Tag: gadgetry

Researchers create prosthetic hand that offers more lifelike dexterity

Researchers at Georgia Tech have developed a prosthetic hand inspired by the bionic one given to Star Wars' Luke Skywalker. What sets this one apart from other prosthetics is the amount of dexterity it offers, allowing users to move individual fingers at will. With it, Jason Barnes, the amputee working with the researchers, was able to play piano for the first time since losing part of his arm in 2012.

Most available prosthetics use electromyogram (EMG) sensors to translate muscle movement where the limb was removed to hand and finger motions. But those types of sensors are pretty limited in what they can do. "EMG sensors aren't very accurate," Gil Weinberg, the professor leading the project, said in a statement. "They can detect a muscle movement, but the signal is too noisy to infer which finger the person wants to move." So the team took their prosthetic one step further and attached an ultrasound probe. Just as physicians can use ultrasound machines to take a look at a fetus inside of a womb, the probe can see which muscles are moving in an amputee's arm. Algorithms can then translate that into individual finger movements. "By using this new technology, the arm can detect which fingers an amputee wants to move, even if they don't have fingers," said Weinberg.

There are a number of groups working on improving prosthetics and trying to make them more lifelike. Some of those efforts include introducing tactile feedback to let users know where their prosthetic is without having to look and giving prosthetics the ability to see what they need to grasp. DARPA even has an advanced prosthetic named LUKE, also inspired by Skywalker.

This isn't the first prosthetic built for Barnes by the Georgia Tech team. In 2014, they gave him an arm that let him play drums. It even had a second drumstick that moved based on the music being played and could play faster than any human drummer. About his second, dexterous prosthetic, Barnes said, "It's completely mind-blowing. This new arm allows me to do whatever grip I want, on the fly, without changing modes or pressing a button. I never thought we'd be able to do this."

Source: Georgia Tech

The best gifts for a console gamer

Don't worry, we're not out to start a console war in our comments: If you're in the market for a new games system, the Xbox One S, PlayStation VR, Nintendo Switch and 2DS XL all made it into our holiday gift guide, for different reasons. Once you figure out which platform is best for your intended, we have a wide assortment of games and accessories, from a 400GB microSDXC card to a custom Xbox controller to the PlayStation Gold wireless headset, among other things. Find all that and more in our gift guide at the link below.

Source: Engadget Holiday Gift Guide 2017

The Morning After: Weekend Edition

Hey, good morning! You look fabulous.

Welcome to the weekend. We have some relatively normal Apple news to discuss, the most powerful GPU ever and a movie trailer that anime fans just can't miss.

Congratulations on making it a week without any emergency patches.Your regularly-scheduled Apple news

On Friday Apple said that "with the completion of Apple Park," famed designer Jony Ive is again directly leading its design managers and teams -- duties he gave up in 2015. Finally, there's a rumor from TechCrunch that a deal to buy Shazam could be announced as soon as Monday.

That price.NVIDIA's 'most powerful GPU' ever.

Meet the Titan V. Powered by NVIDIA's Volta tech, the company said is the "the world's most powerful GPU for the PC." With 110 teraflops of power (9x more than the previous Titan), this $3,000 card isn't built for gamers. Instead, it's aimed at scientists and researchers working on "AI, deep learning and high performance computing."

Really?Sony's plans for VR include 'Wipeout' and 'The Last Guardian'

At last night's PlayStation Presentation Sony had several announcements (MediEvil is coming back), but we're focusing on its VR news. Early next year the Wipeout Omega Collection will get an update for PlayStation VR, while a free VR demo for The Last Guardian is due to arrive on December 12th. There's also a 4v4 squad shooter for VR called Firewall Zero Hour.

Uncanny.James Cameron's 'Alita: Battle Angel' stars CG anime eyes

We're betting there's something you'll notice in the trailer for Alita: Battle Angel. After years of development, this Robert Rodriguez-directed anime adaptation starring Rose Salazar and Christoph Waltz will debut next year.

You don't always want to yell 'pause' to pick up a phone call.Google re-enables touch controls for audio playback on the Home Mini

A creepy glitch caused Google to disable the top button on its Home Mini speaker, but now touch playback controls are back. With a software update, owners can long-press the side buttons to play or pause audio.

How do you think he sees you when you're sleeping?Bad Password: All the cool gifts are made for spying on you

Columnist Violet Blue explains how 1984 might be hiding inside your next present.

That's one way to handle it.Bungie feeds 'Destiny 2' trolls a ridiculously overpowered gun

The randomly-dropped Prometheus Lens weapon has a glitch that's unbalancing Destiny 2 PvP. Bungie's quick answer? Make it available to everyone this weekend via its exotic weapons sales-alien Xur.

But wait, there's more...

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Next ‘Overwatch’ competitive season will have more changes

While Overwatch is still in its seventh competitive season, Blizzard has already tipped its hand about a couple of changes due in season eight. With these matches focused on creating even pairings to rate skill, next season the plan is to tighten the range allowed between the highest ranked player on a team and the lowest. The plan is to test these new settings through December and figure out the final figures in January, although current brackets on ratings determining who can queue together will not change.

The other adjustment only affects Diamond, Master and Grandmaster tier players, so unless you git gud you won't even notice it. These are the players to whom skill rank likely means the most and they'll want to know everything about how it's changing. Until now, skill rank changes up or down (while largely determined by a win or loss) have been affected by things like how many matches you've played, how the game thinks you performed, and whether or not your team was favored going into the match. For top players in the new season, the personal performance curve will go away, hopefully encouraging players to try to win instead of hunting stats to please the system.

We'll see how the community responds (Genji mains this means you) after January 2nd when the new tweaks go into effect.

Source: Overwatch forum

Facebook adds a sound and music library you can use for video

Facebook has a bunch of new tools for video creators. First up, it has launched a community hub for 360 degree video (which isn't live for everyone just yet) that gathers educational bits like how to use 360 degree cameras, how to edit said videos and a primer on spatial audio. Speaking of editing, the social network has also launched 360 Director, a page with tools for adding annotation, setting zoom level, and the ability to save a video as a draft, among others. Facebook will also loan out the pricey cameras, starting with the GoPro Fusion and ZCam S1 at launch.

Not into 360 video? Well, Zuckerberg and Co. have something for you too. Facebook Sound Collection is a gaggle of songs and sound effects you can use with your authored videos, 360-degree ones included. Meaning, you can use these without fear that your masterpiece will get muted because of a copyright violation. Will that stop people from uploading video with licensed music? Probably not. Facebook's ambitions for video are pretty transparent at this point, but it's good to see that the company is willing to invest in its users in addition to its original programming aspirations.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Facebook (1), (2), (3)

All the cool gifts are made for spying on you

It's the gift-giving season, and high-tech gadgets are more exciting than ever. Alexa, Siri, Cortana, and even "Okay Google" are ready to come over for holiday ham, ready to help you turn on a light or play you some Spotify. Those always-on microphones, cameras, and WI-FI connected devices are cheaper, cooler, and more convenient than ever.

Yet, you still feel a little weird about their, you know, baser functions. Google and Amazon only record what they need to. Plus, you've read 1984, watched Big Brother (and thought the contestants were nuts for being watched 24-7), and you think spying on people's everyday lives is generally bad.

And yet, look at us. We're marinating in surveillance tech. We carry an always-on combination tracker and eavesdropping device everywhere we go (a smartphone). We agonize over picking out the best smart home microphone-speaker combination. We snarf up the latest in connected appliances. We say "yes" to all the apps, and surf the web looking for deals like it's the pre-condom era of porn.

We know the connected devices, no matter how big the company they come from, are all bug-infested, insecure, preyed upon, and riddled with shady backroom data deals. And yet.


And yet.

The trend toward in-home surveillance devices is only continuing, with this year's gift-giving aspirations. Here at Engadget, we're modeling the trend: decrying privacy invasions, yet playing with privacy fire, indulging our lust for convenience and futurism with all the sexy gadgets on our 2017 best-of gift list.

We want the Echo, the Google Home, a Sonos One, and all the privacy-devouring spy tech we can cram into our voice-activated games console. I'm with you! Yet I know better than to let companies spy on me! Give me a new MacBook, a Chomebook, an iPad or a Surface, damn the easily-hackable onboard cameras and microphones, full speed ahead. I'd push grandpa into a mall fountain and jam his walker into Best Buy's revolving doors to get my hands on the hottest new tracking devices, the iPhone, a Pixel, a Galaxy.

And that's the thing: We all know the risks these days. It's not like ten years ago when some of us were trying to raise the alarm about webcam hacking and data dealing, and everyone thought we were fringey conspiracy weirdos in tinfoil bras doing Flickr updates from our freaky internet-connected phones.

If anything, security and surveillance are even bigger concerns. Just in October, a woman's new webcam was taken over practically the minute she plugged it in. In a Facebook post, she described the incident, going on to film the camera's complete hijacking while in progress. But here's the thing: The story didn't surprise anyone, and didn't compete with any headlines. We're all like, yeah, that's a thing that happens now, while in our heads we silently practice what we'll do when it happens to us.

young male technician...

I know what you were thinking when your eyes traveled the wishlist above, with the Echos and the Homes, and the highly desirable appliances that make Inspector Gadget's kit look like unimaginative stupidity. You're thinking, "but Amazon will protect me from unlawful requests" and "Google Home wouldn't do that on purpose, it would harm consumer trust."

And in the instances we know of, you'd be right. When a man was murdered in November 2015, Amazon initially refused to hand over its Alexa data from the scene of the crime when prosecutors demanded the records. The company said that Alexa's questions and answers are protected by the first amendment and Amazon "seeks to protect the privacy rights of its customers." Amazon later relented and shared the data when the defendant, the Echo's owner, gave permission. That a hacker had fun turning the Echo into a wiretap did not endeavor to reassure.

And that whole thing where Google Home was recording everything just this last October, well that was a "bug." Never mind that "bug" is Facebook's perennial catch-all term/excuse for getting caught doing something people don't like (and that's not a good look for anyone). Google said its little smart home speaker was having an "issue" that caused it "to behave incorrectly." That probably wasn't reassuring for journalist Artem Russokovskii, who discovered he was being recorded 24-7.

What can we do, but take Google and Amazon at their word? No one trusts these companies or their interests in serving us better ads or suggestions. They say they'll protect us, they're big companies and can afford to properly test everything, and they fix their mistakes when we find them.

Haven't we learned anything from dystopian books and films? How is this now aspirational? Or is it just that we're so miserable from politics that a little convenience-at-a-cost is our only salve to soothe our tortured souls?

Don't feel bad. Everyone's doing it, the gleeful self-surveillance. Even hackers, who know better than anyone, and I can tell you that they're shopping for the same things and going home to strip down and roll in piles of connected crap like they hate privacy, too. We're all going to privacy hell together.

I'm sure it'll be fine. As long as we remember that it pays to be paranoid because we're all so depressed and angry at the state of the state that we deserve a little fluff, a little fun, a little convenience.

Facebook may be insidious, Apple might've conditioned us, and everyone with a stake in the surveillance pie has tried to soothe us. But we still need to cover our webcams, turn off geotagging, drill into settings to fight the data creeping, and stay awake and alert to the ways that companies make us targets.

Take my advice for the holidays: Shop like no one's watching, but never forget that someone might be listening.

Images: Brendan McDermid/Reuters (Amazon Echo); Shutterstock (Security camera).

Qualcomm has a new 4K HDR feature, but which devices support it?

There was a moment of confusion after Qualcomm announced that the new Snapdragon 845 chipset would enable mobile cameras to record videos in 4K HDR. The promise of smartphone videos with more colors, depth and greater dynamic range was tantalizing, but the question on everyone's minds was obvious: Which screens are capable of rendering such content? This would be useless if no one could see all the extra information being captured. But Qualcomm didn't have a clear answer for the audience.

To be fair, the answer is somewhat complicated, and has more to do with the way HDR video and displays are defined rather than the lack of capable screens.

While HDR photography has a clear-cut specification, when it comes to video the term 'HDR' serves as a sort of catch-all for various standards, according to Qualcomm's marketing manager for camera and computer vision PJ Jacobowitz. "It's understandable that consumers are confused," he told Engadget.

What people want is a standard that lets them know which devices will work with the content, whether they be smartphones or giant TVs. It's like when you see a gadget with the Bluetooth logo on it -- you know it will pair with other Bluetooth devices.

In the high-res HDR space, though, there are myriad competing standards. There's HDR10, which is a common, open specification, along with Dolby Vision, which is proprietary. Before I go into HDR10's requirements, you need to understand what the Snapdragon 845 records. It uses the Rec 2020 color space, which has 70 percent more colors than the typical Rec 709 profile (which is similar to the sRGB gamut). The 845 also captures 10-bit footage (deeper colors than the usual 8-bit quality), as well as luminance (that's the brightness of each hue) of up to 10,000 nits.

For a device to display HDR10 content, it'll need to use the Rec 2020 color space and a bit-depth of 10 bits. But HDR10 doesn't consider resolution, which is where other standards come in.

You'll see logos from the UHD Alliance certifying devices as compatible with "Ultra HD Premium" or "Mobile HDR Premium," which add resolution requirements to color profile criteria.

Devices certified as "Ultra HD Premium" compatible have to reproduce more than 90 percent of the P3 color space, which has a wider gamut than Rec 709 but smaller than Rec 2020. Candidates will also need to support at least 10-bit color depth, have a display resolution of at least 3,840 x 2,160 and brightness of between 540 and 1,000 nits, depending on their black levels.

Any device that bears either of the UHD Alliance logos will be able to display the 4K HDR content recorded on Snapdragon 845 devices. The caveat is that the Mobile HDR Premium standard, which was released earlier this year for things like smartphones and tablets, has a lower resolution requirement than bigger screens like TVs. So devices in this category may not render in 4K -- they'll most likely do so at 2K resolution instead. Still, you'll see the increased colors on these panels.

If only it were as simple as looking for these two logos to determine if your phone, tablet or TV can display 4K HDR. But it isn't. Not all companies with perfectly capable devices choose to get certified with the UHD Alliance, for a variety of reasons like preference for a different standard or desire to protect proprietary technology. Plus, most of the information you'll need isn't usually listed on a specs sheet on the product's webpage. For example, the Apple TV and Sony Xperia XZ Premium can render 4K HDR, but it's not clear from publicly available specs whether either meets all the requirements.

In the absence of a logo, one roundabout way you can check for compatibility is by seeing if your phone is on the Vimeo HDR list, which shows (mostly Apple) devices that meet the video network's requirements. Vimeo has similar criteria to the UHD Alliance, so it provides a good test.

Until the industry agrees on a single, unified standard for high-res HDR video, it will be difficult to keep track of the recording and display devices that are compatible with this new, rich content. So while you may soon be able to record extremely colorful videos in future, finding a canvas to show it off might be a frustrating task. That doesn't mean you should hold off on buying new TVs or displays altogether -- you just have to scrutinize the specs to make sure what you're getting supports the latest standards.

Images: Vimeo (Color space spectrum), UHD Alliance (logos)

SiriusXM now streams radio stations to your Apple TV

SiriusXM is now available on 4th generation Apple TVs and Apple TV 4K. Subscribers with streaming access can use the SiriusXM app to access its over 200 channels, which can be customized with MySXM. Users will also be able to access archived programming on demand and the app's user interface has been optimized for Apple TV.

The SiriusXM app has already been available on LG, Roku, Samsung and Sony smart TVs as well as Amazon Fire TV and Playstation. Apple TV owners also recently just got access to the Amazon Prime Video app.

To start listening to SiriusXM on your Apple TV, just go to App Store and search for SiriusXM. Then click "Get" to install, sign in with your SiriusXM username and password and you're good to go.

Source: SiriusXM

MIT is redesigning power converters to make the grid more efficient

Electrical efficiency affects a massive number of devices, from the relatively tiny phones in our pockets all the way up to electric cars and the power grids keeping our houses running. Power converters are a particularly important part of the equation, as they're the devices that bring the high voltages coming through power lines down to more manageable levels for household outlets. MIT, along with semiconductor company IQE, Columbia University, IBM and the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology have announced some breakthroughs on making that part of the equation more efficient.

Specifically, the report outlines how power converters made of gallium nitride semiconductors are both more efficient and smaller -- but thus far they've only been able handle power in the range of 600 volts. That's enough for household products, but not for larger or more complex devices. But MIT's research has led to a breakthrough in which gallium nitride converters have been able to handle twice the voltage -- up to 1,200 volts. That's enough to use in an electric car, but this is only a beginning point for the technology.

Ultimately, MIT and its partners believe that improvements will let these converters handle 3,300 and 5,000 volts, enough to build them into the power grid itself. The challenge has been building "vertical" converters out of gallium nitride, a design that's more efficient than the "lateral" alternative, but also harder to produce. But a new design has helped make these voltage increases more plausible: "Instead of doing the complicated zigzag path for the current in conventional vertical transistors, let's change the geometry of the transistor completely," said MIT professor Tomás Palacios. There's no word on when these types of designs might make it into electric cars or power grids, but the potential of reducing energy waste makes this project one worth keeping an eye on.

Source: MIT

The Morning After: Friday, December 8th 2017

Hey, good morning! You look fabulous.

There's plenty of news from last night's Game Awards, plus a ride in the surprisingly tech-heavy 2018 Ford Mustang.

Everybody's pregnant.The Game Awards 2017

Last night's event was about more than just trophies (congratulations to GotY The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild) -- we also got some big premieres and announcements. Think Bayonetta 3 as a Switch exclusive, and a new DLC for Zelda that's ready for you to play right now and an... interesting eight-minute trailer for Kojima's Death Stranding.

The future of technologies like AI, 5G, AR and VR.Why Qualcomm's Tech Summit mattered

During a three-day tech summit, Qualcomm showed off a new high-end mobile CPU, a USB-C audio DAC and laptops that blur the line between PCs and phones. Catch up on all you may have missed with this short video.

More brains to go with its brawn.2018 Ford Mustang GT review

While the Mustang's exterior, tire-spinning power and roar make it seem like a big dumb (but fun) animal, this pony has gotten an impressive tech upgrade.

Curious.Uber paid off a 20-year-old Florida man to destroy hacked data

The individual, whose identity Uber refuses to disclose, received $100,000 hidden as a "bug bounty" for destroying the info, which exposed the personal data of roughly 57 million customers and drivers. The ride-hailing firm then kept quiet about the breach for more than a year.

With double the maps.'PUBG' will hit v1.0 on December 20th

PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is already a phenomenon in Steam Early Access, but in a couple of weeks, it'll be ready for an official release. Don't expect much to change, including the price, but there's a second map that brings its battle royale gameplay to a new desert setting.

Hot wallet.Cryptocurrency mining marketplace loses $64 million to hackers

Someone nabbed 4,700 bitcoin from the NiceHash marketplace. They were worth $64 million at the time, but with the cryptocurrency's skyrocketing exchange rate, the heist's value is now $76 million.

'tis the season.The best gifts for the PC gamer in your life

If you need headphones, a mouse, keyboard, mic, webcam or actual games, then we've got you covered.

But wait, there's more...

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