Recently in Consumer Category

Blackpool donkeys saddle up for contactless payments

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A few years back, donkeys in Israel were made to don Wi-Fi enabled collars to allow riders to check emails while enjoying the views. Well now the famous donkey rides of Blackpool are accepting contactless payments from tech-savvy tourists.

Mark Ineson, owner of Real Donkeys, claimed that a lot of beach-goers don't carry cash, and often had to disappoint their children as they were unable to pay.

So Ineson approached Barclaycard for a solution, and provided Dillon the donkey with a contactless-payment enabled saddle.

When asked what he thought about the innovation, the donkey claimed it was much more efficient as PINs and cash can be a pain in the ass.

Image: Barclaycard

NOT available on the app store

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A new hashtag has been created as a campaign to point out things in life that are NOT available on the app store, because "there isn't an app for everything".

#Notavailableontheappstore encourages people to place modified App Store stickers on things in the real world that aren't available digitally, as a reminder that "the most important things in life are not on the app store."

Caroline and Kayleigh at Computer Weekly took part by sharing tweets of their morning treat as well as shoebox care parcels about to be posted out to the British Forces.

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Here are some more Tweets from the hashtag:

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The campaign has been created students from Hyper Island - an educational body which is shaking things up in the digital and tech world.

Hyper Island which was set up in Sweden and has offices in Manchester, immerses students in digital and data strategy, as well as art direction, e-commerce, self-leadership and problem solving.

Both post-grad and mature students are given real briefs from major brands so they can experience learning on the job, and 9 out of the 10 students get job within six months of graduating.

Eat, sleep, breathe, order grub, repeat

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Not content with the spiralling levels of apathy and agoraphobia Amazon has propagated among a mass of torpid, troglodyte consumers in recent years, the company has released a grocery-purchasing app that lets you add items without having to prod the screen or type - because using opposable thumbs to make a grocery list is, like, so 2013.

Instead, Amazon Dash allows you to make a shopping list by shouting the required groceries into a phone like a gluttonous hermit suffering from Tourette's syndrome.

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Alternatively, if that level of slothfulness makes you feel physically sick - or you just don't want your neighbours to hear you shouting "oranges" repeatedly at an ever-increasing volume when the app crashes seven times (which said neighbours construe as a weird, potentially fatal, fruit-based sex game) - you can also add items by walking around the kitchen and scanning them with a phone. Haven't you always wanted to simulate the brain-achingly sisyphean job of a supermarket cashier in your own home, only without getting paid? Well, here's your chance.

Just make sure you add a heavy coconut to the list. When you're too overweight to fit through the door, and scanning food has lost its edge, you'll need something solid to crack your skull in half and put an end to your miserable Howard Hughes-like existence.

Happy shopping!
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The internet of things is making everything smart, stupid

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So the latest thing to help users buy more things is Amazon Dash - a grocery tool that connects to users' home Wi-Fi network and allows them to add items to their shopping list by simply saying it or scanning it.

"Say or scan items into your Dash, and then view the list on your desktop or mobile device to purchase and schedule delivery," says Amazon on its website.

There's more. "Dash is made to withstand busy households, so go ahead and grab it with flour on your hands to order more supplies,"

A March 2014 Gartner report estimates that the Internet of Things will include some 26 billion Internet-connected physical devices by 2020. By then, IoT product and service providers will also generate revenues worth $300bn, according to Gartner. $300bn!

IoT is already coming pretty thick and fast. There already are endless wearable devices and there are tools such as Hive -- the British Gas project that helps you manage central heating remotely on your smartphone - or the connected egg tray that tells you how many eggs you've got left at home.

And driverless cars, connected washing machines, connected refrigerators are all not too far away.

Downtime can't wait for a day when it can read the newspaper on its morning toast or when the cheese curls up back in the pack because there's too much of it already in the lasagna or when it gets a Facebook friend request from a fridge.

But then again, when Downtime staff flew to the French Riviera for a tech event, their fit-bit read: "Today, you've run 1032 miles." Connected washing machines? No thanks.

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Writing novels is such a dos

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Game of Thrones writer George RR Martin has revealed that, while writing his fantasy novels about characters inhabiting an ugly, medieval and primitive world, he himself inhabits an ugly, medieval and primitive world - namely that of DOS, the antediluvian operating system he uses to write his work. Appearing on the US chat show Conan last week, Martin said he opted to use DOS over modern operating systems, because he did not want his writing to be automatically amended by spell-checking software. Downtime reckons that even Game of Thrones characters would be using XP by now.
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Skype removes offensive emoticons

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Skype has removed a selection of its emoticons for fear that they had the "potential to offend some users."

Icons including a "smiley" faces showing the middle finger as well as emoticons (wtf) and (fubar) have been removed by Microsoft.

The one which confuses me is a pair of women's legs walking in high heels? Is Microsoft suddenly becoming feminist?

But the answer came in Skype's replacement emoticons which it has introduced recently. One in particular (shielddeflect) depicts Captain America and his shield which has clearly just rescued the damsel in distress from the perving eyes of the internet. 

Next generation shiny plastic thing

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Charity What About the Children is warning about the risks of giving young children smartphones, the BBC has reported.It's down to mother's ignoring their infants. Here in the busy Downtime office, there's always a risk giving our corespondents another smartphone to look at. Let me see...shiny box...shiny slab of plastic and metal with some whiz monkey glass and a couple of buttons you can't use without a finger pick. It's not exactly out of this galaxy is it? So why do the smartphone companies ignore me?


Transformers director Michael Bay blooper at CES

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Samsung invited Transformers film director, Michael Bay, onto the stage to help plug their new curved UHD TV set at CES in Las Vegas. 

That's one invite Bay probably wished he had turned down.

The poor guy started to talk to the Samsung host, but lost his thread mid-sentence, stating that the Teleprompter had failed to deliver his lines. 

He decided to "wing it" but soon after had to exit the stage saying, ""Excuse me. I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

It makes excruciating viewing. Get ready to squirm your seat watching this video CNET posted on YouTube:



The embarrassed Bay then took to his blog saying:

"Wow! I just embarrassed myself at CES - I was about to speak for Samsung for this awesome Curved 105-inch UHD TV. I rarely lend my name to any products, but this one is just stellar. I got so excited to talk, that I skipped over the Exec VP's intro line and then the teleprompter got lost. Then the prompter went up and down - then I walked off. I guess live shows aren't my thing."

At least one good thing may come out of this, perhaps manufacturers will stop asking celebrities with absolutely no inside knowledge on technology to sing and dance around products on stage like performing monkeys at trade shows. 

BlackBerry and Alicia Keyes only last week decided to part ways, stating she will end her role as Creative Director in January. But something tells us that had nothing to do with hiring actual tech experts in the future and more to do with BlackBerry's dwindling bank balance. 
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Techy toilet trauma

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A techy toilet which is controlled via an Android app has a hardware flaw meaning that it can be controlled by any phone with the application.

The My Satis toilet, manufactured by Japanese firm Lixil and retailing at nearly four grand, allows the user to play music from their smartphone through speakers in the toilet base, as well as tracking the users bowl movements as a health check.

Other features including flushing, lifting the toilet seat and sprays can be controlled via the smartphone app.

But owners have now been warned that a flaw in the app's hardware could mean that the toilet could be open to attack.

Trustwave's Spiderlabs security experts have revealed that the pin code to connect the toilet to the app via Bluetooth for every model is set to 0000, and can not be reset. Any phone with the My Satis app could connect to the toilet.

The toilet uses bluetooth to receive instructions via the app, but the Pin code for every model is hardwired to be four zeros (0000), meaning that it cannot be reset and can be activated by any phone with the My Satis app, a report by reveals.

Just think of the mischief you could play with your mates loo?

I'm on the foam!

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It's a rare morning when Downtime does not need a large shot of caffeine to get us off to a productive start, but one coffee shop in Taiwan seems to have taken the idea of your own personalised Latte a step too far.

Let's Cafe, which operates coffee kiosks in the FamilyMart chain of convenience shops in the country, have devised a system where a customer can take a selfie on their smartphone and upload it to the machine, which then recreates the image on the coffee foam in brown, edible powder.

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Apart from being perplexed at who on Earth is narcissistic enough to want to sip their own face from their morning Java, Downtime does recognise this as an excellent solution to the chaps at our local, generic coffee shop regularly misspelling our name, apparently mistaking us for an abbey from a popular ITV period drama.

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