Latest StoriesTech
    Collegiate Teams Compete at RC Airplane Heavy-Lift Challenge

    Who knew that RC flying and weightlifting could be morphed together? All you have to do is omit the dumbbells and tight Lycra outfits of weightlifting. Then get rid of the aerobatics and crashes of RC flying. Oh, wait…keep the crashes. There are lots of those in RC heavy-lifting!

    The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has been hosting heavy-lift competitions for collegiate teams since the 1980s. It has grown to include two events each year, SAE Aero Design East and West. Not only is the competition fierce, just getting in can be a challenge. Spots fill up fast and many teams are pushed to a waiting list.

    SAE Aero Design West for 2017 took place in Fort Worth, Texas during the second weekend in March. SAE and the Fort Worth Thunderbirds RC club hosted more than 70 teams from colleges and universities all over the world. Most of the teams had been preparing for months to get to this point. Some would find success as aerial pack mules. Others, well…not so much.

    Mighty Micros

    The event is divided into three distinct classes: Micro, Regular, and Advanced. While the overall goal for every team is to carry a relatively heavy load, each class has its own specific rules and objectives. In the Micro class, the airplanes could be disassembled into subcomponents. These pieces were stored in a tube no more than 6 inches (15.2 cm) in diameter. The length of the tube was not defined, but the overall weight of the loaded tube could not exceed 10 pounds (4.5 kg). The scoring system encouraged smaller tubes. Some teams managed to pack their model into tubes as short as 3.5 inches (8.9 cm)!

    PROJECTIONS, Episode 4: Full Body Tracking in VR

    We demo Cloud Gate Studio's custom full-body tracking system using the HTC Vive tracker accessories. With our hips and feet put into the game, the developers are able to create a convincing full-body avatar and enable new interactions like kicking virtual dinosaurs! Plus, a discussion on the concept of presence and why we're obsessed with Rec Room.

    Google Play App Roundup: GrammarPal, Cosmic Express, and Too Many Dangers

    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.

    GrammarPal

    In the age of the internet, grammar has taken a backseat to memes and emoji. Let's bring it back. GrammarPal can help. This app scans the text you write on your device, looking for more than simple misspellings. It offers corrections to your grammar in a handy popup window. I could point out the irony of a grammar app having a CammelCase name, but let's just move one.

    You have to go through a few steps to set up and use GrammarPal, but it does a good job of walking you through the process. When enabled, GrammarPal shows up as a floating button next to your text input field. You can safely ignore it if you're just typing a few words that don't need to be checked, though it's bright green and there's no option for transparency. It kind of sticks out. At least you can move it around, and GrammarPal will remember that position for each app.

    After you type something out, tap the GrammarPal button and it'll scan your text. It does spell checking, but your phone probably does that too. The value here is that it uses the context of your sentences to figure out if you made any typos that are technically correctly spelled words. For example, using "to" when you meant "too." The GrammarPal icon will indicate the number of detected problems after scanning. Tap it again to open the editing panel at the bottom of the screen.

    The expanded GrammarPal interface shows you the text with color coded highlights for the various issues. Misspellings are red, style issues are blue, and all others are yellow. Tap on any of the highlights to get a suggestion of what to change. The buttons at the top allow you to copy the new text or automatically replace the old text. You can also just close this panel without changing anything. Unrecognized words can be added to the GrammarPal dictionary too.

    I've found GrammarPal's corrections to be right most of the time, and it does catch things that normal spell checking misses. It could be useful, depending on how concerned you are with using proper grammar in text messages and Facebook posts. The app is free and has no ads. There's a $1.99 in-app purchase that adds a few new features like dictionary backups and layout customization.

    Martin Müller Designs RC Vehicles that Fly at Appropriately Scaled Speeds

    I'm sure we've all had the experience of watching a huge airliner fly overhead at what appears to be an impossibly slow speed. Most of these jets have to be moving at least 240 kilometers per hour (150 miles per hour) just to get off the ground. Although we certainly realize that they are actually flying quite swiftly, that knowledge doesn't jibe with the tortoise-like pace that our eyes are seeing.

    Martin Müller's Airbus A310 model is able to fly at super-slow scale airspeeds thanks in part to its helium-filled fuselage.

    We can recreate flying replicas of airplanes in just about any imaginable size and level of detail. Yet, that illusion of speed (or lack thereof) almost never translates well. Most RC models appear to be flying much faster than their full-scale brothers. Martin Müller decided to address that disconnect.

    Martin's idea was to create a scale model of an Airbus A310 airliner that would fly at scale speeds. This meant that his 2-meter-span (79 in) Airbus (approximately 1/22-scale) would have a takeoff speed of about 3 meters per second (6.7 mph). Martin knew that creating a model capable of flying at such slow speeds would require an extreme emphasis on shedding weight and more than a little bit of clever thinking.

    Müller is no stranger to innovation in the RC world. Around 2003, he developed the Ikarus Shock Flyer, a series of highly aerobatic models made of simple sheet foam with carbon fiber bracing. While the Shock Flyers were meant for indoor aerobatic competitions, they unintentionally spawned a whole new genre of RC models: profile foamies. These types of models can be dreamt, designed, and built in a matter of a few hours. More-traditional balsa designs often require weeks or months to get off the ground. Martin also designed several molded-foam models for Multiplex, including the Park Master, Gemini, and uber-popular Fun Cub.

    How Weta Workshop Made Ghost in the Shell's Robot Skeleton!

    Adam Savage gets up close with the one-of-a-kind 3D-printed endoskeleton Weta Workshop made for the upcoming Ghost in the Shell. Chatting with Weta Workshop technician Jared Haley in the studio's 3D modeling room, Adam learns about the experimentation and prototyping necessary to make this gobsmackingly beautiful prop.

    PROJECTIONS, Episode 3: Sprint Vector Multiplayer VR Racing!

    This week, Jeremy and Norm dive into a discussion about the challenge of locomotion in VR--how different games allow players to travel around their virtual worlds. We talk about a new game we demoed at GDC, which combines four different locomotion mechanics for multiplayer sprint races.

    Google Play App Roundup: Focus Timer Reborn, Mushroom 11, and Hardway

    A new week has dawned, 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 Google Play.Just hit the links to zoom right to the Play Store.

    Focus Timer Reborn

    Making time to get work done is not always easy. In fact, your phone can sometimes be a tempting distraction that keeps you from digging in and making some progress. With Focus Timer Reborn, it might be quite the opposite. This app helps you split up your time for more efficient work.

    Focus Timer Reborn is based on the idea that you can be more productive if you use a series of short break and slightly longer work periods. The app defaults to using 25 minute periods of focused work, short 5-minute breaks, and longer 25 minute breaks. This is based loosely on the pomodoro method. The app includes options to set goals, configurable lengths of time, and stats to help you do this. The customization lets you use whatever version of work timers you like. Some people prefer the a 52-minute session of work followed by a 17-minute break.

    The main screen in Focus Timer Reborn is the timer, which makes sense for an app that's supposed to help you get work done. Just tap the start button and get to it. You can also choose a short or longer break from this screen. Again, these lengths of time can be changed in the app's settings. There's also a handy notification available when the timer is running. It includes the remaining time and a stop button.

    All your work periods are automatically logged in the Log tab, accessible at the bottom of the UI. This is a scrollable week view showing all the work blocks you entered. If for some reason you forget to start the app, you can manually enter a block of time in the log. The far right tab is for tracking goals. The default setting for each day is 8 blocks of focused work per day.

    Focus Timer Reborn is also available online, and it syncs with the app. The app supports Google login. Thus, you can start a session on one device and pick it up on another, as long as you log into the app and web with the same account. Focus Timer Reborn is a solid app if you want to give a time management scheme a shot. It's free and there are no ads.

    Making a Laser-Cut Nintendo Switch Stand

    Here's a simple and timely project for your laser cutter: a custom Nintendo Switch stand that holds it at more usable angle than the built-in kickstand and allows USB-C port access for charging. Frank sketches out the design and puts it together using threaded rod. Download the SVG file here!

    The Best Unlocked and Carrier Android Smartphone (March 2017)

    Buying a new phone is a big decision, especially now that there are so many good choices. You don't just want a good one, though. You want the best phone that will serve you well for at least a year or two. As we head into the first round of 2017 phone releases, you've got some decisions to make. Buying a phone right now comes with a higher than usual risk of buyer's remorse, but that's not a sure thing.

    In a few months we'll have all-new flagship phones on the market, but you can still get something right now. Let's break it down.

    Carrier Phones

    If you want to go through your carrier to get one of the various payment plan or promo deals, your options are a little limited right now. The Galaxy S7 is still just as good as it was a month ago, but we're now mere weeks away from the Galaxy S8 announcement. Then there's the V20, which has been superseded by the LG G6 announcement. On Verizon, you can still get the Pixel, and there's no newer version of that coming any time soon.

    Here's my advice. If you need to get a carrier phone right now and you're not on Verizon, get a Galaxy S7. The S7 and S7 Edge are perfectly capable pieces of hardware with Super AMOLED panels at 2560x1440 resolution. The GS7 is 5.1-inches, while the Edge variant has a larger 5.5-inch display. Inside is a Snapdragon 820, 4GB of RAM, and 32GB of storage with a microSD card slot. The GS7 battery is 3,000mAh and the GS7 Edge is 3,600mAh.

    Google Play App Roundup: GlassWire, Linia, and Island Delta

    Your phone or tablet might be cool, but it could be a lot cooler with the right apps. So what? Spend like mad until you find the apps that suit your needs? Nah, just read the weekly Google Play App Roundup here on Tested. We strive to bring you the best new, and newly updated apps on Android. Just click the app name to head to the Play Store.

    GlassWire

    Android has tools for tracking data usage, but they're clunky and haven't been improved much in years. GlassWire is a new app that tracks your data usage with higher precision with an eye toward monitoring your privacy. You can see which apps use data, when they do it, and understand how that fits with your overall data usage patterns.

    After granting the app usage access it will begin logging data usage in real time. That means an ongoing (but low-priority) notification to keep the service alive. The main screen in GlassWire is a graph that shows data usage over time as a series of peaks, color coded for up and download. Below that is a list of each app that has used data, also with color coding for up and down. The data displayed on this screen can be set to various lengths of time from five minutes to 90 days. The graph also has options for all data, WiFi only, and mobile only. On the shorter time scale, you can actually see the graph change as apps run tasks in the background.

    You can get additional info including a graph of just the data usage for that app with the same controls as above. You also get information about when it was installed, updated, and when data usage was first detected. There's a permission settings link as well.

    The usage section of the app breaks down all your data by month with a smaller graph, a pie chart, and an individual list of apps. Then there's the data plan monitor, which you need to set up with your plan details. Tell it your cap, plan reset data, and set up alerts. The app can tell you when you're almost out of data. There are custom alerts as well.

    GlassWire is a free app, which naturally leads you to wonder what they're after. GlassWire is not a marketing or advertising company, so the devs claim they don't want your data. There's a desktop version of GlassWire (linked in the app) that has a premium upgrade. There's no such upgrade in the Android version, but I would not be surprised to see that happen later. So, if you believe what the company says, your data is not being collected. For now, it's just free.

    GlassWire looks like the best of these data logging apps. It has a modern material design, good features, and it's not after your personal data.

    Hands-On with LG's Virtual Reality Headset Prototype!

    LG is the newest hardware company to adopt Valve's SteamVR roomscale tracking technology for their own virtual reality headset. We put on the LG development kit HMD prototype to test its ergonomics, chat with an LG engineer to learn its specfications, and share our impressions. Choice for VR adopters is a good thing!

    PROJECTIONS, Episode 2: Oculus GDC Demos, The Future of Rift

    It's the week of the Game Developers Conference! Jeremy and Norm spend a day demoing new Oculus VR games, have a wide-ranging chat wtih Head of Rift Nate Mitchell, and give their impressions on the new Oculus pricing news. Plus, we spotlight the PSVR game Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin!

    The Risks of Buying A Cheap RC Truck

    It's definitely true that you get what you pay for. But as a noob, it's often difficult to recognize or understand what you sacrifice with a bottom-end model. So let's take a look at one of the least expensive 1/10-scale hobby-grade RC trucks available, the ECX Amp, and analyze the pros and cons of pinching pennies.

    Analyzing the Amp

    The Amp is a 2-wheel-drive truck that comes pre-built or as a kit. Both versions are priced at $130 and include a radio, battery, and charger. You only need to add 4 AA batteries for the transmitter. The kit version also requires paint for the clear plastic body. Obviously, the pre-built version will get you on the road sooner. But the kit version will jump start your knowledge of how RC cars work. Learn now or learn later. The choice is yours.

    I highly recommend choosing a 1/10-scale model for your first RC car. They are large enough that the components are easy to work on. At the same time, these cars and trucks are not so large that replacement parts and hop-ups are prohibitively expensive.

    The ECX Amp is one of the least expensive hobby-grade trucks available. What do you sacrifice by going cheap?

    Like most modern off-road models, the Amp has a molded plastic chassis, long suspension arms and oil-filled coil-over shocks. I've crashed the truck into a few immovable objects and it has proven to be tough.

    The transmission has a gear-type differential. Many racing cars and trucks use limited-slip differentials. While limited-slip diffs allow tuning options, they are also more difficult to assemble and require maintenance. Gear differentials are very tough and work well in most situations. They're definitely the best bet for newcomers.

    Which Network Carrier Has the Best Unlimited Data Plan?

    It was only a few years ago that most of the big US carriers were trying to tell us we didn't need unlimited data, Verizon was even running ads to that effect a few weeks ago. Now, here we are in the midst of a new battle for the best "unlimited" data plan among the top four carriers. Of course, there are a surprising number of limits in these plans.

    Carriers start throttling your usage at different points, and not all plans include full HD video by default. There are also some differences in tethering support. Let's see how they stack up.

    Verizon Unlimited

    It was Verizon that kicked off the latest round of interest in unlimited plans after it brought back the option with much fanfare a few weeks ago. Verizon has allowed users to keep their grandfathered unlimited plans from years ago, but the throttling kicks in faster and more aggressively than with the new plan.

    Cost: Verizon's plan start at $80 for unlimited data on a single line. Two lines is $140, three is $162, and four is $180. The 4-line pricing is the best overall deal on a cost per-line basis. These prices all assume you get the $5 per month discount for auto-pay. Phone payments are extra, of course. The marketing on this is very straightforward.

    Tethering: Verizon's unlimited plan includes 10GB of LTE tethering. After you've used your allotment, you can keep tethering at 3G speeds.

    Throttling: Verizon will deprioritize your connection after you've used 22GB in a single billing cycle. That doesn't mean you'll instantly see your speeds decrease, but your speeds will probably slow when towers are congested. Verizon does throttle video, but at a poorly explained "HD" bitrate. You should be able to stream 1080p resolution fine. No other media types are throttled.

    Google Play App Roundup: Shortcutter, Avalanche, and Gravity Galaxy

    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.

    Shortcutter

    Google's included quick settings tiles are pretty robust these days, and some OEMs even add a few more for good measure. They don't have everything, though. That's where Nougat's new quick settings tile API comes in. Shortcutter is one of a new breed of apps that add additional tiles to the quick settings. This app has a lot of features in the free version, and there are some goodies exclusively for rooted users.

    After installing Shortcutter, you'll need to open the app to run through a quick setup process. The app needs access to modify your settings and change the do not disturb features. It only takes a few seconds and the app is very clear about what you have to do. The only settings in the app to be modified are the custom URL and app shortcuts. There's only one of each in the free version, but the upgraded premium app (a $2.99 ad-on) increases that the four of each.

    Adding Shortcutter tiles to the quick settings works just like managing the stock tiles. Open the editing panel and long-press to drag in the new tiles. If you're not rooted, you get a reasonable selection of tiles (in addition to the aforementioned custom URL and app shortcuts). There's next alarm, screen timeout, ring mode, haptic feedback, camera launcher, and more. With root, you get tiles for things like Reboot, ADB, ambient display, and network mode.

    It's quite robust for a free app. One thing I would like to see added is a way to disable Shortcutter toggles you don't intend to use. The list of tiles in the quick settings edit panel can be a little unwieldy, especially if you install a few tile managers.

    PROJECTIONS, Episode 1: The Mage's Tale, rEvolve Prototype Hands-On

    Welcome to PROJECTIONS, a new show about the latest in virtual and augmented reality. This inaugural episode kicks off with a discussion of depth in VR games, an exclusive hands-on preview of The Mage's Tale, and a spotlight on the rEvolve accessory prototype for the HTC Vive. Let us know what you think, and what you'd like to see in future episodes!

    AMD's CPUs You Should Consider For Your Next PC Build

    After floundering for the last five years with their Bulldozer architecture and its derivatives, AMD is releasing processors based on a new architecture called Zen. The Ryzen CPUs, starting with the high end chips launching this March, have been made to tackle Intel head on.

    On March 2nd AMD is releasing three high end CPUs aimed at gamers, content creators, and enthusiasts, all with 8 cores and 16 threads. The Ryzen 7 1800X is the flagship with a base clock of 3.6GHz, a boost speed of 4.0GHz, a TDP of 95W, and retails for $500. AMD is claiming that this chip will outperform Intel's core i7 6900K by 9% in multi threaded work and is dead even in single thread performance. The 6900K is also an 8 core/16 thread CPU, has a clock speed of 3.2GHz and a turbo of 3.7GHz. It'll also run you about $1050.

    In the middle is the 1700X with a base clock speed of 3.4GHz and a 3.8GHz boost clock. This is also a 95W TDP chip. AMD claims this will significantly outperform the core i7 6800K, which has 2 fewer cores, in multi threaded workloads by 39%. The 1700X will cost slightly less at $400 compared to about $425 for the 6800K.

    Finally, the 1700 rounds out the high end. For $330 you're getting a CPU with a base clock of 3.0GHz, a boost speed of 3.7GHz, and a TDP of only 65W. Intel's core i7 7700K ($350), which AMD is choosing to compare to, only has 4 cores and a TDP of 91W. The i7's 4.2GHz clock and 4.5GHz turbo will be faster in single threaded performance, but AMD is claiming up to 46% better performance in multi threaded applications.

    Later this year AMD will also release chips for the Ryzen 5 class, which sits in the middle, and the Ryzen 3 class, which will be more budget oriented. Leaked benchmarks of the Ryzen 5 1600X, a 6 core/12 thread CPU, show it outperforming many i7 processors, so that's definitely something to look out for in a few months.