Digital life reporter Katie Humphrey covers all things Internet and culture, from apps and social media to goofy memes and studies proclaiming tech will doom/save us all. Chat with her on Twitter: @HumphreyKatie.

Upsie app offers warranty options

Posted by: Katie Humphrey Updated: December 19, 2014 - 9:43 AM

You've decided to buy the new television. Now, how about that warranty?

There will probably be a sales pitch from a salesperson at the store. But Clarence Bethea, CEO of the Minneapolis-based app Upsie, wants you to look to your phone instead. He says Upsie can sell you a similar warranty for a lower price -- and help you keep track of it by storing it within the app on your smartphone.

"Our main focus at Upsie is to give consumers another choice," Bethea said. "A lot of consumers don't know that you don't have to buy at the register. You can go home, think about it, and not have to feel that pressure from that salesman who's pitching you really hard so he can make a commission off of it."

With Upsie, users can look up warranties by name of the product or use the app to scan a barcode and pull up warranty information. The warranties, offered through Texas-based New Leaf Service Contracts, cover an assortment of electronics, appliances and tools. Users have up to 60 days after purchasing a product to buy a warranty through Upsie.

Bethea said Upsie's warranty prices are cheaper because the app's markup, about 15 percent, is less than what most retailers charge for similar coverage.

"We are the company that takes the margin out and makes the experience better," he said.

Upsie, free to download for iOS and Android, launched in November. Bethea declined to say how many people are using the app, but said many of the users so far are Millenials or moms. And what have they been buying warranties to cover? Smartphones and televisions.

(Photo provided by Upsie.)

Cameron's Coffee wants you to #CrushtheCups

Posted by: Katie Humphrey Updated: December 16, 2014 - 3:15 PM

Say you're in the mood to destroy something. Or maybe you want to win a trip to Hawaii.

Minneapolis ad agency Olson has cooked up a social media campaign for Shakopee-based Cameron's Coffee that could let you do both. How? #CrushtheCups.

The pitch, which focuses on Cameron's Coffee Filtered Single Serve Coffee, takes aim at the plastic cups commonly used for brewing single servings. (The Cameron's offering brews through a filter.) Find a creative way to crush one of the plastic cups, take a photo or record it on video. Then upload it to YouTube or tweet it with the hashtag #CrushtheCups. In return, you get a digital coupon for a free box of Cameron's filtered single serve coffee.

The top five submissions will win a year's worth of Cameron's Coffee. The best video will earn its maker a trip for two to Kona, Hawaii, including a tour of a local coffee plantation. To see examples and get contest details, check out CrushtheCups.com. The deadline to enter is Dec. 22.

Social media 2014: From spider dog to World Cup soccer to #Ferguson

Posted by: Katie Humphrey Updated: December 15, 2014 - 5:28 PM

You can cram a lot into a year on the Internet.

And since 2014 is coming to a close, the big social networks are letting us know what snagged our attention this year. Because lists. They do well on the Internet, you know.

If you prefer your annual review in video form, there's YouTube's Rewind 2014. This year's installment, "Turn Down for 2014," stars YouTube celebs dancing and re-enacting widely shared antics including ice bucket challenges, "Happy" dancing, and a wintery "Let It Go" from "Frozen."

Topping the list of trending YouTube videos this year? The spooky "Mutant Giant Spider Dog." Sorry, cat fans, there's not a single feline in the top 10. In the music video category, women claimed eight of the top 10 spots, led by Katy Perry at number one with "Dark Horse."

Over on Twitter, the World Cup was the biggest conversation topic of the year with 673 million related tweets during the tournament, including a peak 618,725 tweets per minute when Germany won the championship.

The most retweeted tweet of 2014 was Ellen Degeneres' group selfie from the Oscars.

But it wasn't all frivolity. In a blog post about popular topics, Twitter pointed out #BringBackOurGirls, Scottish independence, Hong Kong protests and #BlackLivesMatter as big topics. Zooming in on #Ferguson, there were 18 million tweets about those protests in August and 3.5 million tweets from across the U.S. "in the hours following the grand jury's decision in November."  You can browse an interactive graphic of 2014 Twitter activity here.

On Facebook, the "Top Global Topics of 2014" were the World Cup, Ebola virus outbreak, elections in Brazil, Robin Williams, Ice Bucket Challenge, Conflict in Gaza, Malaysia Airlines, Super Bowl, Michael Brown/Ferguson, and Sochi Winter Olympics.

The social network further dissected U.S. chatter by category. A sampling: Disney properties were the most check-into places in the United States. (Also, the most Instagrammed, according to CNN.) LeBron James got the most Facebook buzz among U.S. athletes. Beyonce topped the list of talked-about U.S. entertainers.

2014 Year in Review from Facebook on Vimeo.


 

Head movements drive high-tech racecar

Posted by: Katie Humphrey Updated: December 11, 2014 - 5:43 PM

Sometimes "smart" things seem trivial. Connected toothbrushes and crockpots are nifty, but do you really need them?

Probably not.

But the Arrow Internet of Things Immersion Roadshow rolled into Minneapolis on Thursday with an emotional example of tech that could change lives -- the SAM Car.

It's a 2014 Corvette Stingray, outfitted with an assortment of sensors, cameras and other technology that makes it possible for Sam Schmidt, a former Indy Car driver left a quadriplegic following a 2000 crash, to drive with his head.

And he drives fast -- 107 miles per hour. To control the car, Schmidt wears a sensor-laden hat and moves his head accordingly: Tilt back to accelerate, tip to either side to turn, bite down on a sensor to brake. A GPS guidance system watches to make sure the car stays within in the track. (You can get more details about Schmidt and the car's Indianapolis outing in this Associated Press story.)

"I'm living proof that technology can help people like me not just sit at home," Schmidt said during a keynote address at Thursday's event.

Driving the car, Schmidt said, was the first time in the 14 years since his accident that he felt "this sense of being normal."

He has continued to work with Arrow Electronics on refining the car, recently testing it in the rain on a track in Germany. Colorado-based Arrow, which also has an office in Eden Prairie, provides electronics products and computing systems for businesses.

Schmidt, who got choked up talking about how his daughter struggled to find meaning in his accident, said, "The hope that this project has created for a lot of people is not measurable."

Mingle@ app aims for in-person introductions

Posted by: Katie Humphrey Updated: December 10, 2014 - 4:51 PM

Sam McCaa was out to eat in Uptown with friends when he saw it: awkward first date in progress.

The guy was taken by the woman, but the woman was clearly not interested in the guy. Maybe even looking for an out.

There must be an easier way to meet people, McCaa and friends said. There were a lot of people at the casual bar/restaurant. Someone might have been a better match.

“The notion just kept sticking in my mind,” McCaa said.
From that, the Mingle@ app was born.

As McCaa pitches it, Mingle@ is a social network focused on helping you meet people and being social in-person. The app uses the geo-location on your phone to show you profiles of other users nearby. Profiles include photos and any details users want to share about their interests, marital status and the kinds of people they’d like to meet. Users can exchanges messages and arrange meetups.

The iOS app is free if you want to see profiles of users in your immediate area. It costs $4.99 to get a wider view. Since launching Mingle@ in early 2014, McCaa said, more than 11,500 people have downloaded the app.

He’s hoping to eventually launch similar apps with slightly different purposes — Student@ for teens, Network@ for professional networking. They would all be under the umbrella of Here@ Networks, the company he co-founded with developer Steve Anderson.

“We’re really trying to facilitate that in-person introduction,” said McCaa, whose background is in IT staffing.

Mingle online, be social offline.

 

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