Lost Something? Pixie Will Find It

We’ve all been there: We’re just about to head out to work or dinner or a social gathering of some sort only to realize that we’ve lost our keys. Then we waste a good four or five minutes trying to find them. It’s an infuriating process that nobody wants any part of. And technology, as it usually does, has come to the rescue. Pixie is an application that uses your smartphone’s geolocation and bluetooth features to locate virtually anything you frequently lose. And while there are several “finder” applications out on the market today, Pixie is a bit different from the rest.

Similar to the incredibly popular Pokemon Go mobile game, Pixie uses Augmented Reality to direct you to your lost item. Augmented Reality (AR), which has become rather popular as of late, essentially superimposes a computer generated image over the user’s view of any real world object or landscape. For example, Pokemon Go uses AR to simulate the appearance of actual Pokemon in the real world by superimposing their character models on any landscape using the user’s smartphone camera.

Pixie uses AR by providing visual cues and clues as to the location of your lost item. The purpose of this is to make the searching process easier and more bearable. Pixie works by creating a micro-mesh of networks that all connected points use to constantly signal and communicate their proximity to make a map. Simply tack on one of the “Pixie Points” (the geotags used to send out signals) to your prized possessions, download the iOS app, create and account and sync your tags with your phone. It’s an incredibly easy process.

The application turns the frustrating search for your items into a scavenger hunt. Your phone’s camera scans the area in order to get its bearings, and once your phone locates the lost item, the app gives you turn by turn instructions on how to get to the item. It even uses the phone’s speakers to provide audio cues.

Currently the application only supports iOS. However an Android version is in the works, slated to release later this year. The Pixie Points will run you $50 for a 2-pack or $99 for a 4-pack. Whether or not the application will catch on remains to be seen.

The Privacy App That’s Challenging Google

Everyone is concerned about privacy these days. With the Snowden revelations coming out that the NSA had been spying on Americans’ digital behavior and activity, and were allegedly partnering with such internet companies as Google, people have been concerned about privacy solutions to keep themselves protected from prying eyes.

Disconnect, a San Francisco-based startup, specializes in building software that can cut off intrusive advertisers from grabbing user’s data, and protect web activity with encryption. However, the average Android user won’t have heard much about it, not through Google anyway. Google has removed the tool from it’s Google Play application marketplace.

The startup isn’t backing down in it’s fight for protecting people’s privacy, though. The young firm, who’s CTO is ex-NSA engineer Patrick Jackson, has been wrestling with Google over the past year to get it’s app back on the Google Play marketplace, in an effort to get more Android users the ability to protect themselves from government snoops and digital criminals. While it’s pretty much a losing fight, Disconnect won’t let Google slow it down. Yesterday, Disconnect launched a completely refreshed application that does a lot to protect data by encrypting communications, routing traffic through different servers across the globe, filtering out more than 5,000 “invasive” services, and much more.

All things considered, at the end of the day it’s a VPN software – though it has plenty of bells and whistles. It isn’t particularly pricey in the grand scheme of downloadable software prices: the full desktop and phone application that covers up to three devices comes at $5/month, or $50/year. Some pieces will continue to be free of charge, such as the tracking visualization browser add-on.

1415899584709376

 

Disconnect has some significant voices in the security industry on its side. Blackphone – a privacy-specific smartphone based on a forked version of Andriod – has made it a standard install on each of it’s units. And the “next generation” version will come pre-installed on future Blackphones. Disconnect isn’t the only company with this kind of product and service, it’s just the first major one to have an established partnership with a secure phone maker. Disconnect has also announced another significant partnership with German ISP giant Deutsche Telekom, who is offering a special promotion to their customers, allowing them to try Disconnect Premium features free for a year.

The company itself isn’t only in the business of pushing products on the privacy-concerned consumers, as it explains. CEO Casey Oppenheim is of the belief that Google doesn’t want Disconnect in its Google Play store because the app educates consumers about how advertisers collect people’s digital data and that the software allows users to block them. Basically, it’s shining a light on the existence of the option to not be tracked digitally. In September, things came to a crescendo when Google sent a letter directly to Disconnect informing it the app would no longer be available for purchase or download on it’s marketplace. It apparently broke one of Google’s cardinal rules: you cannot interfere with other apps “in an unauthorized manner.” However, Disconnect is in perfectly good standing on other platforms, including Apple’s iOS marketplace.

You could look at this more cynically and make the conclusion that Google’s pulling of Disconnect from it’s marketplace is an effort in self-preservation, in that Google relies on advertisers to make revenue, no matter how intrusive they are. Essentially, in a scenario where privacy and security conflicts with Google’s business model, Google will choose the business model. This isn’t a revelation really; any company would behave exactly the same way. People don’t want to believe that Google is like every other corporation, but in reality it is.

Disconnect is aggressively pursuing being welcomed back into the Google Play store again at some point, though it’s possible to tinker with Android settings to allow downloads from unauthorized developers (warning: do not do this, it could badly harm your device as well as open you up to malicious developers as well as helpful ones). Though, it’s re-introduction to Google’s application marketplace is predicated mainly on Google updating it’s outdated user agreement before that happens.

The only question remaining is why Apple and not Google? It’s hard to say. Maybe Apple considers privacy to be more valuable to it’s success than Google. But, given that the public has ben increasingly upset with Google for it’s alleged collusion with the NSA, it’s probably in the tech giant’s best interest to lift it’s ban and give its users the option of flying under the radar if they choose too.

6 Superior iOS 8 Keyboards To What You Get From Apple

iOS 8 has a host of brand new features that are going to really make the iPhone a much more superior device. However, one of the most important features that comes with the new operating system is finally – finally! – the ability to use custom keyboards. Your liberation from Apple’s terrible keyboard is here everyone; rejoice! Apple’s tepid keyboard is made elementary by some of the more easy to use, and better functioning keyboards listed below. But, first, let’s go over how to add a new keyboard to your device.

In order to add a new keyboard, you’re going to have to download and install the individual keyboard application. Once you’ve done that, navigate to your keyboard preferences inside of your iPhone’s Settings application and add the keyboard to your list of available input methods. It’ll be added right next to the list that shows your keyboard language as English (US) and Emoji. Then, when you’re typing pretty much anything on your iPhone – email, text message, tweet, status update, etc. – you’ll be able to access the new alternative input method by tapping on the little globe icon next to the spacebar on the left.

SwiftKey and Swype


SwiftKey and Swype are adding iOS compatible platforms for the highly popular Android keyboards (free, $1). The two keyboard styles are similar at their core, but frankly their difference is really a matter of taste. They’re both based on a swiping input method; all you have to do is put your finger down on the keyboard and drag from letter to letter until the keyboard’s input algorithm figures out what word you’re trying to spell. As one who uses this keyboard regularly on my Droid, I have to say that I really enjoy it, and it pretty accurately (about 90%) inputs the word that I’m trying to type. Even if you slide sloppily, it generally works with around the same success rate.

The predictive tech is supplemented by a learning algorithm that analyzes your style from your inputs on the keyboard over time, as well as from what you type in to Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, etc. The keyboard also functionally allows you to type your words out as well, if that’s more your thing, and it also records your habits in the same manner.

Fleksy


Fleksy is a keyboard that I don’t have much experience with. However, if you are a terrible speller, Fleksy is apparently a God-send. For any time that you’re in a hurry or typing on the move, the autocorrect feature is incredibly accurate, and can translate even the most haphazardly typed words. The application also responds to gestures, and you can make the application run faster that way. If you don’t like the first autocorrect suggestions Fleksy provides, you can swipe through other suggestions until you find the right one. If you don’t like any of the suggestions provided to you, you can actually swipe from left to right across the screen, which acts essentially as a giant delete button. The application costs $1.

TextExpander


TextExpander will be introducing a keyboard application that makes typing out all of those long and tedious things you type all the time that much easier. TextExpander already exists as a popular desktop utility that is able to turn shortcut phrases into more long-form writing.

TextExpander already exists as an iPhone application, but because of Apple’s sandbox, you couldn’t use it to expand snippets in other apps unless you implemented the SDK. Thanks to iOS 8’s Extensions feature, your snippets can finally be used anywhere on your phone. The keyboard just went live with the latest TextExpander update ($5).

PopKey


Before PopKey, the only way to text a reaction GIF to a friend or a group chat was to hunt for one in your image library. That, or go into your browser and save a GIF image into your library, and then go into your library, and share it into your chat. That takes a lot of time! Luckily, you don’t have to do that anymore…assuming sending reaction GIFs to your friends is one of your more primary concerns. PopKey comes with a library of thousands of GIFs that express just about any type of reaction that you might need. Though PopKey isn’t live yet, it will be in the near future.