All posts in “Gadgets”

Sprint is the latest telecom to offer a tracking device that uses LTE

Following in the footsteps of AT&T and Verizon*, Sprint is now offering an LTE tracker. The matchbook-sized device, simply called Tracker, provides real-time location tracking on Safe + Found app.

Sprint Tracker

Sprint’s new Tracker

The Tracker competes with Tile, but instead of Bluetooth, Sprint’s device uses 4G LTE, GPS and Wi-Fi location services, so it can be used to track things, people or pets that might travel a significant distance away, compared to a range of 100 ft to 300 ft for Tile (depending on the version). The Tracker is manufactured by Coolpad and users need to pay $2.50 per month for 24 months to cover the cost of the device, plus an additional $5 per month to connect it.

AT&T and Verizon both launched LTE trackers over the past year and Apple is also rumored to be working on a tracking device that connects to iPhones, based on an asset package for pairing devices by proximity spotted in the first beta of iOS 13 by 9to5Mac.

*Disclosure: TechCrunch is part of Verizon Media, a subsidiary of Verizon Communications.

Comcast adds gaze control to its accessible remote software

The latest feature for Comcast’s X1 remote software makes the clicker more accessible to people who can’t click it the same as everyone else. People with physical disabilities will now be able to change the channel and do all the usual TV stuff using only their eyes.

TVs and cable boxes routinely have horrendous interfaces, making the most tech-savvy among us recoil in horror. And if it’s hard for an able-bodied person to do, it may well be impossible for someone who suffers from a condition like ALS, or has missing limbs or other motor impairments.

Voice control helps, as do other changes to the traditional 500-button remote we all struggled with for decades, but gaze control is now beginning to be widely accessible as well, and may prove an even better option.

Comcast’s latest accessibility move — this is one area where the company seems to be genuinely motivated to help its customers — is to bring gaze control to its Xfinity X1 web remote. You load it up on a compatible computer or tablet, sync it with your cable box once, and then the web interface acts as your primary controller.

Users will be able to do pretty much all the everyday TV stuff using gaze: change channels, search and browse the guide, set and retrieve recordings, launch a live sport-tracking app, and call up and change accessibility options like closed captioning.

A short showing how one man finds the tech useful is worth a watch:

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It’s amazing to think that among all the things Jimmy Curran has worked to make himself capable of in spite of his condition, changing the channel was not one of them. Perhaps there was some convoluted way of going about it, but it’s still an oversight on the part of TV interfaces that has limited accessibility for years.

Voice controls may also be more easily usable by people with conditions that affect their speech; Google is applying machine learning to the task with its Project Euphonia.

Users will need a gaze control setup of their own (this isn’t uncommon for folks with physical disabilities), after which they can direct the browser on it to xfin.tv/access, which will start the pairing process.

ThinkGeek.com to close, replaced as a section of GameStop

Sad news for anyone who loves geeky goods and top-notch April Fools’ jokes: ThinkGeek.com, the 20-year-old online retailer known for selling more geek-centric gadgets and peripherals than you could fit in a TARDIS, is going away.

According to an FAQ sitting at the top of its site, ThinkGeek isn’t “shutting down,” it just won’t continue on as the site we’ve come to know, instead living on as a shadow of its former self as a section in GameStop (which acquired ThinkGeek in 2015 for a reported $140 million.)

Says the FAQ:

On July 2nd, 2019, ThinkGeek.com will be moving in with our parent company GameStop. After this move, you will be able to shop a curated selection of unique items historically found on ThinkGeek.com via a ThinkGeek section at GameStop

The word “curated” is pretty key, there, because there’s just no way a couple of shelves in GameStop will be able to cover the array of fandoms that ThinkGeek.com covered. From Marvel, to Star Wars, to Potter, to Tolkien, it covered a whole lot of (fan)bases in one swoop.

ThinkGeek.com is — or, I guess, was — one of those shops that was fun to explore; anytime I found myself there, I’d inevitably lose track of time clicking around from category to category, often throwing down a credit card for some Star Wars shirt or Aperture Science pint glass I probably didn’t need. Hopefully that sense of “Oooh, look at that! And that! And that!” will live on in whatever section springs up on GameStop’s site.

The company also says that the 40 standalone ThinkGeek retail stores dotting the U.S. will stay open.

This news comes after a few back-to-back 75%-off sales of all clearance goods, and now it looks like they’ve marked things down 50% site-wide to clear the warehouses.

Perhaps most of all, we’ll miss ThinkGeek’s April Fools’ day gags. On a day in which many companies find themselves trying a bit too hard to make us laugh, ThinkGeek just always seemed to get it right. They’d sprinkle their site with fake product listings for people to stumble upon. Things like…

The Fortnite R/C Battle Bus:

Or the Admiral Ackbar Singing Bass:

Or the absolutely brilliant Tauntaun sleeping bag (a gag that proved so popular that they ended up making and selling them for a while):

Alas.

ThinkGeek says it’ll still take return requests for orders made before June 13th, and that any ThinkGeek gift cards you’ve got sitting around will be honored at GameStop’s online and real-world locations.

AT&T cancels Samsung Galaxy Fold orders

AT&T has cancelled early orders for the Samsung Galaxy Fold.

Tom’s Guide first reported the cancellation, noting that AT&T said the Galaxy Fold would be available again to order as soon as Samsung announces a new launch date.

The Samsung Galaxy Fold was originally scheduled to launch on April 26. However, early reviews indicated that there were issues with the phone, which Samsung initially said was the fault of reviewers. The company eventually decided to postpone the launch and get back to the drawing board.

Earlier this week, a Samsung rep told Cnet that it would announce timing on the nearly $2,000 phone “in the coming weeks.”

However, AT&T’s move here suggests that it may be a while before the Galaxy Fold resurfaces, if at all.

Samsung itself asked customers who pre-ordered to confirm that they still want the device following the review period. On May 24, Best Buy cancelled all pre-orders of the phone.

Willo is a robot that wants to replace your toothbrush

If you think about it, the basic concept of a toothbrush hasn’t evolved since… forever. Sure, many people have switched to an electric toothbrush, but it remains a stick with a brush at the end.

Willo thinks that’s not good enough. The company has developed an oral care device to improve brushing with a focus on plaque. The company says that basic brushing only cleans 42 percent of dental plaque, while electric brushes clean 46 percent of dental plaque.

The startup has worked with actual dentists to design its product. It still sounds a bit mysterious as the company isn’t sharing much about the product. The photo is the only image of the product right now.

But what we know is that the startup has raised a $7.5 million funding round led by Kleiner Perkins, with Bpifrance and Nest co-founder Matt Rogers also participating. The company has been founded by Hugo de Gentile and Ilan Abehassera, and it attended The Refiners accelerator program.

Now let’s see how it actually works, how much it costs and if people are willing to change everything about the way they brush their teeth.