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22Feb/170

Dance moves turn into music with BeatMoovz

Developed by Daigo Kusunoki, a competitive dancer with a background in mechanical engineering, BeatMoovz is a pair of Bluetooth bands you wear on your wrist or ankles. You pair them up with the iOS or Android app, and then you're ready to start making music. It's attuned to how fast you go and how you move -- a gentle rocking may produce a slow groove versus a faster beat you get from breakdancing.

Multiple sets of bands can be hooked up to one app: the demo at Toy Fair involved Kusunoki and another dancer both wearing two sets of bands, with them bouncing, waving and kicking to produce a variety of techno and hip hop jams. Different sounds can be assigned to each bracelet for a fuller piece of music. It's easy to imagine a street dancer using this to put on performances, as well as kids competing to create the most interesting compositions.

The app isn't limited to a small set of instruments -- there are 400 different options from a whole variety of music genres, from rock to pop to jazz. There are even sounds inspired by science fiction, video games and action films. The BeatMoovz will recognize your movements and apply the appropriate audio effects -- you can do the robot with all the appropriate mechanical shifting and clinking or, if you're not into dancing, it's also great for some physical humor as you pretend to shoot fireballs at your friends.

Each set of bands will cost $70 when they're released in August. They'll come in blue, black, red, green, yellow or orange, so you'll have no problem matching them to your favorite dance attire.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/02/21/beatmoovz-music-band/

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22Feb/170

MIT researchers built an energy-sipping power converter

The MIT system was announced at International Solid-State Circuits Conference earlier this month and maintains its efficiency at a very broad range of currents from 500 picoamps to 1 milliamp.

"Typically, converters have a quiescent power, which is the power that they consume even when they're not providing any current to the load," Arun Paidimarri, one of the postdocs who worked on the project said. "So, for example, if the quiescent power is a microamp, then even if the load pulls only a nanoamp, it's still going to consume a microamp of current. My converter is something that can maintain efficiency over a wide range of currents."

Rather than providing a continuous flow of power, the MIT step-down converter works with "packets" of energy. "You have these switches, and an inductor, and a capacitor in the power converter," Paidimarri said, "and you basically turn on and off these switches." The switches themselves have a circuit that release a packet of energy when the output voltage is below a specific level. If the device is using a low-power circuit -- say it's a sensor waking up to take a measurement -- then the device only releases a few packets of energy. If the device needs a high-power circuit -- to send a wireless signal, for example -- then it can release up to a million packets per second.

What's more, the resulting 50 percent drop in quiescent power means the researchers can start exploring other, lower-power energy sources like body-powered electronics.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/02/21/mit-researchers-built-an-energy-sipping-power-converter/

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22Feb/170

Boeing plans to build 3D-printed modular satellites

Companies that maker smaller, cheaper satellites are already using modular components to save costs and pump out as many as possible. Airbus and a startup called OneWeb (a venture founded by Richard Branson's Virgin and Qualcomm), for instance, are in the midst of building an automated assembly line in Florida. It'll be capable of cranking out hundreds of small satellites a year that cost roughly $500,000 each.

Boeing likely won't be able to achieve the same level of productivity since it's working on bigger satellites, but it'll be able to build a lot more units in a year. Rusnock says there's nothing stopping the company from "realizing huge reductions in production schedules." Its ultimate goal is to find a way for its spacecraft business to replicate its aircraft division's speed: it only takes the company 11 days to build a whole 737.

The private space corporation has already begun implementing 3D printing and some of its other new manufacturing processes in its Los Angeles facility. It's now looking for ways to use them for select commercial projects, and it's also working on adapting them for its different models. The downside to modular satellites is that they can only last around 7 to 8 years, half the 15-year lifespan of their highly customized hand-assembled counterparts. However, that might not exactly be a bad thing: Boeing's clients are already talking about launching new satellites with upgraded technologies more regularly. The cheaper, modular versions will give them the opportunity to reach that goal.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/02/21/boeing-3d-printed-satellites/

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22Feb/170

What’s on TV: ‘Ultimate Beastmaster,’ Oscars

This week we've got the second episode of Planet Earth II, focusing on Mountains this time. It's also time for Netflix to kick off its worldwide reality TV show, Ultimate Beastmaster. Taking more than a few hints from American Ninja Warrior and predecessors like American Gladiators, it tests contestants with a physically challenging obstacle course. Unique wrinkles include that it will have six customized versions for different countries: Brazil, Germany, Japan, Mexico, South Korea and the U.S.

Of course, the Academy Awards are also queued up for the weekend, and anime fans can grab Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex on Blu-ray -- although you may want to check the reviews first -- while gamers have some new Watch Dogs 2 DLC to play along with the wide release of Halo Wars 2. Look after the break to check out each day's highlights, including trailers and let us know what you think (or what we missed).

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/02/21/whats-on-tv-ultimate-beastmaster-oscars/

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22Feb/170

Google’s mixed reality tech shows faces behind VR headsets

In order to "remove" the VR headset in a video, the user's face has to be scanned with a camera and reconstructed as a dynamic 3D model that blinks and looks in different directions. Next, the VR headset -- Google used an HTC Vive for its tests -- has to be outfitted with eye-tracking tech in order to detect where the user is looking. Google's and Daydream's technique superimposes the 3D model on the face of the real person. It doesn't completely remove the VR headset, though: it just replaces it with a transparent version to prevent the uncanny valley effect.

As you can guess, the technique will benefit YouTube creators the most at this point in time. In fact, Google is exploring ways to make it accessible to YouTubers. It could become a lot more useful when VR becomes more widespread, though. For instance, it could be adapted to show people's faces in VR video conferences or the faces of friends playing VR games together.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/02/22/googles-mixed-reality-tech-shows-faces-behind-vr-headsets/

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22Feb/170

Crowdfunded ‘MST3K’ revival hits Netflix April 14th

Tonight, after a "Red Carpet Kickstarter Screening" of the first new Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode, Netflix announced the revived series will launch April 14th. In a message to backers of the biggest crowdfunded video project, creator Joel Hodgson promised that backers with rewards including new episodes or a live screening of the new episodes will "have them by April 14." Netflix didn't have anything to share other than the cast photo above, but at least fans can mark their calendars.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/02/22/crowdfunded-mst3k-revival-hits-netflix-april-14th/

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22Feb/170

Netflix reportedly snags Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Irishman’

Netflix is making another big movie splash, as IndieWire is the first to report that it's acquiring the rights to Martin Scorsese's $100 million+ gangster flick The Irishman. Reportedly in the works since at least 2010, the project is supposed to unite the legendary moviemaker with both Robert de Niro and Al Pacino. The big budget is apparently due to the use of Benjamin Button-style special effects to make its actors appear younger for certain scenes. The story is adapted from the nonfiction book I Heard You Paint Houses, about mob hitman Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran.

A deal for Paramount to release the movie apparently fell through -- possibly related to a poor opening for the Scorsese/Paramount produced Silence -- opening the door for Netflix to flex its deep pockets and worldwide release capability. Despite those issues, judging by the names attached -- which are said to also include Joe Pesci -- The Irishman is a good bet to stay far away from the MST3K screen.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/02/22/netflix-reportedly-snags-martin-scorseses-the-irishman/

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22Feb/170

Scientists hold the first quantum computer face-off

For the first time ever, two quantum computers have faced off against each other in a series of experiments to determine which technology reigns supreme. A team of researchers from the University of Maryland have pitted their own quantum computer against IBM's creation, running the same algorithms on both at the same time. The winner? Well, it's kind of a tie. IBM's is faster than Maryland's, but it's also much less accurate. In one test, Maryland got 77.1 percent in accuracy, while IBM only got 35.1 percent. IBM's, however, was up to 1,000 faster than its competitor.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/02/22/first-quantum-computer-face-off/

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22Feb/170

Wileyfox Swift 2 series review: Affordability upgraded

Video output is more or less comparable across all the Swift 2 devices, regardless of sensor size. Clips filmed at 1080p/30 fps are clear, detailed and colourful enough, though audio is a tad muffled screen-side. None of the handsets present with overly fidgety white balance, exposure or focus, which are the kind of inconsistencies that can ruin even the clearest of videos. In low light, neither of the two sensors is particularly strong, but the Swift 2 definitely struggles with noise and maintaining focus a little more than the 2 Plus and 2 X.

All handsets share the same 8-megapixel front-facing camera, which is good enough for a selfie or video call, but colour saturation is again an issue here. Selfies are also not as detailed as I would expect from an 8-megapixel front-facer (just look at the shots you get from Google's Pixel smartphones, for example), but then, at least you can't see every pore and flaw.

All things considered, the Swift 2 family cameras are serviceable enough for devices at these price points; they just aren't particularly strong. I much prefer the 16-megapixel shooters of the 2 Plus and 2 X to the Swift 2's 13-megapixel sensor, but I could see why some people might not want to pay at least an extra £30 for a slightly more consistent experience. It's a matter of priorities, really.

Performance and battery life

Wileyfox has kitted out all the Swift 2 handsets with the same chip: a 1.4GHz octa-core Snapdragon 430 with an Adreno 505 GPU. The regular Swift 2 pairs that with 2GB of RAM and 16 gigs of internal storage, whereas the 2 Plus and 2 X push those to 3GB and 32GB, respectively. Storage isn't much of a concern, as all the handsets accept microSD cards as large as 64GB -- though you'll have to forgo dual-SIM functionality (the tray takes either one micro-SIM and one nano-SIM, or the former plus a microSD card).

The original Swift was working with a 1.2GHz quad-core Snapdragon 410, and I had few qualms with that device. No points, then, for guessing that the Swift 2 performs even better. All right, so the user experience isn't as slick and polished as it is on, say, a Galaxy S7 Edge, but in terms of responsiveness, we're mostly talking differences in fractions of a second.

Besides, considering the Swift 2 family starts at £159, you're not being asked to compromise too much on the performance front. Sure, the devices occasionally freak out (show me a phone that doesn't), but these episodes are infrequent enough not to be frustrating. The vast majority of the time, the user experience is fast and fluid, provided you don't overwhelm the thing with too many commands at once.

The general standard of performance is reflected in how the Swift 2 handles resource-intensive games. After waiting out the 10 seconds or so of loading time, Real Racing 3, NBA Jam and Asphalt 8: Airborne all ran smoothly on the device, and I was particularly impressed with the high and stable frame rate of the latter on the maximum graphics settings. Unkilled, a relatively new first-person zombie shooter from the developer of the Shadowgun titles, started to drop frames only on the highest graphics setting (though the game did warn me that I was pushing the limits of the hardware beyond what it recommends).

There was no such deterioration on the 2 Plus and 2 X, though, which is the only time I've noticed the extra 1GB of RAM coming into play while testing the three devices. That's not to say extra RAM is unnecessary if you don't play 3D games. You're buying a buffer -- a reserve that can be tapped during heavy multitasking sessions. You're also buying time: going some way toward future-proofing your device against more demanding OS and app updates.

Further to the standard connectivity options, like WiFi (single-band, 802.11b/g/n) and Bluetooth 4.1, the Swift 2 range adds NFC to the mix. It's another important addition to this generation, since it opens the door to Android Pay and any other mobile wallet or payments system that might make your life easier.

The Swift 2 and 2 Plus are outfitted with a 2,700mAh battery, while the slightly larger 2 X gets 3,010mAh to work with. I've run the standard Engadget battery drain test -- looping a 720p video at 50 percent brightness -- several times on all three devices. The Swift 2 performs the best, lasting between eight hours and 25 minutes and eight hours and 40 minutes. The 2 Plus is the most consistent, staying alive for eight hours and 15 minutes or thereabouts (the shortfall gives you an idea of what toll on battery life that additional gig of RAM has). The 2 X produces the most erratic results, ranging from seven hours and 47 minutes to eight hours and 27 minutes.

I can't tell you why there's such a gulf between the best and worst counts, because the whole idea of the rundown test is to produce consistent results. All I can say is the bigger battery doesn't equal a longer lifespan when it's powering the more pixel-dense 1080p display. Scores in between the eight- and nine-hour marks aren't impressive by any stretch, but they're exactly what I'd expect at these kind of capacities.

Of the three phones, I've spent the most time carrying around the standard Swift 2, and battery life is better than the rundown tests might suggest. Don't get me wrong -- it isn't a two-day powerhouse, but it has gotten me through many a busy day and halfway through the next without begging for a wall socket. And I'm not just talking about a few emails, but calls, texts, maps, browsing, social stuff, YouTube, Spotify and a few hours of downtime in the evening.

When any of the phones do give up the ghost, Qualcomm's Quick Charge tech promises 25 percent charge in 15 minutes and 75 percent in under an hour. You only get a USB-C cable in the box, though, and I don't seem to have the right wall plug adapter (I've tried ones from Amazon, Apple and others). While the lock screens of the phones do announce that rapid charging is in effect, I typically get a slower rate from zero to hero of roughly two to two and a half hours.

The competition

You can't really argue with the price of any of Wileyfox's latest handsets. The Swift 2 is obviously the cheapest, at £159, while the 2 Plus and 2 X cost £189 and £219, respectively. Ever since the first Moto G launched in 2013, the fact you can dodge subsidised contracts and buy something outright that not only is affordable but does everything you need it to is a constant source of comfort (yeah, I'm weird like that).

There's just one problem: Wileyfox isn't the only company making smartphones for contract-averse, budget-savvy consumers. In fact, you could say Wileyfox got lucky with the first Swift, because it launched in something of a vacuum. With a launch price of £129, it undercut every comparable (or lesser) device on the market. But times have changed.

The Swift 2 range has many more competitors, and the situation may get worse when the Mobile World Congress conference kicks off later this month. Motorola's G4 range offers an alternative at every Swift 2 price point. The £130 G4 Play is specced similarly to the original Swift, while the £169 G4 is closer to the new Swift 2, albeit with a 5.5-inch 1080p display instead of a 5-inch 720p panel. At £229, the G4 Plus adds a 16-megapixel camera and a fingerprint reader.

None of these devices are notably better than their Swift 2 counterparts on paper, but they do come from a trusted brand you'd hope would keep the Android updates flowing. The two pricier handsets, though mostly plastic, can also be heavily customised through Moto Maker.

Leaks point to Motorola updating its G line in the near future. The G5 is thought to have the same Snapdragon 430 chip as the Swift 2 family, as well as a 5-inch, full HD display. The G5 Plus is rumoured to carry a beefier Snapdragon 625 and a 5.2-inch, full HD screen. These could end up being much more serious threats to Wileyfox's smartphones than Motorola's G4 trio, but that will depend primarily on pricing.

The new £225 Honor 6X is also a candidate at the top end of the price bracket. Powered by Huawei's octa-core Kirin 655 chip, the device boasts a 5.5-inch, 1080p display and dual rear cameras for playing around with focus and background blur. Alternatively, you can pick up an HTC One A9s for the same price, or a Huawei P9 Lite for roughly a tenner less, which is getting on a bit but still offers good specs for the price.

Then there's the LG Stylus 2 and HTC Desire 650 and LG X Cam and Blu Vivo 6 (et cetera), all of which can be bought for under £200. In short, there are plenty of options in the £150–£200 range, and there will likely be a few more incoming once Mobile World Congress has been and gone. Wileyfox's trio of devices are still competitive, mind, but that doesn't mean you won't find something that's more your style, or more focused on one feature that's important to you (like the camera), if you shop around online.

Wrap-up

As far as next-generation upgrades go, Wileyfox has done an admiral job of maintaining affordability amid several significant improvements. The use of aluminium, a new fingerprint sensor and the NFC chip are all good decisions on Wileyfox's part, with the company doing more than just beefing up the spec sheet.

There is one downside to these improvements. The first Swift launched at £129, and it's this bargain price that made it stand out from other affordable smartphones at the time. This generation, pricing starts at £159 for the basic Swift 2, and each time you go up a model, you're being asked to pay another £30. I don't think this is unreasonable, as such, and I'd opt for the more expensive Swift 2 Plus if I had to make a choice. But paying another £30 for the 2 X, just to upgrade the display to 1080p? I wouldn't say that's worth it, but if you watch a lot of media or play games often, you might think differently.

As you go up in price, more potential competitors emerge, especially when you break the £200 barrier, as the 2 X does. Features begin to become ubiquitous, and so you've more chance of finding a handset from another manufacturer that might suit you better, for any number of reasons. And that kinda sums up my overall feelings about the new Swift 2 family. They are all good smartphones for their respective price tags, but that's where the first Swift was distinct: It was better than its price tag.

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/02/22/wileyfox-swift-2-series-review/

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22Feb/170

The Morning After: Wednesday, February 22 2017


Tune in to NASA TV at 1PM ET
NASA has a new discovery to announce

This afternoon, scientists will reveal a discovery "beyond our solar system." The new findings have to do with exoplanets, aka planets that orbit stars other than our own. We don't know what they've found -- if it's Earth 2 then can we all promise not to tell Mat Smith? -- but all will be revealed in a live streamed press conference at 1PM ET, followed by an AMA on Reddit.


This plan doesn't use them to replace drivers
UPS tests drone/truck delivery combo

The FAA still needs to approve the system before it can roll out, but UPS just showed off an idea to use drones to deliver packages. Using tech we've seen before from the Workhorse Group, flying machines take off from a delivery truck. While the driver continues to their next stop, the drone delivers its package and returns to the truck autonomously.


1.2Gbps, to be exact
Qualcomm's new LTE chip is faster than gigabit fiber

The X20 chip is capable of simultaneously receiving up to 12 streams of LTE data. That's good for bandwidth as high as 1.2Gbps for your phone or tablet when it arrives in 2018. Bonding 4G streams together (it can also upload at up to 150Mbps) is the best we can hope for until proper 5G tech arrives, assuming you can find a tower nearby ready to deliver that speed (and bandwidth caps it won't instantly exceed.)


After losing a speaking gig and book deal
Internet troll Milo Yiannopoulos resigns from Breitbart News

There's no need to waste any more of our valuable ink on the details. Wait, this newsletter isn't printed in ink? It should be.


It could power a car while also capturing carbon dioxide.
Tiny 'engine' turns natural gas into hydrogen

The dilemma with hydrogen is that while fueling your car with the stuff is faster than charging an EV, making and distributing it is inefficient and polluting. A team from the Georgia Institute of Technology has created a four-stroke "engine" that converts natural gas (methane) into hydrogen from just about anywhere, while capturing the CO2. It could one day hook up to your natural gas line, letting you fuel your car from home in a non-polluting way like you can with an EV.


More G.Intel and Qualcomm are steadily gearing up for 5G

There's still no unified 5G standard for the next generation of mobile communication, but boy, do some companies have plenty of ideas. Qualcomm and Intel are hoping to play essential roles in the 5G ecosystem, which is poised to be at least ten times faster than existing networks and offer features like near-zero latency.


Apple owns the company that helped build the original Kinect.
The next iPhone might have depth-sensing front camera

Rumors of what the next iPhone will be like are coming in hot and heavy. Last week, well-connected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo noted that the new handsets would nix the home button for a touch-friendly "function area." Now, a KGI Securities report says that the upcoming OLED iPhone will feature a "revolutionary" front camera that's capable of sensing 3D space via infrared. Intrigued?


Nothing is sacredThe Etch A Sketch got an LCD screen

So many feelings.

But wait, there's more...

Article source: https://www.engadget.com/2017/02/22/the-morning-after-wednesday-february-22-2017/

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