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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.

    I Can't Stop Thinking about Tesla's Autopilot

    In covering technology news and reviewing consumer devices, there have been a few times when we've used a new technology that gives us a glimpse of the future. The first time I pinched to zoom a photo on the first iPhone. Successfully printing a test cube on the original MakerBot. Putting a Phantom 2 quadcopter into the sky to shoot stabilized 1080p video. Turning my head around to look behind me while wearing the Oculus DK1. Each of those rare moments are a confluence of complex technologies coming together to pull off a incredible feat that "just works". They're the kind of things that stick with you for a while. Or even show up in your dreams. And this past week, I've been having dreams about Tesla's autopilot.

    I went for a test drive of the new Tesla Model X last Thursday, courtesy of Tested reader Christian (who also let us test drive his Model S a few years back). The Model X is the crossover version of the Model S, incorporating all of the updates that have come since the S launched over three years ago. It has AWD, a 250 mile max range, and even Tesla's ludicrous speed option , which slams your breath to the back of your throat while going from 0 to 60 in 3.3 seconds. We'll have a full video this week covering the other features of the car, but the thing I was really curious to try was Tesla autopilot, an optional feature on the newest Model S's and the X.

    We took Christian's Model X onto the freeway south of San Francisco, right at the end of rush hour. With Christian behind the wheel, he explained how autopilot is flipped on in two stages: first by enabling adaptive cruise control, and then flipping the same lever again to enable automatic steering. ACC is a pretty standard feature on new cars; it uses radar systems to adjust your car speed to maintain a set distance from cars in front of you (typically measured in car lengths, and dependent on speed). Autopilot takes that one step further with optical cameras that can see lane markers and keep the car centered in your lane while going at full speed.

    And it works. I took my turn in the driver's seat, taking my feet off the pedals and hands off the steering wheel while we sped down the freeway, the car automatically and comfortably maneuvering the gentle curves of the road at 75 miles per hour. No amount of rational reinforcement beforehand could've prepared my brain for the surreal feeling sitting in the driver's seat and watching the pedals depress and steering wheel turn on its own. My eyes were were still glued to the road and I was still doing doing all the situational awareness calculations I would be doing if I was the one doing the driving, but with that very same data about the distance of other cars were around me visualized right on the dashboard screen. The car had a sense of the distance of speed of other vehicles in the vicinity, showing me color-coded cars in front of me to illustrate their distance, even identifying motorcycles that passed by in between lanes. I could flip the signal light switch and the Model X would make the lane change automatically, speeding up to an open spot in the next lane. After about 15 minutes or so driving with autopilot, I felt at ease with it, comfortable enough to have a conversation with Christian in the passenger's seat without tensing up at every micromovement made by the car.

    In Brief: Lytro Introduces Its Cinema Lightfield Camera

    Camera maker Lytro, which last year pivoted from making prosumer light field still cameras to digital cinema, has introduced its first production-ready studio camera. The Lytro Cinema applies light field sensor technology to video, capturing more than just color and light in each pixel, but light and environment data that allows directors to adjust focus, aperture, and even shutter speed after the shot has been taken. Lytro says that each frame taken (at up to 300FPS) has 755MP of RAW data, and the sensor has a dynamic range of 16 stops. Its sample footage--seen in the promo video below--shows how this data can be used in the post-production process to composite CG elements and make adjustments that previously would have been baked in to the plate. Lytro isn't going to be selling its cameras to studios, but offering it in a rental model, with packages that start at $125K.

    Norman
    Tested: HTC Vive Review

    The consumer release of the HTC Vive is finally here! We've been testing the Vive Pre for a while and the final headset for about a week, playing VR games with tracked controllers in a roomscale setup. Jeremy and Norm discuss the setup process, ergonomics, comfort features, and launch content for Steam VR. Plus, we play through Valve's first-party VR game, The Lab!

    3D Mapping The Exploratorium with Matterport!

    We visit San Francisco's Exploratorium science museum with Matterport, a company that makes a room scanning camera for creating interactive 3D spaces. Matterport co-founder Matt Bell explains how the camera combines scanned meshes with high-resolution imagery to create a highly detailed model of The Exploratorium's exhibit workshop. Explore the model here and here! (With special thanks to the Exploratorium, San Francisco, California)

    Tested: Oculus Rift Review

    It's finally here! We've been testing the consumer version of the Oculus Rift for the past week, and share our thoughts and impressions of the final hardware and launch software. Norm and Jeremy discuss the most frequently asked questions about the ergonomics, display, screen door effect, tracking range, and how gamepad virtual reality games hold up. The new age of VR begins!

    Hands-On: ADR1FT for Oculus Rift

    One of the most interesting launch games for the Oculus Rift is ADR1FT, a first-person narrative experience that puts you in a spacesuit floating through the wreckage of a futuristic space station. We play a bit of the game, discuss its EVA mechanics, and chat with developer Adam Orth about immersive storytelling in VR.

    Hands-On: Raw Data Combat in the HTC Vive!

    With the tracked controllers of the HTC Vive, game developers can give users a sense of "hand presence"--the feeling that their hands and actions are actually in the game. Body presence is more challenging, but it's something developer Survios is taking on in their multiplayer VR action game Raw Data. We play a round of Raw Data, learn about how body presence augments the action, and give our impressions.

    Hands-On: Dead & Buried with Oculus Touch

    Even though Oculus Touch isn't coming out until later this year, Oculus has been developing and demoing some Touch games ahead of the Rift's launch. We playtest Dead & Buried, a new multiplayer shooter developed in-house, learn about its game design challenges, and share our impressions.

    Hands-On with Oculus Rift's VR Launch Lineup

    The Oculus Rift is shipping at the end of this month, and along with it will come over 30 launch titles that will be the first games virtual reality early-adopters can play. We attend an Oculus-preview event to play many of these games, preview more of Oculus Touch, and give our impressions about the wide-ranging experiences in this lineup. Plus, an interview Oculus' VP of Product Nate Mitchell!

    ILMxLAB: Star Wars and Cinematic Storytelling in Virtual Reality

    We were invited to Lucasfilm to check out the ILMxLab, the advanced research and development group inside the studio to experiment with virtual reality and other forms of new media. After playing the new Trials on Tatooine HTC Vive demo, we sit down with Lucasfilm's CTO to chat about the potential for cinematic storytelling in VR and how Star Wars fans will experience new stories in the future.

    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.

    Testing SAFE Plus Stabilization for RC Aircraft

    If you've ever flown a fixed-wing RC model with artificial stabilization such as SAFE or WISE, then you know that these systems are not some magic wand that prevents all crashes and makes new pilots expert flyers overnight. Artificial stabilization is merely a useful training tool. When used correctly, it can significantly shorten a rookie pilot's learning curve—and perhaps help avoid some carnage along the way.

    Artificial stability systems continue to become more sophisticated and capable. The SAFE Plus (SAFE+) system installed in the Hobbyzone Sportsman S+ model is a prime example. This system is unique in that it utilizes GPS and a compass in order to realize heretofore unseen capabilities in fixed-wing models. In some cases, those new capabilities address shortcomings that I found in other stability systems.

    My original plan for this article was to exercise the various features of SAFE+ and report how well it performs. I'm still going to do that. Yet, as I spent more time flying the Sportsman S+, I slowly began to realize that artificial stability has turned a very significant corner. I think that these systems which are meant to assist new flyers could actually make learning more difficult and confusing for some pilots. I'll explain my reasoning for that opinion as well.

    Why GPS and Compass?

    The core functionality of a fixed-wing stability system is to know what straight and level flight is and then command the model to get there when asked. If a pilot gets disoriented or puts the airplane in a bad attitude, the system will execute recovery maneuvers and save the day. The pilot can then resume control with no harm done. One problem that I've found with these systems is that they still require the pilot to execute turns to keep the model in sight. Even a few seconds of unsure hesitation on the controls could be sufficient to send the perfectly stabilized model flying off into the horizon. That's one reason why it is still a good idea to have an experienced pilot on hand to coach you through those first awkward steps.

    This GPS module permits the SAFE+ system to overcome the shortcomings of other fixed-wing stabilization units.

    By integrating GPS and compass into SAFE+, the dreaded "fly away" scenario is mitigated. We've become accustomed to (and perhaps dependent on) the GPS and compass-enabled features in multi-rotors. By knowing where the model is and which way it is pointing, multi-rotors can automatically hold their position in the sky when the wind blows or return to their takeoff location with the push of a button. SAFE+ brings similar capabilities to fixed-wing aircraft.

    Meet the Mcor Arke Full-Color Paper 3D Printer

    Traditional desktop 3D printers use melted plastic as their build material, but Mcor's printers layer sheets of paper on top of each other to create their models. We check out the new Mcor Arke, a printer that cuts from a large spool of paper, glues those sheets together, and then prints color on them to turn digital files into large paper models!

    Interview: Valve's Chet Faliszek on Steam VR and HTC Vive Pre

    We return to the HTC booth to meet up with Valve's Chet Faliszek, who has been working with developers on virtual reality games and content. We chat with Chet about the latest updates to the HTC Vive Pre, the Steam VR platform, and what developers have learned from their experimentation with roomscale VR!

    Meet Kodak's New Super 8 Film Camera

    Kodak is making a recommitment to film with its new Super 8 camera, announced at this year's CES. We visit the Kodak booth to take a look at the camera, which shoots 8mm film but also has a digital viewfinder and other hybrid elements. Here's what we learned about how filmmakers will be able to take advantage of Kodak's new consumer film ecosystem.

    Interview: Palmer Luckey on Oculus Rift's Launch Price and Hardware

    We couldn't leave CES without checking in with the Oculus team and checking out the final hardware and packaging for the Oculus Rift. Oculus founder Palmer Luckey chats with us about the Rift's $600 price, how much custom hardware goes into building the headset, Oculus Touch changes, and Oculus Home software.