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    The Anatomy of a Modern BattleBot

    What does it take to build a BattleBot, and what technology makes a good combat robot? We chat with BattleBots competitor Will Bales about his matches and examine the parts of his HyperShock robot. From chassis to circuitry to weapons systems, we run through each component to give you an idea of how these 250-pound machines work!

    FPV Quadcopter Racing at the 2015 Drone Nationals

    The California State Fair recently hosted the first ever Drone Nationals--a FPV quadcopter racing competition that brought together pilots from all around the world. After two days of races and freestyle stunt performances, we chat with the event's director and the competition's eventual winner about the developing sport of FPV aerial racing.

    Hackers Take Remote Control of a Jeep SUV

    In a video for Wired, writer Andy Greenberg invited security engineers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek to hijack a stock Jeep Cherokee over a hacked internet connection. The two were able to control various functions on the Jeep--even its steering and brakes--by tapping into a vulnerability in the car's internet-connected entertainment system. Chrysler has just issued a fix for this vulnerability--a software patch that must be manually installed.

    In Brief: Testing the Usability of Electronics in Water

    Craig Hockenberry's post about testing the waterproof claims of the Apple Watch is a good read even if you don't own a smartwatch. He dives into what affects electronics in water use, and how waterproofing works in modern touchscreen devices. There are some interesting UI implications for wearables in underwater use as well, which may inform how smartwatches adapt input and output for different environments in the future.

    Norman
    In Brief: The Cognitive Complications of Augmented Reality

    Really interesting piece from Lee Hutchinson at Arstechnica, discussing an IEEE Spectrum analysis of the cognitive questions raised by augmented reality technologies. Refreshingly, it's not about the feasibility of AR tech (eg. specs of HoloLens or Magic Leap), but rather the types and densities of heads-up display data our brains can process and integrate with our perception of the visual world. Our brains can be tricked to process artificial visual triggers alongside the natural world, and AR research is attempting to discern what balance of information keeps distraction to a minimum.

    Norman
    In Brief: The Origins of Color TV Broadcast Standards

    I really loved this recent feature from The Atlantic, telling the story of the bitter rivalry between CBS and RCA in the development of a color TV broadcast standard. At the center of this battle were the so-called "color girls"--models hired by the two companies to assist in the color calibration of the cameras used for their respective technologies. The legacy of those women extend to well beyond the formation of the NTSC, in the intrinsic visual and racial biases built into those technologies. A thought-provoking history lesson in technology that's particularly relevant given the recent missteps in Google Photos' face-tagging feature.

    Norman 1
    10 Inventions to Restore Lost Senses

    The human brain is the most complex biological machine we know of, and as a result its input mechanisms are a little more involved than a keyboard and mouse. Our five senses process a staggering amount of information during the course of our lives, and when one of them gets taken out it can be agonizing. Thankfully, scientific progress has been coming up with new and better ways to restore those senses, and today we’ll spotlight some truly astounding inventions that can bring them back.

    Tested Meets RoboSimian, NASA JPL's Ape-Like Robot

    NASA JPL's RoboSimian stood out at the DARPA Robotics Challenge as one of the few non-humanoid robot designs. The use of four versatile limbs allows it to adapt to the test scenario in ways that would be difficult for a bipedal robot. We chat with Katie Byl of the UC Santa Barbara Robotics Lab, whose team programmed RoboSimian, to learn about the advantages of a quadruped design and how RoboSimian may be utilized in complex environments like being underground or even in space!

    How To Get Into Hobby RC: Telemetry Systems

    One of the fundamental challenges of flying RC aircraft is that you are separated from the machine you are controlling. You must assess the health and status of your vehicle from a distance using only limited visual and aural cues – rarely an easy thing to do. Sometimes the first symptom of a failing system is a trail of smoke that inevitably leads to the ground.

    RC telemetry systems provide the means to accurately gauge certain parameters of your model during flight. Think of it as a remote dashboard. Do you want to know how hot your motor is running? How about an alarm that can warn you when your model reaches an altitude of 400 feet? Telemetry devices can provide those things and more.

    What Telemetry Requires

    There are several different ways to receive telemetry data. Some telemetry systems are standalone units with a transmitter/sensor package in the model and a receiver on the ground. For FPV flyers, On-Screen-Display devices take the data from onboard sensors and overlay it on the real-time video feed. The result is something like a heads-up display found in many modern full-scale aircraft. An increasingly popular form of telemetry system is the type integrated into the model's radio system. The pilot's handheld transmitter sends flight commands to the aircraft while also receiving downlinked data. The same onboard receiver that interprets commands also transmits telemetry data. In this way, both the transmitter and receiver are actually transceivers.

    Telemetry data can be viewed in the transmitter screen, but you'll want to use the tactile and aural feedback options when flying.

    The majority of radio manufacturers offer telemetry-capable systems in their lineups. The example that I've chosen to highlight in this guide comes from Futaba. As of this writing, there are three Futaba aircraft transmitters that are telemetry-capable (10J, 14SG, and 18MZ) as well as a handful of receivers. With these systems, their telemetry features are embedded in the S.Bus2 circuitry of the components. That nuance begs a brief explanation of S.Bus2.

    HARV: Telepresence Camera System with Head-Tracking

    Low-latency telepresence camera systems with head-tracking allows users to look around environments in near-real-time while wearing headsets like an Oculus development kit. We put on Telefactor Robotics' HARV remote vision system and chatted with CEO Martha Jane Chatten about the use of motorized gimbal systems for immersive telepresence.

    Meet the Inflatable Soft Robots of Pneubotics

    The inflatable robot of Big Hero 6 was based on real soft robotics research, like the ones being experimented with at startup Pneubotics. We chat with Pneubotics CEO Kevin Albert to learn how robots can be designed and built with lightweight and flexible skins that have impressive dexterity and structural strength.

    In Brief: The Rise and Fall of Virtuality

    The Kernel has a good feature documenting the story of Virtuality, the commercial VR game company that dominated arcades in the early 90s. There are some interesting lessons here about the enduring appeal of virtual reality, what early adopters found compelling about Virtuality's experiences, and how unrealistic expectations led to its downfall. Two decades later, I think a lot of VR enthusiasts believe that the current wave of consumer VR hardware is destined to succeed. But the truth is that it's still a fragile technology that has a lot of hurdles to overcome to break into the mainstream the same way that smartphones have done.

    Norman
    The Talking Room: Adam Savage Interviews Astro Teller

    Adam Savage welcomes Astro Teller to The Talking Room! Astro is Google's 'Captain of Moonshots', directing the Google X lab where self-driving cars, smart contact lenses, and other futuristic projects are conceived and made real. Adam sat down with Astro at the Tested Live Show this past October to chat about the benefits of thinking big and failing quickly.

    Testing Samsung Gear VR for Galaxy S6 Game Demos

    While the consumer Oculus Rift won't be out until next year, developers and early adopters can still playtest virtual reality games with the Samsung Gear VR Innovator Edition headset. We test the new headset made for the Galaxy S6 smartphone--with its high-density 577 PPI display--and demo some of the winners of the recent Mobile VR Jam contest!

    Hands-On: PlayStation Project Morpheus Games at E3 2015

    Our latest hands-on with Project Morpheus is all about the games. We chat with PlayStation's Richard Marks about the gameplay experiences being developed for Project Morpheus and how virtual reality in the living room can differentiate itself from VR on the desktop. Plus, lots of actual game demos!

    In Brief: How the Modern Laptop was Made

    Here's some morning reading for ya: Ars Technica UK's Sebastian Anthony chronicles the technological advances that allow computer makers to design and build today's laptops. It's an informative feature that tracks how process technology (as guided by Moore's law) and battery chemistry grew up together, bonded by new manufacturing technologies like CNC machines. Great stuff.

    Norman
    Hands-On: Microsoft HoloLens Project X-Ray

    Norm gets his first demo of Microsoft's HoloLens augmented reality headset! At this year's E3, we went behind closed doors to playtest Project X-Ray, a "mixed reality" first-person shooter demo using HoloLens. Microsoft wouldn't let us film or take photos inside the room, so we describe and evaluate the experience after the demo.

    Hands-On: StarVR Virtual Reality Headset

    A new challenger appears! Starbreeze Studios surprised us by announcing the StarVR headset at this year's E3, along with a Walking Dead demo. We go hands-on with this virtual reality prototype that boasts a wide field-of-view and positionally tracked accessories. Even though this isn't a consumer-ready product, there's a lot to learn from its design decisions.

    Hands-On: Oculus Rift CV1 + Oculus Touch Controller at E3 2015

    This is it: The Oculus Rift specs are finalized, and we go hands-on with the engineering sample of the consumer virtual reality headset at this year's E3. We also demo the new Half Moon prototypes of the Oculus Touch controller in an amazing multi-player VR demo. Oculus' Nate Mitchell and Palmer Luckey answer our questions about the headset and controllers, and we share our impressions of the hardware and game demos. It's happening!