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    Hands-On with NASA's HoloLens Mars Demo

    NASA has been working with Microsoft's HoloLens technology to allow its Mars Curiosity rover engineers to visualize Mars and plan missions for the robot. We try a version of this OnSight application and chat with NASA's Dave Lavery about the potential of this kind of mobile virtual reality.

    Airplane Origami: How Folding Wings Work

    I recently found myself with a few hours to kill while in the Dallas, Texas area. On the advice of a Tested reader, I made my way to the Cavanaugh Flight Museum, and I'm glad I did. Cavanaugh is my favorite kind of aviation museum to visit. It has a very eclectic mix of static and airworthy aircraft that spans from WWI to the modern era. Several of the airplanes in the museum's collection are combat veterans as well.

    Of all the various aircraft vying for my attention, the one that I spent the most time with was a humble-looking former navy machine, the Grumman S-2F Tracker. While I had seen various versions of the cold-war-era S-2 at airshows, this was the first opportunity I'd had to get a good up-close look at its wing folding mechanism.

    The many components that are visible in the wing fold of the Grumman S-2F Tracker piqued my interest in the intricacies of folding wing design and operation.

    The S-2F was parked outdoors with its wings folded as if it were on an aircraft carrier. I spent several minutes analyzing the various parts that were visible at the wing folds while trying to figure out the purpose of each. The functions of some components seemed obvious, but most remained a mystery. I walked away utterly fascinated by the intricacies of folding wings and determined to learn more.

    It's All About Elbow Room

    The concept of folding wings is nearly as old as aviation itself. Irish airplane company, Short Brothers, developed a series of biplanes with folding wings prior to the start of WWI. The idea has persevered with most modern naval aircraft, and even the Boeing 777X passenger jet. The goal of folding wings in every instance is to give the airplane a smaller storage footprint when not in use.

    The F4F Wildcat was the first airplane to use Grumman's Sto-Wing hinge design, which mimics how birds rest their wings.

    Wide-spread implementation of folding wings came about during WWII with the emergence of the aircraft carrier as the prime offensive naval weapon. Folding wings allowed up to 50% more aircraft to be stored aboard these ships. By the end of the war, folding wings were standard equipment on nearly every carrier-based aircraft. There have been very few exceptions in the decades since.

    Testing: The LG G5 Android Smartphone

    LG has been chasing its hometown rival Samsung in the Android ecosystem for years now, but it's never managed to beat Samsung. The LG G5 is LG's attempt to address concerns about its materials and design while also keeping the features that set it apart from other Android OEMs. The G5 has an aluminum frame, whereas past phones were plastic. At the same time, it keeps the removable battery and adds a system of modular accessories. Is this enough to make for a compelling flagship phone?

    I've been using the G5 for a few weeks, so let's see how it stacks up to the competition.

    Design and Display

    The G5 is an aluminum phone, which is a big deal for LG. In the past, it has been criticized for sticking with plastic materials while its competition used more impressive metal and glass designs. However, the way LG is using aluminum is probably not the way you would have expected. In fact, there's been a lot of argument about this on the internet.

    So here's the deal: the G5 is a metal phone, but it doesn't feel like one. There's a thick layer of synthetic polymer primer on top of the metal that hides the antennas on the back panel. Most metal phones have those plastic lines across the back (think iPhone), but LG decided it wanted to hide those. The solution seems bizarre to me because part of the appeal of a metal phone is that it feels like metal. The upshot of all this is the smooth back (if you like that), and a more rigid frame that allows for the unique battery system (more on that shortly).

    Also on the back is the power button with built-in fingerprint sensor. The volume rocker has, sadly, moved back to the side of the phone. I quite liked it on the back with previous LG phones. The fingerprint sensor works well enough, but it's not as good as the ones from Google, Samsung, and HTC.

    On the bottom is the mono speaker, which is fine, and the new USB 3.0 Type-C port. The Type-C port will mean ditching all your old cables, but this is the standard of the future. Best we all just get with the program. The addition of Quick Charge 3.0 is nice as well.

    LG has again gone with a 2560x1440 resolution LCD—it was the first mainstream OEM to do that with the LG G3 two years ago. The G4 was an improvement over that phone, and the G5 improves even further. The colors are solid and accurate without any of the blown out reds of some LCDs that are trying to emulate AMOLED. With the high resolution, this 5.3-inch panel is very dense and produces crisp images. The outdoor brightness is impressive as well. Some people are noticing some backlight bleed, but I haven't seen that one my unit.

    In Brief: Hover Camera Drone Folds Up for Portability

    Zero Zero Robotics' just-announced Hover Camera quadcopter is very interesting: it's a 240 gram drone that's designed to unfold and deploy from your hand to take steady photos and videos of you--automatically. The idea of a small selfie drone isn't new (we saw it with the Nixie drone), nor is the idea of a lightweight foldable quad (as we've seen with Vantage Robotics' Snap). Portability and ease-of-use is going to be a big deal for these kinds of small photo quads, but reliability and the ability to take photos/videos that you'll actually care about is the more important thing. I hope that the Hover Camera's makers keep the features simple to ensure that it actually works the way users expect it to. Looking forward to testing the $600 device this summer.

    Norman
    Tested: DJI Phantom 4 Review

    After flying DJI's Phantom 4 quadcopter for a month, we share our evaluations of this new drone's ambitious features: the new obstacle avoidance system, active subject tracking, sport mode, and increased battery life. Here's why we think you're better off buying last year's Phantom 3 model.

    The Full-Tower PC Case is a Dinosaur

    I'd like to touch on something I ranted about a bit in the April 19 Improbable Insights podcast. The full-tower case is a dinosaur.

    Look, I know some of you out there love your triple-GPU, overclocked, liquid-cooled monster PCs. I love that you love building and using these lumbering beasts, and more power to you. However, most people don't game on triple-4K displays, and the headaches of managing SLI and CrossFire to get a good gaming experience gives me heartburn thinking about it. I know, because I've run SLI rigs, only to be disappointed with lackluster game support, awful image artifacts, and all that heat. I suppose it's a good thing that DX12 offers improved support for multiple GPUs, but game publishers still see multi-GPU setups as fringe cases. (Haha, see what I did there?)

    Unless you're dead set on running three GPUs, you don't need a full-size ATX motherboard. Most higher-end micro-ATX boards implement SLI and CrossFireX support, so you can run your twin graphics cards if you so desire. Micro-ATX mobos typically have four expansion slots; with the right slot setup, you could have your dual GPUs plus another card, be it a PCIe SSD or sound card. You can find a rich selection of micro-ATX motherboards offering serious overclocking support, amenities for liquid cooling, and other high-end features. Only a few years ago, only a few paltry micro ATX boards existed, mainly serving price-conscious buyers. Not so today.

    Mini-ITX motherboards allow you to build even smaller systems, as I did with my itty-bitty gaming rig. As with micro-ATX boards, the selection of mini-ITX boards expanded substantially over the past few years, and even include boards aimed at high end gaming — though you're still limited to one graphics card.

    Google's Virtual Art Sessions Illustrate Tilt Brush VR

    Here's an innovative demonstration of mixed reality: Google recently launched a Virtual Art Sessions Chrome browser experiment, which plays back art being drawn and created in the Tilt Brush virtual reality tool. You can watch the pieces being created in real-time or sped up, but what's even cooler is the use of depth-sensors (Microsoft Kinect cameras) to capture the artists' form as they draw. That gives these demos a 3D point cloud representing the artist, and lets you pan and rotate the virtual camera around both the artists and their art pieces throughout playback.

    Building Fallout 4 T-60 Power Armor, Part 2

    Last time, I shared how we tackled the digital design planning for the Fallout 4 Power Armor build. We extracted the game models using NifSkope, prepared them for our build by increasing their detail in Blender, then finally cut them into sections that would fit on our 3D printers in NetFabb. With our first batch of models are ready to produce, it's time to send them to the machines to create and get them looking nice.

    I'll be using the helmet and the large shoulders to demonstrate the techniques I use to go from raw 3D print to finished master ready for molding. But same process is used whether I'm making something small like a detail piece or a weapon, or the big printed sections of armor. For this build, we'll be using the 3D printer for the interior "frame" pieces, the large shoulders, and the back armor as well as some of the smaller detail bits throughout the armor like the oversized bolts on the knees and the oil filters under the chest.

    I print exclusively in ABS plastic because of some interesting post processing methods available, specifically being able to use acetone to smooth your prints to reduce or eliminate the print "grain" visible at each layer in the printing process. This is not acetone vapor smoothing, which looks really pretty but softens up all of the hard edges we worked to preserve, but rather a solution mixed up and painted directly on to the part. I'll create a batch of "ABS juice" to paint the surface with a brush that both fills in the valleys of the print lines like a body filler, and also acts to soften up and smooth down the high points.

    Photo Gallery: Monsterpalooza 2016

    We spent this past weekend at Monsterpalooza, the annual creature and makeup effects convention in Pasadena. It was an awesome place to meet sculptors, painters, and other artists showing off their personal projects, and in many cases, selling resin kits (I picked up a few). The event was one big mutual appreciation society--the place to put faces to Instagram art accounts and discover many new ones to follow. Frank and Len recorded two episodes of Creature Geek there, too! Here are some photos from the show, and we'll have videos and interviews we shot there on the site in the coming days!

    Google Play App Roundup: Screenshot Join, Redcon, and Warhammer Freeblade

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

    Screenshot Join

    One of my favorite features Samsung built into its newer Galaxy phones is the scrolling screenshot. Whenever you take a screenshot, you have the option of automatically scrolling down and stitching the next screen onto it. Screenshot Join is a new app that gives you similar results on any Android phone. It's not quite as easy, but it seems to get the job done more easily than using a general photo editor.

    To start, you'll need to snap all the screenshots you want to stitch together using your phone's native button combination. With that accomplished, it's time to open Screenshot Join. The app offers the option of exploring just the screenshot folder or using the Android file picker to see all recent images. Odds are the screenshot option will be easier.

    After selecting the first and second photos, you'll be taken to an interface with a split screen allowing you to line up the spot where the images match. It's sort of like sliding the second pic under the first one until the stitch isn't visible anymore. Note, you can pick vertical or side-by-side orientation for the photos. Vertical will probably be more common.

    So, that leaves you with two joined screenshots as one file. What if you want more? Just hit the arrow action button and you'll go back to the image selection interface with the new stitched image as the top photo. Add the next image in the series to the bottom and go through the process of lining it up again.

    You can add as many images as you like to the final product before saving. It's a little more tedious than I'd like, and some sort of finer control while lining the images up would be appreciated. Still, Screenshot Join is faster at this than the alternatives and it's free. You will have to put up with a few ads when attaching images, though.

    Tested: Eero Wi-Fi Router and Extender

    We test a new router system that attempts to eliminate the worry of Wi-Fi dead spots by building a mesh network of hotspots that work together as one seamless wireless network. The Eero does what it promises, but may be too simple for power users who need to heavily configure their network settings.

    Testing: ProDRENALIN Video Stabilization

    Shaky video is a fact of life when you work with small cameras. Whether you're using a handheld camcorder or an action camera mounted to some sort of vehicle, getting a steady picture is often challenging. Even using a brushless gimbal will not guarantee smooth video. While it certainly pays to make your raw footage as stable as possible, there are also ways to iron out rough spots in post-processing. I recently spent some time evaluating ProDRENALIN ($50), a budget software package with video stabilization features.

    ProDRENALIN (PD) is not a full-blown video editing program. Rather, it provides a few different methods to optimize your raw footage before importing it into your usual video editor. The primary functions of PD are image stabilization and fisheye removal. There are also basic features for image orientation and color correction. PD is available for PC or Mac (using Wine virtual machine). I performed my testing on an aging Sony Vaio laptop (1.6GHz i7 CPU, 6GB RAM, integrated video) running Windows 7.

    ProDRENALIN does a great job of removing camera shake from many types of video footage.

    Using ProDRENALIN

    With only a handful of specialized functions, PD is not a complex program to use. I watched a 15-minute tutorial video and it covered everything I've needed thus far. It is very straightforward. For instance, stabilization is either on or off. There are no adjustments to futz with. If your only goal is to stabilize a complete video, you simply load the video (drag and drop), enable stabilization, and then export the result.

    There are options to work with only a selected time portion of a video if you want to chop up the raw footage into smaller clips or apply different effects to varied sections. As you're working with a video, you can choose to view the raw file, the modified file, or a split screen that allows you to compare both files. The split screen option can be divided vertically or horizontally.

    Tested Visits the Shenzhen Electronics Market!

    Our very own Simone Giertz recently went on a trip to China, and reports on her visit from the famous Shenzhen electronics market! Simone explains what she found interesting about the marketplace, and shows off some of her finds from the trip!

    Google Play App Roundup: Quote, Toby: The Secret Mine, and Velociraptor

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

    Quote

    The number of RSS readers ballooned a few years ago when Google announce it was retiring Reader. People who had never really used an RSS reader before thought Reader sounded like a good idea, and developers were there to provide alternatives. Many of them plug into one service or another, so what you're really looking for is a good front end. The newly released Quote (from the developer of Fenix for Twitter) has a clean design with support for popular feed aggregator services.

    You can log into Quote with Feedly or Inoreader accounts. The pro upgrade includes the ability to have multiple accounts as well. The main screen shows you your overall counts at the top, collections in the middle, and individual subscriptions at the bottom. The layout is much less dense than some apps, and if you have a huge list of subscriptions, it might seem sub-optimal. For most people, it's a much more friendly and easy UI to get used to.

    Whenever you tap through to a different list, you can always swipe back to return to the previous screen. Swipe gestures are used throughout Quote to keep the UI clean and avoid the cluttered toolbars and menus you get with many other RSS readers. There's also a neat swipe gesture to mark items as read or unread.

    The reading interface is one of the best I've seen in an RSS reader, and this is just the first public release. It's full screen, so the status bar hides when you scroll down. At the bottom is a toolbar that also hides, including buttons to skip to the next/previous feed item, star a post, and change your reading mode. Most sites limit the RSS feed to just snippets, so Quote lets you open in the browser, or more interestingly open "readability" mode. That just grabs the full text and renders it in the Quote UI. It feels completely native.

    Like any self-respecting RSS reader, Quote has support for syncing your subscriptions for offline reading. This can be triggered automatically in the background or only when you open the app. However, you can choose to exclude images from that or only allow them to be downloaded on WiFi.

    The free version of Quote has two themes to choose from, as well as some ads. For $2.49 you get the pro version with two more themes (the sepia looks great) and no ads. You should check out the free version and see if it's right for you. This is great for a first release.

    How To Choose Your PC Processor

    Choosing the right PC processor lies at the intersection of what you need, what you can afford, what you want to accomplish, and your self image.

    The focus here is on desktop processors — in particular, desktop systems you plan on building youreself. Since laptop CPUs ship inside complete systems, that's a topic for another day. Note also that these are my rules of thumb. You may see things differently. When I've written these articles for other publications, I try to be dispassionate, but this time it's all about my choices.

    Let's run down each of these intersecting elements, shall we?

    Need

    I used to believe understanding your need to be the most important factor. I'm not convinced that's true any longer, mostly because even relatively low-end processors offer outstanding performance these days. Entry-level quad-core AMD processors can be had for under $100, while Intel's lowest-cost quad-core CPUs cost just a bit under $190, going back to Ivy Bridge, now three generations back. I'd steer away from dual-core desktop processors these days, since even web browsers now spawn multiple threads.

    Watch Oculus' Social VR Demo

    UploadVR filmed this great social VR demo given at Facebook's F8 conference going on this week. The demo, which is reminiscent of the Oculus Toybox experience used to show off the Oculus Touch controllers, had two developers chatting and interacting in shared 360-degree spherical panoramas, teleporting to different spaces, and using tools like drawing avatar accessories in the VR space. It was also the first Oculus demo showing light Facebook integration, as the devs took a virtual selfie (not unlike what you can do in Selfie Tennis) and sent that image capture to a Facebook post. This is just the tip of the iceberg for the potential of social VR experiences. Bonus: check out what the other end of the VR call looked like, 35 miles away at Facebook HQ.

    Tested: Blade Mach 25 FPV Racing Quad

    At this time last year, it looked like 250mm quads would be the dominant airframes used for multi-rotor FPV racing. Now we're seeing lots of smaller, lighter designs in competition. But don't throw out your 250mm racer just yet. They're still popular, fast, and fun.

    My first 250-class racing quad was built with parts sourced from several different vendors. I'm dealing with a prebuilt model this time around, the Blade Mach 25 ($350). The Mach 25 is a Bind-N-Fly-Basic model. This means that it includes everything except a radio transmitter (the receiver is compatible with Spektrum brand radios) and FPV goggles (or monitor).

    Overview

    The Mach 25 is certainly different from the mainstream. Its most obvious unique feature is the painted polycarbonate shell with Speed Racer-inspired styling. The body is held in place with rubber grommets that fit over posts attached to the frame. It's a simple yet secure system

    Another unique feature of the Mach 25 is the integrated FPV camera and 5.8GHz video transmitter (VTX). This tiny device is mounted to a vibration-damped plate near the front of the quad. Even though the VTX only transmits at 25 milliwatts of power, an amateur radio license is required to operate it.

    The Blade Mach 25 is a prebuilt quad racer with a unique appearance and some interesting features.

    The main frame is built with 2mm carbon fiber plates, while the motor arms are aluminum tubes. These tubes are held in place with aluminum clamps that are also spacers for the plates. The motors are tilted forward at a 10-degree angle. One of my motors had a visibly different tilt angle than the others. I loosened the relevant clamp and twisted the tube to get it aligned.