Use this app to find your keys like you find your Pokémon

We’ve seen Bluetooth item trackers before, like Tile and Protag’s Duet, but they’re usually pretty dull. Pixie, on the other hand, will curb the anxiety of losing something by turning it into a game. Like other trackers, Pixie uses Bluetooth, but it also adds augmented reality into the mix, so your phone will actually show you where the general area where your device is. Once you get in real close, it’ll start pointing you left and right like a good old-fashioned game of hot and cold. You could also use it to cheat at hide and seek with your kids.

Pixie has another trick up its sleeve. If you have multiple devices, they communicate with each other which helps the app know where they are with greater accuracy. The makers of Pixie claim it’s a similar principle to how GPS works, but in fact there’s no GPS going on here, so you’ll still need to be within general Bluetooth distance from the item you’re trying to find (around 40 feet).

One thing I thought clever was that Pixie has made an iPhone case that has one of the trackers baked right into it. The trackers, called “Pixie points,” look like a large, thick, guitar plectrum, and have approximately 12-month battery life. They’re also solid little critters, with IP67 dust-and waterproofing. Ideal if you lose an item outside in the rain — your phone might not fare so well, but at least you’ll find it.

Pixie comes in packs of two (including a phone case) for $ 49, or packs of four (again, with a phone case) for $ 99, and will be available starting January 25th. Just don’t lose your wallet in the meantime.

Click here to catch up on the latest news from CES 2017.

Source: Pixie

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The Pokémon Go Plus bracelet is great for grinding

My Pokémon Go survival kit keeps growing. It started simply enough, with just my iPhone 6 Plus happily running Pokémon Go, but it quickly became apparent that I would need backup battery power in order to comfortably catch digital monsters for extended periods of time. After all, this is a game that takes players away from their outlets and into the great wilds of the real world, so I shoved a portable power pack and cable into my purse. I happen to live in Arizona, so I soon added an icy water bottle to the mix. Now, with the launch of Pokémon Go Plus, my kit also includes a lanyard bracelet, a plastic vibrating teardrop painted like a Poké Ball and a tiny screwdriver.

I’m starting to suspect Ash Ketchum was hiding more than hair under his iconic hat.

Pokémon Go Plus is a $ 35 accessory that connects to iOS or Android versions of Pokémon Go via Bluetooth. The main gadget is a teardrop-shaped hunk of plastic with an opaque button in the center that glows different colors depending on the feedback it receives from the actual game. The whole device vibrates and lights up when Pokémon or PokéStops are nearby.

The teardrop comes with a clip on the back so you can wear it on a belt, collar or backpack strap, or you can pop it into the included lanyard bracelet. It’s more complicated than just shoving it into the plastic holder, though (as anyone who watched my live unboxing video can attest). You have to unscrew the back of the teardrop with a teensy screwdriver, removing the clip and exposing the battery, and then re-screw it into the bracelet case. The bracelet screw is found under a length of lanyard running under the back of the plastic holder, so you have to move the bracelet itself out of the way before tightening the teardrop into position. It’s not necessarily difficult, but it is delicate work.

With the tools and screws involved in moving the Plus from bracelet to clip, I imagine folks will pick one way of wearing the device and stick with it. Both options are viable, though I personally prefer the bracelet option. However, I’m not wearing a watch today; if I decide to put one on, it’s possible the clip option will be more attractive. Apple did just unveil Pokémon Go support for the Apple Watch, after all. In daily life, it may simply depend on whether I can find my tiny screwdriver.

The bracelet option is my favorite because it’s the most convenient. The teardrop vibrates powerfully enough to feel even if the lanyard isn’t digging into your skin and it’s natural to flick up your wrist to check the notification colors. The button pulses green when you’re near a Pokémon you’ve previously caught, it flashes yellow for new Pokémon and it glows blue for PokéStops.

This is where Pokémon Go Plus is most useful: PokéStops. Once the teardrop flashes blue and vibrates, press the button and viola, a bounty of Poké Balls, potions and miscellany are added to your inventory. That is, unless your inventory is full or you leave the PokéStop’s range before collecting the goodies. The bracelet lets you know if you’re successful by flashing in a rainbow of colors; if it doesn’t work, the device flashes red.

The same goes for catching Pokémon, though there are a few caveats here. The teardrop vibrates and lights up when a Pokémon is near, but there’s no way to tell what kind or what level that Pokémon is. Nor is there a way to change which type of Poké Ball you throw — if you want to use an Ultra Ball or raspberries, you’ll have to pull out your phone. With Pokémon Go Plus, you could unwittingly walk by a 2000 CP Charizard and attempt to catch it with a single standard Poké Ball, which is highly unlikely to work.

It’s crucial to note that with Pokémon Go Plus, you get just one chance to catch each creature; they always run away if you’re not successful on the first throw.

I walked around my neighborhood, which is thankfully littered with PokéStops, and tried the Pokémon Go Plus on my wrist and clipped onto the top of my jeans. Both options worked well, though I happened to be wearing high-waisted jeans and whenever the device activated there, it felt like a fat worm attempting to wriggle across my stomach. Its vibrations are definitely powerful enough get your attention — and maybe the attention of anyone nearby. I entered my building’s elevator with four other people and felt just a little ridiculous as the Plus vibrated and lit up at the top of my jeans. At least on my wrist I can fool strangers into thinking it’s a new kind of fitness tracker, rather than an accessory for a mobile game about trapping exotic fictional monsters in palm-sized prison balls.

Pokémon Go Plus is not a replacement for the game on your phone, but it’s good for the simple stuff, like hitting PokéStops and catching stray Rattatas, Pidgeys and Spearows. It’s a grinding machine. And, in a game where grinding is crucial for anyone who wants to dominate a gym or two, that’s not a terrible thing. Just be prepared to pack a few more items in your Pokémon Go survival bag.

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3D-printed ‘Pokémon Go’ cover aims for you, obscures screen

Catching monsters in Pokémon Go sounds deceptively simple: find a creature, and throw an imaginary ball at it by swiping up on your phone screen. The reality is a lot more frustrating — if you don’t flick your finger in a perfectly straight line, the throw will curve to the side and miss. There are two solutions to this. You could practice, or, you could 3D-print a ridiculous phone-cover that takes away all of the challenge. Jon Clever chose to do the latter.

We tease, but Clever’s Pokéball Aimer is actually a clever little tool. The custom phone cover fits over an iPhone 6 and creates a trench that guide’s the player’s finger up the center of the screen for the perfect Pokéball throw.

Unfortunately, it also obscures a good deal of the screen — offering only cut-outs for on-screen controls. There’s a Pokéball shaped window that allows the player to see the target, but the case is only really useful on the game’s capture screen. This means it has to be removed for battles, menus and the game’s GPS-guided walking mode. It also makes advanced moves, like the curve ball, impossible. Still, tedium is a small price to pay for catching Psyduck. Want your own? You can get the plans for free on My Mini Factory.

Via: Gizmodo

Source: My Mini Factory

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Don’t believe the ‘Pokémon Go’ privacy hype

When the Pokémon Go obsession reached full saturation this week, privacy-concern whispers became full-blown hysterical shrieks when a researcher’s blog post accused the game’s maker of taking over its users’ Google accounts. As it turned out, the app’s iPhone permissions were just poorly implemented, and fixed immediately.

Unfortunately that didn’t stop the privacy and security hysteria machine. All week long, headlines made a mountain out of a molehill, scaring some people into uninstalling the app altogether.

Pokémon Go, a phone game released by Niantic Labs and Nintendo, has been an astonishing success. The game is basically a GPS-guided treasure hunt using a smartphone camera. It sends people out into the world around them, gets them interacting with others, and has brought the U.S. some much-needed distraction and smiles.

The stories emerging through social media might be more entertaining than playing the game itself. Pokémon have been “caught” at gay bars and churches, people have been shooed out of police stations and courthouses trying to catch the little beasts. Someone found a dead body, people have been robbed, and some police departments have even been forced to issue safety guidelines. On the plus side, there are some mental health benefits. Meanwhile, Pokémon Go has added nearly $ 11 billion to the value of Nintendo since its release.

Naturally, a few hackers became interested in what was going on under the app’s hood. But before anyone had a chance to publish detailed findings, researcher Adam Reeve rushed to make a post that set off a chain reaction of hysteria.

Reeve wrote that if you signed into Pokémon Go with Google, the app was given full permission to access your Google account. He claimed that the company could read your Gmail, see your Google search and Maps history, access your private photos, delete things in Google Drive, and more.

He also indicated that it wasn’t possible to sign in alternately, by creating a Pokémon account, and sort of made it sound like something suspicious was going on. News outlets rushed to write hyperbolic headlines without bothering to note that this was only happening on iPhones.

That’s how we ended up with hysterical, misleading headlines like, “Pokémon Go is a major security risk for your entire Google account.” And it’s why we had people screaming white frothy rage on social media that Niantic was backdooring user accounts. It’s also how we ended up with Sen. Al Franken sending a letter to Niantic demanding answers about Pokémon Go‘s privacy practices.

To their credit, Gizmodo contacted Adam Reeve, who then backtracked on his claims, saying he wasn’t “100 percent sure” his blog post was actually true. He also admitted that he didn’t test any of the claims in his post.

In fact, it turned out that Pokémon Go was never able to read people’s Gmail or any of the really scary things that Reeve and some trigger-happy media outlets claimed. Dan Guido, CEO of security company Trail of Bits, did the deep-dive analysis that was needed before any digital ink was spilled in histrionic headlines.

Guido not only cast serious doubt on Reeve’s claims, he talked to Google tech support. Imagine that! They told him the “full account access” everyone was freaking out about doesn’t mean a third party (in this case, Niantic, Nintendo, or Pokémon) can read or send email, access your files or anything else being claimed.

It did mean that Niantic could read so-called biographical information, like an email address and phone number. What Trail of Bits also discovered was that Pokémon Go‘s Google authorization process was using the wrong permission “token.” Their post linked to another researcher who said, “I believe this is a mistake on Google and Niantic’s part and isn’t being used maliciously in the way that was originally suggested.”

Before the Trail of Bits post was even published, Niantic had reacted. The company put out a press release explaining that there had been a permissions snafu with the social login process, and they fixed the internal mistake in record time. Their statement said:

“We recently discovered that the Pokémon Go account creation process on iOS erroneously requests full access permission for the user’s Google account. … Google has verified that no other information has been received or accessed by Pokémon Go or Niantic. Google will soon reduce Pokémon Go‘s permission to only the basic profile data that Pokémon Go needs, and users do not need to take any actions themselves.”

Further, it turned out the mystery about Pokémon’s account signup process being suspiciously unavailable at the time of Reeve’s post wasn’t a conspiracy after all. To the surprise of no one, Pokémon’s servers were getting hammered by all the new traffic.

It’s quite interesting to see so many people wig out about an app’s overreach of permissions. Which is, incidentally, a big deal. And it’s about time.

But it’s really frustrating to watch the outrage flames get fanned and senators spring into action over something that feels more like crying wolf when there are flashlight apps that dubiously “need” to know where you are or must have access to write arbitrary code to your phone. Or, how about a little outrage and action over our recent discovery that popular running app Runkeeper records your location after you’ve turned the app off? (Runkeeper is in trouble for this in Europe but not here.) Better yet, how about a senator demand answers from Facebook over tracking user locations without consent and matching it with strangers’ locations? Because we sure as hell don’t know when Facebook did that, or to whom (or for how long) the company did that. Nor can we can trust that they’ve actually stopped doing this or won’t do it again in the future.

So this week, everyone we know basically joined a geocaching cult. We already knew that no one reads or understands the terms they agree to for apps and websites, even if they demand giving up your first-born child as payment. We learned that setting up social login permissions is actually really fussy and difficult to do right. And everyone learned that signing in with your Google or Facebook account means putting some kind of access to your personal stuff in someone else’s hands. Which, by the way, is why I recommend never, ever in a million years signing in to any app or website in this manner. Seriously, if you do that, just stop locking your front door and get it over with.

If only the entire internet, security’s brighter minds and our elected representatives would level this amount of scrutiny at all apps.

But as one forum commenter wisely explained, “iOS users using Google Account sign-up affected by Pokémon Go permissions bug, Android unaffected” just doesn’t make a sexy headline.

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‘Pokémon Go’ is the ‘aha’ moment AR has been waiting for

Pokémon is a thing right now thanks to Pokémon Go. Niantic’s AR creature-catching game is number one in both the Android and iOS app stores, and it’s on track to have more daily active users than Twitter thanks to an install base of 7.5 million players so far. It was impossible to go out this past weekend without being surrounded by Pokémon Go players of all stripes — a lot of kids, sure, but plenty of adults, too. Some were revisiting their childhood love of the franchise while others were discovering it for the first time. But cute little monsters aren’t the only thing Pokémon Go is their first exposure to: For many of these players, it’s their first time using augmented reality. And, based on their reactions, they love it.

Augmented reality has been around in various forms for years, but it’s failed to take the mainstream by storm. Sure, you can see what a kitchen remodel would look like or get more information about a work of art hanging in front of you, but these aren’t things a person does on a regular basis. Most uses of AR have been tied to very specific experiences and locations rather than a person’s daily routine.

Instead, AR is more like virtual reality’s neglected cousin. While consumer-grade VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are available now, high-profile AR projects like Hololens are still only in the developer stage. Sure, there’s Lenovo’s upcoming Phab2 Pro, a phone optimized for AR usage. But Lenovo isn’t a marquee name when it comes to phones and is unlikely to sell enough to make an impact.

Pokémon Go, however, has exploded into a full-on phenomenon. My Facebook and Twitter feeds have been overrun by people’s experiences with the game. As I walked around my neighborhood this past weekend I encountered plenty of people excited to catch Pokémon. A small child running with an iPhone in hand; his mother laughing at she tried to keep up. Three teenagers, standing outside my local library, discussing how to take over the Pokémon Gym there. I found myself walking by people with their phones out and turning to look at their screens to see if they were playing Pokémon Go… only to find they were looking back at me for the same reason.

The reasons for some of its success are clear: The app is free, which means there’s no financial barrier. It was released on both iOS and Android at the same time, which means nobody has to miss out on the initial excitement (unless they’re one of the 1.1 percent running Windows Phone). And then there’s the fact that Pokémon is an internationally recognized brand that once graced the cover of Time magazine.

Fans have been clamoring to see the franchise on smartphones for years and, though the Pokémon Company has released a handful of apps, none of the games have really utilized the basic mechanics of capturing a plethora of fantastical creatures. The motto of the series for years was “Gotta Catch ‘Em All,” and if you were to talk to a layperson even remotely familiar with the franchise, they’d probably mutter those words at some point. It’s only appropriate to make this mechanic the center of Pokémon Go.

Pokémon Go

The whole process is extremely intuitive: When you see a Pokémon on the map you tap on it. Then you center the Pokémon on the screen, and flick Poké Balls at it with a swipe of your finger. The balls even obey the laws of physics, following an arc downward as gravity pulls on them. They even roll away if you miss (you pick them back up by tapping on them). The learning curve is incredibly small for this core part of the game.

But it’s the connection to the real world that really cements the experience for newbie players. They might not feel comfortable immersing themselves in a fantasy world with a lot of backstory like the Kanto region of Pokémon Red and Blue. Instead, Pokémon Go is asking them to take a closer look at something a bit more familiar — the world around them.

It’s a lot less intimidating, especially to a newcomer. It helps that in establishing its reality the game firmly grounds itself in our world in ways that make sense to a player: Of course Water-type Pokémon live near rivers and lakes and Grass-type Pokémon are in the park. Of course notable locations like a historic house or mural would be a PokéStop. And, while there aren’t many actual gyms serving as Pokémon Gyms in the game, heading to your local library or church makes a weird sort of sense too because these are important buildings to a community.

Pokémon Go

Pokémon Go is operating as a trojan horse for AR because it isn’t touting itself as an enhancement in any way. It’s not going to give you restaurant reviews when you look at a storefront, and that’s fine because most people don’t need an extra layer on the world right now. Granted, AR has its own pitfalls: Pokémon Go trainers have stumbled upon dead bodies, almost caused a few accidents and there’s at least one case of late-night players being accused of drug dealing. However, smartphones are so ubiquitous that no one really questions seeing another person wave one around, and the ability to show off the game and easily explain how it works has rendered it mostly harmless.

Pokémon Go is a great introduction to AR, showing people how the technology works and putting the idea into people’s heads that there could be something more to the world around us. Right now those thoughts fall along the lines of “What if there’s a Weedle behind that bush?” But, as people get used to the idea of pointing a phone at an object or place to reveal a hidden layer to it, it’ll become second nature to them, paving the way for more substantial AR experiences.

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‘Pokémon Go’ on iOS is digging deep into linked Google accounts (update)

If you spent your weekend wandering around capturing cartoon monsters on your phone, you’re likely one of millions addicted to Pokémon Go, the latest mobile game sensation. But if you played the game on an iPhone and signed in with your Google account, you also just handed the keys to your entire Google account to Niantic, the developer behind the game. As pointed out by Adam Reeve, a principal architect at Red Owl analytics, nothing in the sign up process indicates that you’re giving the app full access to your account.

Indeed, according to the Google help page, this means that the application will now be able to “see and modify nearly all information in your Google account.” That means that Niantic — and, more importantly, anyone who has access to Niantic’s servers — will be able to read and access all your email, your Google drive docs, your search history, your private Google Photos and a lot more. To be clear, this wouldn’t be a problem if you signed up for the game using Pokemon’s own “Trainer Club” account, but Pokemon’s servers appear to be down. Also, while this full access issue appears to happen predominantly on iOS, a few Android users have reported the same as well.

We’ve reached out to Niantic and to Google to get more information about what happened here. Right now, we hear they’re still trying to clarify what’s going on and we’ll update you on their response if any. For now, however, we recommend revoking Pokemon Go’s full account access by heading to this link and clicking “Remove.” The game should still function if you have it open, but you’ll probably have to reauthorize (and re-revoke) on future sign-ins.

Update: Good news! Niantic Labs and The Pokémon Company issued a response to Engadget, confirming that it’s not actually reading your emails. Still, it has far more access than is necessary for the game and the company says that while it’s working on a fix for the client to only request the correct permission, Google will reduce Pokémon Go’s access on its end ‘soon.’

Just in case there’s any remaining confusion about what the app does or doesn’t have access to, enter Slack security dev Ari Rubinstein. He’s tested out the OAuth token used by Pokémon to see what has access to in a Google account, and posted the results on GitHub. Ultimately, what he’s found is that the problem is likely more related to use of an out-of-date API that caused Google to display a message showing it had “full access” to your account, even though the app ultimately does not have permission to access things like your email or calendar even if it wanted to.

We recently discovered that the Pokémon Go account creation process on iOS erroneously requests full access permission for the user’s Google account. However, Pokémon Go only accesses basic Google profile information (specifically, your User ID and email address) and no other Google account information is or has been accessed or collected. Once we became aware of this error, we began working on a client-side fix to request permission for only basic Google profile information, in line with the data that we actually access. Google has verified that no other information has been received or accessed by Pokémon Go or Niantic. Google will soon reduce Pokémon Go’s permission to only the basic profile data that Pokémon Go needs, and users do not need to take any actions themselves.

For more information, please review Niantic’s Privacy Policy here: https://www.nianticlabs.com/privacy/pokemongo/en


Source: Adam Reeve

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‘Pokémon Go’ rolls out on Android and iOS

With all the news surrounding Pokémon Go‘s beta test and wearable, you’d be forgiven for thinking the full game was already out. Until recently, it wasn’t, but that’s changing if you live in the United States and have an Android device, as spotted by 9to5 Google. Rocking a handset designed in Cupertino? Well, only iPhone owners in Australia have access at the moment so a measure of patience is in order.

The game that brings Pokémon collecting into the real world via developer Niantic Labs’ augmented reality and GPS tech has been gestating for quite a bit. The intent, Niantic CEP John Hanke told us back in June, is to make you feel like you’re venturing out into the world and capturing the pocket monsters for yourself. “You can live the story of being a Pokemon trainer,” he said. Now it’s time to discover how quickly can you catch ’em all.

Via: 9to5 Google

Source: iTunes (Australia), Google Play

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