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    Meet the 2016 BattleBots, Part 2

    We're back in the builders' pit at this year's BattleBots, where we catch up with some teams from last season and meet some new competitors and their innovative bots. Check out one humanoid BattleBot that's puppetted like an animatronic boxing robot! The new season premieres tonight on ABC!

    Meet the 2016 BattleBots!

    The new season of BattleBots premieres this week! We were on set during the filming of this year's BattleBots, and met with some of the teams, old a new, backstage in the builder's pit area. Meet their new bots!

    Hands-On with Manus VR Virtual Reality Gloves

    Seeing your hands and arms in virtual reality is going to be a big deal, but there's no perfect solution yet for accurate and robust hand presence. That's what Manus VR is trying to achieve with its VR gloves, which we test at this year's E3. We learn how the gloves work and how it integrates with HTC Vive and Steam VR.

    The Graboid Puppets of Tremors 4

    When writers S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock came up with the original concept for Tremors they never dreamed they'd still be talking about Graboids fifteen years later. "Universal said that we'd never do another Tremors after the first one," recalled Wilson. "Then the video division pushed for Tremors 2. After that, we said, 'Okay, so now we're done.'"

    But fans couldn't get enough of Perfection, Nevada, and the tale of a small group of citizens banding together to fight an uncommon foe. Tremors 3 followed, and a successful television franchise emerged as well. Each time, Stampede Entertainment – with Wilson, Maddock and producer Nancy Roberts at the creative helm – rose to the challenge of reinventing the Graboid, the underground creature that was the story's reason for being. When talk ofTremors 4 began to surface, Wilson met with Universal executive Patti Jackson to discuss the project. "I told Patti that we were really in a corner," Wilson recalled. "The fans were going to want a new creature, but we had no idea where to go. We couldn't just keep doing the same movie over and over." Off-handedly, Wilson added, "We'd have to do something wacky this time, like set it in the Old West." To his surprise, Jackson's response was, "That's fine."

    Full-size mechanical puppet Graboids were built by KNB EFX Group for above-ground scenes, while shots of the creatures bursting from the earth were built and photographed in quarter scale by 4-Ward Productions.

    Tremors 4: The Legend Begins, directed by Wilson from a script by Scott Buck, was released early in 2004 as part of a direct-to-DVD package with the original Tremors. Set in 1889, the story follows Hiram Gummer (Michael Gross), the great-grandfather of survivalist Burt Gummer and owner of a silver mine that has been faced with a series of mysterious deaths among the miners. Joining forces with other townsfolk – ancestors of characters who populate 1989 Perfection – Hiram sets out to determine what is killing the miners, and faces the underground enemy for the first time.

    Oculus Touch Hands-On and Interview at E3 2016

    We stop by the Oculus booth at E3 2016 to get hands-on time with Oculus Touch games, including Wilson's Heart and The Unspoken. Here's some of that gameplay, our impressions on those demos, and our hopes for hand presence in virtual reality. Plus, a chat with Palmer Luckey and Nate Mitchell about the Oculus Rift's launch, game exclusivity, and what's coming next.

    Hands-On with Razer OSVR HDK 2 Virtual Reality Headset

    We're at E3 this week checking out new virtual reality games and hardware. First up is Razer's new OSVR Hacker Development Kit 2. We learn about its display and lens system, how Razer is making this more of a consumer device, and get a hands-on demo. Here's why we're hopeful but cautious about this $400 headset.

    What You Should Know: Microsoft’s E3 2016 Announcements

    The annual E3 video game conference is underway, and Microsoft showed up in a big way. They announced not one, but two new consoles. All of the first party titles showed off will be cross-buy on Xbox and Windows 10. And more features coming to Xbox expands it from a console service to a platform.

    Old hardware gets a facelift

    Microsoft's live briefing kicked off with the announcement of the Xbox One S, a slim model of the launch Xbox One. This sleek, white box is 40% smaller, has an internal power supply, and the ability to function vertically. It supports 4K Ultra HD media and blurays, as well as HDR for both media and games (meaning an increase from 8-bit to 10-bit for color range and contrast). There's also an IR blaster on the front for use in controlling TVs and audio systems.

    It's worth noting that the Kinect port has been removed. If you'd still like to use a Kinect, a USB to Kinect adapter will be available for $49. However, if you provide Microsoft with the serial number of your original Xbox One console, your Kinect, and your new S model, they'll send you one for free. If it's the same adapter as the one for PCs, then it will be a couple of small boxes and will need to be plugged into an outlet, so something to keep in mind.

    A slightly improved controller will come packed in featuring a similar textured grip on the back as with other standalone Xbox One controllers, improved analog sticks, and bluetooth support to more easily connect to PCs.

    The Xbox One S launches August 2nd, first with a limited edition 2TB model for $399. Soon thereafter 1TB and 500GB models will be made available for $349 and $299 respectively.

    And if you're a fan of Moto Maker, there's something like that now for your Xbox controller. Xbox Design Lab gives you a plethora of color options to customize a controller. Unique controllers will start at $79 and ship this fall.

    Star Trek Fan Event Outtakes

    While we were on the Paramount lot for the recent Star Trek Fan Event, we saw producers recording with GoPro's 360-degree Odyssey camera rig. We were all set up to do an interview with them about their use of the rig, but technical difficulties kept getting in the way. Since we'll never publish this footage on YouTube, here it is as an outtake for you guys!

    Making a Mad Max R/C Car Part 1: Building a Custom Body Shell

    I'm sure I'm not the only member of the Tested community who grew up with an R/C controller firmly planted in my hands. At one point or another, we had every manner of radio controlled vehicle under the sun on our workbench. It's been a good 20 years for me, but I figured it was high time I got back into the hobby and let me tell you, it's never been a better time to start playing with R/C vehicles!

    As a way to justify dumping money back into this hobby, I decided it would be fun to modify an R/C car to look like something that pulled off the Fury Road. That's right, I'll be making my little car look like something Max Rockatansky would be proud to drive through the wasteland. The victim for my little experiment is the LaTrax Teton 1/18 scale truck. As an entry level vehicle, this little fella is a really impressive beast!

    This build will be a multi-article adventure over the next couple of months, as there are many facets to the project. I'm starting with the body shell, since it'll be the platform on which the rest of the build is constructed. Most R/C car bodies are vacuum formed plastic shells that are perched on the chassis using pegs. I figured I'd build my new body in the same way.

    Tested at the Star Trek Beyond Fan Event

    Recently, Adam hosted Paramount's Star Trek fan event, which brought us up close with some of the costumes and props from the upcoming Star Trek Beyond film. Adam and Norm talk about the new costumes and what it's like to sit in the new Captain's Chair. Plus, a bonus interview with three of the cast!

    Tested Tours Theo Jansen's Strandbeest Exhibit

    We tour the new Strandbeest at the Exploratorium science museum in San Francisco and get up close to Theo Jansen's magnificent creatures. We also chat with Theo about his evolutionary philosophy and build process, and what's next for the Strandbeest.

    Testing: Racing FPV Quadcopters at Night

    As you know from my recent article about night flying, I am of the opinion that sunset isn't necessarily quitting time at the flying field. Sometimes that's when the fun is just beginning. As I was writing that article, I received two products that sparked a new idea for flying in darkness: nighttime FPV.

    Now, I'm not talking about flying a race quad through a course with a well-illuminated path and obstacles (as we saw at the recent World Drone Prix). Rather, my goal was to fly at my normal flying spots after sundown using just the view afforded by a low-light FPV camera. I had no idea if it would actually work--which is the best reason to give it a shot!

    The Camera: RunCam Owl

    The RunCam Owl ($45) looks a lot like most other analog mini FPV cameras. In many ways, it actually is quite ordinary. What's unique about the Owl's specs is a parameter called "minimum illumination". It is essentially a measure of how sensitive the camera is to light. The lower the minimum illumination value, the better the camera will perform in low-light situations. The problem is that there any many variables involved to determine minimum illumination, making the numbers easy for manufacturers to fudge, if they choose to.

    Having never dealt with minimum illumination before, I didn't have a yardstick to understand the scope of the provided numbers anyway. The fact that the Owl's advertised value of .0001 Lux was 1/100 the minimum illumination of my other FPV cameras really didn't mean anything to me. I figured the best way to determine any differences between these cameras was to test them.

    The Owl includes the necessary cables for attaching it to a VTX or monitor.

    I turned off the lights in my windowless workshop and couldn't see a thing! When I viewed this scene on a monitor using a Sony PZ0420 camera (a very popular FPV camera), the only things I could see were the overlaid telemetry numbers of my on-screen display. I couldn't see anything within the workshop. Repeating that test with the Owl yielded much different results. With this camera, I was able to see everything quite clearly. There was very little color depth (like watching a black and white TV), but I could easily navigate around the room using the Owl's imagery. Based on that success, I moved forward on my night FPV quest.

    Sweet Revenge: Kill Bill, Vol. 2's Special Effects

    It took more than 400 gallons of fake blood and hundreds of severed limb and decapitation gags to supply the grist for Quentin Tarantino's stylish revenge tale Kill Bill Vol. 1 and its sequel Kill Bill Vol. 2. KNB EFX Group, frequent contributors to Tarantino's films, accepted the grisly assignment with enthusiasm and delight.
    Though six months separated the releases of the original Kill Bill and its sequel, both movies were shot simultaneously – Tarantino having initially envisioned them as one before deciding, in the eleventh hour, to split the story into two parts. For KNB, that translated into a monumental effort, begun in June 2002 after just a few weeks of prep, when KNB supervisor and co-founder Howard Berger, along with Chris Nelson and Jake McKinnon, joined the production in Beijing, China.

    The five-week location shoot soon turned into fourteen, followed by six months of filming on soundstages in Los Angeles, during which time Berger found himself on set nearly every day. "We handled all of the gore and body chops in the first film, which involved hundreds and hundreds of gags – and none of them were digital," Berger recalled. "Quentin said: 'I don't want to do any computer animation stuff. I want it all to be live, in-camera.' That was a huge task for us. We'd walk on the set, and the stunt team, the actors and Quentin would run through the action for that morning. We'd watch it, and from that learn what we had to do. 'OK, this guy gets his arm cut off, these five guys get their legs cut off, and there's a decapitation.' Then we would have to chop-chop and put together whatever we could."

    Electromagnet technology, adapted by Berger, proved especially useful whenever the action called for limbs and heads to be severed during the bloody swordfights. Berger and his crew made fiberglass cup sections that attached to the actors. These held magnets that were hooked to a power source, with a battery and trigger switch. They then fashioned fake limbs containing metal pieces that would bond to the magnets when the electricity was turned on. When the crew killed the power, the limbs would fall off. "We did a lot of those gags," recalled Berger. "Everything was a magnet – legs, arms, head, torso. We even did some full standing bodies with electromagnets – we'd hit the button, and the thing would collapse realistically."

    Adam Savage Meets Theo Jansen's Strandbeest!

    Dutch artist Theo Jansen brings his Strandbeest creatures to San Francisco to walk along our coast! Adam has been fascinated by these giant PVC-constructed machines for a long time, and finally gets up close to meet one in person and chat with its creator. Watch how the Strandbeest strolls across the sand!

    The (Shortened) History of The Microscope

    The microscope was never really "invented." It's probably more accurate to say that it evolved. And that seems right for what is possibly the most useful and important laboratory tool ever created. The history of the microscope is directly tied into the history of the lens. But it's not completely clear where the first lens came to fruition. Some say the earliest known example is the Nimrud Lens (or the Layard Lens) -- a carved piece of convex crystal that dates back to 750 B.C., Assyria, which historians believe could have been used as a crude magnifying glass (though according to The British Museum, which houses the lens, its convex shape was more likely an accident and the lens is actually just a piece of jewelry). Others say the first lenses weren't created until the 11th century for the purpose of magnifying small text (at the time they were called "reading lenses"). But other historians say the 11th century is late in the lifespan of the lens -- that's because there are references to a "burning-glass" in literature from ancient Greece. One thing we do know for sure is that the first real and true use of eyeglasses can attributed to the Italians around 1260. But before that, well, let's just agree that humans have been using lenses to magnify things for a really, really, really long time.

    Image credit: ZEISS Microscopy via Creative Commons

    Given our long history with using lenses to magnify objects and manipulate light, it's kind of surprising that it wasn't until 1590 that a Dutch eyeglass maker and his dad made the world's first actual microscope. Zacharias Janssen and his father Hans made the first sort-of microscope in Middleburg, Holland (Germany and Holland were well-known at the time for being the world's top lens-makers). It looked a bit like a kaleidoscope and consisted of three tubes -- two with a lens on one end and one that was open on either side to hold them together. The lens you looked through was biconvex, meaning it was curved on both sides. The lens that faced the object you wanted to magnify was plano-convex, meaning it was flat on one side and curved on the other. By elongating or shortening the tube, the microscope's user could magnify an image from three to nine times its original size. Kind of like a telescope.

    Janssen's compound microscope.

    It should be noted that some say Janssen and his father actually didn't invent the first microscope but, rather, their competitor Hans Lippershey, an eyeglass maker who lived nearby actually beat them to the punch. Because even in the 1500s new inventions had intellectual property controversies! Either way, this early device almost immediately set off a flurry of innovations and upgrades.

    Tested: Hail Damage to Solar Panels

    How much hail damage can a solar panel endure? We take our high-speed camera to the Westpak testing facility, where we fire balls of ice at different velocities at a panel to see if they're truly weatherproof. Their high-pressure ice cannon is named "Mr. Freeze!"

    How Water-Injection Cooling Enables Race Planes

    Unlimited-class air racers are truly awesome machines. This brand of racing is dominated by privately-owned 70-year-old fighter planes. The most successful racers abandon the historical significance of their steed, replacing drab military colors with dazzling paint jobs and spending countless hours (and dollars) massaging every part for minimum aerodynamic drag. The souped-up engines in these racers are often just as old as the airplanes themselves. Yet, they are routinely pushed to crank out as much as double power that they were originally designed for.

    It takes a lot of fuel to feed these antique, gargantuan engines as they belch out 3,000-4,000 horsepower. In fact, the average unlimited racer will burn a gallon of super-high-octane, race-blend AvGas every 8.5 seconds. The only way that these engines are able to sustain such high power output over the entire span of an 8-minute race is to consume another vital liquid in even larger quantities. So what is this top-secret, go-fast, miracle concoction? Water!

    To put the 7-gallon-per-minute fuel consumption of a racing engine into perspective, I measured the flow rate of my ¾"-diameter garden hose. It could do no better than 6 gallons per minute. While a racer's fuel tanks are practically hemorrhaging their highly-refined life blood, water tanks on the airplane are draining even faster--nearly 12 gallons per minute! The water is pumped to destinations both outside and inside the engine's combustion chambers. Without an ample flow of this most basic of liquids, unlimited racers would not be able to skim the desert outside Reno, Nevada at nearly 500 miles per hour…not even close.

    Building a Studio Scale Death Star Laser Tower Model, Part 4

    This month, prop maker David Goldberg shares with us his build of a studio-scale replica of the Death Star laser tower from Star Wars. Previously, David covered sourcing his reference, fabricating the structure, and adding the details. We finish with painting and weathering!

    The time has come to paint and weather the model. This is one of my favorite parts of the whole modelmaking process. The time when everything comes together visually as a unified whole. Before painting I disassembled the laser cannons and curved tracks in order to make them easier to paint. The first step is to give the model an overall coat of grey primer. This gives the model a uniform base color, seals the MDF and aids in the adhesion of subsequent paints to the plastic and brass parts. I used a spray can Filler Primer from Rustoleum, applied in several light coats until the model was a uniform shade of grey. It's amazing how just a simple coat of primer can tie everything together!

    There was a little bit of over spray (it was a particularly warm weekend) so I went over the whole model with an extra fine scotch bright pad to knock off any dusty overspray. The next step was to "pre-shade" all the panel lines and around some of the detail features with flat black water based Tamiya acrylic paint sprayed with an airbrush. This pre-shading will subtly show through the base paint layer to be applied next giving a little bit of visual depth and variation to the overall look. Its okay that the pre-shading is a little rough and sloppy, it actually looks a little better in the end not being too consistent.

    Next was an overall base coat of Tamiya Acrylic Royal Light Grey sprayed on with an airbrush. I thinned the paint almost 1:1 with water and built up the opacity with subsequent coats until I had the amount of pre-shading showing through that I wanted. The thinned paint dries more transparent so it usually takes more coats than you originally think. The end result is a subtle dark shading around the edges of the panels. The effect will be further reduced with the washes and other weathering yet to come.

    Next came a little fine overspray of a darker grey applied with an air brush. The overspray doesn't really show up in the pictures but does add a bit of variety to the surface of the model. Once the overspray had dried the whole thing was sealed with a coat of Pledge Liquid Floor Finish, which is basically just a water based clear varnish. This will prevent the wash coming next from staining the base color too much.

    Tested Attends Autonomous Vehicle Track Day

    We're on location at Thunderhill Raceway Park, the location of the first Autonomous Vehicle Track Day. Hackers making their own self-driving cars brought their vehicles, sensors, and software to test on a race course, experimenting with autonomous driving at high speeds. We chat with the event organizer and several builders to learn about the future of self racing cars.