Ever since the phenomenal rollout of the augmented-reality smartphone game Pokémon Go a few weeks ago, pokémon trainers have already discovered more than one virtual pokémon gym in the U.S. and across Europe.
In Go’s version of pokémon gyms, pokémon can be trained and trainers can claim them either by assigning a pokémon or battling a rival team who has claimed one. Of course, all this only happens on your smartphone.
But somewhere in Japan—where it all started—is a real-life pokémon gym where anyone can physically train, play, and interact with (virtual) pokémon. That means you, pokémon trainer!
A first, and so far the only one of its kind in the world, the Pokémon Expo Gym (PEG) opened in November 2015 in Osaka as part of Expocity, a massive shopping and entertainment complex.
It’s a 70-minute commute from Osaka Castle. You get off at the Banpaku-Kinen-Kōen Station; a giant inflatable Pikachu will welcome you upon arrival.
The Pokémon Expo Gym is right across this Gundam store.
Inside the gym is a small cafe that sells Pokémon-themed snacks.
We’ve seen healthier menus than this.
You can also take home this Pikachu tub filled with popcorn.
Just like Pokémon Centers in other parts of Japan, the Pokémon Expo Gym has a store that sells a sea of plush toys. Because, really, who wouldn’t want one?
There are also some AR-enabled merchandise that are not available in any other Pokémon stores, like this ID tag.
There are signs (in Japanese) around the gym with AR codes that activate with the PEG Gear app. Yep, that Pikachu popped out of that pokéball signage.
The gym’s real attraction, though, is an arcade-like facility beyond this gigantic pokéball. To get in, you need to buy a membership card called PokéPera for 500 yen.
Sadly, a membership at the world’s only real-life pokémon gym doesn’t increase your chances of catching rare creatures in Pokémon Go. But who knows what pokémon you can catch here once the app finally rolls out in Japan?
If you plan on trying out the facilities, you will have to top up your card with yen.
Macho J’s Boxercise, for example, costs 400 yen for one game that lasts for 3 minutes.
Here’s my friend Leslie getting physical with Macho J.
Aside from making Pikachus pop out, the PEG Gear app will also record your results inside the gym. I obviously have a long way to go to become a pokémon master. Sigh.
Gardevoir’s Control Score involves catching pokémon using a stylus and monitors.
There are other attractions where you can interact and talk with the pokémon. In case you’re going through some times, you can learn to punch like Machamp and get some life advice at Machamp’s Counseling Room.
The entire gym is decorated with Pokémon elements to give you all the #feels. Floors are painted with pokéball icons.
The walls also have murals like this one.
Even the toilet signs are Pikachu silhouettes.
If you ever find yourself traveling across Osaka — with half a day and more than 4,000 yen to spare — a visit to the Pokémon Expo Gym is a must. Whether you’re a die-hard Pokémon fan or not, this actual pokémon gym is something everyone can appreciate.
1 USD = 106 JPY
[irp posts=”10698″ name=”Pokémon Generation 2 is out”]
Playing Big Brother with the realme Smart Cam 360
CCTVs like the realme Smart Cam 360 are often marketed as home security devices. Most people use these kinds of cameras to monitor strangers passing by the house or to prevent criminal activity.
I, however, had something else in mind. As a pet owner, I often wonder what my cats are up to. What are they doing when I’m not looking? Could I be missing a moment of cuteness whenever they’re up in their hideouts?
So, I decided to play Big Brother and document their days using the realme Smart Cam 360.
Setting up the mobile CCTV
Initially, I thought that the camera was rechargeable like a smartphone. It is not. It has to be constantly plugged into a power source. This was a problem for me since the areas where the cats frequent, don’t exactly have accessible electrical sockets.
But lo and behold, A LIFEHACK! My brother helped me devise a way to use the CCTV camera portably, so I can move it from place to place, wherever the cats are. We plugged it to a power bank! The 16000mAh power bank was able to supply electricity to the camera for a little less than 24 hours.
The next step was installing the realme Link app on my phone so I can use it to view the camera’s feed. I just had to create a realme account, link the camera to the app and voila, I can already use my phone as a monitor and a remote control for the camera. Another thing I like about the app is that you can use it to customize the camera’s name.
Last is putting in a memory card. This part is actually optional, but having a memory card in the camera is very handy if you want to review moments you might have missed. The Smart Cam 360 has event-triggered recording which means it automatically saves any activity whenever the camera detects sound or motion.
Big Brother: Cat Edition
The cats found it strange at first.
But eventually, they learned to werq it.
Changing the direction of the camera is not a problem. The mobile CCTV is very responsive to the phone’s remote control. The camera adjusts to the lighting conditions of the room. Even in the dark, it’s still able to show what’s happening.
The infrared night vision does give the cats some creepy-looking eyes though!
In typical Big Brother fashion, the Smart Cam 360 also lets you communicate with whoever’s with your camera. Sort of like a PA system, or a walkie-talkie. I tried using it to call my pets’ attention, but cats do as cats do–ignore humans.
A helpful housemate?
In a lot of ways, yes. The realme Smart Cam 360 has been my extra set of eyes at home.
It does a good job of notifying me whenever there’s activity in the room I placed it in. It can capture moments I would have otherwise missed, like that one time my cat was causing mischief in the dining area.
It’s ideal for when you need to watch home, away from home. The realme Link app is also fairly easy to understand, a plus for people like me who prefer their tech simple.
But, there’s the question of privacy. There have been reports of home security cameras that accidentally leaked their feed to other households. With the current digital landscape, you can’t help but wonder where your data is being sent to. Who else could be watching? Who else could be listening to what’s happening at home?
It would be ironic if, in the course of trying to be like Big Brother, you yourself became the subject of observation. It’s good to keep that in mind and set some limits to what the camera has access to.
Huawei Freebuds Pro Unboxing and First Impressions
Sounds as good as it looks
Huawei has been killing it in the personal audio department and everyone should really start paying attention. Adding to the lineup is the Huawei Freebuds Pro. It’s their answer of sorts to the likes of the AirPods Pro and the Sony WF-1000XM3.
This is what the front of the box looks like. It’s a pretty tiny box.
A closer look shows the name of the product in gold.
Flip it over and you’ll see some highlighted features.
Take out the top cover and you’re immediately greeted by the Freebuds Pro.
Here’s a look without the plastic covering.
It’s a little tricky to take out but underneath all that is the USB to USB-C Cable and a box.
Pull out the cable and the box and you get this.
Here’s a closer look at the cable.
And here are extra soft silicone plugs so you can find the perfect fit for your ears.
Now, let’s go back to the Freebuds Pro. Here’s the back of the charging case with the Huawei text.
You flip it over to open it and reveal the earbuds.
The buds are tinier — the tiniest they’ve released over the past year.
On the bottom of the case is the USB-C port.
And on its right side is the bluetooth pairing button.
But if you simply open the case next to a Huawei phone — here it’s the Huawei Mate 40 — it’ll immediately detect it and ask to pair.
When you press connect, it’ll show you right away how to operate the Freebuds Pro.
After that, it’ll show you the battery life of each Freebud Pro and the case.
As mentioned earlier, in terms of the size of the stem, it’s a lot smaller than the previous two releases.
The cases also vary in shape and size.
Here’s what they look like when worn.
I’ve only had the Freebuds Pro for a little over 24 hours at the time of writing. I’ve since used it on a video call meeting and to listen to the Eyes Wide Open album by TWICE.
So far, it’s performing exactly as advertised. It carries over the noise-cancellation excellence from the Freebuds 3 and Freebuds 3i. In fact, the Freebuds Pro combines the best practices of the aforementioned devices thanks to a number of engineering and design choices.
Sound quality is also right around what I expected based on my previous experiences with other Huawei audio products. It’s certainly two steps above the Freebuds 3i in terms of overall sound quality.
SEE ALSO: Freebuds 3 review | Freebuds 3i review
Music comes off as crisp and clean as the Freebuds 3 but we’ll have to try it out for a little longer for a more definitive take. Same goes for the battery life.
The controls are also more intuitive. If you are coming from the Freebuds 3, it is a little different. Here’s a photo of me assuming the controls are the same. Nope, I didn’t pay attention to the prompts during set-up. What an idiot.
Price and availability
In the Philippines, it retails for PhP 7,999 — around PhP 1,000 cheaper than the launch price of the Freebuds 3 (PhP 8,990).
Pre-order period is from November 27 to December 3. If you pre-order you’ll get freebies worth PhP 3,989.
- Huawei Band 4 — PhP 1,890
- Entertainment Gift Package — PhP 2,099
The Huawei Mate 40 Pro’s cameras are actually smart
Perfect for lazy point-and-shooters
Part of writing tech reviews means I also take product photos for a living. It may seem easy at first, but I can guarantee that it takes some practice to get good shots. The same is true for when we take sample photos.
However, I’m human (occasionally trash) and I get tired and lazy too. I had a different article in mind for this feature at first but I wasn’t too happy with some of the shots I took with the Huawei Mate 40 Pro.
But then it hit me. Isn’t this the whole point of having a smartphone camera? It’s supposed to do a lot of the processing and beautification on its own. So what I’m going to show you right now are some of the shots I was “moderately okay” with to showcase just how smart the Mate 40 Pro is as a point-and-shoot-camera.
The level of detail in this photo is already impressive on its own. The pot with the dead plant/s (I’m not much of a plant person, sorry) is placed against the light source which is the window.
Despite that, not only was the Mate 40 Pro able to produce a shot showing the pot’s details, it also captured the view outside the window.
Not impressed? Here’s what it looked like right before I took the photo.
A little mind-blowing, right?
10X Zoom is the zoom sweet spot
The Huawei Mate 40 Pro can go all the way up to 50X Zoom. But we all know maxxed out zoom levels don’t really produce images you’d be inclined to post on social media.
Thankfully, (and as you can see in the plant screenshot) the camera app actually guides you to different shooting perspectives for optimal use.
When you fire it up, you have the normal distance or 1X zoom. Click the button on the right and you go straight to wide. Click to the left of 1X and you have 5X zoom, and click to left most node and you have 10X Zoom.
So how good is it?
This was taken in 1X at night while I was taking a brisk-ish walk around our compound.
What did I tell you? Lazy shot, right? But it looks fair. The scene was aptly lit and the night mode wasn’t very aggressive. But put your attention on the figure in the middle. Here’s what it looks like after shooting in 10X Zoom.
The level of detail at 10X Zoom, and at night at that, is simply astonishing. It’s such a clean shot given the conditions it was in.
Night Mode is unreal
While we’re at it, let’s talk about the Huawei Mate 40 Pro’s Night Mode. Huawei, in recent years, has done a pretty good job with their night mode. As I mentioned, it’s no longer overly aggressive when it doesn’t need to be.
But when there’s little to no light source, Night Mode really kicks into high gear. Here’s a screenshot of the basketball court before I took the photo.
If I’m not mistaken, this was around seven or eight in the evening. There’s a faint light around the court, but since there’s a pandemic, we can’t really use it to play hoops. That’s why it’s lights off for now.
But here’s the final shot.
Personally, I think the post-processing was extremely aggressive here. The AI was working extra hard filling-in what it thought the colors were of the sky and the trees. It missed a little bit on the ring though as it isn’t green at all in real life.
That said, this is a fantastic showcase of what the Mate 40 Pro’s Night Mode can do even in near pitch-black scenes.
Here’s a bonus night mode shot just to showcase how good it is on an adequately lit scene.
Trying (and failing) at toy photography
The following morning, I decided to try my hand at ‘toy photography.’ So over the pandemic, one of the things I did to cope was buy a few anime figures. But it’s not something I’ve actually done before so this was mostly just for the heck of it and to see how the Mate 40 Pro can do under ample light conditions.
I shot poorly (I think), but the Mate 40 Pro did a lot of heavy lifting. It only occurred to me that perhaps having this colorful a backdrop wasn’t the best idea for highlighting a toy figure.
But here’s the portrait mode shot.
It’s a little darker than in real life, but the background blur is fantastic. Look at the lights on the building in the background. The subject could have been clearer if my hands had been steadier but overall, this isn’t bad at all.
I didn’t really read up on how to do this before trying it but based on some stuff I’ve seen online, toy photography is also about highlighting the details. The zoom function shines here again.
On the left is the 1X shot and on the right is the 5X Zoom. The quality suffers a little but it still manages to showcase the underfoot details of the figure.
I tried taking a closer shot with a bright background. The Mate 40 Pro still captured a fair amount of detail with ample lighting on the subject despite the overpowering source of light on the background.
Again, I wasn’t really too happy with the background so I figured I’d wrap things up. I took one last shot — a face close-up using 5X Zoom.
I haven’t spent that long of a time with the Mate 40 Pro so I was having trouble with focusing. Despite my shortcomings, the image still came out a little okay.
When I actually tried (a little)
A little later on we had to shoot a video for Huawei. It was a rush project so I figured I’d meet up with MJ to wrap things up quickly. With his influence, I actually tried taking proper photos and here’s how they came out.
Oh and here’s portrait mode on an actual person.
Perfect for point-and-shooters
I’m willing to bet most people really don’t want to bother with too many settings or tweaking things here and there. The Huawei Mate 40 Pro really shines in this aspect as the combination of its hardware plus AI shooting does a lot of heavy lifting for most users.
But my general advice is still try a little (haha). It won’t take a lot of effort to capture something amazing when you have the Mate 40 Pro with you.
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