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    Testing: Jaybird Freedom Wireless Earbuds

    Our favorite wireless headphones from last year were Jaybird's X2 earbuds. These Bluetooth earbuds packed all the electronics and radios in the ear pieces, requiring only a flat cord to connect the two ends behind your head. I thought they were great for bike riding and jogging, and the interchangeable tips (supporting plastic ones or Comply foam tips) made them comfortable for me to wear. The 9 hours of battery life was pretty good, too. But for some people, they X2's design was still too bulky; the weight distribution of the electronics made it necessary to use the "wingtips" to wrap the earbuds around your ear to keep them in place. Jaybird's new Freedom earbuds solve that problem completely.

    The new Jaybird Freedoms are significantly slimmer than the X2s, while retaining the same 6mm driver that gave the X2s really good sound quality (for earbuds). It's almost shocking how small the new design is, which now can completely fit into small ears without sticking out and dragging off the lobe. Jaybird (which was recently acquired by Logitech) accomplished this in two ways: incorporating a tapered driver design so that the tips are smaller, and putting all of the battery, electronics, and radio into the volume control module along the cable. The redesigned driver and relocation of the electronics don't appear to have changed the sound quality (and there's still a built-in microphone), and Jaybird is also pushing a new companion app that allows for real-time EQ adjustments and downloadable presets.

    Maker Faire 2016: 3D Printed Open-Source Telepresence Robot

    We kick off our Maker Faire 2016 coverage with this awesome telepresense robot made by researchers at the Galileo University in Guatemala. The robot's body is based off of the open-source InMoov project, with remote control via an Oculus DK2 headset and Perception Neuron motion capture system. Telepresense with some sense of proprioception!

    Google Play App Roundup: Science Journal, Air Attack, and Assassin's Creed Identity

    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.

    Science Journal

    Your smartphone is bristling with sensors, so why not use them to do some basic science? Google has released a new app that helps you run simple experiments with your phone called Science Journal. It's mostly aimed at getting students interested in science and the process of running experiments, but everyone can learn a little something.

    Science Journal accesses three sensors in your phone: the light sensor, accelerometer, and the microphone. In the main interface, you can switch between each of these outputs to see live data as a single number or a graph. In addition, the accelerometer data is split up into X, Y, and Z axis readings. Of course, the app is a super-slick example of material design with bright colors and cool animations.

    Down at the bottom of the screen is a toolbar and timecode. This is where you record your data. Simply hit the record button and the sensor data will be archived. You can organize each data set into different experiments and add notes to them as well. The graphs (both live and archived) respond to pinch zoom gestures.

    You might be surprised how sensitive the sensors in your phone are, especially the accelerometer. Because this part is designed to measure g-forces, it reads gravitational acceleration at rest, and it's pretty close to the 9.8m/s^2 number we all learned in school. We often think of acceleration in terms of velocity relative to the ground, but this app encourages you to think about it a little differently. For example, in freefall, the Z-axis reads 0 instead of 9.8-ish. I was even able to use the accelerometer to measure my heart rate by laying the phone on my chest.

    At the top of Science Journal is a button that links the app with external devices. You probably don't have any of these, but the Google Making and Science Initiative website lists some kits Google helped to design with companies like Sparkfun that will connect to the app, usually via an Arduino. All the data acquired through the app, via both internal and external sensors, can be exported as a CSV file.

    The app is free and fun to play around with if nothing else. If you have kids, you might want to use this as a learning opportunity.

    The Best of Google I/O 2016: Android N, Daydream VR, and More

    Google I/O is now in its 10th year, and Google brought it back to the Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View where it started. I/O is always big on news, especially in the last few years as Google announced developer previews of upcoming versions of Android. This year, we already have the Android N dev preview, but that didn't stop Google from showing off some cool new features. There are also big changes coming to Chrome OS, messaging, and more.

    Let's take a look at all of Google's I/O 2016 highlights.

    Android N

    The existence of Android N wasn't the big reveal this year. We're actually getting quite familiar with this pre-release OS after two developer previews. The third preview was released at I/O, and Google also talked about some more features coming to Android N.

    There were, of course, demos of things like multi-window and the revamped notifications. We knew all about that, though. Possibly the most interesting new tidbit about Android N is the support for what Google is calling seamless updates. If you've ever used a Chromebook, it'll be very similar. In fact, the Android team borrowed some code from Chrome OS to do this.

    Right now, getting an OTA update, though joyous, is a pain in the butt. You have to restart your device, wait for the OS to unpack and install, then sit through the app optimization process. Devices that ship with Android N won't have to do any of that. Instead, updates will happen in the background as soon as they're available (like a Chromebook). The next time you restart, your phone or tablet will simply boot into the updated OS and that's it.

    So how is this magic possible? Android N will support dual system partitions. The one you're actively using will be online and the other will be offline. When a system update is ready, it will be installed in the offline partition while the device is still in use. Upon reboot, the offline partition becomes online and online becomes offline. Not only is this a faster way to do updates, it provides a fallback in case a bad update breaks something. The device can just boot into the old system and try the update again.

    The Great Tested Garage Sale 2016

    Surprise: we're moving offices! We've been in our current San Francisco office for almost four years now, having moved in when Will, Joey, and I first teamed up with Adam and Jamie. Back then, we shared the office with some engineers (who have since left for other projects), so we didn't maximize the space for our varying production needs. Our lease ended this year, and with more opportunities to shoot videos with Adam, we decided to move to a new location closer to his shop. We're really excited about it!

    Less exciting is the task of moving all of our stuff to the new office. We've accumulated a LOT of stuff over the years, and aren't going to take it all with us. So our hoarding is your gain. On Sunday, May 29th, we're hosting the first ever Tested garage sale to sell everything we're not taking to the new location. That includes collectibles, quads, LEGO, artwork, old projects, equipment, and even office furniture. The sale will take place at our current place (790 Brannan St, San Francisco), between 1 and 5PM. We'll take credit card or cash, but definitely no trades (we don't need more stuff!). All the money we raise from the sale will go to renovating and building out our new studio. Come by to hang out, buy a piece of Tested history, and say goodbye to a space that's served us well for so many years. BYOB. We may even livestream it!

    Once we're settled in the new space, we'll shoot a tour video to share with you. There's a lot of cool new technology that's available now that wasn't possible in 2012, so we can have some fun with virtual tours. What do you all think of a telepresence machine? In the meantime, I've dug up the tour videos from when we first moved into this office four years ago.

    Loyd's Travel Gear: PC, Camera, Power, Bags

    Let's talk road trips! I'm sitting in a hotel room in Austin, Texas as I write this, during after-work time on a business trip. This topic seemed like a timely one. But, I hear you ask, what kind of road trip? Long? Short? Vacation? Business?

    Good point. Rather than try to address each of these as a separate trip category, I'll talk about the stuff first, then how I change what I carry depending on length of trip. For me, time spent away tends to change my travel kit more than the type of trip.


    I carry a laptop most trips, but that laptop has been shrinking over the years. I used to feel I wanted a very thin, relatively light 15-inch notebook — something on the order of a Macbook Pro 15-inch or Dell XPS 15. I've come to realize I mostly use laptops for communication, writing, and super-basic photo editing. I bought a Lenovo Yoga when they first shipped, with a 13.3-inch screen. Even that became too bulky over time, so my go-to travel PC is now Microsoft's Surface Pro 4. The 12.3-inch screen is adequate, and the new Type Cover keyboard works amazingly well. Best of all, it's treated as a tablet by TSA in most locations, so getting I can just leave it in the bag when going through airport security.

    I find myself traveling without a mouse more frequently, though if I plan on using Photoshop, I'll throw a small Bluetooth mouse into the bag. I sometimes also carry an iPad Air 2, but not for shorter trips. The combination of iPhone 6 and Surface Pro 4 addresses most of my computing and browsing needs, but the iPad comes in handy for tablet games and some movie viewing. However, I always carry my Kindle Voyage, which offers weeks-long battery life, useful backlighting, and handles much easier than the iPad for reading.

    How To Fly Illuminated RC Models at Night

    The first time that I flew an RC plane at night, it was illuminated by a few chemical glow sticks that had been hastily taped in place. Unsure of success, I used an old model that wouldn't be missed if things went badly. It was a seat-of-the-pants, half-baked experiment by any measure. Looking back on that experience, it's hard to believe that the soft light of the glow sticks was adequate for me to see the model very well. Yet, the concept was sufficiently proven, and so began my still-active interest in night flying.

    The E-flite Brave is a newly-released ARF night flyer using foam construction. (photo courtesy of Horizon Hobby)

    These days, modelers can choose from a variety of very bright off-the-shelf lighting systems to illuminate their favorite airplane. There are also several Almost Ready to Fly (ARF) models with factory-installed lighting systems. Today, we'll take a look at some of the choices that are available for a moonlight stroll around the flying field.

    Lighting Choices

    The easiest method to make a model suitable for night flying is to add LED light strips. Many electric models already have a 12-volt power source for the lights. (photo courtesy of Hobbico)

    My use of glow sticks was limited to just a few experimental flights. I soon moved to light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to brighten my night flyers. LEDs are ideal because they are adequately bright, very efficient, and they are available in a wide variety of colors. My initial experiences with LEDs required that I pair each diode with a resistor to establish the desired amperage. Setting up a simple model with a couple dozen LEDs required a little Ohm's Law and a lot of soldering.

    Before long, prefabricated strings of LEDs became available. These lights have the LEDs and resistors integrated together on a flexible strip with an adhesive backing. You just snip off the length of light strip that you want and attach a 12-volt DC power source. LED strips are not an RC-specific product. They have been embraced by the DIY crowd for custom PC cases, car accents, home theater lighting, and many other applications.

    While they are not the only lighting option available, LED light strips make the task of creating a night flyer a real no-brainer. Many electric-powered airplane models use a 3-cell Lithium-Polymer battery, which has 12.6 volts at full charge. It is a simple matter to tap into this battery to also power the lights.

    Tested: Carvey Desktop CNC Machine Review

    We test the Carvey, a desktop CNC machine from Inventables. Unlike the X-Carve, this three-axis mill is enclosed for office use and designed for simplicity and safety. Using the web-based Easel software, we're able to create a design and cut it on a sheet of plastic in just a few minutes. The simplicity limits its versatility, so it may be better suited for classrooms than large working shops.

    Tested: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Video Card

    GTX 1080 seems like such an odd product name, since it brings up the specter of gaming on a 1080p display. The GTX 1080 kills 1080p gaming dead, makes 1440p gaming the new normal, and finally puts 4K gaming within reach of a single GPU. While the GTX 1080 offers great performance, other attributes make the new GPU attractive for gamers. Let's be clear: the GTX 1080 represents the fastest single GPU graphics card you can buy, but performance may not be the primary reason to buy this card.

    By the Numbers

    Let's first touch on base specifications. Based on Nvidia's latest Pascal GPU architecture, Nvidia builds the GTX 1080 on a 16nm FinFET process at Taiwan's TSMC fab. This represents the first process shrink for an Nvidia GPU in two architectural generations, since the original Kepler-based GTX 680 moved to 28nm. FinFET technology incorporates transistors which extend vertically (the "fin"). FinFET reduces current leakage, enabling greater power efficiency. This allows Nvidia to build monster GPU chips without creating space heaters, if you will.

    That process technology allows Nvidia to create 7.2 billion transistor GPU using a 314mm2 die, considerably smaller than the GTX 980 die while stuffing an additional two billion transistors. This smaller, denser chip clocks at 1.6GHz base clock and 1.73GHz in boost mode; the GPU looks like it offers substantial overclocking headroom, if that floats your boat.

    In addition to all the process technology goodness, the GTX 1080 uses Micron's shiny new GDDR5X memory technology, which transfers data at 10 gigatranfers per second, boosting memory bandwidth by 30% over the GTX 1080 and within striking distance of the memory bandwidth of the massive GTX Titan while using a narrower, 256-bit memory bus. Pascal also improves on Maxwell's memory compression with its fourth generation delta color compression. Depending on game title, the new color compression techniques improve bandwidth 15-30%.

    The bottom line: the GTX 1080 has almost as many shader cores as the GTX 980 Ti, runs them 60% faster, and can move data almost as quickly. Based on these numbers alone, we'd expect a serious performance uptick.

    MIT Ingestible Origami Robot Design

    From MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab: "Researchers at MIT, the University of Sheffield, and the Tokyo Institute of Technology have demonstrated a tiny origami robot that can unfold itself from a swallowed capsule and, steered by external magnetic fields, crawl across the stomach wall to remove a swallowed button battery or patch a wound." Read more about how this robot was designed for the human body here.

    Stress Testing Drones in a High-Tech Wind Vortex

    Vice Motherboard visited WINDEE, a Canadian testing facility where researchers simulate environmental stress tests on structures and vehicles. The facility has a tornado testing chamber, utilizing 100 fans and a programmable cityscape to simulate wind patterns above cities. It's there that they fly consumer quadcopters to learn how they perform in unpredictable weather. Read more about their visit here.

    In Brief: Terry's RC Roundtable Podcast

    I wanted to let Tested readers know about RC Roundtable, a new podcast about radio-control modeling. The podcast is hosted by a trio of RC fanatics that includes me and my pals Fitz Walker, and Lee Ray. I'm sure that we'll be covering most aspects of RC, but we're mainly into things that fly. We try to make the conversation fun, entertaining, and educational.

    Our second episode just went live. In it, we talk about our personal experiences with having designs stolen, high-voltage LiPo batteries, proper wire sizing, and much more. Visit our website to listen over the web or download MP3s. We'll soon be on iTunes as well. All three of us are new to the podcast game, so we're anxious for feedback to help us make the show better.

    Terry 1
    Tested: Microsoft Band 2 Review

    While smartphones have reached a point of maturity, the smart wearable devices that grew from them are still very much in their infancy. These companion devices offer a way to quickly see notifications from your phone and collect some sort of fitness data. Most smart wearables are also shaped like a traditional watch. Microsoft's offering in this category is a bit different than most. The Microsoft Band, as the name suggests, falls more into the fitness band side of the wearables. It also differs greatly from devices such as the Apple Watch or Moto 360 in that it works with iOS and Android devices, in addition to Windows. I've been testing the Band 2 for about three months.

    Smart enough for notifications, but not much else

    Functionally, the Band 2 is nearly identical to the first Band. However, a completely new design featuring a curved display and a flexible strap makes the latest Band vastly more comfortable to wear. Microsoft's wearable can be worn on either wrist with the screen facing out or in, but it's meant to be worn with the screen facing in. (As evident of the heart rate sensor being placed behind the screen and the UV sensor placed on the outside of the clasp.) So, instead of bringing your arm across your body like you would to read a watch, you bring your arm straight up to look at and interact with the Band.

    There are two buttons on the device; a power button and a smaller action button. The later of the two is used to execute, well, actions, such as starting a workout. A quick double press of the power button will also open music playback controls. The device itself doesn't have a speaker or headphone jack. But, if you strap your phone to your arm while running and listen to music, these controls can be fairly useful.

    Serving simply as a timekeeper, the Band 2's Watch Mode functions similar to the Glance screen on Lumia phones. When set to Always on or Rotate on, activating only when you bring your arm up, the 320x128 AMOLED display will be in a low power state and show only the time and date. I have mine set to Rotate on and it has always worked as expected.

    Bits to Atoms: How Carbon's CLIP 3D Printing Technology Works

    Carbon3D (now going by just Carbon) has been all the buzz in the 3D printing community with their M1 printer which uses CLIP technology to greatly increase the speed and quality of DLP printing. The Tested team visited Carbon HQ outside of San Francisco to see exactly how this new tech works.

    As we've discussed before, 3D printing with UV-cured resin tends to offer the highest level of detail and choice of material (compared to 3D printing processes like FDM). Let's review the options. SLA (Stereolithography), such as the Formlabs Form 2, draws and cures each layer of resin using a laser. DLP (Digital Light Processing) uses video projector technology to draw and cure each layer in one blast. Polyjet uses an inkjet-like head to draw each layer on a platform and is cured via a UV light unit. Now, Carbon is introducing CLIP (Continuous Liquid Interface Production) which drastically increases printing speeds and improves surface finish--but how does it work?

    First let's look at the normal SLA or DLP printing process. The model is 'drawn' layer by layer via laser or projector onto a print platform and must go through a peel process after each layer. Exactly how the peel is done varies by printer and technique but it generally consists of the print platform, moving out of the way so that the resin can be redistributed for the next layer. This slows down the printing process and also requires generating support structures to hold the print steady.

    Carbon's CLIP technology eliminates the peel process by using an oxygenated layer of resin between the resin tray window and the print itself. This layer creates a dead zone which allows the print to emerge continuously from the resin tray, skipping the peel process. OK, but how does that happen? The secret is in the M1 resin tray, called a 'cassette' which holds the resin and has an oxygen-permeable window in the bottom which a DLP unit shines light through. Carbon won't divulge exactly how the chemistry works but the cassette allows a resin layer between the window and where the printing happens to be oxygenated which inhibits the curing process while still allowing the DLP light to shine through and solidify the resin above. I know--it sounds crazy.

    Meet the Carbon M1 Super Fast 3D Printer

    Watch this complex object get 3D printed in less than 15 minutes. Sean and Norm visit Carbon, the makers of the M1 3D printer, to get a demo of this new super fast 3D printing technology working in real-time. We chat with Carbon's VP of Product, Kirk Phelps, to learn how the CLIP 3D printing tech works, and why it's more than just about really fast prints.

    Google Play App Roundup: Slash Keyboard, Bushido Bear, and Leap Day

    Your Android phone is capable of a lot of cool things, but it's the apps that make that possible. Developers have access to all sorts of hooks in the system to make your phone do amazing things, you just have to find the right stuff. That's what the weekly Google Play App Roundup is all about -- helping you find the right apps. Just click on the app name to head right to the Play Store and pick it up yourself.

    Slash Keyboard

    You might have caught the news last week that Google released a keyboard app for iOS called Gboard. Its claim to fame is that it has Google search built right in. You can grab results and paste them in without leaving the app. That's not available on Android yet (weirdly), but there's actually an app that came out a few weeks back called Slash keyboard that has similar features. It's pretty relevant now, though.

    They call it Slash Keyboard because you trigger all its special search features by adding a slash to whatever you're typing. It works in any app too. For example, you're typing a message and making plans to meet up. You want to send them the location of some bar or restaurant, but switching apps is a pain. Just type /maps and enter your search term. The results appear in a scrollable bar right above the keyboard. When you tap a result, it will be pasted into the text field.

    That's just one possible use case. This keyboard app supports more than 20 services including Google search, Twitter, Giphy, Spotify, YouTube, and more. There's also a cool /pin command that instantly shares your current location. The keyboard will start suggesting slashes as soon as you enter one, but there's also a quick access bar at the top of the keyboard that starts your favorite slashes instantly. You can change the order or disable the bar entirely.

    Slash also includes custom slashes, which are basically shortcodes you can input to automatically expand into your chosen text. You might make one for your address or other contact info you don't want to type all the time.

    As for its performance as an actual keyboard, Slash does well. I wouldn't say it's my favorite keyboard, mostly because it lacks swipe input, which I use often. The theme does fit with Android, and you might not even notice at first it's not the stock keyboard. My only real UI complaint is that Slash takes up a lot of vertical space when you're performing searches. I don't know that there's really a way to solve that, though.

    Slash Keyboard is free and worth a look if you like the idea of Gboard.

    Introduction to 3D Modeling for Prop and Costume Making

    Through a weird and winding job path, I landed a pretty compelling career as a prop and costume maker, but I that's not where I intended to go when I started. When I was a starry eyed youth, I had ambitions of being a professional 3D modeler and animator for movies and video games! I even went to school for, and got a degree in, 3D computer art, modeling, and animation. Then life happened and I never actually got a real job doing any of that. I did, however, end up in a highly creative field that requires me to keep my fabrication skills finely honed and to keep pushing myself to make things better and faster.

    Why should I learn 3D Modeling?

    Enter my 3D modeling skills! In prop and costume making, I've found that being competent at 3D modeling has been an amazing boon to the productivity and quality of the pieces I produce. The obvious first reason is the current 3D printing craze. 3D models of props can be made real with affordable desktop printers at an alarming rate. This rapid prototyping makes iterating prop designs a snap! Not only can props be made completely from printed parts, but those prints can be used to design, scale, and test parts quickly and easily.

    These blaster grips were printed several times to adjust for the scale and thickness to get them just right.

    3D drafting can also provide a bevy of other benefits to the prop maker, even if one doesn't own a 3D printer. One of my other favorite outputs for my models is Pepakura. Many makers rely on the pep files that other makers release online to print out and make their own Iron Man helmets and armor pieces, but what if nobody has modeled the specific piece that you want to recreate? You're going to have to model it yourself!

    If you make your own Pepakura models, you have complete control over the size and form of the final pieces. This flexibility will give you the power to make pieces that will fit whatever body you plan to put them on. Plus you can design the Pepakura to work with materials of a variety of thicknesses (EVA foam vs. cardstock).