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Tested Tours VR Projects at USC's Mixed Reality Lab

At USC's Institute for Creative Technologies, computer scientists and engineers have been tinkering with virtual reality, augmented reality, and everything in between. We're given a tour of ICT's Mixed Reality Lab, where projects explore the intersections of VR and accessibility, avatars, and even aerial drones.

Tested: Xiro Handheld Gimbal Mount

Earlier this year, I reviewed the Xiro Xplorer V aerial photography quad. Changes come quickly in the ever-evolving multi-rotor market. In the time since I wrote the review, Xiro has dropped the price on the entire Xplorer series and introduced a new ground-based accessory. That new accessory, a handheld gimbal mount, is the focus of this review.

A neat feature of the Xplorer is that the 3-axis camera gimbal is a detachable, modular unit. The gimbal on the Xplorer G is made to hold a GoPro camera, while the V-model gimbal has an integrated 1080P camera. In either case, Xiro's new handheld mount ($160) will allow you to utilize your gimbal for ground-based filming.

The concept behind this mount is simple. It has a pistol grip layout with a rechargeable battery hidden in the handle. The gimbal clips into a socket that also mates all of the electrical connections. A spring-loaded clamp on top of the unit provides a nesting place for your smart phone.

A thumbwheel is used to control the pitch angle of the camera.

Once the device is powered on, a thumb wheel at the top of the grip allows you to control the pitch angle of the camera. A real-time video feed from the camera will be visible on your phone via a Wi-Fi connection and the Xiro app. The whole set-up effectively emulates the way the gimbal works while it's on the Xplorer.

Making a 3D-Printed Sith Lightsaber Kit!

We're thrilled to unveil a new 3D printed project from Sean Charlesworth! Sean was inspired to design and print his own Star Wars-inspired lightsaber, but with his own twist: this Sith model is a cutaway design that shows the internal construction of the hilt. Sean discusses how he came up with this design and how he used the Formlabs Form 2 printer fabricate it. Plus, the design files are free for anyone to download!

Tested: Nvidia GTX 1060 Rains on the RX480

AMD dreamt of mid-range glory when they shipped the Radeon RX480. The RX480 offered a great little package, including performance which matched high-end cards from past generations, lower power utilization, and a compact package suitable for most cards.

True to form, Nvidia came along and crushed AMD's dreams.

AMD announced its intent to pursue the ordinary gamer's heart months ago. Perhaps AMD's true high-end, code-named Vega, wouldn't be ready. Maybe AMD realized Nvidia would try to capture the high-end first. Either way, AMD laid their strategy bare for the world to see – including a certain Santa Clara-based GPU company.

So it should surprise no one that Nvidia launched the GTX 1060 scant three weeks after the RX480 hit the street. At first, it seemed Nvidia's new mainstream card might not really be mainstream. Initial pricing suggested pricing closer to $300, based on Nvidia's own "Founder's Edition" card, which the company offers direct to users. Several weeks after the launch, pricing parity has hit, however. Prices for GTX 1060s running at stock clock speeds range from $249 to $329 depending on clock frequencies and cooler configurations. Radeon RX480 8GB cards run from $239- $279 while 4GB cards run right around $200. Availability for either the GTX 1060 or the RX480 remain spotty, suggesting demand still runs pretty high weeks after launch.

So which should you buy? As always, let's look at the numbers.

Google Play App Roundup: Inkwire, Mars: Mars, and Reigns

A new week has dawned, and with it comes a new list of great things happening on Android. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what needs to be on your phone or tablet right now. Just click the links to head to Google Play and grab these apps for yourself.

Inkwire

Remote support is always messy in one way or another. Sometimes in more than one way, even. Android's security measures make true remote control of a phone or tablet tough to do, and even when you do have the tools in place, your capabilities are limited. Inkwire is a new remote assistance app that works within Android's limitations in a way that makes it easy to set up and use.

As long as you've got an internet connection, Inkwire will work. That's because it's not relying on actually controlling the remote device. Inkwire lets you pain on top of the screen so the person on the other end can tap what you tell them to. This simpler approach is much easier to implement on a wide range of devices, and doesn't come with as many security risks. People who recently had their TeamViewer accounts hacked can certainly speak to that.

To start a session on your device, just open Inkwire and confirm screen sharing. You'll get a code that can be shared with the other party. After inputting that in the Inkwire app, they'll be able to see what's happening on your screen, and draw lines for you to see. They can indicate a button or menu item for you to tap, which might even be preferable to true remote access. This way, you're engaged with the process and can learn what to do yourself. The same app on your phone can also be used to connect to someone else if you're on the other side of the situation.

Sending doodles on the screen is all well and good, but what if a line doesn't get the point across? Inkwire also has voice chat built-in. Simply activate the toggle on your device (the person sharing their screen must do this) and you'll be able to talk through the process in addition to seeing things drawn on your screen.

The delay in the streaming is surprisingly low when using Inkwire, but the image you get isn't super-high quality. There's some visible artifacting and some blurriness that can make small text a little hard to read. Still, it's more than good enough to help someone figure out what's busted.

Inkwire is free and is still in beta. However, the listing just went live in the Play Store for everyone. There might be a few bugs to deal with, but it seems stable for me on LTE and WiFi.

USC Mixed Reality Lab's VR Redirected Walking Demo

We recently visited the USC Institute of Creative Technology's Mixed Reality Lab, where virtual reality researchers are experimenting with software that will let you walk around forever in VR. We test their redirected walking and lightfield model demos and learn how these technologies could work in future VR games.

Adam Savage Meets Aardman Animations' Puppets!

A special visit to the cave this week as two friends from Aardman Animations visit Adam and bring along some of their amazing stop-motion animation puppets! Jimmy and Gary work at Aardman's model shop, and show Adam the intricate details that go into each puppet. Plus, a surprise for Adam!