Raven preview: A security focused connected dash cam for your vehicle

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Looking to add a connected dashboard camera to your car? What if that device could also provide a glimpse inside your car on demand from your smartphone? And if that’s not enough, how about the addition of vehicle security, GPS and dashboard telemetry? If the answer to all of these questions is yes, Raven might be right up your alley.

Raven combines a security camera with an diagnostics and vehicle information in a single device the size of an Xbox Kinect. I’ve been using one with beta software  in my 2017 Chevrolet Volt for testing. The cost is $ 299, although you can save $ 30 if you pre-order before shipments begin in May. There are also three levels of required service plans to cover the integrated LTE service, ranging from $ 8 to $ 32 a month.

I mounted Raven on the windshield of my Volt, but you can also mount it right on your dashboard. The device is powered through your vehicle’s OBD-II port, which also provides it real time information such as your current speed and fuel level. The folks at Raven say that your car must be a 2008 model year or newer because even though older vehicles may have an OBD port, they use an older protocol that doesn’t support all of Raven’s features. Once plugged in and mounted, you use the Raven app to connect the device to your phone.

Setup was super simple although the first live image from the rear-facing camera was upside down. I didn’t troubleshoot it and it never happened again with any future image captures. I suspect the Raven was still in its setup mode and the integrated accelerometer wasn’t quite up to speed at the time.

So how well did Raven work during my drive tests? Pretty good, at least for the features that are currently supported.

Since the device doesn’t ship until May, some of the functionality is still in the works. Specifically, I couldn’t test one of the features I was really looking forward to: Notification alerts while the car is parked. These security-focused events trigger if there is are loud sounds, smashed glass, if the car is bumped or moved, or if a door is opened. This vehicle security aspect can really help Raven stand out from a standard dash cam, so I can’t wait to see the alerts added in a future software release.

I was able to see real time vehicle telemetry such as current speed, direction, and engine RPM (although I don’t use the engine much on the Volt). All of these data points (including turn-by-turn navigation directions, again coming in a future release) can be shown on the Raven’s screen, which is handy at eye-level. You can choose which two data points to see on the easy-to-read display.

The Raven app also creates a calendar-driven history for all trips, complete with downloadable clips so you can review or even share your driving experience or in-car shenanigans. I could see the latter being fun with the family on a long trip as we do our poor imitation of “Carpool Karaoke”, for example.

One little gotcha in my testing: Although Raven has LTE built in, I had to connect my phone directly to the device via Wi-Fi to get my stored videos. I felt like I wasted a bit of time just sitting in my parked car to get those but I can see that being addressed in the future.

After I did get those videos downloaded to my iPhone X, they looked fantastic. Here’s one of a 26 mile round trip I did for lunch. (Yes, I drive 13 miles for a good bowl of soup in the cold, northeastern US winter weather).

I like the trip history Raven creates: It lets you choose from the full timelapse to short clips during parts of the trip. The shorter videos include audio, which I found to be less than stellar. However, the Raven folks know this is an issue and they’re working on it.

While viewing trips from the front-facing camera is fun, seeing inside the vehicle is an important standout feature. Maybe more so once the parked alerts are enabled: I can imagine someone bumping the car and having Raven notify me so I can quickly do a live look around. I do wonder how effective this will be though: You’re looking through the cabin of the car which may not be ideal for seeing exactly who or what bumped your bumper.

Note that the main difference in the pricing plans has to do with how many live, 720p remote check ins you plan each month. You get 60 for $ 8, 120 for $ 16 and 240 for $ 32 a month. For all plans, you’ll also get the GPS location of your car, gas level, driving history, vehicle diagnostic reports and trip sharing with others. The latter two features are also in the “coming soon” category, so I couldn’t test them.

Overall, I like the Raven, but I don’t know that I’d buy one, even after its full feature set is present. The main reason is that my relatively new car already has most of the same features. I can use GM’s app, for example, to get vehicle diagnostics or the car’s location and I can remotely check or lock the doors. And many newer vehicles are including an LTE radio for optional Wi-Fi hotspot features. However, I can’t see inside my car on demand, nor do I get alerts if something happens to it.

So the appeal here is for older, less connected cars and for people that want the security features and alerts that a dual-facing dash cam can provide. If you’re one of those people, Raven may be worth the price as it fleshes out its feature set over time.

Stacey on IoT | Internet of Things news and analysis

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Blizzard Announces the ‘Hearthstone’ Year of the Raven, In-Game Tournaments, and More

One of the best changes made in the lifecycle of Hearthstone [Free] was the addition of a well structured card rotation cycle. If that’s all gibberish to you, effectively what Hearthstone does is the same as many other collectable card games in that they’re constantly releasing new sets of card but to make the game approachable to new players (and to keep the metagame evolving) they “rotate” card sets. In the case of Hearthstone, they do this via annual rotations. We’ve already gone through the Year of the Kraken and the Year of the Mammoth, so this and this year Hearthstone takes to the sky with the Year of the Raven. Once the first card set of 2018 is released (which will be announced next month), cards from Whispers of the Old Gods, One Night in Karazhan, and Mean Streets of Gadgetzan will only be playable in the anything goes Wild format. Standard will then be limited to cards from Journey to Un’Goro, Knights of the Frozen Throne, Kobolds and Catacombs, as well as the three future card sets released in 2018.

With these rotations, Blizzard often moves cards from the Classic set to the Hall of Fame, which retires them from Standard play. In this particular rotation, three cards are being smoked out and Ben Brode took time to explain the methodology behind these decisions. First off, the Mage card Ice Block is out. The idea behind these Classic cards is to give decks the class flavor without necessarily being cards you would specifically build a deck around. Ice Block, basically forever, has been a definite “build around.” Brode made sure to mention to us that there are many more exciting Mage cards coming in the first set of 2018, so, I feel pretty confident in waiting to see what’s going to happen surrounding the Mage meta before getting too worked up about Ice Block going away.

Additionally, Coldlight Oracle is getting Hall of Fame treatment, largely due to it having one of the most powerful battlecry effects in the game. Coldlight Oracle, like Sylvanas in rotations past, was preventing them from releasing certain kinds of cards that interacted with battlecries and bounce effects just due to the strength of Coldlight Oracle. We’ll have to keep our eyes peeled for cards coming out in 2018 that might’ve allowed us to really abuse its battlecry.

Last, but not least, is Mountain Giant. Ever since it got nerfed to be a 25 mana card instead of a 20 mana card, it hasn’t seen tons of play. So, it’s going to the Hall of Fame and getting un-nerfed so all the Giants decks of days of yore will be once again alive in the Wild format.

The thing I’m most excited for is the new in-game tournament mode that Blizzard is planning on rolling out this summer. In a nutshell, anyone will be able to roll their own tournament either by inviting friends or providing some kind of alphanumeric invite code. Tournaments have a start time, and once you’re signed up and online when it starts you’ll be automatically matched with other players in a swiss tournament that’s entirely managed inside the game itself. Blizzard repeatedly reiterated that this is something that they want to continue improving, and while it won’t likely be an instant replacement for the tournaments manually run by esports organizations, that seems like a noble goal to have one day.

Oh, and quests will be getting easier to complete. Quests that might’ve required you to win 3 games will only require 2. Similarly, quests that had you play 50 quest cards will go down to 30. All 40 gold quests are getting buffed to 50 gold, and they’re shooting for all players to easily be able to farm up a half a pack a day just from playing quests.

While the dates are still fairly nebulous with the new set being announced “next month” and the in-game tournament mode coming “this summer,” these massive rotations are an exciting time for Hearthstone. Even if you don’t plan on buying any new cards, it’ll still be worth paying attention to in order to unlock the free Druid hero Lunara which you’ll get from playing 10 standard games! Pretty sweet.


Apple to be exclusive retailer of ‘Red Raven’ camera kit

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Professional digital cinema camera company Red Digital Cinema on Tuesday announced Apple will be the exclusive retailer of its $ 15,000 Red Raven kit, which includes the Raven camera body, Sigma lens, carrying case and more.
AppleInsider – Frontpage News