This looks like a fairly normal piece of stainless steel mesh—but it's coated with a special substance which allows it to block oil while allowing water through.
Thursday, April 16, 2015
No, you haven't stumbled across an internet video from 1997 -- that's the output of one of the cleverest cameras you'll see in a while. Columbia University researchers have developed a self-powered camera whose pixels both record light and turn it into electricity. The trick is the use of photodiodes (which are common in both cameras and solar panels) that are permanently set to collect energy, not simply conduct it.As you can see from the blurry, goofy animation above, the existing technology won't compete with the camera in your phone, let alone a pro DSLR. Columbia's prototype captures just 1,200 black-and-white pixels, and it needs a lot of light just to keep running. Even so, it's promising. If scientists can refine the technology to work at multi-megapixel levels, you could see cameras that last a long time on battery, and might not need a battery at all.
Source: Columbia University
Posted by Augustine at 6:40 AM
Long before Google had ever uttered the word glass, Recon Instruments was rising to prominence with a head-worn display designed for snow sports. You'd be forgiven for not knowing the name, since the technology was buried inside expensive sets of ski goggles like Oakley's Airwave. Then, the company announced that a new product for cyclists and runners would arrive, this time branded under its own name. Few outside the running/cycling community paid attention to the Recon Jet, since they were all distracted by Google's rival. Two years later, and Glass has been pulled from the market in the hope that Tony Fadell can turn it into a device people want to buy. As such, the road is clear for Recon's fitness-oriented wearable, but can this small Canadian company succeed where Google failed? Earlier this year, I sat down with the company's Tom Fowler and a nearly finished prototype of the final hardware to find out.
Jet, in essence, is a pair of sunglasses that you wear when running or cycling that look a bit heavier than your average pair of Ray-Bans. Style-wise, they're less geeky or sporty, resembling the sort of tactical eyewear that only hairy vigilante Dog the Bounty Hunter could fall in love with. That's not to say the device is ugly, but you'll have to recalibrate your wardrobe to ensure that you don't look like a reject from a Roger Corman sci-fi movie. I'd suggest ditching the suit in favor of some brightly colored spandex and a cycling helmet at the very least.
Hardware-wise, and assuming that you're wearing them, you'll find the "compute module" on the right-hand side of the frame. Tucked inside here is a 1GHz dual-core Cortex-A9, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of storage, Bluetooth, GPS and the various movement sensors that'll track your activities. There's a 2.1-megapixel camera up front and the heads-up display that's held in position below your right eye. One thing you won't find is a cable that joins this to the battery module stationed on the opposite side, and that's because there isn't one.
Instead, energy passes between the two with a microfilament, which is embedded in the lenses themselves. Undeniably cool as that may be, it serves as an added reason to treat the Jet with kid gloves, because you won't be able to replace anything on the cheap. In the future, the company is hoping to offer some aftermarket lenses in various tints (clear, yellow and mirrored) as well as prescription versions, but don't hold your breath for these to arrive anytime soon.
You may need a phone to tether your Jet to the internet, but the hardware is designed for standalone use, with the controls built into the compute module itself. There's a pair of buttons on the underside -- OK and Back -- while a four-way touch panel sits on the side to respond to your up-down and left-right swipes. There's also a small nubbin below the display that'll let you angle the screen to better suit your eyeline, and the company claims that it's the equivalent of staring at a 30-inch HD display.
If you're already a glasses wearer, then nothing about the Jet will be too disconcerting, apart from the heaviness. Because the compute module is heavier than the battery by a good margin, the whole thing had a tendency to list to the right a little. Admittedly, after I'd gotten used to the feel, I had to wear the Jet over my existing glasses to try it out properly since I wasn't wearing contact lenses and there's no prescription offering.
Once you've activated the hardware, the first thing you're offered is to begin an activity, and running is, tellingly, displayed first. It's one swipe to the right if you want to switch to cycling. When you start an activity, the small screen will begin pumping the usual bevy of statistics to your eye, with more promised in future software updates. If you want additional numbers, you can pair the appropriate ANT+ accessories like a chest-mounted heart rate monitor or a cadence sensor. At the time of writing, firm battery life information wasn't available, but only the slowest of marathoners would be put off by the Jet's life, which should run to an estimated 5.5 hours on a charge.
Unfortunately, in this behind-closed-doors demo, I wasn't able to take the gear out for a proper field test. Instead, I turned my attention to what Recon hopes to achieve with the Jet and how it intends to avoid the pitfalls other wearables have made. Fowler went to great pains not to mention competing products by name (so I will instead: It rhymes with "Boogle Blass"), but said that their biggest flaw was a lack of "purpose." I know what he means, since it was never clear what Google's head-mounted computer was designed to do.
For instance, we don't use our smartphones as phones anymore, but that's the task that they're ostensibly purchased to fulfill. Glass never seemed to have a sense of doing one job well, since it was a fairly rudimentary camera, navigation and notification device. Rather than being designed to stay on your face all day, Fowler believes that the Recon Jet will be used for a specific job -- tracking your runs and cycle rides -- and then put away when you're done.
There's a refreshing lack of grand plans about "platforms" from Fowler, too, although he believes that Jet has the potential to be more than just a cycling accessory. The company has teamed up with professor Samuele Marcora to learn if athletes would run faster if subjected to subliminal training. According to the research, inspirational messages that are flashed into a sprinter's eyes can help improve their speed and stamina. Recon has also been touting the Jet around various sectors including law enforcement and the oil and gas industry to help remote workers communicate.
For now, however, Recon Jet needs to prove that it can be accepted by the fitness crowd, but will it? At this early stage, I'm struggling to see many runners who would rush to pay the $699 for one of these devices. After all, while it offers a raft of features that you can't get on a GPS watch, there aren't any that runners are exactly crying out for. Additionally, the doubled price (over other fitness wearables) doesn't justify the convenience of not having to check your wrist every now and again for your performance statistics.
Cyclists, on the other hand, are likely to buy these in droves, which is why it's so incongruous that running is the first option on the menu. The unobtrusive and glanceable heads-up display would be perfect for a rider who doesn't want to take their eyes off the road. In addition, the built-in camera might just be perfect for recording those moments when douchebags cut you off in city traffic. It may be vastly more expensive than a handlebar-mounted unit, but it also does a lot more and those added features make sense here.
As a kicker, $699 is half what Google was asking people to pay for its equivalent, and many may consider it a cheap way to get into the head-mounted wearable space. As such, if your second skin is spandex and you're always wearing a crash helmet, then giving this a go seems like a good idea. In addition to the US price, you can also pick Jet up in Europe (€749), the UK (£579.99), Japan (88,800 Yen) and Canada ($879 CAD) via the company's website.
Filed under: Wearables
Posted by Augustine at 6:39 AM
Some people need extra motivation to exercise, and the creators of this bike trainer called Widerun hope to provide that in the form of virtual reality. Widerun is a system comprised of a steering component and a base station that attaches to ordinary bikes. It works with both Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR -- just plug them in and strap them on to bike through virtual locations, from American cities to the Alps. While that sounds like a recipe for motion sickness, its Kickstarter page says its creators performed a series of tests and found that the system worked well enough to avoid triggering the condition.
They found that motion sickness is usually caused by a disconnect between what the rider feels and sees on screen. That's why the system tries to match as much of the virtual world as it can, with the steering component letting you take the bike wherever you want to within the simulation. The base station also adds resistance when you're going up slopes to mimic the difficulty of the biking up inclines. In case you're more susceptible to motion sickness than other people, though, you can use a TV, a computer or a smartphone as a screen instead of a VR headset.
Widerun's developers are currently trying to raise £30,000 ($44,540) via Kickstarter, where you can pledge a minimum of £250 ($371) to get a system of your own when it ships out in April 2016. But don't forget that the price doesn't include either VR headset (the Rift isn't even out for most people yet) or the bike itself. So the whole system will cost you much more $$$ than what you're pledging on the crowdfunding website.
Filed under: Misc
Posted by Augustine at 6:39 AM
Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Couldn't get enough of Planet Earth's wide-ranging exploration of nature? We have good news. Netflix is producing a spiritual sequel, Our Planet, with the help of both Silverback Films (which made the original BBC show) and the World Wildlife Fund. The eight-episode series will reportedly venture into "never-before-filmed" corners of the globe, with everything shot in 4K -- just like Planet Earth, the new production will serve as a good showcase for your TV. You'll have to be patient, however. Our Planet isn't expected to debut until 2019, so you'll want to find some other nature documentaries to tide you over.
Posted by Augustine at 5:54 PM
The nearly bezel-less Dell XPS 13 is one of our highest rated laptops, thanks namely to its compact size, attractive design and fast performance. But if Windows just isn't your preferred operating system, now there's another option to choose from: Linux. As part of its commitment to the platform, which took off with the introduction of Project Sputnik, Dell's announced a Ubuntu-based developer edition of its sleek 13-inch laptop. Naturally, you'll have a myriad of configurations to choose from, with prices ranging from $949 all the way to $1,849, depending on how specced out you want your Linux machine to be.
In a blog post, Dell says that since the launch of the XPS 13 back in January, the idea was to launch a developer-friendly version, but it wanted to make sure it could offer the best possible product to people who bought one. "There were issues with the touchpad and a repeating keystroke that took longer to address than we, and others, would have liked," said the company. Have you been holding out for this? Then have at it.
When the new XPS 13 launched earlier this year, the logical question was would there be a developer edition of it, as well? That answer was yes, but it took out teams some time to work through a few things to ensure that it would be the best possible experience for those who purchased it. There were issues with the touchpad and a repeating keystroke that took longer to address than we, and others, would have liked, and we thank everyone for their patience and assistance - especially those who contribute to our Project Sputnik forum.
Posted by Augustine at 6:48 AM
Monday, April 13, 2015
If you're in the market for a camera drone, things just got real. Last week, DJI updated its ubiquitous Phantom series with a 4K video version. Today, 3D Robotics (makers of both consumer and professional craft) ups the ante with Solo -- a stylish "ready to fly" quadcopter that challenges the Phantom (on the 'copter side of things) in quite a few ways. You'll need to bring your own camera though.
Top of the 3DR Solo spec-sheet are twin 1GHz Linux computers: one in the drone, one in the controller. The idea is, the Solo has plenty of power for "smart" features, without taxing the core (and somewhat important) flight computer (3DR's own Pixhawk 2, for those asking). Other key features include live HD (720p) streaming direct from a GoPro to your phone (or any display via HDMI) from over half a mile away, several cinematic flight modes (more on these later), comprehensive autopilot features, and a modular/swappable "accessory bay."
The cost? $1,000 (drone only), or $1,400 with the purpose-built Solo GoPro gimbal (camera stabilizer). For anything more than the most casual of filmmakers -- i.e. those most likely to already own a GoPro -- this puts the Solo in the same ballpark to the Phantom 3 Professional ($1,260) in terms of initial outlay. First-time flyers without a GoPro will, of course, have to weigh up the cost benefits of the Phantom 3 Professional over the features 3DR is offering. Colin Guinn, SVP Sales & Marketing at 3DR, explains "90-percent of our buyers already own GoPros. That means we can put more of that cost, and more of that technology into the Solo." Essentially, 3DR focuses on the drone, leaving the camera expertise to GoPro (it will be compatible with other cameras soon).
Despite its name, the Solo has two sides: It's both a consumer-friendly product (Guinn says it'll be in 2,000 physical stores), yet customizable and hackable. Adding new features is as easy as swapping out a phone battery thanks to the accessory bay. Possible add-ons include indoor-flying or infrared sensors or even a ballistic parachute. Similarly, you're not tied to 3DR's gimbal, as that's swappable too. The battery bay is designed to accommodate bigger cells, and the motor pods are replaceable with just four screws.
3DR collaborated with GoPro so that Solo has direct access to the camera's settings. A simple, but huge benefit. Stop/start recording when you want, switch from video to photo, change the video mode, or basically anything you'd be able to do on the ground, directly from Solo's mobile app. No more taking off and recording 15 minutes on one setting. Or worse, landing only to find you forgot to record anything at all!
Most professional aerial video requires two people: one to fly the drone, another to control the camera. Pro setups will still want that, but the Solo's "cable cam" and "orbit" modes mean you can set up fancy shots on your own. For example, fly the Solo to point A, frame a shot press a button. Next, fly to point B, frame a shot, press a button. This creates a virtual "cable" between these points, and the Solo will only fly between them in a straight line, panning and tilting the camera as it goes. Or, manually pan the camera yourself, but remain on the fixed "cable." If you've ever flown a drone with a camera and been disappointed trying to get anything beyond smooth forward or backward sweeps, you'll know how useful this will be.
The Solo's appeal teeters on the brink between casual (but enthusiastic!) pilot ($1,400 for drone and gimbal isn't small potatoes), and aspiring pro user. Example: on the one hand you have some interesting cinematography modes, yet you can also share video clips directly to Instagram via your connected phone. The very definition of prosumer, perhaps? Solo also has an aggressive look -- it was designed by the same team behind the high-street products like the Nike FuelBand, and the Xbox 360 -- if you want to stand out from the white Phantom crowd. For those keen on creative filmmaking, the few hundred bucks between DJI's Phantom 3 Professional (which comes with a camera, but has fewer software tricks) and the 3DR Solo with gimbal (and GoPro) might seem pretty small. If, however, you're starting from scratch, the initial outlay on Solo (and optional, yet desirable gimbal, plus GoPro) is going to be a harder sell. Beginners might still like DJI's price and simplicity. But, if you've already got the flying bug, Solo should have you excited.
The Solo launches in May for $1,000 (drone only), or $1,400 with the GoPro gimbal.
Posted by Augustine at 6:35 PM
In our review, we became quite fond of ASUS' rather handsome ZenWatch except, perhaps, for its two-day battery that most Android Wear watches are getting these days. Apparently the company heard us loud and clear, and it's now prepping the launch of its VivoWatch to offer a more compelling 10-day battery life. While details are scarce at the moment, ASUS has so far revealed that its new fitness-centric wearable has a tough stainless steel body, an IP67 rating against dust and water, heart-rate monitoring and sleep tracking. Judging by the above picture, this new device -- which will likely not run on Android Wear -- appears to feature a power-saving black-and-white display, along with some sort of colored light indicator bar below it.
Of course, given that there are now several smartwatches -- namely the Fitbit Surge, Pebble Time, Basis Peak and Garmin Vivoactive -- on the market with similarly "generous" battery life (and more features on some), it'll ultimately boil down to how much the VivoWatch will cost. ASUS didn't comment on this, but we've been told that more will be shared after the device's debut at Milan Design Week, which starts tomorrow.
Posted by Augustine at 6:35 PM
Red launched the first mainstream 4K camera when 1080p seemed like overkill, and now that this whole 4K thing might work out, it's got an 8K RAW model. The Weapon 'Vista Vision' features a mind-boggling 8,192 x 4,320, 35-megapixel sensor that can do up to 75 fps, widescreen 8K. The chip is also 40.96 x 21.6mm or Vista Vision-sized, considerably larger than the full-frame sensor on a camera like the Nikon D810. Video can be recorded in RAW and scaled-down ProRes formats simultaneously, just as with the company's 6K Weapon models.
So, how much does it cost to be on par with Peter Jackson and James Cameron? A helluva lot. If we're reading the (rather confusing) pricing correctly, you'll need to order the company's 6K Weapon Woven CF "brain," or bare camera for a cool $49,500, then add another $10,000 for the 8K sensor upgrade. That makes $59,500 by our counting, plus whatever your accessories, storage and lenses cost. The upgrade price is only good until the end of NAB on April 16th, after which time it'll be $20,000. If you already own a Red Scarlet or Epic camera, you can get credits in various amounts towards the Weapon models.
Other specs are still unknown, as is the exact shipping date. Red actually launched its 6K Weapon camera just a few months ago, and it's still not shipping. We're not sure who exactly needs 8K, since there aren't a lot of TVs out there in that format -- but it might look great blown up to IMAX size. Red said the sensor would arrive by the end of the year.
Source: Red (forum)
Posted by Augustine at 6:34 PM
Tempted by HP's svelte Omen gaming laptop, but need even more horsepower? Say hello to the Omen Pro. It shares the same aluminum 0.78-inch, 4.68-pound frame as its gaming sibling, but it packs in faster Core i7 processors and an NVIDIA Quadro K1100M graphics card. It also shares the original Omen's unibody aluminum case and 15.6-inch 1080p touchscreen, and it sits right alongside HP's ZBook workstations, except it balances style and hardware prowess. The Omen Pro is available today, but at $2,199, it's clearly targeted at the graphics-hungry professionals actually making games, and not just people looking for their latest Far Cry fix.
When it comes to storage, you've got a choice between HP's 256GB or 512GB Z Turbo PCIe solid-state drives. Its RAM capacity tops out at 16GB, so if you need even more memory, you'd have to forgo style for one of HP's ZBooks. And of course, the Omen Pro runs Windows 7 Professional -- because anyone buying a machine like this wouldn't stand for Windows 8 anyway.
Posted by Augustine at 6:34 PM
Just because you can collect a lot of information about your health doesn't mean that you can easily make sense of it. How do you connect the dots between, say, your smartwatch and your medical records? IBM thinks it has the answer: it's launching Watson Health Cloud, a platform that uses the company's cognitive computer system to help companies and doctors make decisions based on data that might otherwise prove daunting. They could recommend a change in your prescription, for example, or outline your surgery recovery plans.
Appropriately, IBM is teaming up with a handful of companies to both scoop up more data and provide those all-important answers. If you're using iOS gear and the Apple Watch, the info you collect in HealthKit and ResearchKit can help Watson with decisions; Johnson & Johnson is helping with a coaching system for surgery, and Medtronic is working on extra-personalized diabetes treatment. Don't be surprised if your physicians ask a machine for advice the next time you're faced with a complicated health problem.
Posted by Augustine at 6:33 PM
Manfrotto isn't just content with making tripods and backpacks for your camera -- it wants to improve the camera itself. The gear designer has unveiled the Digital Director, an adapter that turns your iPad into a remote controller for Canon and Nikon DSLRs. It's not wireless like its biggest rival, the CamRanger, but it still gives you a giant viewfinder and control over virtually every facet of your shot, from the aperture to manual focusing. Think of it as a conventional remote control app that doesn't require lugging a full-fledged computer to your photo shoots. Be ready to pay for that portability, however. The Digital Director will cost $500 when it ships in June, so it's clearly meant more for pro work than augmenting your hobbyist photography.
Source: Resource Online
Posted by Augustine at 6:32 PM
Recommended Reading highlights the best long-form writing on technology and more in print and on the web. Some weeks, you'll also find short reviews of books that we think are worth your time. We hope you enjoy the read.
The Internet's Clearly Not Ready to Stream Big TV Events
by Brian Barrett
Last weekend's NCAA Final Four provided some of the most-watched college basketball matchups in years -- unless, of course, your Sling TV stream didn't work. The newfangled internet TV service buckled under the weight of a wave of new subscribers looking to opt in for the big games. It was just the latest in a line of live-event-related issues web streamers encountered, and it shows that maybe major television events aren't ready to be viewed on the web. So, Sunday's Game of Thrones premiere should be... interesting.
There's a Massive, Illicit Bust of Edward Snowden Stuck to a War Monument in Brooklyn
... or at least there was before it was taken down. It was replaced by a hologram after that, as artists wanted to pay tribute to the NSA whistleblower by installing the statue before dawn Monday morning.
The Inside Story of the Civil War for the Soul of NBC News
It turns out Brian Williams' recent admission is only the latest in a string of incidents for NBC News since Comcast took over in 2011. This piece from Vanity Fair chronicles those events.
Life After Prey 2: How Human Head Recovered from Cancellation
Prey 2 would've been the biggest release for Human Head Studios, but Bethesda pulled the plug on the project before it was finished, putting an end to years of work.
Want to See Domestic Spying's Future? Follow the Drug War
If you think the National Security Agency's surveillance tactics are something, the DEA was spying first. Its phone-collection program started years prior, inspiring the NSA's data-gathering we've heard so much about.
[Photo credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images]
Filed under: Misc
Posted by Augustine at 5:09 AM
You no longer have to run a tech giant (or work in a lab) to take advantage of learning computers. Amazon has launched a machine learning feature for Web Services that lets any developer use this computer intelligence to make predictions. Instead of having to sift through data yourself and spend ages fine-tuning algorithms, you let Amazon's servers comb through the info and create predictions largely on their own. This potentially saves you a ton of time, especially if you're running a small outfit that can't afford a lot of servers -- Amazon claims that it took 20 minutes to solve one problem that previously took 45 days.The service could make a big impact on more than just humdrum business tasks. You should see more games that can anticipate what you'd like to play next, and stores that are better at taking your feedback or suggesting new things to buy. Don't be surprised if your favorite apps and sites are noticeably smarter in the near future.
Posted by Augustine at 5:08 AM
It's not a good time to be a PC maker... especially if you cater to the corporate crowd. Both Gartner and IDC estimate that the computer market shrank between 5.2 to 6.7 percent in the first quarter of 2015, in part because many companies stopped upgrading from Windows XP. Simply put, many of the businesses that wanted to modernize already have -- they're not propping up the market like they were for a good chunk of 2014. IDC goes so far as to claim that this was the lowest volume of PC shipments since the start of 2009, which is no mean feat given that the world was still reeling from an economic collapse at the time.Still, there are a few silver linings on this dark cloud. Lenovo is still on the rise, and ASUS is enjoying a resurgence that's helped in part by its larger Windows tablets (at least, according to Gartner). However, the situation is still gloomy for Acer, Dell and most other system builders. The analyst groups are hopeful that the launch of Windows 10 will spur a recovery, but that doesn't happen until the summer -- the next few months could be particularly bumpy.
Posted by Augustine at 5:07 AM