Smart Watches

For a super detailed Mega guide check out Android Smart Watch – The Ultimate Guide

(please note: this article first appeared in 2013, for a more up-to-date article please look at the link above Android Smart Watch – The Ultimate Guide)

Wearables: How Smart Are Smart Watches?

We’ve come quite a ways since the beloved Casio calculator watches of our youth, but have smart watches – wrist-bound gizmos meant as extensions of your smartphone – truly arrived?

Google thinks so. Its recently-unveiled Android Wear platform seeks to create a common foundation for smart watches across the diverse Android ecosystem.  Samsung and LG are already shipping watches that use it, and Motorola made a splash with its recent launch of the intriguing Moto 360. However, Android Wear requires a smartphone running Android version 4.3 or higher, which more than 70 percent currently fall short of.

There’s an instant gratification to seeing a text message appear on your wrist, and Google’s advanced voice controls work great. However, it can be cumbersome to control how many notifications come through – too few defeats the purpose, too many quickly becomes obnoxious.  And while there’s a lot of potential, there’s only so many functions they can serve with today’s limited selection of apps.

Meanwhile, Apple has just unveiled their long-rumored wearable. With a $349 starting price, the Apple Watch is a bit pricier than the $200 to $300 Android competition, but in typical Apple fashion it combines sleek and seamless design with several unique features such as the innovative Digital Crown. And with integration into their ambitious new Apple Pay system, Apple hopes the devices helps make fumbly and unsecure credit card swipes a thing of the past. The Apple Watch requires an iPhone 5 or newer, and will be available in early 2015.

FaceShift: Creative Expressions

A small Switzerland-based company had an intriguing idea – what if the presence and expressiveness of video chat could be brought into online games and other virtual spaces? Meet FaceShift: software that can use a live-captured 3D image of your face to animate your digital effigy.  In the future, instead of typing “:)” you might just, well… smile!

Whether you’re using it to control a lifelike human model, a wrinkle-faced pug, or a green-skinned orc, the software will mirror your expressions on the fly in an amazingly believable way: when you roll your eyes, furrow your brow, or give a lopsided smirk, your on-screen avatar matches your actions identically. Playing with it is very surreal – and very fun.

Their technology has already been used to record animation for video games and computer-generated films, but the FaceShift team wants to expand its popularity to more “live” interactions. How fun would it be to jump headlong into your digital character for a gaming session or impromptu chat? The FaceShift team hopes you’ll soon find out.

XOXO: Portland’s Arts & Tech “Un-Conference”

Billed as “an experimental festival celebrating independently produced art and technology,” Portland’s own XOXO is a geeky, heartfelt event that defies easy categorization.

XOXO was conceived in 2012, partly in response to the hyper-commercialization of similar conferences. (Austin’s SXSW is the 900-lb gorilla of such events, sponsored by everyone from AT&T to Miller Lite.)  The XOXO vision is lofty: a gathering of, by, and for creators; free of middlemen, marketers and self-styled social-media gurus.

And to hear it from attendees, it has delivered. Each year’s lineup of speakers, musicians, video game developers and filmmakers describe and demonstrate the myriad ways technology has enabled them to create new kinds of work, retain creative control, and connect directly with their audiences in ever-increasing ways. Seemingly fueled by camaraderie, food carts, and a do-it-yourself vigor, XOXO is a quintessentially Portland event. September 11–14 2014, The Redd: 831 SE Salmon Street, Portland, Oregon