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Robot kits come to SA

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Young engineers’ dreams to create, programme and control their own robotic creations are about to come true as Gammatek will distribute robot kits from Ubtech Robotics.

Robot kits available to South Africa include Alpha1 Pro, a household programmable humanoid robot that can be used for education and entertainment, and Jimu Robot, an interactive robotic building block system that lets kids easily build, programme and share their robot creations.

Gammatek’s Zev Cherniak says: “These are the robots that youngsters dream of. Suitable for children as young as age, and upwards, these interactive robot building kits go beyond pure play and also challenge our perception of educational toys. While stimulating creativity and imagination, Ubtech Robotics building kits encourage critical thinking, problem solving, three dimensional engineering and collaboration. The possibilities are quite simply endless.”

Says sales executive Andy Chen, “The UBTECH Alpha1 Pro Humanoid Robot is a household programmable humanoid robot that is both educational and entertaining. Alpha1 Pro has 16 high-precision robotic servo motors, making him capable of reproducing human movements. Able to do push-ups, choreograph, even make kung-fu moves; no human movement is out of its reach. Each robotic servo can rotate at a given speed, allowing him to perform precise movements.”

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Youngsters can dance with him, play sports with this new fitness coach, sing along with him or teach him to tell stories. With Bluetooth 4.0, Alpha1 Pro connects to the mobile app, available on iOS and Android, which allows users to control and programme their robot. Using the app, players can control up to five robots via a smartphone or tablet.

With the programming PRP (Pose, Record and Playback) functionality, youngsters save new movements by moving Alpha1 Pro manually and launching the recording option. They can then edit the speed of every move, giving them the freedom of creation and endless editing possibilities.

Youngsters can also personalize their robot’s movements using the Alpha Robot programming software, available on Windows and Mac operating systems. With the intuitive 3D interface, they can select the robotic servo; select the rotation angle; define speed of the movement and even add music or a voice clip.

Once finished, the sequence can be transferred onto the robot via a USB and launched via the mobile app. Another advantage of Alpha1 Pro is the community platform which allows users to download online actions edited by Ubtech or by other users of Alpha worldwide. Equipped with a built-in speaker, the robot facilitates learning of simplified programming, integrates the concept of balance and helps children to understand the mode of moving in space by breaking down each movement.

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It’s suitable for young amateurs and beginners thanks to its “finger-friendly” structural design as well as eco-friendly and “shock resistant” materials.

Jimu Robot Kits use snap-together, interlocking parts and connectors which allow youngsters to build their own robots. Smooth motion robotic servo motors allow the robot to reproduce pre-set movements or movements programmed via the Jimu app available on available on iOS and Android. Jimu Robot Kits available in South Africa include the Jimu Mini Kit, Jimu Explorer and Jimu Tankbot Kits.

The Jimu Mini Kit comes with everything needed to build the MuzzBot, Ostrich or Bull robots and includes four smooth motion robotic servo motors and 253 snap-together interlocking parts and connectors. Explorer Kit comes with everything needed to build five models including a Baby, Parrot, Penguin, T-Rex, and Walrus. The kit includes seven smooth motion robotic servo motors and 561 snap-together interlocking parts and connectors.

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All Jimu kits include a main control box and a lithium ion battery, adapter and feature:

·       Interchangeable Parts – All Jimu Robot parts are interchangeable with other Jimu sets, so after building the official models, you can create your own inventions by mixing with parts from any other set.

·       Robotic Servo Motors – The key to the Jimu Robots’ amazingly lifelike movements is the high-torque robotic servo motor, allowing for fluidity and stability when moving from one pose to another.

·       Jimu App – The free app provides easy-to-follow 3D-illustrated building instructions, pre-programmed actions, Pose-Record-Play and direct-servo programming, Blockly coding to sequence your actions, and an in-App “Joystick” remote to control your Jimu Robot in real time on your smart device. The app also serves as a portal to a closed online community of Jimu enthusiasts.

Jimu Robots were built from the ground up to specifically meet the needs of STEM curriculum:

·       Science (physics, electronics)

·       Technology (advanced motors, sensors)

·       Engineering (building & creating, software-hardware interface)

·       Math (geometry, balance and programming)

The robot kits will be available through an exclusive network of retail partners including Cellucity , Digicape , Incredible Connection, iStore , New World , Sandton Stationary and Print ,  Technomobi.co.za and Takealot.com.

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Low-cost wireless sport earphones get a kickstart

Wireless earphone brands are common, but not crowdfunded brands. BRYAN TURNER takes the K Sport Wireless for a run.

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As wireless technology becomes better, Bluetooth earphones have become popular in the consumer market. KuaiFit aspires to make them even more accessible to more people through a cheaper, quality product, by selling the K Sport Wireless Earphones directly from its Kickstarter page

KuaiFit has an app by the same name which offers voice-guided personal training services in almost every type of exercise, from cardio to weight-lifting. A vast range of connectivity to third-party sensors is available, like heart rate sensors and GPS devices, which work well with guided coaching. 

The app starts off with selecting a fitness level: beginner, intermediate and advanced. Thereafter, one has the ability to connect with real personal trainers via a subscription to its paid service. The subscription comes free for 6 months with the earphones, and R30 per month thereafter. 

The box includes a manual, a USB to two USB Type B connectors, different sized soft plastic eartips and the two earphone units. Each earphone is wireless and connects to the other independently of wires. This puts the K Sport Wireless in the realm of the Apple Earpods in terms of connection style. 

The earphones are just over 2cm wide and 2cm high. The set is black with a light blue KuaiFit logo on the earphone’s button. 

The button functions as an on/off switch when long-pressed and a play/pause button when quick-pressed. The dual-button set-up is convenient in everyday use, allowing for playback control depending on which hand is free. Two connectivity modes are available, single earphone mode or dual earphone mode. The dual earphone mode intelligently connects the second earphone and syncs stereo audio a few seconds after powering on. 

In terms of connectivity, the earphones are Bluetooth 4.1 with a massive 10-meter range, provided there are no obstacles between the device and the earphones. While it’s not Bluetooth 5, it still falls into the Bluetooth Low Energy connection category, meaning that the smartphone’s battery won’t be drastically affected by a consistent connection to the earphones. The batteries within the earphones aren’t specifically listed but last anywhere between 3 and 6 hours, depending on the mode. 

Audio quality is surprisingly good for earphones at this price point. The headset style is restricted to in-ear due to its small design and probable usage in movement-intensive activities. As a result, one has to be very careful how one puts these earphones, in because bass has the potential of getting reduced from an incorrect in-ear placement. In-ear earphones are usually notorious for ear discomfort and suction pain after extended usage. These earphones are one of the very few in this price range that are comfortable and don’t cause discomfort. The good quality of the soft plastic ear tip is definitely a factor in the high level of comfort of the in-ear earphone experience.

Overall, the K Sport Wireless earphones are great considering the sound quality and the low price: US$30 on Kickstarter.

Find them on Kickstarter here.

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Taxify enters Google Maps

A recent update to Taxify now uses Google Maps which allows users to identify their drivers, find public transport and search for billing options.

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People planning their travel routes using Google Maps will now see a Taxify icon in the app, in addition to the familiar car, public transport, walking and billing options.

Taxify started operating in South Africa in 2016 and as of October 2018 operates in seven South African cities – Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Polokwane.

Once riders have searched for their destination and asked the app for directions, Google Maps shares the proximity of cars on the Taxify platform, as well as an estimated fare for the trip.

If users see that taking the Taxify option is their best bet, they can simply tap on the ‘Open app’ icon, to complete the process of booking the ride. Customers without the app on their device will be prompted to install Taxify first.

This integration makes it possible for users to evaluate which of the private, public or e-hailing modes of transport are most time-efficient and cost-effective.

“This integration with Google Maps makes it so much easier for users to choose the best way to move around their city,” says Gareth Taylor, Taxify’s country manager for South Africa. “They’ll have quick comparisons between estimated arrival times for the different modes of transport, as well as fares they can expect to pay, which will help save both time and money,” he added.

Taxify rides in Google Maps are rolling out globally today and will be available in more than 15 countries, with South Africa being one of the first countries to benefit from this convenient service.

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