Awesome Stuff: Tech At Home

from the no-place-like... dept

For this week's awesome stuff, we're looking at some crowdfunded technology that stays put in your house and makes life a little easier.

SnapPower Charger

In-wall USB power outlets are one of those little details that everyone would love to have but rarely seem worth the effort to actually make happen. The SnapPower Charger aims to make them a little more accessible by taking the "hard" out of hard-wired: rather than requiring the installation of a whole new specialized outlet, the SnapPower is simply a faceplate with a clever USB extension that draws its power from the screws on a regular wall outlet. Unfortunately, it's currently limited to a 1A current for charging regular smartphones but not high-power tablets, phablets and the like — but the creators are looking into creating a 2.1A model in the future.

Wakē

There have been lots of attempts to redesign the alarm clock over the years, with any number of products promising the most peaceful and/or un-ignorable wakeup call possible. I can't speak to the success of those, or of this, but the Wakē does offer something novel: a solution for the problem, in shared beds, of being woken up by your partner's alarm. Mounted to the wall above the bed and controlled by smartphone, this two-person alarm clock uses an infrared body heat sensor and a parametric speaker to locate one of two users and direct its stream of music and lights towards them and them alone.

Neobase

One thing that bothers me about a lot of cool modern tech, including a lot of fledgling projects on Kickstarter, is a near-total reliance on remote servers and web services for storage, processing and control, even when it's not clear that this approach is at all necessary for the task at hand. So it's nice to see something like the Neobase, which is all about doing the exact opposite. It's a compact, all-in-one server and network drive that runs its own custom-built Facebook-like software, so you can set up your own completely private social network. It's entirely self-contained and doesn't store anything on any third-party servers, but you can access it from anywhere via encrypted connections. There are some limitations to this, certainly, both by design and by virtue (or curse) of reliable broadband availability, but I'm excited to see such devices move beyond the generic "personal cloud" offerings and into more specialized and powerful out-of-the-box solutions like this.


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  • identicon
    RR, 4 Apr 2015 @ 9:32am

    screws?

    How do you get power from the screws? Aren't they connected to ground, if anything?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Rod Dorman, 4 Apr 2015 @ 9:36am

      Re: screws?

      It contacts the two screws on the sides of the outlet that the neutral and hot legs are connected to.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Apr 2015 @ 10:41am

        Re: Re: screws?

        It contacts the two screws on the sides of the outlet that the neutral and hot legs are connected to.

        Ah, OK, so if you've got back wired instead of side wired outlets you've got to change out your outlets first. Want a genius idea. Not. It think I'll just stick with plug-in chargers.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 4 Apr 2015 @ 5:20pm

          Re: Re: Re: screws?

          not sure if this is a stupid question, would this introduce a fire hazard?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Michael, 5 Apr 2015 @ 11:10am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: screws?

            Most standard outlets have screws on the sides even if you have pushed the wires into the holes in the back. I have their nightlight covers and I must say that they are brilliant and work great.

            My house was built in 1962 and has a mix of outlets and their covers worked on all but one - and that was because the box was bent.

            As far as a fire hazard - since the contacts are inside the electrical box, there is no more risk than any of the other wiring in the box. These are all fully approved for home use, installed as easily as replacing the face plate, and the night lights at least are great.

            I'd be surprised if these didn't become the standard for home use in the very near future.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Apr 2015 @ 10:47am

    Wakē

    Has anyone actually tried this? Does it really manage to somehow magically "stream" music to one person without being heard by the other person? Or is it more hype than reality?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Leigh Beadon (profile), 4 Apr 2015 @ 11:01am

      Re: Wakē

      Some sound always bounces, and a parametric speaker will never be entirely perfect outside a fully-controlled environment -- but it's not "magical", that's silly. Parametric sound is a real thing and it works, and I see no reason it couldn't work in this situation, though common sense dictates that there are many factors that could make the isolation less than 100%. As for them, they say this in their FAQ:

      "Wakē's parametric speaker has a very narrow beam, however the sound it directs at someone can bounce off their cheeks, nose or forehead and create a little sound bleed, although it is many times quieter. "

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Apr 2015 @ 6:41pm

        Re: Re: Wakē

        it's not "magical", that's silly

        To be loud enough to reliably wake a very sound sleeper while not disturbing a very light sleeper a few inches away it would almost have to be "magical".

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 6 Apr 2015 @ 8:59am

          Re: Re: Re: Wakē

          To communicate with someone on the other side of the world must be magical too. Just because you don't understand it does not make it "magical".

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Apr 2015 @ 12:09pm

    Private social network: also known as a generic website with user accounts and user-generated content.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Apr 2015 @ 12:51pm

    I would not want to plug my sensitive USB devices on the same outlet as a blender. Might ruin it. Better to have a surge protector with USB ports.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Thrudd, 4 Apr 2015 @ 12:57pm

      Response to: Anonymous Coward on Apr 4th, 2015 @ 12:51pm

      It all depends on the circuitry used. A surge suppressor only does so much and usually is not part of most commercial wall warts.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 4 Apr 2015 @ 1:39pm

        Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Apr 4th, 2015 @ 12:51pm

        I try to keep sensitive equipment behind surge protectors and as far away from heavy machinery as possible. Of course there is no such thing as a perfect solution, surge protectors can only do so much, but as a general rule of thumb that's what you want to do.

        Really if you want to be pedantic you want to unplug your sensitive equipment when running heavy duty equipment or during lightning storms altogether and the next best thing would be to go to your power box and use that to trace which outlets associate with which switches and keep heavy machinery on different circuits than those of sensitive equipment. But who's gonna do all that. But having a blender on the same outlet as a sensitive USB device is a much more obvious no no and is much more likely to degrade or even ruin your sensitive devices.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 4 Apr 2015 @ 3:03pm

        Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Apr 4th, 2015 @ 12:51pm

        Question. Would items advertised as power conditioners (w/ surge protection) do more, or is that some marketing hokum?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          John Fenderson (profile), 4 Apr 2015 @ 4:12pm

          Re: Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on Apr 4th, 2015 @ 12:51pm

          power conditioners are a real thing and not hokum, but they do something different from surge protection. They're more about "cleaning" your power: removing noise & restoring waveshape, reducing the effects of under or over-voltage, etc. This can be useful if you have poor quality power and/or for certain types of equipment that are sensitive to dirty power. Most ordinary people won't get any real benefit from using them, though.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 4 Apr 2015 @ 5:53pm

    If your outlet is hidden behind something so that plugging in a USB adapter isn't practical, then it's not practical to plug anything else into it either, because any plug and cord is going to stick out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Leigh Beadon (profile), 4 Apr 2015 @ 6:35pm

      Re:

      Except it's designed with the USB port facing sideways and flat against the wall, so it's actually much lower-profile than the majority of chargers

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Rekrul, 6 Apr 2015 @ 3:32pm

        Re: Re:

        I meant electrical plugs in general. USB adapters don't stick out much further than the plug on a lamp cord. If the furniture is so close to the wall that it would block the use of a USB adapter, it would probably block just about anything you tried to plug into the outlet.

        Also, it didn't occur to me before, but the raised portion at the bottom of their plate, where the USB outlet is, will block the use of a "wallwart" power supply in the lower outlet. You could turn it upside down, but then it would block the upper outlet.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 4 Apr 2015 @ 11:09pm

      Re: USB Power Outlets

      But all those require swapping out the whole assembly, which although it takes only a minute's worth of turning a few screws, is apparently too difficult for some people.

      It's a wonder why no one, it seems, makes a telephone-line-to-USB power adapter, so people could recharge their batteries in emergencies during power outages (telephones use their own electric source). It's quite simple DC-to-DC transformer, though no doubt the telephone company would not appreciate people using their free electricity for non-approved uses.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2015 @ 1:01am

        Re: Re: USB Power Outlets

        It's a wonder why no one, it seems, makes a telephone-line-to-USB power adapter

        1) The available power is very little, below that required to make much progress charging a device. That is why DSL modems etc. need their own power supply.
        2) Drawing power is the same as taking the phone off of the hook.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2015 @ 7:01pm

        Re: Re: USB Power Outlets

        Before installing a new assembly I would recommend turning off the outlet's power from the power box.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Apr 2015 @ 10:54pm

    I don't understand why Kickstrter does not automatically cut off funds at some point. When a funding project goes 15x over the stated goal, it's obvious that this has become an online shop rather than a begging bowl. It would indeed be very funny if a project like this, that went way over it's funding goal, ended up failing to deliver.

    But if that happened, no one would have a right to complain, because after all, as we are constantly told, Kickstarter is a tip jar, nothing more.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 5 Apr 2015 @ 7:49am

    Snap Crackle Pop
    Burning down the house
    Any electrical connection that is not mechanical will ARC
    Spark and Burn eventually .
    Best for insurance scams and removing tenants you don't like

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    EEEnthusiast, 1 May 2015 @ 6:04am

    Kickstarter quality has gone down

    I've been a huge Kickstarter follower from day 1. We saw a lot of great project emerge from the platform, but I found that lately, we've seen a decrease in quality in a drastic way. If you read my Kickstarter Review, you will realize that the projects seem to be almost "weekend" deals. Also, we've seen a lot of simplified products emerge such as Fitted T-shirts

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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