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    Google Play App Roundup: CTRL-F, Particular, and CELL 13

    A new week has dawned, and with it comes a new list of great things happening on Android. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what needs to be on your phone or tablet right now. Just click the links to head to Google Play and grab these apps for yourself.

    CTRL-F

    Good old control-f is one of the most useful keyboard shortcuts, though some people still don't even realise it's a thing. Crazy, right? What if control-f existed in real life? I'm sure people would want to know about that. CTRL-F for Android aims to be just that, a real world version of the find command. It won't find anything, but it's pretty good at scanning text and making it searchable.

    CTRL-F is basically a fancy interface for optical character recognition with search built right in. To start using CTRL-F, simply find a document you want to search, and use the app to snap a photo (or import an existing image). Printed text works best, and the font needs to be at least somewhat conventional. Really weird stuff might now be detected correctly. After you take the photo, CTRL-F lets you frame the text for better detection.

    The app then processes the image by straightening the font and reading it. It supports over 50 languages, but I only tested it in English. The entire scanning process takes about 20 seconds for a single dense page of text. The processed image you get looks like a very high-contrast version of the photo you took, but behind the scenes is a full searchable text document.

    The accuracy is surprisingly good for most documents. I've found that glossy materials tend to cause more issues than those on matte paper. Varying fonts also seem to cause issues. Searching is fast and accurate most of the time, though. All the documents you've imported and had scanned will remain available from the main screen in CTRL-F.

    The data in CTRL-F isn't stored as some wonky non-standard file. If you want to export a searchable PDF, the option is available in the overflow menu. I'd like to see some sort of batch processing mode in CTRL-F, but the current functionality isn't bad, especially when you consider it's free.

    Episode 365 - True Trending Topics - 9/1/16
    Kishore & Jeremy are joined by Tested founder Will Smith to discuss the weeks high jinks in pop culture and technology, including the firing of the Facebook trending topics team, a Nest shakeup at Google, our hopes for next week's Apple & Sony events, and a fond farewell to Gene Wilder. Plus an extended Moment of Science segment and our thoughts on newly released VR titles in the VR Minute!
    00:00:00 / 01:57:27
    Checking in: Is Google Now on Tap Still a Disappointment?

    Google addressed several long-standing complaints when it announced Android 6.0 Marshmallow last year including battery life and Android's kludge of a permission model. An unexpected treat was Google Now on Tap. This feature was supposed to provide contextual search and actions based on your screen contents, and it sounded truly exciting. In practice, On Tap has been slow to prove itself useful.

    Maybe you don't bother to look at On Tap anymore, but you might want to take another look. It has gained a few cool features as we move into the Nougat era. You just need to know they're present.

    Promises, Promises

    Google Now on Tap promised to leverage the power of Google's machine learning algorithms to extract context from your phone. When activated, the feature would search the text for actionable items like an address, contact name, package tracking numbers, and more. This saves you from copying and pasting things or running manual searches. Well, it's supposed to.

    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.

    Taskbar

    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.

    THE BLACK TALON FROM AERIX DRONES IS A READY-TO-FLY MINI-QUAD WITH ALL OF THE INGREDIENTS NECESSARY FOR INDOOR FPV RACING.
    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!

    Google Play App Roundup: Duo, Deus Ex GO, and It's A Space Thing

    Grab your phone and prepare to shoot some new apps and games over to it from the Google cloud. It's time for the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what's new and cool in the Play Store. Just click the links to head to each app's page to check it out for yourself.

    Duo

    Google announced two new chat apps at I/O last spring, and now the first of the two is available. Google Duo is a video chat application that's designed from the ground up to be easy. It's not as feature-rich as Hangouts, but it works much, much better for simple 1-on-1 video chats.

    Google has made it clear that Duo will be the consumer-focused video chat solution going forward as it makes Hangouts a more business-focused product. So, Duo is tied you your phone number, in an attempt to make it easier to get people using it. When you first open the app you need to verify your number by SMS.

    Starting a call is as easy as tapping the big call button at the bottom of the screen—it's basically the only button in the app. After you've been using Duo, your frequent contacts will show up there too. Your contact list will appear with Duo users up at the top. Those who have not installed Duo yet are shown below that with the option to send them an invitation to the app. If you select a Duo user, the call will start immediately.

    The default functionality on Android includes Knock Knock, a way to see who's calling you before you pick up. When you place a call, your video will be live before the other person answers. That means they can see you before deciding whether or not to answer, like looking through a peephole in a door. This only happens if you are in the other person's contact list, though. Knock Knock is neat, but also a little weird to dismiss a call when your friend's face is staring expectantly at you from the screen.

    The latency in Duo video chats seems very good, and the video is alright. It's not mindblowing quality, at least in my experience. There is a toggle in the settings to turn off the data saving feature, which makes it look nicer. According to Google, Duo is using a protocol called Quic that allows for better video compression. It can also hand the call over between WiFi and cellular data as needed. The only controls of importance when you're in a call are mute and a front/rear camera toggle.

    Duo seems like a fine video chat app, but its success will depend on how many of your friends and family you can convince to install it. I would not be surprised to see Google start bundling Duo (and Allo) with the Google apps package for all phones.

    Are Modular Android Phones the Next Big Thing, or Just the Next Big Fad?

    Smartphones have become very similar over the years as manufacturing processes have improved and premium materials become less expensive. To combat the wave of "sameness" OEMs are always out to differentiate their devices in hopes of boosting sales and finding the next big thing in mobile devices. The latest trend is modular phones from the likes of Motorola and LG. Is this going to catch on with devices like Google Ara (supposedly) on the horizon, or will we look back at modular designs like the 3D display of 2016?

    What is a modular phone in 2016?

    There are two high-profile modular devices on the market right now, the LG G5 and the Moto Z. I think both these devices push the limits of what could reasonably be called "modular" in a traditional sense. You aren't really replacing important hardware components, but rather adding new components. "Snap-on accessories" might be a better term.

    The LG G5 has a removable bottom chin that can be replaced with a different module. The upshot of this design is that is makes the battery removable. The main issue with this approach to modularity is that there's only so much you can do with a tiny chin on the bottom of the phone. There are only two modules available—a camera grip and a HiFi audio module (which isn't even sold in the US). That's it.

    Meanwhile, the Moto Z simply has a flat back panel with contacts at the bottom that connect to the Moto Mod accessories. Motorola has more devices room to work with as Mods can cover the entire back of the device. It has batteries, a projector, stereo speakers, and more on the way. The Mods are rather expensive, though. That projector add-on is $300, almost half the cost of the phone.

    Weathering Techniques for Cosplay Costumes

    Making new fabrics look old and weathered is a practiced art. Doug Stewart has been working on costumes for film productions for over two decades. We chat about his work as a specialty costume maker and get a demo of his weathering process for costumes used at this year's E3.

    Tested Tours VR Projects at USC's Mixed Reality Lab

    At USC's Institute for Creative Technologies, computer scientists and engineers have been tinkering with virtual reality, augmented reality, and everything in between. We're given a tour of ICT's Mixed Reality Lab, where projects explore the intersections of VR and accessibility, avatars, and even aerial drones.

    Tested: Xiro Handheld Gimbal Mount

    Earlier this year, I reviewed the Xiro Xplorer V aerial photography quad. Changes come quickly in the ever-evolving multi-rotor market. In the time since I wrote the review, Xiro has dropped the price on the entire Xplorer series and introduced a new ground-based accessory. That new accessory, a handheld gimbal mount, is the focus of this review.

    A neat feature of the Xplorer is that the 3-axis camera gimbal is a detachable, modular unit. The gimbal on the Xplorer G is made to hold a GoPro camera, while the V-model gimbal has an integrated 1080P camera. In either case, Xiro's new handheld mount ($160) will allow you to utilize your gimbal for ground-based filming.

    The concept behind this mount is simple. It has a pistol grip layout with a rechargeable battery hidden in the handle. The gimbal clips into a socket that also mates all of the electrical connections. A spring-loaded clamp on top of the unit provides a nesting place for your smart phone.

    A thumbwheel is used to control the pitch angle of the camera.

    Once the device is powered on, a thumb wheel at the top of the grip allows you to control the pitch angle of the camera. A real-time video feed from the camera will be visible on your phone via a Wi-Fi connection and the Xiro app. The whole set-up effectively emulates the way the gimbal works while it's on the Xplorer.

    Making a 3D-Printed Sith Lightsaber Kit!

    We're thrilled to unveil a new 3D printed project from Sean Charlesworth! Sean was inspired to design and print his own Star Wars-inspired lightsaber, but with his own twist: this Sith model is a cutaway design that shows the internal construction of the hilt. Sean discusses how he came up with this design and how he used the Formlabs Form 2 printer fabricate it. Plus, the design files are free for anyone to download!

    Tested: Nvidia GTX 1060 Rains on the RX480

    AMD dreamt of mid-range glory when they shipped the Radeon RX480. The RX480 offered a great little package, including performance which matched high-end cards from past generations, lower power utilization, and a compact package suitable for most cards.

    True to form, Nvidia came along and crushed AMD's dreams.

    AMD announced its intent to pursue the ordinary gamer's heart months ago. Perhaps AMD's true high-end, code-named Vega, wouldn't be ready. Maybe AMD realized Nvidia would try to capture the high-end first. Either way, AMD laid their strategy bare for the world to see – including a certain Santa Clara-based GPU company.

    So it should surprise no one that Nvidia launched the GTX 1060 scant three weeks after the RX480 hit the street. At first, it seemed Nvidia's new mainstream card might not really be mainstream. Initial pricing suggested pricing closer to $300, based on Nvidia's own "Founder's Edition" card, which the company offers direct to users. Several weeks after the launch, pricing parity has hit, however. Prices for GTX 1060s running at stock clock speeds range from $249 to $329 depending on clock frequencies and cooler configurations. Radeon RX480 8GB cards run from $239- $279 while 4GB cards run right around $200. Availability for either the GTX 1060 or the RX480 remain spotty, suggesting demand still runs pretty high weeks after launch.

    So which should you buy? As always, let's look at the numbers.

    Google Play App Roundup: Inkwire, Mars: Mars, and Reigns

    A new week has dawned, and with it comes a new list of great things happening on Android. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what needs to be on your phone or tablet right now. Just click the links to head to Google Play and grab these apps for yourself.

    Inkwire

    Remote support is always messy in one way or another. Sometimes in more than one way, even. Android's security measures make true remote control of a phone or tablet tough to do, and even when you do have the tools in place, your capabilities are limited. Inkwire is a new remote assistance app that works within Android's limitations in a way that makes it easy to set up and use.

    As long as you've got an internet connection, Inkwire will work. That's because it's not relying on actually controlling the remote device. Inkwire lets you pain on top of the screen so the person on the other end can tap what you tell them to. This simpler approach is much easier to implement on a wide range of devices, and doesn't come with as many security risks. People who recently had their TeamViewer accounts hacked can certainly speak to that.

    To start a session on your device, just open Inkwire and confirm screen sharing. You'll get a code that can be shared with the other party. After inputting that in the Inkwire app, they'll be able to see what's happening on your screen, and draw lines for you to see. They can indicate a button or menu item for you to tap, which might even be preferable to true remote access. This way, you're engaged with the process and can learn what to do yourself. The same app on your phone can also be used to connect to someone else if you're on the other side of the situation.

    Sending doodles on the screen is all well and good, but what if a line doesn't get the point across? Inkwire also has voice chat built-in. Simply activate the toggle on your device (the person sharing their screen must do this) and you'll be able to talk through the process in addition to seeing things drawn on your screen.

    The delay in the streaming is surprisingly low when using Inkwire, but the image you get isn't super-high quality. There's some visible artifacting and some blurriness that can make small text a little hard to read. Still, it's more than good enough to help someone figure out what's busted.

    Inkwire is free and is still in beta. However, the listing just went live in the Play Store for everyone. There might be a few bugs to deal with, but it seems stable for me on LTE and WiFi.