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The Art of "Shabby Chic"

A short documentary about how furniture makers at Dileep Industries in India give new furniture an intentional vintage aesthetic with distressing and creative painting. Or put another way, weathering!

In Brief: Designing a Robot to Assemble an IKEA Chair

MIT Technology Review reports on the experiments of roboticists who are determined to develop a system that allows a robot to autonomously assemble an IKEA chair. Why that particular task? Because while robots can work in factories putting together automobiles in highly controlled situations, that environment doesn't require the machine vision intelligence and fine motor control required to sort and identify components from a scattered kit of pieces and then put them together. The highly dexterous task of "pin insertion" requires complex new protocols for object recognition and manipulation--the culmination of which the researchers demonstrate in the video below. (h/t Gizmodo)

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Testing: iPhone 6S Plus (After Years on Android)

I was on board with the iPhone when the first 4GB gen 1 model was released in 2007. I bought every new model through the fifth generation: the 3G for wireless speed, the 3GS for performance, 4 for high-resolution screen, 4S for Siri, and the 5 for the elongated formfactor. But two years ago, Android phones started to look really appealing, starting with my testing of the first HTC One. The high-resolution screens, highly-integrated Google services, customizable lock and home screen, and increasing refined OS of subsequent Android devices convinced me to stay. Since then, I've been very happy with phones like the Nexus 5, OnePlus One, Moto X, Samsung GS6, and most recently, the LG G4 (love that camera).

So when I bought an iPhone 6S Plus to test and review for the site, it felt like a strange and awkward homecoming. Not only is there new hardware and hardware-specific features here to evaluate, this isn't the same phone interface I was familiar with using on a day to day basis back in 2013 on the iPhone 5. Even though I had followed iOS's updates through version 7, 8, and most recently iOS 9 on my iPad Mini, I had a lot to re-familiarize myself with on the phone side. The past three days has also been an exercise in reconfiguring my brain to not look at the phone from purely an Android user's perspective. There are some aspects of the iOS user experience I can directly compare to Android, but Apple's UX paradigms are just fundamentally different in many areas (most notably the use of home screen as app manager and single dedicated button). Not better or worse, just different. It's like the comparison between two languages--being bilingual requires adapting the lexicon and grammar of one to another.

Over the next month, I'll be sharing that experience of testing the iPhone 6S Plus from those multiple perspectives. We'll start with some early impressions and the data migration process.

Oculus Story: Uncovering the Grammar of VR

We were out of the office last week to attend Oculus Connect, and I'm still digesting the demos, interviews, and insights from the conference (as well as a few more videos we shot). I'll have some coherent thoughts on Tested this afternoon, but until then, here's a relevant video from the upcoming Future of Storytelling event in NYC. Oculus Story Studio's Saschka Unseld is interviewed about some of the lessons learned from their two shorts ('Lost' and 'Henry'), and how storytelling in VR is different than traditional filmmaking. This comes from the same series of promos as that popular Glen Keane video, and the other interviews on the Future of Storytelling's Vimeo page are worth watching as well!

In Brief: NASA Reports Signs of Liquid Water on Mars

This morning, NASA announced that it has found the strongest evidence so far that flowing water exists on Mars. Spectral imaging from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has revealed new insight into the 100-meter long dark streaks running down the slopes of the Martian craters, first spotted five years ago. By studying the signatures of hydrated minerals in those streaks, along with the streaks' intermittent appearance, researchers have concluded that it is caused by the seasonal flow of liquid water. (h/t NYTimes)

Google Play App Roundup: DAEMON Sync, Lost Qubixle, and HoPiKo

The week is just getting started, but you can ease the transition with some new apps and games. You've come to the right place too. This is the Google Play App Roundup, the weekly feature where we tell you what's new and cool in the Play Store.


Google, Dropbox, and many others offer data backup services on Android, but most solutions rely on the cloud, even if all you want is a quick way to get files to your PC. They go up to the internet, then back down to an internet-connected computer. Why bother with that if all you want is local sync? That's what DAEMON Sync offers.

DAEMON Sync comes from the developers of that popular disc image manager of yesteryear, DAEMON Tools. I know it still exists, but does anyone really use it anymore? At any rate, DAEMON Sync connects to a desktop client on your local WiFi and sends files over without using the internet. The setup process is incredibly quick too. All you need to do is download the app, install the desktop client, and enter the PIN code provided by the PC client in the phone. That ties them together for sync. There's no account to set up and no passwords to remember.

The desktop software doesn't have a lot of settings, but I'd suggest you move the data folder to a more logical location. The default is in the public users folder of Windows (I'm not sure where it is on OS X). The app has most of the sync settings, and there are a few cool things there. During the setup process, you'll be able to decide what you want to sync, with the defaults being images, videos, and screenshots. Each one gets its own folder on the computer, which is nice. They're also broken out be device, which is great if you have several phones syncing to a single PC. There's also a handy option to add custom folders, so anything you add there will be sent over to the PC.

Having individual folders for each device is useful when browsing the server, which you can do from the DAEMON Sync app. It has a tab for photos, one for videos, and another for other files. In the nav menu, you can toggle between viewing all devices and a single one of your choosing.

Because this is all happening over the local network, the sync speed is fantastic. New images pop up on your computer in a fraction of the time it would take for the to be uploaded to a cloud service, then downloaded by the computer. Obviously, the main drawback here is that your files are not being kept off-site. Your safeguards are only as strong as your personal backup solution.

Tested at Oculus Connect 2: New Demos and Impressions

We're at Oculus Connect 2 this week to test Oculus' new game and hardware demos, chat with VR developers, and check in on some familiar faces in the virtual reality community! We get an update from Oculus' VP of Product Nate Mitchell, and then run through our impressions of the new games, VR multiplayer content, and Touch demos at the conference!