03/04/2019

Brahman Design making beautiful things

Brahman Design recently graduated from CRL the accelerator based in the old EMI Vinyl Factory in Hayes.

Previously Brahman had Kickstarter'ed a pencil sharpener, however it wasn't any ordinary pencil sharpener. Though using a standard blade from a pencil sharpener (that's replaceable), the sharpener actually is used like a traditional woodworker's plane which is held and moved across the surface of the pencil (and around) to sharpen it, with graceful sweeps. It's also called a Høvel which is pretty nice and it's made of chunky weighty brass.

That was successfully funded and they have sold through various partnerships.

Now it's the IRIS's turn which is exactly what it says on the tin, except it's brass too - well the surrounding ring is brass and the central iris is made of another metal. It can be used to draw different sized circles. In this digital age, it's made for designers, who want to get back to traditional tools (or more likely have it sit on their desk so they can admire traditional tools or just show off).

Neither are cheap, but they are quality products made to be given as presents to the discerning people who still draw with pencil and paper. The Brass Høvel retails for £50 (and the wooden base for £20) and the Iris will be out on Kickstarter soon.

21/03/2019

CRL's demo day, hardware start-ups for the love of making things

The evening of Thursday 14th of March was Central Research Laboratories demo day, once again held at U+I (one of the backer of CRL).

It was kicked off by an introduction from Matt Hunter of CRL and then Marcus Sheppard from U+I - really just the normal things about the accelerator and that applications would close shortly for the next cohort.

Then followed a panel discussion chaired by Matt with the Rob Nicoll founder of Chip[s]board (who was on the previous CRL cohort) and Arnold du Told CRL Investor in Residence.

Alice Johnson the CRL Programmes Manager then gave an introduction and to the start-ups themselves.

The first start-up up was Cosi Care and Lauren Bell who have a solution to treat eczema. It's a hardware device that has a cool surface and reduces the effects of the eczema while being easy to use.

Agile Planet presented their Bio Burner Bio which is a compost material made by processing waste wood in a special kiln. It actively removes C02 from the atmosphere, and has a range of benefits including improving plant growth. Agile Planet have created a new home burner that will enable anyone to create biochar in their own garden. Design to be released in 2019.

Nxsteps's Alecia Esson presented their Bluetooth enabled shoe inserts that can measure the pressure on various parts of the feet and with an accompanying app, analyse stresses while running and other sports.

Alex Strang presented Moment Pebble which is a stone that lights up and encourages the user to be mindful in the workplace as Mindfulness is now big business as well as helping people's mental states in the busy world.

Saving women everywhere is Y-Heels and Yaagni Patel allowing users to clip/slot off their heels so removing the discomfort without having to cary a second pair of shoes. Simple, yet sophisticated.

How do mountain biker's and other sports users protect themselves? With Hero Skin of course which is the next generation of body armour which is worn on the chest. It's flexible and comfortable and allows movement giving the user protection while they have the freedom to carry out their sport. As a mountain biker Dorota Grabkowska the Founder and CEO knows about the dangers of not using Hero Skin benefits that come with using it.

Last but certainly not least was Odin Ardagh from Brahman Design. They would have been a tough act to follow anyway. Previously they made the Høvel which is a brass pencil sharpener that uses standard pencil sharpener blades that can be replaced and rather than placing the pencil in the sharpener, it's used like a plane on pencil itself. This was made to be used by designers for designers and gifted for that bit of desk jewellery that every designer should have to show they appreciate design. The newest object is called the IRIS and it's just that, a circular brash ring with an inner iris that can be adjusted to make a small or large circle. Again it's functional, but actually just really pretty and it feels good to use.

So for once an accelerator that has start-ups that are not just IoT/blockchain/AI/etc companies - people doing hardware but things that are interesting and making beautiful things because they can

10/03/2019

Have a phone, then protect it with a Mous(e)

Mous is a company that produces phone cases - originally for iPhones, but now for Samsung phones too. Well you've spent all the money on some shiny new hardware, you don't want to break or scratch it really.

The cases come in a variety of materials (carbon fibre, walnut, shell, leather and bamboo), though they are just a skin on the actual base material. The case is highly impact resistance and has some clever tech inside that distributes a shock wave through the case therefore avoiding the phone and reducing the chance of damage. Mous have tested their cases on real phones by dropping from the tops of buildings, ladders etc.

The back of the case also has a magnet embedded, so the phone can be stuck to various things, there's a car air vent/grill mount to allow for dashboard mounting.

This works nicely to use something like Google Maps or Waze and isn't too conspicuous so you can just glance over the phone without being too distracted.

Since the mount is also magnetic the phone stays reasonably well put (though it can dislodge if you hit a large bump or pothole).

There's another mount which uses a suction cup to stick to the windscreen. The suction is pretty good and it takes quite a bit of effort to remove the mount after use (and tends to leave a ring behind). Again the phone stays attached reasonably well (though the unit that was tested, the metal section did come out, though a blob of glue fixed that).

The phone is much more visible, though that can be advantageous depending on what kind of application is run on the phone.

Mous also make a wall mount

That is just the standard mount with a sticky back, your milage will vary depending on what surface it's being attached to and how clean it is.

There's also a card attachment, that sticks to the back of the case, allowing a couple of cards to be kept with the phone, which is useful if your going somewhere and only want to worry about carrying the phone and not a wallet (say at a festival or beach, so you can still be contacted and buy things).

A lightning charging cable is also available that has a very tough casing which is unlikely to be broken.

One last thing, if a case is purchased a hybrid glass screen protector is included (although also sold separately), which will protect your screen from nasty scratches (and a hammer if you feel so inclined).

So if you're looking for a decent case (and screen protector) that has a bunch of accessories that allow you to mount or store your phone, you can't really go wrong with Mous (don't leave the house with your shiny iPhone or Samsung without one).

Pricing for the Limitless 2.0 case is £39.99 for carbon fibre or leather and £49.99 for the wood finishes.

11/02/2019

It's time to kerb crawl and be connected

Connected Kerb is a new start-up is trying to revolutionise the way people and more importantly councils and developers support electric cars by installing multiple charging points in the kerb adjacent to parking bays.

The kerb units are constructed from recycled plastic and have an electric charging point, however they also offer support for V2X (vehicle to vehicle or vehicle to anything) communications which can allow cars to download data back to their owners and the manufacturers (or even deals for servicing etc). In future V2X communications will also convey information back to the car for smart-city applications.

The units are also WiFi enabled, allowing localised hotspot functionality of up to 350Mb/s and can directly support IoT radio standards as well as 5G off-load in conjunction with the mobile networks to remove the notspot issues that will come with higher frequencies that 5G uses.

If that wasn't enough, the units also have air quality, proximity sensors and temperature gauges allowing accurate measurements to be taken at street level. This is especially import for air quality as some existing solutions measure the levels where the sensors are mounted at much higher points thus not giving accurate ground readings.

As well as the kerb unit, there is another version that can be mounted on street furniture such as lampposts and signage poles.

There is currently a trial running in Borough in conjunction with Southwark Council, Virgin Media and National Grid.

Last year Connected Kerb won the Mayor of London’s Award for Urban Innovation.

Hopefully more councils will adopt this technology so really allowing electric vehicle use so electric charging becomes part of the basic infrastructure and not a luxury.

08/01/2019

It's time to Blaze ahead (well Beryl)

Beryl (as was Blaze) have started shipping their new front-facing white light/laser combo now called the Laseerlight Core. It's considerably smaller than the older Laserlight and attaches via a silicon strap that goes around the handlebars. There are two inserts for the clip that attaches to the Core to cope with differing tube widths.

The case is now plastic rather than aluminium and it's an altogether smaller design, though the light is 400 lumens along with the green laser that projects the bicycle shape on to the road.

There are 4 modes Day Flash, Pulse, 100% solid, 50% solid and the laser on or off. The battery should last for 41 hours (according to Beryl).

No idea why the iPhone made the green laser look bluefish, but it's really green.

The original Laserlight cost £125, but the new Core is a much more wallet friendly £69.99 and much smaller so it can easily be taken off the bike and put in a rucksack or bag and not take a lot of space.

21/11/2018

Is Twitter on the menu? if not get Twizzy

The macOS Twitter client is dated and hasn't been updated for a while, it also can take up a fair bit of screen space. There are other clients out there, but many don't offer that many more features than Twitter's own.

Now there's Twizzy, it's a neat little app that sits in the menu bar of macOS and clicking it allows sending a quick tweet (can put images etc in there too). There is a window that's around all the time, which shows DMs, but that can just be minimised and kept out the way until needed too.

It's really just a quick post tool, but good to have something without distractions that allows you to post that something just when you need too.

It costs $4.99 from the Twizzy site (inc VAT).

15/11/2018

Have a little light in your life

Beryl as was Blaze have released a new light designed for portability. It's called the Pixel.

It's quite small being an oval about 2cm long with a ring of LEDs around the edge and a single push-button in the middle. Surprisingly in this day and age it uses micro-USB to charge and not USB-C (Charging cable supplied). There's also a clear clip that the Pixel oops into. The flip can then be attached to a pocket or belt or using the supplied rubber strap attached to a bike or other mode of transport.

There's also a velcro strap which will allow the clip to attach to a helmet.

There are 4 modes that are accessed using the central button, long press and the Pixel will turn on (by default it is all white). A single press then cycles to all red, the next press goes to pulsating white and finally to pulsating red, then solid white again. A long press will turn the Pixel off. The solid white and red are pretty bright.

Beryl claim 10 hours of use on a single charge.

The Pixel costs £19.99 direct from Beryl.