Toyz Nation's Blog (43)

Voyage to Alfa. A childhood story

     

I had landed at Charles De Gaul Airport in Paris, France and wounded up spending two nights in this beautiful city.  I will visit Gilbert Joseph's bookstore where I have a catalog of media being sold, enjoy fine dining and will eventually voyage onto Barcelona in Spain.

While in Barcelona, I will visit the NBA store along with a variety of record shops and in the midst of all…

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Added by Toyz Nation on November 20, 2018 at 2:56pm — 29 Comments

DC to Hong Kong to Seoul in search of the future of Industrialization. First stop Hyundai

      

It was not my first trip to South Korea.  I had already made my maiden voyage in 2017 and landed in Incheon before visiting both Seoul and Samcheok.  During my initial journey, I was fascinated with how modern Seoul was and South Korea, in general.  Seoul is a metropolis of around 10 million people with every modern accouterments you would expect in any metropolis in the world.  It is gorgeous, in the nighttime especially, exceptionally…

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Added by Toyz Nation on October 9, 2018 at 2:39pm — 29 Comments

Tahmell The Prince

The weight of following in the footsteps of a legendary father can be overwhelming for many talented children, but Tahmell is built for this and the…

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Added by Toyz Nation on April 11, 2018 at 11:00pm — 14 Comments

Owners Illustrated Magazine & Toyz Electronics, LLC Collaborate to Bring VR, Coding & STEM Outreach to the Washington Auto Show

Wole Idowu & the Betterville Mavens. A group of Washington DC & PG County Students He mentors and teaches coding



Wole teaching the Betterville Mavens…

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Added by Toyz Nation on December 22, 2017 at 11:00am — 12 Comments

Thomas Moorehead. Luxury Dealership Owner and Philanthropist with over 30 Years of Sterling Service in the Auto Industry

 

With a history that spans more than 30 years in the automotive industry, Thomas Moorehead is a national treasure and a pioneer.  Becoming the first African American to own a Rolls-Royce dealership is no small feat, but in his usual understated manner, that is not the only dealership he owns.  In Sterling, Virginia, Mr. Moorehead is also the owner of BMW, MINI,…

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Added by Toyz Nation on November 26, 2017 at 5:30pm — 10 Comments

POWERING THE CONNECTED MOBILITY FUTURE. An Exclusive Interview With Parkmobile CEO Jon Ziglar

An Exclusive Interview With Parkmobile CEO Jon Ziglar



Since the dawn of invention of the internal combustion engine and the patent for the precursor to the modern automobile by Karl Benz, we have not witnessed as much transformation and change in the world of automobiles and in a greater sense, mobility.  The advent of semiconductors and mobile operating…

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Added by Toyz Nation on August 14, 2017 at 6:00pm — 6 Comments

Toyz Electronics Joins Event Against Violence Startup helps merge technology and urban culture for youth event

Toyz Electronics, LLC will be giving back to the community by participating in the Music Over Violence Experience and Survivors of Violence Conference in Cleveland,…
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Added by Toyz Nation on May 9, 2017 at 2:07pm — 7 Comments

BRANDEN COTE THE WORLD OF AMG

AMG has grown from performance and cosmetic upgrades to existing Mercedes-Benz models to an actual division with its own unique product portfolio and as usual, performance models of existing Mercedes-Benz vehicles. With AMG you get handcrafted engines…

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Added by Toyz Nation on March 20, 2016 at 6:54pm — 16 Comments

ROD MCLAUGHLIN BUILDING THE WORLDS MOST ACCESSIBLE SPORTSCAR

Mazda, since its departure from the Ford umbrella, has forged a new direction based on a core fundamental driving experience, SKYACTIV, and new design language, KODO, and an ability to create vehicles that are distinct in their segments. To stand out,…

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Added by Toyz Nation on March 20, 2016 at 6:38pm — 17 Comments

MORAY CALLUM DESIGNING THE BLUE OVAL OF THE FUTURE

As Ford has divested all of their luxury brands, save for Lincoln, and shuttered the Mercury brand, the focus of the design team can be concentrated on their core products. In addition to slimming down the design portfolio, a change of…

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Added by Toyz Nation on March 20, 2016 at 6:32pm — 15 Comments

MERCEDES-AMG GT S COUPE TEST DRIVE

The all-new Mercedes-AMG GT S coupe has become the new standard bearer for the AMG brand as the venerable SLS has been recently retired. The GT S coupe slots better with the new direction of AMG as it is less expensive than the SLS which I have driven and has a smaller engine which has found its way into other models in different configurations. As an entirely new…

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Added by Toyz Nation on March 20, 2016 at 6:30pm — 12 Comments

KARIM HABIB Sculpting the future of BMW with a UNIQUE and ICONIC APPROACH

The past generation of vehicles by BMW were designed under the stewardship of the legendary Chris Bangle. His signature rear-end treatment received both praise and scorn, yet sales triumphed. Chris is no longer with BMW and the Chief of Design duties…

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Added by Toyz Nation on March 20, 2016 at 6:25pm — 6 Comments

JULIUS MARCHWICKI CONNECTING FORD TO THE WORLD THRU SYNC

Mobility will have dramatically changed by the year 2020. With the advent of carsharing, electrification, smartphone integration, and autonomous technology, cars have essentially become robots and by 2020 they will be able to drive themselves.…

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Added by Toyz Nation on March 20, 2016 at 6:20pm — 7 Comments

BILL GIESE TURNING A REVOLUTION IN VIRTUAL MOTOSPORTS

The convergence of gaming and the automotive industry has been a long time coming. As the graphics details in video games become more realistic and as hardware advances to points where it can handle the heavy computational duty required to simulate the…

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Added by Toyz Nation on March 20, 2016 at 6:16pm — 10 Comments

Mercedes Benz S550 4Matic Review

 

 

When you create the very first automobile and subsequently define the benchmark for luxury flagships the release of a new edition is a global event weighed with anticipation and massive expectations.  With the new S class Mercedes did not disappoint and in the process introduced a slew of new technologies that not only set precedence also…

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Added by Toyz Nation on February 11, 2015 at 1:21pm — 8 Comments

Must Have Headphones

Plantronics BackBeat PRO Bluetooth Headphones

 I…

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Added by Toyz Nation on January 3, 2015 at 5:29pm — 8 Comments

Toyz Tower Multi-Media Production and Gaming PC

Toyz Tower Multi-Media Production and Gaming PC

I have been involved in the multi-media business for over 20 years. Prior to editing and publishing magazines, we published music and in fact, we still publish and produce videos from time to time, so the needs of multi-media entrepreneurs are quite familiar to us. In addition, many of the people who work with us are…

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Added by Toyz Nation on January 3, 2015 at 3:30pm — 19 Comments

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US Senate committee debates bill to tame Big Tech’s power

Technology companies on the defensive as Congress takes up measures aimed at reshaping regulation

Facebook owner Meta dives into NFT digital collectibles craze

Social media group plans to enter hype-fuelled $40bn market for creating and selling non-fungible tokens

Andreessen Horowitz seeks $4.5bn for new crypto investments

Planned fundraising illustrates how Silicon Valley firms are fuelling boom in cryptocurrency start-ups

Endgadget

Instagram now lets you create TikTok-like remixes using any video

You no longer need to dive into Reels to create TikTok-style collaborative videos on Instagram. The social network has expanded its remix feature to let you make collaborations and similar reworks from any video on Instagram. So long as the video was released after the update, you can choose "remix this video" from the three-dot menu to create your response to the clip. You'll still need to share the result through Reels, but you'll also have the same editing tools to create collaborations, voiceovers and effects.

Instagram is also doing more to court livestreamers. You now have the option of highlighting your next Instagram Live broadcast on your profile, giving viewers an easy way to set a reminder. You won't need to attach a regular feed post to the scheduled stream, either. While you can't yet tease later streams, this could help you build hype for an interview or ask-me-anything session.

The expanded remix feature could be important. Instagram hasn't been shy about wanting to counter TikTok, and the Duet feature is a significant factor in that rival's success. The option to remix any video potentially gives Instagram users a wider pool of videos to choose from than TikTok, including footage that wasn't originally meant for that short-but-sweet format.

'Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga' will arrive on April 5th

Two years after the game was initially supposed to debut, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga will finally arrive on April 5th. The long-awaited title from TT Games adapts all nine movies in the Skywalker Saga, and you'll be able to choose which trilogy to start with (so you might want to get the prequels out of the way first).

Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga is coming to PlayStation 4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch and PC. It's said to be the biggest Lego game to date, and publisher Warner Bros. Games provided an in-depth look at what's in store with a gameplay trailer.

There are new combat mechanics, including ways to string attacks together and defend yourself with counter moves "in styles tailored to your favorite characters." Expect fresh blaster mechanics, with an over-the-shoulder perspective and third-person aiming reticle, and a cover system. Of course, there'll be a ton of lightsaber action, space dogfighting battles and many opportunities to use Force powers as well.

Many levels will have multiple paths to explore and you'll be able to take on side missions. Class-based abilities are upgradable and there are more than 300 playable characters to unlock. There's also a Mumble Mode, which will replace intelligible voice lines with mumbling, à la previous games in the series.

Based on the gameplay trailer alone, Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga seems like a huge game. However, despite the lengthy delays, the development team was still required to work long hours (or "crunch"), according to Polygon

Several current and former employees told the publication that TT Games has had a "challenging work culture over the last decade and a half" and that, during crunch periods, work weeks of between 80 and 100 hours weren't rare (though overtime is said to have been limited in recent months). TT Games has also reportedly had a high level of staff turnover since work started on Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga nearly five years ago.

Oura’s third-generation Ring is more powerful, but not for everybody

The wearables business is hard, especially if you’re a small startup with a device you could, perhaps uncharitably, call “niche.” Oura, which makes activity-tracking rings worn endorsed by a numberof celebrities, recently released its third-generation model. This new hardware is a technical marvel, packing many of the features that most wrist-worn devices take for granted. But the need to keep the cash rolling in has seen Oura, like Fitbit, Apple, Wahoo and others, pivot to a recurring-revenue model. Oura says that this is key to shift from the idea of buying a device that never changes, to supporting its broader goals of building an evolving fitness ecosystem.

Hardware

Image of the inside of the Oura Ring (v3)
Daniel Cooper

Before we get into the specifics of this new Oura ring, let’s take a moment to remember that this device is still a marvel of engineering. Taking the sensors from a smartwatch or fitness tracker and shrinking them into a ring is worthy of enormous praise. For all of its imperfections, it’s amazing to see Oura push the limits of what is capable in such a small form factor. And there’s much more tech crammed in this time around, despite the size and weight remaining the same as the second-generation version. The headline features these new sensors enable include continuous heart-rate tracking, temperature monitoring, blood oxygenation and period prediction.

The sizing process is the same for pretty much every smart ring I’ve ever tried: The company sends you a set of plastic dummy rings you have to wear for a couple of days. Once you’ve determined the correct fit, which is tight and secure around the base of your index finger, but not to the point where it’s uncomfortable, you can order the real thing. This actually was the most stressful part of this review, since I felt that one size was too loose, the other too tight, but I opted for looseness rather than sacrificing a digit to the gods of fitness tracking. Oura says that the index finger is the best place for its ring, but you can stick it elsewhere if you prefer.

Unfortunately, the one thing you can’t do much about is the size of the ring itself which is a bit too big. I’m a big-ish guy with big-ish hands, but it feels a bit too ostentatious on my fingers, enough that people notice and ask me what it is as soon as they spot it. If you have more slender hands, I’m sure you might have a similar issue with folks pointing it out. I suspect that the smart thing to do is visit Parts Of 4 to get some more adornments to balance out the look.

Software

Without a screen, Oura is yoked tightly to the iOS or Android app where all of this data will be displayed. The Oura app is clean and tidy, only giving you the deepest data when you go looking for it. The app breaks down all of the information generated from your finger and compresses it into three scores, which are shown on the homescreen. These are for Readiness, Sleep and Activity, representing how prepared you are to face the day, how well-rested you are and how much exercise you’re doing.

The only other thing you’ll find on the homescreen is a breakdown of your heart rate across the day, showing you where the peaks and troughs are. You’ll also get advice on your ideal bedtime, which is useful when you’re working late nights and need to juggle sleep with getting things done. You’ll also get periodic reminders to move if the app detects you’ve been still for a while, and advice when it’s time for you to wind down for the day.

Go into one of the categories, like Readiness, and you’ll get scores for your recovery index, sleep, as well as your HRV balance, body temperature and resting heart rate. You can also see that my figures dropped quite substantially during a three-day period when I got food poisoning from a New Year’s Eve takeaway meal. During that period, I was given plenty of warnings telling me I wasn’t rested or well enough to do much else – not that I felt like I was gonna go for a run or anything.

As part of Oura’s plan to add extra value to its platform, the company is adding a series of video and audio guides for meditation, breathwork and sleeping. These guides, which are essentially guided meditation audio tracks, can be backed with a white noise option of your choice. You can pick the hum of a train station, the crunch of a forest stroll, the sound of the tide lapping at the land or rainfall, amongst others. These are a thing for people who find those things useful to fall asleep and feel restful but I, personally, do not find them that great.

That said, where Oura differs from its rivals in this space is that it’ll break down your vital signs during your meditation. If you’re wondering how to get better at meditating then you’ll be guided to more appropriate tracks that’ll help prod you toward nirvana.

Oura is working on adding more features to the Ring v3 over the next year, including more content as well as more accurate sleep and period tracking. These will not actually appear as new features so much as they are behind-the-scenes improvements in the underlying systems. Finally, at some point this year, the ring will be able to identify your blood oxygenation (SpO2) while you sleep in order to help detect disorders like sleep apnea.

In use

Image of the Oura Ring V3 on its charging plate.
Daniel Cooper

The best thing about the Oura ring is that, once you’ve worn it a few days, you quickly start to ignore its presence. And while you’re not paying attention, it begins worming its way into every corner of your life, learning your working patterns and getting ready to make helpful suggestions. If you feel like crap in the morning but don’t have the mental wherewithal to comprehend why, you’ll be told as soon as you look at your phone. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing here that other platforms don’t do as well, but this is certainly an elegant implementation of the idea.

Sleep tracking is generally fine, by which I mean it works by tracking movement and therefore can’t tell when you’ve been rudely awoken but haven’t moved. As part of this new pivot, however, Oura is promising that the sleep tracking will soon become vastly more accurate as a consequence of behind-the-scenes changes. This will not be readily visible to users, however, since all you’ll get is a pop-up telling you that things just got more accurate. Still, it offers a fairly good indicator for how the night went, although I find the activity tracking to be a little more on the generous side. Yesterday morning, for instance, it told me that my morning shower was a strength training workout with plenty of burned calories for my trouble. Similarly, it’ll tell me around lunchtime that I need to take a half-hour brisk walk to finish my activity for the day, and then by early evening, having done nothing more than stand at my desk, make dinner and put my kids to sleep, it’ll tell me I’ve completed my goal.

One of the features that Oura is tempting its users with is Workout Heart Rate, which I find inadvertently amusing. Because the ring is so chunky, and it has such a hard edge, that I really don’t find it comfortable to wear during workouts. For instance, if I’ve got a pair of free weights, or I’m doing an incline push up on a Smith machine bar, the ring just pushes into the fleshy parts of my hand. For most of the proper “gym” workouts I’ve done, the ring has had to come off, lest I tap out too early or draw blood from the chubby parts of my fingers. But for more ring-friendly jobs, like running, walking, or cycling, you should find this to be a big help.

In terms of vital-signs tracking accuracy, I think it’s always wise to remember that wearables will not be as inch-perfect as a clinical-grade device. But in a number of random spot-tests, the Oura offered the exact same figures as the Apple Watch on my wrist. In fact, Oura’s reputation for accuracy has always been pretty high, and one of the reasons that the company hasn’t released some of these features is to ensure they’re ready to go when they do arrive.

Oura quotes battery life at seven days, although I rarely managed to get past five without having to drop it on the charging plate. Certainly, real-world stamina is a bit far from what the company is saying, but then it’s hardly a deal breaker since you can charge it full in two hours. It’s become common for me to take the ring off while I’m standing at my desk on Monday and Friday mornings and let it re-juice while I’m working.

Economics

The third-generation Oura ring will set you back $299, which gets you the ring in one of four finishes: Silver, Black, Stealth or Gold. In the box, you’ll receive the charging plate and a USB-C cable, and as part of the deal, you’ll get a six-month trial of Oura’s subscription service. Membership, which costs $5.99 a month for new users, will entitle you to “daily health insights,” “personalized recommendations,” as well as more video and audio sessions. Any existing Oura user who upgrades to the new ring will get a lifetime membership thrown in for free.

I want to be fair here and say that I understand why Oura is pivoting to this recurring revenue model. It’s not as if other companies in this space, like Fitbit, aren’t doing the same in the hope of bolstering their bottom lines. And that’s before we get to talk about how much lock-in the Apple Watch gets as a consequence of Fitness+. But I also think there’s a difference between the sort of product that those rivals are offering compared to Oura’s product.

After all, Apple and Fitbit can both offer coaching both on their devices and on bigger screens, which Oura can’t. Not to mention that Oura is really only able to offer guided audio clips (and short videos) through its app. And that while Apple and Fitbit are selling their devices as (having the potential to become) Capital-F Fitness gear, the Oura really isn’t. But, then again, that’s not what Oura is pitching here – it’s for the meditator, the runner, the cyclist, who doesn’t want to strap something beefy to their wrist.

Wrap-Up

Here’s the problem with reviewing Oura: It’s not a device that every fitness person will love. If you want something with more versatility, you’d buy a smartwatch and have done with it. Oura is more of a subtle product, for people who want to be less ostentatious about their health, or simply want something that slips into their lives and does the job. Honestly, since I’m not a gym bro, I really like the data the ring offers me without any fuss or muss.

As for the subscription, it’s likely that Oura will have to keep squeezing as many new features and insights as possible out of this new hardware. Between that, and vastly improving its currently slender content library, it’s worth it if you’re a paid-up member of the Oura family. But, and this is more a comment on the industry as a whole rather than a slight against Oura itself, I do find this need for every company to squeeze some rental income out of their users to be a little bit grating.

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