Got some extra space in your garage and need some extra cash? Check out Roost. Essentially Airbnb for storage, Roost is a new service that lets you rent out the extra space in your house to other people so they can store their stuff. If you’re shopping for storage, Roost’s website lets you search by location and access level. Need 24/7 access to your things? Filter by places that let you have a key. A little less demanding? Find a place that asks for 48 hours advance notice. You can also sort your search by total available size, so you’ll be able to know right away if your spare twin bed can fit. Roost performs background checks on hosts and storage locations have public ratings and reviews, so you’ll be able to feel completely safe leaving your prized possessions with a complete stranger. The service even includes an insurance policy to cover any damage or loss. Roost is only available in San Francisco for now, but hopes to expand to other major markets soon.
Learning a new instrument can immensely frustrating. A new iPad app called Wolfie looks to make life easier for people learning to play the piano. Wolfie, which features a score-tracking cursor, digital score playback and more, aims to improve music reading proficiency and reward practice. With more than 750 musical scores spanning all difficulty levels, Wolfie has something to teach every level of piano player. Wolfie is the latest app in the Tonara Prodigy Series, which wants to shake up the way we practice and study music and can accomplish that goal through a couple of cool tools. Wolfie’s “Magic” score tracking keeps track of your place as you play, even if you mess up or change tempo, to help you improve your music reading ability. The app also lets you record your practices and send them to your piano teacher for feedback, and even tracks and trends how long you practiced. To learn more about Wolfie, head to www.WolfiePiano.com or check out the app in the iOS App Store today.
If you’re looking for more bang for your buck from your wireless provider, T-Mobile and Sprint are bending over backwards to gain your affection – and business. In a race to outdo each other and become the clear number three wireless provider in the U.S., T-Mobile and Sprint recently rolled out enticing new offers. T-Mobile is offering up a year of free unlimited LTE service to you and any friends you convince to switch over to its network. If you’re a T-Mobile customer that already has unlimited LTE and you bring a friend over, you’ll get a $10 credit on your account each month for a year. Sprint, meanwhile, is looking to undercut T-Mobile – as well as AT&T and Verizon – on price. New and existing Sprint customers who buy their phone outright or bring over a Sprint-compatible device are eligible for unlimited talk, text and data for $60 a month. Verizon and AT&T no longer offer unlimited data plans for smartphones, and the $60 price point is $20 less per month than T-Mobile’s cost.
No matter which wireless carrier you choose, chances are good that you’re probably going to have a pretty high monthly data bill. But thanks to Google Chrome’s mobile browser, you can use less data each month and maybe even save a few bucks. Google has a couple features in its browsers for Android and iOS that reduce your data consumption by up to 50 percent. Powered by Google’s servers, one feature optimizes and transcodes the images you see on websites to the WebP format, which requires fewer bytes than other, more popular photo formats, like JPEG. To enable this feature, head into the settings menu of Chrome, then select “Bandwidth.” You’ll see an option that reads “Reduce data usage.” Turn that “on” and you’re ready to go! Also in “Bandwidth” is an option for preloading webpages. Chrome lets you choose always, never, or only on Wi-Fi. To save on data, set it to either option that isn’t “Always.” Happy browsing!
If you’ve ever wanted to tour Mars from the comfort of your living room, today is your lucky day. In honor of the second year of Curiosity roving around the surface of Mars, Google now lets you virtually blast into outer space and poke around on the moon and Mars. To get into outer space, go to Google Maps and click on the “Google Earth” button in the lower-left corner. Wait for the image to load, then zoom out as far as you can go. Wait a second or two until the options for Moon and Mars appear at the bottom of your screen. Click on either and begin exploring! You can mouse around and zoom in, just like on regular Google Earth, or click on any of the landmarks to learn more about that area. There aren’t nearly as many spots to check out on the moon or Mars as there are on Earth, but it’s the quickest trip you’ll make to either location… and the cheapest, too.
The e-paper screens you find on devices like the Kindle have many benefits, but their use has been fairly limited. A company called Visionect has developed a new platform designed to open up e-paper screens to a world of new uses. The V-Platform lets developers build and manage apps designed for e-paper screens as if they were traditional web apps. The apps are all designed for Visionect’s V-Tablet, which is designed to last a long time with its killer battery life. So where could these devices be used? Imagine you’re hosting an event, and want to keep its attendees up to date with the latest schedule. The V-Platform lets you push info wirelessly to the V-Tablets, keeping them updated with the latest information and keeping everyone at the event informed. The V-Tablets have also found a home in museums, where their lack of light pollution comes in very handy. They’re also able to display any information for visitors, further enhancing the museum experience and giving museum operators real-time feedback about guest activity.
If you think Siri is great, wait until you get a hold of Viv. Developed by the creative team behind Siri, Viv blows Siri out of the water. While Siri is limited to the tasks Apple wants it to do, Viv can teach itself and break down commands or questions into individual parts, figure everything out, then respond. Say you want to pick up a bottle of cheap wine that pairs well with Italian food. Viv will use your contacts to find out who your brother is and where he lives, then map a route to your brother’s house and find nearby liquor stores. Next, Viv will look up lasagna to find the right kind of wine to pair with it. It’ll then give you a list of wines, sorted by price, that you can grab on the way to your brother’s place. Viv’s not tied to a particular platform, and isn’t ready for public use. But it’s coming soon, and it’ll completely change the way we use our phones – and how we live.
Samsung recently debuted its new flagship phone, the Galaxy Alpha. With no press event and little fanfare, Samsung quietly took the wraps off its newest device, which features a metal case around a 4.7-inch screen, making it just smaller than the Galaxy S5. Its camera and battery fall a little shy of the Galaxy S5, too, placing the device in line with other mid-range smartphones. The Alpha isn’t a bare bones release, though, as it has a couple nice features like a fingerprint scanner and “ultra-power-saving mode.” The best part about the phone, though, is that metal case, which addresses one of Samsung customers’ biggest complaints: their phones feel cheap in your hand. The phone, which doesn’t have a price yet, is scheduled to launch sometime in September – right around the time the company is set to unveil its Galaxy Note 4. The Galaxy Alpha isn’t a device that’ll replace your iPhone 5S or LG G3, but it’s worth checking out if you’re looking for a solid midrange device.
The Oculus Rift virtual reality headset offers many new types of experiences, but its latest use may one day save your life. The Rift is currently being used by med students to view surgeries from a first-person perspective. After a donation from the MOVEO Foundation, surgeons have begun recording medical procedures using GoPro’s Dual HERO system, which captures video from two GoPro cameras, then converts it to 3D in post-production. In the past, med students could only experience a surgery from a first-person perspective by being in the room, but that means there was a chance some of the process and techniques would be missed. With Oculus Rift, though, med students can see the surgery first-hand, then re-live it all through the surgeon’s eyes. Experts say the Oculus, which is owned by Facebook, likely won’t become a medical device, because Facebook won’t want to deal with the FDA. But this trial run shows one of the endless possibilities of virtual reality, and offers a possible glimpse into the future of medicine.
No one likes waiting in a long line at a hotel check-in counter, especially after a long flight and the stress that comes with it. Starting next year at Hilton hotels, however, you’ll be able to skip those lines entirely and get into your room with nothing more than your smartphone. Hilton recently announced that it will start rolling out new a new type of door lock next year, and will finish the global rollout to its 4,200 locations by the end of 2016. The new program bypasses the need for a room key by sending a code to your phone that you use to unlock your door. The technology is similar to what other hotel chains are doing – Starwood announced a similar program earlier this year – but Hilton is by far the biggest hotel chain to offer the feature to date. Hilton’s mobile app already lets pre-order amenities for your room and lets you check in and check out, but this latest program will help make your hotel stay even more relaxing.