However, you never quite feel at home using your laptop on that empty hotel room desk.  Good news: you can bring the functionality of your home workstation with you!  We’ve scoured the internet looking for the latest portable travel gadgets that get the job done, and will help you turn that lonely hotel room desk into a powerful workstation, just like home:

Keyboard: If you have a laptop computer, a great way to get the functionality of a full size keyboard while keeping things small is to add a portable numeric keypad.  The Satechi Bluetooth Wireless Numeric Keypad is slim, light, and connects without the hassle of wires.  If you’re looking for an ultra-portable standard keyboard (say, for use with a smartphone), check out the Flyshark 2, from a fellow startup company.  It’s the smallest foldable keyboard that we’ve seen!

Mouse: Portable mice are nothing new, but we have yet to meet someone who prefers to use their laptop trackpad.  The team over at thewirecutter.com has done extensive testing on over 200 mice.  The winner—as the mouse with the most favored combination of size, shape, glide, button selection, and button placement—was the Logitech Marathon M705.

Speakers: No one wants to listen to your built-in mobile device speakers. CNET recently put together a list of their recommended Bluetooth speakers.  Not surprisingly, a few Bose speakers made the list, including the impressively small but effective Bose SoundLink Mini II.  You get big sound in a small package.

Printer: Ever heard of an ultra-small printer that can fit in your pocket?  Neither had we, until we came across the Mini Mobile Robotic Printer from ZUtA Labs, another startup.  Instead of putting the paper in the printer, you put the printer on the paper!  While you may not want to use it to print a 20-page document, the ability to quickly print out a page of notes could be pretty useful.

Scanner: There are lots portable scanners out there, but thewirecutter.com have come through for us again, this time with an in-depth review of the best portable scanners.  Their pick: the Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i Mobile Document Scanner.

Monitor: Of course, the most important piece of this ultra-portable system is the SPUD, the world’s first high resolution, 24-inch computer screen that collapses to the size of your first and weighs less than a pound.  Give yourself that big screen that pulls the whole system together.  Don’t forget to sign up so we can update you when we launch our Kickstarter campaign!

Bonus (since we love startups): Take it all with you in the recently released BlueSmart, the world’s first smart luggage.  Never ask yourself “why doesn’t my suitcase text me when I lose it?” again!

How Much Time Can a 24-inch Screen Save You?

Many people have gotten used to large monitors at their office, or at their home workstation.  If you’re one of them, like me, you may get frustrated when you’re on the move and stuck with a single, small laptop screen.   Constantly switching between different applications can get annoying, and resizing multiple windows to fit on a 13-inch screen never seems to work well (though we always try!).  You may even delay working on some tasks until you are back at your workstation, where large screens make the task feel a bit easier.  Your own experience tells you that using large screens makes you more efficient, but are the efficiency gains really that significant?

Yes!

In 2004, researchers at the University of Utah conducted a study designed to test the productivity impact of additional screen space through multi-screen configurations.  Using three types of ordinary office editing tasks in slide, spreadsheet, and text applications, the researchers found:

Multi-screens fared significantly better than single screen on time and number performance measures.  Respondents got on task quicker, did the work faster, and got more of the work done with fewer errors in multi-screen configurations than with a single screen.  They were 6 percent quicker to task, 7 percent faster on task, generated 10 percent more production, were 16 percent faster in production, had 33 percent fewer errors, and were 18 percent faster in errorless production.

In a follow-on study released in 2008, University of Utah researchers this time looked at the impact of screen size.  As you might expect, they found that additional screen space improves overall productivity. 

"The study revealed that large widescreen or dual-monitor configurations are recommended for use in any situation where multiple documents of information are an ordinary part of work," said Dr. James A. Anderson, Ph.D., the lead author of the study and a Professor of Communication at the University of Utah.  "Given a workforce with varying editing and spreadsheet skills, the 24-inch widescreen appears to be the most solid option overall."

It also noted that:

Moving from single 18-inch traditional-format monitors to 24-inch widescreen displays reduced the time it took to complete a task from 8 hours to 5-1/2 hours.  Over the course of a year, that translates to a savings of up to 76 days in production, or about $8,600 per employee (based on a $32,500 annual salary).

In other words, you feel more productive on your 24-inch screen workstation because you are!  Keep using those large monitors for all of those important editing and spreadsheet tasks, and check out the Arovia SPUD, the only truly portable 24-inch display, to keep productivity up on the go!

And if for some reason you still don’t have a 24-inch monitor at work, now you have some impressive research to show the boss!