It can seem like there's never a chair around when you need to take a load off, but what if you could simply carry a chair around with you? That's the LEX bionic chair, an exoskeleton project that just blew through its funding goal on Kickstarter. It doesn't require any batteries or complicated electronics. You can take a seat wherever you want. You just have to be comfortable walking around with bionic legs on your butt.
The designers of LEX say it's as easy to put on as a belt. Although, I'd say it's more like putting on three belts. One strap goes around your waist, and then two more fasten around your thighs. The legs fold up to lay flat until you need to sit down, and then it's a simple matter of pulling them up to unlock before sitting down. The entire contraption weighs about a kilogram (2.2 pounds) and has a maximum load of 120 kilograms (264 pounds).
Darrell's latest project involves the modeling and printing of a custom Wonder Woman Tiara for cosplay! Darrell walks us through his process adapting the model with some unique design elements and the trials and tribulations of smoothing out and finishing the 3D print to meet his satisfaction.
This week's mailbag is filled with wonderful 3D prints from maker Stian Ervik Wahlvåg, who is experimenting with prints by making human-scale LEGO pieces. We check out two of his designs, which have functioning electronics, as well as elegant print-in-place miniature toys. So delightful!
To get a powerful custom keyboard, you usually need to do some legwork in the form of waiting through long group buys, soldering switches, and tediously configuring firmware. Massdrop is making the whole process easier with the re-release of its popular CTRL keyboard. Last time, this board was run as a traditional group buy—you paid, waited a few months, and finally got your device. Now, the CTRL is coming back as a regular retail product.
This is a big deal for several reasons, not least of which is the CTRL is a hot-swappable board. It uses the Kailh hot swap sockets we've seen on recent devices like the M6-A and Minivan Kumo. It will come with a full set of switches, but you can change them out with any MX-style switch of your choice. The PCB doesn't have holes for the mounting pegs on "PCB-mount" switches, so you have to either use plate-mount switches or clip the mounting pegs off your switches.
The CTRL is a tenkeyless board, which is a fairly common form factor. It's a nearly full-sized keyboard with standard key sizes, but there's no number pad. I'm wary of stabilizers on retail boards, but these don't make any unusual racket when typing. The standard key sizes also make it easy to find custom sets to swap for the stock keycaps, but the stock ones aren't bad. They're double-shot PBT with shine-through legends. The LEDs shining through the keycaps are another distinctive aspect of the CTRL.
This keyboard has per-key RGB lighting via SMD components on the circuit board, which means your switch choice should take advantage of that. If you want to see the lights, you'll want to use switches that are either transparent (eg. Zealios) or have light pipes for SMD LEDs (eg. most newer Kailh switches). The keyboard includes several pre-programmed LED effects, but you can make tweaks to everything thanks to the powerful firmware.
There are plenty of ways to track the temperature in your home, but few of them are as retro-chique as the NixieTherm SMD. This device has exited for several years, but an updated version is live on Kickstarter right now. While it's still a DIY project, the design is much more accessible. All you need are basic soldering and electronics skills.
The name of this gizmo comes from the bar-style display at its heart. Nixie tubes are a type of cold cathode display technology; the application of voltage causes gas in the tube to glow. Many Nixie tubes contain the necessary parts to display the numbers 0 through 9, but the tube in the NixieTherm is a simpler bargraph model.
There's been a resurgence of interest in Nixie tubes in recent years—some larger and rarer models can be worth hundreds of dollars. There's a limited supply of Nixie tubes because they haven't been manufactured in decades. Newer technologies like LCD and LEDs effectively killed demand for Nixie tubes in industry. Luckily, substantial numbers of Nixie tubes were manufactured in Russia until the late 1980s, so the NixieTherm and many other tube-based projects use "new old stock" or (NOS). These are tubes that were produced decades ago but never used. They sat in a warehouse in Russia until the technology was old enough to look cool and retro.
The NixieTherm SMD kit comes with a PCB, case, temperature gauge, and the bar-style IN-13 Nixie tube. A standard 5V USB cable is all you need to power the device, which can tell you the temperature with a range of 57-92 degrees Fahrenheit (14-33 degrees Celsius). That should mostly cover the full range of indoor temperatures. It has an accuracy of plus or minus 1 degree, and the entire system is analog. That means continuous temperature readings with no microcontroller in the middle.
You will need to solder some components on the NixieTherm PCB, but the process is simpler than it was for the older variant of this device. The surface-mount components are already on the board, so you just need to do a few through-hole parts. It's a bit like soldering switches in most mechanical keyboard kits; the little fiddly bits like diodes and resistors are already done. The NixieTherm designer also suggests having a multimeter to check voltages on the board before use. The campaign says it'll take about two hours to build, and there will be downloadable instructions.
Sean reviews Formlabs' Form Wash and Form Cure post-processing accessories for the SLA 3D printer. The wash and cure stations help clean up and cure prints to make them come out cleaner and last longer, and automates some of the cleanup you would have to otherwise do manually. But they also have some hefty costs, starting with their prices.
We check out the Mosaic Palette 2, an accessory that allows 3D printers to print in multiple colors and materials by splicing different printer filament and feeding a new strand into your printer. Mosaic's Mitch Debora explains what's new in the Palette 2 and shows us their splicer software that lets you colorize your models for printing.
Linear switches don't get as much attention as clicky and tactile ones because there's less to obsess over. While those other switches have tactile bumps, click jackets, and more to modify, linears are just about smooth up and down motion. There are still some cool things happening with linears. Now, NovelKeys has released an entirely new linear switch called simply the NovelKeys Cream Switch. It's a neat cream color, but that's the least exciting thing about it.
This switch was designed by NovelKeys and manufactured by Kailh. It doesn't look like a lot of Kailh switches we've seen lately. There's no Box stem or clickbar housing. This one uses a classic Cherry-derived design, but it's entirely cream in color. The top housing, bottom housing, and the stem are all cream, and they're made of a different plastic than we see in most switches. Instead of ABS, the NovelKeys Cream switches are composed of POM plastic.
POM, or polyoxymethylene, is a thermoplastic used in manufacturing. It's a highly desirable option because it's (incorrectly) known as a self-lubricating material. Of course, it's not lubricating itself, which would imply that it has some internal reservoir of liquid. What that really means is that POM has very low friction when in contact with itself. It can feel like two pieces of POM are lubed even though they're completely dry.
The upshot of using a POM stem in a POM housing is that the movement is incredibly buttery. I find the Cream switch quite smooth in practice, but I'm also pleased with the acoustics. The POM housing seems to produce a deeper clacking sound when you bottom out, which I find preferable to the high-pitched sound of some switches.
It's finally here! We spend a week testing the Magic Leap One augmented reality headset, the long-awaited developer kit utilizing Magic Leap's secretive display technology. Let's dive deep into the hardware, display tech, user experience, and launch applications. Post your questions about the headset in the comments section!
The Minivan from TheVan Keyboards arrived on the mech scene a few years ago, quickly gaining fans thanks to its compact and efficient layout. I use one quite often, especially when traveling. There's a new version of the Minivan available for preorder right now on Kickstarter. It's called the Kumo, and it brings some important changes to the Minivan to make the keyboard more accessible and less expensive.
The Kumo is a 40% keyboard, which means it's tiny compared to most other keyboards you can buy. You get the full set of alphas as well as a subset of modifiers. There's no dedicated number row or arrow keys, though. At first glance, you might even wonder where the Enter key is; it's down at the bottom next to the mini spacebar, which saves a ton of horizontal space. Just four rows tall and 13 columns across, the Kumo is easy to haul around—it may even fit in your pocket.
Ah, summertime. The livin' is easy, the fish are jumpin', and it's the best time of year for me to get in some RC boating. My newest boat is the Wildcat EP from Aquacraft ($190). This electric-powered catamaran is sold as a ready-to-run package. Let's take a look at the details and then see how she performs.
The Wildcat EP is completely factory-built, with a plastic hull measuring a little over 25 inches (635mm) long. Twin rudders jutting out past the transom add another 3.5 inches (89mm) to the boat's length. The stickers you see are pre-applied. I like the color scheme, but the stickers on my example have several bubbles and lifted edges.
A large hatch provides access to the onboard radio equipment and running gear. The hatch is held in place with two locating pins in the rear and a swiveling latch in the front. You have to be careful with the pins. I broke one of mine while removing the hatch.
The boat is propelled by a single brushless motor with a flex-drive system connecting the propeller. Aquacraft includes a 50-amp, waterproof electronic speed control (ESC) as well. A pickup at the rear of the hull channels cooling water to the ESC and the motor's aluminum mount.
It is important to keep the receiver and steering servo dry. So both of those components are housed in a waterproof compartment.. A simple pushrod arrangement links the servo to the rudders. The rudders feature a unique break-away mounting system. One of the two bolts securing each rudder is made of nylon. If a rudder hits an obstruction while driving, the nylon bolt will shear and allow the rudder to pivot rearwards without damage. Well, that's the theory anyway.
For the short film we recently made with Weta Workshop, Joey color graded the footage using the Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve Micro Panel. In this review, Joey goes through his workflow for grading the shots to get specific looks, and tests this physical control panel to get the most out of the DaVinci Resolve software.
We're trilled to welcome a new member of the Tested family: 3D modeler and prop maker Darrell Maloney (aka the Broken Nerd)! We're big fans of Darrell's work and YouTube videos, and are starting a new series of collaborations between him and Adam. In this first video, Darrell goes over his process adapting a model made for vfx work to be 3D printable, and the 100+ hours of printing needed to have it come out right!
I make no secret of my affinity for small keyboards—I don't even own any full-sized boards anymore. Once you get under 40% (like the Minivan), you're not really talking about a replacement for a larger board. Sometimes, that's not the point. There are mechanical keypads and even smaller devices called micropads. One of the coolest micropads I've ever seen is the RAMA M6-A, which I've had a chance to play around with over the last couple weeks. It's an extravagant luxury for the discerning keyboard enthusiast.
There's no hard and fast definition of what constitutes a micropad, but I'd say it's anything smaller than a number pad. The M6-A, as the name implies, has just six keys. You can use those six keys to do almost anything you want. They can be single characters, modifiers, or even macros.
The online firmware manager "Knops" makes it easy to build new layouts and flash them to your keyboard. Since this is entirely self-contained firmware, the M6-A works the same no matter what computer you plug it into—it'll send whatever keycodes you've programmed. For example, I have mine configured to put my PC to sleep, show/hide the desktop, open the task manager, split screen my last two windows, and more. Sure, I could do all that manually, but it's neat having a little mechanical pad that does it with a single press.