Archive for December, 2015

PostHeaderIcon Technolust: Garmin Fenix 3 Sapphire, Volkswagen Golf GTE, Oakley Airwave Goggles



Extreme sports wearables, and electric hybrid road cars

These Technolust posts are always torture to write. It’s like going on your favorite PC hardware website, stocking up your basket with your own personal Dream Machine, and then writing a 1,500 word thesis on how and why your life would be so much better with it. With one major difference, of course: All of us here tend to deviate from the norm. When you’re exposed to the level of hardware we often are, there’s little room to crave AMD’s Fury X or Intel’s Core i7-5960X. Indeed, we often have to think far and wide to gadgets and gizmos that are well beyond our usual remit.

For me, there are a few passions I can never really satisfy in this profession, and these revolve around my fanatical love of both extreme sports (in the form of mountain biking) and the internal combustion engine. So, let’s begin.

Garmin Fenix 3 Sapphire

Garmin Fenix 3 Sapphire

This little beauty is Garmin’s Fenix 3 Sapphire. The third iteration in a long line of wrist watches designed to enhance and improve your sporting prowess out there in the wilderness. It comes crammed with all forms of ungodly gadgets and sensors. From barometric altimeters, to heart rate monitors, to accelerometers and cadence sensors. You can even get weather and temperature alerts. And that’s just to name a few. There’s of course all the usual hullabaloo you get from smart-watches: music control, quick notifications and all that. But more interesting to me (bar the obvious use for mountain biking), is the inclusion of a fully GLONASS-enabled GPS EXO antenna—this would quite merrily take your smartphone’s GPS system and throw it under the bus. In short, it’s the perfect watch for your outdoor hiking and climbing pursuits. 

The Fenix Sapphire also addresses one of the biggest problems that we’ve often found with all of these smart devices: battery life. According to Garmin, this little guy can last up to 50 hours in UltraTrac mode, up to 20 hours in GPS training mode, and a stunning six weeks in standard watch mode. God knows how they’ve done it, but not having to recharge the thing every day sounds like a godsend to me.

It’s almost too good to be true. But then, of course, you get to the price. It’s not cheap. Not by a long shot. $600. Yep, I’ll just leave that there and keep going.

WHAT DOES THE FENIX 3 SAPPHIRE PROVIDE ME THAT A NORMAL SMARTWATCH DOESN’T?

Ultimately, it’s all about that utility for me. Cycling and backpacking are major passions of mine. Combining that with sophisticated advanced technology in the form of a smart wearable creates an almost holy trinity of enjoyment for me. Couple that with the fact that this smartwatch lasts six weeks as a standard watch, is waterproof, and can get me out of a tight spot when I’m lost and well, hell, it’s just about perfect.

Volkswagen Golf GTE

VW Golf GTE

As long as I’ve been alive on this planet, I’ve loved Volkswagens. Yep, according to my folks, from the earliest age the best thing to put me to sleep was the soft puttering of an air-cooled engine. Namely the one situated in the back of my old man’s 1972 bay window campervan. And ever since then, Volkswagen has been in my blood. Couple that with my mother’s family being fanatically obsessed with the almighty American V8, and well, you can probably guess where this is going.

VW Golf GTE Interior.

Alas, I’m very aware of one thing in particular. Regardless of your stance on climate change, what we can take away from all this hoohah is that we will run out of oil eventually. Whether that’s in 20 years, 50 years, 100 years, it’s going to happen. And when it does, the days of petroleum-guzzling V6 and V8 engines will be lost to us forever. However, I’m not willing to give up on the old girl just yet. Electric cars seem—to me at least—impractical. Most only having the range of a small teacup, they don’t provide anything substantial in the way of genuine utility, or more importantly, power. Couple that with my deep-seated judgmental almost hatred of anyone who does drive one as being just a touch pompous, and EVs become a symbol of ridiculousness.

One thing that we’ve been seeing a lot lately, however, is more and more car companies taking the technology found in the electric motor and incorporating it into that diabolical combustion engine. In short, taking the best of the new and mixing it with the best of the traditional. Admittedly, It’s an odd concept, like weaponizing a windfarm almost. Utilizing research and development that’s meant to reduce the overall impact of the combustion engine and instead using it to increase that impact. OK, I may be paraphrasing a little bit here from ex-Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson, but you get what I mean.

SPECS

POWER: 204 PS
0-62MPH: 7.6 Seconds
ELECTRIC RANGE: 31 miles
TOTAL RANGE: 580 miles
MPG EXTRA URBAN: 58.9 miles
MPG COMBINED: 166 miles

AC CHARGE TIME: 135 minutes

Currently, some of the fastest production cars on the planet are powered by hybrid engines. The McLaren P1, the Ferrari Laferrari, and the Porsche Spyder 918. So when I heard that Volkswagen was making a Golf GTE, taking those same hybrid principles and downsizing them into an (almost) affordable, economical engine, I was in.

I’ll admit, VW has received a fair chunk of bad press lately, mostly for making cars that seem to perform better when you drive them than when they’re being tested. (Yes, I’m that side of the divide).  But honestly, by the sound of things, Volkswagen is onto a winner with the Golf GTE: certainly the perfect daily driver for me. With a total range of 580 miles, and raking in a stunning 166 miles to the gallon, it does sound purely incredible. Especially in the UK, where fuel prices are almost three times higher than the US  average, you can see where I’m coming from.

On top of all that, you get all the mod-cons you’d expect: dynamic chassis control; high beam assist, lane assist including dynamic mainbeams; parking assist; keyless entry; and a fully integrated Discover pro sat-nav system. What’s not to like?  

WHAT DOES THE GOLF GTE PROVIDE ME THAT OTHER CARS DON’T?

This car is a stunning piece of craftsmanship. The phenomenal range and combined hybrid engine tickles all of my fancies and would be fantastic for both commuting and traveling on the weekend to see family, friends, and just to escape out to the countryside. On top of that? Well, it’s a VW Golf, and they truly are my jam. And all for a cushy £43,206 (that’s about $64,000), at least in my config.

Oakley Airwave Goggles

OakleyAirwave

And finally, the coup de grâce to this sorry state of torture that is Technolust, we have Oakley’s Airwave goggles. Built in collaboration with Recon Instruments, Oakley’s Airwave goggles feature an innovative GPS heads-up display. In theory it’s meant to provide the user (that’d be me, in this case) with a “perceived 14-inch screen viewed from a distance of 5 feet.” Very snazzy, and what’s on that? Well, the Airwave can determine how fast you’re traveling, review your performance stats over the course of a run (including maximum air), measure your vertical feet by run, pinpoint your location on a map, track your buddies, control your music, and of course, connects directly to your smart phone for added utility.

SPECS

CPU: 1GHz Dual Core ARM Cortex-A9 
GPU: PowerVR SGX540
RAM: 1GB DDR2 SDRAM
Storage: 2GB Flash
Display: WQVGA 16:9 428×240 Display
Network: WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n; Bluetooth 4.0

Of course, I have one big problem with these goggles. Now, I can snowboard… ish, sort of. OK, I’m not great at it, admittedly, and I’m certainly nowhere near good enough to warrant dropping $650 on a set of goggles. Mountain biking, on the other hand, that’s another story. I can easily drop 15 to 20 miles on a weekend plummeting up and down those slippery slopes. Problem is, I can’t use these here. They just won’t fit inside my helmet. Sounds dumb, right? Mountain bikers use goggles just like the rest of the extreme sports junkies. And not having access to a set of smart-goggles like these is a huge missed opportunity, certainly for a sport that year on year is becoming incredibly popular. Come on, Oakley, get it together, let me buy these bad boys for my MTB escapades and I’ll love you forever!

WHAT CAN I DO WITH THE OAKLEY AIRWAVE GOGGLES THAT I COULDN’T DO BEFORE?

Well, ironically, not a lot at the moment. I suppose I’d have to take up snowboarding again, but in the UK, that’s a hell of a lot easier said than done. It’s hardly the coldest country in the world, and the lack of mountains in my area would force me into the indoor snow domes and dry ski slopes. A less than ideal location for a set of $650 goggles.

Since we’re smack-dab in middle of the holiday season, use the comments to tell us about your technolust list, and whether you’ve been gifted anything on it!

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PostHeaderIcon In-SERP Conversions: Dawn of the 100% Conversion Rate?



Posted by Alan_Coleman

By now, we’re all pretty used to Knowledge Graph results in the SERPs. But what could it mean when Google offers the ability to make a purchase, a call, book an appointment, or otherwise convert customers within those results? In this video blog, Alan Coleman speculates about a potential 100% conversion rate in the SERPs and raises the question of Google’s role in an increasingly app-centric world.

Video transcript

In this video blog, I’m going to talk to you about a key trend we’ve noticed with Google here at Wolfgang.

12 months ago, the key trend that we were talking about was Google had shifted its focus. From Google’s birth right up until last year, its objective was to get you to the website that was most relevant, most authoritative, most likely to answer your question — whereas what we saw 12 months ago was Google taking a lot more ownership of your journey from question to answer. And what we were seeing 12 months ago was a lot more questions literally being answered on the SERPs, pulling information from Wikipedia, from other websites and giving that to the user directly on Google.

A very recent update to this innovation is that Google is now actually using their own search data to give you further details. Last weekend I was searching for a restaurant and not only did it give me the reviews in the knowledge panel — the website, phone number, and opening hours — it also used its own data to give me the popular times: when I was most likely to get seated in the restaurant, and when it could be a problem.

So, armed with that information, we could go and have a lovely Italian lunch last weekend. But it doesn’t just stop at answering the question.

Conversions facilitated on the SERPs

Google’s methodology has always been to test things out in the organic list first and then, when they’ve learned the mechanics of it, they might try and commercialize it. What we’re beginning to see is not just questions being answered on the SERPs, but we’re beginning to see conversions being facilitated by the SERPs.

What you’re seeing here is someone searching for a medical practitioner. The searcher is actually able to book an appointment directly from the search engine results page.

Another recent innovation: call-only campaigns. Somebody’s searching for a courier, for example, and again, they can call the courier directly from the search engine results without even visiting the website. We’ve also seen click-to-call campaigns, another example of Google users being able to convert directly from the SERP. Very exciting! In theory, we’re talking about 100% conversion rates here: everyone who clicks on your ad becomes a lead or becomes a sale.

There’s also this beta which is currently out — with a very limited number of retailers in the States — whereby searchers are taken from search, to checkout, to placing their order in 3 clicks, all happening on a Google property.

googlepurchase.gif

Image courtesy of Google

Why I believe this is significant:

This is Google safeguarding its position as we move to an app ecosystem. World Wide Web usage is actually in decline of late, because people are moving so much of their web behavior to apps, and Google’s strength has been that it’s our gateway to the Web. Google went down for a period of 4 minutes two years ago, and World Wide Web traffic fell off a cliff — it declined by 40% for that period.

Google is our gateway to the Web. However, if we start moving our Internet usage to apps, Google needs to be relevant there as well. I see that answering questions within Google and on Google, allowing people to convert, again in Google and on Google, is a move for them to safeguard their position as the place where we get our questions answered and where we do our transactions on the Web.

***

Do you have any thoughts on in-SERP conversions? Join the discussion in the comments below!

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PostHeaderIcon Five Cool Raspberry Pi Projects



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If you like all this stuff here then you can buy me a pack of cigarettes.

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