Amazon recently launched Kindle Unlimited, a new e-book subscription service that gives you access to over 600,000 e-books and thousands of audiobooks for $9.99 per month. Amazon’s not the first company to launch a “Netflix for e-books” program, though – Oyster and Scribd have both already launched similar services. While Amazon’s 600,000 titles represent a bigger library than Oyster or Scribd, none of the “Big Five” publishers have signed an agreement with Amazon. That means there are plenty of books for you to read, but not necessarily the books you WANT to read. Most of Kindle Unlimited’s library overlaps with the Kindle Owners Lending Library, which lets you read one book a month for free with an Amazon Prime subscription. Considering Kindle Unlimited costs $20 more per year than Prime – and doesn’t include any other perks like free two-day shipping or music or video streaming – it’s an idea that’s better in theory than in reality. If you want to see what Kindle Unlimited is all about, you can sign up for a free 30-day trial today.
Will Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 replace your laptop? Microsoft says it absolutely can – and it’s right. The Surface Pro 3, Microsoft’s newest tablet, is bigger and faster than earlier models and comes with better accessories. For Windows users, the Surface Pro 3 has only one important feature — it runs 100 percent of your Windows programs. Whether you need to run the full Office Suite, Adobe Creative Suite or Pro Tools, the Surface Pro 3 is up to the task. One of the best features of the Surface Pro 3 is its “pen,” which is far more than just a stylus. Clicking the top of the pen immediately brings you into Microsoft OneNote – even if the device is locked. So who is the Surface Pro 3 for? Students and professionals who really want to have the best of the tablet and laptop worlds. If the Surface Pro 3 sounds like a device made for you, two models are available now, with entry level and ultra-high-end models shipping at the beginning of August.
Science has cracked the code on one of today’s most important mysteries: How do I get the most likes on my selfie when I post it online? Selfies – pictures you take of yourself and share on social media – are one of the hottest trends in tech right now, so a PhD student at MIT developed an algorithm based on 2 million selfies that can predict how popular a selfie will be. If you want to maximize your likes, here are a few tips to take a great selfie. Brighter colors – especially yellows and pinks – draw the eye and tend to generate more likes. That’s also true of pictures with more people in it – the study found that selfies with other people were more popular than selfies in front of scenery. Adding tags to your photos is important, too, because then they’ll show up in more searches. Finally – and this is no secret to advertisers – sex sells. So remember to smile big, wear bright colors and grab a friend. Thanks, science!
What if your office lamp could tell your co-workers where you were? That’s the thinking behind Place Lamp, which syncs with your smartphone to set up “geofences” that detect how far you are from your lamp. In the office but not at your desk? The lamp can glow blue. Out of the office on your lunch break? The lamp can glow yellow. Out of the country on vacation? The lamp can glow red. If you’re sitting at your desk, Place Lamp acts like a traditional desk lamp and provides light for your tasks. You can also use the lamp to set up notifications, like changing color when you get an email from your boss or have it “wink” pink if a loved one texts you. The Place Lamp is entirely automated, which means you can set it and forget it. Place Lamp isn’t available for purchase yet – the team is looking into a cheaper bulb than the Philips Hue – but it does offer a sneak peek into The Connected Office.
The connected home has been a kitchen staple for a while, but few gadgets have truly changed the way we think about cooking. A new smart kitchen scale, Drop, looks to do just that. Drop, which pairs with a companion iOS app, completely changes the process of cooking. Instead of a traditional list of ingredients and steps, Drop’s recipes divide the ingredients into blocks. Every recipe is built around the scale, which adapts to how much of each ingredient you have. Baking cookies and a little bit light on flour? Drop can scale back the recipe to make sure the batch still turns out right. Drop’s recipes are far more visual than traditional recipes, and each step has an accompanying video to make sure you know exactly what you need to do. This significantly lowers the entry bar for new cooks, and also ensures veteran chefs are nailing each step along the way. If Drop sounds like a gadget you’ve got to have in your kitchen, you can pre-order one now for $99.
If you spend a lot of time traveling overseas, you’ll quickly realize that smartphones are not all smart. The rates for making and receiving calls are reminiscent of mobile phone plans in the 90s. If you don’t buy an expensive monthly international roaming plan, your phone calls may cost several dollars per minute. Even with those plans, calls and texts aren’t cheap, and the data you’re allowed is almost non-existent. If you use your phone overseas the way you use it at home, you’ll spend somewhere between $100-$150 per day. But there’s a way to avoid crazy fees. If you have an unlocked phone from AT&T, T-Mobile or Sprint, you can pop in a relatively cheap, local prepaid SIM card and keep your costs down. But that SIM card comes with a brand new phone number, which is a big deal if you need to receive calls on your real mobile number in real time. If you don’t, remember: you can always check your American smartphone voicemail a few times a day.
How many times have you asked a friend to call your phone because you can’t find it? Whether it slipped behind a couch cushion or was left in a jacket pocket, there are plenty of hiding spaces that phones love to hide in. Thanks to a new app called Marco Polo, however, finding your phone just got a lot easier – and more fun. Available for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, Marco Polo lets you find your device by yelling for it. Just like at the pool, shout “Marco!” and your device will respond with “Polo!” The app runs silently in the background until you need it, and can be customized with 30 different voice options. You can even change the input phrase to whatever words you want to shout. Marco Polo isn’t the most important app you can download to your iDevice, but it’s practical – and even a little fun. If you seem to always be losing your phone, you can download Marco Polo in the App Store for 99 cents today.
Why bother taking the time to count your calories when your microwave could do it for you? Researchers at General Electric have created a device that’s able to quickly figure out how many calories are in your food by analyzing its fat content, water content and weight. Using those numbers, it can then roughly figure out how many calories are in the food. The device isn’t part of any commercial product yet, but the researchers are optimistic because of recent breakthroughs in the field. So what’s the biggest roadblock right now? The device only works with substances that are the same consistency throughout, like blended foods and liquids. While that would work for some of the foods we eat, most of us aren’t on an eternal juice cleanse. GE’s researchers think they’ll be able to crack the code, and say if they’re able to bring a product like this to market, it’ll be able to scan your food in just one or two seconds. For now, we’ll just have to resort to reading food labels.
Fit Smart, a new fitness tracker from Adidas, is taking a different approach to the Quantified Self. Instead of measuring all of your activity 24/7, Fit Smart is only worn when you’re exercising or doing something physical that you want to quantify – think of it more like a personal trainer than a fitness tracker. The tracker puts heart rate technology on your wrist, but can also calculate how many calories you’ve burned, how fast you’re going, how far you’ve moved, and more. It also lets you quickly tell how hard you’re working through its LED lights, which range from a relaxed blue to an intense red. To make sure you get the most out of your workout, Fit Smart first gauges your stamina and level of fitness, then sends that info to the companion Adidas MiCoach app to generate training plans for a variety of workouts. If you want to take your training to the next level – and want more than a step and calorie tracker – the Adidas Fit Smart launches in August for $199.
Forget “OK, Glass.” What if you could take a picture with your mind? That’s the goal behind MindRDR, an app that was just released for Google Glass. MindRDR syncs with Google Glass and a separate piece of head-mounted hardware to create a “communication loop.” The app then looks for and tracks the brainwaves that respond to your focus, then translates them into a meter reading that you can see on Google Glass. The more you focus, the more the meter rises. Once you focus enough, MindRDR takes a picture of what you’re seeing. If you raise your focus even more, MindRDR can even post a picture to Twitter, along with the concentration levels you achieved. The whole setup is pretty clunky, especially with the need for extra hardware. And by building around Google Glass – which is pretty expensive to begin with – not too many people are going to be able to check this app out. Nevertheless, MindRDR is a very cool wearable idea to help “train” us to focus and concentrate better.