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Tested Mailbag: From Japan!

Whee! It's another edition of the Tested Mailbag! This week's mystery package comes to us from Robert, who sent it all the way from Tokyo, Japan! He sent this package after watching one of our videos with Adam where we talked about Theo Jansen's Strandbeests. The contents are super cool--but first we have to get that box open!

Testing the Form 1+ 3D Printer

Norm visits New York to check in with Tested's 3D printing columnist Sean Charlesworth, who has been testing the new Form 1+ 3D printer. Unlike 3D printers like the MakerBot and PrintrBot, the Form 1 uses a laser-based resin curing system that can produce prints up to four times the resolution of FDM printers. But as Sean explains, this printer was a bit challenging to get working properly.

Tested In-Depth: SmartThings Home Automation

Will's been testing the SmartThings system since its successful Kickstarter campaign, and shares his experience setting up home automation for his family. SmartThings lets you set a house up to be contextually aware of a variety of events, with no reoccurring fees. We discuss what aspects of home automation may make sense for most people, and how home control works via the app.

La Machine's 50-Foot-Tall Fire-Breathing Dragon-Horse

As part of the celebrations commemorating the 50th anniversary of French-Chinese diplomatic relations, a French theatrical production company brought two giant mechanical puppets to Beijing's Bird Nest stadium for three days of performances. The company, La Machine, is known for the 50-foot tall mechanical spider--named La Princesse--that it built and brought to Liverpool in 2008 as part of that city's Capital of Culture festival. Weighing almost 40 tons, La Princesse is operated by a team of 12 puppeteers strapped to its body and can crawl through cities at 2 miles per hour. Along with its spider robot, La Machine brought a new mechanical beast to Beijing: Long Ma, a 46 ton fire-breathing dragon-horse. Long Ma made its debut at La Machine's home town of Nantes, France back in August, and you can watch footage from that first performance below:

The Atlantic's In Focus photo blog has a large gallery of photos from the fantastical Beijing performance, and I've embedded video of La Princesse's 2008 romp through Liverpool below.

La Machine is also just one of two theatrical production companies known for their large-scale mechanical creatures. Royal de Luxe, also based in Nantes, is the company responsible for the giant marionettes that have trekked through streets and parks around the world. The designer of La Machine's Long Ma and La Princesse, artist François Delarozière, worked for 21 years at Royal de Luxe, where he designed The Sultan's Elephant.

How To Make a Gory Hand Prop!

We visit Frank Ippolito's shop to learn about making ultra-realistic fake hands as Halloween props. Frank walks us through the step-by-step process of molding your own hand and making a silicone casting, and then cutting and painting up the fake hand to look realistically gory. It's actually a special effect you can do by yourself without any assistance! (This video was brought to you by Premium memberships on Tested. Learn more about how you can support us by joining the Tested Premium community!)

How to Get Into Hobby RC: Learning to Fly Quadcopters

I’ve mentioned my recommended path for aspiring multi-rotor pilots several times in this column. Before buying a large, expensive ship with a camera attached, I think it is better to begin with a RC flight simulator and/or a small quad. I think that this approach will help you hone your piloting chops before accepting the risks of flying a bigger aircraft. I’m still holding firm to that opinion. I realize, however, that I have never adequately addressed how to use those tools to become a competent multi-rotor pilot. Today, I want to share my techniques for becoming comfortable at the controls of any multi-rotor.

FLYING MULTI-ROTORS IS EASY. FLYING THEM WELL IS HARD. IMPROVING YOUR SKILLS REQUIRES DEDICATED EFFORT.

The Hardware Option

There are tons of small quad-rotors out there that are adequate for learning the basics. The main feature to look for in a mini-quad is a 2-stick transmitter like you’ll be using with larger quads. In my opinion, the closer the transmitter is to the standard size, the better.

Another prime feature to look for is adjustable sensitivity for the flight controls. Many quads lack this very useful ability. Some have two or three preset sensitivity levels, while others have a full range of adjustments. Either adjustment method is good for what we’re trying to accomplish. The idea behind adjusting the sensitivity is to detune the quad’s response to your inputs and make it easier to fly.

I learned to fly quads with the HeliMax 1SQ, which fits all of the requirements listed above and has proven to be very resilient. While I still fly the 1SQ frequently, I have a new favorite quad for my indoor training sessions, the tiny Estes Proto-X SLT. The SLT is an updated version of the Proto-X that Norm reviewed a few months ago. Whenever I turn on the Proto-X, It’s easy to imagine my living room is like a course for the Red Bull Air Races…plenty of obstacles ready to be conquered!

The Heli-Max 1SQ

While, the actual quad appears mostly unchanged, the radio system received updates that make it much more beginner-friendly. The tiny, cartoon-like transmitter included with the original Proto-X is gone. It has been replaced by a significantly larger (though still smaller than standard) transmitter with adjustable control sensitivity. More specifically, there are two flight modes (standard and expert) with each mode having adjustable sensitivity.

Furthermore, the new Proto-X can be linked with any transmitter that uses the SLT protocol. This includes radios such as the Tactic TTX650 and the Hitec Flash 7. If you already have a favorite non-SLT radio, you can likely fly the Proto-X SLT with it using the AnyLink2 module. You have options.

In Brief: Large Gallery of ILM Model Shop Miniatures

Not exactly sure about the source of these photos, but here's a large gallery of photos of modelmakers and miniatures from the ILM model shop, circa The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. The photos show the making of some iconic vehicles like the Republic fighters and cruisers, the Super Star Destroyer, and even Death Star 2. Most of these models reside in Lucasfilm's precious archives in Northern California, and some went on tour in the most recent exhibition of Star Wars models and props. You can find my photos from that exhibit here.

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