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    Tested: The Show — A Story in 256 Pixels

    As the resolution and pixel density of digital screens are skyrocketing, we take a step back to appreciate the artistry of telling a story with the limitations of 8-bit graphics. Jeremy Williams celebrates the history and potential of pixel art in this presentation from our live show! (We apologize for some of the rough audio in this taping of our live show. The audio mixer at the venue unfortunately distorted audio from some of the microphones.)

    Tested: The Show — Cooking with Cricket Flour

    For our live show in San Francisco, Megan Miller of Bitty Foods gave a presentation about the possibilities of cricket flour--cooking and baking with flour made with insects. Here's why that's not such a strange idea, and how the idea can have an impact on the way we think about food production for a growing global population. (We apologize for some of the rough audio in this taping of our live show. The audio mixer at the venue unfortunately distorted audio from some of the microphones.)

    Hands-On with DJI's Inspire 1 Quadcopter

    DJI's new quadcopter is one of the coolest we've seen--a huge upgrade from the current Phantom 2 Vision+ we've been using. The Inspire 1 can record 4K video, lifts its propeller struts, and transmit clear HD video to the pilot. We chat in-depth with Eric Cheng, DJI's Director of Aerial Imaging, about all the new features in the Inspire 1 and then take it out for a test flight!

    Tested: The Show — Star Trek in Cinerama

    On October 25th, we put on our first ever stage show in San Francisco, featuring friends and makers from our community. The first presentation was given by graphic designer Nick Acosta, who imagines how classic science fiction television shows would have looked like if they were shot in epic Cinerama widescreen. (We apologize for some of the rough audio in this taping of our live show. The audio mixer at the venue unfortunately distorted audio from some of the microphones.)

    Premium: Full Time-Lapse of the Farnsworth Project Makeup!

    We showed you a sped up version of the Farnsworth project makeup application in our reveal video, but artist Frank Ippolito actually spent close to three hours applying the makeup to actor Chuck Lines. Here's the full six minute time-lapse video of that process, showing Chuck's amazing transformation! To watch this full video, sign up for a Tested Premium Membership by clicking here.

    Why Android Tablets are Finally Moving to 4:3 Screen Aspect Ratios

    The very first true Android tablet was the original 7-inch Samsung Galaxy Tab, which was announced more than four years ago. Samsung actually sneaked that one in under Google's radar as the search giant wasn't technically prepared for non-phone Android devices. Still, the form factor stuck, and most of the Android slates we've seen over the years have looked very much like that device--they've all been widescreen. Well, until now.

    The Nexus 9 is the first mainstream Android tablet that has come with a 4:3 screen ratio (like the iPad) instead of 16:9 (like a TV). So, why'd it take so long?

    Supply and Demand

    Android tablets started to pop up in Asia a few months before the Galaxy Tab was official. These were not "real" Android tablets in the sense that there were no Google services built in. In fact, many of them weren't even referred to as tablets, but as MIDs (mobile internet devices) or PMPs (personal media players). These too were widescreen devices because that's what was available.

    Apple has long had a stranglehold on its supply chain. Hardware manufacturers happily line up to build whatever part Apple wants because they know Apple's going to want a zillion of them. That means steady business and an improved reputation in the industry. It was no problem finding suppliers for the iPad's 4:3 screen, but an Android OEM that only needed a few thousand panels wouldn't have such an easy time at a point when almost all LCDs were widescreen.

    As tablets were starting to take off, another product category was dying a long overdue death. Of course I'm referring to Netbooks. These machines were the hot new thing only a few years before, but the abysmal performance and razor-thin profit margins caused OEMs and users to collaboratively call it quits. That left plenty of 7-10-inch Netbook panels sitting around that could be repurposed for cheap tablets. That's what a lot of these early devices were using, which served to solidify the idea that Android tablets were wide.

    Premium: Watch Frank Ippolito Sculpt the Farnsworth Project!

    For Tested Premium Members, here's an extended sculpting session with Frank Ippolito where we discuss the details of the Farnsworth sculpture while the clay is still on actor Chuck Lines' lifecast. We give Frank some feedback and learn about what references he uses to make Farnsworth look like a realistic old man. In the middle of the sculpting process, Frank also gets a visit from some of the directors who worked on Futurama to give him some feedback! To watch and follow along with the sculpt, sign up for a Tested Premium Membership by clicking here.

    Bits to Atoms: The State of Resin 3D Printing Technologies

    In light of our recent video on the Form 1+ printer and as a lead-up to a full review, I wanted to delve deeper into 3D printing with liquid resin, so let's start with a primer on the state of resin 3D printing technologies and hardware.

    Printing with resin typically offers the highest resolution, detail and accuracy available with desktop 3D printing. For example, layer height for most resin printers ranges from 25 - 100 microns (.025mm - .10mm), as a comparison, human hair can range from 17 - 181 microns and typical filament printers (FFF), like the MakerBot, have a max resolution of 100 microns. Generally when talking about resolution you only hear about the layer height, but there is also accuracy as far as small details and resin printers excel in this area.

    EnvisionTec DLP print

    There are various methods of printing with resin, but all involve a liquid distributed in a thin layer and curved via UV light. Prints will typically have some type of support material or structure which must be cleaned off by either physical or chemical means. Most parts remain UV-sensitive, and should be kept from direct sunlight and/or coated or painted in some way to block UV. Let’s take a look at our options for resin printing.

    Photo Gallery: The Making of the Farnsworth Project

    We visited Frank's shop back in early October to watch him work on the sculpt for the Farnsworth project, which differs from the Zoidberg project because it's a prosthetics-based makeup, not a mask that anyone can wear. Here are photos from our shop visit, a close-up look at the silicone prosthetics, and the Farnsworth reveal at our live show.

    Real-Life Professor Farnsworth from Futurama!

    Good news, everyone! After creating the lifelike Zoidberg costume for us earlier this year, effects artist Frank Ippolito takes on another makeup challenge from the world of Futurama. This time, it's Professor Farnsworth! Watch Frank bring the professor to life with sculpting, molding, and casting of prosthetics, and then applying the makeup on an actor to unveil at the Tested stage show! (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!)

    Show and Tell: 3D Printed Steampunk Octopod

    One final video from Norm's recent trip to New York! Sean Charlesworth, our 3D printing expert, shares his famous steampunk octopod project, which we've talked about before had never seen in person. It's a wonderfully designed and intricate model entirely conceived of and built by Sean--a project much more complex than your typical 3D printed piece.

    NYU's Interactive Wooden Mirror Project

    One of the coolest places Norm visited on his recent trip to New York was the Interactive Telecommunications Program at NYU. ITP is a graduate program that explores creative ways to combine technology and art--essentially a maker space that can get you a Masters degree in making awesome things. One of those things is this Interactive Wooden Mirror, created by ITP professor Daniel Rozin.

    The Terminator and the Legacy of Stan Winston's Designs

    With photos and story details of the upcoming Terminator reboot coming to light, we wanted to take a look back at the original film and examine how and why it still holds up after all these years. Like a lot of movies that became cultural touchstones and phenomenons, The Terminator was under-estimated, dismissed by Orion Pictures as a low budget drive-in film that would come and go in a week. Yet The Terminator became a major sleeper that connected with audiences in a big way. It was the top movie at the box office for six weeks, but beyond its commercial success it also made Arnold Schwarzenegger, James Cameron, and Stan Winston superstars in their respective professions.

    At a screening celebrating The Terminator’s third decade, Cameron said the movie is still remembered because “I think it’s just a lean, mean thriller that works.” But there’s clearly more to it that than. In celebrating The Terminator, we spoke to John Rosengrant and Shane Mahan of Legacy Effects, who both broke into the big leagues by working with Stan Winston, and who helped build the indestructible killer, and the seemingly indestructible franchise, from the ground up.

    It was thanks to the kindness of make-up master Dick Smith that Stan Winston got The Terminator gig. Smith, who many considered the greatest living make-up artist, was well-known for the magic he did for The Godfather, The Exorcist, and Amadeus, just to name a few, but his career was winding down, and The Terminator was clearly going to be a big job.

    Cameron wanted Smith, but Smith kept telling the young director that Stan Winston was the man for the job. Winston had been steadily working for years, he did a lot of TV and low budget B-movies, and had already won two Emmys, but The Terminator would prove to be the big breakthrough that made him one of the most in demand creature builders in the business. (Cameron and Winston would also form a strong personal and professional bond that would continue until Winston passed away in 2008.)

    Awesome Jobs: Meet Kevin Arrigo, Biological Oceanographer

    Kevin Arrigo studies some of the teeny tiniest organisms on the planet -- microscopic plants called Phytoplankton that scientists think might produce up to 50 percent of the Earth’s oxygen. To get at what makes these itty bitties tick he climbs aboard giant ice-breaking ships and heads out to the planet’s icy North and South where they are the most active. Arrigo chatted with us about what it’s like to work in the world’s polar regions and what it feels like to take a wrong step and get a boot full of freezing arctic water.

    Do you consider yourself a biologist?

    I’m a biological oceanographer. I study the biology of the ocean at a pretty large scale. I’m not a marine biologist. I look at really big ocean issues. One example is the organisms that are the base of the food chain, microscopic phytoplankton. They’re tiny plants that feed everything in the ocean and produce more than 50% of the oxygen we breathe. Most people think of trees, but it’s mostly the phytoplankton that are doing the work.

    They’re responsible for the coming and going of the ice ages, which is driven by changes in atmospheric CO2. When the winds pick up, the ocean gets fertilized by iron-rich dust blowing into it. This stimulates phytoplankton to suck CO2 out of the atmosphere and then the planet starts to cool. After thousands of years, the temperatures drop so far that the planet goes into an ice age.

    The place I study phytoplankton is in the polar regions. They’re places we don’t understand very well. The North Pole and the area around Antarctica are very different. Most of the climate change is driven by phytoplankton in and around Antarctica. The ones growing in the tropics have very little impact on Earth’s climate.

    Around Antarctica, the ocean is a big watery place full of microscopic plants and they need nutrients just like your garden – mostly nitrogen or phosphorus. Luckily the Antarctic has lots of nitrogen and phosphorus, but not much iron. The ocean can become anemic too. Warm times like now, the ocean is really anemic - not much iron is being blown into it.

    The Graphics Technology of Disney's Big Hero 6

    While visiting Disney Animation Studios to preview Big Hero 6, Norm gets briefed on the graphics and rendering technologies developed for the film. The studio's Chief Technology Officer, Andy Hendrickson, explains how the rendering of complex scenes and characters were tackled with new software, and how Disney artists were able to build out an entire fictional city based on San Francisco. We love the technical stuff!

    Show and Tell: 3D Printing a Lightsaber

    This week's Show and Tell is another awesome project shared by our 3D printing columnist Sean Charlesworth. Norm visits Sean while in New York to check out a beautiful 3D printed lightsaber hilt that was assembled from 14 individually printed pieces. The designer of this model also created a four-piece kit for ease of assembly--all the files are available online. With some proper finishing work, it looks as good as the original prop!

    Worldbuilding and Storytelling in Disney's Big Hero 6

    Norm visits Disney Animation Studios to get a preview of Big Hero 6, the upcoming film that is Disney's first animated feature based on a Marvel comics property. We interview the directors of Big Hero 6 to learn about the worldbuilding that went into creating this film, and what storytelling lessons have been learned under the guidance of John Lasseter.

    Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 vs. Nvidia Tegra K1: The Value of 64-bit on Android

    Odds are good that if you buy a high-end Android device in the next few months, it's going to be packing either the Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 or Nvidia Tegra K1 SoC. We're at a pivotal moment in Android hardware as OEMs begin gearing up for the switch to 64-bit architectures, but only one of these chips has a 64-bit option. Let's take a look at where Nvidia and Qualcomm are going with their respective platforms, and whether or not you should hold out for a 64-bit device.

    ARM, but not from ARM

    The overwhelming majority of computing hardware in Android devices is ARM-based. Intel has successfully muscled its way into the market with updated x86 Atom parts. Android supports x86 and a few OEMs make tablets with Atom, but it's nowhere near as popular as ARM. All throughout the recent history of mobile devices, ARM has been the core architecture, but not all ARM chips are created equal.

    When we're talking about ARM SoCs (systems-on-a-chip), we're actually talking about more than the CPU component. There's also the GPU, memory controller, digital signal processor, and more. We'll get to that later--the first point of distinction between the Snapdragon 805 and the Tegra K1 is in the way they implement the ARM architecture.

    Chip makers have the option of licensing ARM's Cortex cores and building a chip around them. That's what Samsung and many smaller firms do. Qualcomm has for a long time licensed the ARM instruction set, which is ARMv7 for 32-bit and ARMv8 for 64-bit. These licenses are considerably more expensive than just getting a stock ARM core, but it allows Qualcomm to design its own custom CPU core for SoCs, and that's just what it's been doing ever since its Scorpion core for the original Snapdragon SoC in late 2008.

    The Challenges of Hybrid Vehicle Design

    My recent article on the OverDrive flying car design, triggered some debate about the practicality of hybrid designs. The comments were primarily focused on flying cars and floating cars, but all aspects of modern civilization teem with examples of hybrids. It seems an inescapable human desire to combine two good things in an effort to make one great thing. Some amalgams have achieved stellar results, perhaps even becoming a defining cultural element (think cameraphones). Others fade into a purgatory of ridicule and obscurity.

    The OverDrive concept hybrid car.

    The conversation made me question why some hybrid ideas flourish when others fail, even if the base components are individually successful. It is not something that I had ever given much thought to, but I began to wonder if there is a common link between the failed hybrid attempts. Today, I want to compare a handful of successful and failed hybrid concepts and attempt to determine why their relative outcomes were so varied.

    What is a Hybrid?

    The first question to be answered is how to define a hybrid, and there are many meanings. In its simplest form, a hybrid can be two or more widgets combined into a single unit. Perhaps each part is still intended to perform tasks independent of the other parts (ex. Swiss Army knife), or maybe the parts work in unison (ex. eraser-tipped pencil). Either way, it is the combining of these otherwise discrete tools that creates the selling point of the item.

    In examining these types of hybrids, I think it is important to differentiate whether an aspect of a design is a fundamental element or just a feature. For example, most cars have clocks. We don’t call them clock-cars simply because the clock is a feature rather than a core facet of the design. It’s just a car, not a hybrid…unless it also has wings, or a hull, or two types of engines.

    Another form of hybrid is the combination of two different tools that are used for similar jobs. The point is to utilize the best attributes from each tool to improve some aspect of the end item’s overall performance, such as efficiency, power output, reliability, or dependability. In this column we find things such as the diesel-electric locomotive and turboprop engine. We could even include mules (yes, the animals) and genetically-engineered seeds.

    It doesn’t take long to figure out that hybrids of all types saturate our world. For the purposes of this examination (and at the risk of excluding pertinent data), I will focus on nuts and bolts machines. More specifically, I will stick to legacy military hardware, since such items tend to have well-documented requirements as well as performance data.