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.