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    Maker Faire 2015: The Denny Next-Gen Bicycle Concept

    What's the bicycle of the future look like? According to the designers at Teague, it'll have subtle differences from today's bikes that will add convenience to the riding experience. Their Denny bicycle won a recent design contest, and we inspect its many innovations. Automatic shifting with no bike chains--neat stuff. Handlebars that double as a bike lock--brilliant!

    Tested In-Depth: PCIe Solid State Storage

    How fast do you need your desktop storage device to be? We sit down this week to discuss the state of PCIe solid state drives, like Intel's new 750 Series with the NVMe controller. This 1.2TB drive delivered incredible bandwidth and benchmark performance, but you should know a few things about this technology before thinking about upgrading.

    SteamVR's "Lighthouse" for Virtual Reality and Beyond

    One of the most important aspects of virtual reality will be accurate positional tracking of the headset and user motion. Valve Software's SteamVR--the best virtual reality implementation we've tried so far--uses a beacon-based tracking system called Lighthouse. We chat with Lighthouse engineer Alan Yates about how Lighthouse and its components work, the technology's strengths and limitations, and how it could be used in other applications outside of VR.

    Creating Time-Lapse Videos from Crowd-Sourced Photos

    Introduced at this year's SIGGRAPH imaging conference, researchers from Google and the University of Washington have developed an approach to creating seamless time-lapses videos not from the images of a single camera, but from the publicly shared photos from the crowd. In their tests, they sorted through 86 million photos to group them into collections by location, and automated a process to warp and color-correct photos taken from the same viewpoint. Those photos were then ordered chronologically and stitched together into a time-lapse video. It's a similar idea to what Microsoft had done with its Photosynth program, but the output is a video showing the passage of time instead of a 3D map. Read more at the project's website. (h/t Engadget)

    In Brief: Google's Self-Driving Cars Begin Public Road Testing this Summer

    After last week's informative status update from Chris Urmson, the director of Google's self-driving car program, Google has announced that it will soon be taking a few of its prototype self-driving cars onto the public streets of Mountain View for tests. Public road tests is essential to the program, and Google has already been testing modified autonomous Lexus SUVs in California since last September. Those cars have logged almost a million miles of autonomous driving, data which will help Google's own "bubble" car. While Google claims that none of the 11 reported minor accidents that have occurred during private road testing were its cars' faults, the company is taking precautions for public road tests by ensuring that humans have manual control over the car if necessary--even though the prototype car is designed not to have a steering wheel. They'll also have a maximum speed of 25 miles per hour. I'm interested to see these cars tested in real-world conditions, as long as Google is transparent about the results of its testing. Watch Google's video announcing the next step in its self-driving car program below.

    Norman
    Tested In-Depth: Connected LED Light Bulbs

    The cost of switching your incandescent or CFL bulbs to LED ones is lower than ever, and new technology is making it more practical to buy connected bulbs. We sit down to discuss the state of the "smart home," review several connected LED bulbs, and talk about the potential benefits of using smart locks. What are your thoughts on connected home devices?

    Testing: Gear VR for Galaxy S6 Impressions

    I just got the new Samsung Gear VR for Galaxy S6, the second Innovator Edition developer headset released in partnership with Oculus. We had tested the first Gear VR with the Note 4 earlier this year, in time for the launch of paid apps in the Oculus store. Since then, few new apps have been introduced to the store, though events like the current Mobile VR Jam is encouraging devs to put their ideas in front of early adopters. Momentum in software and hardware is leading up to Oculus' consumer release in the first quarter of next year, but they've also said that the next Gear VR release will be a consumer-ready one. So while this new Innovator Edition is still a developer kit, it's interesting to see how Samsung is iterating its hardware based on some short-term feedback and also adapting it to fit the 5.1-inch 1440p display in the new Galaxy S6. 577 PPI!

    The physical design of the Gear VR for GS6 (I'll just call it "new Gear VR" from now on) is slightly improved from the original. Yes, it's a little smaller, but the ergonomic improvements aren't night and day. Much of the reduced size is due to the lack of the bulky plastic cover plate that fit over the Note 4 when mounted in the headset, which I don't think many people used anyway. In its place is a smaller plastic protector plate that fits into the slot where the GS6 sits when not in use, to protect the lenses. You don't have a way of covering up the phone when it's slotted in the new Gear VR, and that's just fine. Overall, the headset weighs a little less with the phone plugged in, partly due to the GS6 being significantly lighter than the Note 4 as well. I still found the head straps a little too short for my liking, though. With enough slack, the whole unit fits relatively comfortably over my glasses, but I ended up using it without glasses for tonight's tests.

    On the bottom of the new Gear VR is a micro-USB port for charging the GS6 while it's mounted. That's a much-needed addition from the Note 4, and my GS6 was draining its battery really quickly when running VR demos unplugged. I don't have the Note 4 any more for a direct power consumption comparison, but I'll be conducting a VR battery test soon with Oculus Cinema and Hero Bound.

    The touchpad is a tad smaller on the new Gear VR, and now has an indent to help guide your finger to its center point. For some reason, the back button was also moved slightly toward the front of the headset. These changes didn't affect my use of the touchpad, and I still prefer using a bluetooth gamepad for both UI navigation and games.

    On the left side of the headset, Samsung added a small fan and opening for airflow. When I first heard about this, my thought was that the fan would be used for cooling down the mounted phone, since the Note 4 had a tendency to overheat and slow games down in long sessions. However, the fan in the new Gear VR--which is powered by the phone--is actually used to reduce lens fogging. In practice, it works really well, too. I didn't have to wipe the inside of the Gear VR once while running demos tonight, something I had to do every 15 minutes or so with the Note 4. Some people have reported that their new Gear VR arrived with a busted fan, but it's really just quiet. It also only activates when your face triggers the proximity sensor on the inside of the headset.

    Tested's Quadcopter and Hobby RC Guides

    We've watched awareness and enthusiasm for quadcopters explode over the past year and a half--this is a really exciting branch of hobby RC. For our part, we've done our best to keep up with the hobby, from testing ready-to-fly quads to building our own multi-rotors. But between that videos that we've produced and Hobby RC guides written by Terry Dunn, there's a lot of material to digest if you're just getting started. So I'm putting all of our multi-rotor and RC coverage on this landing page as a beginner's resource and formal archive of topical content.

    I'll be updating this on a monthly basis, and please use this page's comments section to continue a discussion of all things multi-rotor-related.

    How to Get Into Hobby RC Guides

    This is Terry Dunn's bi-weekly column exploring all facets of the RC hobby, including multi-rotors. A great place to start is his first guide to getting started with general RC vehicles. The following guides cover multi-rotors specifically, with boats, planes, and car guides below it. I've marked what I consider to be essential reading with asterisks.

    Our videos covering some of these topics are embedded below.

    The State of Digital Comics

    The latest episode of The Verge's "Top Shelf" series is a great dive into the state of digital comics. Hosts Arielle Duhaime-Ross and Ross Miller interview Understanding Comics author Scott McCloud and comics app makers at Comixology and Symbolia to discuss the state of the medium. As a comics fan who still prefers reading physical graphic novels over comics on phones and tablets, I really enjoyed this!

    In Brief: Taking Apart LED Bulbs and Comparing Build Materials

    LED light bulbs are getting cheaper, and there are many more of them on the market--we'll actually be talking about them in-depth this week in a video. Features like the ability to use them with dimmers are one differentiator, but so is expected lifespan. Sparkfun founder Nate Seidle bought three 60W LED bulbs at his local Home Depot and took them apart to figure out why the cheapest model was only a fourth the cost as the most expensive one. What compromises are made for a $2.50 LED bulb? (h/t Chris Anderson)

    Norman 1
    Oculus Reveals Consumer Model, Announces Q1 2016 Release

    This is it. Oculus VR announced this morning that the long-awaited first consumer version (popularly referred to as CV1) of its virtual reality headset would be shipping in the first quarter of 2016. In a simple blog post, the Oculus team shared the first rendered images of CV1, which looks like a refined version of the Crescent Bay prototype we first saw last September and have used at recent trade shows. The differences from that prototype may be numerous, as the Rift will have a refined positional tracking system (supporting both seated and standing experiences) and a built-in microphone as well as headphones. More technical specifications are promised next week. Of course, the big question for virtual reality adopters will be if the Rift will ship with a VR input solution, like what we've seen on Valve's SteamVR. Input is briefly mentioned in the announcement, and Oculus founder Palmer Luckey says it's his "pet project". That's not a confirmation that an Oculus input solution will be ready for this first consumer release, but we're hopeful.

    Between potential showings of the Oculus Rift, Sony's Project Morpheus, and Valve's SteamVR, E3 just got really interesting. We'll know more in June, but until then, watch our previous Oculus and VR test videos below.

    How to Get into Hobby RC: Testing WISE Stabilization

    In our continuing overview of artificial stabilization systems for RC, I wanted to test one of the newest systems on the market. WISE is a stabilization system recently released by Hobbico. Although the WISE module is a discrete unit, it is currently only available imbedded with Flyzone's flagship trainer, the Sensei FS.

    WISE (no, it's not an acronym) is meant to be a training aid for pilots learning to fly fixed-wing aircraft (as opposed to rotary-wing helicopters & multi-rotors). Like other stabilization systems, it uses accelerometers and gyros to sense what the model is doing. Using this data, the system can bring a wayward model back to level flight. It also damps overly-exuberant control inputs from the pilot to avoid getting the model into a bad attitude in the first place.

    The WISE module is factory-installed to a tray in the fuselage of the Sensei FS. It is connected between the radio receiver and flight control servos.

    The Sensei FS

    Flyzone's Sensei is a popular trainer model that has been around for a few years. With a 58" wingspan, it is a sizable airplane with Cessna-like looks. Other than the addition of the WISE system, little else seems to have changed in the new FS (Flight Stabilization) version. The airframe is made of molded foam components and it features a brushless power system.

    The Sensei FS can be purchased as a Receiver-Ready (Rx-R) or Ready-to-Fly (RTF) kit. Both versions are mostly factory-built with servos installed for each control surface and the motor/ESC and WISE module already in place. The primary difference is that the Rx-R model allows you to install a 6+-channel radio system of your choice. Going RTF gets you a Tactic TTX610 radio system with a TR624 receiver. The RTF also adds a 3S-2100mAh LiPo battery and a simple AC/DC charger. Hobbico provided an RTF kit for this review.

    Before getting to the specifics of the WISE system, let's talk a little about the Sensei FS. The quality of the kit is very consistent with others wearing the Flyzone badge. The foam parts are cleanly molded and the components fit together well. Assembly is a nuts-and-bolts operation, so no glue is required.

    Microsoft Hololens Hands-On Impressions

    After getting a 90-minute demo with Microsoft's Hololens, Will sits down with Norm to discuss his impressions of the hardware and the state of Microsoft's augmented reality device. We talk about how Hololens works, the image quality, user interaction experience, and why it's a different technical challenge than virtual reality.

    The Best SSDs Today

    This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the original full article below at TheWirecutter.com

    If I were buying an SSD to replace a mechanical hard drive or an SSD that's running out of room, I'd get the 500GB Samsung 850 EVO. It has one of the best combinations of price, performance, and capacity of any drive you can get, plus easy-to-use software and a long warranty, and it comes from a company that makes excellent SSDs (and all their components).

    Who's This For?

    Replacing your boot drive with an SSD is one of the easiest ways to make an older computer feel newer and faster. If you've never used one before, you'll be amazed.

    Solid-state drives are three to four times faster than mechanical drives when reading or writing large files, and hundreds of times faster for the small random read and write operations your computer makes most during normal use. Since SSDs don't have any moving parts, they use less power, put out less heat, and don't vibrate. The one downside is that they're more expensive than traditional hard drives, but that price gap is dropping fast.

    You should get an SSD like the 500GB Samsung 850 EVO if you have a laptop or desktop that boots from a mechanical hard drive or a cramped, outdated SSD. It's also a good way to save money on a new laptop. You can usually save several hundred dollars by buying a laptop configured with a mechanical hard drive or small SSD and replacing or augmenting it with a high-capacity SSD. Most people should get the highest-capacity SSD they can afford. Right now 500GB is the sweet spot.

    How to Get into Hobby RC: Comfort Mod for FPV Goggles

    I've worn several different brands and models of FPV goggles. While some may be slightly better than others, I've yet to find any goggles that I thought were particularly comfortable. I tend to devote a good bit of time prior to every FPV flight fidgeting with my goggles to get them positioned just right. Their poor fit was something that I tolerated for the thrill of flying FPV. Recently, I decided to take a more proactive approach to the problem.

    A popular modification for FPV goggles is to mate them to the frame of ski goggles. These goggles typically have a much larger frame than their FPV cousins, which makes them more comfortable and easier to position correctly. I tried this modification on my Skyzone FPV goggles and I'm very happy with the result.

    A Proven Mod Method

    I didn't feel any need to innovate with this project, so I searched the web to see how other modelers have tackled goggle mods. I found that Jim T Graham from RC Groups posted a tutorial back in 2013 that also used Skyzone goggles. I used Jim's guide as my starting point and pushed forward.

    I chose to use different ski goggles than Mr. Graham (actually, he used motorcycle goggles). That deviation created significant differences in the challenges of our respective projects. Some aspects that were no issue for Jim required me to think a bit, and vice-versa. Although there is considerable overlap in our processes, I think that they are sufficiently different to warrant a separate overview.

    By integrating my Skyzone FPV goggles with a set of cheap ski goggles, my FPV flights are much more comfortable.

    The goggles I chose are just something cheap I found on Amazon. When shopping for goggles, don't worry about the lens coloring since you'll be discarding that bit in the initial steps of the modification.

    The State of USB Type-C Accessories

    You have to give the USB Implementers Forum some credit: they weren't kidding when they told us at this year's CES that the new USB Type-C connector would make it to our computers and peripherals real soon. The release of Google's new Chromebook Pixel and Apple's 12-inch MacBook have spearheaded that launch, compelling both cable and computer accessory makers to get compatible products into the marketplace. The good thing about USB Type-C is that it's backwards compatible with previous USB 2 and 3 connectors, so you can do a lot with adapters. It'll also of course work with upcoming USB 3.1 Gen 2 devices, with potential speeds that are double that of USB 3.0 (aka USB 3.1 Gen 1).

    Here are the cables I bought for the MacBook, and the accessories I'm looking forward to testing as the USB Type-C connector gets more widespread adoption. This excludes Apple's $80 USB-C Digital AV multiport adapter (with HDMI, USB-C, and USB-A connections), as that hasn't even shipped yet!

    Milling Time: The (Near) Future of Desktop CNC Milling

    Over the past month and a half, we've explored a variety of desktop CNC options, including an affordable ready-to-cut mill, a build-it-yourself hackable kit, and a pricey 4 axis machine. But what does the (not too distant) future of desktop CNC milling look like?

    Things are moving very fast these days. It seems every week there is another new CNC mill project on Kickstarter--a little reminiscent of the desktop 3D printer boom. In the next few months, half of the machines listed below are expecting to start shipping. And new versions of established machines are already coming our way. Needless to say, there are a lot of options out there. I've read up on most of them, and the following mills are the ones I'm most excited about.

    Note: aside from the Othermill Version 2, I have not worked with any of these machines in person, yet. What you are about to read is mostly based on information from the companies, secondhand accounts, or are just my initial takes on what I've seen so far.

    Othermill Version 2

    Photo credit: Other Machine Co.

    ITP got the latest Othermill a few weeks ago, and it has already become a key part of our shop. It does everything the Othermill Version 1 does with some nice additional features. The cutting spindle is more powerful and cuts aluminum beautifully. This model is a bit more enclosed, and this makes a big difference in noise and mess. And now there are T-slots on the mill bed, perfect for fixtures and jigs.

    It's available for purchase now, and costs $2,200.

    10 Secrets Computer Algorithms Can Figure Out About You

    We’re living our lives plugged into an ever-growing matrix of devices. It’s not only our computers that are computers anymore – phones, TVs, even refrigerators are processing and sharing data. And that data can be used in a lot of different ways. Today, we’ll show you ten things about your life that you might want to keep hidden but technology can now reveal.