Perfect Gadgets for Summer

It’s hard to believe, but summer is just around the corner.  Thankfully, Mashable’s tech experts have put together their list of the 6 must-have gadgets that are perfect for summer 2012.

  1. Eton Rukus Solar – This sleek, little number is great for sharing music (via pairing wirelessly with your phone) and gets any party going, especially because it doesn’t need an outlet or batteries.
  2. Jawbone Jambox – This product is good for wireless, portable audio and speakerphone calls.
  3. Pebble WatchIf you are an on-the-go individual and will be spending a lot of time running, swimming, biking and multi-tasking this summer, this watch allows you to access your smartphone apps from your wrist.
  4. WowWee Cinemin Slice Pico Projector – This projector allows you to project movies from your smartphone or tablet, video games and photos anywhere that is dark.  The projected image can get up to 60 inches.
  5. Cannon Powershot G1 XThis camera excels at shooting photos in challenging situations.  It has a retro design but it’s compact and is great for aspiring photographers who want to try out a more advanced camera than a point and shoot.
  6. Eco Terra Rugged and Waterproof Boombox – Boomboxes are making a comeback and this one allows you to keep your smartphone or MP3 player protected from all of the party or environmental elements.

Teach Your Kids to Manage Money with Tykoon

Tykoon aims to teach kids a different way of thinking about and using money.  The company is launching its first mobile app for iPhone, which will feature a “platform for earning, saving, giving and spending, the latter which includes kid-friendly access to a curated and controlled Amazon store.”  The company’s goal is to give kid’s a real platform in which to learn how to properly and responsibly  handle finances.

Kids will be able to earn cash and rewards by performing tasks, chores or hitting certain goals from their parents.  Parents will also be learning, as they will have to set up the services, provide reward amounts for each task and then make good on the payment upon completion.  The difference between this app and other allowance-tracking programs, is there is a “kid friendly” Amazon store that parents can customize and enable and disable categories, there is also an option for kids to donate some of their earnings to the World Wildlife Foundation or Habitat for Humanity.  Kids can then learn to either save their money, donate it or spend it in the store.  There is even a social aspect that allows kids to snap smartphone photos of items they want and add it to their wishlist.

This app is geared towards 8 to 12 year olds, but there is a plan to add a bank-issued, preloaded debit cards in 2013, which will then expand the platform to teenagers.

To learn more about this app, go to: http://www.tykoon.com/

Will you and your kids be trying this free service out?

Punchcard: Mobile Loyalty Card

Punchcard is a digital version of paper loyalty cards, which have been less popular over the years due to the easy ability for people to take advantage of the cards.  The Punchcard app allows customers to take photos of their receipts in order to get their loyalty “points,” which then equates to cash payouts or other rewards directly from the merchants.  Though this app is not the only one on the market, their marketing is a bit different.  They’ve “turned on” loyalty programs for millions of locations across the US, even if the merchant hasn’t requested it.  The company believes that this seeding technique will build their business faster than their competitors (Facebook just acquired loyalty play Tagtile, Google acquired PunchdPerka and Perkville).

Currently the app works at 15 million locations in the US.  As users snap photos of their receipts and input them into the Punchcard system, they earn cash, freebies and rewards (usually on the 10th purchase).  The company currently offers two tiers of service “(one for $29/month, another for $99/month), which provides businesses with access to an analytics view into who their customers are, and an automated re-marketing program that pushes offers back to customers to incent them to buy again. The solution works best for retailers, restaurants, grocery stores, coffee shops, and other local businesses that want to increase the frequency of their customers’ purchases.”  The company boasts “huge conversion rates” from the app download to usage and repeat usage.

For more information, check out: http://techcrunch.com/2012/04/27/barely-3-months-post-launch-loyalty-app-punchcard-live-in-15m-locations-nears-profitability/

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Introducing: Google Drive

There have been rumors and leaks for the past few weeks, but Google Drive has officially launched.  Google Drive, is Google’s new 5GB cloud-storage service that stores 30 different file types including PDFs, HD Video, and Illustrator & Photoshop images.  This product also integrates directly with Google Docs and allows you to access and collaborate on files (in real time) from anywhere.  The ability to work with others in real time (adding to and commenting on PDFs, images, video files, spreadsheets and documents) is going to be a huge advantage for the company. 

The product will also include a smart tagging feature, which allows users to tag items stored on their drive, so that the next time you do a search for a similar file or image, the tagged item will show up in your search.   

Finally, Google Drive will user image recognition, so when you drag and drop photos from a recent event or vacation and you want to do a search for that location later, those photos will show up, and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) which will also allow Drive to recognize text in scanned documents, making your searches easier and less time consuming.

Google is giving all users 5GB of storage for free! But if you need more, there are several tiers to choose from: 25GB for $2.49/month, 100GB for $4.99/month or 1TB for $49.99/month. When you upgrade to a paid account, your Gmail account storage also expands to 25GB.

Check out Mashable’s full walk through of the product at: http://mashable.com/2012/04/24/google-drive-hands-on/

Houzz – Great App For Home Design Enthusiasts

Houzz is a new app that we came across in this interview with interior designer, Jeff Lewis.  Houzz, an iPhone and iPad app, allows users to pull together their design ideas, inspirations, loves and likes and simply email those ideas (their ideabook) in a single link.  The app boasts that it is the largest database of design and decorating ideas with its more than 325,000 original photographs from more than 55,000 architects, interior designers, photographers, contractors and other design pros.

The app is very well organized and allows users to “move” through photos (as they would in their house or space) to find inspiration room by room (list is on the left hand side).   Another great feature is the ability to find professionals in your area based on your design aesthetic.

Download the app here: http://www.houzz.com/iphone

Groupon Launches G-Pass & VIP Program

Groupon has grown its business despite the onslaught of daily deal competitors.  A new feature that the site is launching is G-Pass, a line-jumping pass for GrouponLive events.  In a new partnership with LiveNation, G-Pass provides users with seating, ticketing and barcode-scanning info on their vouchers.  This enhancement allows users to skip the line at the box office and head straight into their event.  People previously had to take their Groupon voucher to will call and then exchange them for actual tickets.

Additionally, another perk that Groupon recently rolled-out is a $30-per year VIP program.  This program provides early access to deals and first dibs on reservations.  Finally, the company also introduced 2 other products, Clicky the Value Wheel –a gamification of daily deals — and a Scheduler app designed to help businesses fill out their appointment calendars.

Is this enough for Groupon to stay on-top?

For more information, go to: http://www.businesswire.com/news/leaderpost/20120411005315/en/Groupon-Announces-G-Pass-%E2%80%93-Expedited-Entry-GrouponLive

Springpad: Smarter Pinterest?

After the announcement last week, dubbing Pinterest the 3rd largest social networking site behind Facebook & Twitter, its no surprise that there are going to be a lot of similar websites emerging.  A website that isn’t new, but functions along the same lines is Springpad.  Springpad launched about 3 years ago and has 3 million users.  It began as a personal list service, but is launching a redesign that allows user notebooks to be made public.  Users can then follow other user’s notebooks and “spring” specific items onto their notebooks.

This redesign is looking like an enhanced Pinterest, because while Pinterest has a board of beautiful photos, Springpad’s notebook includes more details like maps and menu pages.  Springboard notebooks have the ability to be public or private and users can input lists manually or save items through web browsing.Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

For more information, check out: http://mashable.com/2012/04/11/springpad-3-0/

Are any of our Rox readers one of the 3 million Springpad users? Do you love it? Do you prefer Springpad or Pinterest?

Make Money Off Your Social Networks

Wingsplay is a new company that incentivizes people to share marketers ads with their social networks.  In exchange for individuals sharing these ads and creating more buzz and driving sales and engagement for products and brands, Wingsplay will pay the user.  Wingsplay’s creator knows how heavily people rely on their friends, family and social networks for recommendations, so he believes that Wingsplay’s distribution model is the perfect way for brands to increase their reach, while providing a kick-back to regular individuals.  Wingsplay believes that they are not “spamming” social media, but creating a platform to drive more conversations.

Users are allowed to post four videos per week and will earn money per view.  But, Wingsplay doesn’t provide enough financial incentive to just share any video (and risk annoying your friends/followers, etc.).  For example, if users shared Major League Soccer’s promotion video for their April 14th game, they received 21 cents per view.

The site is still in beta and has done most of its testing with television show trailers (from NBC and Oxygen).  Through these beta tests the site has learned that the best use of this distribution model and technology may be for funny, gripping or out there advertisements, since those seem to get shared the most, create the largest buzz and provide the brands with the most engagement.

For more information, check out: http://mashable.com/2012/04/10/wingsplay/

We want to know what our readers think. Is this a good idea? Bad idea? Invasion of your social network?

Timehop: Digital Diary

Social networks not only allow us to record every mood, vacation, celebration or heartbreak, but they also allow us to share these feelings and events publicly.  It’s definitely a different mindset from the diary-days where people would share their innermost thoughts and feelings in a personal notebook book and hide them away in a private place.  Since we have entered a time where sharing is now a part of life, there’s a new website that helps you remember the place you were exactly a year ago that day.  Timehop sets out to create an experience that allows you to realign your past with your present.

Timehop takes information from a user’s Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Instagram feeds and shows you what you were doing on the same day, last year.  This service provides users with a daily email that sums up all of the social information from last year’s date and organizes the check-ins, photos, status updates and tweets chronologically.  They are currently working on a feature that includes deals for events, activities or vacations that you previously took, as the site is getting a lot of feedback about how great it is to remember and relive some of these excursions.

To check out the site and to sign up for your digital diary reminders, go to www.Timehop.com.

Unusual Ad Placement: Creative or Intrusive?

There are very few places that are “off limits” to marketers these days.  It’s no secret that consumers are overloaded with brand messaging everywhere they turn, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t new, creative ways to get people’s attention.  Here are a few new and unusual ad placements from around the world, our question is creative or intrusive?Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download?

  • Bowling Balls – A horror-themed TV channel in Germany, placed photos of decapitated heads on bowling balls in public bowling alleys.
  • Metro Ceiling – Panorama Hair is making those with thinning hair a bit more conscious of that fact with their branded mirrors on the metro’s ceiling.  Embarrassed enough to go try their product?
  • Bike Wheels – Flashy LED bicycle spokes helped promote the superhero movie Green Lantern in Brazil.
  • Your House – An agency in California will help you pay your mortgage by putting billboards on your house.  While this might not be an option for those of us who live in a place with HOAs, it’s a new idea that I’m not sure your neighbors will be extremely happy with.
  • Your Thigh – Don’t you hate those chairs that leave an imprint in the back of your legs? Well, a New Zealand agency has found a way to make these imprints work for their customers, by enabling marketers to put their logo or message in the wiring, which will then make its way onto the customers body.

For more about these ideas, as well as the agencies who came up with them, visit: http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/ambient-overload-139333