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Google Play App Roundup: Weather Timeline, Anomaly Defenders, and Cardinal Quest 2

Another week has dawned, and you're probably wondering what's new in the Play Store. Surely everyone starts off the week wondering that same thing, and that's why the Google Play App Roundup exists. Just click the link to head right to Google Play.

This week we've got a new way to check the weather, the final chapter in a tower defense/offence franchise, and a roguelike game that's sure to get your pulse racing.

Weather Timeline

There are as many weather apps as there are clouds in the sky, but this one does things a little differently. Weather Timeline shows you the current conditions and forecast as a vertically scrollable timeline, and it has a slick Android L design that will work on all your pre-L devices.

You can set multiple locations in the app to be displayed as separate cards on the main screen. Tap on any of them to open the timeline. The top card will be the current conditions, but below that you get general information about the next hour, 48 hours, and week. This is just a glanceable snippet of info--the details are below that. Each day in the weekly forecast has its own card with high/low temperatures and a neat little animated weather icon. Tapping on any of them will open a timeline of approximate temperatures (the same is true for the current day card).

Up at the top of the timeline is a button to open the weather radar, which appears with a cool L-style wipe effect. The radar in Weather Timeline isn't the best I've ever seen, but it gets the job done. The map does use a floating action button to change the view type, which is a valid use case--some devs are going a little crazy with the action button.

The interface makes it very easy to quickly glance at the timeline and see what's coming up. In addition to the icons on each card, they are also color-coded. Yellow cards mean a sunny forecast, whereas blue ones indicate rain. The yellow cards also fade to gray on the timeline when the sun sets. This same color theme is carrier over to the home screen widgets, which are reasonably good. I'd like to see a few more options for layout and opacity.

One particularly neat feature in Weather Timeline is the Time Machine. The app is powered by forecast.io, which aggregates weather data and uses it to model future patterns. It's obviously not going to know for sure what the weather is going to be in six months or a year, but it can estimate based on past data points. Weather Timeline lets you zoom to any point in the next 20-ish years to see a probable forecast. This is mostly for fun, but you do get a sweet DeLorean animation when you activate Time Machine.

Weather Timeline is $0.99 in the Play Store, and I think it's worth checking out if you want a different kind of weather app. It has already gotten a few solid updates, and the dev is working on adding Android Wear support.

Show and Tell: The Useless Box Kit

For this week's Show and Tell, Norm assembles a kit of a machine he's always wanted: a useless box. Flip the switch on the box and all it does is turn itself off. Simple, yet mesmerizing. The kit of laser cut plastic and some basic electronics isn't difficult to put together, and makes for a great afternoon project.

Tested Mailbag: For the Suit

Time for another ceremonial opening of a reader package! This one is related to a Still Untitled episode we recorded with Adam earlier this year, with a piece of hardware that may come in useful for a project we talked about. It's really cool! Have a great weekend!

MakerBot Mystery Build: For Ice Cream

Friday marks the return of the mystery 3D print, and this week's build takes some effort from Will to get working. You know the drill: place your best guess as to what's being printed in the comments below!

Tested In-Depth: Desktop 3D Scanning and 3D Printing

We've been experimenting with home 3D printers for a while, but we now finally have a desktop 3D scanner at the office too! We test the new Matter and Form 3D scanner that digitizes any small object, generating a 3D model and file that we can then send over to our 3D printer. Here's what worked well and what didn't--let's see if we can replicate Norm's head!

My 10 Virtual Reality Takeaways from Oculus Connect

I've had a few days now to digest all the information that came out of this past weekend's Oculus Connect conference. It may have only been a two-day developer conference, but the keynotes alone had enough information to expand the imaginations (and lexicon) of virtual reality enthusiasts. There was of course the big Crescent Bay prototype announcement and demo, which Oculus unfortunately said that it has no plans to release or show anywhere else. It was also my first time being able to try the Samsung Gear VR and Oculus' current VR UI solution in Oculus Home and the Cinema application. My mind's been buzzing since I got back from LA, and I wanted to distill some of my personal takeaways from the experience.

Presence is NOT the same as reality

More so than at any past Oculus event or meeting I had attended before, the Oculus team emphasized the idea of presence--a significant milestone in virtual reality technology. It's this threshold past which your brain's subconscious computing starts to take over and makes you believe that you're in a separate space within a VR headset. Presence was emphasized because the team thinks that they've achieved it for most people in the Crescent Bay prototype. The 10 minute demo I had with Crescent Bay was leaps and bounds better than the DK2 experience, but I'm going to hold off on giving them the sustained presence checkbox until I can get more time with it. More importantly, we now know Oculus' definition of presence, and the specific technical requirements they're targeting for a consumer release (sub-millimeter tracking accuracy, sub-20ms latency, 90+Hz refresh, at least 1Kx1K per eye resolution, highly calibrated and wide FOV eyebox).

The reason I'm a little hesitant to say that I achieved the full presence in Crescent Bay is that I really have no appropriate point of comparison for that sensation. The feeling of presence in a virtual space should not be confused with the feeling of reality. I think a lot of people will expect that once they put on something like Crescent Bay, what they see inside the headset feels exactly like what the real world feels like. That's not the case at all. It still looks very much like rendered game graphics, with aliased edges and surreal feeling of disembodiment. To me, presence is about the feeling of space inside of the headset--a sense that the virtual objects and environments you're looking at have volume and a distance from you eyes that's not just two inches away on a screen. Stereoscopy and proper mapping of your head movements are a huge part of that. Presence in these VR demos never takes away the awareness of the virtual nature of that space, but you do feel more apart to it.

Standing in VR opens up possibilities

The biggest question for me coming out Oculus Connect was whether the consumer version of the Rift would be a sit-down-only experience. I know that Palmer told everyone in interviews that the Rift is meant to be used sitting down, but I agree with commenters that it may just be them working out a legally and ergonomically acceptable solution for a stand-up design. At least that's fun to think about. Regardless, the Crescent Bay demo confirmed that standing up in VR is technically possible with what Oculus has made so far, and that walking around isn't necessary for a stand-up VR experience (ie. we don't need VR treadmills). The square mat we were allowed to walk around on in the demo was sufficient to show how effective positional tracking could be in a stand-up experience. Even the ability to shift your full body and weight around was extremely meaningful--being able to physically crouch and duck in the virtual space felt liberating in a way that I think will have a profound impact in VR game design. Spinning around in a full 360 degrees was less important, or at least emphasized less with these demos.

Of course, this setup would require more hardware, including a way to mount the positional tracking camera above the standing user, and a cable management system to keep the headset cable out of the way.

We're Putting on a Live Stage Show!

Update: Tickets are now open for everyone to purchase! You can buy them here. See you next month!

Hey everyone! Will and I have something exciting to announce. On Saturday, Oct 25th, as part of the Bay Area Science Festival, we're putting on our very first live event at San Francisco's historic Castro theater. It's called Tested: The Show (remember that?) and it'll be an afternoon of presentations, demos, and conversations with some of our favorite people about the culture of making and technology's role in it.

This is the first time we've done anything like this, so we thought a bit about how we could best present the type of stuff we do on Tested--showcasing awesome maker project, geeking out about technology, 3D printing, and more--on stage to a live audience. We don't want to give away too much yet, but you're going to see familiar faces like Game Frame creator Jeremy Williams and The Zoidberg Project's Frank Ippolito show off what they're working on today. And just wait until you see what Jamie has to show.

For those of you who can make it, we'd love for you spend the afternoon with us on October 25th. We're opening ticket sales tonight to Tested Premium Members first (check your email for instructions!) and will be putting tickets on sale to the general public this Wednesday evening.

We know that not all of you will be able to make it to San Francisco, so we're going to be recording the entire show and putting it up on the site (and on YouTube) as soon as we can after the event. This is first time we're doing a live event of this kind, but we hope it won't be the last--we'd love to travel your way in the future. We're super excited to put this show on for you, and can't wait to hear what you think.

If you have any questions, please email us directly at tips@tested.com or post in the comments. I've also included a show FAQ below. Hope to see you in October!

iPhone 6 Plus Impressions and Most Common Questions Answered

We're in the process of testing the Apple iPhone 6 Plus for our in-depth review, but wanted to show you how the phone compares to previous iPhones and other Android phones, as well as some distinguishing physical characteristics. We also answer the most commonly asked questions about the phone, including battery life, camera, and whether it bends.

Cirque du Soleil Use Quadcopters for a Fantasia-Like Performance

Cirque du Soleil released a short film earlier this week using tightly synchronized quadcopters so simulate the effect of flying lampshades around a magician. It immediately reminded me of Disney's Fantasia, and the performance is really effective. I wanted to share this behind-the-scenes video Cirque du Soleil shot about the making of this film, which was a collaboration with roboticists at ETH Zurich. 10 quadcopters--consumer-grade DJI Phantoms--were choreographed to become characters in the performance, resulting in this innovative use of technology for stage. Watch the full short film here. It's really quite stunning.