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    Designing a 3D-Printed Prosthetic Arm

    3D printing isn't just for prototyping or making toys--it can also be used to manufacture working prosthetic limbs. We're joined by designer Jacky Wan this week to learn about his work with the Enabling The Future, an organization developing a 3D-printable arm prosthetic. Jacky's design goes above and beyond the requirements of the project, and looks beautiful too!

    Five Busted Android Devices that Were Canceled Before Launch

    Nobody sets out to design a product that fails before it even launches, but it happens sometimes. With all the variation and freedom the Android platform affords device makers, people can just get carried away. Even otherwise very successful companies have screwed up by misreading the market or cutting corners in engineering. Let's look back at five Android devices that were so terrible or broken that they were never released.

    Nexus Q

    Google itself is not immune to poor decision making when it comes to Android hardware, and the Nexus Q (above) is the clearest example of that. This entirely in-house endeavor grew out of Google's Project Tungsten, an offshoot of Android@Home. The 2012 Nexus Q was supposed to be a set top box receiver for media beamed from your phone. Sound like anything you've heard of more recently? The Q was basically a Chromecast with fewer features and a $300 price tag.

    The Nexus Q ran a heavily modified build of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich to play content from YouTube, Play Music, and Play Movies. Notice anything missing? Yeah, it didn't even support Netflix. The hardware itself was high quality, with a spherical metal housing and powerful 25 watt stereo amplifier, but no one was going to pay $300 for the Nexus Q when a $100 Roku did so much more.

    Free Nexus Q units were handed out at I/O 2012, but the initial response from reviewers was so negative that Google decided to pause the launch and reevaluate the feature set. The company also sent out free Nexus Qs to anyone who pre-ordered one. Apparently taking their money for something so fundamentally flawed was a non-starter. By early 2013, Google had scrubbed the Nexus Q from its site, indicating the device was never coming out. Several months later, it began shutting down the servers that handled streaming for the Q, rendering existing devices useless.

    Testing Tactic’s License-Free FPV Video Transmitter

    Most video transmission equipment used for First Person View (FPV) flying requires a FCC amateur radio license (aka "ham license") to operate legally. There is definitely good reason for that requirement and getting the license is not an overly complicated process. Even so, many people balk at the licensing obligation and either avoid FPV flying or do so illegally.

    An alternative to getting a ham license (at least for US citizens) is to use non-licensed equipment--that is, devices that meet the FCC requirements for use without a license. Most of the common RF-transmitting devices in your home fall under that umbrella. That's why you don't need a ham license to operate your wireless router, cordless phone or remote garage door opener.

    There are currently a handful of FPV video transmitters (VTX) that qualify for unlicensed use. By virtue of their certification, these transmitters have relatively low power output. Less power equals less range. But how much power is enough? I decided to test one of these systems to see if license-free FPV flight is practical.

    Tactic FPV-T1

    Tactic recently released a line of FPV gear that includes a camera, a 7" monitor with dual built-in 5.8GHz video receivers, and three 5.8GHz video transmitters. The VTX units are available in 25mW, 200mW, and 600mW models. It is the 25mW FPV-T1 ($45) that is license-free. The FPV-T1 is actually larger and heavier than the more powerful models. This, however, is a reflection of the plastic case that encloses the FPV-T1. The other units have a heatshrink casing. Even so, the FPV-T1 weighs less than 20 grams with the antenna.

    The Tactic FPV-T1 is a 25mW FPV video transmitter that does not require an amateur radio license to operate legally.

    There are 22 channel options within the 5.8GHz band for this VTX. The desired channel is selected by positioning a bank of five dip switches on the back of the unit. A chart in the manual illustrates the proper switch positions for each channel, so keep it handy.

    One of the biggest factors that can determine the reception quality and range of a given set up is the antenna selection. The FPV-T1, like the Tactic FPV-RM1 receiver/monitor, includes a linear polarized whip antenna. While they work acceptably well, they are pretty much the bottom rung of the 5.8GHz FPV antenna ladder.

    Tested In-Depth: Apple TV (4th Generation)

    After living with the new 4th generation Apple TV for a month, Norm and Patrick Norton evaluate how this set-top box performs against its competition. There's a lot to like about its interface and implementation of video streaming apps, but a few things bug us about its remote design and consistency of voice-control. Here's why it's not the cord-cutting device for everyone.

    The Best Android Smartphones for Your Network (February 2016)

    We're on the verge of big things in the Android ecosystem. Well, you could make the argument that we always are, but this month in particular things are about to break loose. New phones from Samsung and LG are a lock for Mobile World Congress in a few weeks, but in the meantime there are still some excellent devices out there. Let's see what your options are, and when you should hold off.

    Carrier-branded Phones

    In recent months, I've cited the Samsung Galaxy S6 and LG G4 as the best devices you can get direct from your carrier. That's still true, but the Galaxy S7 and Lg G5 are only weeks away. Let's examine some of the rumors and compare that to what you can buy right now.

    The GS6 has a 5.1-inch Super AMOLED panel, which continues to be one of the best screens available on a smartphone. It's 1440p and the colors are amazing. At 5.1-inches, it's actually comfortable to use one-handed too. The reasonably sized and fantastic screen continues to be one of the primary selling points of this phone. Based on what I've heard from reliable sources, the Galaxy S7 will have the same resolution and form factor. The screen's characteristics will probably be improved, but not dramatically.

    The Galaxy S6 has an aluminum frame and Gorilla Glass front/rear panels, and the GS7 will be much the same. Samsung's phones feel solid, despite having glass rear panels. You can expect the GS7 to also have a non-removable battery like the GS6.

    Samsung still has the best overall camera available on an Android smartphone. Even if you buy it now, you won't be disappointed. The Samsung Galaxy S6 has a 16MP shooter with optical image stabilization and an f/1.9 lens. The exposure quality and consistency are better than any other phone right now, even in low light. The GS7 will probably step down to a 12MP sensor, but with a much wider aperture for better low-light performance.

    Inside, the Galaxy S6 has an octa-core Exynos chip with four faster Cortex-A57 cores and four light-duty A53s. This was a stopgap measure to counter Qualcomm's 810 overheating issues, but the Galaxy S7 will reportedly switch back to a Snapdragon chip, the 820. This is one of the big reasons you might want to wait -- the GS7 will be faster and more power-efficient.

    The GS6 also has 3GB of RAM, 32/64/128GB of storage, and 2550mAh non-removable battery. It's very fast in daily use, but battery life is just average. I regularly see 4 hours of screen time in a single day, but some people are a little higher or lower. It's not going to make it through two full days, but a little more than one is feasible. The GS7 is said to have a larger battery, but the big improvement here is the addition of a microSD card slot. This isn't 100% yet, but it seems very likely.

    Hands-On: VR Zombie Shooting in Arizona Sunshine

    Developer Vertigo Games are making a zombie shoot-'em-up for the HTC Vive virtual reality headset, and we demo it at the recent SteamVR Developer Showcase. Afterward, we chat with the studio about how it's making zombie shooting fun, interesting, and challenging in room-scale VR.

    Tested: Form 2 SLA Desktop 3D Printer

    A few months ago, we previewed the new Formlabs Form 2 SLA resin 3D printer, which on paper looked to be an improvement on the Form 1+ printer in every way. Since then, Formlabs supplied us with a review unit to evaluate those improvements in long-term testing. The upshot is that the Form 2 lives up to its promises--it's an amazing 3D printer. But you should read our extended review before you go out and buy one.

    Photo credit: Formlabs

    Compared to original Formlabs Form 1 printer, the Form 2 has a bigger print volume, a more powerful laser, a new resin cartridge system and new peel mechanism, among many other updates. When we reviewed the Form 1+, I was mostly pleased with its prints, but there were a number of things that I felt needed addressed, including the tendency for several critical components to fail in my early test units. Formlabs has done so with the Form 2--we've not had a single mechanical failure. Our review was with a pre-production printer with original firmware and beta software. [NOTE: I'm not going into detail about how the SLA printing process works, as on a base level, it has not changed from the Form 1+. Take a look at that review for an in-depth explanation.]

    The Print Quality

    Impressive Detail!

    We were very pleased with the Form 2 prints, most were done at 50-100 microns. The resolved detail was very impressive even at 100 micron, especially when compared to prints off of industrial 3D printing machines not meant for home-use. For most prints I can't see needing to go much below 50 microns as the quality was great. Prints that completed had very few flaws, too. Occasionally, very small details in our prints broke off during printing (ie: GIR's antenna tip, Nautilus tip). On many of the Form 1+ prints the side that printed nearest the platform tended to have some 'mushy' details, and I did not notice this on the Form 2. Noticed on some prints, we will address this in the upcoming video.

    Hands-On: VR Shooting Gallery in Space Pirate Trainer

    Here's one game we played at the SteamVR Developer Showcase that feels like the perfect virtual reality arcade game. Space Pirate Trainer shows that there's a lot of complexity and tuning needed to get one just one basic mechanic feeling right in VR. They've got the shooting gallery down!

    Google Play App Roundup: Guides by Lonely Planet, Downwell, and Punch Club

    Another week is upon us, and that means it's time to check out the state of the Google Play Store. Your phone is only a shadow of itself without the best apps, so it's a good thing we're here to save the day. Just click on the app name to pull up the Google Play Store so you can try things out for yourself.

    Guides by Lonely Planet

    Planning some travel? If planning is the operative word there, you might want to get the new Lonely Planet app on your mobile device. Lonely Planet is the largest publisher of travel guides in the world, making it a great resource for getting your trip lined up in advance, or even spur of the moment.

    The Lonely Planet app includes comprehensive guides for a lot of cities (a few dozen), but not everywhere you might visit. If you can't find a guide for a city, the app can notify you if a guide is released. The guides you want will be downloaded locally to your device for offline accessibility. That's handy for those times when you're visiting a place where you won't have reliable (or reasonably priced) internet access on your phone.

    The app shows your downloaded city guides right at the top. Upon opening it, there are categories for food, entertainment, shopping, attractions, and so on. There's also a map at the top you can view that has all the points of interest on it. Importantly, this map is also available offline. Below the categories are "interests, " which are specific groups of places like museums and historic points of interest.

    This is a material app with proper implementation of the slide-out navigation menu with different sections of the guide. The default view is Discover, but there's also Need to Know with basic overview information and cost data. It's impressive how deep these guides go. You can drill down to get reviews of individual restaurants and attractions. The app itself is a bit plain (predominantly white), but there are various material animations and the content is all native, not webframe. It's fast and easy to get around in if you've used any other modern Android app.

    If Lonely Planet has a guide for your destination, it's a no-brainer to download and use it. The guides are great and the app is free.

    Hands-On: VR Multiplayer Shootouts in Hover Junkers

    Hover Junkers is the first multiplayer shooter we've played in virtual reality, and we loved every minute of our demo in it. We chat with the game's lead designer to learn how VR enhances deathmatch gameplay, and how flying RC quadcopters and playing with airsoft informed Hover Junkers' design.

    Hands-On: Cloudlands VR Minigolf on the HTC Vive Pre

    Virtual reality can take simple activities like miniature golf and put them in fantastic environments. We try Cloudlands: VR Minigolf at the recent SteamVR Developer Showcase and learn how replicating the feel of accurately putting a golf ball is surprisingly complicated.

    Hands-On: Fantastic Contraption with HTC Vive Pre

    At the recent SteamVR Developer Showcase, we got more hands-on time with Fantastic Contraption, a creative physics-based puzzle game that makes excellent use of virtual reality. We chat with the developers to learn how they're experimenting with physics and user interface in VR.

    Hands-On: The Gallery with HTC Vive Pre

    We go hands-on with The Gallery: Call of the Starseed, an adventure game made for room-scale virtual reality. We chat with the game's developer about how you traverse large spaces in The Gallery, the challenges of designing VR puzzles, and how performance capture is augmented with headsets.

    Hands-On: Virtual Reality Portals in Budget Cuts

    At the recent SteamVR Developer Showcase, we played a little of Budget Cuts, a virtual reality stealth/puzzle game using room-scale environment and portals for locomotion. We chat with one of its creators to learn how effective portals can be for VR gameplay, and share some demo impressions.

    The Ups and Downs of Android Wear in 2016

    Google launched Android Wear in the summer of 2014, almost a year before the Apple Watch went on sale. In retrospect, that first release did feel a little rushed, but the feature set evolved rapidly. Google has worked with OEMs on a two generations of Android Wear devices, made numerous tweaks to the OS, and started selling devices directly in the Google Store. However, wearables are still a hard sell to consumers, and Android Wear has experienced several setbacks. Let's see where Google's wearable platform stands and where it's going.

    New Partnerships

    The first round of Android Wear devices were produced by traditional smartphone heavyweights like LG and Samsung. These devices didn't have the most elegant design, but they worked well enough as demos of what the platform was capable of. Newer smartwatches from companies like Motorola show a marked improvement in design aesthetic, but it's clear these are still smartphone OEMs playing at being watchmakers.

    As OEMs work on making smartwatches more watch-like, Google has gone to real watchmakers to bring a different approach to Android Wear. Tag Heuer and Fossil are the first watchmakers to create Android Wear devices, and the design is definitely more impressive than other Wear devices. Even the Moto 360 and Huawei Watch--which I consider the best designed Wear devices from phone makers--avoid taking too many risks with the design, resulting in a minimalist look. That's fine, but I feel like they're just trying not to screw up because they lack the expertise of a company like Fossil. The Fossil Q Founder has a very attractive design, and it looks like a real watch, but it's maybe not the best smartwatch.

    Episode 336 - SteamVR Developer Showcase - 1/28/16
    Special episode of This is Only a Test this week, as Norm is on location in Seattle for Vavle and HTC's SteamVR Developer Showcase. The VR Minute is expanded into a full-blown episode, as we chat with the developers of Job Simulator and Fantastic Contraption about their experiments in virtual reality and lessons learned from game development. (Sorry, no video this week. We'll be back in studio next week for a regular episode!)
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    Tested In-Depth: Dell XPS 13 Laptop

    Our senior technology correspondent Patrick Norton joins us this week to review the Dell XPS 13 laptop! This 13.3-inch version of the beautiful XPS 15 also runs on an Intel Skylake Core i5 processor, has a solid keyboard and trackpad, and sports that brilliant display.

    Testing the Folger Tech 2020 i3 3D Printer

    This post was originally published on Overworld Designs and is republished here with permission. Follow Michelle on Facebook and find her work on Instagram.

    I had been in the market for another 3D printer for my fabrication fleet, and I had my eye on a few machines during Black Friday. I narrowly missed a great sale on a Wanhao Duplicator i3 for a cool $299, and instead I settled on a Folger Tech 2020 i3 kit on sale with an LCD panel (currently priced at $280). Here's how it's been performing for me, and what you can expect for a 3D printer of this price.

    I had done some reading on this particular kit so I knew to expect some hurdles during it's construction. The biggest complaint that the community has - and indeed I have too - is that the build manual has several mistakes and blatant inaccuracies that Folger Tech has yet to fix. There's some simple stuff like typos of bolt dimensions - using one bolt length in one sentence and another length in the next sentence, leaving you to figure out which one they really mean. These are easy to figure out. But then there's the problem where it tells you to mount the X-axis end stop on the wrong side, and if you don't understand why 3D printers are put together the way they are, you'll have a difficult time understanding why it's moving in the "wrong" direction and why it won't home properly. I highly recommend reading the manual fully before starting to make sure you know what to expect.

    There is an absolutely massive thread on the RepRap forums which contain a huge amount of information and fixes. As of this writing, the thread is at 88 pages long and I've only managed to work backwards through about half of it. If you're considering one of these kits I recommend at least skimming through the forum thread on your own, but I've tried to compile the biggest issues and fixes from my experience here.