Month: June 2014

Great Link: Lightning Detector

We were just talking about lightning the other day, and I ran into this article on Engadget:

Engadget: Watch lightning strike around the world in real time

The article is talking about the website.

Lightning Map

A better implementation of the map is located at:


Some apps for your phone do exist, too.

Apps for Smartphones and Tablets

This is cool because I was just wishing that I had a way to determine how close the lightning was.  We were swimming and watching the storms brew trying to figure out when we needed to get out of the pool.  I wished that I had an alarm that would alert me when the lightning was too close for safety.  I think the first Android app on their list might take care of that wish!

Fun Fact: Technology Can Even Change How You Learn to Ride a Bike!

I ran across this article on Engadget and realized that even training wheels are becoming Old School!

Engadget: Forget training wheels: This bike balances itself

Now, I had heard the the argument that training wheels don’t exactly help with balance.  They can be a crutch that you have to break away from.  We ran across balance bikes that are supposed to help kids learn their balance quicker.  Here’s a video of what those look like.

One thought: my son is having trouble learning the pedal motion much less balance.  This wouldn’t help with that at all.

The Engadget article takes a new direction all together.  Add a gyroscope to the wheel to steady balance.  They put settings in there so you can control the strength of the upright force and slowly take away the help until the kids can do it on their own.

This video shows one Jyro Wheel in action.  The wheel looks different than the one in the Engadget article, but the name is the same.  I wonder if it is the first version.

Another thought: the gyroscope can correct balance, but it can’t correct steering.  Nothing takes the place of a parent teaching a kid no matter what tools are used!


Thoughts: Are Cool and Useful Mutually Exclusive?

The other day, I saw a great article on Sten Vesterli’s Blog:

Sten Vesterli’s Blog: Cool or useful?

Sten makes an excellent point.  You have to see the pictures on his blog to fully understand, but the crux of the matter is this:

If you are going to be handling controls while driving (whether at 55 MPH or 200 MPH), you need tactile feedback from the control you are operating. Tesla opted for cool, Formula One opted for useful.

I can definitely agree.  How many times have I reached for the radio volume button by touch while I am driving rather than take my eyes off the road to find it?  Or, the cruise control button on the steering wheel?  At times, less bling bling can be important.

On the other hand, can you imagine what would happen if you put that Formula One steering wheel in front of your average driver?  So, let’s pick an elderly person who is struggling with the possibility of surrendering their independence and giving up their driver’s license.  Which interface is more useful for that person?  I would venture to guess that the F1 interface would send them cutting their license to shreds and vowing never to drive again, while there might be a glimmer of hope at getting by with the Telsa interface!  Okay, let’s choose a new driver just mastering the different signs, lines, and rules of the road.  Which interface is more useful?  My guess would be that the F1 would send the person packing to city to live with buses and subways the rest of his life, while the Tesla would feel at home striking a similarity with the cell phone they have been carrying around for a few years now.

We live in an age when even the least technologically savvy of our society are walking around with advanced smart phones.  In my opinion, the Tesla interface probably appeals to that audience and the sense of familiarity to that “coolness” makes it more usable.


Useful is definitely important, but I don’t think they are always mutually exclusive.  A cool interface can guide a user’s eyes to where they need to go to get the job done.  This can cut down on mistakes and training if done correctly.

As the Internet gets more useful and slick at the same time, I think users are going to demand the same experience from everyday life.  Cars, TVs, phones, houses, thermostats, and kitchens are all going to demand both cool and useful interfaces.

That’s my opinion at least.

Great Link: Smart Soccer Ball

Our family has gotten into soccer a little bit, so this article caught my eye.  It’s about a smart soccer ball that can give you feedback on how you kicked the ball:

Engadget: Improve your skills with Adidas’ miCoach smart ball

I’m not sure that I am that much into soccer where I need a smart ball, but if I did, my one complaint would be the lack of an Android application.  For me, the price of the soccer ball would have to also include purchasing an iOS device.

Just out of curiosity, I thought I would see if I could find any other sports devices.  The CruchWear website has some different articles:

CrunchWear: Sports – Wearable Tech

For example, here are some of the devices I saw right off the bat:

The Smart Basketball looked pretty cool.  You can read more about that here:

94Fifty: Smart Basketball Learn Page

Update (7/22/2014): How about a baseball bat?

Engadget: Zepp takes a swing at baseball with its tiny data analyzer

Update (9/5/2014): Why stop at a smart ball?  How about we make the whole court smart?

Engadget: Nike’s LED basketball court boosts training with motion tracking