Latest Stories
How to Replace Servo Gears

The servos that we use to control our RC vehicles are amazingly resilient little gadgets. Many of us abuse our servos without mercy, yet failures are rare. Most of the breakages that do happen can be traced to a particularly hard crash or some other unplanned shock load that causes the servo's internal gears to strip.

The good news is that stripped gears are not a death sentence for a servo. Most manufacturers sell replacement gear sets for a fraction of the cost of a new servo. While some people are intimidated by the watch-like collection of gears, the repair process is often quite simple. In this article, I'll illustrate the basic steps for gear replacement with the Hitec HS-55, a very popular servo that is used in countless applications.

Before I get started with the tutorial, I should point out that most servos have nylon gears. Some heavy-duty servos use stronger plastic, brass, or even titanium for the gears. If you find yourself stripping gears frequently in a particular application, you may want to upgrade to one of those heady-duty types. You may even be able to find upgraded replacement gears for your existing servo.

Google Play App Roundup: Taskbar, Auralux: Constellations, and Kerflux

It's time again to dive into the Google Play Store and see what apps we can find. Every week we find the best new and newly updated apps for the Roundup, and this week is no exception. Just click on the app name to head to the Play Store.


Android 7.0 Nougat has launched, and with it comes support for split-screen multitasking. There's also a "freeform" window mode that allows a more traditional desktop way of managing windows, but that's limited to Android TV for now... unless you give the new Taskbar app a shot. This is basically a fancy app switcher that works on all Android devices, but on Nougat phones and tablets, it can bring apps up in freeform windows.

Let's talk about what Taskbar does before we get into the nuances of freeform windows. When Taskbar is running, you get an expandable bar that's a little like a Windows taskbar. It shows recently opened apps, which you can then tap to launch. There's also a launcher icon in Taskbar that lets you access all your apps. Apps that you use frequently can also be pinned to taskbar so you won't have to go digging for them.

When it's collapsed, Taskbar is just a small translucent arrow in the lower left corner of the screen. I haven't accidentally triggered it at all, so it's not problematic when I'm using the device. There is, however, an ongoing notification when the service is running. It provides quick access to the settings, though.

As for freeform windows, you will need to be on Nougat, or course. You also need to either toggle a setting in developer options or use an ADB command from your computer to enable the feature. Once enabled, you can trigger freeform mode from your home screen by opening Taskbar and pressing the launcher button several times. This is the first bit of jank, but this is an unofficial feature. That's really to be expected. When the home screen fades away, leaving only the wallpaper, you're in freeform mode. Now, any app you launch will pop up as a floating, resizable window.

I've tested this with a number of apps with good results. As long as something can run in split-screen, it should be fine in freeform. You can drag them around and change the size as needed to get things done more efficiently. However, kicking them over into split-screen mode will probably break the UI. This seems to be a problem with the system at this time, but again, it's an unofficial feature.

You can leave freeform mode at any time by hitting the home button, The apps you have in freeform will remain accessible as pop-up windows in your multitasking screen, but you can clear them if you'd like to relaunch in standard or split-screen mode.

Taskbar is a neat app, even if you're not going to play around with freeform mode, and it's free.

How Virtual Humans Learn Emotion and Social Intelligence

At USC ICT's Virtual Humans lab, we learn how researchers build tools and algorithms that teach AI the complexities of social and emotional cues. We run through a few AI demos that demonstrate nuanced social interaction, which will be important for future systems like autonomous cars.

Testing: Black Talon Indoor FPV Quad

As I write this, the 2016 National Drone Racing Championships have just ended. This style of First Person View (FPV) competition continues to gain traction all over the world. In fact, the recent national event enjoyed coverage by ESPN. While not everyone has the space or resources necessary to set up a full-blown FPV race course, recent developments with miniature multi-rotors allow FPV racers to duke it out just about anywhere…even indoors.

I've talked about small FPV quads before, but none of those ships were ideally suited for small-scale racing…at least not in box-stock form. Most tiny racers must be modified in some fashion. For example, the uber-popular Tiny Whoop is basically a Blade Inductrix with micro FPV gear added. It won't be long, however, before mandatory mods become a thing of the past. I was recently offered the chance to check out a new mini FPV quad that has all of the necessary elements for indoor racing in a turnkey package.

Hands-On with Shaper Origin Handheld CNC Router!

This is super cool: a handheld CNC router that uses computer vision to let you see exactly what you're cutting through the bit, and compensates for any shaky hand movement with automatic stabilization. We visit Shaper to learn about the Origin and test out its features!

Digitizing Photorealistic Humans Inside USC's Light Stage

We learn how actors are digitized and turned into photorealistic models inside USC ICT's Light Stage capture system. Paul Debevec and his team at the Graphics Lab are focused on inventing technologies that create the most realistic-looking virtual people, objects, and environments. We were blown away by the capabilities of the light stage!