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Bob and I were invited to preview the first-ever wearable-tech exhibit. We came. We saw. We were disappointed.

Self-lacing shoes got our attention right off. Nike's version of Marty McFly's Back to the Future shoes worked fine in the exhibit but aren't playing well in the rest of the country. As The Washington Post reported recently, at least one user said his shoe lost connection to the Internet and wouldn't lace. He couldn't tie it manually because the shoe's software was buggy. Pushing onward, Nike is developing shoes designed to collect information about your athletic performance.

In another part of the exhibit, we saw the late actress Marlene Dietrich's 1950s tech vision. Dietrich imagined a future where dresses glowed. A company called ElektroCouture made a version of the dress she described to a designer. It uses 151 LEDs, 313 flowers and 2,371 crystals. It switches light patterns to match Dietrich's songs.

Also on view was the Gravity Jet Suit, by Richard Browning, founder and chief executive officer of Gravity Industries. The suit cost $440,000 to make, and you can see a video of Browning in it on YouTube if you search on "Real-Life Iron Man Sets New Flight Speed Record." It set a speed record for a device of this type. Browning says it has been clocked at 32 mph.

RAY GIRL

A 13 year-old girl named Jordan Reeves worked with Sam Hobish of Autodesk to design a 3-D printed prosthetic arm that shoots glitter. With her mom, she founded the nonprofit Born Just Right. Jordan displayed her glitter cannon at Maker Faire and TEDx. She was born without a left arm but now considers herself a superhero cyborg.

SENSORS FOR THE BLIND

SpiderSense is a jacket that helps the blind feel their environment. It has 12 sensors and vibrating elements strategically placed to let the wearer know if they're getting near something or it's getting near them. It also could be used by soldiers in areas of low light or heavy smoke.

COMPUTER TEXTING

Away from home for two weeks, we've had an unusual number of text messages on our phone. Frankly, we can't stand typing on the phone screen. If it bothers you too, here's how to see your text messages on your computer instead of on the phone and respond to them with a full-size keyboard.

For Android phones, go to Messages.Android.com on your computer. Then on your phone, tap the Messages app, then tap the three vertical dots in the upper right corner. Now choose the menu item Messages for Web. And, while still on your phone, tap the blue link that says QR Code Scanner and point your phone at the big QR code on your computer screen. The code is scanned automatically and all messages are copied to your computer screen.

On an iPhone, go to Settings, then Messages. Toggle on iMessage, then tap Text Message Forwarding, and choose the computer or tablet you want to use. For more detailed information, search on the phrase "How to send a text message from a computer."

HACKED!

Our friend Betty said we sent her a virus by email and her iPhone was hacked. Gosh, we hope it wasn't us. But she's right that even iPhones are vulnerable.

One way to protect yourself is with McAfee Mobile Security & Safe Web VPN, for Android or iPhone. It will tell you if a public Wi-Fi spot is risky, cloak your identity, and stop you from clicking on malicious links. There's a seven-day free trial, then it's $10 a month for most features.

To uninstall McAfee and try another app, we disabled McAfee's administrative privileges in Settings after first Googling how to do it. But the subscription itself wasn't canceled until we opened the Google Play store on our Android phone, tapped the three lines in the upper left, tapped subscriptions, tapped McAfee and Cancel. To cancel a subscription on an iPhone, go to Settings, then iTunes & App store, then Subscriptions.

Another option is Sophos Mobile Security. Unlike McAfee, it doesn't offer a virtual private network (VPN) to conceal your identity, but it's free. Sophos prevents you from tapping malicious links or going to fraudulent sites on the Web. Many of its advertised features, however, like the ability to filter text messages or block calls, did not work on our phone. We got the message that Google, in the interest of our privacy, does not allow apps to access texts or calls. Nor did Google allow Sophos to remotely lock our phones for us, since Android phones already have this feature built in.

If you just want a virtual private network to protect your identity, there's a free app called Opera VPN. Opera is a Web browser that competes with Google Chrome, Firefox, and others. It has 320 million users. Opera just announced that's it's rolling out an update that will include the virtual private network in its mobile browser for Android. A virtual private network for iPhones hasn't been announced.

Bob and Joy Schwabach can be reached by email at bobschwab@gmail.com and joydee@oncomp.com.

Business on 03/30/2019

Print Headline: Wearable tech so far a bit buggy -- self-tying shoes knotty

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