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Tested: Self-Balancing Electric Unicycle

We've been testing the Focus Designs Self-Balancing Unicycle, which you may have seen Adam ride on an episode of Mythbusters. The latest V3 model can speed up to 12 miles per hour and ride uphills, all without any pedaling. Will's become proficient at riding the SBU, and shows us how it works!

Star Wars Celebration: Meet Roxy the Rancor

What does it take to build a life-size Rancor from Star Wars? Roxy the Rancor was birthed from lots of meticulous foam sculpting and painting, as we learn from Matt Paisley at Star Wars Celebration. The beast attends conventions and events, raising money for charity. We get up close with Roxy and see her new face revealed!

Google Announces Project Fi Wireless Service

Google is now selling cellular internet service. Kind of. Today, they announced Project Fi, a MVNO service that taps into multiple-cellular networks as well as Wi-Fi. As a Mobile Virtual Network Operator, Google doesn't own the network it's selling service on--Project Fi piggybacks on Sprint and T-Mobile, and the trick is that compatible phones and SIM cards can seamlessly switch between the networks and open Wi-Fi hotspots without a break in connection (with data encrypted), even if you're making a phone call or streaming video. The catch is that this kind of network switching only works with certified hardware, of which Google's own Nexus 6 is the only device to support at launch. Here's Google's promo video for the service, which doesn't go into many details of how it works:

Splitting data connections between multiple networks can theoretically increase coverage, but the real advantage here is pricing. Project Fi starts at $20 a month for unlimited talk, text, and Wi-Fi tethering, and cellular data is priced at $10 a GB. Google has worked out a deal so that you're only charged based on how much cellular data you use--so you'll be refunded for unused data, prorated. For example, if you sign up for 3GB of data for $50 a month ($20+$30), but only use 800MB, you'll be credited $22 at the end of the billing cycle. Project Fi will also come with a companion app for data usage tracking. Learn more about Project Fi at its website, where you can also request an invite to test the service.

How to Get into Hobby RC: Testing AS3X Artificial Stabilization

Of all the recent innovations in RC technology (and there have been many), one of the most substantial has been the development of artificial stabilization systems. They began several years ago as 1-axis gyros intended to tame the often unwieldy yaw behavior of RC helicopters. Now these devices are offered in 3-axis designs that can also assist the pilots of multi-rotors and all types of airplanes.

As artificial stabilization systems have become more refined, capable, and affordable, they have gained wide acceptance in the RC community. Many pilots initially viewed stabilization systems as a crutch for ham-fisted pilots. I think we've turned the corner, and the majority of RC modelers now recognize artificial stabilization as a useful tool with potential applications for pilots of all skill levels.

In previous articles, I provided overviews of the SAFE (Sensor Assisted Flight Envelope) system in the HobbyZone Delta Ray, Blade 350 QX2, and Blade 350 QX3. I have also reviewed the finer points of the Open Pilot CC3D unit. Over a series of articles, we will be looking at some of the other stabilization systems available today. We'll begin with a peek at the AS3X (Artificial Stabilization 3-Axis) system from Horizon Hobby.

What is AS3X?

As I began mapping out my plan to write about AS3X, I quickly realized that there are way too many different aspects of the system to cover in one article. So I decided to pare it down to its simplest form and provide a broad overview. Consider this an introduction. If there is interest, I will put together a follow-up article that explains some of the customization options that are available.

AS3X works to keep the airplane on its current commanded path, compensating for the wind's impact on the model.

The intent of AS3X is somewhat unique among stability systems. It is not meant to sense the horizon and level the wings to prevent a crash, as some other systems do. So there's no panic button to rescue your model from a piloting mistake. Rather, AS3X works to keep the airplane on its current commanded path, whatever it might be. If the integrated gyros sense a change in orientation due to an outside force (wind), the system provides corrective control inputs to the servos. This makes it seem as if the wind is having no impact on the model.

With few exceptions, modelers typically want their aircraft to be as light as possible. Lightly-loaded models take off and land slower, require less power to stay airborne, climb faster, stall less harshly…the list of benefits goes on and on. The prime drawback is that the lighter a given model is, the more easily its flight path is disturbed by wind.

A Visit to jAdis' Weird Science Prop Shop

Science Friday visits jAdis, a prop shop in Santa Monica that caters to the weird science props needs of filmmakers: "The movie prop shop Jadis, in Santa Monica, California, is packed with ancient, long-forgotten technology: an Edison dictaphone, a typewriter-like counting machine and quack medical devices like the 'Hemodimagnometer.' But you might recognize some of these oddities--they've appeared in movies like The Mystery Men, The X-Files, and The Prestige." I'd love to visit this place the next time I'm in Santa Monica!

Tested Goes to Star Wars Celebration 2015!

We spent the weekend at Star Wars Celebration, Lucasfilm's official Star Wars convention. Thousands of Star Wars fans gathered to see new footage from Episode VII revealed and revel in their love for the films--many in fantastic cosplay. Here's some of the coolest stuff we found, including props and costumes from The Force Awakens, Star Wars Battlefront gameplay, and collectibles as far as the eye could see. Check out more photos here!

Living with Photography: Adobe Lightroom 6 Review

The image management and editing options for enthusiast and professional photographers is fairly limited. There are a few really good open-source applications for processing RAW photos, but with the demise of Apples Aperture, Adobe's Lightroom is the most popular choice. It's become the go-to program for photographers to need process the hundreds or even thousands of photos from day and event shoots, and it's what I've been using for all of my photo work since I got my DSLR. I've said it before: post-processing is an essential half of the photography equation that completes the picture. And for new photographers, it shouldn't be a daunting process--smartphones and apps like Instragram have trained a generation of young shooters the basic language of post-processing.

Photoshop may have better name recognition and be more powerful as an image-editor, but Lightroom is my preferred app because it puts the editing tools in the context of a photography workflow. It streamlines the digital photo development process to quickly turn the photos you take into the images you want to keep or publish. And with the latest release of Lightroom, Adobe is putting more of those tools you'd typically have to run in Photoshop and incorporating them into the Lightroom workflow.

The last major release of Lightroom was version 5 back in 2013. That release brought two features that have been essential to the way I use the program: Smart Previews and radial gradients. I've written about how the former allowed me to use Lightroom across multiple computers, and the latter for compensating for fill lighting on location shoots without the use of a flash. Last year's Lightroom update was less impressive, emphasizing camera compatibility, the launch of mobile apps, and the Lightroom website. It honestly felt more of a push for the Creative Cloud subscription services than traditional "box" features.

This latest release doesn't feel as significant as 2013, and is a mix of new photo editing tools and mobile/service enhancements. The biggest difference for my workflow so far are the performance boosts in editing and exporting--it's genuinely speedy. I've been running Lightroom 6 (or CC 2015, if you're a Creative Cloud subscriber) for the past week on both my MacBook Air and desktop PC--here's what I think of its new features.

The Best Smart Thermostat

This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article below at TheWirecutter.com.

Three years after the Nest Learning Thermostat's debut, the second-gen Nest continues to offer the best combination of style and substance of any thermostat. Its software and apps are solid and elegant, it learns your routines and the particulars of your house, and it's easy to change the temperature from your phone or computer so you won't have to get up from your cozy spot on the couch. It's (still) the best smart thermostat for most people, though the competition is catching up.

Why a smart thermostat?

If you upgrade to any smart thermostat after years with a basic one, the first and most life-changing difference will be the ability to control it from your phone. No more getting up in the middle of the night to turn up the A/C. No dashing back into the house to lower the heat before you go on errands (or vacation). No coming home to a sweltering apartment—you just fire up the A/C when your airplane touches down.

The fact is, a cheap plastic thermostat with basic time programming—the kind we've had for two decades—will do a pretty good job at keeping your house at the right temperature without wasting a lot of money, as long as you put in the effort to program it. But that's the thing: Most people don't.

Get a smart thermostat if you're interested in saving more energy and exerting more control over your home environment. If you like the prospect of turning on your heater when you're on your way home from work or having your home's temperature adjust intelligently without having to spend time programming a schedule, these devices will do the job. And if your thermostat is placed in a prominent place in your home, well, these devices just look cooler than those beige plastic rectangles of old.

Engineering the Ideal Robotic Fish

From Motherboard: "When NYU's Professor Maurizio Porfiri looks at fish, he sees more than just a bunch of aquatic animals - he sees an animal that could someday replace the rat as the key to better studying and understanding human and animal behaviors in laboratory research. But fish can be unpredictable, which is why Porfiri has dedicated his life's work to building the ultimate robotic fish." Read more about Porfiri's research here.

In Brief: Ikea's Concept Kitchen 2025 Exhibit

Ikea's vision of the future kitchen isn't based on furniture that's easier to assemble, but furniture that's more versatile. In its Concept Kitchen 2025 project, the swedish retailer collaborated with design students and design firm Ideo to produce four prototype pieces for a future where home living space is anticipated to be scarce. A multi-purpose projection-mapped table, a grey water recycling sink, a smart recycling system, and sensor-imbued shelving system populate this kitchen. Ikea's video showing off these concepts is embedded below. (h/t Gizmodo)

Norman