Tech round-up for September 28: Lego tour comes to Vancouver, Nike's new high top sneakers, and endings for BlackBerry, Evernote, and Shomi

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This week, the problem with BlackBerry, Shomi, and Evernote. Plus, a look at self-tying shoes coming from Nike. But first, Lego aficionados need to get to Vancouver this weekend for the Imagine Nation tour stop.

Lego extravaganza brings interactive experiences to Vancouver

If you’ve got any time at all available this weekend, make your way to the Vancouver Convention Centre for the Lego Imagine Nation Tour. It is exactly what you want it to be: dozens of displays of Lego sculpture, as well as plenty of opportunity for you to get your hands on some bricks to do some building of your own.

The event starts this Friday, September 30 and runs through Sunday, October 2. Tickets (you can purchase them in advance but they will also be sold at the door) are $28.50.

Lego is making sure that the exhibits aren’t overrun by staging five different four-hour sessions over the weekend. So you won’t have to worry about standing in line, and you can get to the fun.

Some of Lego’s most popular franchises will be represented, including Elves, Friends, Minecraft, Nexo Knights, Ninjago, and Star Wars. Each pavilion is constructed in the theme of the franchise

You’ll be able to get into a pit of Lego bricks to free-build anything you want, and Canadian Lego Master Builder Christopher Steininger, one of only eight in the world, will be on hand at the Master Builder Lab.

Lego is inherently interactive, but the Imagine Nation Tour is also providing some digital interaction, too.

In the Elves, Friends, and Ninjago pavilions, kids will be able to build their own creations, which are then scanned to create 3-D virtual environments and displayed on massive, 80-inch TVs.

The creator can then interact with their creation through the use of motion-sensing equipment. With the Ninjago interaction, for example, kids build their own dojo out of bricks and then get to protect it from enemies by spinning, punching, and kicking.

Come build, create, and play this weekend.

Evernote becomes even less relevant

I’m dumping Evernote. I used to use it a lot, but I can’t support the company’s decision to further restrict its basic account.

The service has always been “freemium”, so you can get basic functionality for free, and more robust features if you chose to pay a nominal fee.

Evernote was one of those cloud-based apps that made for a productive life. It synced notes and files and shopping lists across multiple platforms, including smartphones and tablets and computers. For a while, a couple of years ago, I was using Evernote daily.

But the functionality that Evernote provided started turning up elsewhere. Apple’s Notes software has always been pretty good for syncing lists, and now it supports files like images and PDFs. Microsoft’s got the same kind of thing going with OneNote, which has got fantastic annotation capabilities.

Not to mention all the Google services that are available.

Evernote has slowly become unnecessary.

And in an attempt to keep afloat, the company recently decided to restrict the basic, free account to only two devices. So with my free account I can sync to my computer and my smartphone, but not my tablet. To do that, I have to upgrade to a premium subscription.

I don’t even care how much it costs. The entire campaign is so anti-user that I’m quitting out of spite.

And because I just don’t need Evernote anymore.

Blackberry getting out of hardware, Shomi shutting down

Speaking of relevancy . . .

Canadian tech company BlackBerry announced today that it will no longer be designing, producing, and selling handsets. The announcement came as the company reported another significant loss.

If there will be BlackBerry handsets in the future, they will be produced by partners under license. Instead, the company will focus on software. Which is, frankly, where it may be able to keep alive. One of the things BlackBerry had going for it was its security features. If they can spin that into other areas, like the “internet of things,” for example, they may be all right. Certainly the company will be in a better position to be acquired.

“BlackBerry is no longer just about the smartphone, but the smart in the phone,” quipped CEO John Chen.

Clever line. Let’s see if it’s too late for that.

As for Shomi, the streaming video service that was being operated by a partnership between Rogers and Shaw, is stopping its service at the end of November, a scant two years after starting up.

The service had fewer than a million customers in Canada (Shomi says subscribers were at 900,000, but analysts put the number closer to 500,000), compared to Netflix’s 5.2 million. And without anything new or original, Shomi could not compete.

Expect CraveTV to follow this pattern before too long. Bell’s streaming service claims to be doing better because it has access to the HBO catalogue, but that does not include new release programming like Game of Thrones.

Nike is going to start selling Marty McFly’s shoes on November 28

You’ll have to plug in these sneakers, but you’re not going to care, because you’ll never have to tie laces again. (My six-year-old is so excited he may never have to perfect shoe-tying.)

After teasing us with the idea that Marty McFly’s self-tying shoes might become a reality, Nike is doing exactly that. These high tops automatically tighten when you step into them based on pressure sensors in the sole. You can manually adjust the fit with two buttons at the top of the shoe.

The battery in the tread that takes care of the auto-fitting will last about two weeks, according to Tiffany Beers, the “senior innovator” at Nike who helped bring these shoes to market.

Nike’s Tinker Hatfield, who has the perfect name to be the vice president for design and special projects, is the one who first imagined bringing the shoe worn by Michael J. Fox’s character in Back to the Future II.

HyperAdapt 1.0 high tops will be available “for experience and purchase” in select U.S. locations. Pricing has not been announced, but you can bet they aren’t going to be cheap. Start saving your pennies.


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