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    Virtual Reality and 'Bullet Train' with Epic Games' Tim Sweeney

    We're extremely thrilled to be able to chat with Tim Sweeney, founder and CEO of Epic Games, about his work on Unreal Engine 4 and its use in virtual reality! We get Tim's thoughts on modern graphics hardware for VR, first-person shooters in world-scale, and the mechanics of Epic Games' new Bullet Train VR demo.

    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.

    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.

    DAEMON Sync

    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!

    Meet the Glowforge 3D Laser Printer

    Four months ago, we visited the offices of Glowforge, a company developing a new kind of 3D laser printer. The Glowforge simplifies laser cutting by moving software to the cloud and making use of smartphone sensors. That both lowers the price and allows for incredible user features that makes the Glowforge extremely easy to use. As Glowforge readies to launch, we check in to check out the final product!

    It's Time for Something New!

    As you may have heard, Will's leaving in a few weeks to start his new VR adventure. We're incredibly excited for him, and will be keeping an eye on what he's working on in this new and exciting medium. He'll still be participating in our upcoming October live shows (we're going to be podcasting on Alcatraz!), and will still be a regular contributor to Still Untitled. But as many of you may be wondering, what does this mean for Tested? To be honest, we don't have all the answers yet. Some things are undoubtedly going to change, but many things are also going to stay the same. I'm not going anywhere. Joey is still going to be kicking ass producing our videos. We're still going to be reviewing gear, showcasing projects, podcasting, documenting One Day Builds, and reporting from events. We're going to continue experimenting with storytelling formats and trying new shows and types of content. We're never going to stop trying to show and tell the most interesting stories we can about technology, science, art, and makers. In short, we'll always be testing.

    What will change, though, are the people that make up Tested. While we'll strive to tell the stories that interest us in the same fun, optimistic, and critical way you've come to expect, we want to tell those stories with more (and more diverse) voices. Tested has never been about just Will, me, Joey, Adam, and Jamie--it's always been bolstered by a group of like-minded enthusiasts and obsessives. We're privileged to have writers like Terry, Erin, and Ryan who share their perspectives and discoveries on topics we're not necessarily experts in--seriously, read their stuff! Those voices, along with Tested "Special Teams" members like Frank, Jeremy, and Sean have become family.

    Going forward, we're hoping to expand that family, both on and off camera. We're looking for correspondents, reporters, and writers who want to share their enthusiasm for technology, science, food, movies, and making stuff. It doesn't matter if you're not local to the Bay Area, or have no previous experience in whatever the heck "new media" is supposed to be. If you have something interesting to say about a specific area of expertise or obsession, we'd love to hear from you. Send me an email at norman@tested.com with "Tested Family" in the subject line and introduce yourself. Show me what you love to do and include some samples of your work. I can't wait to meet you.

    And for Tested readers and members of the Premium community, thank you so much for your support and enjoying the content that Will and I have made over the past five years. Change is always scary, but I'm really excited about what we're going to be able to do with Tested in the next year and beyond. (Some premium video updates coming!) Finally, if there's an idea or project you'd love to see us tackle, never hesitate to drop me a line or just let me know in the comments below!

    Pebble Time Round Smartwatch Announced

    Pebble likes its surprises. It announced the Pebble Time Steel as an upsell smack in the middle of its successful Pebble Time Kickstarter campaign, and today the smartwatch maker has announced the Pebble Time Round, before those Pebble Time Steels have even finished shipping to backers. The new watch, which Pebble says has been in development for a year, is a radical departure from the rectangular design that has been consistent across all of Pebble's previous products. The round display runs the same low-power color LCD as the one in Pebble Time, along with the same software, but the Round decidedly looks more like an analog watch. Its face is 38.5mm in diameter, including what looks to be a considerable bezel, and flanked by the same physical controls found in previous Pebbles. But other than its circular shape, two other physical differences may make this more appealing than the Pebble Time Steel: the watch is just 7.5mm thick, and offers two band size options--14mm and 20mm.

    Those physical changes come at a cost, though. The Pebble Time Round only lasts for two days on a full charge, as opposed to the weeklong battery life of its predecessors. To compensate, the Round has a quick charge battery that gets 24 hours of use with only 15 minutes on the charger. It's also a little less water resistant--no showers with this one strapped on. Developers will need to use a new SDK to port their existing Pebble apps to the new display, though some of the Round models have printed numbers on the bezel to accommodate new round "analog" watchfaces.

    The $250 Time Round is available for pre-order now and will start shipping to North America in November. Unlike with the Time Steel, Pebble isn't giving Kickstarter backers to "upgrade" their existing orders, but are offering a $50 discount to Time Steel backers as well as a 30-day trial period. During that time, you can send back the Pebble Time Steel and get a refund for the order.

    Tested In-Depth: Apple iOS 9 for iPhone and iPad

    Apple's latest mobile operating system is out, and even if you've already installed it, you may not know about all its features and changes. We sit down to review what's new and notable in iOS 9, showing off multi-tasking on the iPad Air 2, the new Siri, and important changes in default apps like Safari. Here's what we think about the pace of iOS changes.

    In Brief: Photogrammetry Testing with Quadcopters

    Some quadcopter and drone pilots I follow have been recently testing new photogrammetry and mapping software for turning aerial photos into 3D maps. Aerial mapping isn't anything new, but the ease of flight with unmanned aerial systems, the improvement in onboard camera technology, and a wave of new image processing software/services makes it accessible and more usable. Eric Cheng tested Pix4D with the new micro four-third cameras mounted on an Inspire 1, while Daniel Scarnecchia ran a comparison between professional photogrammetry software AgiSoft Photoscan (used in Mad Max's pre-production!) and the Drone Deploy's recently released free-to-use Map Engine. The resulting maps look really good, and now I'm itching to test it out myself!

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    What You Should Know about the Form 2 SLA 3D Printer

    Good news everyone! Formlabs has just announced their next gen SLA printer, the Form 2 and it's an improvement on the Form 1+ in almost every way. Formlabs developed one of the first affordable SLA resin printers that gave pro results--check out the Print the Legend documentary on Netflix for a fascinating look at how they got started. I had a lot of fun last year testing the Form 1+, but there were a few bumps along the way. Here's how I wrapped up the review:

    "So would I buy a Form 1+? As much as I like the prints, I personally would like to wait for their next gen machine which I hope would address some of the issues I had. I would also like to see them come out with a material that hits that sweet spot between their standard material and the flexible - something that is rigid with just a bit of give. Despite any problems I ran into, I really liked the Form 1+ and look forward to what Formlabs will do next."

    CREDIT: Formlabs

    What they're doing next looks pretty good. I was recently invited to meet with Formlabs co-founder Max Lobovsky and chief marketing officer, Colin Raney to take a look at the new Form 2, and guess what: they addressed every concern I had and then some. The Form 2 looks to be the machine I would buy for myself.

    Here's what's new: the Form 2 has a bigger print volume, a more powerful laser for faster and finer prints, a new resin cartridge system among many other updates. I was very pleased with the prints off the Form 1+ and it was relatively easy to use, but there were a number of things that I felt needed addressed--let's take a look at each of the changes individually. (I'm not going into detail about how the SLA printing process works, as on a base level, it has not changed. Take a look at my Form 1+ review for an in-depth explanation.)

    Everything You Should Know about Android Pay

    Android has had NFC payments since way back in 2011 with the Sprint Nexus S 4G. In the intervening years Google Wallet's usage hasn't exactly rocketed upward, and then Apple Pay happened. To offer a more full-featured alternative for Apple Pay, Google announced a revamped version of its payment platform at I/O this year -- Android Pay. This new way to pay via NFC is now rolling out to devices, but what's different other than the name? Here's everything you should know about how Android Pay works.

    Separating Wallet and Pay

    Before you can start using Android Pay, you'll need to receive an update to Google Play Services. That's the framework that makes all your Google apps and services work. It should happen automatically in the background in the coming weeks, and when it does, the Play Store will update your Wallet app, turning it into Android Pay.

    Going forward, Android Pay is your NFC payment app and Wallet is for sending money to others.

    So the new Android Pay app is actually the same package name that Wallet was using before, which is why it completely overwrites it. Wallet still exists, but it's a new app listing in the Play Store, and it's not for paying in stores. From now on, Android Pay is your NFC payment app and Wallet is for sending money to others via your Wallet balance, as well as managing your Wallet debit card.

    This is very narrow functionality for each app, and I'm really not sure why Google bothered separating them. Couldn't the money sending just be bundled into Pay? At any rate, you'll need to open Android Pay to set everything up, and that's where things get tricky.

    Google Play App Roundup: ADV Screen Recorder, Sky, and David.

    There are great Android apps coming out all the time, but it can still be hard to find them amid all the clutter. The Google Play App Roundup is all about clearing the junk out of the way so you can find the best apps. Just click on the app name to go straight to the Google Play Store and pick up the app yourself.

    ADV Screen Recorder

    The history of screen recording on Android is a long and confusing one. It used to be that you needed root access to capture a video of your screen, but in KitKat Google added an ADB method for developers. In Android 5.0 we finally got a proper recording method that could be triggered without root by a regular app. There have been several quality apps to come out since then that let you record the screen, but ADV Screen Recorder might have a leg up on all of them.

    The way you start a recording varies a lot between apps, and can be pretty clumsy. Ideally, you don't want to have the recording app at the beginning of all your videos, so countdowns are pretty common after you trigger a recording. ADV uses a floating button in the upper right corner instead (on top of the clock). Once you tap the record button, you have to grant access as with all apps. However, ADV just places the floating button on the screen at that point and you can leave the app to get ready for your recording.

    Tapping the floating button (which doesn't show up in the video) will start the recording. Another tap will stop the recording and a long press activates drawing mode. This is really cool for making demos and how-to videos. You get a little toolbar in the upper left when you activate this mode where you can choose a color and undo lines if you like. When you close the toolbar, your screen is wiped clean. There's an advanced recording mode that also lets you pause the recording at any point with a double-tap in the clock area.

    In the settings, you'll also find another unique feature. ADV has support for front-facing camera overlays (with opacity controls). It's got microphone recording as well, but that's available in most screen-recording apps. Together, you can use these features to record yourself talking about what you're doing on the screen in the video. There are also various quality settings to fiddle with.

    When you finish a recording, a heads-up notification lets you immediately view, delete, or trim it. Yes, ADV has a built-in video editor, but it's very basic. You can cut a few seconds from the beginning or end of the video, but that's still a nice extra.

    ADV Screen Recorder is completely free and there are no ads that I've seen. It has great features and seems to work flawlessly. It's probably going to be my new go-to screen recording app.

    VR Testing Inside USC's Mixed Reality Lab

    The Verge's Adi Robertson recently toured USC's Institute for Creative Technologies, a research lab where emerging media technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality are being tested for their potential role in the future of communications, education, and other fields. Some interesting anecdotes from the video include how ICT is experimenting with redirected walking for multiple users in a shared space, and thoughts on how far behind we are on VR haptics development. Read more about The Verge's visit to USC's ICT here.

    In Brief: You Can 3D Print Copies of TSA's Master Keys

    Last year, a Washington Post report about what happens to your travel luggage after you've checked them in at the airport unwittingly gave readers a high-resolution look at the TSA's Sentry Keys--master keys that can open any of the agency's approved locks recommended for your bags and suitcases. Since then, 3D models of those keys have been posted to Github, allowing anyone to 3D print a set with a desktop FDM printer and some modeling know-how (for scaling the STLs). Our friends at ArsTechnica tested the prints to confirm that they worked. The TSA's response has been rather nonchalant, though, as the agency claims that its Sentry locks are 'peace of mind' devices, not intended for effective protection from theft. The Intercept points out that this is at odds with how the TSA have described these approved locks and measures in the past, and more importantly, why this is an example of the risks of sanctioned security backdoors.

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    Testing: DxO One Compact Camera

    The camera on your iPhone or Android smartphone is pretty good. Good enough, and definitely convenient enough, to make most point-and-shoots obsolete. But those cameras will for the forseeable future be limited by their convenience--the need to fit the sensor and lens into a smartphone body (and god forbid, not bulge out from the back) constrains the type of camera hardware that can be used on a smartphone. That's why I think the smartphone is a great complement--not replacement--for a DSLR or large-sensor compact camera. You can buy lens attachments for a smartphone, but not swap out its sensor for a larger or more capable one. Yet.

    The DxO One camera is a neat piece of technology that wants to give you the convenience of smartphone photography with the quality of a higher-end camera. It does this by cramming a big 1-inch type sensor and accompanying aspherical lens system into a really compact formfactor--something that weights just 108 grams and is about the size of a GoPro. And it can do that by not incorporating any sort of viewfinder or LCD display. That idea isn't new--Sony has its QX "lens-style" cameras that use a smartphone as the brains and viewfinder, but those cameras transmitted a video signal over Wi-Fi. The DxO One, which only works with iOS devices, sends its data back and forth over an Apple Lightning connection. Low latency, high bandwidth, resulting in a much more seamless and responsive camera experience.

    I've been testing the DxO One for the past week, and brought it with me on a recent trip to Portland. We'll have a full in-depth video review soon, but here are my early thoughts on its strengths, weaknesses, and potential.

    Amazon Announces Fire TV with 4K and Alexa, $50 Fire Tablet

    One notable omission from Apple's new set top box announced last week was 4K playback capability, presumably due to the lack of 4K digital content available for download, rental, or streaming. Amazon's new Fire TV bets that 4K will be a priority for users, making it a flagship feature in its new set-top box. The new Fire TV still costs $100, but runs on a quad-core processor with a GPU Amazon claims is twice as fast as the original. It'll have 802.11AC, 8GB of storage, a microSD card slot, and a new remote that is supposed to be more responsive. That remote also allow users to tap into Amazon's Alexa assistant for accessing programming and even ordering things from Amazon, but won't have feature parity with Echo. And as for that 4K support, you'll of course need a 4K TV with HDCP 2.2 and a 15Mbps minimum internet connection to access streaming 4K video from Netflix or Amazon's own video services. The box also supports the HEVC codec, which is up to 50% more efficient than H.264.

    In addition to the new flagship Fire TV, Amazon has also updated the Fire Stick with the new low-latency remote, bumping up the price $10 to $50, and also releasing a gaming-focused version of the Fire TV. That model comes with a new Fire TV Bluetooth gamepad, 32GB microSD card, two game downloads, and will sell for $140. The new Fire TVs and Stick will ship in October.