FAKE REVIEWS

Fake reviews are like fake news. Easy to generate, difficult to believe. There are Facebook groups offering you money to write a five-star review.

A reporter from the website TheHustle.co wrote about a Chinese merchant who offered him $10 to to write a favorable review of an iPhone charger. It already had 3971 five-star reviews and was labeled “Amazon’s Choice.” “Isn’t this illegal?” he asked. “No, You will love,” was the reply.

The problem got worse in 2015 when Amazon started wooing Chinese sellers. The number of products sold went up by a third and hundreds of thousands of new sellers appeared. Based in manufacturing hubs like Guangzhou and Shenzhen, they ship directly to Amazon’s warehouses. Steve Lee, Los Angeles-based vendor says: “You have to play the game to sell now. And that game is cheating and breaking the law.”

If in doubt, go to FakeSpot.com and paste in the web address of the product. We looked up the current “Amazon’s Choice” for iPhone chargers and pasted in the web address of the “AmazonBasics Nylon Braided Certified iPhone Charger,” with 13,837 ratings. FakeSpot says 59 percent of the ratings are fake, even though Amazon already removed or modified around 1,491 of them. Previously, FakeSpot gave the reliability of the reviews an “F” grade. Perhaps it’s now an F+. We tested a knee brace and Fakespot said 61 percent of the 373 ratings were reliable.

If you don’t want to deal with Amazon, there are alternatives: eBay, Overstock, NewEgg, AliExpress and Jet. AliExpress, owned by Alibaba, had a knee brace for $2.85 that looked similar to the one we just bought on Amazon for $18. But it comes from China with free shipping so it wouldn’t be here for almost a month. We found a phone-holder for your car in the one-cent product category.

We are regular customers of Amazon. We like the goods and the service. But we are leery of any product that has thousands of high-ranking reviews.

Gadget Time

Joy loves swimming. Now with augmented-reality goggles, she can see how far and how fast she’s going by reading the yellow text floating in the air in front of one eye.

The $200 “Form Swim” goggles have a light, fingernail-sized computer. They look like regular goggles, except for a reflective surface. (Bob said Joy looked like the robot in the movie “Terminator.”) Your swim statistics are saved in a free app and you decide which ones you want to see while you swim.

The first time you get in the pool, a tutorial switches on, telling you which of two buttons to push. Joy chose “lap swim” over “intervals,” and it worked perfectly. On the next swim, she got lost in the settings, accidentally switching the read-out to her left eye so it was upside down. So she turned it off and started over. On the third day, she definitely had the hang of it. On her best day, she went 1.585 miles in an hour and was continually moving except for ten seconds, burning 408 calories. Good to know.

European Trade Show

CNET.com told us about the biggest trade show in Europe, which showcased a lot of gadgets, namely:

The “AirDresser” by Samsung, is a free-standing closet that steams your clothes to remove wrinkles. It will probably cost around $2000, the price of LG’s “Styler,” which is similar and already available.

“Captain America” and “Captain Marvel” designs are on $400 smart watches from Garmin, available in October. Called the “Legacy Hero Series,” they’re discreet. Unless you’re a fan, you probably wouldn’t know the design is hero-inspired, though the Captain America watch includes an engraved motto: “I can do this all day.” The Captain America watch has eight days of battery life, Captain Marvel has seven. Use either one to play music from Spotify, AmazonMusic or Deezer. Wave it at a cash register to pay a bill. Or get exercise workouts and monitor your health. Now that’s a super hero!

These gadgets and more are covered in a CNET article, “The Best New Tech from IFA 2019.”

Up in the Air Junior Birdman

FlightRadar24.com will tell you how many planes are in the sky right now. When we checked in, there were 11,593 flights in the air worldwide.

Ever wonder how many people are in space right now? According to HowManyPeopleAreInSpaceRightNow.com there are three Americans, two Russians and one Italian. Click on a name to get their info. For instance, Christina Koch, from Grand Rapids, Michigan, has been in space for 184 days. By now, she must be feeling like a floating decimal point. So has Nick Hague, from Belleville, Kansas.

Poetry from a Smart Speaker

Alexa, the voice inside the Echo or Echo Dot smart speakers, now reads poems. She reads them too fast, in somewhat of a monotone, but they’re better than nothing. We said: “Read a poem by Emily Dickinson,” and she did. We said “Read a poem by Robert Frost,” and she did. But when we said “Read a poem by Robert W. Service,” she said: “Here’s a poem by Robert W. Service, Ballad of a Bohemian.” It sounded good, but she didn’t read it. Oh well, we found it on YouTube. If you’re a member of Audible.com, just say, “Alexa, read my book,” and you’ll get professional actors performing for you.

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