main

Tech News

Under Armour’s Sport Wireless Train headphones are ready for the gym

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

IMG_1535-960x640.jpg

Last month, Under Armour launched its Project Rock on-ear headphones, which are built for intense workouts and were designed in collaboration with Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock). But not every fitness buff is going to be a fan of him (even though they should be, because gains), so it only made sense for the company to introduce a model without all his Rock branding. Enter the Sport Wireless Train, Under Armour’s latest on-ear headphones, created alongside audio firm JBL. The new set was first revealed in 2017 and looks nearly identical to the Project Rocks, with the only difference being the UA and JBL logos on the earcups and headband, respectively.

Outside of the design, Under Armour and JBL tuned the Sport Wireless Trains to be more neutral than the Project Rocks, which are quite bass heavy. I was able to notice that right away when I listened to a couple of albums on the Sport Wireless Trains — the vocals just seemed to pop and be more clear in every track. The other main difference, and this is a big one, is that UA made the Sport Wireless Trains $50 cheaper than the $250 Project Rocks. $200 is a much more compelling price point, especially when it still has all of the features that make The Rock’s pair appeal to people who hit the gym frequently.

The Sport Wireless Trains are made from rugged, sweat-resistant materials (IPX4 rating) and come with breathable ear cushions that can be removed and washed — that’s going to make it easy to clean them after your workouts. They also feature 40mm JBL drivers, a 16-hour battery life (5-minute charge will get you one hour of listening), oversized volume and playback buttons, as well as a 3.5mm audio jack in case you don’t want to do Bluetooth pairing. Additionally, Under Armour is throwing in a 12-month premium subscription to its Map My Fitness service, which is usually costs $30 per year.

Unfortunately, as with the Project Rocks, there’s no active noise-cancelling — and that’s likely going to be a deal-breaker for some people. But if that’s something you can live without, the Sport Wireless Train headphones are hitting stores in early August, though you can pre-order on July 24th from the Under Armour and JBL sites.

Gallery: Under Armour’s Sport Wireless Train headphones | 11 Photos 11 +7

Tech News

Riding an autonomous shuttle through Times Square was reassuringly boring

July 18, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Yesterday afternoon, I rode an autonomous shuttle down a short section of Broadway in the heart of Times Square, and it was easily the most boring part of my day. I’m not saying that because my life is particularly exciting, either. The trip was boring because everything inside the Coast Autonomous P-1 worked exactly the way it was supposed to: the shuttle crawled up to a barricade on 47th St., paused for a bit, and scooted back in the opposite direction toward 48th. In this case, the vehicle wasn’t completely autonomous — Coast CTO Pierre Lefevre manually started each leg of a trip with an Xbox Elite controller — but the P-1 navigated its surroundings all own its own.

That short trip was one of many small-scale tests the company has put on over the years, all of which speak to the commercial viability of tiny, driverless buses. I can’t imagine those tests were any more exciting. The P-1 isn’t ready for roads just yet, but it’s a fascinating taste of what the future of urban transit could look like: simple, straightforward and easy to accept. For a company like Coast, that’s the best kind of boring.

Coincidentally, the shuttle itself doesn’t look like much, either. It’s basically a big, self-enclosed golf cart with massive tinted windows. Since the shuttle scoots around bi-directionally, there’s no discernable front or back — it’s the same all the way around. Meanwhile, a white, ring-like bench hugs the interior walls, and a pair of roof-mounted grab rails sit directly across from a display for route information. Coast says up to 20 people can fit inside (assuming some people choose to stand) but I wouldn’t want to ride one of these things with more than 10 or 12 people inside.

There are no seatbelts, either, which works out just fine since each shuttle is meant to move between 15 to 20mph at most. Those low speeds also help keep the shuttle’s runtime as high as possible — Lefevre says each one can run between 10 and 12 hours on a single charge, and that they charge on inductive panels the shuttles park on at the end of the day.

The interior starts to feel cramped quickly. Chris Velazco/Engadget

Both ends of the P-1 are kitted out with LiDAR for object detection and collision avoidance, while two camera arrays ensure the vehicle can see stop lights and traffic signs. The shuttle doesn’t map out its route on the fly, though: before the first P-1 rolls out to pick up customers, a car with a roof-mounted sensor drives the route first, capturing crucial mapping data. Once that data is offloaded, it’s processed for a few hours before the Coast team fleshes it out further with pick-up stops and other route-specific points of interest.

Coast’s approach is pretty straightforward, but despite performing similar demos dozens of

Tech News

Nerf’s latest laser tag kit takes a cue from FPS games

July 16, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Blaster-Menu-Screen-960x719.jpg

Nerf guns are a lot of fun. But the arguments over whether someone got hit and picking up all those darts when you’re done? Not so much. Laser tag has a huge advantage there. Nerf even made its own laser tag guns a few years ago, and this week it updates the line with a video-game-influenced augmented reality upgrade. Now you can track your stats and target virtual opponents — things that fans of foam-dart-based weapons can only dream about.

Gallery: Nerf Laser Ops Pro | 15 Photos 15 +11

The new Laser Ops Pro line is launching with two models. There’s the $30 one-handed Alphapoint blaster (also available in a set of two for $45) and the larger $50 Deltaburst rifle. The designs are reminiscent of weapons you’d find in a game like Mass Effect or Gears of War, except for their white and grey color schemes with orange safety tips. They still look like toys, but not in an embarrassing way.

Both function as basic laser tag guns on their own, with the infrared sensor located in the tip of each weapon; no vest is required. Nerf actually thinks this makes the game more fair. Sure a player could cover up the sensor so they can’t be shot, but this means they won’t be able to fire at other players either. There’s a switch on each side that lets you choose between indoor and outdoor use, so the sensor can compensate for the amount of ambient light. You can assign yourself to a team or aim for a free-for-all. Each gun has a “limited” number of shots, with the small Alphapoint firing 12 to the Deltaburst’s 18. Of course, it’s only a virtual setback: Hitting the orange button on the bottom of each weapon reloads it in a second. The same goes for health: If you lose all of it you’re not dropped out of the game for good. It’s just a time out and the gun will let you know when you can jump back in.

The real point, though, is to connect them to a phone via Bluetooth for some video game flair. The Laser Ops Pro app allows you to sync multiple weapons to a single device so it can keep track of each gun’s kill records, status and even dole out power-ups like stronger shots or a health boost. The app adds more game options as well, like how long you want the game to run and whether you want to use power-ups at all.

There’s also a mode that lets every player use their phone, which gives them all access to information about the game in real time. You can see a list of players, if they’re reloading or out of health and even their location. It’s super useful when the other

Tech News

Audi’s latest infotainment system is a smarter driving companion

July 13, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

0712_audimmi-1623-960x549.jpg

“Does the glass move or is the haptic feedback tricking my brain?”

Sometimes you have to ask dumb questions. I was 99 percent sure Audi’s updated MMI infotainment system was creating the illusion that the display moved when I pressed it. But, you have to ask questions just in case. I was informed that the glass does not move.

Gallery: 2019 Audi A7 MMI Touch Response | 19 Photos 19 +15

In addition to tricking your brain, the new infotainment system, called MMI Touch Response, has done away with the rotary dial found on the previous version; there are now two displays instead of one. The top 10.1-inch main screen handles navigation, media and most of the car’s settings and the new, smaller 8.6-inch display takes care of climate controls, text input and shortcuts. The setup is a leap forward for Audi’s in-car tech. That is, if you’re a fan of digital climate controls.

I actually liked the old rotary dial. It gave you quick access to the system without moving your hand too far from the shifter. The top of the controller also had a capacitive touchpad that let you “draw” letters. It was a huge improvement to the hunt-and-peck on-screen keyboard found in some vehicles.

Fortunately, when you do need to input letters into the new system, the lower screen becomes a giant tablet. Even better, the new MMI lets you quickly write out the letters in sequence and it keeps up. Just write the letters over one another and you got yourself a word. I thought I’d miss the rotary controller, but after a few days, I was fine with its absence.

As noted earlier (with the dumb questions), Audi has done a commendable job on the haptic and audio feedback for their infotainment system. Initially, it took a bit to get used to the amount of pressure needed to use the touchscreen — I wasn’t tapping hard enough for the first 15 minutes. But after an hour of driving up and down the autobahn, I adjusted to the pressure requirements. It’s a bit like when everyone got excited about Apple’s Force Touch glass trackpad? Audi’s basically done that for cars.

I’m happy to say that Audi’s plan to make a flatter menu system was a success. I never felt I was more than two taps from something I would interact with while driving. It’s helpful that the automaker moved the most used items to the left-hand side of the screen: Navigation, home screen, media, phone and radio. They’re available via a single a tap that doesn’t require you to stretch to the far side of the display.

Throw very little latency into the mix and you have yourself a winner. Well, mostly a winner.

As I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of climate controls on

Tech News

Parrot's Anafi 4K drone is much more than a flying toy

July 11, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

mavicair3_1800-960x540.jpg

Drones come in many shapes and sizes. At their most affordable, drones are fun flying toys. And for industrial uses or professional filmmakers, you’ve got specialist machines that can run well into tens of thousands of dollars. Parrot’s new $700 Anafi falls somewhere in between, balancing a decent camera and plenty of features with a price tag that isn’t prohibitively expensive.

Gallery: Parrot Anafi | 18 Photos 18 +14

DJI is the dominant player in drones right now. From the $99 Tello to the $20,000 Inspire 2 Cinema Premium, it’s got work and play covered. Parrot, on the other hand, is supposed to be in something of a transitional period. Last year, it shed some staff and began moving away from consumer drones towards those built for specific business applications. But now we have the Anafi, which arrives just half a year after DJI’s Mavic Air, a similarly portable $799 quadcopter that’s serious about aerial photography.

DJI’s Mavic Air

Given I’ve played around almost exclusively with toy drones in the past, I was keen to try the Anafi — something with a more serious slant I could never justify buying for myself. I pulled it out of its neat little carrying case, delicately unfurled its arms and plugged it in for the initial charge. The Skycontroller 3 that comes with it looks a little bulky and cheap by comparison, but in use it turned out to be a well-balanced, solid and responsive pad, and that’s what you want.

Ahead of my first flight, I was pretty overwhelmed by the myriad settings and features in Parrot’s FreeFlight 6 app. You can tinker with so much, from the control scheme to UI appearance, top speeds on every axis, maximum altitude, and so on. Then there’s all the different piloting modes, pre-programmed shot types and camera settings. If I had a specific video project in mind, I’m sure that, with trial and error, I’d get the footage I was after — and that’s the whole point of this kind of drone. It’s not a toy, it’s not quite a pro filmmakers’ tool, but something for the semi-serious videographer.

Perhaps that’s why I went from gadget-giddy to a tad bored over the course of about 20 minutes, after getting relatively comfortable with the controls and moving from the slower Film preset to the nippier Sport mode. It’s a portable flying 4K camera after all, with several unique features intended to turn your head away from the DJI’s Mavic Air and in the direction of the Parrot Anafi. In other words, it’s not really supposed to exist simply to entertain a drone-starved editor.

One of the Anafi’s special features is the ability to record 4K HDR footage. Regular 4K clips

Tech News

The Rosinbomb Rocket is a panini press for weed

July 6, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

While medical cannabis is already available in more than half of American states and recreational cannabis nears its cusp of national legalization, cannabis culture still strongly values self-sufficiency. Even though this generation of stoners likely won’t have to worry about MacGuyvering their bongs together from household implements or growing their own herb instead of buying it from the corner dispensary, there are still plenty of DIY projects that they can take on.

Dabbing concentrates is often seen as being an efficient and cost-effective means of consuming cannabis. With just a teensy dollop of hash on the head of a nail, tokers can get stonier than a rock garden. But when you’re paying anywhere from $60 to $100 a gram for concentrate, those savings don’t always add up. What’s more, the process of extracting concentrate from the flower itself can involve a number of chemicals that you probably don’t want in your body. Of course, you could always make your own. And that’s where the Rosinbomb Rocket comes in.

The Rocket is a $600, 13-pound tabletop rosin extractor designed to squeeze and melt the THC crystals present on the surface of the flower into a solventless, dabbable hash similar to shatter. Think of it as a panini press for weed.

It’s super easy to use. Just plug in the Rocket, turn it on and wait a couple minutes for it to heat up to around 200 degrees F. While that’s happening, you prepare the flower by setting it between two pieces of heavy duty parchment paper. The press can handle loads from half a gram up to half an ounce. Obviously, the more weed you put in (and the stickier that weed is), the more rosin you’ll be able to extract. I found that using full flowers, rather than grinding the plant material beforehand gave the best results.

Once the press reaches the desired temperature, you slide the parchment-shrouded weed between the heated plates and press them together. These plates, driven by a near-silent electric motor, exert more than 1,500 pounds of force, squashing the flowers into a paper-thin puck and causing the liquified rosin to flow out. After around two minutes of pressure and heat, you separate the press plates and remove the flattened sheets. Give them a few minutes to cool down and you’ve got yourself some high test concentrate perfect for dabbing, vaping or just crumbling over a bowl of looseleaf — all without the residual hydrocarbons found in most commercial concentrates.

While the Rocket is much quieter than presses which rely on hydraulics for pressure, rather than an electric motor, it is purpose-built for home use. You’re not going to be able to start your own hash production business just because you pick one of these up. For that, you’ll need the industrial-strength $1,800 Rosinbomb M50.

The other stumbling point for the

Tech News

The Decode app spots fakes with NFC

July 3, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

BlueBite_AuthenticationPR_Image2-960x539.jpg

The global trade of counterfeit goods reportedly rakes in half a trillion dollars per year, which isn’t good for anyone. (Except for the counterfeiters themselves, I suppose.) As the fakes industry continues to grow, brands are looking to technologies like RFID (radio-frequency identification) and NFC (near-field communication) to help authenticate their products. This is where Blue Bite, a startup based out of New York City, hopes to come in. It has developed a system that relies on an iOS app, called Decode, that can tell consumers if an item is real by simply tapping their phone on it.

Blue Bite’s implementation of NFC will be particularly handy for those who buy a used product, or a new one from third-party sellers on sites like eBay or Amazon. Up until now, there hasn’t been an end-to-end authentication service that has been completely seamless or safe. RFID and NFC can be exploited if the chips are exposed, and brands have mostly used the technologies to create marketing experiences. Nike, for example, introduced NBA jerseys that featured NFC tags, but it wasn’t designed to be an anti-counterfeit measure. Instead, it was meant to be a door to exclusive videos, pictures and GIFs from players and team, as well as access to limited-edition shoes.

Nike told Engadget at the time it was certainly looking into all options available with NFC, but there was nothing in the works using it to crack down on fake goods. Even if it tried, though, the NFC chip in Nike’s Connect jerseys can easily be removed since it’s on a hangtag, rather than part of the fabric. That means it can be tampered with or put on an item that isn’t authentic. Blue Bite, on the other hand, is able to avoid this problem by working with brands that put the NFC chips inside their actual products. The company says its Decode app offers support for all major NFC tags, such as HID, LAB ID and SMT, which is important because it makes it easy for brands to adopt existing formats to authenticate their products.

I saw Blue Bite’s system work with Adidas’ official World Cup 2018 ball, the Telstar 18, which features an embedded NFC chip. The entire process was quite simple and only took about 10 seconds: All I had to do was download the Decode app, open it and then click on a tab labeled “Authenticate.” After that, I tapped the iPhone on an area of the Telstar 18 that’s marked by four signal waves, went to the “Scan for Authenticity” section of the app and, boom, I got a message that said “Authenticated” with a picture of the Adidas ball. You’ll also see an authentication ID, how many times the item has been checked and the first day of “digitization,” aka when the product’s NFC chip was originally scanned.

Blue Bite’s offering isn’t just about letting you know if your item is real

Tech News

Vivo's all-screen NEX S is a frustrating glimpse of the future

June 30, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

More than anything, Vivo’s NEX S is a fascinating machine. From a distance, it seems like any other big-screened smartphone. Look more closely, though, and the ambition becomes strikingly clear. An in-display fingerprint sensor? A pop-up selfie camera? This is no ordinary phone. I’ve been using it for a few days now — or trying to, anyway — and it’s an excellent example of a Chinese company embracing new technologies and taking risks. That said, if you were thinking about importing one from China for the sheer novelty of it all, you should really hold off.

The first thing everyone notices about the NEX S is its screen — it stretches almost completely across the phone’s face without a notch in sight. Vivo went with a 6.59-inch AMOLED display, and you’d be hard-pressed to find another smartphone out there with a better screen-to-body ratio. The only one I can think of is Oppo’s similarly ambitious Find X, and it’s worth noting that Chinese conglomerate BBK Electronics controls both the Oppo and Vivo brands, so the competition here is mostly internal. In any case, it’s a bright, punchy screen, though it only runs at 1080p — that means it’s quite a bit less pixel dense than other smartphones on the market.

Gallery: A closer look at the Vivo NEX S | 16 Photos 16 +12

Crafting a phone with basically no bezels meant Vivo had to rethink how to lay out some important components, and ditch others altogether. Just look at the phone’s earpiece. Oh wait, sorry, there isn’t one. Instead, Vivo built a vibrating exciter beneath the screen that basically turns the entire panel into a speaker. I’ve only taken a handful of calls on the NEX S so far, but I was surprised at how well that actually works. I was even able to hear the other party chattering on after pulling the phone away from my face.

And then there are the cameras. You’ll find a dual camera system around back that combines a 12- and a 5-megapixel sensor for bokeh-filled portraits. Shots taken with the NEX’s main camera were on the pleasant side of adequate, but honestly, no one ever going to buy this thing because of that. The phone’s real claim to fame is the 8-megapixel selfie camera that rises up from the top of the chassis with a vaguely Star Trek-sounding audio cue. I was skeptical about how well this overly complex system would work, but you know what? It functions as well as advertised — for now, anyway.

Chris Velazco/Engadget

It takes about one second for the camera to lock into place, and Vivo has said its engineers have fired

Tech News

Razer's light-based keyboard switches are a bust

June 28, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Gaming keyboards are starting to look and feel very similar. Matte black chassis, LED lighting and advanced customization suites are pretty much standard. To distinguish themselves new arrivals have had pack more features into their decks and Razer’s no exception, adding things like waterproofing and even building its own key switches. The latter not only reduces its dependency on outside companies like Cherry for parts, but it also lets the company customize its products for different users’ needs: Some of its keys give you a bit of kick when you press them while others are smooth, and you can also choose between clicky and silent.

But the keys were always mechanical, because that’s the gold standard for a responsive keyboard. Now Razer’s decided to go in a different direction with its newest keyboards, the Huntsman and Huntsman Elite. These two new decks still have some mechanical parts, but now they’re combined with an optical sensor that Razer feels will make this new deck even more responsive.

Gallery: Razer Huntsman Elite hands-on | 12 Photos 12 +8

Razer calls them “opto-mechanical” keys. What that means is that they’re still largely mechanical on top with purple plastic bits and a metal hinge, but the point of actuation down below — the part where the signal gets sent to your computer — is a beam of light. Pressing the key down blocks that beam, indicating to your computer that a button has been pressed. In theory, not having to wait for some kind of physical activation should make it faster than standard mechanical switches, but honestly, I didn’t notice the difference.

I still had to push the key down until I felt a click and saw the keypress register, unlike Corsair’s K70 Rapidfire and its Cherry MX Speed keys, which I sometimes found myself accidentally activating if my fingers or palm brushed over a key a little too heavily. Razer promises a 1.5mm actuation in comparison to the Rapidfire’s 1.2mm actuation, but in the middle of a tense match you probably aren’t being so delicate you’d notice the 0.3mm difference.

One difference you’ll definitely notice is the clicks and clacks of the Huntsman. It’s loud. Some noise is to be expected, of course, because it still employs some mechanical bits. But there’s a distinct difference from Razer’s green “tactile and clicky” keys that’s somewhat grating. The green keys give a quick snap when depressed, with a slight jiggle if you listen closely. With the Huntsman you don’t have to listen that closely. Each click is higher pitched with a sort of metallic echo that follows it and a faint scratching sound. While I don’t believe it’s actually louder, it is more annoying and has left me apologizing to my coworkers constantly.

When I’m not hammering away on it, the Huntsman is actually rather

Tech News

The Rock's Under Armour headphones are built for intense workouts

June 28, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

projectrockinline2-960x640.jpg

Wireless headphones are dime a dozen, unless you want a pair that’s over-ear and designed to handle intense workouts. There are plenty of solid options for fitness buffs, including the JLab Epic2 and Jaybird X3, but those are earbuds. Bose’s QuietComfort 35 IIs, meanwhile, are great over-ears, but they’re not made from water-resistant materials — and you want that if you’re using them at the gym. That’s a gap Under Armour hopes to fill with its new Project Rock wireless, over-ear headphones, which are specifically designed for workouts and were created with input from training junkie Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock.

The Project Rock headphones are made from rugged materials (IPX4 rating) with an anti-slip, sweat-resistant liner and breathable ear cushions (that can be removed and washed for easy cleaning). Under Armour claims these features will make them withstand the “toughest gym conditions,” without giving up on sound quality. To take care of the latter, the company is using JBL’s audio technology (40mm drivers), which gives the Project Rocks a crisp, loud sound with rich bass. I listened to some tracks with them and was surprised at how good they sounded. Although they are a bit bass heavy, but not as much as Apple’s Beats headphones, the lows and mids didn’t get drowned out.

One of my favorite things about the Project Rocks were the oversized buttons on the right side. Their size makes it easy to tweak the volume and pause or play songs. I had a bit of trouble figuring out how to skip tracks using the buttons at first, so much so that I had to ask Under Armour if it was even possible to do that. But it is: All you have to do is hold down the volume up or down button to skip forward or backward, respectively. Aside from that, it was simple to figure out the controls, and Bluetooth pairing with my iPhone took about 10 seconds. If you don’t want to use them wirelessly, there’s a handy 3.5mm headphone jack built in.

Naturally, since you’ll likely be taking these to the gym often, the battery life is crucial. The Project Rocks should last around 16 hours, according to Under Armour, and they come with fast-charging tech that’ll give you an hour of audio playback after plugging them in for only five minutes. All in all, UA did a solid job with its latest fitness-focused headphones, as they’re stacked with features that’ll likely appeal to many people who frequent the gym. Even if Dwayne Johnson’s name may only be attached to the Project Rocks for marketing purposes, they look and sound good enough to make a strong first impression.

Better yet, they come with a reasonable price tag. The Project Rock wireless headphones launch today for $249, which isn’t cheap but is still slightly less than other over-ears like Bose’s QC35 IIs.

Gallery: Under Armour’s