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Disney Research Experiments with Robot Gait

From Disney Research, an experiment to design bipedal robots that walk with the gait of animated characters: "We start from animation data of a character walking. We develop a bipedal robot which corresponds to lower part of the character following its kinematic structure. The links are 3D printed and the joints are actuated by servo motors. Using trajectory optimization, we generate an open-loop walking trajectory that mimics the character’s walking motion by modifying the motion such that the Zero Moment Point stays in the contact convex hull. The walking is tested on the developed hardware system." (h/t Gizmodo)

In Brief: How JPEG Image Compression Works

Your smartphone's camera sensor and lens are the primary factors contributing to how your photos look, but your camera app's JPEG compression algorithm is also an important factor. Not all lossy compression settings are the same, and YouTube channel Computerphile has a new series explaining JPEG compression. The latest video features image analyst Mike Pound, who explains the Discrete Cosine Transform function that is the key behind JPEG. It's a really interesting watch that's not too difficult to follow along! (h/t Petapixel)

Norman
Lego with Friends: Phil Broughton, Part 2

Hope you're enjoying this week's LEGO with Friends so far! The really good stuff comes out as we switch gears from talking potent coffee to radiation with guest Phil Broughton. Of course, the LEGO isn't going to assemble itself, and we make good progress with the UCS Slave 1 too. Follow along with us for the rest of this build by signing up for a Tested Premium Membership here!

The Anatomy of an R2-D2 Astromech Droid

What makes up an R2-D2 Astromech? We chat with members of the R2 Builders club to learn about the process of building your own droid--the materials, power systems, and electronics needed to get started. Chris James of the Bay Area club chapter opens up his own R2 and shares the custom controls and components he's designed to make his droid come alive!

The Best Fitness Tracker Today

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.

If you're looking for the best way to track your activity and exercise, the $150 Fitbit Charge HR is the fitness tracker we'd recommend for most people. According to our tests—which included 60 hours of research and 10 days of real-world testing—the Charge HR is more accurate at counting steps than most other wrist-worn trackers, and it works seamlessly with Fitbit's popular social ecosystem. It has continuous heart rate monitoring for both resting and active use; automatically activated sleep tracking with vibrating alarms; and a legible OLED screen with caller ID. And unique among trackers in this price range, the Charge HR uses a strap modeled after a traditional watch band, which means it won't fall off accidentally.

For a deeper dive into the full research and testing we did on our picks, (as well as a longer list of trackers we looked at), check out our full version of this guide.

Google Play App Roundup: Randomly RemindMe, Atlantic Fleet, and MixRadio

You probably want more apps, but more than that, you want the right ones. That's what we're here to deliver with the weekly Google Play App Roundup. This is where you'll find the best new and newly updated apps and games on Android. Just click the link to head right to Google Play.

This week reminders are more random, the seas are not safe, and there's music to stream.

Randomly RemindMe

No matter what phone you have, you can ask Google Now to remind you about something. Although, many of us are prone to procrastination and might ignore Google's gentle urging. That's where Randomly RemindMe comes into play. This app creates recurring reminders on a set schedule, or spaced randomly throughout the day.

So why would you want something like this? I can think of a few use cases, but I've been testing it as a way to remind myself to get up and move occasionally (I sit at my desk all day writing, as you might imagine). Setting reminders at regular intervals can be distracting because when you know another reminder is coming up soon, you can become sort of "hyper-aware" of it. Randomly RemindMe seems less disruptive to my workflow and could be used for plenty of things. Maybe you want to be reminded to drink more water or check on your kids/pets?

The app has a largely material design aesthetic. When you set a new reminder, you can pick between the default random mode and a traditional set interval for reminders. Choose the mode, the number of reminders, notification icon, and fill in all the blanks. You can even set a notification LED color if your phone supports it. Randomly RemindMe is essentially letting you build a rich notification that will show up in the shade when the time comes.

Randomly RemindMe has acknowledge and dismiss buttons on the notifications. Acknowledge basically signifies that you saw the alert and will (ideally) do what you're supposed to do. Dismiss signifies that you didn't do whatever you were supposed to do. So these two buttons are more or less a way to track how often your reminders successfully spur you to action.

I'm surprised that Randomly RemindMe is free and contains no in-app purchases--there aren't even any ads. There's probably some functionality here that people would pay for. Maybe some sort of paid add-ons will happen later. For the time being, go ahead and take advantage of it for free.

Show and Tell: Mpow Streambot Bluetooth FM Transmitter

For this week's Show and Tell, Norm shares a car accessory that has been essential in numerous road trips this year. If you don't have bluetooth or a line-in jack for media in your car, the Mpow Streambot FM transmitter is an easy way to play podcasts and music over your stereo system. The Wirecutter recently selected it as a great Bluetooth car stereo pick for music streaming! (Thanks to B&H for providing the One Man Crew system for this video. Find out more about it here!)

LEGO with Friends: Phil Broughton, Part 1

Time for another week of LEGO with Friends! This week's guest is one of the most interesting people we know: a radiation expert who also makes a brew of coffee known as the Black Blood of the Earth. Phil Broughton joins us for a week of conversation, storytelling, and of course, building LEGO! Follow along with us by signing up for a Tested Premium Membership here! (The first episode is free for everyone, but the rest of the series will be for Premium Members.)

Google's Project Wing Delivery Drone Prototype

The type of consumer qudacopters designed for aerial photography and FPV racing aren't ideal for automated delivery--you can't just tie a string to a Phantom. At Maker Faire, we learn about Google's Project Wing prototype, which has a lightweight VTOL design that allows it to take off vertically and still fly long distances. It's even been tested in the field!

Google Research's Projects at Maker Faire 2015

Google had a big presence at this year's Maker Faire, bring several of their research projects to share with makers--including a giant knife-wielding robot! We chat with Chris DiBona, Google's director of Making Science, about experiments in imagery, 3D printing, robotics, and aerial Wi-Fi.