Tuesday, April 21, 2015

3D Robotics Solo Drone

Wired reports: [edited]

The $1,000 Solo drone (or $1,400 with a GoPro-holding gimbal included) is full of clever tools to automate and simplify shooting. There’s even a one-click way to take an ultra-dramatic selfie video. But one of the most impressive features is that the drone will be sold as an open platform, allowing hackers to tinker with the hardware and software.

It has a simple controller, which looks like an old-school video game joystick, with a holder for your iPhone or iPad, which act as both the monitor for the drone and the remote control for the mounted GoPro camera. There are lots of helpful tools for newbie pilots, like a panic button on the controller that will stop the drone in its tracks wherever you are, and a flight simulator app so you can learn to fly a drone without risking crashing $1,000 into a wall.

The Solo’s best feature, though, is its camera automation. In addition to the standard 'follow me' mode, you can draw a line on your phone’s screen, and the Solo will fly back and forth along exactly that line while recording video. Pick an object and select 'Orbit', and the drone will fly a perfect circle, camera focused on your subject the whole time. And in selfie mode, the camera trains on you and flies away, epic-action-movie-style. You can control your GoPro settings in flight, too, which no other drone offers. The goal is for Solo to take great video without you doing much of anything, and then do even more as you get better.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Unibody Tiko 3D Printer

Core 77 reports: [edited]

When we think of FDM 3D printers, we think Cartesian; the print head always rides along rails in the X- and Y-axes, and the machines are cubic in form. But the developers behind the low-cost Tiko have literally been thinking outside of the box, adopting a triangular form factor and opting to use a delta-style mechanism to drive the print head.

This solves a lot of problems at once. The key issue with a Cartesian system is that you need highly accurate, precision-machined parts to achieve the tolerances necessary for dead-on printing. By going with a delta mechanism, which drives the print head via three arms and essentially triangulates the position, they eliminate the need for expensive parts.

For the delta mechanism to be accurate, it has to be connected to three precisely-spaced rails. The development team has got around this by opting for an extruded unibody design. Hundreds of feet worth of body can be extruded at once and sliced into individual units; the stiffness of the triangular shape ensures rigidity; and this completely eliminates the need to assemble and connect rails, with the tolerance woes that can bring.

The end result is that the Tiko is priced at just $179. Interested parties are numerous and have responded positively: The team was seeking $100,000 on Kickstarter, and, at the time of the blog being published, has racked up nearly $2 million in pledges.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Specialized S-Works McLaren Tarmac

Wired reports: [edited]

I’ve ridden plenty of bikes from Specialized. I know the feel of the standard Tarmac, its refined carbon road racer, which costs between two and ten grand. But this bike is something quite different.

The $20,000 McLaren Tarmac is the latest result of a years-long partnership between Specialized and McLaren, the world renowned maker of F1 race cars and supercars for the wealthy.

So what does McLaren, master of four wheels, bring to the bicycle game, apart from some sweet orange paint and a fancy name?

It’s data, says Sam Pickman, Specialized’s lead engineer. It’s the intent and the experience: what a bike is designed to do, how it handles, and the way it connects to the ground for a distinctive Tarmac feel. With McLaren’s help, the Tarmac’s ride quality was computer modelled and fed by stiffness, weight, and geometry.

That makes for a new kind of development process. With McLaren consulting, Specialized gained a new understanding of the complex 'bike-rider system', a specific number to codify what you experience in the saddle when going all out on race day or at a relaxed pace around town. That 'code' is the stiffness and damping of all the components in various directions that add up to the desired ride. It considers everything, from the rubber to what’s in between the wheels.

The good news is that the vehicle dynamics know-how from McLaren gave Specialized a template for their next generation of bikes, so the next (more reasonably priced) Tarmac you ride should have a lot more data behind it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera

Digital Photography Review reports: [edited]

The Blackmagic Micro Cinema Camera is a lightweight professional-grade action camera with a Micro Four Thirds lens mount.

The Black Magic Cinema Camera borrows bits of technology from many different manufacturers to make for an incredibly versatile unit. At its core is a Super 16 sensor, about a third smaller than a conventional Micro Four Thirds sensor, but larger than the sensors found in action cams like the GoPro. It can output Raw video with 13-stops of dynamic range.

The MCC offers both a rolling and a global shutter, the latter of which exposes the sensor all at once, eliminating the jello effect commonly found when using a rolling shutter for fast action shots.

The camera weighs 300 grams, three times the weight of GoPro Hero4 Black, however it is still light enough to affix to a DJI Phantom 2 drone.

Price: $995.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Samsung NX1

Digital Photography Review has published a full review of Samsung's 'enthusiast' mirrorless camera.

Snippets from the conclusion follow:

"One can almost imagine a group of Samsung engineers sitting in a conference room and having the spec sheets of every leading APS-C and four thirds camera dropped in front of them, along with a directive to outperform the whole lot."

"And to a certain extent they seem to have pulled it off. Canon 7D II for autofocus and frame rate? Check. Panasonic GH4 for video? Check. Sony sensors for dynamic range and ISO sensitivity? Check. The result is a camera loaded with features for both still photography and video, and which excels at both."

The company seems to have listened to users when designing the camera. Not only is it a well designed tool from a usability standpoint, but Samsung managed to pack it full of technical improvements that are hard to ignore, such as best in class image quality and best in class video quality.

We could probably justify giving the NX1 an award simply based on technological advancements and raising the bar for both image quality and video performance in its class. But those achievements are wrapped inside a well designed camera with a great user experience. Congratulations to the Samsung NX1 for winning our Gold Award.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Microsoft Office Lens for iOS and Android

c|net reports: [edited]

Office Lens, a scanning app that's been a hit on Windows Phone, is coming to iOS and Android. The free App allows users to take pictures of receipts, business cards, whiteboards, sticky notes and export them to OneNote, Microsoft's note-taking app, as well as Word, Powerpoint, PDF, Mail & Photo Library.

Office Lens automatically crops, enhances and cleans up images. It also enables users to search for key words in the images via optical character recognition.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Combat snack cravings by walking

PsyBlog reports: [edited]

People often find it difficult to cut down on their daily treats but a recent study indicates that by taking a short walk, they are able to reduce their intake by half.

The study involved 47 overweight people with an average age of 28. All regularly ate chocolate or high calories snacks. In the three days before the study, the participants were asked not to snack on any of their usual comfort foods.

In the lab, half the participants spent 15 minutes on a treadmill, while the other half had sat quietly. They then were given a difficult psychological test. They were then given sugary snacks to unwrap, but only ‘handle’.

The results showed that those who’d been on the treadmill had much lower food cravings than those who sat quietly. Exercisers also showed lower physiological arousal to handling the sugary snacks.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Amazon launches Dash buttons

The Verge reports: [edited]

It’s 2am and you’re changing your baby when you realise you’ve just used up your last nappy. Or you go to reach under your sink to grab another roll of toilet paper only to discover you've forgotten to order more...

The Dash button is a WiFi-enabled button that will instantly order a product within seconds of pressing it. An LED on the front blinks after you press it, then turns green to let you know Amazon has received the order. You will have provided Amazon with your payment information, along with the size and quantity you require. The product will be shipped to your pre-determined delivery address.

Dash buttons come with an adhesive strip on the back, and a small bumper case that allows it to be hung up on hooks or on strings.

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Fujifilm X100T

Digital Photography Review has published a review of Fujifilm's large sensor prime compact.

Snippets from the conclusion follow:

"The X100 was a breakthrough camera when it first appeared: making good on the large sensor, small camera idea first pursued by Sigma. It was a potentially great camera, riddled with quirks and inconsistencies. However, Fujifilm continued to develop the camera and the X100 today is much closer to being the classic that its looks imply."

"Whether it's the addition of Wi-Fi, the provision of 1/3rd stop increments on the aperture dial or the move to dedicated directional buttons, rather than the cheap-compact style wheel on the back of the camera, there are plenty of changes that make the camera better. Equally, the addition of an electronic shutter option and a greater degree of camera customisation make a big difference.

We've been really impressed with the image quality from the X100 series, the JPEG color is excellent and the F2 maximum aperture is wide enough to give a little bit of background blur at reasonable working distances, meaning you can get images that look distinct from most other small cameras.

There's nothing else on the market that offers the same combination of image quality and shooting experience, thanks to its direct controls and clever viewfinder.

Overall, it's a small but significant step forward for the series. It's a lovely camera, and well worth considering if you've never owned one of the series before, but it's not the 'rush out and buy one now' product that we keep hoping the X100 series will be.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

1,000-year-old remedy kills MRSA

BBC reports: [edited]

Scientists recreated a 9th Century Anglo-Saxon remedy using onion, garlic and part of a cow's stomach. They were 'astonished' to find it almost completely wiped out methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, otherwise known as MRSA.

They found the remedy killed up to 90% of MRSA bacteria and believe it is the effect of the recipe rather than one single ingredient.

The remedy was found in Bald's Leechbook - an old English manuscript containing instructions on various treatments held in the British Library. It is one of the earliest examples of a medical textbook.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Neo smartpen N2

9to5Toys reports: [edited]

NeoLAB hAS launched smartpen following a wildly successful Kickstart campaign that raised more than over $350,000. After selling some 2,500 pens during the initial round of crowdfunding, those that missed out are able to purchase one.

The aluminum N2 writes with ink on paper like a traditional pen but the magic happens when it is connected to an iOS or Android device. Your writing, sketches and scribbles are transcribed just as the ink dries on paper.

Even when not paired with a device, the N2 can store up to 1,000 pages of writing.

Additionally, the N2 will be able to record and sync audio notes with your devices. Within the app, users will be able to organize and sort notes by title, tags or date created. Content will also automatically sync with Evernote or sent to applications like Adobe Illustrator or Dropbox. The app is even able to convert digital text into 15 languages.

NeoLAB’s N2 is available from Amazon for $169 in black or white and includes a holder with purchase.

Friday, March 27, 2015

United Nations orders 10,000 IKEA Flatpack Refugee Shelters

Gizmodo reports: [edited]

A few years ago, Ikea announced it had designed a better refugee shelter, using its flatpack furniture as a basis for engineering. Working with UN, the Foundation spent years prototyping shelters that could replace the fragile tents that are usually used to house refugees.

The UN's High Commissioner for Refugees has placed an order for 10,000 units of Better Shelter, which it will use to house refugees around the world. The units were tested by displaced families in Iraq and Ethiopia, and according to Irin News, the first of the UN's 10,000 units will be sent to house some of the 2.5 million people in Iraq who have been displaced over the past year.

Better Shelter arrives in two cardboard boxes with all the tools needed to assemble it. Each box can be lifted by four people, and assembled by the same team in no more than eight hours. The package contains an image-based user manual.

Inside, there are details that make these shelters livable for long periods of time: A lockable door. Windows and ventilation. A photovoltaic system to supply electricity. They're built to last as long as three years, which is another major step forward —s ince refugee housing tends to wear out before the displaced have permanent housing.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Using video games in job interviews

New Scientist reports: [edited]

Last week a company called Starfighter was launched. Its aim is to create games you can only master if you have a talent for programming, although those with a natural aptitude can learn as they play. If you do well in a game, the firm knows you are ripe for hiring.

Starfighter's games will have a story. "You'll pretend you're a spy for the day, for example," says Patrick McKenzie, Starfighter's CEO and co-founder. "The story might be to break into tech that's securing state secrets, but it's the same tech you'd use to secure a bank in the real world."

The assumption is that the players who are best at breaking into the software in the game will also be the best at securing it in the real world. Starfighter works with top players to place them in jobs fitting the skills they have demonstrated, if they want them.

Starfighter's games will be totally free, and while they won't have fancy graphics, they will be engaging to play just for fun. Starfighter isn't ready to talk about exactly which skills their games will test, but its founders have already built a game called Microcorruption. It imagines a scenario in which players must break into locked warehouses all over the world, each one stuffed with cash. A smartphone app controls each warehouse lock, and the players have to break in without knowing the code. Of 12224 players, just 182 passed the hardest level. The firm will get in touch with these elite players and help place them with one of their clients, who pay Starfighter a fee.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Tesla cars to get super-cruise-control update

The Register reports: [edited]

Tesla Motors supremo Elon Musk is used to promising a lot – but the latest update to the software in his all-electric cars seems to promise the impossible: the ability to magically turn them into self-driving vehicles.

In a conference call with journalists on Thursday, Musk said that in about three months, Tesla will push out version 7.0 of the cars' operating system, and that it would allow each car to drive from San Francisco to Seattle with little or no need for the human driver to touch a pedal or wheel.

For the moment this will only be enabled on freeways, suggesting the sensors in the front can identify white lines on the road, and keep the car between them, and also sense other vehicles around.

Looking even further ahead, Musk said future updates would include a system to call your car to your location using a smartphone app, and a way to send it automatically into a garage or parking space.