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    Google Play App Roundup: Prisma, Snakebird, and Quaser One

    If you're going to be supporting app development on Android (and you should), you might as well pay for the best content you can. That's what the Google Play App Roundup is all about. This is where you can come every week to find out what's new and cool on Android. Just follow the links to the Play Store.

    Prisma

    The photo filter app Prisma has been spectacularly popular on iOS for a couple months, and now it has arrived on Android. This app is completely free and has no ads. I'm not sure how the company plans to make money, but it's already tearing up the charts in the Play Store. It's not the first app to apply filters to your images, but it goes about it in a very unusual way with the power of AI.

    Prisma's interface is pretty limited. When you open it, you'll be able to snap a photo from the app, or import one you've already taken. Photos taken in the app are just 1080x1080 pixels, and even when you import a photo is will have you crop it down to a square. The next step is where all the magic happens.

    Prisma has more than two dozen filters , but they aren't filters like you'd see in Instagram or Lightroom. Prisma uses server-based processing to deconstruct your photo and rebuild it with a completely different style. The result is a complete metamorphosis of your photo that looks much more complete than simply overlaying things on top of it.

    The AI that Prisma uses to do this processing needs a lot more power than your phone has, so all the hard work is done on Prisma's servers. That means you will need an internet connection to use the app. Additionally, processing photos takes a pretty long time. The images captured by Prisma are much smaller than the ones that come from your camera, so those can usually be passed through a new filter in 15 seconds or so. A photo you import might take as long as 30-45 seconds to come back. You can switch between filters you've already tried on an image without waiting, though.

    When the edit is ready, you can swipe left and right to change the blending of the new version with the unaltered one. This happens locally on the device, so you won't have to wait for the servers again. From there, you can save the photo or share it directly via the system share menu. Although, this seems a little buggy with some apps. The app's servers are also occasionally overloaded, meaning you'll have to wait a few minutes to try another filter. Still, it's pretty fun to play around with.

    Oculus Medium Sculpting Demo with DC Comics

    Another surprise for us at Comic-Con was running into the team at Oculus, demoing their Touch controllers and the Oculus Medium sculpting tool at the DC Comics booth. We chat with Medium's project lead about how it's changed, and learn how artists are beta testing it in their creative workflows.

    Building A Cheap RC Glider, Part 2: Flying

    In the first article of this series, I showed you how to add RC controls to a common toy store chuck glider, the Air Hogs Titan. It may not be pretty, but it has elements that most budding RC pilots truly need: simplicity and affordability. This time around, I'll illustrate a few techniques for using the Titan to learn how to fly. You'll probably get some exercise while you're at it!

    No matter what model you are using as your primary trainer, the learning curve is always eased when you have an experienced pilot who can show you the basics. Most RC clubs have a process ironed out for training new pilots. The Titan probably doesn't fit that traditional training template. However, it would still benefit you to enlist the aid of a seasoned pilot to get you over the initial hurdles. If you don't have access to a pilot, any eager helper with a decent throwing arm and tireless legs is a useful alternative. Kids seem to enjoy it and there are plenty of opportunities for hand-on physics lessons.

    Gentle hand launches of the Titan will provide a low-stress path to grasp the rudiments of RC flying without much crash risk.

    As you go through the process of learning how to fly, you will make a lot of mistakes…that's okay. The airplane will be flying slowly and close to the ground most of the time. So you're not dealing with much energy. Additionally, the Titan has several ways of dissipating energy when it hits the ground. It isn't likely that you will break anything.

    In most minor crashes, the wings will pop loose from the fuselage. Just put them back in. A harder impact may cause the battery to rip free of the Velcro. Again, just put it back in place and keep on flying. If you do manage to break the Titan, repairs can be made with white glue or even tape. So go forth with no worries about breaking the airplane. It's no big deal.

    Google Play App Roundup: Flytube, Dots and Co., and Rooms of Doom

    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.

    Flytube

    For all its multitasking abilities, Android is still not completely there with true multitasking. That is, having more than one thing on the screen at a time. Some devices have a version of this (that isn't very good), and Android 7.0 is supposed to expand support for split-screen. But even that isn't going to make a proper floating video player possible right away. That's what Flytube is. It takes any YouTube video and puts it in a floating window.

    Setting up Flytube will vary depending on your device. You'll need to clear defaults for YouTube (however you go about that on your device) so that Flytube will be an option when you click on a video link. The opening tutorial walks you through a few tests to make sure it works correctly.

    When you tap on a YouTube video, Flytube opens and starts playback. It looks like a tiny web frame to me, based on the controls. It works well enough, though. By default, the video will snap to the edge of your screen, but you can drag it around anywhere you like. You have access to closed captioning, but all the other YouTube settings are unavailable.

    The standard window size seems alright for a phone, but it's somewhat small for a tablet. If you upgrade to the full version for $0.99, you can resize the video window with a small corner drag indicator. This also gets rid of the banner ad in the app itself. Speaking of the Flytube app, you can search for videos and open them in Flytube windows from here, even if you don't have it set as the default.

    Flytube maintains good framerates as you're doing other things, as long as your phone is reasonably powerful. I've seen no issues with the apps I'm using while Flytube is playing in the foreground. Note, it won't continue playing while the screen is off -- you still need YouTube Red for that.

    Hands-On with Rick and Morty VR

    We play the first demo of Rick and Morty VR, a roomscale virtual reality game made by Owlchemy Labs and Adult Swim. Here are our impressions, along with a chat with Owlchemy's Alex Schwartz about narrative VR game design, comedy script writing, and VR puzzles.

    What's in Our Camera Bag for Comic-Con 2016!

    We're down in San Diego for Comic-Con! As we prep for a week of travel and production, Joey shows you the camera gear he's packed to shoot and edit the videos we're making from the convention. We discuss how we go about shooting our show floor videos, and what new gear we're excited to test on location!

    Google Play App Roundup: Storm it, Dead Venture, and Super Stickman Golf 3

    Android devices do a lot of neat stuff out of the box, but you can always load it up with new apps to make if do more stuff. And maybe some games for good measure. This is the Google Play App Roundup where we tell you what's new on Android. Just hit the links to head to the Play Store.

    Storm it

    Some would argue that Twitter's main strength over the years has also been its main limitation. Tweets can only be 140 characters in length (at least for now). Every time the company has speculated about making tweets longer, the reaction from the community has been swift and negative. Still, there are times you might want to express an idea on Twitter that's longer than 140 characters. Posting multiple tweets is a pain, but "Storm it" makes the process easier.

    The name of the app comes from "tweetstorm," which is the term often used when someone posts multiple tweets in quick succession on a single topic. The problem is figuring out where to split things up and posting them quickly enough that they'll appear nearby in the stream. Storm it does all the hard work for you.

    After you log into your Twitter account in Storm it, you'll get a blank canvas upon which you can scrawl your ideas -- rant, rave, or just a thought that's too long for one tweet. The cool thing here it that Storm it will be smart about where to break your text up into individual tweets. It won't just stop mid-word, but your sentences will still get chopped in half if they don't fit in one tweet. It also adds numbering so people can tell which order to read the tweets.

    Down at the bottom is a Storm it button. Now, I would have thought that this would give you some sort of preview of confirmation dialog, but it doesn't. When you press that button, all your queued tweets are sent. You'll get a status screen to show you as each one is posted. If you want to preview the chopped up version of your text, you can tap the eye icon on the far left of the Storm it button. It's probably a good idea to do that.

    The settings are sparse -- all you have is the choice of two different formats for the numbering appended to your tweets. There's also a history menu that shows you past tweetstorms, both sent (stormed) and unsent (forecasted -- ha). Unsent storms can be edited and sent from this menu.

    Storm it has admittedly narrow appeal, but it does it's job well without a bunch of added cruft. It's also free.

    Adam Savage Visits the Stanley Kubrick Exhibition!

    After making its way around the world, the incredible exhibition of Stanley Kubrick's work has arrived in San Francisco. Adam Savage tours the exhibit to show you some of his favorite items. From rare camera equipment to pre-production artwork and film props, these objects connect us to one of cinema's greatest minds.

    How To Get Started with RC Sailboats

    I know what some of you are thinking: At a time when the RC hobby offers excitement such as speedy FPV racing quads, 20-pound gas-powered dune buggies, and even robots that fight to the death, how can anyone get jazzed about a silent sailboat meandering across a pond? I get it. I used to think the same thing. Although I've known about the existence of RC sailboats for decades, they never captured my attention enough to actually give one a try. I really should have known better after my similar experience with rock crawlers. I soon discovered that even though sailboats are not fast (relatively speaking), they offer abundant technical and skill-oriented challenges that keep drawing me in deeper.

    RC sailing clubs are a great resource to get started in the hobby. Don't be afraid to ask for help.

    Diving In

    Once I had decided to give RC sailing a try, I didn't think twice about going at it by myself. After all, I was fairly competent with the Sunfish sailboat that I had as a kid. Plus, RC sailboats only require 2 channels to control. So how hard could it possibly be? As I'm sure you've guessed by now, the reality of my introduction to RC sailing was much different. It involved a few missteps, some humble lessons, and plenty of help from experienced sailors.

    One of the things I learned early on is that there is a lot is specific terminology used in sailing circles. I'm still learning the meaning of most of these foreign-sounding words. For any of you experienced sailors who may be reading this, I'll ask your forgiveness in advance since I'll endeavor to use layman's terms whenever possible here.

    Even though I knew that RC sailboats were only 2-channel machines, I lacked a fundamental understanding of how the controls worked. The various rigging that I had seen on some sailboats caused me to envision their control systems to be much more complex than they actually are. It turns out that most of the visible rigging on a sailboat consists of static lines that only serve to stabilize the sail mast.

    RC sailboats have simple control systems. But until I had one of my own, the various rigging had me convinced otherwise. (Lewis Dunn photo)

    The two main controls of a RC sailboat are the rudder and sail trim. The rudder is used to control the direction of the boat in the water. A single servo actuates the rudder through direct linkages.

    Sail trim refers to the angle of the sails in relation to the boat hull. Both sails can pivot side to side about their leading edge. Rather than a rigid connection, the sail servo is connected to a pair of rope-like lines that terminate near the midpoint of the booms along the bottom edge of each sail. The servo controls the length of these lines, which subsequently determine how far out the sails can swing. At its shortest length, the sails may only have a few degrees of sway. With the line fully relaxed, the sails could approach 90-degrees of travel. Based on the direction of the wind and the orientation of the boat hull, sail trim is adjusted to harness the wind and keep the boat moving forward.

    Tested: Radeon RX480 Video Card Review

    Going for second place seems like a weird business strategy, but the RX480 GPU fits in with AMD's CPU strategy of trying hard to stay in second place in a race where only two major players exist.

    It's also a smart strategy, at least on the GPU end. Make the most of what you have, and go for the mass market. The potential volume for $200 graphics cards dwarfs that of cards like the GTX 1070, which costs about twice as much.

    So can a $240 graphics card deliver performance necessary for modern DX12 gaming? Let's take a look at the numbers – first, the GPU specs, then performance.

    By the Numbers

    Nvidia's GTX 970 looks to be AMD's main target for the RX480 when it comes to performance. So let's take a look at the specs of the two GPUs side-by-side (chart below).

    Nvidia shader ALU (called CUDA cores by the company), and AMD's shader cores (which AMD refers to as stream processors) differ architecturally, so you can't really compare performance based on the number of ALUs. The clock frequency for the RX480 disappoints a little – I'd expect more from 14nm FinFET logic. The good news lies with the die size. At 230mm2, AMD likely has some pricing flexibility.

    I also appreciate the fact that AMD finally dumped the DVI port. Owners of older displays may be disappointed, but it's really time to move beyond DVI to a more modern interface. An owner of a DVI-only monitor will need to buy an adapter, however, unless they're willing to replace said monitor.

    Beyond the raw specs, AMD offers several interesting features which Nvidia can't quite match. The Polaris GPU includes native support for FP16 (16-bit floating point, aka half-precision), which can be useful in certain types of GPU compute applications, but unlikely to factor in much with games. Nvidia's Pascal converts FP16 to FP32, then uses that converted format, which reduces FP16 performance a bit.

    The geometry engine includes features supporting small, instanced objects, such as an index cache. That will help games which uses instancing, mostly real-time or turn-based strategy games which might throw hundreds of similar objects onto the screen.

    Punished Props' Foam Viking Axe Build

    Tested contributor Bill Doran (Punished Props) worked with Frank Ippolito to build this giant viking axe for Ubisoft's For Honor E3 booth. In this video, Bill, shows how he made the axe using the techniques he teaches in his great Foamsmith book. Check it out!

    Testing the Mantis Drone Claw Accessory

    We introduce Simone to a Tested tradition--opening mystery mailbags from viewers! This week's package contains an accessory for our quadcopter: a beautiful drone claw manufactured via a Kickstarter campaign. We have fun testing it in the the office though a series of challenges--what could go wrong?

    Google Play App Roundup: ASAP Launcher, Pokémon GO, and Titan Quest

    You probably want more apps, but more than that, you want the right ones. That's what we're here to deliver with the weekly Google Play App Roundup. This is where you'll find the best new and newly updated apps and games on Android. Just click the link to head right to Google Play.

    ASAP Launcher

    There are plenty of alternative launchers on Android, some of which are very mature and feature-rich. They all have a lot of features in common, though. ASAP Launcher is brand new, and it's markedly different than those other launchers. It has a very clean material look with custom "cards" on the home screen for features like weather, contacts, and calendar. One thing it doesn't have is widgets. How very odd.

    There's one regular home screen panel in ASAP Launcher, and even that one has some unusual modifications. At the top is a single built-in widget with the date, google voice search button, weather, and music controls. At the bottom are five app icons of your choosing. You can drag up from the bottom or open an expanded dock that has two more rows of icons for the apps you use most. This improves over time, but you can also manually pin apps to the list.

    If you want to get at the rest of your apps, drag in from the left to open the scrollable drawer. This reminds me very much of the QuickDrawer in Action Launcher, which I really like. You can scroll along normally, or drag along the letters toward the right to fast-scroll. A search bar at the top of the list lets you type the first few letters of an app as well. Drag in from the right side of the screen and you get a configurable quick settings panel.

    The cards are what you see if you swipe left or right instead of more home screen panels. There's one for frequent contacts, weather, calendar, and notes. You can rearrange or disable any of them from the settings. I think the weather one is very well-done, as is the frequent contact card. The calendar is fine, but frankly a whole screen is overkill for just a scrolling list. If there were more details shown, then we'd be in business. The notes panel feels unnecessary to me.

    All the above features are included for free, but a sub-$2 pro upgrade adds things like unread counts, custom icon packs, and additional themes. ASAP has a lot of potential, and I hope the developer keeps the improvements coming.

    Testing a Micro RC Model Bomber Plane

    It wasn't so long ago that small, lightweight RC models simply didn't exist. It took some pretty significant leaps in the miniaturization of batteries and radio components before anyone dared to dream that tiny RC aircraft were even possible. Now, these ultra-micro (UM) ships are wildly popular and can be had in a wide range of off-the-shelf kits.

    My first UM model was the ParkZone Vapor. It looked a lot like you would expect for a model that could be comfortably flown in most living rooms. It had a spindly skeletal frame made of plastic and composite materials. The tail surfaces and 14.75 inch wing were loosely draped with thin Mylar. It looked more like a kite than an airplane. But looks can be deceiving.

    My first ultra-micro model was the ParkZone Vapor, a fun model with looks that reflected its slow flying abilities.

    That first Vapor (and others) proved to be a great flying model at indoor venues and in calm outdoor weather. It was so lightweight (.5 ounce) that it was nearly impossible to damage from a crash. The Vapor flew slowly enough that you could walk beside it. This model was a success story in nearly every respect. I credit the Vapor with kickstarting widespread interest in the UM class of RC models.

    My latest UM model, the E-flite UMX B-25 Mitchell ($120), provides a yardstick to illustrate the huge strides that have been made in small model design and technology. You don't have to look very hard to find traces of the Vapor in the B-25, but the differences are more apparent. The Mitchell has an onboard stabilization system, two motors, and removable landing gear. This airplane is more sophisticated than some of my models that are many times its size.

    Analyzing the UMX B-25

    This is how the UMX B-25 looks out of the box. It just requires radio set-up to be ready for flight.

    The aspect of the Mitchell that is perhaps most appreciated by RC pilots is that this is a recreation of the famous WWII bomber by the same name. With a 21.7 inch wingspan, the E-flite B-25 is about 1/38 scale. It lacks the level of detail that you would find in a static plastic model, but it is quite good for an RC model of any size. The scale outline is very accurate, so there is no question what airplane this model represents. The designers even captured the characteristic gull wing of the real Mitchell.

    Like most UM models, the B-25 is completely assembled at the factory. The packaging doubles as a storage and travel container. This model also comes with a factory paint job which represents the typical olive drab color scheme and insignia used early in the war. The kit includes a set of decals that allows you do replicate the specific markings of any of the Mitchells used in the famous Doolittle Raid.

    Hands-On with BattleBots RC Toys!

    Something we were surprised to encounter at this season's filming of BattleBots were RC toy versions of fan-favorite robots. Hexbug was on site in the builder's pit to show off their upcoming BattleBot toys, based off of four competitors. We chat with Jason from Hexbug to learn how these toys were designed from the originals, and see what we can do in the tabletop battlebox.

    Making Historical Fantasy Cosplay Armor for E3

    For this year's E3, our very own Frank Ippolito was charged with fabricating three cosplay costumes for Ubisoft's upcoming game For Honor. The three costumes of wildly different historically inspired characters with varying armor, helmets, and weapons, which require a wide range of materials and build processes. We stop by Frank's shop ahead of E3 to learn about these builds!