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    Hands-on with Sony's $1100 Walkman NW-ZX2

    Sony recently unveiled a new Walkman music player, which plays what they call "high resolution" audio. The noisy booth at CES probably wasn't the best place to demo this $1100 player, but we try it out and ask a Sony rep just why they think audiophiles should buy in to Sony's new music playback ecosystem. (This video was shot with a Sony PXW-X70 camera, which we're testing. Thanks to B&H for providing us with gear for CES!)

    Why I’m Excited About Windows Holographic

    My absolute favorite part of covering technology for Tested are those rare glimpses of the future. I’m talking about the first hints of a new technology that has a chance to change the world. That's why we started experimenting with 3D printers and tablets shortly after we launched Tested in 2010. That's why we were among the first people to get excited about the latest wave of virtual reality and the rise of cheap multi-rotors. It's why we're investigating potentially revolutionary last-mile travel solutions, like the Boosted Board and Rocket Skates. To me, technology is most interesting when it's brand new, before designers have chamfered the rough edges and the revolutionary leaps have made way for incremental improvements. I love it when I look at a tech demo and can still see the path that led to the creation of a new product or even a new category.

    Each of the example technologies that I mentioned above was the result of multiple advancements being assembled by visionaries at the right time. The decreased cost of LCD screens, flash memory, and high capacity, low-volume batteries made modern smartphones possible. The popularity of smartphones caused the price of the components found within them--solid state accelerometers and gyroscopes, LCD displays, and processors--to drop until technologies like VR suddenly became possible at much lower prices than we ever imagined. Likewise, the rise of low-cost, high-power microcontrollers (Arduino boards and their ilk), combined with inexpensive motors and radios and cheap manufacturing in China caused revolutions in multirotor aircraft and 3D printing.

    These categories are all transforming from hyper-expensive products designed to serve tiny niche markets into mainstream consumer electronics. The people responsible for these innovations have one thing in common. They were able to see the pieces necessary and assemble them into workable products before anyone else saw the same potential. This is what Palmer Luckey did for VR with the early Oculus prototypes and what the originators of the Reprap project did for consumer 3D printing.

    This brings us to Microsoft's Windows Holographic, which Microsoft demoed at a Windows 10 event yesterday. Despite its wildly misleading name (from what I can tell Holographic doesn't use holograms at all), Microsoft's demo showed augmented reality, seemingly working in the real world, with fewer caveats than anything we've seen before.

    If you aren't familiar with AR, it's similar to virtual reality in that it displays information from a computer over your full field of vision. However, where VR is an isolated experience, you put the goggles on and they block your view of the outside world, AR overlays that information on the environment your in. Put another way, VR replaces the world around you, AR enhances it.

    CES 2015: Quadcopter Combat with "Game of Drones"

    Will and Norm battle in the desert with quadcopters--or at least do their best--at a Game of Drones event during CES. We learn about the rules of safe quadcopter combat and chat with Game of Drones' founder to discuss the reasons for building a more durable quadcopter airframe. (This video was shot with a Sony PXW-X70 camera, which we're testing. Thanks to B&H for providing us with gear for CES!)

    CES 2015: Parrot's eXom Aerial Mapping Quadcopter

    In the quadcopter space, Parrot may be best known for its AR.Drone and mini quads, but they're also behind two initiatives to use unmanned vehicles for aerial mapping. SenseFly and Pix4D are two departments making those vehicles and the 3D mapping software, and we learn about their latest quad at this year's CES. (This video was shot with a Sony PXW-X70 camera, which we're testing. Thanks to B&H for providing us with gear for CES!)

    CES 2015: Hands-On with the Avegant Glyph Prototype

    Head-mounted displays have received a lot of attention for their potential use as virtual reality devices, but most are still LCD or OLED panels strapped to your head. We saw Avegant's "virtual retinal display" prototype last year--a HMD that uses DLP mirrors to project images directly into your eyes. Checking in with Avegant at CES, we look at their latest prototype chat with them about their final product plans. (This video was shot with a Sony PXW-X70 camera, which we're testing. Thanks to B&H for providing us with gear for CES!)

    CES 2015: Test Riding the Acton RocketSkates

    Here's something we didn't expect to test at CES. Acton's RocketSkates was a Kickstarted invention to put electric motorized wheels on your shoes. Will puts on a pair of these futuristic skates to try to learn how to move around in them, and then chats with its inventor to learn how this idea came about. (This video was shot with a Sony PXW-X70 camera, which we're testing. Thanks to B&H for providing us with gear for CES!)

    CES 2015: Hands-On with Sony's SmartEyeGlass Prototype

    Google Glass may no longer be available to buy, but Sony is working on an augmented reality accessory that may have similar features. We get to put on the SmartEyeGlass Attach prototype at this year's CES, at least to see how its display looks over your field of view. Too bad the representative that we were allowed to speak to on camera wasn't able to give us many concrete details...(This video was shot with a Sony PXW-X70 camera, which we're testing. Thanks to B&H for providing us with gear for CES!)

    CES 2015: Test Riding the InMotion Electric Unicycle

    One of the weirder pieces of tech we saw at CES was a gyroscopically balanced electric unicycle. We were allowed to test the InMotion v3 unicycle out, but had to be able to get on it first. The entire tested team made their attempts... (This video was shot with a Sony PXW-X70 camera, which we're testing. Thanks to B&H for providing us with gear for CES!)

    Hacking a Nintendo Power Glove for Stop-Motion Animation

    Dillon Markey, a stop-motion animator for Robot Chicken, employs a hacked version of the Nintendo Power Glove to assist his animation process. Using a custom control board and Bluetooth connection, he can push use the directional pad and buttons on the glove to control Dragonframe animation software--which typically employs the keyboard's numpad (or wired numpad accessory) for frame stepping and capture controls. It may not be the most graceful solution to his problem, but it looks badass. I love it. (h/t Ron Erickson)

    What You Should Know about Getting an FCC License for Flying FPV

    As much as we love to give you an inside look at all sorts of cool toys and gadgets, the job also includes a responsibility to educate you on the finer points of using those toys responsibly and lawfully. Such is the case with our recent videos featuring Carlos Puertolas (Charpu). Those videos have captured the attention of many readers who are now interested in First Person View (FPV) quad-rotor racing--including me. What you might not know is that one of the prerequisites for most types of FPV flying is obtaining an amateur radio license (aka “ham radio license”) from the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). Don’t let that fact quench your FPV ambitions. Getting a license is easy, and maybe even a little bit fun.

    Why Do I Need a License?

    Assuming that you are using a standard, off-the-shelf radio system, just flying a multi-rotor (or operating any other type of RC vehicle) with a line-of-sight perspective does not require a FCC license. That is because RC systems sold in the US go through a certification process with the FCC. The certification ensures that the system does not create interference with other equipment. The FCC also verifies that the radio works acceptably well in the presence of interference from other sources. As long as you do not modify any part of the system, you can be reasonably sure that an RC system will perform as intended, while not stepping on the signals of any other flyers or drivers.

    The license comes into play when you introduce an FPV system into the mix. Most video transmission systems used for FPV do NOT have a FCC certification. Therefore, the FCC places the burden of preventing and tolerating signal interference on the operator. The amateur radio license is the FCC’s way of determining that users of this equipment have demonstrated adequate training and proficiency to uphold that responsibility. It’s the same logic that’s behind getting a driver’s license.


    As I write this, there are only a handful of FPV systems that do not require a license. Most of them are Wi-Fi-based systems such as those seen on the Phantom 2 Vision+ and Blade 350QX2. Wi-Fi video systems typically have limited range and measurable latency. This may be ok if your only goal is to cruise around shooting video. But the latency alone makes Wi-Fi systems inadequate for racing.

    I am only aware of one non-Wi-Fi FPV system that is FCC certified and can be used without a license. The operational range for this system is estimated to be about 600’. Of course, variables such as your flying altitude and any solid obstacles between the video receiver and the aircraft could impact that value. If this system meets your performance requirements, then you’re all set. Certainly, the future holds other FPV systems with FCC certification. Until then, your license-free options are limited. Unless a video transmitter has specific markings stating that it is compliant with FCC Part 15 requirements, you will need a license to operate it legally.

    CES 2015: Hands-On with Razer's OSVR Hacker Dev Kit

    We put on Razer's OSVR prototype, a headset that's part of an open-source initiative to promote virtual reality for PC gaming. Think of it as Android for VR, where not one company controls all the hardware and software. Will and Norm discuss what they learned about OSVR from chatting with Razer's representatives, and share their impressions on the hacker dev kit demo. (This video was shot with a Sony PXW-X70 camera, which we're testing. Thanks to B&H for providing us with gear for CES!)

    Tested: Amazon Echo Speaker and Digital Assistant

    We've been testing the Amazon Echo, a home Bluetooth speaker that also connects to Amazon's new digital assistant. Using voice commands, we can ask it to perform some basic tasks, like checking the news or playing streaming music. We answer the most common questions people have about the Echo, and let you know whether it's worth the investment.

    CES 2015: MarkForged 3D Printer Prints Carbon Fiber

    One of the things that keeps 3D prints from being useful in everyday applications is the structural instability of the plastic print material--it either bends or snaps under load. MarkForged makes a 3D printer that does something new: it can reinforce printed parts with carbon fiber or fiberglass for rigidity and strength. We chat with MarkForged's CEO about how this print process works test some of its prints. (This video was shot with a Sony PXW-X70 camera, which we're testing. Thanks to B&H for providing us with gear for CES!)

    CES 2015: Hands-On with the USB Type-C Connector

    Forgive us while we geek out for a moment over a cable connector. At CES 2015, we saw for the first time the USB Type-C connector, an approved spec that will make its way into phones and PCs this year. The new 24-pin plug is compatible with both USB 2.0 and 3.1, and it's finally reversible. No more USB superposition! (This video was shot with a Sony PXW-X70 camera, which we're testing. Thanks to B&H for providing us with gear for CES!)

    8 Takeaways on Oculus VR at CES 2015

    As with my visit to Oculus Connect last September, hands-on time with the Crescent Bay prototype of the Oculus rift and a chat with Oculus VR's VP of Product offered some new insights into the state of virtual reality tech and the challenges for the upcoming consumer version release. No, we didn't find out when CV1 would be available, nor could Nate Mitchell spill the beans on the exact technical specifications of even this prototype. But our conversation--and the way he answered some of my questions--allows us to infer some details about curious topics like screen resolution, optics, and virtual reality input. Here are eight things that I took away from this chat, with the full video interview below.

    Downplaying Screen Resolution

    Everyone is curious about what the screen resolution of the consumer release will be, with VR enthusiasts hoping for a display as high-res and dense as possible. Development Kit 2 uses a 1080p AMOLED display, but the pentile subpixel configuration and screen door effect (SDE) is still noticeable. These effects are reduced in Crescent Bay, and the prevailing thought is that the prototype must use a 1440p or better screen, given Gear VR's use of the Samsung Note 4. I'm not 100% sure that's the case, now. We knew that due to the constraints of mobile graphics bandwidth, Gear VR renders its games and software at lower than native resolution (eg. 720p) and then scales up to 1440p. Nate said that on the PC side, the Oculus Rift--and Crescent Bay--does the opposite: it will use supersampling and render software at a higher than native res and then downscale it to fit the screen. It's like what Apple does with the iOS for its iPhone 6 Plus.

    So here's a thought: maybe Crescent Bay actually uses a 1080p display, and the single GTX 980 card renders some demos at a higher than 1080p resolution and downsamples to fit into that screen. Supersampling would reduce aliasing, and more demanding software could still just be rendered at 1080p to guarantee 90Hz output. This theory would explain why Oculus reps (including Nate) have mentioned the 1080p resolution when discussing PC system performance in other interviews, and why some press have reported that Crescent Bay runs at a lower res than Gear VR. I also noticed that the mirrored game window on the 27-inch panel connected to the PC was not filling the full monitor--it looked about 1080p to me. Of course, this doesn't mean than CV1 won't use a 1440p display, but Oculus is seems to want to downplay talk of screen resolution as they recognize its tradeoffs with performance. Don't expect CV1 to run a 4K screen.

    CES 2015: Oculus VR's Crescent Bay Demo + Interview

    We go hands-on with Oculus VR's Crescent Bay prototype at CES 2015! Both Will and Norm scrutinize the demo and relay thoughts on the experience of presence, and we chat in-depth about technical details with Oculus' VP of Product, Nate Mitchell. Lots of new hints about what's to come for the consumer release of the Oculus Rift! (This video was shot with a Sony PXW-X70 camera, which we're testing. Thanks to B&H for providing us with gear for CES!)

    Tested In-Depth: Boosted Electric Skateboard!

    Many futuristic ideas seem too farfetched to be practical, but this electric skateboard really works and turned out to be both fun and useful. Norm learns to skate with the Boosted electric longboard and we discuss how this board is more than just motors and batteries attached to a normal longboard. (Thanks to Jeremy Williams for helping with video coverage in this review!)

    In Brief: What You Should Know about Police Body Cams

    You may have heard about President Obama's recently announced plan to assist local law enforcement's acquisition, education, and use of new equipment. In addition to using Federal funds to help bolster frayed relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve, the pitch also called for funding of body cameras to be worn by police officers--a $75 million investment for 50,000 cameras. But what does the use of those cameras mean in practice? The Electronic Frontier Foundation has a great breakdown of their concerns for the use of body cameras, and what they and the ACLU think needs to be addressed before implementation. And as for how body cameras have affected police departments already using them, The Atlantic has a report on the police department of Post Falls, Idaho, where body cameras use became mandatory in 2011.

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    Creating Haptic Holograms with Sound Waves

    From New Scientist, an experiment utilizing directed high frequency sound waves to give the sensation of touching a floating invisible object. It's the next version of the Ultrahaptics system developed by University of Bristol scientists. The researchers track users hands over empty space with a Leap Motion controller, and have been able to give the sensation of basic shapes like spheres and pyramids. It's something they hope to combine with VR or projected hologram systems. (h/t BoingBoing) Tangentially related: this great animated infographic explaining how loudspeakers make sound.