Sony SmartWatch 3 Is All About Voice Control


Image: Sony

BERLIN — Sony is the latest company vying for a spot on your wrist, and it’s banking on voice control to win that coveted real estate.

The Japanese manufacturer launched at the IFA 2014 tech conference in Berlin on Wednesday two new wearables: its third-generation smartwatch, appropriately called SmartWatch 3, and its wristband fitness tracker SmartBand Talk that takes phone calls.

Although it was rumored that the SmartWatch 3 might not run on Android Wear, it is indeed powered by Google’s relatively new smartwatch platform, the company announced. Not only does the device let you take calls, check email and track your fitness activity, it can be controlled with your voice.

This means anything you’d ask Google’s intelligent personal assistant Google Now is fair game for the SmartWatch 3, from details about the weather, directions or making hotel reservations.

Its arrival doesn’t come as a complete surprise. An image of the device popped up on Sony’s Facebook page in a promotion for its original Sony SmartBand, in what’s believed to be an accidental leak.

The SmartWatch 3 — which will cost 229.99 euros but hasn’t received a price in the U.S. yet — comes with a 1.68-inch 320 x 320 display and is available in black. Users will be able to upgrade to a pink or white band for 24.99 EUR more. The design is somewhat different than the two previous iterations of Sony’s smartwatch and more closely resembles the first version of the Samsung Galaxy Gear and Samsung Gear 2 Neo. Features include an accelerometer, compass, GPS, NFC, Bluetooth, Micro USB, 512 MB of RAM, an ambient light sensor and the ability to run for two days on one charge (four days if it’s used sparingly).

The company also unveiled the SmartBand Talk, the follow-up to its existing SmartBand fitness tracker, which launched earlier this year. The new one comes with a display — a curved E Ink display that’s always on — and it lets you field phone calls. It’s optimized for short talks (longer ones will drain the battery), a feature that’s still relatively rare among wristband fitness trackers.

Sony SmartBand Talk

While some trackers sync with smartphones and push notifications to the wristband, it’s unusual for one to actually allow you to pick up calls, but this one can — thanks to its built-in microphone and loudspeaker. It still, of course, tracks your steps, calories and sleep cycle, too.

The new SmartBand runs on Android 4.4 “KitKat.” The price is 159 euros for the SmartBand Talk and an additional 24.99 euros for a two-pair wristband pack.

Both products are a part of a larger effort by both Sony and other manufacturers to capitalize on wearable tech. According to research firm Canalys, annual smartwatch shipments alone are estimated to reach 8 million in 2014; that number is estimated to grow to more 23 million units by 2015 and more than 45 million by 2017.

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This Watch Is Smart, But It’s Not a Smartwatch


Image: Withings

Smart gadget company Withings, known largely for its popular smart scale, just launched a wristband activity tracker that looks far more like a watch than others we’ve seen to date. In fact, the wearable is — dare we say it? — beautiful.

The Withings Activité is a Swiss-made timepiece that monitors steps taken, calories burned, distance traveled and sleep patterns. It doesn’t come with the technology found in a typical smartwatch (like notifications and text messages), but it’s a smart device with a traditional watch face. And sure, fitness trackers are neither new nor unique these days, but its design is something worth appreciating.

The device comes in two colors (silver and black), while the watch case is made of stainless steel. It also features a crystal of unbreakable sapphire glass that includes touchscreen capabilities to tap between modes. The (real) leather strap comes from one of France’s most successful tanneries used by various prestigious French design houses. For the times you want to take it to the gym or even a pool, you can use an interchangeable plastic strap.

Withings Activite

Image: Withings

Unlike many fitness trackers and smartwatches today (we’re looking at you, Fitbit, Samsung and Pebble), Activité has a classic round face and traditional analog display. It features two hand dials, one showing the time and a sub dial with a percentage highlighting activity targets such as steps or sleep. Fashion watches tend to have circular faces as well as an analog display, so Activité’s design by nature is far more fashionable than the square-shaped smart models on the market.

Overall, connected wristband devices have developed a reputation for being clunky; many have displays that are arguably too large, while the bands are often rubber and the interface can look childish. Most aren’t something you’d want to put on to go to a fancy dinner. But Activité is a tracker you could dress up or down, depending on the occasion.

True to many smart wearables available now, it connects to iOS devices via Bluetooth and works with a corresponding app, Withings Health Mate. The app lets users develop personal activity plans and provides feedback to help them achieve goals along the way. It’s not available for Android just yet.

But a combination of beauty and brains doesn’t come lightly. The Activité device will cost $390 when it goes on sale this fall.

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Now There’s a Fitness Tracker for Your Car


Image: FIXD

Fitness trackers record your sleep patterns and exercise habits with ease, but the makers of a new device aim to bring that same kind of “quantified-self” tracking to another valuable part of your life: your car.

The FIXD sensor is a device that connects your car to your smartphone via Bluetooth and delivers updates on everything from when you need an oil change to when you need to replace your air filter.

By connecting the FIXD device to your car’s OBD-II (On Board Diagnostics-II) port, just underneath the steering wheel and then pairing it with your smartphone, you’re immediately given vital diagnostic data that allows you to track your car’s wellbeing.

Unlike so many other tracker devices, this one doesn’t need to be constantly recharged.

“Our device is powered by the car, so there is no battery,” John Gattuso, the founder of FIXD, told Mashable. “It will last as long as your car battery will last.”


Image: FIXD

In addition to tracking the status of your oil and air filter, the device also delivers updates on the condition of your airbag and tells you when your car needs more coolant. The FIXD app also tells you how long, in miles, you have until a particular problem might become critical, as well as the possible consequences if you ignore the app’s warning.

Another helpful aspect of the app is a feature that estimates the costs to take care of various problems the sensor discovers.

“For the repair estimate we are going to initially talk to mechanics about the time required for certain fixes and part costs,” Gattuso said, “but as our user base grows we would like to crowdsource that information from the actual experience of users.”


However, attaching such a device to an expensive car raises security concerns. Will hackers be able to exploit the sensor and app and steal your car?

“It is true that some have been able to hack cars using this port, but with our hardware that person would have to get the car started, connect a laptop to our hardware [within about 5 feet] and write their own software to send information to the car’s [engine control unit], which is extremely difficult,” Gattuso said. “Not impossible, but no system is completely impervious to hackers.”

Still, there will be those concerned about having their travel information possibly accessed by anyone who can intercept the sensor’s data transmission to the wirelessly connected smartphone.

Once the information is sent to the phone, though, Gattuso said it will be protected by the same kind of safeguards used by banks and online retailers to transfer payment data.

The first version of the app will be for Android only. An iOS version for the iPhone is still in development. Early adopters can snag the device for $40. And for those with multiple cars, several different FIXD sensors can be attached to your cars and monitored on one smartphone.

So far, the project’s Kickstarter campaign has only garnered about $4,000 of its $30,000 goal, with 18 days to go. If it succeeds, the team behind the device plan to ship it in April of 2015.

BONUS: What Is the Internet of Things?

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17 New Year’s Resolutions You Actually Have A Shot At Keeping In 2016

When the clock struck midnight on December 31, 2014, you had some big dreams for what you would achieve in 2015.

You were going to lose weight. You were finally going to get fit. You were going to savetonsof money and you were going to meditate for two hours every day (see ya, stress!).

Well, 2016 is quickly approaching and you’re pretty sure you gave up on those resolutions about two weeks into 2015. Actually, you gained five pounds. Oof.

The problem with New Year’s resolutions is oftentimes people don’t set a quantifiable goal for what they want to achieve in the coming year.

A goal like “lose weight” is too vague — you need to have a specific number and plan in mind to actually get what you want.

Other times, it’s because your goal is way too big. Meditating for two hours every day might have sounded realistic when you made the plan, but come on. Who has time for that?

In order to help you avoid making the same mistakes in 2016, here are 17 resolutions that are actually doable.

Do yoga once a week.

Whether it’s a 30-minute YouTube video or an hour-long class at your local studio, getting your downward dog on isn’t too much to ask when it comes to taking care of your mind, body and soul.

Wake up 15 minutes earlier.

It’s 15 minutes, not two hours. And it can make ahugedifference in your morning routine.

Pack your lunch twice a week.

We know the salad joint near your office is healthy and delicious, but it’s costing you ten bucks every day. Making your salad at home twice a week isn’t much work, and it’s a lot less expensive.

Hold a plank for one minute, three days a week.

Plank pose does wonders for your core, back and overall strength. It’s tough, but it’s three minutes in your entire week. You’ve got this!

Skip one restaurant outing a week.

If you’re in the habit of dining out four nights a week, cut it down to three. You’ll save yourself calories and money.

Download a meditation app.

So meditating for two hours a day wasn’t realistic, but downloading a free meditation app is. A lot of the apps out there have options for meditating for a few minutes at a time — and you can handle that.

Escort electronics out of your bedroom an hour before bedtime.

Bring a book in instead. Trust us, you’ll sleep a lot better.

Get a latte twice a week instead of every day.

That thing is costing you like $4.25, right? Brewing your coffee at home most days will leave a nice chunk of change in your pocket by the end of the year.

Take a 20-minute walk every day.

It’s not running a marathon, and it’ll get you moving and make you happier. Maybe it means watching one less episode of “Friends” on Netflix every night, Rachel and Joey will understand.

Pick five things that scare you and do all of them.

The saying “do one thing every day that scares you” is pretty overwhelming. Try picking five things that scare you and set out to accomplish them throughout the year, whether it’s trying out a dating app or going skydiving.

Carve out a “power hour” every week.

You know those nagging tasks that never seem to get done, like cleaning out your junk drawer or sweeping the floor? Carve out an hour every week to tackle them. You’ll get a lot done and won’t have to worry about them for the rest of the week.

Dedicate two hours every week to YOU.

And no, scrolling through your Instagram feed doesn’t count. Spend two hours every week doing something you truly love, whether it’s painting, reading a book or going for a long run. No technology allowed.

Finish something you started in 2015.

Maybe you half-started a blog in 2015 but never got around to finishing it. You have a head start, so make sure it actually gets done this year.

Make a phone call every week to someone you love.

Connections with others make us happy, and it can be hard to keep in touch with your best friend who lives across the country or your grandma who has a hard time hearing. So every week, make a call to someone you love. It’ll make you (and the person you’re calling) super happy.

Just eliminate one “bad” thing.

Don’t swear off sugar, salt and alcohol. It’ll be so damn hard you’ll give up immediately. Instead, pick one thing.

If you’ve noticed you have a bad habit of eating a bag of chips every day after work, just give that up. You may be surprised by what a difference it makes.

Start wearing sunscreen.

We know, a tan is nice. But skin cancer and wrinkles are not. Wear sunscreen this year!

Incorporate a little more water into your day.

You don’t need to start downing 16 glasses a day. Maybe just start drinking a cup of tea or a glass of water when you wake up. Hydrate, people.

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2016.

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Sumo Jump Squats

It can be challenging to do cardio at home, especially if you don’t own a treadmill or elliptical machine. Plyometrics, or jump-training can blast fat and boost your heart rate without a lot of space or equipment. Here fitness expert Kristin McGee demonstrates an exercise you can do anywhere to get in shape: Sumo Jump Squat.

Stand with your feet wider than hip distance apart, toes outward. Keeping your back straight, lower into a sumo squat. Make sure your knees don’t extend beyond your toes. Then jump as high as you can, arms overhead, land in a squat position and repeat for 30-60 seconds.

Sumo Jump Squats

Strength in what we're made of