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11 Tech gadgets NOT to buy this holiday season

(TECH NEWS) Save yourself some money and frustration this holiday season with our what NOT to buy tech guide.

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okto man with ring gadgets

Seriously, take our advice

If you’re like us, over the next few weeks you’ll be frantically searching the web for gifts for the important people in your life. Tech toys are always a winner… unless when they aren’t. From smartphones for vaping to smart shoes you’d be smarter to avoid, these new products are truly the tech equivalent of a gift card. We’re not saying we know what gift will be a hit this year, but we certainly can suggest a few that won’t.

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1. Oombrella

oombrella
From a company with a hard to pronounce name comes a product with a name that’s just as tough. While we commend Wezzoo for working to improve the classic umbrella, the Oombrella may end up being just as useful as Karen’s ability to tell when it’s already raining in Mean Girls. Also, maybe not the smartest idea to mix smartphones and rain?

2. Xcooter

xcooter
If you want the weird looks you’d get from a hoverboard without the slight edge of cool, the Xcooter may be the scooter for you. Compact and energy efficient? Perhaps. The future of transportation? Probably not.

3.Overpriced Smart Appliances

samsung-family-hub-refrigerator
There are certainly a few smart appliances that are getting much-deserved buzz, like the June Oven or Google Home, but the industry as a whole remains clunky and overpriced. These gadgets tend to be living proof of the saying, “Why fix it if it ain’t broke,” with LCD screens that replace magnetized refrigerator doors to display photos or coffee makers that you can activate with your smartphone. Someday, there will be a great line of smart appliances worth the price point, but for now you’re better off appreciating what you’ve already got.

4. Sprocket

hp-sprocket
HP claims “printing off social media photos has never been easier from your smartphone,” but maybe there’s a reason for that? Isn’t the point of taking a photo on your phone that it’s quick, easy, and compact? The Sprocket adds an extra gadget to your already full pockets, and then leaves you with a small, printed photo that you probably will untag yourself from online in a few days anyway.

5. Google Pixel

google-pixel-silver
In a year full of talked-about phone releases, the Google Pixel was actually a breath of fresh air. The first phone by Google is the highest rated smartphone ever, and is being praised for the long-lasting battery, headphone jack, and the fact that it doesn’t catch fire. Unfortunately, its popularity means you probably won’t get yours before Christmas if you’re trying to buy it from Google directly (or certain carriers). You’re better off waiting until the holiday hype dies down.

And yes, this one is on the list because our boss doesn’t have his Pixel yet.

6. Jupiter IO

jupiter-io
Speaking of problematic smartphones that may catch fire, the Jupiter IO has a built in vaporizer and unites two technologies we never knew needed to be combined. The $499 device seemed like a Funny Or Die skit when we first heard about it, but makers Vaporcade confirmed earlier this year that it is in fact real. Just because it exists doesn’t mean anyone actually needs or wants it though.

7. Digitsole Smart Shoe

digitsole
Snazzy, hyped up shoes can be a great gift for the sneakerhead in your life. Nike recently released a limited number of self-tying Nike Mag shoes inspired by Back To The Future and the internet went crazy, leading them to become the world’s most expensive shoes. Digitsole’s Smart Shoes had a less triumphant release, and understandably so. They can warm your feet and track your steps, but they unfortunately can’t look stylish while doing so. Unless you can shell out for a elusive pair of Nike Mags, you may want to avoid self-tying shoes this gift-giving season.

8. Samsung WELT

welt
In German, “welt” means “world.” For you, it probably translates to an unsuccessful gift. The Samsung WELT is a smart belt with a very unfortunate name that may turn out to be just slightly a better gift than socks or underwear. Tech companies have long been trying to develop smart belts, and while the WELT has gotten the most buzz thus far, at the end of the day it’s still just a belt.

9. Tipron

tipron
Tipron is a home robot that can project an 80-inch screen from a distance of three meters, great for all those times you were projecting a movie and wished the projector could move on its own. The main reason to avoid gifting Tipron this holiday season is the limited number of applications it actually offers. The creators claim one use would be to walk into your bedroom and project the news or your Twitter feed on the ceiling as you wake up. For now, we recommend saving $2,000 and just rolling over to find your phone like a normal person.

10. OKTO Smart Ring

smart-ring-okto
I know I’m not alone in that I still get a little bothered when I see someone talking on a Bluetooth earpiece, so the OKTO Smart Ring may be just what we don’t need. It is definitely a better bet than some of the new wearable tech out there, but with limited usage and the risk of damage when you wash your hands, perhaps a good pair of headphones with a mic would be a smarter gift.

11. Garmin’s Fitness Tracker

garmin
Smartwatches are consistently getting better, but the Garmin Forerunner seems to be stuck in one place. Garmin generally makes a good product, but there are dozens of smartwatches with loads more functions for practically the same price. One person who might appreciate this is your dad though, who’s likely been wearing a watch with a similar range of features for half a decade.

Bonus: It’s not a tech gadget, but no one in the galaxy deserves to be gifted a clip on man bun. The only thing that would make this worse is if it doubled as a vaporizer.

#techtoavoid

Brian is a staff writer at The American Genius who lives in Brooklyn, New York. He is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, and majored in American Culture Studies and Writing. Originally from California, Brian has a podcast, "Revolves Around Me," and enjoys public transportation, bicycles, the beach.

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Tech News

Further – the hybrid B2B and B2C startup providing all-in-one learning

(TECHNOLOGY) The Further app “filters” the web to find new skills for a daily dose of badge-earning learning. Consider it your personal learning library!

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There are a ton of resources dedicated to online learning, but the Further app “filters” the web to find new skills for a daily dose of badge-earning learning. Consider it your personal learning library in the palm of your hand. The Further app works to create a continuous learning experience for all, including students, employees, and trainees in a variety of industries.

“We grant intelligent access to high-quality educational content for everyone.”

Educational environments, such as schools and universities, can benefit from weaving in informal learning, increasing engagement. Consultants can use Further to increase their personal knowledge, but also provide professional knowledge to their clients. Safety and health training manuals can be completed in the app for manufacturing, food and beverage, healthcare, retail, and more. Lastly, software and tech employees can keep ahead of the trends by using the Further app.

How it works: Users can choose and collect content from multiple online sources to support their personal or professional skills. The app allows users to automate learning between family, friends, coworkers, and more through groups. Lastly, users are provided with reports to track their learning progress and are given rewards for completing items. Further uses AI to provide personalization through its own learning algorithm – the more it knows the user – the higher quality of educational suggestions it gives related to their goals.

In addition to the above, the Further app implements specific features to create a seamless learning experience. The app comes with a curated dashboard with feed customization, optimized for the users’ specific needs. The content center is bursting with resources that allows you to be in command of your education. In-app and push notifications can be enabled for reminders to complete tasks or grant access to updated trends in the news. And as with any great digital product startup, the Further app allows users to give feedback based on their experiences – you can submit ideas or future requests at their public Trello board (pretty cool if you ask me).

Request early access, download the mobile app, or try out the web extension for Chrome on desktop.

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Tech News

How psychologists are using VR to profile your personality

(TECH NEWS) VR isn’t just for gamers. Psychologists are using it to research how people emotionally respond to threats. But does it come at the cost of privacy?

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Man using VR in personality test.

When you put on a VR headset for the first time, most people have that ‘whoa’ moment. You’ve entered an enchanting otherworldly place that seems real, but you know it isn’t. You slowly tilt your head up to see a nicely lit blue sky. You turn your head around to see mountains and trees that weren’t there before. And, you finally look down to stare at your hands. Replaced by bright-colored gloves, you flex your hands to form a fist, then jazz hands, and back.

Playing VR games is exciting and interesting for a lot of gamers, and you would (or maybe wouldn’t) be surprised to know that psychologists think so, too. According to The Conversation, psychologists have started researching how people emotionally respond to potential threats using VR.

Do you think this is weird or cool? I’ll let the following help you decide.

So, why did psychologists think using VR would help them in their research?

In earlier studies, psychologists tested “human approach-avoidance behavior”. By mixing real and virtual world elements, they “observed participants’ anxiety on a behavioral, physiological, and subjective level.” Through their research, they found that anxiety could be measured, and “VR provokes strong feelings of fear and anxiety”.

In this case, how did they test emotional responses to potential threats?

For the study, 34 participants were recruited to assess how people have a “tendency to respond strongly to negative stimuli.” Using a room-scaled virtual environment, participants were asked to walk across a grid of translucent ice blocks suspended 200 meters above the ground. Participants wore head-mounted VR displays and used handheld controllers.

Also, sensors placed on the participants’ feet would allow them to interact with the ice blocks in 2 ways. By using one foot, they could test the block and decide if they wanted to step on it. This tested risk assessment. By using both feet, the participants would commit to standing on that block. This tested the risk decision.

The study used 3 types of ice blocks. Solid blocks could support the participant’s weight and would not change in appearance. Crack blocks could also support the participant’s weight, but interacting with it would change its color. Lastly, Fall blocks would behave like Crack blocks, but would shatter completely when stepped on with 2 feet. And, it would lead to a “virtual fall”.

So what did they find?

After looking at the data, researchers found out that by increasing how likely an ice block would disintegrate, the “threat” for the participant also increased. And, of course, participants’ behavior was more calculated as more cracks appeared along the way. As a result, participants opted to test more blocks before stepping on the next block completely.

But, what else did they find?

They found that data about a person’s personality trait could also be determined. Before the study, each participant completed a personality questionnaire. Based on the questionnaire and the participants’ behavior displayed in the study researchers were able to profile personality.

During the study, their main focus was neuroticism. And, neuroticism is one of the five major personality traits used to profile people. In other words, someone’s personality could now also be profiled in a virtual world.

So, it all comes down to data and privacy. And yes, this isn’t anything new. Data collection through VR has been a concern for a long while. Starting this month, Facebook is requiring all new Oculus VR owners to link their Facebook account to the hardware. Existing users will be grandfathered in until 2023.

All in all, VR in the medical field isn’t new, and it has come a long way. The question is whether the risk of our personality privacy is worth the cost.

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Tech News

Amazon backtracks on hybrid return-to-work plan, allows work from home

(TECHNOLOGY) Amazon retracts its original statement proposing a hybrid work schedule and is now open to allowing employees to work from home indefinitely.

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Samsung photo with amazon app loading page.

Let’s face it, companies can’t make up their mind regarding remote work. One week it’s this, the next week it’s that. Somehow, even though they have been running smoothly while working from home in the midst of the pandemic, employees are now suddenly considered to be “twiddling their thumbs.”

 

Following in the footsteps of other FAANG companies, in March 2021, Amazon said that their “plan is to return to an office-centric culture as our baseline. We believe it enables us to invest, collaborate, and learn together most effectively.”

What a stark contrast from the newest proposition: “At a company of our size, there is no one-size-fits-all approach for how every team works best” said Jassy, the now CEO of Amazon.  

Multi-member Zoom call on a Apple Mac laptop with a blue mug of black coffee next to it.

Contradictory, but admirable! Before this most recent announcement, Amazon was going to require all corporate works to adhere to a hybrid schedule of 3 days in office, unless otherwise specified. The hybrid work plan was set to begin in September 2021.

Now, the decision falls into the individual team’s hands and employees will be evaluated based on performance, despite where they choose to work. However, the underlying preference is to be located at least within reasonable distance to their core team’s office in order to come in on short notice.

“The company expects most teams will need a few weeks to develop and communicate their respective plans.”

Once plans are more finalized, Amazon will share specific details prior to January 3rd, 2022 – the date they initially planned for everyone to return to the office. Even though they may be a little indecisive, compared to Facebook, Apple, and Google, they’re actually being more flexible.

Finger snaps for the king of two-day shipping.

Now you have an excuse to pop open Amazon.com on a new private tab, while working from home, and buy a little something to celebrate. Seems counterintuitive to what we’re trying to prove here, but it’s necessary. Treat yo’self!

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