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August 25, 2014
By Jamin Warren | Technology

The Battle of Wearable Technology: Google Glas vs. Oculus Rift
Google / Oculus

With the release this year of Google’s augmented-reality device, Glass, and Face­book’s recent acquisition of virtual-reality technology company Oculus VR, we’re now officially entering the Viewfinder Age.

Superficially, Glass and Oculus appear to be cut from the same cloth. Glass ($1,500; glass.google.com) is a wearable computer that rests on your ears, with a small optical display in the right corner of your field of vision. The Oculus Rift (price undetermined; oculusvr.com), expected to go on sale before 2016, is also worn on your head, with an LED display across your eyes that is fed any manner of virtual experiences. Both change the way we see. Glass will help you find a new restaurant; Oculus will manufacture the restaurant from digital bricks.

But ultimately these devices have entirely different purposes, naturally driven by the commercial interests of their makers. By giving you an incentive to explore the physical world in a new way, Google wants to deliver users new information in the real world, what cyberpunk novels call “meatspace.” It sits neatly with the company’s other real-life projects, like planning to launch its own satellites and purchasing robotics manufacturers. Facebook, on the other hand, presumably wants to collect information by creating its own virtual world for you to explore. Facebook doesn’t care if you ever leave the home it has constructed.

Think about it this way: Google wants the world through your eyes and Facebook wants you through its world’s eyes. It’s all about where you place the lens.

April 23, 2014
By Sasha Levine | Technology

Self Help: A New Personal Coaching App
Courtesy of My Personal Coach

Best-selling author and former professor of psychology Angella Nazarian has spent years writing about the path toward successful leadership and a more meaningful life. Her latest venture—the My Personal Coach app (itunes.com; angellanazarian.com)—puts her research at your fingertips, offering access to a completely customized personal-growth plan. We chatted with her about the new digital approach.

Q: Tell us about the inspiration behind the app.
A:
As a psychologist who has led so many personal-growth seminars and groups, I wanted to create a personal workbook for my clients for their daily inspiration and insight. Since we spend so much time on our phones, I thought the best way of integrating goals, exercises and reminders was through a coaching app. In essence, My Personal Coach works as a partner in motivating you on a daily basis by focusing on your priorities, relationships, environment and strengths.

Q: What went into its design?
A:
A great program for change needs to be multidimensional. Living a life around our key talents and strengths is crucial, so I wanted to make sure that there is a test for clients to home in on theirs. Relationships, thought patterns, environments and the way we prioritize our life are also key factors in empowered living, so I integrated goals and challenges for these coaching zones as well.

Q: Who is the app for?
A:
It is helpful for anyone who wants a daily dose of inspiration along with some useful hints in approaching their life mindfully and with more vigor. I always tell my clients that you cannot change your life until you change something you do every day. My Personal Coach app is set up to be your partner and cheerleader—to help you focus on leveraging your strength to be more effective on a daily basis.

Q: Have you learned anything new?
A:
It’s like any project I take on—you start with a vision and you continue to improve upon it until it’s ready to be released into the world. I feel that this app is an extension of me in that it brings to life the ideas and positivity that promote growth, which I feel so passionate about.

April 09, 2014
By Sasha Levine | Technology

Zurvu: An Exclusive Restaurant Reservations App
Courtesy of zurvu

Scoring a table at an of-the-moment New York restaurant has always been about good timing—that is, until now. zurvu, a reservations app that debuted this month, grants users access to some of the city’s best eateries with minimal strategizing required.

Simply enter the desired date, time and number of guests, click “search” and see which of zurvu’s partnering restaurants have open tables. In exchange for, say, a 7:30 P.M. reservation for four tonight at places like Alder, Charlie Bird, Freemans, Lupa, Toro or The East Pole, members pay a convenience fee of $5 a seat for a table. It’s like slipping $20 to a hostess, but better—and guilt free (zurvu donates one dollar of every reservation purchased to Wholesome Wave, an organization dedicated to helping underserved communities make healthy food choices).

“No matter how connected you are, you can’t have connections everywhere,” says zurvu creator Dave Levin. “zurvu offers restaurants a way to qualify diners from the multitude of unknown reservation requests [they] receive. That’s how our diners get priority reservations—it’s a win-win for everyone.”

While the service is currently by invitation only, DEPARTURES readers can sign up online using the code “departures” and get the first reservation for free. zurvu.com.

March 31, 2014
By Sasha Levine | Technology

Olympus Music Festival
Photo © Dots .

The highly addictive smartphone app Dots has always been about connecting, but its latest 2.0 update takes the premise to the next level. The game’s brand-new Challenge Mode social feature, which debuted last week, lets players go head to head with their friends or get randomly matched with people around the world.

“Being able to compete against another person in Dots was something we'd been thinking about since day one,” says co-creator Patrick Moberg. “The random elements of a game can have a big impact on your score, so being able to compete on the exact same board allows you to really see who is the best Dots player.”

Moberg and co-creator Paul Murphy, both of media-product builder Betaworks, launched the strategy game—whose objective is to connect as many dots of the same color in 60 seconds—in May 2013. It has since remained one of the more popular free apps, currently attracting 500,000 active users a day.

It helps, of course, that it’s both simple and visually pleasing, informed by the artwork of blue-chip artists like Damien Hirst and Yayoi Kusama; Kusama’s pieces inspired the core idea behind Dots. “[Her] work insists that art and fun are not mutually exclusive, so we wanted to apply that thinking to games,” says Moberg. “Just because something is a game doesn't mean it has to be covered with cartoon characters and carnival music.”

Plus, he says, it’s comforting to know that now there will always be someone to keep you company while playing at 3 A.M. For iOS and Android; weplaydots.com.

December 20, 2013
By Sasha Levine | Technology

A Camera and a Cooking Class
Courtesy of Marcus Samuelsson

Taking photographs of food has practically become a national pastime, but no matter how well a smartphone camera captures the dish on your plate, it can only go so far. Enter the new Canon EOS Rebel SL1 ($750), which we test drove during an intimate cooking class with chef Marcus Samuelsson at Ginny’s Supper Club, the downstairs speakeasy at his Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem.

Billed as the world’s smallest and lightest DSLR camera, the Rebel weighs in at .8 pounds. Perfect for travel, it was also effortless to tote while capturing Samuelsson in action as he made cheddar-and-bacon gougères, sweet-potato pancakes with tuna tartare and chocolate-orange-mint truffles.

With a newly designed 18-megapixel CMOS (APS-C) sensor, a speedy Canon DIGIC 5 Image Processor and four-frames-per-second continuous shooting, the Rebel out performs phone cameras and most simple point-and-shoots. Prompts displayed plainly (and in layman’s terms) on the three-inch LCD monitor/touch screen explain the camera’s myriad settings. And the sophisticated range of features is hefty enough for a seasoned photographer while still user-friendly for beginners. Consider your next meal—wherever it may be—well documented. usa.canon.com.

November 17, 2013
By Sasha Levine | Technology

An Exceptional Sipping Tequila
Courtesy of Leica Camera

The special-edition Leica Digital Rangefinder camera, designed by Jonathan Ive, senior vice president of design at Apple, and industrial designer Marc Newson, is one of those items that is at once exceptional and one of a kind.

Bound for the block at Sotheby’s as part of the (RED) Auction (November 23; 7 P.M.), which will benefit the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (theglobalfund.org), the one-off camera features a full-format CMOS image sensor, a high-performance processor and Leica’s new super-high-resolution APO-Summicron-M 50mm f/2 ASPH lens. Made from a custom-engineered alloy and featuring a laser-machined aluminum body, it required more than 725 hours to manufacture and nearly 1,000 prototype parts. The piece is expected to fetch between $500,000 and $750,000 at auction, where it will join more than 40 other exclusive items, including a Steinway & Sons grand piano, a rouge calfskin Hermès saddle and a Takashi Murakami¬designed Louis Vuitton trunk. 1334 York Ave.; 212-606-7000; sothebys.com.

June 21, 2013
By Erin Schumaker | Technology

Burberry, with the help of Google, launched its new Burberry Kisses promotion last week—its latest in a series of digital initiatives—that allows fans to send imprints of their own kisses to loved ones anywhere in the world. Using a smartphone (computer users need to use the Google Chrome browser), kiss bestowers simply log on, press their lips to the touchscreen, include a personalized message and send. There is even an option to add a Burberry lip color to the virtual pout. Google Earth and Street View technologies track the animated message in real time as it travels to its recipient. Now that’s instant gratification. kisses.burberry.com.

April 10, 2013
By Doug Cantor | Technology

The New Vertu Smartphone
Vertu

Vertu is making smartphones exotic again. By using ultra-strong materials in its products and offering exclusive user services, the British company has transformed a now-mundane technology into an object of desire and envy. It also accomplishes that goal with its prices—Vertu’s newest model, the Ti (starting at $9,600 and running as high as $19,900), reaches close to a hundred times the cost of standard phones.

A single craftsman hand-assembles each Ti, which has a 3.7-inch screen made from sapphire crystal that is four times more scratch-resistant than conventional glass displays. Vertu chose titanium for the phone’s casing—another material that makes it far tougher than other models while keeping its weight low.

But the perks of ownership might be the best feature. Vertu customers get admission to private dining and business clubs in cities around the world and can use an app to connect with wine experts for tasting notes and buying advice. Instead of a virtual personal assistant like the iPhone’s Siri, the Ti provides a round-the-clock live concierge for restaurant and hotel reservations anywhere in the world. For an additional cost, the service can arrange exclusive experiences, such as a tennis match with former no. 1 player Martina Hingis. (Try asking Siri to set that up.)

The Ti has an 8-megapixel camera, 64 gigabytes of internal memory and runs on the latest version of Google’s Android operating system. Those specs compare favorably with most other smartphones, though counting megapixels in a phone like this is like choosing a Ferrari for its cup holders. But while the Ti teems with both style and substance, ultimately its biggest selling point is having other people know you bought one. vertu.com.

November 29, 2012
By Erin Schumaker | Technology, Accessories, Gifts

Gift of the Day: Greene + Gray Tribal-Print Laptop Sleeve
Photo courtesy of Apple

Part of Greene + Gray’s larger collection of tech accessories, this laptop sleeve ($40), made with a heavy-duty canvas shell and soft microfleece lining, is a must. The tribal-print design and leather details add some style. greeneandgray.com; apple.com.

November 12, 2012
By Steven Leckart | Technology

The idea behind TheWirecutter.com is simple: Forget the newest release that’s soon to be obsolete. What are the all-time best products? The site, which bills itself as a “Casey Kasem Top 40 if Casey Kasem were a geek,” was founded late last year by Brian Lam, former editor of the popular tech website Gizmodo. While most tech publications cater to nerds, The Wirecutter is the layperson’s resource, having published more than 100 reviews on everything from laptops (the 13-inch MacBook Air) and smartphones (the iPhone) to juicers (the Omega 8003) and vacuums (the Dyson DC28 Animal). Each review, written by established tech journalists for magazines like Popular Mechanics and Wired, is backed by hours of independent research as well as interviews with experts. It’s such a straightforward premise, it’s a wonder it took this long for someone to do it. “Sometimes the best ideas are right in front of our noses,” says Lam.

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