Kinsa Stick Smart Thermometer Review

I hate being sick. Sometimes I miss work because of it, but it almost always means I don’t know when I’ll feel better or what to expect. This is largely because I’m horrible at self-diagnosing. As I write this, I find myself at what I’m hoping is the tail end of a bad cold. What better way to review a smart thermometer like the Smart Stick Thermometer from Kinsa.

First Impressions
When I first heard about this thermometer, I took note of all the marketing materials and how they seemed to be geared towards parents. To be honest, I have a digital thermometer that works just fine, so having no children, I’d probably glance at this and forget all about it. Regardless, it did strike me as a great idea for parents and having a way for someone like me to track my symptoms seems like a big plus. The thing that really stood out, however, was the price. At $24.99, the stick falls right into the middle of the pricing range for digital thermometers I’ve seen in the past, but for its feature set, it’s priced very well.

Out of the Box
When my Kinsa Stick arrived, I liked the case that it comes in. My old thermometer is a single piece that has a plastic cap that covers the part meant to go into my mouth. This one has an extension cable, a setup adapter, instructions, and the Kinsa Stick, itself. The extension cord is meant to wrap around the case and the clear platic top keeps it in place. Flipping over the case, I found that the bottom comes off to reveal the setup adapter and instruction booklet. This is well-designed over all, but the cable can be problematic if not wrapped back in place just right.

Using the Kinsa Stick
A couple minutes after heading to the Android App store and searching for Kinsa, I had the app installed and guiding me through the setup process. This consisted of plugging in and unplugging the Stick with and without the setup adapter until finally plugging the Kinsa back in on its own for use. The whole process took just over a minute on my Nexus 6. For those curious about compatibility, the Kinsa Stick will work with quite a few smartphones when running iOS 8.0 or Jelly Bean (v 4.1) and later on Android.

I’m not sure what the setup adapter does, but it seems to be necessary as part of the process getting started. In fact, I had to use it twice on my phone for some reason. Other than that, everything went pretty smoothly. I tried the Stick orally and it read my temperature without having to keep the thing in my mouth for 3 minutes. I decided to also try taking my temperature in my armpit. The first time, I did it through a thin t-shirt just to see what would happen and it was off by 4 degrees. When I tried again under the shirt, it read just about the same as the oral reading, which is what I would expect. Throughout the process, I was guided with video and prompts, which helped everything run smoothly.

For adults, this thermometer adds the ability to set up profiles and keep track of symptoms and readings for each person. While this is handy, the real value seems to be for parents. These same features are useful for the whole family, but there’s also the ability to keep a child entertained by popping bubbles, for example, while the temperature is being read. Being able to read a temperature via the armpit could also be an advantage to parents. The app also offers the option to read a temperature by ear or rectally, though I did not try those features.

Conclusions
As a non-parent, the Kinsa Stick is a convenience, to be sure, but not a necessity. That said, the price point of $24.99 could easily sway a non-parent. For parents, this could be a great device to help make unpleasant times a little easier to deal with. I would imagine this being well worth the small cost for most parents, more so when there are multiple younger children in the house.

Hands On With The OUYA Open Source Gaming Console

At the risk of losing some of my geek cred, I must admit that I’m not a big gamer. I love to code and, well, there’s just not enough hours in the day. Still, I couldn’t help but get excited about the possibility of a sleek, small, open-sourced gaming console that runs on Android when I saw OUYA on Kickstarter. My pre-retail OUYA arrived on Friday, just in time for a weekend of testing.

OUYA Console

A Console For The People

Starting at $99 for the system and one controller, OUYA promised many things:
– Open Source
– Sleek, user-guided console and controller design
– Lots of games
– Developer support
– Change the gaming industry

Before my console arrived, some of the delivery was obvious. The OUYA team dedicated time to answering questions and working on valuable partnerships. Additionally, the controller design was guided, in part, by suggestions from the community. While the console was being built, OUYA held a contest in which developers submitted game prototypes and the community voted on their favorites. Though they were just prototypes, my review of the submitted games was the first time by excitement for this new console ebbed. Most of the games were not console-worthy and only a few stood out as ones I thought showed some promise. I reminded myself that these were prototypes from indie developers who had a short time frame to develop in and bottled up some of my apprehension.

As a funder in the Kickstarter campaign, one of the perks was getting the console before it hits store shelves in June. The closer June got, the more I wondered if it would ever arrive. Of course, I was in the last batch to be shipped, but it eventually turned up on my doorstep.

Unboxing And Setup

The unboxing of my OUYA has been bitter-sweet. The recipe for the worlds first open source gaming console seems to consist of excitement, anticipation, caution, a bit of doubt, disappointment, and frustration. Below is the unboxing video which includes some game play.

After getting everything out of the box, I headed for the setup instructions. A few simple instructions covered the basic – and I mean BASIC – setup: Plug things in, turn on, follow on-screen instructions. Great. Easy peezy, I thought, but then I looked at the controller. I had two AA batteries per controller, but no obvious battery panel, no screws to unscrew, and mostly no instructions. I took a chance and lightly tried to pry the top cover off of a controller. Sure enough, the left side popped off and there was a battery slot – for one battery. A quick check revealed the right side hiding a battery compartment as well. Where everything else was designed to be so simple and intuitive, I wondered by the battery installation had to be a puzzle.

Once I had everything plugged in and booted up, getting connected to the internet was just awful. The first time I tried, it connected and even downloaded updates. Then it immediately dropped my wireless connection. After several attempts to reconnect, I looked to the support site for help where I found that many others were experiencing the same connection problems. After trying suggestions to remove the case, factory reset, reboot my router, etc., I finally gave in and dragged a monitor and my OUYA upstairs to the wireless router and plugged it directly in. With just a little more prodding, the wireless magically started working again and has been fine throughout the house. Waiting months to play with this thing only to have to battle another hour or two to get it to work is certainly not ideal.

Features And Game Play

Let’s talk a little more about the features. For starters, this is a $99 console. I think the last time I spent this little on a console was when I got my Nintendo. More diminutive than the price is the console, itself. OUYA stands at 3x3x3 inches and packs in a Tegra3 quad-core processor, 1 GB of RAM, 8GB of internal flash storage, ethernet and wifi 802.11 b/g/n, and Bluetooth LE 4.0. It connects to your TV via HDMI with up to 1080p support, and also has a USB 2.0 and micro-USB port (for development). The controller is wireless and includes the familiar four surface buttons, two analog sticks, one d-pad, and two left and two right trigger buttons. At the top center of the controller is a touch pad to control an on-screen cursor.

Game play feels good and the controller is comfortable. The OUYA console is equipped with an internal fan but can still warm up some when in use. OUYA carries about 135 games, but I’ve only tried a handful based on what was featured or a “Staff Pick”. If the four games I’ve spent time with thus far, Final Fantasy III was my least favorite. After all the bragging about bringing a recognized title to this console, the game left me bored. Conversely, Chrono Blade – whose developers can also brag about their work on Grand Theft Auto – has been a non-stop action game with smooth play and combo moves that take me back to the first time I played Street Fighter. Honorable mentions go out to Beast Boxing Turbo and Flashout 3D for providing engaging game play and notable quality.

While I’m on the topic of quality, even Chrono Blade’s graphics – while the most impressive I saw on OUYA – couldn’t stop me from wondering if this $99 console will ever show signs of the level of graphics found on an XBOX 360 or PS3. While open source means virtually no barrier to entry for developers, it also means that most of the games currently available lack the production quality found in other consoles. Hopefully time will cure this. In the meantime, the silver lining to this cloud is that OUYA embraces share-ware style gaming. You can download any game (or a demo in some cases) and if you like it, you can buy it right from your system. If you don’t like it, simply delete it and try the next one. While other consoles offer an option to get games online, OUYA’s games are all online.

Open Source And The ODK

The OUYA runs on Android, which makes it easy to fulfill one of its key goals, to be open source. Typically, a game developer would need to spend five or six figures to develop for a Microsoft, Sony, or Nintendo console. The cost to get started developing an OUYA game is $0. This is a double-edged sword for developers. On one hand, it means a ton of games and no walls keeping creative new developers out. On the other hand, there will be a lot of junk games to sift through to find the good ones.

I’m no game developer, but I have been wanting to take a stab at some Android development. Even though OUYA is designed as a game console, it has the potential for a lot more with the ability to create all forms of apps for it. Sadly, I’ll have to wait until OUYA fixes their ODK (OUYA Developer Kit) link so I can download it.

Early Conclusions

It’s still a bit early to be sure, but I think OUYA has a promising future, providing they can work out the kinks. The wireless connection problems were especially concerning. I

Google I/O 2012 Introduces Glass, Nexus 7 and Nexus Q

Like Apple’s WWDC event, Google I/O is always an event filled with announcements that they hope will keep us on the edge of our seats. While they’ve had some exciting announcements in the past, they’ve really brought their game this year. With announcements about the latest version of Android named Jelly Bean, new features for Google+, and the unveiling of their Nexus 7 tablet and Nexus Q social media player, the grand finale was really Sergey Brin’s special project, Google Glass skydiving in.

Google Glass

The presentation that really stole the show was Google Glass, but it was more for the presentation itself than the device’s current abilities. During a presentation on Google+ features, Google founder, Sergey Brin interrupts, wearing a Google Glass headset. He announces that he’s got a Glass device out on loan that’s being delivered and cuts to a Google+ Hangout with a bunch of skydivers in a plane, each also wearing a Google Glass headset. They skydive in, showing us their viewpoint from Glass’ embedded camera. This carries on to the package being then biked across a rooftop, scaled down the side of the building and then biked up to the stage. It was a new first for one of these events.

The video above shows Google Glass from the wearer’s point of view, using the device to get all kinds of information about things they see, in real time. When I first saw the promo video, I wondered if it was a spoof like the see-through iPhone 5 concept or just another example of Google’s sense of humor, but this thing is real. One thing I noticed during the real demonstration at I/O is that they gave a lot of attention to taking photos and participating in Google+ Hangouts with Glass, but didn’t once demonstrate any of the cooler augmented reality features we saw in the promo video. Google opened up a preview model for purchase to US attendees of the conference who would like to experiment and develop on it, so we’ll hopefully see more features before it’s handed over to the public. No word on when that might be.

Nexus 7 : Small In Size And Price

Tablets worth buying are often also priced around $400 and up. Google’s Nexus 7 tablet breaks the price mold coming in at $199. With that price, they decided to throw in a $25 Google Play marketplace credit to get started with some movies, TV, books, or magazines as well as a free copy of the latest Transformers movie. Not too bad for $200. The Nexus 7 will come with Android Jelly Bean and all the hackable possibilities it offers and it all runs on a quad core processor with a 12 core GPU. It looks incredibly fast and responsive, but it’s also pretty small. Easy to hold in one hand, it’s definitely big enough to not be compared to a phone, but still noticeably smaller than an iPad. Either way, it looks like a lot of fun.

Here’s Google’s introduction to the tablet:

Nexus Q : A Social Glowing Ball

Another product people got pretty excited about this year was the new Nexus Q, which seems a lot like the darker side of Apple’s Air Play. It’s a small, black, spherical computer that you connect up to your TV. The Q connects to Google’s cloud to sync up all your music and movies and your family and friends can even control it when they’re over. Google demonstrated at I/O 2012 how to tell it (via an interface on your phone or Nexus 7) to play your media in the living room or maybe in a bedroom. I assume that you’d need a device in each room for this to work. It looks like something from Star Wars and many have compared it to a bowling ball already on Twitter, but is it worth the $299 price tag? That’s yet to be seen. Below is Google’s promo video for Nexus Q.

Google presented some great hardware today, along with some pretty cool announcements about their software, including Events and new photo stream features for Google+ and Android Jelly Bean and it’s new smart “cards” that learn about the information that you want. It’ll be exciting to see what else they have in store for tomorrow and the year to come.