Use voice recognition to build your grocery list

SmartShopper

I was chatting with my buddy Scott when I could hear his wife in the background all excited about something. Scott told me that she got this new gadget. Of course “gadget” was the magic word and I said, “put her on.” “Tell me all about it.” She had just gotten a “SmartShopper Grocery List Organizer.” I couldn’t believe how excited she was, so I knew this thing had to be cool. I ordered one without hesitation.

The SmartShopper is a digital grocery list maker that you use to actually produce your shopping list. The way it works is that you walk up to it or pick it up and press the record button. Then you simply speak the item that you want to add to your list. Say “Honey Nut Cheerios” for example, and it displays it own the LCD screen along with 1 or 2 other possible things that you may have meant to say. You select the one you said or meant to say and it adds it to the list. When you’re ready to go shopping, you hit the print button and it prints out a paper list organized by aisle/area of the store. The SmartShopper has 2,500 items programmed into it including many popular brand items. Of course it doesn’t have everything that any of us would buy. No worries, you can add your own custom items including the voice command to add it to the list. Although there is no keyboard, you can key in your items with an onscreen keyboard that goes from A-Z with numbers at the end. Another neat thing that it does is that you can flag items that you have coupons for. I NEVER REMEMBER coupons EVER! So this might come in handy. You can of course remove items from the list before you print it as well as add/change quantities.

Now you can make your shopping list all week long by just recording it as you think of something you need. At the end of the week or whenever you’re ready to go shopping, just print the list.

shopping list

I must say that it gave my daughters quite a good laugh as I took it out of the box, put the batteries in and just started trying to use it without reading the instructions (hey, that’s how I roll). I was speaking too closely to the built-in mic and it was guessing most things incorrectly. It was the suggestions that it came up with that were quite entertaining. I would say “Pears” and it would guess “Dog Bowls.” So they were cracking up. You want to be about 6-8 inches away when you talk. You also want to pronounce the words separately. For example, say Fruit Loops instead of FruitLoops. Once I read these handy tips, I was on my way. The SmartShopper also comes with a handy reference guide that lists the 2,500 items that are built-in, two ways. It lists them by category first and then on page 44, it starts to list them alphabetically. If there are things that you’re never going to buy, you can actually remove them from the database. This will of course narrow down the list of items and therefore  make the voice recognition (which is pretty accurate), even more accurate.

You can also use the SmartShopper to remind yourself of errands that you need to run while you’re out. It will list your errands too on the print out as a reminder for you when you’re out shopping. The SmartShopper has a magnetic surface on the back so that it can go right on your fridge (provided your fridge is not stainless steel). There is also a wall mounting option for those that like to keep their fridges clutter free or you can just stick it in a drawer if you don’t need to look at it constantly. The SmartShopper runs on 4 AA batteries (not included). There is no OFF button, it turns itself off after 30 seconds of inactivity. No training is required. The voice recognition works out of the box and therefore would work for any family member. It goes for $199 list, however Amazon sells it for $127.48. It comes with 2 extra rolls of paper.

View the interactive demo here.

Navigate your world in 3D

While on the Adobe CS3 Tour I came across a really cool gadget. My colleague Colin Fleming told me that I had to go check out the SpaceNavigator. Taking Colin’s advice I headed over to the 3DConnexion booth and within a couple of minutes of playing with the SpaceNavigator I had to have one. Although I’ve been home now for a little over a week, yesterday was the first time that I actually had a chance to install the SpaceNavigator. Granted I don’t do a lot in 3D, but when I do I always find the on screen controls to be less than intuitive. I’m always trying to spin objects around and end up flipping them. Now that Adobe Photoshop CS3 Extended has 3D support, this kind of 3D Navigation Tool is even more useful for me. The SpaceNavigator works directly inside Photoshop CS3 Extended. There was nothing that I had to do to tell Photoshop that it was attached. Once I installed the driver, I opened up the file below, double clicked on the 3D layer icon and I had complete control over the object’s movement, zooming and panning.

While it’s great to have this wonderful controller for Photoshop CS3 Extended, I’d love to have it work in After Effects as well. I think we’re working on it, but nothing to announce yet.

 

Next I headed over to Google Earth. An hour of my time just vanished. I was so sucked in and again I was using that app like I had never used it before. I was flying all around the globe and zooming in on any placed that I wanted to see. I even did an aerial fly through from my old house to my new house and because I had such fluid control, it was easy to track the entire route.

The SpaceNavigator goes for $59 and if you play with (or do real work in) 3D apps, it’s a must have! Here’s a video from one of the 3Dconnexion guys showing the SpaceNavigator inside Photoshop CS3 Extended. Check it out:

 

iPhone – unanswered questions

The iPhone is only days away from going on sale to the public, but I still have lot’s of unanswered questions. Apple has “leaked/announced” a few more tidbits like the fact that it will now have up to 8 hours of battery talk time, an impressive 250 hours of standby time and it will have a glass protective, more scratch resistant screen instead of plastic. Also we now know the 12th icon is for YouTube (which will be interesting to see how that works over Edge). However, I’ve been waiting to get more details and I can’t believe that Apple would expect everyone to buy an iPhone without disclosing the full specs first. As I think of a new question I jot it down in my notes. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

 

Bluetooth
Does the iPhone have Bluetooth hands-free car support (download address book to car)?
Can it be used for DUN – use it as a wireless modem to your MacBook, PowerBook, etc.?
What’s the compatibility like with non-Apple headsets?
Can you Redial/Answer from non-Apple headsets?

Is Bluetooth syncing of Contacts, iTunes, etc. possible?

Phone
Does it use a SIM card that is user accessible? (rumor has it as NO)
Does the iPhone support voice dialing?
Will there be a VoIP solution for making calls while on Wi-Fi?
Can I use iTunes songs as ring tones (mp3 or AAC)?
Can I assign ring tones to contacts?
Does the iPhone support Address Book categories?

How is it for one hand operation?
Is there a single button speed dial feature? (looking at the tutorial, it takes at least two taps to speed dial)

Calendar
Does the calendar have Alarms?
Can I add/modify calendar entries from the handset?
Does it have multiple Calendar support from iCal?

Notes
I assume this will sync to the new Mail app in Leopard, however what other notes programs will it sync to?

iPod
Can I listen to music over Bluetooth?
Can I sync music from one computer and contacts/calendar from another?
Will iPod games work?

Web/Internet/Email
What happens when you visit a site that has Flash content?
Does it have connectivity to MS Exchange servers beyond IMAP?
3G support (when? and will my version 1.0 phone be upgradable to it?)
MMS support? – rumor has it as NO.

What happens when you click a link to download a file from a website?

Will there be .Mac integration?

Why no .Mac “push” email. It really seems odd that they would choose yahoo mail for this over their own solution instead of both.

AT&T
What will the data plan(s) cost?
Rollover minutes/family plan?
Can you put it on a corporate plan? – rumor has it as NO.

Do I have to activate it on the spot? – rumor has it as NO, you bring it home and do it remotely

Other
Is there a GPS option, coming?
Does it have an Alarm Clock?
Does it have a World Clock?
Can I use my own sounds for alerts other than ringtones?
Does it have Unit conversions in the Calculator?

Most of the above questions come from my use of other smart phones. So these are the little things that I’ve become accustom to that I would like to know if the iPhone has? Apple has posted this 20 minute guided tour that shows you how to use an iPhone. If we don’t find out before the 29th, I will certainly give a complete review and answer these questions after the 29th. I’ll be in line on the 29th, but camping is not my thing. So we’ll really see how many they actually have in stock on day one?

My Favorite Things…

FavoritesPeople ask me to recommend products and services to them all the time. Sometimes they take my advice, sometimes they don’t. But that’s besides the point. Rather than having to constantly go back and dig up a link to a product that I like, to send it to them, I’ve decided to put it all in one place, here on my tech blog. This way you will always be able to tell which products and services I’m currently recommending at any given time. The products and services listed here are the ones that I actually use (or have used in the past) and I don’t get paid to recommend them (other than Adobe products of course. Although I was using and recommending Adobe products long before I worked for the company.) Most of these companies don’t even know that I exist.

So the next time you’re looking for a hot gadget recommendation or you’re wondering what I use in any given category, you can just take a peek at "My Favorite Things" to find out. I’ll keep the page updated as I swap out my gear over time.

Sony PS3 now upscales regular DVDs

Sony has released the much rumored 1.8 firmware which among many things now upscales standard definition DVDs to HD resolutions. One of the main reasons I got a PS3 was to enjoy Blu-ray HD movies in my theater. I now use it as my primary DVD player and with this new upscaling capability I’m even happier about that move. Also the occasional HD game is cool too.

The other things you find in this update include:

  • Printing images to a supported printer
  • Copying saved data (PS & PS2) to a memory card
  • Viewing files on a DLNA enabled device/media server
  • Remote play
  • and a host of other minor tweaks

The Bean Bag is back in style

I love my Garmin Nuvi GPS however, I’m not a fan of windshield suction cups. While they work for the most part, I primarily use my Nuvi in rental cars and therefore have to move the mount from car to car each time I travel. I’ve had the Nuvi literally fall off the window on more than one occasion while driving. While the Nuvi has survived the fall each time, it was a pain in the butt (and a hazard to my fellow motorists) to get it back on the windshield. So I started looking for other mounting solutions when I came across this “Portable Friction Mount – ie. Bean Bag” on Garmin’s site. In order to use this mount you also need the Automotive Mount. The Automotive Mount is designed to stick permanently on your dashboard as some states don’t allow anything to be mounted to the windshield (probably for the reasons above). However, it does slide neatly and not permanently into the Bean Bag mount. So in theory you could use the base that comes with the Automotive Mount in your car and still travel with the Bean Bag mount and the part that attaches to the Nuvi for other/rental cars. This isn’t a concern for me as my personal vehicles all have factory navigation in them already.

I took the Bean Bag mount for a test drive and it stayed in place even on those Indy 500 style turns that I’m known for. It’s also neat to just pickup the whole thing when you arrive and go inside. If you find that suction mounts “suck (or don’t suck)”, then I highly recommend this solution!