Thursday, October 20, 2016

Nintendo Switch

The Guardian reports: [edited]

Nintendo has unveiled its new console, the Nintendo Switch, which will be released in March 2017.

The console is a hybrid machine, half portable and half traditional console.

The device, which takes games loaded on cartridges, can be used as a traditional console like a PS4 or Xbox One, with the machine docked with the TV and a wireless controller, called the Nintendo Switch Pro Controller, used to play games on it.

But it can also be used in a number of portable modes. The main body, which has a screen, can be undocked from the hub and carried away. Owners can then either attach controllers (called “Joy-Cons”) to its side, and use it like a portable games console – think a massive PS Vita – or prop up the screen and use the wireless controllers instead.

A second type of wireless controller allows owners to dock the two mini controllers to either side of a wireless body, and play using that. The Joy-Cons are included; the Pro Controller is an optional accessory.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

BMW Motorrad Vision Next 100 Concept

SFGATE reports: [edited]

The BMW Motorrad Vision Next 100 motorcycle is the latest incarnation of BMW's Vision Next series, which celebrates 100 years of the German brand with forward-looking concept vehicles from Rolls-Royce, Mini, and BMW.

It's a bike that has self-balancing systems to keep it upright both when standing and in motion. Several systems — one BMW calls a "Digital Companion," which offers riding advice and adjustment ideas to optimise the experience, and one called "The Visor," which is a pair of glasses that span the entire field of vision and are controlled by eye movements — correlate to return active feedback about road conditions to the rider while adjusting the ride of the bike continuously depending on the rider's driving style.

It also uses a "flexframe" that's nubile enough to allow the bike to turn without the joints found on today's motorcycles. The idea is that when a rider turns the handlebar, it adjusts the entire frame to change the direction of the bike; at low speeds only a slight input is required, while at high speeds it needs strong input to change course.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Playstation VR

Trusted Reviews has published a 10/10 review of Sony's recently released virtual reality goggles.

Snippets follow:

"Priced at £349.99, it’s significantly cheaper than the Oculus Rift (£549) and HTC Vive (£759)."

"PlayStation VR is simply the best virtual reality headset you can buy right now. It’s cheap while not compromising on performance and quality. The headset is simply stunning and incredibly comfortable to wear, and the games already available are some of the best VR experiences I’ve ever played."

"Compared to the Oculus Rift it offers a far more comfortable gaming experience at a much lower price point. Against the Vive it may not offer the level of detail and immersion, but is close and doesn’t require the installation of additional sensors in your home and will not demand as much space for many games, either."

"I was so excited about virtual reality, but this was replaced with frustration the longer I tried to use the Oculus Rift. Now? I couldn’t be more enthused, and it’s all thanks to PSVR."

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Elbo Chair – Designed With The Help Of Algorithms

Wired reports: [edited]

THE ELBO CHAIR is unusual piece of furniture.Arthur Harsuvanakit and Brittany Presten of Autodesk’s generative design lab created the chair, but they didn’t design it.

Harsuvanakit and Presten collaborated with Dreamcatcher, Autodesk’s generative design CAD system. They fed the software a digital, 3-D model of a chair inspired by Hans Wegner’s iconic Round Chair and the Lambda Chair, from the design studio Berkeley Mills. Then, they stipulated how much weight the chair must support and insisted that the arms clear a human body. With that, Dreamcatcher started iterating.

The software churned out hundreds of designs, optimising as it went. It shaved dead weight and adjusted joint placement to improve load-bearing abilities, creating thinner, more intricate structures. “It gets bonier as the iterations go higher,” Harsuvanakit says. “It’s cool to let it go too far — some of them look like bug skeletons to me.” Every so often, he and Presten would pick a design, and the software would propagate a new lineage based on their selection.

Harsuvanakit calls the Elbo a collaboration between human and machine. Dreamcatcher might spin out solutions a designer might not think of, but at a certain point the human mind overrides the algorithm. The look and feel of the final object did not originate in the designer’s mind, but it requires his sign-off.

The Elbo is CNC-milled from wood. This posed new challenges. Dreamcatcher’s materials library doesn’t include wood so Harsuvanakit and Presten designated 'nylon', which Harsuvanakit says is the most suitable ringer for walnut wood.

The final design performs well. The Elbo has 18 percent less material than the hybrid model the designers started with, and shows fewer signs of stress in its joints.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

Sisyphus Tables

Kickstarter reports: [edited]

In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was condemned to roll a boulder up a mountain for all eternity*. In my art, Sisyphus is a kinetic sculpture that rolls a ball through sand, forever creating and erasing beautiful patterns.

I have been creating Sisyphus sculptures for nearly 20 years, and have large, 3-meter diameter permanent installations in Switzerland, Germany and Australia. Over time I have come to view Sisyphus as more than a kinetic art piece: it is an instrument. As a musical instrument plays songs, Sisyphus plays paths.

My goal with this Kickstarter is to get Sisyphus into people's homes for them to enjoy as both furniture and art, but also, to inspire a community of composers to write ’music‘ for it.

Remaining pledge prices for 2 foot diameter tables start at $795.

*In Greek mythology Sisyphus was the king of Ephyra (Corinth). He was punished for his self-aggrandising deceitfulness by being condemned to roll an immense boulder up a hill, watch it come back to hit him, and then repeating the procedure again for eternity [ed].

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Toyota ‘Kirobo Mini’ Robot Baby

Fortune reports: [edited]

Toyota has unveiled a doe-eyed palm-sized robot, dubbed Kirobo Mini, designed as a synthetic baby companion in Japan.

Toyota’s venture aims to tap a demographic trend that has put Japan at the forefront of ageing among the world’s industrial nations.

“He wobbles a bit, and this is meant to emulate a seated baby, which hasn’t fully developed the skills to balance itself,” said Fuminori Kataoka, Kirobo Mini’s chief design engineer. “This vulnerability is meant to invoke an emotional connection.”

Toyota plans to sell Kirobo Mini, which blinks its eyes and speaks with a baby-like high-pitched voice, for 39,800 yen (£300) in Japan next year. It comes with a cradle that doubles as its baby seat designed to fit in car cup holders.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Bicycle Packaging Idea

Cycling Weekly reports: [edited]

Bicycles in big cardboard boxes have a tendency to get dropped, bashed or crushed by delivery companies, which spurred Dutch manufacturer Vanmoof into action to find a solution. Instead of putting a picture of a bike on the box they printed a picture of a large flatscreen TV instead and saw instances of delivery damage drastically reduce.

“No matter who was doing the shipping, too many of our bikes arrived looking like they’d been through a metal-munching combine harvester. It was getting expensive for us, and bloody annoying for our customers,” creative director Bex Rad wrote on the company’s blog.

“Earlier this year our co-founder Ties had a flash of genius. Our boxes are about the same size as a (really really reaaaally massive) flatscreen television. Flatscreen televisions always arrive in perfect condition. What if we just printed a flatscreen television on the side of our boxes?

“And just like that, shipping damage to our bikes dropped by 70–80%.”

Thanks to Conrad Gempf for the link.
Image via: Twitter/@jasongay

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Variable Fonts

Adobe Typekit Blog reports: [edited]

Jointly developed by Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Adobe, a variable font is “a single font file that behaves like multiple fonts”. A single font file gaining an infinite flexibility of weight, width, and other attributes without also gaining file size.

The OpenType font file specification now includes a new technology: OpenType Font Variations, which allows type designers to interpolate a font’s entire glyph set or individual glyphs along up to 64,000 axes of variation (weight, width, etc.), and define specific positions in the design space as named instances (“Bold”, “Condensed”, etc.).

For fonts to actually show up anywhere, a rendering engine has to make typesetting and rasterisation calculations. Rendering engines are complex, and will need to be developed before Variable Fonts become viable, along with browsers and design software to support the rendering engine.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

iPhone 7 Plus Camera Review

Austin Mann reports: [edited]

I’m writing from deep in the Nyungwe rain forest in southwest Rwanda. We’ve been tracking gorillas in the north, boating Lake Kivu in the west, and running through tea plantations in the south — all with the iPhone 7 Plus in hand.

Alternating between wide (28mm) and telephoto (56mm) lenses has fundamentally changed the way I see and shoot with my iPhone, including landscapes, wildlife, and people. The 2x zoom is an especially great upgrade for portraiture.

It works exactly as I hoped. It is super quick to switch between lenses, even while you are rolling video.

In terms of quality, I found the the 2x zoom lens to be equally as sharp as the iPhone wide-angle. However, I do not recommend the digital zoom beyond 2x. The quality of digital zoom degrades quickly and I find it unusable for photography (although it’s actually kind of nice as an animal spotting tool).

The 2x works in ALL modes (photo, video, time-lapse, slo-mo, and even pano).

The iPhone 7 features a completely redesigned camera system with a faster f/1.8 lens which leads to better auto focus, a better ability to freeze motion, and shallower depth-of-field. I also noticed an improvement in the the dynamic range of the sensor.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Budnitz Model E

Budnitz Bicycles reports: [edited]

Budnitz Model E is the lightest electric bicycle in the world (13kg). The twin-tube single-arc cantilever frame is crafted from 3AL 2.5V titanium alloy.

Geometry is tuned for exceptional lateral stability, minimising energy loss as you pedal. It flexes in just the right places to absorb the shock of gravel, curbs and rough pavement without a clunky front suspension. Also available in 4130 Cro Moly Steel.

Model E pairs a Gates Carbon Belt Drive with a Zehus Bike+ 250W electric rear hub. Motor, sensors, and 30V L-ion 160Wh battery are sealed within the high polish aluminium rear hub. The entire drivetrain is free of oil, completely protected against rain, grit and road debris and virtually maintenance free.

It provides electric assist up to 15 MPH for a range of 20-100 miles. Coast downhill or pedal backwards to return power to the hub. Use bluetooth interface to control multiple modes and power output. Integrated slope sensors offer more support on hills and a hub locking feature adds additional anti-theft security.

Price: from $3,950 to frankly exorbitant

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Shaper Origin

Wired reports: [edited]

The Shaper Origin is built to take the mystery — and most of the skill — out of cutting shapes from a piece of wood. Grab Origin by the handles, place it on a piece of wood, and start tracing along the edges of the shape on Origin’s touchscreen. The drill bit will automatically correct for your wobbly, inexperienced hands.

About the size and heft of a toaster, Origin is one part augmented-reality machine and one part robot. When you place it on a surface, it takes a picture of its surroundings. Removable strips of tape covered in domino-like markings help it get its bearings. As you move the tool, it refers to the picture and tape to keep track of its location. Veer off the path you are tracing and it will automatically stop cutting.

Ships next year for around $1,500.

More information available here.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Business Insider UK reports: [edited]

The Note 7 is made from two identical pieces of curved glass fused together with a metal band, making it feel thinner and lighter than it actually is. However, the glass on the back is a magnet for scratches. The Note 7 can survive under a few feet of water for up to 30 minutes.

Although the Note 7 has a larger screen than the iPhone Plus (5.7 inches versus 5.5-inch), it is smaller, making it feel more comfortable in your pocket and even better in your hand.

This year's model has an improved S Pen with a sensitive tip that feels more natural to write with. There's also a new feature that lets you grab portions of videos and turn them into GIFs. The camera is the best smartphone camera yet.

Battery life is excellent, enough to get you through more than a day. It also comes with wireless charging, which works with any standard wireless charger. You can also enable fast charging if you use one of Samsung's charging plugs or wireless charging pads.

The iris scanner is better in theory than in practice. Though more secure, it's an impractical way to unlock your phone, and it doesn't work well in bright sunlight.

Another weakness is the software. Samsung makes big modifications to Android, which often gums up the experience. Samsung has a horrible record of updating its software, and there's no guarantee you'll be getting the new Note features a year from now.

The Note 7 comes with 64 gigabytes of storage, with the option to get a free 256 GB memory card when you buy the phone.

Price: £719

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

China Launches Quantum Communications Satellite

Tech Crunch reports: [edited]

China has launched the world’s first quantum communications satellite.

Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS), named Micius after the philosopher, lifted off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center into a sun-synchronous 500km orbit.

QUESS is an experiment in the deployment of quantum cryptography. Inside QUESS is a crystal that can be stimulated into producing two photons that are 'entangled' at a subatomic, quantum level. Entangled photons have certain aspects – polarisation, for example – that are the same for both regardless of distance; if one changes, the other changes.

The trouble is that photons are rather finicky things, and tend to be bounced, absorbed, and otherwise interfered with when traveling through fibres, air, and so on. QUESS will test whether sending them through space is easier, and whether one of a pair of entangled photons can be successfully sent to the surface while the other remains aboard the satellite.

If this is possible, the entangled photons can be manipulated in order to send information; the satellite could, for example, send binary code by inverting its photon’s polarisation, one way for 1, the other way for 0. The ground station would see its photon switching back and forth and record the resulting data. This process would be excruciatingly slow, but fast enough for, say, key creation and exchange – after which data can be exchanged securely by more ordinary means.

The critical thing about this is that there is no transmission involved, or at least not one we understand and can intercept. Whatever links the two photons is intangible and undetectable — you can’t entangle a third one to listen in, and if even if you managed to interfere with the process, it would be immediately noticed by both sides of the process, which would see unexpected changes to the photons’ states.

As you can imagine, an undetectable and perfectly secure channel for digital communications is of enormous potential value for an endless list of reasons. China is early to the game with QUESS, but they’re not the only ones playing. Other quantum satellites, though none quite so advanced, are in the ether right now, and more are sure to come. The experiments from the whole set will definitely be interesting – if anyone can find a way to explain what’s going on in them.