Tuesday, June 28, 2016


Boston Dynamics reports: [edited]

SpotMini is a new smaller version of the Spot robot, weighing 55 lbs dripping wet (65 lbs if you include its arm.)

SpotMini is all-electric (no hydraulics) and runs for about 90 minutes on a charge, depending on what it is doing. SpotMini is one of the quietest robots we have ever built.

It has a variety of sensors, including depth cameras, a solid state gyro (IMU) and proprioception sensors in the limbs. These sensors help with navigation and mobile manipulation. SpotMini performs some tasks autonomously, but often uses a human for high-level guidance.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Biodegradable Adhesive Fixes Vascular Holes

Wired reports: [edited]

Every year thousands of babies are born with congenital heart defects. These small vascular holes need to be repaired to allow the child to live normally. There’s currently no harmless way of doing this – so Maria Pereira created a glue that can stick the chambers of the heart back together.

Pereira’s biodegradable adhesive can be activated by light. Unlike other glues, which get washed away by water, it can be placed in wet environments such as the heart, where it degrades slowly by surface erosion mechanisms. "Surgery is evolving from open surgery to minimally invasive," says Pereira. "We believe that this can be a tool to enable surgeons to change how surgery is done."

The glue is being brought to market by Gecko Biomedical. The company is currently testing it in clinical trials and hopes to introduce it in 2017.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Sony Cyber-shot RX10 III

Digital Photography Review have published a in-depth review of Sony's premium super-zoom 'bridge' camera.

Snippets from the conclusion follow:

"The superb quality of the RX10 III's lens is quite a technical achievement, to say nothing of the overall feature set Sony has included as well. Whether you're zoomed in or zoomed out, focused close or focused on infinity, you'll be impressed with the sharpness offered by this 24-600mm equivalent F2.4-4 zoom lens."

"It's not perfect, that much is certain. It's not a 'caught moment' camera, or a sports shooting machine. But for outright versatility - for when I need 600mm – for when I need really good 4K in a compact package - the RX10 III makes a lot of sense."

"The autofocus system is contrast-detect only, meaning you can expect some hunting, especially at the longer end of the zoom. And while it aced our bike test for a steadily approaching subject - meaning depth tracking is quite good - the reality is that the camera too often goes into a long hunt if the AF point suddenly encounters a low contrast target - meaning missed shots."

"Overall, we've found the RX10 III the most well-rounded all-in-one bridge camera on the market today when it comes to size, feature set and image quality. But, while the RX10 III and its excellent lens might well be worth the price of admission for those that need it, continued ergonomic and user-interface shortcomings keep it from earning our top award."

Price: £1,499

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Sunway TaihuLight 93-Petaflop Supercomputer

Top500 reports: [edited]

A new Chinese supercomputer has captured the number one spot of supercomputers. With a Linpack mark of 93 petaflops, the system outperforms the former TOP500 champ, Tianhe-2, by a factor of three. The machine is powered by a new ShenWei processor and custom interconnect, both of which were developed locally, ending any remaining speculation that China would have to rely on Western technology to compete effectively in the upper echelons of supercomputing.

TaihuLight is currently up and running at the National Supercomputing Center in the city of Wuxi, a manufacturing and technology hub, a two-hour drive west of Shanghai. The system will be used for various research and engineering work, in areas such as climate, weather & earth systems modelling, life science research, advanced manufacturing, and data analytics.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

AuRoSS Robotic Librarian

c|net reports: [edited]

Every job has its more boring components. In libraries, one of those jobs is scanning the shelves, looking for missing and misplaced books, and taking stock of what's available. For human workers, this is time-consuming, repetitive and boring.

The autonomous robotic shelf-scanning platform, or AuRoSS, is in development by the Institute for Infocomm Research of Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research. It uses laser mapping to navigate a library, and RFID tags placed on books to scan the collection. It can work at night, tracking the shelves in real-time to locate lost and missing books, with 99 percent scanning accuracy, even with curved shelves.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Bose QuietComfort 35 vs Sennheiser Momentum Wireless

gizmag reports: [edited]

Bose's new QuietComfort 35 headphones build on the outstanding active noise cancellation in its wired predecessors, while adding Bluetooth. We've been testing the freshly untethered cans to see how they compare to the best-in-class Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 Wireless.

The QC35 has the same design as its predecessors. They feel very comfortable and lightweight. The headphones have a built-in battery, charging via microUSB, Bose is quoting battery life of 20 hours.

Compared to the wireless Momentums, the audio of the wireless Bose QC35s holds up surprisingly well. We'd still give the edge to the Sennheisers, but not by as wide a margin as expected. Listening wirelessly to a variety of Tidal lossless tracks with flat EQ, the Momentums had a slightly wider soundstage and perhaps a hair more punch in the bass and nuance in the highs. But it's very, very close – I could listen to either pair on a transcontinental flight and my ears would be extremely happy.

The gap in noise cancellation is wider than the gap in audio quality. I listened to both headphones with a vacuum cleaner running a few feet away, both with audio playing and no audio playing, and in both cases the vacuum noise was almost completely snuffed out by the Bose. The noise was still muffled, but much more audible, on the Sennheisers. The difference was just as pronounced swapping out the vacuum cleaner for a TV show playing in the same room.

Price: Bose: £289.95 - Sennheiser: £379.95

Monday, June 06, 2016

Olympus Stylus Tough TG-Tracker

Digital Photography Review reports: [edited]

The TG-Tracker takes 8MP stills with an ultra-wide 204˚ view F2.0 lens and provides 4K/30p and 1080/60p video recording options.

The unit is rated to be waterproof to 30m/100ft, shockproof from 2.1m/7ft, freeze-proof to -10C/+14F and crushproof to 100kgf/220lbf.

Also provided are a 1.5" flip-out LCD and a built-in lamp with 30 and 60 lumen settings. The tracking features include GPS, barometric pressure sensor, temperature sensor, compass and an accelerometer. A pistol-style grip is bundled with the camera to help keep shots steady.

The camera syncs with Olympus' Image Track app via Wi-Fi to display data logs including the user's route and elevation, and can display detailed summaries of excursions including total elapsed time, distance travelled, average speed and minimum/maximum elevation, among other data points. Images and video can be transferred to the user's smartphone using the app.

The Olympus Stylus Tough TG-Tracker is due to hit retailers in June for $349.99 in green and black body options.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Samsung Launching Postage Stamp-sized 512GB SSD

Mashable reports: [edited]

Samsung has announced it will be launching a 512GB solid-state drive measuring 20 x 16 x 1.5mm.

The PM971 is installed directly on the motherboard. According to the Samsung, this drive can download a 5GB HD movie in about 6 seconds with read and write speeds of about 1.5GBps and 900MBps.

It weighs 1g.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Type Terms

Creative Bloq reports: [edited]

Typography is a complex subject, with a lot of terminology to get your head around.

Type Terms is an animated resource to help you get to grips with the important elements of typography.

Type Terms was created by Dan Heywood. "I wanted to combine typography with web design and create an animated experience that would give me the chance to experiment with SVGs and CSS animations. The aim was to create something that would describe each term visually so that even the newest of designers could understand them."

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

TV HDR - Two formats, again...

c|net reports: [edited]

When TV HDR is properly implemented, the contrast between the whitest whites and darkest blacks is accentuated, colours are more realistic and the entire image becomes more vibrant. HDR creates a noticeable difference to everyday viewers - not just videophiles.

The mid- to high-end TVs in the 2016 model lines from all the major manufacturers will be HDR-ready. Fox, Warner, Amazon and Netflix are prepping HDR versions of their latest movies and TV shows now.

There are two versions of HDR: HDR10 and Dolby Vision.

Netflix and Amazon are backing both formats. And LG and Vizio are making their new TVs compatible with both.

Just about every HDR TV supports the HDR10 format. That means any TV labeled "HDR" will be able to play back TV shows and movies delivered in HDR10.

Unlike new TVs from LG and Vizio, none of the TVs announced in 2016 by Samsung and Sony will support Dolby Vision. And there's no way to add Dolby Vision to a TV via a software update. It requires Dolby's chip.

If Dolby Vision-enabled Blu-ray discs do hit the market, they will also support HDR10. That means they'll play on non-Dolby Vision players like the Samsung K8500, as well as TVs that don't support Dolby Vision. That's because the Blu-ray disc Association mandated HDR10 support for 4K Blu-ray players, while Dolby Vision is an optional addition, like object-based sound formats Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.

Netflix will serve both HDR10 and Dolby Vision content, so an owner of a non-Dolby Vision TV will be able to watch Netflix HDR. But the company has been more vocal so far in its support for Dolby Vision, and has been working with Dolby for longer to develop its HDR library. Netflix is now streaming Season 1 of "Marco Polo" in Dolby Vision, and will add "Daredevil" soon.

Both formats use many of the same technical underpinnings, including metadata that indicates to the TV how the images should be rendered on the screen. But only Dolby Vision's is dynamic, capable of changing on a scene-by-scene or even frame-by-frame basis. The HDR10 metadata, on the other hand, is static, so it only applies once to each piece of content.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Pebble 2, Pebble Time 2 & Pebble Core

Gizmodo reports: [edited]

The Pebble 2 is a reinvention of Pebble’s original success. It doesn’t loose the big plastic case, but it does introduce a new black-and-white display now fused with Gorilla Glass instead of plastic, and it’s been made a little more sleek. The big addition is a heart rate sensor, which will take advantage of the fitness software Pebble has been slowly introducing over the past several months.

The Pebble Time 2 is all metal and includes a heart rate sensor. The big upgrade for the Time 2 is the screen, providing a 50 percent larger display. The Time 2 lasts for 10 days on a single charge, and both it and the Pebble 2 remain waterproof up to 30 meters.

The Pebble Core is an internet-connected 'fob' that you attach to your keychain or put in your pocket. Pebble made this for runners and it can work with other smart watches. With 4GB of storage and 3G connectivity, it lets users stream Spotify playlists to their watch, allowing them to leave your phone at home.

It also supports simple actions with Pebble apps, like summoning an Uber, and Pebble thinks developers will find even more ways to tinker with it. The Core reportedly lasts nine hours running Spotify and GPS and can go for days in low-power mode. It charges with any wireless Qi charger.

The Pebble 2 and Pebble Time 2 are available on Kickstarter for the early bird special of $100 and $170, respectively. After that, they’ll jump up $30, which will also be their retail price. The Core starts at $70.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Light Rider Electric Motorcycle

engadget reports: [edited]

The Light Rider is an electric motorbike that weighs just 77 pounds and has a frame like an alien skeleton. Its creator, Airbus subsidiary APWorks, crafted the bike with 3D printing – but it’s not plastic. The hollow frame is aircraft-grade aluminium and it takes shape via thousands of thin metal layers produced in a bed of metal powder.

The frame itself weighs 13 pounds, roughly 30 percent less than most electric bike frames. Its complex shape would be impossible to craft using traditional means such as welding or milling.

The Light Rider gets 37 miles per charge. Airbus is currently selling a limited run at $56,095 each.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Google Gigapixel Art Camera

Digital Photography Review reports: [edited]

The Google Cultural Institute, an online virtual museum with high-quality digitisations of artifacts from across the globe, recently added more than 1,000 ultra-high-resolution images of classic paintings and other artwork by Monet, Van Gogh and many others. A new robotic camera system Google has developed called 'Art Camera' has made it possible for the organisation to add digitisations faster than before.

Art Camera, after being calibrated to the edges of a painting or document by its operator, automatically takes close-up photos of paintings one section at a time, using a laser and sonar to precisely adjust the focus. This process results in hundreds of images that are then sent to Google, where they're stitched together to produce a single gigapixel-resolution photo.

Art Camera can complete the process in less than an hour. Google has built 20 Art Cameras and is shipping them to museums around the world for free, enabling the organisations to digitise their artwork and documents.

The resulting gigapixel images can be viewed here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Transparent Wood

engadget reports: [edited]

Researchers at the University of Maryland were able pull away colour and chemicals from a block of wood. The result is a material that is both stronger and more insulating than glass, with better biodegradability than plastic. "We were surprised how transparent it could go," said Liangbing Hu, who wrote about the project in Advanced Materials.

Hu's team isn't the only group that's developed a technique for transparent wood - Swedish researchers have also been able to clear out the visible pulp, replacing it with a transparent polymer. The treatment techniques appear similar.

The researchers first boil the wood in water, sodium hydroxide and other chemicals for roughly two hours. This flushes out lignin, the molecule responsible for giving wood its colour. The team then pours epoxy over the block which makes the wood four to five times stronger.