Gadgets for Geeks

How to Add Brains to a Drone

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How to Add Brains to a Drone

DJI wants developers to create smarter drones-- and to do so it offers the Manifold, a computer turning drones into "truly intelligent flying robots that can perform complex computing tasks and advanced image processing."

The Manifold is compatible with DJI's Matrice test drone, and is essentially an drone-compatible Arduino board. An Nvidia Tegra K1 chip with Kepler graphics provides processing power, and ethernet, Mini-PCIe, HDMI, URT, SPI and 12C ports allow the connection of any number of sensors and add-ons.

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Samsung Gear VR Reaches Consumer Version

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Samsung Gear VR Reaches Consumer Version

Samsung presents the consumer version of the Gear VR, the smartphone-powered virtual reality headset developed in collaboration with Rift maker Oculus.

Improvements on the previous "Innovator Edition" headset include lighter construction (by 22%, Samsung says), foam cushioning for additional comfort and an improved touchpad controller on the temple.

The headset also fits more Samsung smartphones-- namely the Galaxy Note 5, Galaxy S6 Edge+, S6 and S6 Edge-- through the addition of sliding clamps allowing users to insert larger phones. The smartphones should provide a similar VR experience, since all have 2560x1440 resolution displays.

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Canon Takes on Consumer VR

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Canon Takes on Consumer VR

Canon might be the next consumer VR contender, as the company's Canon Expo 2015 houses an unusual-looking "secret" prototype headset users need to hold using a pair of handles.

Being an early prototype, the unnamed device lacks built-in audio, requiring the addition of external headphones. What it does have is a pair of 2560x1440 5.5-inch LCD displays (for total 5k resolution), a lens assembly featuring 3 glass elements per eye and 120-degree field of view, making it superior to the likes of the Oculus Rift or Samsung Gear VR.

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The Sony Remote/Speaker Hybrid

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The Sony Remote/Speaker Hybrid

Sony retains a more whimsical side as it presents the SRS-LSR100-- essentially a TV remote grafted on top of a wireless speaker able to receive 2.4GHz signals from a dongle attached to TVs or stereos.

But why would anyone even want a remote-speaker combo? As the company puts it, sometimes users want to continue listening to the TV and be able to change the channel even as they move away from the screen. As one does.

Other uses suggested by Sony include boosting TV sound while indulging in noisy activities (such as cooking or exercising), as aid viewers who might be hard of hearing or soothing babies to sleep.

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Mobile Device Control, on the Skin

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Mobile Device Control, on the Skin

Scientist at the Max Planck Institute and Saarland University reveal a means to turn the human body into a mobile device controller-- the iSkin, a sensor one can put on different body parts, such as fingers, forearms and even behind the ears.

The iSkin consists of biocompatible silicone rubber (specifically polydimethylsiloxane, aka PDMS) and conductive carbon black powder. It carries multiple pressure-sensitive sensors and is flexible enough to detect input pressure even when stretched by up to 30% or bent at a radius of 0.5cm.

So far the team has built prototypes in multiple shapes and sizes handling tasks such as answering calls alls, playing music and volume control. Another take on the technology involves a roll-up keyboard for smartwatch use.

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Kickstarting Real-Life Wizard Battles

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Kickstarting Real-Life Wizard Battles

Harry Potter fans might soon get a means to hold real-life wizard duels against friends and foes-- the Maguss Wand, a wand powered not by magic but by a receiver badge and a companion smartphone app.

The concept behind the Maguss Wand is actually fairly simple. The wand carries motion sensors and an IR LED, while the badge holds an IR receiver. Users cast "spells" by waving the wand in various patterns picked up by the badge. In turn the badge communicates with the mobile app to keep track of duels and even provide sound effects.

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How to Learn the Piano with an iPad

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How to Learn the Piano with an iPad

A company called The One reveals a iDevice-powered means for customers to learn how to play the piano-- The One Smart Piano and the Light Keyboard, a pair of electronic instruments complete with dedicated learning apps.

Already available in China, the two pianos feature LEDs on the keys to to help users learn notes and finger positions. Meanwhile the companion app displays sheet music, video tutorials and game-style lessons.

As mentioned earlier The One offers 2 flavors of piano. As the name suggests the Light Keyboard is a smaller offering, being a battery-powered 61-key MIDI keyboard. Meanwhile the Smart Piano is a "proper" piano, having 88 weighted keys and an upright wooden frame complete with 3 foot pedals.

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How to Control the Home… From the Bed

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How to Control the Home… From the Bed

The Sleepra might look like little more than a sleep tracker, but the sensor-laden device promises to do more than that-- it allows users to control a number of smart home devices without need to even leave the bed.

Essentially the Sleepra is a 60cm equilateral triangle users place between the sheets and the mattress. It plugs into the wall and features 3 built-in accelerometers to track user (or rather, sleeper) movement.

The aforementioned device control comes through wifi and pairing with a smartphone. Thus, one can set various gestures to control different devices, such as the TVs, thermostat or even connected coffee makers. The Sleepra is currently compatible with the Nest, WeMo and IFTTT protocols. with more to follow.

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The Next Oculus Rival: StarVR

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The Next Oculus Rival: StarVR

Swedish games developer Starbreeze (Payday 2, Syndicate) is the next unlikely company to take on the potentially lucrative world virtual reality as it unveils the StarVR headset at E3 2015.

The result of the acquisition of French hardware startup InfinitEye, the StarVR promises to be superior to the likes of the Oculus Rift through a super-wide field of view-- 210-degree, more than double the 100-degrees offered by the rival headset.

Further tech details include two 5.5-inch quad HD (2560x1440) displays within a fresnel lens design and head tracking through fiducial markers and a combination of gyroscopes, accelerometers and magnetometers.

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Oculus Details Rift Final Version, Controllers

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Oculus Details Rift Final Version, Controllers

Facebook-owned virtual reality headset maker Oculus reveals the final consumer version of the Rift at a press event just ahead of E3 2015, together with a companion input device dubbed the Oculus Touch.

The final version of the Rift headset is, ultimately, a refined take on earlier prototypes, if one with improved ergonomics. It features two low-persistence AMOLED displays, an IR LED constellation system for 360-degree head tracking, built-in VR audio system and "high quality" internal microphone.

Users can control VR games through a regular gamepad, but Oculus suggests an own control alternative-- the Touch, a pair of controllers (think the non-remote part of the Wii controller) featuring an analog thumbstick, two buttons and an analog trigger.

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The Stove Gets Connected Smarts

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The Stove Gets Connected Smarts

No piece of kitchen equipment appears to be safe from the addition of app-powered connected smarts-- a startup called Meld presents a pair of devices providing customers with automatic and precise stove control.

The Meld system consist of a motor-powered smart knob (replaces existing stove knobs), a thermometer one clips onto pots or pans and an obligatory smartphone app tying the two together. Essentially, the user sets a desired temperature on the app before the thermometer and the knob work in tandem via Bluetooth connectivity to maintain said temperature.

The result? Perfect cooking, every time. Or so the company claims, at any rate.

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