If you’ve ever been hiking or skiing, gone to a music festival or state fair, you know how easy it is to lose track of your friends, and the usually ridiculous exchange of “I’m by the big thing”-type messages. is a gadget that fixes this problem with an ultra-simple premise: it simply tells you how far and in what direction your friends are, no data connection required. Apart from a couple extra little features, that’s really all it does, and I love it. I got a chance to play with a prototype at CES and it worked like a charm. The peanut-shaped devices use a combination of GPS and kinetic positioning to tell where you are and where any linked Lynqs are, and on the screen all you see is: Ben, 240 feet that way. Or Ellie. No pins on a map, no coordinates, no turn-by-turn directions. Just a vector accurate to within a couple feet that works anywhere outdoors. The little blob that points in their direction moves around as quick as a compass, and gets smaller as they get farther away, broadening out to a full circle as you get within a few feet. Up to 12 can pair up, and they should work up to 3 miles from each other (more under some circumstances). The single button switches between people you’re tracking and activates the device’s few features. You can create a “home” location that linked devices can point towards, and also set a safe zone (a radius from your device) that warns you if the other one leaves it. And you can send basic preset messages like “meet up” or “help.” It’s great for outdoors activities with friends, but think about how helpful it could be for tracking kids or pets, for rescue workers, for making sure dementia sufferers don’t wander too far. The military seems to have liked it as well; U.S. Pacific Command did some testing with the Thai Ministry of Defence and found that it helped soldiers find each other much faster while radio silent, and also helped them get into formation for a search mission quicker. All the officers involved were impressed. Having played with one for half an hour or so, I can say with confidence that it’s a dandy little device, super intuitive to operate, and was totally accurate and responsive. It’s clear the team put a lot of effort into making it simple but effective — there’s been a lot of work behind the scenes. Since the devices send their GPS coordinates directly to each other, the team created a special compression algorithm just for that data — because if you want fine GPS, that’s actually quite a few digits that need to be sent along. But after compression it’s just a couple bytes, making it possible to send it more frequently and reliably than if you’d just blasted out the original data. The display turns off automatically when you let it go to hang by its little clip, saving battery, but it’s always receiving the data, so there’s no lag when you flip it up — the screen comes on and boom, there’s Betty, 450 feet thataway. The only real issue I had is that the single-button interface, while great for normal usage, is pretty annoying for stuff like entering names and navigating menus. I understand why they kept it simple, and usually it won’t be a problem, but there you go. , which I tend to avoid, but I can tell you for sure that this is a real, working thing that anyone who spends much time with friends outdoors will find extremely useful. They’re selling for $154 per pair, which is pretty reasonable, and since that price will probably jump significantly later, I’d say go for it now.
French premium cable television company is slowly moving away from building its own set top boxes. As Next INpact , you can now subscribe to Canal+ and get an Apple TV 4K with Canal+’s myCanal app already preloaded. Canal+ has been around for decades and was the first premium TV channel in France. Over the years, the company started distributing all sorts of premium channels through satellite, cable and partnerships with internet service providers. While you had to get your own Canal+ set top box to receive Canal+ 15 years ago, the company’s own box has slowly become irrelevant. As all the main French internet service providers give you a set top box, Canal+ has partnered with them to offer multiple add-ons to receive Canal+’s content. When Canal+ announced its most recent device, Canal+ that you’d get a better experience with the myCanal app on the Apple TV. That’s why Canal+ is betting everything on . If you don’t subscribe to Canal+ through your ISP, you can get an Apple TV 4K for €6 per month in addition to your TV package. If your internet connection isn’t fast enough or you’d rather use satellite TV, you can still get a Canal+ set top box. But the writing is on the wall. Most people will soon watch Canal+ through myCanal on Android TV, tvOS, iOS, Android, a Samsung TV and desktop computers. In France, and myCanal have been some of the top performing apps for tvOS and Android TV. This partnership could boost the Apple TV in France.
Do you remember the ? Chances are you forgot it even existed. And yet, just a second version of the Surface Hub. The company hasn’t shared any specifications or price, but it won’t be available before 2019 — selected customers will test the starting this year. The Surface Hub was a crazy expensive digital whiteboard that could handle anything from video conferences to document collaboration. Microsoft says that there are 5,000 companies using Surface Hubs, including half of Fortune 100 companies. It’s unclear if each company has bought one Surface Hub or a thousand. But it seems like there was enough interest to work on a second version. At heart, it’s still a gigantic touchscreen-enabled display. It runs Windows 10 and supports the Surface Pen. Compared to the previous version, Microsoft has drastically reduced the bezels. It looks like a modern TV now, but with a 3:2 aspect ratio. Surprisingly, the video camera is now gone from the main device. You’ll need to plug a webcam above the display to start video conferences. The most interesting part is the concept video. You can see a device with fluid use cases. You can hook it to a wall, you can put it on a rolling case, you can create a wall of Surface Hubs. Users log in by putting their finger on the fingerprint sensor. This way, you can find all your documents and data and accept calls from your account. Microsoft is trying to push the needle when it comes to computers. This is an innovative form factor that could fit well in your company’s workflow. It’s interesting to see that the company isn’t standing still. The Mac hasn’t drastically evolved while Microsoft still has bold ideas to share.
Japanese gamers and manga aficionados and every combination thereof will get a treat this summer with the release of a loaded with games from the pages of Weekly Jump. The beloved manga mag is celebrating its 50th anniversary and is part of the festivities. There’s basically no chance this Jump-themed NES will get a release in the US — first because hardly any Americans will have read any of these manga (with a couple exceptions) and second because even fewer will have played the Famicom games associated with them. Familiar… and yet… That said, this nurtures the hope inside me that we will at some point see other themed NES Classics; the original has, of course, a fantastic collection — but there are dozens more games I would have loved to see on there. You can hack the thing pretty easily and put half the entire NES library on it, but official versions will have been tested and perhaps even tweaked to make sure they run perfectly (though admittedly emulation problems aren’t common for NES games). More importantly it’s possible these hypothetical themed consoles may come with new accessories that I desperately need, like a NES Advantage, Zapper (not sure how it would work), or NES Max. Perhaps even a Power Glove? In the meantime, at least if you missed the chance to buy one the first time around, you can grab one come the end of June.
Today brings historic firsts for both SpaceX and Bangladesh: the former is sending up the final, highly updated revision of its Falcon 9 rocket for the first time, and the latter is launching its first satellite. It’s a preview of the democratized space economy to come this century. You can watch the launch below: Although Bangabandhu-1 is definitely important, especially to the nation launching it, it is not necessarily in itself a highly notable satellite. It’s to be a geostationary communications hub that serves the whole country and region with standard C-band and Ku-band connectivity for all kinds of purposes. Currently the country spends some $14 million per year renting satellite time from other countries, something they determined to stop doing as a matter of national pride and independence. “A sovereign country, in a pursuit of sustainable development, needs its own satellite in order to reduce its dependency on other nations,” the project description at the country’s Telecommunications Regulation Commission, which has been pursuing the idea for nearly a decade. It contracted with Thales Alenia Space to produce and test the satellite, which cost about $250 million and is expected to last at least 15 years. In addition to letting the country avoid paying satellite rent, it could generate revenue by selling its services to private companies and nearby nations. Bangabandhu-1 in a Thales test chamber. “This satellite, which carries the symbolic name of the father of the nation, Bangabandhu, is a major step forward for telecommunications in Bangladesh, and a fantastic driver of economic development and heightened recognition across Asia,” said the company’s CEO, Jean-Loïc Galle, about the project. Bangabandhu-1 will be launching atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, but this one is different from all the others that have flown in the past. Designed with crewed missions in mind, it could be thought of as the production version of the rocket, endowed with all the refinements of years of real-world tests. Most often referred to as Block 5, this is (supposedly) the final revision of the Falcon 9 hardware, safer and more reusable than previous versions. The goal is for a Block 5 first stage to launch a hundred times before being retired, far more than the handful of times existing Falcon 9s have been reused. There are lots of improvements over the previous rockets, though many are small or highly technical in nature. The most important, however, are easy to enumerate. The engines themselves have been improved and strengthened to allow not only greater thrust (reportedly about a 7-8 percent improvement) but improved control and efficiency, especially during landing. They also have a new dedicated heat shield for descent. They’re rated to fly 10 times without being substantially refurbished, but are also bolted on rather than welded, further reducing turnaround time. The legs on which the rocket lands are also fully retractable, meaning they don’t have to be removed before transport. If you want to launch the same rocket within days, every minute counts. Instead of white paint, the first stage will have a thermal coating (also white) that helps keep it relatively cool during descent. To further reduce heat damage, the rocket’s “grid fins,” the waffle-iron-like flaps that pop out to control its descent, are now made of a single piece of titanium. They won’t catch fire or melt during reentry like the previous aluminum ones sometimes did, and as such are now permanently attached features of the rocket. (SpaceX founder Elon Musk is particularly proud of these fins, which flew on the Falcon Heavy side boosters; in the briefing afterwards, he said: “I’m actually glad we got the side boosters back, because they had the titanium fins. If I had to pick something to get back, it’d be those.”) Lastly (for our purposes anyway) the fuel tank has been reinforced out of concerns some had about the loading of supercooled fuel while the payload — soon to be humans, if all goes well — is attached to the rocket. This system failed before, causing a catastrophic explosion in 2016, but the fault has been addressed and the reinforcement should help further mitigate risk. (The emergency abort rockets should also keep astronauts safe should something go wrong during launch.) The changes, though they contribute directly to reuse and cost reductions, are also aimed at satisfying the requirements of NASA’s commercial crew missions. SpaceX is in competition to provide both launch and crew capsule services for missions to the ISS, scheduled for as early as late 2018. The company needs to launch the Block 5 version of Falcon 9 (not necessarily the same exact rocket) at least 7 times before any astronauts can climb aboard.
The three-axis tourbillon is one of the most complex complications in the world. Originally based on a design by watchmaker Abraham-Louis this type of tourbillon – literally “whirlwind” – rotates the balance wheel of a watch in order to ensure that gravity doesn’t adversely affect any part of the watch. It’s a clever, complex, and essentially useless complication in an era of atomic clocks and nano materials but darn if it isn’t cool-looking. Based on this original, simpler , this new three-axis tourbillon is . It consists of 70 potentially fiddly parts and runs using a basic motor. As you can see, the main component is the balance wheel which flips back and forth to drive the watch. The balance wheel is contained inside a sort of spike-shaped cage that rotates on multiple axes. The balance wheel controls the speed of the spin and often these devices are used as second hands on more complex – and more expensive – tourbillon watches. Tourbillons were originally intended to increase watch accuracy when they were riding in a vest pocket, the thinking being that gravity would pull down a watch’s balance wheel differently when it was vertical as compared to being horizontal. In this case, the wheel takes into account all possible positions leading to a delightful bit of horological overkill.
Xiaomi, the Chinese smartphone maker that’s , is continuing to grow its presence in the American market after it announced plans to bring its smart home products to the U.S.. The company is best known for its well-priced and quality smartphones, but Xiaomi offers hundreds of other products which range from battery chargers to smart lights, air filter units and . On the sidelines of Google I/O, the company quietly made a fairly significant double announcement: not only will it bring its smart home products to the U.S., but it is adding support for Google Assistant, too. The first products heading Stateside include the Mi Bedside Lamp, Mi LED Smart Bulb and Mi Smart Plug, Xiaomi’s head of international Wan Xiang said, but you can expect plenty more to follow. Typically, Xiaomi sells to consumers in the U.S. via Amazon and also its Mi.com local store, so keep an eye out there. Xiaomi just announced during that our smart home products will work with the Google Assistant. The initial selection of compatible products includes Mi Bedside Lamp, Mi LED Smart Bulb and Mi Smart Plug, which will be coming to the U.S soon! — Wang Xiang (@XiangW_) Smartphones, however, are a different question. Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun — who stands to become Chinese richest man thanks to the IPO — the company is looking to bring its signature phones to the U.S. by early 2019 at the latest. , which instead talks of plans to move into more parts of Europe and double down on Russia and Southeast Asia. Indeed, earlier this week, in Europe, while it has also inked a carrier deal with Hutchinson that will go beyond those markets into the UK and other places. You can expect that it will take its time in the U.S., particularly given the concerns around Chinese OEMs like Huawei — — and ZTE, .
Researcher Amanda D. Hanford at Pennsylvania State University has created a real cloaking device that can route sound waves around an object, making it invisible to some sensing techniques. From the : Hanford and her team set out to engineer a metamaterial that can allow the sound waves to bend around the object as if it were not there. Metamaterials commonly exhibit extraordinary properties not found in nature, like negative density. To work, the unit cell — the smallest component of the metamaterial — must be smaller than the acoustic wavelength in the study. Hanford created an acoustic metamaterial that deflected sound waves under water, a difficult feat. In testing she and the team were able to place the material in water and measure sound waves pointed at it. The resulting echoes in the water suggested that the sound waves did not bounce off or around the material. This means the new material would be invisible to sonar. Obviously this technology is still in its early stages and the material does not make the objects invisible but just very hard to detect in underwater situations. However, the fact ship captains could soon yell “Activate the cloaking device” as evil, laser-toting dolphins appear on the horizon should give everyone a bit of cheer.
It’s been a month since Huawei its latest flagship device. I’ve played with this phone for a few weeks and it’s one of the most interesting Android phones currently available. The P20 Pro is a solid successor to the P10 and a good alternative to other flagship phones, such as the iPhone X and . But it isn’t the perfect phone either. Some features are missing for no apparent reason. Some of Huawei’s choices are also questionable. Looking for the perfect Android phone A few years ago, many Android phones paled in comparison with the latest iPhone. Most of them were made out of plastic. And Android was simply too clunky back then. 2018 is a completely different story as you have a lot of options. Maybe you like Samsung devices or the pure Android experience of the Pixel 2. And maybe you’ve been looking at Huawei devices from afar. But if you live in the U.S., you won’t be able to buy the P20 Pro . Let’s start with the overall design of the phone. It features a gigantic 6.1-inch OLED display with a now familiar notch at the top. It’s not as prominent as the one in the iPhone X, but it’s clear that Apple has started the next trend in smartphone design. The frame of the design is made out of polished aluminium. It’s shiny and looks like stainless steel — but it’s lighter than steel. It feels good in your hand and is a great indication of what an iPhone X Plus could be. The glass back comes in multiple colors. My review device had the twilight back. It’s a nice gradient from purple to blue that makes the P20 Pro stand out from the crowd. It’s much more distinctive than unified (boring) colors. You can also use the P20 Pro as a portable mirror to fix your makeup or your hair when you’re on the subway. But the back of the device is so shiny that it was covered in fingerprints most of the time. That’s increasingly the case when you have a smartphone with a glass back. Below the display, you’ll find a good old fingerprint sensor. In my experience it works well and I like having it on the front of the device when my phone is resting on a table. Unfortunately, it makes the phone quite tall overall. [gallery ids="1612520,1612524,1612525,1612527"] Why stop at two when you can have three cameras Everybody laughed when smartphone manufacturers started putting two camera sensors at the back of their devices. And yet, many people upgrade their phone to get a better camera. Some people even choose their next phone based on the camera exclusively. And Huawei went a bit crazy on this front as the company integrated three cameras at the back of the device. There’s a 40 megapixels lens combined with a 20 megapixels monochrome lens and an 8 megapixels telephoto lens. And the phone supports super slow-motion videos at 960 frames per second. On paper, it sounds like a bit too much. But it’s true that those three cameras are the most important and remarkable feature of the P20 Pro. I used both an iPhone X and the P20 Pro on my last vacation to Cambodia. And here’s a gallery of some sample photos: [gallery ids="1636444,1636438,1636443,1636442,1636436"] Let’s be honest, I’m not a great photographer. So I wanted to use the P20 Pro in the most normal use case. The P20 Pro has so many options and manual triggers that it feels a bit overwhelming for a normal user. But Huawei keeps saying that the P20 Pro is smart and can automatically capture the best shot for you. If you use the normal photo mode, the camera tries to detect the content of the photo and adjust the settings automatically. For instance, if you’re shooting a portrait of a person, the P20 Pro automatically switches to Portrait mode. If you’re shooting at night, the phone will take a night mode photo by capturing multiple under- and overexposed photos and recompositioning the scene. In my experience, the camera performed extremely well. It was quite hard to get a blurry, unfocused shot. But it was also something completely different from the iPhone X camera. Colors are oversaturated in most cases. It looks too bright, too shiny and quite far from reality. And that wasn’t just the case on the smartphone itself (by default, the color profile of the display is quite saturated too). It was particularly true with nature shots. And I prefer the more natural tone of iPhone X photos. When it comes to night photos, the P20 Pro is the best performing smartphone I’ve used. It performed incredibly well and it’s quite impressive that you can shoot these photos with a smartphone. You can feel the strong personality of the P20 Pro when you’re taking selfies too. The camera app has a built-in beautifying effect that makes you look better. It is enabled by default, and you can’t disable it completely. Even when you set it to 0, it’ll make your skin smoother. Overall, I’m impressed with the P20 Pro camera. But that doesn’t mean I like it better than the iPhone X. In some ways, it feels too complicated to get the perfect shot. In other ways, it corrects photos with software features that make them look a bit fake. Many people will love the P20 Pro camera. It just depends on what you’re looking for. Fine prints Let’s go through some miscellaneous items. The P20 Pro doesn’t feature wireless charging. While it’s not a dealbreaker, it’s hard to go back to plugging a cable if you were already using wireless charging. The system-on-a-chip is a Kirin 970 made by Huawei. Instead of boring you with benchmarks, let’s just say that it was perfectly fine and I didn’t feel limited at any moment. The P20 Pro is on par with other flagship Android devices. But it was particularly well optimized for power consumption. Battery life on the P20 Pro was very good. The P20 Pro doesn’t have a microSD slot, but comes with 128GB of internal storage by default. There’s a single USB Type-C port (no headphone jack) and you’ll find both USB Type-C earbuds and a USB Type-C to headphone jack adapter. My device had two SIM slots, but be careful if you plan on buying the P20 Pro. Huawei said that some versions of the device will only have one SIM slot. When it comes to software, the P20 Pro runs Android 8.1 with Huawei’s EMUI custom skin. I’m not a fan of EMUI as the company regularly pushes you to create a Huawei account. The company has also developed its own version of many of Google’s apps. It can be confusing if you’re just looking for Google’s own apps. But this is understandable as all Google services are still blocked in China. Chinese users need Huawei’s alternatives. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the P20 Pro. It ticks all the right boxes to become a strong Samsung Galaxy S9 contender. But more importantly, Huawei didn’t just build a safe phone. The P20 Pro has a strong personality and the company made some polarizing choices. You can see it across the board, from the back of the device to the beautifying effect when you’re taking selfies. Huawei has been using the camera as the main element of its advertising campaign for the P20 Pro. The company is right to brag about its camera as it performs incredibly well. But software correction and saturated colors sometimes go too far, depending on your taste. For years, most people looked at the new Samsung Galaxy S phone and the new iPhone to see what’s next in the smartphone world. But Huawei is now also pushing the needle forward with this phone.
In a move seemingly designed specifically to frustrate law enforcement, is adding a security feature to iOS that totally disables data being sent over USB if the device isn’t unlocked for a period of 7 days. This spoils many methods for exploiting that connection to coax information out of the device without the user’s consent. The feature, called USB Restricted Mode, was looking through the iOS 11.4 code. It disables USB data (it will still charge) if the phone is left locked for a week, re-enabling it if it’s unlocked normally. Normally when an iPhone is plugged into another device, whether it’s the owner’s computer or another, there is an interchange of data where the phone and computer figure out if they recognize each other, if they’re authorized to send or back up data, and so on. This connection can be taken advantage of if the computer being connected to is attempting to break into the phone. USB Restricted Mode likely a response to the fact that iPhones seized by law enforcement or by malicious actors like thieves essentially will sit and wait patiently for this kind of software exploit to be applied to them. If an officer collects a phone during a case, but there are no known ways to force open the version of iOS it’s running, no problem: just stick it in evidence and wait until some security contractor sells the department a 0-day. But what if, a week after that phone was taken, it shut down its own Lightning port’s ability to send or receive data or even recognize it’s connected to a computer? That would prevent the law from ever having the opportunity to attempt to break into the device unless they move with a quickness. On the other hand, had its owner simply left the phone at home while on vacation, they could pick it up, put in their PIN, and it’s like nothing ever happened. Like the very best security measures, adversaries will curse its name while users may not even know it exists. Really, this is one of those security features that seems obvious in retrospect and I would not be surprised if other phone makers copy it in short order. Had this feature been in place a couple years ago, it would have prevented . It milked its ongoing inability to access a target phone for months, reportedly concealing its own capabilities the while, likely to make it a political issue and manipulate lawmakers into compelling Apple to help. That kind of grandstanding doesn’t work so well on a 7-day deadline. It’s not a perfect solution, of course, but there are no perfect solutions in security. This may simply force all iPhone-related investigations to get high priority in courts, so that existing exploits can be applied legally within the 7-day limit (and, presumably, every few days thereafter). All the same, it should be a powerful barrier against the kind of eventual, potential access through undocumented exploits from third parties that seems to threaten even the latest models and OS versions.
How did you find yesterday? We don’t really have time for your answer because Google I/O is already here! is kicking off its annual developer conference today. As usual, there will be a consumer keynote with major new products in the morning, and a developer-centric keynote in the afternoon. The conference starts at 10 AM Pacific Time (1 PM on the East Cost, 6 PM in London, 7 PM in Paris) and you can watch the live stream right here on this page. The developer keynote will be at 12:45 PM Pacific Time. Rumor has it that Google is about to share more details about P, the next major release of its Android platform. But you can some Google Assistant and Google Home news, some virtual reality news and maybe even some Wear OS news. We have a team on the ground ready to cover the event, so don’t forget to to get our take on today’s news.
Generations ago, the internet spoke of an old saying that involved a man exhibiting excitement about hearing of a person’s love of an object, so he did favor, and put that something inside of something else. That’s what did here. Netgear heard people like the internet so much that the company put an internet modem inside a wifi router. The Orbi WiFi System with Built-in Cable Modem is just that. It’s an Orbi wifi router with a DOCSIS® 3.0 cable modem built in. In theory this setup would make for easier setup and troubleshooting of internet issues while providing the home with great wifi. I have an Orbi system in my house and it’s wonderful. The system does a far better job at covering my home with wifi than my previous single router setup. Including the cable modem in the setup, though, just makes sense and other networking companies would be smart to follow Netgear’s lead. Naturally, there’s a danger in including a cable modem in a router as one piece could become obsolete before the other but I would argue that most consumers upgrade their equipment every few years anyway. This convinence comes at a cost. The router with built-in Orbi networking costs $299 and a system with an Orbi extender costs $399.