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Google Play App Roundup: C Notify, Flyhunter Origins, and Turbo Dismount

It's time for another installment of the Google Play App Roundup. This is the weekly event where we tell you what's new and cool in on Android. Fire up your phone and click the app names to head right to the Google Play Store so you can try things for yourself.

This week notifications go for a trip outside the status bar, flies must be swatted, and crashes are encouraged.

C Notice

The enhanced notification access that Google rolled out in 4.3 has allowed a whole new generation of apps to put your notifications in more places. Sometimes that ends up not being a very good idea, and others it fills a niche that needed attention. I'm not positive which of these describes C Notice, but it's at least really neat to try. This app puts all your notifications in floating chat head-like bubbles that can be managed with swipe gestures.

So here's the gist of it--you grant C Notice notification access and choose the apps that it can display. The next time one of those apps produces an Android notification, it appears in a floating bubble at the edge of the screen. Multiple apps will stack up under a little three-dot header that you can use to drag the stack around. Tapping on an individual icon opens a popup window with the notification text, from which you can open the app that spawned the notification.

When you've got one or more floating notification bubbles, you also have the option of managing them with a quick swipe. If you swipe up on an icon, you dismiss that one notification, Swipe down and all notifications are dismissed. Clearing notifications from this app also clears them from the system notification shade. Swiping to the left on an icon will immediately open the app it came from, but this is just the basic functionality.

There's also a prime version of the app that can be unlocked with a $1.49 in-app purchase. This unlocks individual app notification icons. You don't have to turn this on, but it could be quite useful in some instances. The individual icons can be moved around the screen however you like, rather than being tethered to that three-dot header. I probably wouldn't recommend this on smaller phones, but on a phablet or tablet, the individual icons could be really useful.

C Notice can also be set to wake the screen when a new notification comes in, which some people consider an indispensable feature. You'll only want to do that if you limit the apps that can appear in C Notice. Maybe just messaging and social apps. The app is smart enough to use the proximity sensor to keep the screen off should the phone be in your pocket or face down.

There's plenty of functionality in C Notify, and you can access most of it for free. It's worth a look.

Tested: The Show — Star Trek in Cinerama

On October 25th, we put on our first ever stage show in San Francisco, featuring friends and makers from our community. The first presentation was given by graphic designer Nick Acosta, who imagines how classic science fiction television shows would have looked like if they were shot in epic Cinerama widescreen. (We apologize for some of the rough audio in this taping of our live show. The audio mixer at the venue unfortunately distorted audio from some of the microphones.)

Premium: Full Time-Lapse of the Farnsworth Project Makeup!

We showed you a sped up version of the Farnsworth project makeup application in our reveal video, but artist Frank Ippolito actually spent close to three hours applying the makeup to actor Chuck Lines. Here's the full six minute time-lapse video of that process, showing Chuck's amazing transformation! To watch this full video, sign up for a Tested Premium Membership by clicking here.

Why Android Tablets are Finally Moving to 4:3 Screen Aspect Ratios

The very first true Android tablet was the original 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab, which was announced more than four years ago. Samsung actually sneaked that one in under Google's radar as the search giant wasn't technically prepared for non-phone Android devices. Still, the form factor stuck, and most of the Android slates we've seen over the years have looked very much like that device--they've all been widescreen. Well, until now.

The Nexus 9 is the first mainstream Android tablet that has come with a 4:3 screen ratio (like the iPad) instead of 16:9 (like a TV). So, why'd it take so long?

Supply and Demand

Android tablets started to pop up in Asia a few months before the Galaxy Tab was official. These were not "real" Android tablets in the sense that there were no Google services built in. In fact, many of them weren't even referred to as tablets, but as MIDs (mobile internet devices) or PMPs (personal media players). These too were widescreen devices because that's what was available.

Apple has long had a stranglehold on its supply chain. Hardware manufacturers happily line up to build whatever part Apple wants because they know Apple's going to want a zillion of them. That means steady business and an improved reputation in the industry. It was no problem finding suppliers for the iPad's 4:3 screen, but an Android OEM that only needed a few thousand panels wouldn't have such an easy time at a point when almost all LCDs were widescreen.

As tablets were starting to take off, another product category was dying a long overdue death. Of course I'm referring to Netbooks. These machines were the hot new thing only a few years before, but the abysmal performance and razor-thin profit margins caused OEMs and users to collaboratively call it quits. That left plenty of 7-10-inch Netbook panels sitting around that could be repurposed for cheap tablets. That's what a lot of these early devices were using, which served to solidify the idea that Android tablets were wide.

Tested Mailbag: One for Each of Us

It's time for another edition of the Tested mailbag--do the mailbag dance! Five packages arrive at our office, sent all the way from Sweden. They're individually labeled for Will, Norm, Adam, and Jamie, so we tear open the ones for us and examine the contents. Neat stuff within!

Premium: Watch Frank Ippolito Sculpt the Farnsworth Project!

For Tested Premium Members, here's an extended sculpting session with Frank Ippolito where we discuss the details of the Farnsworth sculpture while the clay is still on actor Chuck Lines' lifecast. We give Frank some feedback and learn about what references he uses to make Farnsworth look like a realistic old man. In the middle of the sculpting process, Frank also gets a visit from some of the directors who worked on Futurama to give him some feedback! To watch and follow along with the sculpt, sign up for a Tested Premium Membership by clicking here.

In Brief: Knightscope Preparing Rollout of Security Droid

Knightscope, a robotics firm based in Mountain View, has been testing its K5 security robot since last year--and the droid may soon be ready for deployment. According to MIT Technology Review, the company has built seven of these robots that use HD cameras and navigation sensors to perform security sweeps and anomalous behavior along a patrol route. Four of the $6 million robots will be tested in the field at a tech company in the area, which has not been named (natch). The robots won't carry any weapons, and will be used to report activity to operators in a control room. And according to Technology Review, one demo K5 tipped itself over in a test and couldn't right itself up. R2D2, this is not.

Norman
Bits to Atoms: The State of Resin 3D Printing Technologies

In light of our recent video on the Form 1+ printer and as a lead-up to a full review, I wanted to delve deeper into 3D printing with liquid resin, so let's start with a primer on the state of resin 3D printing technologies and hardware.

Printing with resin typically offers the highest resolution, detail and accuracy available with desktop 3D printing. For example, layer height for most resin printers ranges from 25 - 100 microns (.025mm - .10mm), as a comparison, human hair can range from 17 - 181 microns and typical filament printers (FFF), like the MakerBot, have a max resolution of 100 microns. Generally when talking about resolution you only hear about the layer height, but there is also accuracy as far as small details and resin printers excel in this area.

EnvisionTec DLP print

There are various methods of printing with resin, but all involve a liquid distributed in a thin layer and curved via UV light. Prints will typically have some type of support material or structure which must be cleaned off by either physical or chemical means. Most parts remain UV-sensitive, and should be kept from direct sunlight and/or coated or painted in some way to block UV. Let’s take a look at our options for resin printing.

In Brief: Samsung Announces Project Beyond VR Camera for Gear VR

Oculus and Samsung have announced that Gear VR, the virtual reality headset accessory developed by both companies to work with Samsung's Note 4 phone, will be released early next month for an MSRP of $200 ($250 for the bundle with the Bluetooth controller). That's for what the company is calling the "Innovator Edition", which is essentially a commercially available developer kit for early adopters and developers. This announcement coincides with the release of the Oculus Mobile SDK (v0.4.0), specifically designed to work with the Note 4 and supporting several key VR features like Asynchronous Timewarp). Gear VR will ship with the Oculus Home interface, as well as the VR theater and a panoramic photo players. Samsung also used this opportunity to announce a camera system called Project Beyond, which is a 3D 360-degree camera designed to capture video and photos for viewing on Gear VR. The tripod-mounted camera houses 16 HD cameras, collecting a gigapixel of 3D data every second. The coolest part is that the camera apparently processes these images in realtime, streaming the imagery to Gear VR users with what Samsung claims to be minimal lag. The video teaser for Project Beyond is below.

Norman