Latest Stories
Studying How We Type with Finger Tracking

Aalto University recently conducted a story about the correlation of finger and eye movement with performance (speed and accuracy) for everyday typing. 52 tracking markers on subjects' fingers were recorded at 240 frames per second, alongside 30fps eye-tracking data to analyze which fingers are used to press which keys, and the differences in typing strategies. The researchers found several surprising results, including that self-taught typists can reach the performance of touch typists, even when using fewer fingers and "hunt-and-peck" techniques.

In Brief: The Physics of OK Go's Zero-G Music Video

Yesterday, OK Go dropped their latest music video, Upside Down and Inside Out, which was shot entirely in an airplane making parabolic flights. The result was a stunning choreographed performance in simulated zero-gravity, running over three minutes long. Watching the jaw-dropping video isn't enough to give you an appreciate for the amount of prep work and logistics that was needed to film the piece--three weeks in Russia (by the Cosmonaut Training Center) to design, rehearse, and perform the video. OK Go shared the making-of process in the music video's FAQ page, which explains how each take of the video consisted of eight periods of weightlessness, lasting 27 seconds each. For the physics of how a production team could film with those constraints, Wired's Rhett Allain and Slate's Phil Plait each explain the science of the music video stunt. Astronauts on the ISS, the ball's in your court.

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In Brief: Designing the Fallout 4 Mini Nuke Model

Friend of Tested Jacky Wan, who we've been featuring in our series of 3D-printing design videos, just posted an in-depth recap of his design and printing of the cutaway Mini Nuke from Fallout 4. Jacky (aka Valcrow), who collaborates with Ultimaker, took on the challenge of modeling the curved egg-shell of the nuke to print in pieces to avoid overhangs and to make use of natural seams. Those considerations are a hallmark of his designs, which snap fit together without glue. The Mini Nuke with internals is available as a printed kit, but Jacky has also released the shell file as a free download!

Inside Adam Savage's Cave: Glue and Paint Carts

With a little more time on his hands, Adam is continually working on projects in his workshop. Some of those projects are building out the Cave's infrastructure. We stop by to check out his newest glue shelves, which are made from old airplane food service trolleys! Here's how the refurbished rolling carts radically increases Adam's efficiency in the shop!

Tested: Axial Yeti SCORE RC Off-Road Truck

I've covered several different types of RC trucks in this column before. Two of the more recent genres were short course trucks and rock crawlers. While both were fun, they are very different types of vehicles. The subject of this review doesn't really fall into a specific category. If you had to give it a label, I suppose that "scale Baja racer" would suffice. Whatever you want to call it, this vehicle is in many respects a hybrid of rock crawlers and short course trucks. Let's check it out.

The Yeti SCORE has many features that make it like a hybrid of rock crawlers and short course trucks.

The Yeti SCORE

Axial Racing developed the Yeti SCORE ($450) in the image of Trophy Truck racers that compete in grueling cross-country events such as the Baja 1000. SCORE International (Sanctioning Committee Off Road Events) is the organization that manages the Baja 1000 and similar races in Southern California and Mexico. Of all the different vehicles that compete in SCORE events, trophy trucks are considered the biggest and baddest. These trucks are designed to navigate all types of terrain at top speed. Gobs of horsepower and tons of suspension travel are key attributes.

Most modern day off-road RC trucks share very little design-wise with trophy trucks. For that reason, you would expect a trophy-truck-themed RC vehicle to have only cosmetic similarities with its inspiration. That is not the case here. Axial designed the Yeti SCORE with many of the same features found on full-scale trophy trucks.

At first glance, the Yeti SCORE has a strong resemblance to the Wraith rock crawler. Both trucks feature a centrally-mounted motor with a shaft-driven 4-wheel-drive system. Also evident is the 4-link rear suspension that provides an enormous amount of travel for the solid rear axle. The radio receiver is housed in a waterproof compartment and a Tactic TSX45 metal-gear servo handles the steering.

What Makes an Award-Winning Visual Effect?

This story originally appeared on the Cinefex blog on 2/2/2016 and is republished here with permission. Learn more about Cinefex magazine here.

The Oscars are just around the corner. The 14th Annual VES Awards will be presented later today. Among the memorable movies nominated for extraordinary achievements in visual effects this year are Ex Machina, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

But just how do you choose between a sexy robot, monumental vehicular carnage, extra-terrestrial super-science, trials and trauma in the North American wilderness, and an entire galaxy filled with beeping droids and exploding spaceships? In an age where seamlessly-integrated, photoreal effects are taken completely for granted, what constitutes a "good" visual effect?

Actor John Krasinski (left) and Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs announced the nominees for the 88th Annual Academy Awards in the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

In search of some answers, we asked an international panel of visual effects professionals this simple question:

"How do you go about judging award-winning visual effects?"

It's a question that could take us into some rocky territory. Luckily for us, Randall Smith, visual effects supervisor at Pixomondo, has sketched out a road map to help us on our way:

"I judge visual effects based on three criteria. First I'm looking for accuracy and photorealism — visuals so realistic that the viewer accepts what they are seeing, and their disbelief is momentarily suspended. Secondly, I'm looking for pure, artistic expression. The best effects stand out when the artists aren't held back by the limitations of a cost-effective solution, and instead aim towards new discoveries within their art. Last — and most importantly — the measure of a great effect will always be its success in storytelling. It's amazing that a Muppet, with a team of artist's hands shoved up its backside, can create a compelling story with a huge range of emotion. In comparison, some of most expensive effects shots often fall flat, losing the narrative and thereby losing the viewer."

Parallel to Smith's three basic criteria, Marque Pierre Sondergaard, texture artist at Atomic Fiction, suggests studying visual effects through two different lenses, which he describes as the "yin and yang of visual effects":