Tag Archive : gadgets

Why your next TV needs ‘filmmaker mode’

TVs this year will ship with a new feature called “filmmaker mode,” but unlike the last dozen things the display industry has tried to foist on consumers, this one actually matters. It doesn’t magically turn your living room into a movie theater, but it’s an important step in that direction.

This new setting arose out of concerns among filmmakers (hence the name) that users were getting a sub-par viewing experience of the media that creators had so painstakingly composed.

The average TV these days is actually quite a quality piece of kit compared to a few years back. But few ever leave their default settings. This was beginning to be a problem, explained LG’s director of special projects, Neil Robinson, who helped define the filmmaker mode specification and execute it on the company’s displays.

“When people take TVs out of the box, they play with the settings for maybe five minutes, if you’re lucky,” he said. “So filmmakers wanted a way to drive awareness that you should have the settings configured in this particular way.”

While very few people really need to tweak the gamma or adjust individual color levels, there are a couple settings that are absolutely crucial for a film or show to look the way it’s intended. The most important are ones that fit under the general term “motion processing.”

These settings have a variety of fancy-sounding names, like “game mode,” “motion smoothing,” “truemotion,” and such like, and they are on by default on many TVs. What they do differs from model to model, but it amounts to taking content at, say, 24 frames per second, and converting it to content at, say, 120 frames per second.

Generally this means inventing the images that come between the 24 actual frames — so if a person’s hand is at point A in one frame of a movie and point C in the next, motion processing will create a point B to go in between — or B, X, Y, Z, and dozens more if necessary.

This is bad for several reasons:

First, it produces a smoothness of motion that lies somewhere between real life and film, giving an uncanny look to motion-processed imagery that people often say reminds them of bad daytime TV shot on video — which is why people call it the “soap opera effect.”

Second, some of these algorithms are better than others, and some media is more compatible than the rest (sports broadcasts, for instance). While at best they produce the soap opera effect, at worst they can produce weird visual artifacts that can distract even the least sensitive viewer.

And third, it’s an aesthetic affront to the creators of the content, who usually crafted it very deliberately, choosing this shot, this frame rate, this shutter speed, this take, this movement, and so on with purpose and a careful eye. It’s one thing if your TV has the colors a little too warm or the shadows overbright — quite another to create new frames entirely with dubious effect.

So filmmakers, and in particular cinematographers, whose work crafting the look of the movie is most affected by these settings, began petitioning TV companies to either turn motion processing off by default or create some kind of easily accessible method for users to disable it themselves.

Ironically, the option already existed on some displays. “Many manufacturers already had something like this,” said Robinson. But with different names, different locations within the settings, and different exact effects, no user could really be sure what these various modes actually did. LG’s was “Technicolor Expert Mode.” Does that sound like something the average consumer would be inclined to turn on? I like messing with settings, and I’d probably keep away from it.

So the movement was more about standardization than reinvention. With a single name, icon, and prominent placement instead of being buried in a sub-menu somewhere, this is something people may actually see and use.

Not that there was no back-and-forth on the specification itself. For one thing, filmmaker mode also lowers the peak brightness of the TV to a relatively dark 100 nits — at a time when high brightness, daylight visibility, and contrast ratio are specs manufacturers want to show off.

The reason for this is, very simply, to make people turn off the lights.

There’s very little anyone in the production of a movie can do to control your living room setup or how you actually watch the film. But restricting your TV to certain levels of brightness does have the effect of making people want to dim the lights and sit right in front. Do you want to watch movies in broad daylight, with the shadows pumped up so bright they look grey? Feel free, but don’t imagine that’s what the creators consider ideal conditions.

Cool fitness gadgets

Unlike other glucose monitors which typically require you to stick a needle in your body, Glutrac is a smart wearable for non-invasive glucose monitoring. It works by measuring interstitial fluids (those outside your blood vessels) when you scan your index finger on an optical touch-screen sensor.

Using artificial intelligence and deep learning to calculate your blood glucose levels, the company claims an accuracy rate of 90 per cent. The fact that it’s a wearable means that you can now measure, in real time, your body date, anytime and anywhere.

SMART WATCH

The Withings ScanWatch is the world’s first smart watch. It is able to detect sleep apnoea episodes. Sleep apnoea is detected through a sensor that monitors your oxygen saturation levels. This is achieved by emitting and absorbing light that is passed through your blood vessels throughout the night. ScanWatch features a classic analogue design but includes a digital display at the top that is capable of displaying various health data.

SMART MAT

YogiFi is a smart yoga mat embedded with sensors that allows you to track your progress on posture, strength, flexibility and balance. Voice instruction provides correctional feedback. It works with third-party wearables such as Apple Watch and FitBit to track and correlate body vitals in the context of yoga practice sessions. It’s available in May.

DESK EXERCISE MACHINE

Cubii is an elliptical machine that allows you to exercise while sitting at a desk! It is designed to fit under most desks, with the recommended desk height from the floor to the underside being at least 58.3 cm. Unlike other desk exercise machines, Cubii’s ergonomic design mimics the motion of an elliptical. This means that the range of motion is lower and puts less pressure on your knees.

The number of calories burned varies based on the resistance setting and the speed of rotation but it’s quite possible to burn up to 150 calories per hour on the Cubii. Through a Bluetooth connection to your wearable device, you can track, share and set goals.

INDOOR RUNNING

If you don’t like the idea of doing anything like stationary cycling and would rather do some running outdoors, you should look into Nurvv Run, which is an insole designed to help you run faster and to reduce your chances of injury.

Its smart insoles have a whopping 32 embedded sensors that capture data 1,000 times per second. It pairs with an app to provide real-time suggestions on factors like cadence, step length, pronation, balance and more. You can receive audio coaching feedback using wired or Bluetooth headphones and it’s compatible with both Apple and Android.

5 gadgets every keen cook needs

1. GET A GOOGLE NEST HUB FOR MESS-FREE RECIPES 

First up, a smart display is a great addition to the kitchen for lots of reasons. The Google Nest Hub has all the smarts of Google Assistant built in, with the benefit of a seven-inch screen. This means you can watch YouTube videos on how to make your favourite dishes, as well as ask Google Assistant for new recipes. It offers up step-by-step instructions on its screen, all controllable by voice, with saves you getting your phone messy with food-covered hands. All that, and it can serve up your cooking playlist from your streaming service of choice too – the speaker is only so-so in terms of music quality, but it’ll do the job.

2. KEEP AN EYE ON INGREDIENTS WITH A FRIDGECAM

The Smarter FridgeCam gives keen cooks an easy way of keeping an eye on what food is in the house, without needing to buy a whole new smart fridge. The FridgeCam is secured inside your fridge door, taking a photo every time the door is closed that can be viewed inside the connected Smarter app. You can also keep an inventory of your items by scanning their barcode as you add them to the fridge, and get notifications when things are approaching their sell by date, so you know you need to stock up. The FridgeCam can even add items used or expired items to your Amazon Fresh or Tesco shopping list automatically, plus there’s Alexa integration on hand to hear a list of what you’ve got in, or receive suggestions on what to cook for dinner, based on the ingredients it knows you have.

3. CHOOSE A SMART OVEN FOR A HELPING HAND

Brands like Hoover, Siemans or Whirlpool are among the best to consider when it comes to choosing a smart oven. Depending on your budget, they can offer a whole host of functionality, such as touchscreen control, advanced cooking and cleaning features and in the case of something like the £1,200 Hoover Vision, you even get an in-oven camera that allows you to keep an eye on the cooking process in real time. However, even in relatively entry-level options around the £200 to £400 mark, you will see wi-fi control on the spec list, which will allow you to get the oven pre-heated from your phone when you’re not in the house – perfect for getting in from work and having the oven ready to go.

4. USE A MEATER THERMOMETER FOR PERFECT RESULTS

The Meater meat thermometer is a super handy gadget that will help you cook any meat to perfection, whether you’re trying to nail the perfect medium rare steak, or want to ensure you don’t dry out that roast chicken. All you need to do is place the Meater wireless thermometer into the meat, open up the companion app and choose what it is you’re cooking. It will then recommend a cooking time and temperature, and adjust throughout the cooking process if necessary, allowing for any resting time too.

5. MAKE CLEARING UP EASIER WITH A VOICE-CONTROLLED BIN

Finally, clearing up after you’ve cooked up a storm has never been more satisfying than with the SimpleHuman voice-activated bin. If your hands are full, simply say “open can” to have the lid open automatically, and you can also say “stay open” if you’ve got lots to clear down. It features three microphones that triangulate sound for voice recognition accuracy, so even in a busy kitchen when there’s music on and people chatting, it will still pick up your commands – plus it offers gesture control too. Just wave your hand over the top and the lid will open.

Great Gadgets Coming In 2020

1Samsung Ballie

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Samsung

A tennis ball-shaped rolling robot that follows you around the house. What can it do? Well, it can act as a fitness assistant and activate smart devices to assist with household cleaning. It will also respond to commands, such as “Come here, Ballie” and reply with a jingle when you ask it to “Say hi”. But mostly it’s for fun – your own personal BB-8, complete with bleep-bleurp sounds. Skittish, loyal and thwarted by stairs.

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Withings

There are plenty of “hybrid” smartwatches on the market – connected timepieces that look like analogue watches. Withings has produced a few of them, but its new ScanWatch goes big on health tracking. A 30-second ECG reading can be taken via three built-in electrodes in the watch, while a sensor tracks your oxygen saturation while you sleep, to help detect sleep apnea. The addition of a digital crown to dismiss notifications, set alarms, etc does away with any touchscreen functionality, making this more like a traditional watch than ever before.

3Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Fold

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Lenovo

Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Fold is a computer with a folding OLED screen. It’s calling it the “world’s first foldable PC” and joins a cluster of foldable tech this year. Hold the tiny laptop in your hand like it’s a novel, or open up the screen full-size and use the keyboard wirelessly. A futuristic, versatile solution that eliminates the tablet/ laptop debate.

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Joué

A pleasing instrument that simplifies music making. Connect the wooden board to four brightly coloured silicon modules and you can make beats, add distorted guitar solos or knock out synth riffs a la Daft Punk. The French company’s aim is to democratise music making – it claims to be able to make a viable musician out of any music fan.

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Samsung

Taking phone mirroring to its logical conclusion, Samsung’s new TV flips between standard wide-screen mode and vertical portrait mode just like your phone. Samsung says its designed for “the mobile generation” – though that surely means everyone by now – and allows you to view vertical videos from Facebook, YouTube and your own phone the way they were filmed, on a 43-inch screen. Bonus points if you own a Samsung Galaxy phone: you can sync it with the TV so it rotates as you turn your phone.