Gadget Unboxing: Samsung Gear 360 camera

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It is here! (Size comparison)

Today I received the Samsung Gear 360, the new 360 degree camera.  Before sharing thoughts about using this device, I wanted to share some unboxing photos.  If you have any questions about this device, please let me know.wp-1462220740157.jpgwp-1462220747348.jpg

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Back of package

The package claims “High resolution with F2.0” so I’m curious to see how this does with low-light or fast action situations, especially the contrast between video and photo quality.

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Top of camera

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Access battery, memory card, charging slot

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Accessories included in package

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Simple but smart travel pouch

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Battery and USB cable

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Gear 360 with its mini-tripod companion

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Gear 360 off its tripod

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Standard tripod threading on bottom of camera

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Fixing College Football’s Postseason

 

The college football bowl system is broken.

 

Some will say things are great due to tradition.  If tradition is so cherished, how can you explain the constant conference jumping by teams or the broadcast of games during the week? There could be over saturation in the bowl system when you are struggling to find eligible six win teams to place in these games (Three 5-7 teams played in bowls this year.  They all won their games but that doesn’t justify rewarding their mediocre seasons.).  Also, the evaluation of teams is off kilter.  A team high in the preseason rankings, a judgement based on potential, conjecture and limited past results, has a distinct advantage over a similar team facing a similar schedule but ranked significantly lower in the polls.  Also, two teams with similar schedules at identical 10-1 records are judged differently because one team’s loss was in September while the other team unfortunately lost late in the season.  Finally, teams main resume evaluation is based on strength of schedule but if the large schools don’t want to play schools outside of the “Power Five”, they don’t have to do so. Yet fans accept this significantly flawed thinking without batting an eye.

My suggestion is a radical overhaul that will add value to the postseason product presented by the NCAA, teams and broadcast partners while emphasizing results on the field instead of ambiguity and debate due to backroom decision makers. (There will still be room for debate in the playoff selection but that will only fuel the interest and media coverage.)

No conferences

This one will take a second to sink in but with teams jumping conferences for money grabs, how beholden are we to traditional conference ties? Currently, there are 120 FBS football teams. That is a nice number to work with for scheduling purposes.  Teams will be split into 15 8-team groups.  Play the other seven teams, win your group and you are automatically in the playoff. Groups can be sorted any way you’d like but here are three of the easiest ways:

  • Ranking: Teams are ranked 1-120 on a rolling 3-year basis. Each group will contain one team from ranking 1-15, one from 16-30, etc. This will be the perfect balance of top performers with bottom feeders.
  • Geography: Similar to the origin of conferences, teams are grouped together with teams from within their region.  This would limit travel costs and ensure solid ticket sales performance for each game.
  • Random: Any 8 of the 120 teams can be placed together.  This would create match ups that would otherwise never be seen. Just like the World Cup, some groups may be drastically more difficult than others with one so challenging, it would be referred to as the “Group of Death”.

The annual selection show could be aired in February, traditionally a slow month for sports, and would be “must watch” television programming.  The NFL schedule release show draws decent viewer numbers and 14 of the 16 opponents for those teams are known years in advance.  Do you think fans of Michigan, Alabama or Stanford would tune in to the college football pool selection show? ABSOLUTELY! They would hang on each dramatic moment as they wait for their school’s ping pong ball to appear out of the hopper and learn of their team’s upcoming season.

Don’t worry, I’ve thought about rivalry games. Each school will play a ten game season: 7 group games and 3 open games. This ensures rivalries such as Michigan-Ohio State and Alabama-Auburn will continue.  You can still have your Kickoff Classic at AT&T Stadium in Arlington with high profile teams to begin the season and end the year with the amazing Army-Navy game.  I’m sure some teams will claim they have more than three rivals but if you have that many, how special can those games really be?

Playoffs

24 teams will make the college football playoffs.  Qualification will be through two ways:

  • Win your group and you are in. Pretty simple and straightforward. (15 teams)
  • At-Large – I promised you’d still have your chance to debate and complain about the validity of some teams making it into the playoff while others are left out.  These teams can be decided by a committee similar to the NCAA college basketball tournament or maybe a weighted fan vote.  The at-large process also gives value to the three open games played by teams.  (9 teams)

The top eight teams will receive a bye (more debate included) while the other 16 teams will face each other in the first round. The winners of these games will move on to face the 8 bye teams and a typical knockout bracket will occur until a winner is decided.  Want to appease the current bowl hosts? Hold these playoff games at the neutral sites of the current bowl games.

Some may say that this sounds like too many games for “student-athletes” but a playoff team competing in the first round and making it to the national championship game would play 15 games or the same as this year’s Clemson squad.

Currently, there are over 40 bowl games. 40 BOWL GAMES!! Outside of the national semifinal games, there are three types of people who watch bowl games: alumni of participating schools, gamblers, people who left their TV on in the background.  So instead of 40 games where most carry little value, financially or competitively, I’m suggesting 23 games that would matter.  Matter to sponsors, matter to the media, matter to schools and, most importantly, matter to the fans.

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Gadget Review: foobot – Air Quality Tracker

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The foobot is a smart home device that detects indoor air pollution.

Pros:
Futuristic yet simple look
VERY easy to setup in minutes
Accurate measurements
Beautiful app with easy to understand charts
Lots of data

Cons:
Price
Limited actionable advice

4.5 out of five stars – foobot is a fantastic gadget that blends into the background of your daily life while tracking the quality of air in your home. If you live in an area with poor air quality, have health conditions that rely on clean air or are fascinated with data about your home, the foobot is a must own device.  The price is an obstacle but if you need this device, it provides great value with its data and warnings.

$199.00 – Visit foobot at SproutUp for more information and to purchase

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The good side

 

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The dangerous side

Today’s tech gadgets include features such as virtual reality, 4k video quality or interactions that bend the mind and world around us.  Other products create excitement with amazing YouTube action videos, buzzwords and super marketing campaigns.  This is not one of those products.  If tech gadgets were football players, the foobot would be an offensive lineman: dependable, solid, often unseen and under appreciated but always having your safety and protection in mind.

Remember the slogan of the old Ronco Rotisserie infomercials – “Set it and forget it”? That could easily apply to the foobot.  About halfway through my trial period, a SproutUp rep asked me how life with the foobot was going and honestly, I forgot it was in the house.

Setup took two minutes as once you download the app, it walks you through account setup and connecting to your wireless internet.  A nice feature is you can change the LED intensity, ranging from dim to super bright.  If in a bedroom, it shines brighter than a night light and almost the illumination of a desk lamp.  Luckily, you can set a timer on when you want the lights to be on or off during the day.  You can even name your foobot – I went with the playful “Sassybot”.

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Cooking leads to particulates in the air…

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The foobot app displays temperature, humidity, Carbon dioxide, particulate matter, volatile compounds and the Global Pollution Index, which is a general snapshot of your air’s overall quality.  If you aren’t inclined to constantly monitor your air data, the foobot glows two bright colors: blue for when everything is good and orange when there may be an issue. Not only will the device glow when air quality has decreased, it can also send a notification to your phone so you can respond appropriately.

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Notifications to keep you updated

Like most smart home devices, the brilliance is in the app and the foobot is no exception.  The app is clean with easy to read and understandable charts for each of the measured data points.  You are able to review your statistics down to the minute or in week long segments.  After cooking some sizzling and smokey meals, I found it interesting to see how quickly the air would fill with particulates and how long it took for the room to clear, even after the smells and smoke dissipated. Despite the claims of “Actionable advice”, the only advice the app gives you is to open a window when you pollute the air from cooking.

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Uh oh, something is in the air…

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Since I live in a suburb outside of Washington, D.C., I tend to have relatively clean air most days. If you live in a polluted area where air quality varies day-to-day or you have breathing issues such as asthma where this information could be of significance, the foobot could fit nicely into your life.

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Slightly fatter and taller than a can of soda

This device was lent to me by SproutUp on behalf of foobot for my review. All content and opinions are my own without any influence by foobot or SproutUp. Please contact me with any questions you may have about this device or the SproutUp program.

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Yep, sassy and effective

 

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Gadget Review: Hello Sense – Sleep Tracker

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The Sense by Hello tracks your sleep and monitors the environment of your bedroom to help you achieve a more restful slumber.

Pros:
Good looking device
Easy to set up
Fair price point
Intuitive app with lots pertinent data
Great customer service

Cons:
Inconsistent measurements
Inconsistent connection to WiFi
Simplicity of product makes it difficult to troubleshoot
Inconsistent

2 out of five stars – Sense is a sharp looking product (The baseball sized Sense on your nightstand and the postage stamp sized Pill which attaches to your pillow) with an amazing app but inconsistent sleep tracking and  wifi connection keep this from being a must buy item.

$129.00 – Visit Sense at SproutUp for more information and to purchase

You can pair multiple Pills to one Sense...varying colors correspond to each Pill.

You can pair multiple Pills to one Sense…varying colors correspond to each Pill.

We spend almost a third of our lives sleeping yet spend so little time or thought about how to get the most effective rest each night. The Sense hopes to change that concept…

Simplicity is the goal with this device. The Sense by Hello looks like the Beijing National Stadium, the “Bird’s Nest” from the 2008 Summer Olympics. Its modern design would be a welcomed artistic addition to any nightstand, no matter your style. No touchscreen, no buttons…instead the main interactions are by tapping the Sense or through the app on your phone.   The soft glow of the varied colored lights not only enhance the mood of the room but their main function is to give you the status of the Sense.  Almost the opposite of logic, no light means it is working while a pulsating purple or red light means the device needs your attention.  Get used to that pulsating purple light, though, as the Sense needs more of your attention than a clingy ex.  While set-up takes mere moments as you pair your phone with the Sense, the Sense with your wireless and the Pill with your Sense, there is no constant connection between these four points.  This would be satisfactory if you were able to pull data only when needed but without a constant connection, your sleep data gets lost and not even an incomplete portrait of rest can be compiled.

Get used to seeing this screen.

Get used to seeing this screen.

Or this one...

Or this one…

Or this one...

Or this one…

The Sense not only tracks your sleep but it also measures the environment in your bedroom to help you set the perfect atmosphere for rest. Temperature, Humidity, Noise & Light are not only measured but the app gives you advice on the right comfort zones for these measurements and tips on how to reach them.

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Humidity can affect your sleep.

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Beautiful app layout shows all data in a snapshot

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Ssshhh

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It was great to see this information and know what I could change in the room to make it more sleep friendly. This alone could be worth the price of admission.  Unfortunately, the main measurement, quality of sleep, is the least reliable of the bunch.

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For the most part, I have a regular sleep schedule. I’m in bed around midnight, just after the late shows’ monologues and asleep shortly thereafter.  I am usually up and starting my day between 7 and 8 in the morning.  The accuracy of the sleep tracking of the Sense was all over the place.  Some evenings it said I went to bed at 8p while others it said I went to bed at 330am. Also, it said I woke up at 5am or 6am.  These were not at all close to the truth.  Despite being a very sound sleeper, I do understand that the notes that state I moved around during my sleep may be attributed to my puppy who sleeps in the bed with me and tends to reposition herself during the night. Also, some of the data states that I went to bed, fell asleep then turned out the lights an hour or two later… all two hours before I actually entered the bedroom and went to sleep.  The middle set of data during the night seems to accurately track my data but the overall set of data skews the accuracy of any sleep report. A sleep score is given for each night which is a nice way to compare sleep quality over multiple evenings but varied levels of accuracy make this comparison irrelevant.

Despite the “inconvenience” of having to press a button to activate the sleep tracking mode, I would recommend a Fitbit or Microsoft Band which tracks your sleep with decent accuracy AND tracks your fitness levels during the day.  The one trick pony Sense can’t keep up with these products.

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This device was lent to me by SproutUp on behalf of Hello for my review.  All content and opinions are my own without any influence by Hello or SproutUp. Please contact me with any questions you may have about this device or the SproutUp program.

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Gadget Review: Revolights Skyline – Bicycle Lighting System

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The Revolights look like dots when standing still but create a light arc when moving…

The Skyline by Revolights is a bicycle lighting system that provides 360 degree visibility of your bike as you ride with a headlight and rear tail light that sync to your speed to create glowing arcs.

Pros:
Very easy to install, takes a bit to make sure the units line up properly
Bright lights to increase visibility of your bike while you ride
Great battery life – around 4 hours
Easy to charge batteries – uses micro USB chargers
Looks cool
Drastically improves safety – should be mandatory for all evening rides

Cons:
No indicator to notify of battery levels
Cost (Cyclists tend to be frugal folks)
Revolights headlight is bright but I’d recommend a brighter, focused headlight

5 out of five stars – Revolights Skyline is the premiere bike accessory in regards to safety…Easy installation, durable, stylish, fun to use…If you commute on your bicycle after dark or share the road with cars, you can’t take another ride without this product

$199.00 – Revolights.com for additional information and to purchase (also sold as individual front or rear units)
Installation takes about 20 minutes – all parts and required tools are included

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Simple efficient packaging

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Straightforward and easy to understand instructions

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All tools and parts are included

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Side view of bike – photo just after sunset

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Rear view of bike with regular headlight on

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View from on the bike with headlight on

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Battery fits between spokes

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Rear taillight

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Headlight

This device was lent to me by SproutUp on behalf of Revolights for my review. All content and opinions are my own without any influence by Revolights or SproutUp.  Please contact me with any questions you may have about this device. 

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How Panini Won The National

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The 36th National Sports Collectors Convention in Chicago, IL has come and gone. The show offers many opportunities for fans to reminisce about the glory days of their sports heroes and purchase memorabilia.  Vendors at the show can be split into four main categories:

Autographs – Autograph Alley gave fans a paid opportunity (around $50 each) to meet a former athlete and have an item signed;

Case breakers – The current trend in card collecting is case breaking.  Instead of buying a box of cards for a few hundred dollars, someone may purchase a slot that gives them all of the cards from one team or division out of the box.  This somewhat minimizes the risk while allowing fans to snag higher end cards.

Manufacturers – Companies such as Topps and Upper Deck who make the cards and attempt to push the trends in the current and future marketplace.

Stores – Tables set up selling everything from two cent common cards up to rare game used Babe Ruth bats and uniforms for a few hundred thousand dollars.  This ranges from local mom & pop stores to major Internet outlets and auction houses.

All of the above categories include a transaction interaction: you see something you like, you pay money and the vendor gives it to you. Very simple and mostly impersonal. Even the extended “shows” of case breaking falls into this category.  Despite a large section of the show dedicated to these companies, their main audience is online as the breaking process is live streamed around the globe and participants purchase a slot from the comfort of their home couch.

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The Manufacturers are in a unique position because they actually create products that fans want, not just reselling items.  Plus they are not selling at the show; if you want an item from Topps, for example, you must do so at a card store’s table, not directly from Topps. This gives them a unique platform at an event like the National that has thousands of visitors each year.  The basic activation then for the Manufacturers is their redemption programs: you purchase specific products from a card vendor then return to the Manufacturer’s booth to receive a special pack which includes cards from a National only set and the opportunity to win special memorabilia such as autographs or game used equipment. Leaf, Topps, Panini and Upper Deck all offered this program. However, the similarities of the interactions with these companies stop right there.  Reps from Leaf, Topps and Upper Deck would see your box of cards, hand you a promotional pack then send you on your way.  Their booths weren’t even set up to be welcoming to most fans as tables were set up around the perimeter and all interactions took place across the tables.  This minimized the time spent with the companies and practically pushed you back into the flow of foot traffic and on to the next display.

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Panini America, however, went with a different approach. Everything about the staging and layout was drawing you into their space. Tables were set up at the corners of their footprint with activities planned for the inner section, either on the luscious carpet or the comfy couch.  Yes, they had the same redemption as other companies but they interacted with you about the product you were presenting and asked you to open the promo packs in front of them because they were as excited to see what you received as you probably were.

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Panini’s main focus wasn’t your wallet, it was engaging with the audience and building a relationship.  This was evident in the various programs they had scheduled but especially in their Kids Case Break.  Thirty children, all under age 13, were given a lanyard with a NBA team’s logo.  As each pack was opened, the cards would be given to the child with the corresponding team’s lanyard.  And this wasn’t just the cheapest set possible; the cards given away included autographs and swatches of players’ jerseys.  Most of the kids walked away with 5 or 6 cards, most with a value of $50 or $60 each.  It was amazing to see the smiles on their faces, not because they now each had hundreds of dollars worth of cards, but because someone took the time to create and share a memorable experience with them. Some of the children who were probably too young to collect at age four will still have this Panini memory in their minds in a few years when it is time for them to spend their allowance at their local hobby shop. Tracy Hackler, Panini’s VP of Awesomeness (his real title is Hobby Marketing Manager), said, “This is more than a business…it’s about connecting with everyone, young and old, on their level and getting them excited about trading cards in general.  If they happen to connect specifically with Panini, even better.  Look at how excited these kids are!”

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Another great event was the hourly Panini Box Wars.  Since you already had to buy a box for the redemption program, Panini gave another opportunity for fans to do something fun and potentially receive more value from the box.  The Panini rep would list a specific feature of a card and all participants would rip open their packs looking for the card that closest fit the criteria.  All winners would receive a Black Box, a limited edition box of cards created specifically for the National. Scott Prusha, Panini’s Director of Excitement (his real title is Family Cards Marketing), said, “Yeah, we could have people just open boxes, see what cards they get then go on their way. But where’s the fun in that? We want our fans to have fun, to connect with them, with something they love, over a box of cards.”

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Panini did something a lot of companies forget to do: they made the extra effort to make their product more than an item, they made it an experience, an event, a connection.

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Greetings from Chicago: My first National

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In July at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont, IL, just minutes from downtown Chicago, the focus of the sports collectibles world was on the 26th National Sports Collectors Convention. If it can be collected, it was at the show.  Items ranged from baseball cards and football helmets to bobbleheads, scorecards and athlete’s scrapbooks.  As it was my first trip to the National, I was unsure what to expect.  What did surprise me was the wide variety of items for sale ranging from two cents for a common trading card up to $200,000 for a boxing robe Muhammad Ali wore on his way into the ring for a match.

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1966 Mickey Mantle Game Worn Yankees Jersey

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With HBO’s Bill Simmons aka The Sports Guy

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1950 JoeDiMaggio Game Worn Yankees Jersey

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Derek Jeter signed 2nd base, game worn uniform from 7/22/2014 when he broke Lou Hehrig’s team record for doubles

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Amazing original painting capturing Jete’s greatest moments, also signed by Mr. Jeter

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Game-used ice (water) from 2015 Stanley Cup

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