Gadgets, Game & Mobile News

Next-gen ‘Pictionary Air’ arrives at Target June 23rd

Engadget - Tue, 2019-06-18 14:51
Starting this Sunday, you can pick up Pictionary Air at your local Target for $20. The new game puts a high-tech spin on the classic. You'll still pull a card, choose from a list of items to draw and race against a timer, but you'll use a large digit...

Google pledges $1 billion toward Bay Area housing crisis - CNET

CNET News - Tue, 2019-06-18 14:31
The vow comes as Google and other tech companies have been criticized for driving up rents in the area.

App Store publishers are pulling in more cash from Apple than Google Play, report says - CNET

CNET News - Tue, 2019-06-18 14:30
Apple app buyers spent $130 million on apps in the first few months of 2019.

Nio begins deliveries of new ES6 electric crossover in China - Roadshow

CNET News - Tue, 2019-06-18 14:12
The company's second mass-market car looks pretty promising.

Stranger Things season 3 Netflix photos are, like, totally 1985 - CNET

CNET News - Tue, 2019-06-18 14:00
From Eleven in a scrunchie to shirtless Billy the lifeguard, take a look at all the images from next season.

Overwatch's advanced replay system goes live for everyone

Engadget - Tue, 2019-06-18 14:00
The latest Overwatch patch is rolling out on PC, PS4 and Xbox One, and once it's installed, you'll have access to the new replay system. You'll be able to re-watch your ten most recent matches from any game type, except for the tutorial and Practice...

8 great gadgets that can smarten up a dumb dorm room - CNET

CNET News - Tue, 2019-06-18 13:58
Heading back to school this fall? Consider bringing a couple of these handy smart devices with you.

Facebook activity might help predict mental and physical health, study say - CNET

CNET News - Tue, 2019-06-18 13:48
The research suggests it might be a more accurate factor than demographics.

Trump's China tariffs would mean pricier phones for you, CTA report says - CNET

CNET News - Tue, 2019-06-18 13:45
Trump's $300 billion tax proposal on Chinese goods would hurt American consumers but benefit other countries.

Sleep apnea: Why you feel tired after a full night of sleep - CNET

CNET News - Tue, 2019-06-18 13:43
If you never wake up feeling refreshed, you might have this dangerous condition.

Toy Story 4 shows how far Pixar's animation has come - CNET

CNET News - Tue, 2019-06-18 13:41
Twenty four years after the release of Toy Story, Pixar’s animators are pushing the limits of what's possible.

Google Chrome blocks malicious web address tricks, lets you flag suspicious sites - CNET

CNET News - Tue, 2019-06-18 13:34
Malicious websites can use substitute characters to try to fool you into thinking they're legit. But now Chrome will let you know.

EVgo's 'roaming' deals give you access to 450 more fast chargers

Engadget - Tue, 2019-06-18 13:31
It can be challenging enough to find electric car charging stations of any kind, let alone to look for one belonging to your charging network of choice. The hunt is about to get considerably easier, though. EVgo has forged agreements with ChargePoi...

YouTuber Simone Giertz turned a Tesla Model 3 into the 'Truckla' pickup - Roadshow

CNET News - Tue, 2019-06-18 13:12
This massive project took the help of several friends, including the host of the Rich Rebuilds YouTube channel.

YouTuber known for 'shitty robots' turns Tesla Model 3 into pickup truck

Engadget - Tue, 2019-06-18 13:11
Why wait on Elon Musk to deliver your perfect vehicle when you can just make one yourself? YouTuber and inventor Simone Giertz needed a truck to carry materials for her creations, but didn't want a gas-guzzling pickup. So the 28-year-old robotics ent...

Roli’s newest instrument, the Lumi, helps you learn to play piano with lights

TechCrunch - Tue, 2019-06-18 13:10

There has been a longstanding gulf between the consumption music and the creation of it: not everyone has the time or money to spend on lessons and instruments, and for those in school, many music education programs have been cut back over the years, making the option of learning to play instruments for free less common. Still others have had moments of interest but haven’t found the process of learning that easy.

Now we’re seeing a new wave of startups emerge that are attempting to tackle those issues with technology, creating tools and even new instruments that leverage smartphones and tablets, new hardware computing innovations and new software to make learning music more than just a pastime for a select few.

In the latest development, London startup Roli is launching a new interactive keyboard called the Lumi. Part colourful, sound sensitive lightboard and part piano, the Lumi’s keys light up in a colorful array to help guide and teach you to play music. The 11-inch keyboard — which can  be linked up with one or two more of the same to add more octaves — comes with an iPad app that contains hundreds of pieces, and the two are now selling for $249 alongside a new Kickstarter to help drum up interest and offer early-bird discounts. The Kickstarter campaign blew through its modest £100,000 goal within a short while, and some of the smaller tiers of pledges now sold out. The product will start shipping in October 2019, the company says.

As you might already know, or have guessed by the reaction to the kickstarter, this is not Roli’s first rodeo: the company has made two other major products (and variations on those two) before this also aimed at music making. First came the Seaboard, which Roli described as a new instrument when it first launched. Taking the form factor of a keyboard, it contained squishy keys that let the player bend notes and create other effects alongside electronic-based percussive tapping, as you would do with a normal keyboard.

Its next product was Blocks: small, modular light boards that also used colored light to guide your playing and help you create new and interesting sounds and beats with taps (and using a similarly squidgy surface to the Seaboard), and then mix them together.

Both of these were interesting, but somewhat aimed at those who were already familiar with playing pianos or other instruments, or with creating and playing electronic music with synthesizers, FX processors and mixers. (Case in point: the people I know who were most interested in these were my DJ friends and my kids, who both play the piano and are a little nerdy about these things.)

The Lumi is in a way a step back for Roli fom trying to break new ground by conceiving of completely new instruments, with new form factors built with the benefits of technology and electronics in mind. But it’s also a step ahead: using a keyboard as the basis of the instrument, the Lumi is more familiar and therefore more accessible — with an accessible price of $249 to go along with that.

Lumi’s emergence comes after an interesting few years of growth for Roli. The company is one of the select few (and I think the only one making music instruments) to be retailed in Apple stores, and it’s had endorsements from some very high profile people, but that’s about as mainstream as it has been up to now.

The startup’s founder and CEO, American-born Roland Lamb, is probably best described as a polymath, someone who comes across less as a geeky and nervous or (at the other end) ultra smooth-talking startup founder, and more like a calm-voiced thinker who has come out to talk to you in a break between reading and writing about the nature of music and teaching a small philosophy seminar.

His background also speaks to this unconventional manner. Before coming to found Roli, he had lived in a Zen monastery, made his way around the world playing jazz piano, and studied Chinese and Sanskrit at Harvard and design at the Royal College of Art.

Roli has always been a little cagey about how much it has raised and from whom, but the list includes consumer electronics giants like Sony, specialist audio makers like Onkyo, the music giant Univeral Music Group, and VCs that include Founders Fund, Index and LocalGlobe, Kreos Capital, Horizons Ventures and more. It’s also partnered with a number of big names like Pharrell Williams (who is also an investor) in the effort to get its name out.

And while it has most definitely made a mark with a certain echelon of the music world — producers and those creating electronic music — it has not parlayed that into a wider global reputation or wider accessibility. After bringing out instruments more for a high end audience, the Lumi seems like an attempt to do just that.

That seems to be coming at the right time. Services like Spotify and YouTube — and the rise of phones and internet usage in general — have transformed how we listen to music. We now have a much wider array of things to listen to whenever we want. On top of that, services like YouTube and Soundcloud furthermore are giving us a taste of creating our own music: using electronic devices, we can go beyond what might have been limitations up to now (for example, having never learned to play an instrument in the traditional sense) to get stuck into the craft itself.

The Lumi is also tapping into another important theme, and that is of music being “good for you”. There a line of thought that says learning an instrument is good for your mind, both if you’re a younger person who is still in school or indeed out of school and looking to stay sharp. Others believe it has health benefits.

But realistically, these beliefs don’t get applied very often. Roli cites stats that say that only 10% of adults aged 18-29 have played an instrument in the past year, and of those that played as children, some 80% say they quit by age 14.

Putting this together with the Lumi, it seems that the aim is to hit a wider swathe of the market and bring in people who might want to learn something like playing an instrument but had thought previously that it would be too much of a challenge.

Roli isn’t the first — nor likely the last — company to reconsider how to learn playing the piano through technology. The Chinese company ONE Music Group makes both smart pianos with keyboards that light up, as well as a strip that you overlay on any keyboard, that also corresponds to an iPad app to learn to play piano.

An American startup called McCarthy Music also makes illuminated-key pianos, also subscribing to the principle that providing this kind of guidance to teach muscle memory is an important step in getting a student acquainted with playing on a keyboard.

The Lumi is notable not just because of its cost, but its size — the single, lightweight keyboards have a battery life of six hours and can fit in a backback.

That said, Roli is hoping that there will be a double audience to these in the longer term, bridging the divide between music maker and listener, but also amateur and pro.

“Many people would love to play an instrument but worry that they don’t have the talent. Through our research, design, and innovation at ROLI, we’ve come to believe that the problem is not a lack of talent. Rather, instruments themselves are not smart enough,” said Lamb in a statement. “What excites me most is that the intelligence of LUMI means that there’s something in it for everyone. On one hand my own kids now prefer LUMI time to movie time. On the other hand, several of the world’s leading keyboard players can’t wait to use LUMI in the studio and on the stage.”

Google reveals plans to build 20,000 Bay Area homes

Engadget - Tue, 2019-06-18 13:02
Google says it'll invest in thousands of new homes in the Bay Area over the next decade, in the hopes of helping many of its employees and other residents find an affordable place to live in one of the planet's most expensive regions. CEO Sundar Pich...

NASA's daredevil spacecraft snaps asteroid from crazy-close orbit - CNET

CNET News - Tue, 2019-06-18 12:57
Bennu's boulders are getting all up in Osiris-Rex's face.

The Geesaa automates (but overcomplicates) pourover coffee

TechCrunch - Tue, 2019-06-18 12:53

Making pourover coffee is a cherished ritual of mine on most mornings. But there are times I wish I could have a single cup of pourover without fussing about the kitchen — and the Geesaa, a new gadget seeking funds on Kickstarter, lets me do that. But it’s definitely still a ways from being a must-have.

I’m interested in alternative coffee preparation methods, low and high tech, so I was happy to agree to try out the Geesaa when they contacted me just ahead of their Kickstarter campaign going live (they’ve already hit their goal at this point). I got to test one of their prototypes and have used it on and off for the last couple weeks.

The Geesaa is part of a new wave of coffee makers that make advances on traditional drip techniques, attempting to get closer to a manual pourover. That usually means carefully controlling the water temperature and dispensing it not just in a stream powerful enough to displace and churn the ground coffee, but in a pattern that’s like what you’d do if you were pouring it by hand. (The Automatica, another one with a similar idea, sadly didn’t make it.)

Various manufacturers do this in various ways, so Geesaa isn’t exactly alone, though its mechanism appears to be unique. Instead of using a little showerhead that drips regularly over the grounds, or sending a moving stream in a spiral, the Geesaa spins the carafe and pours water from a moving head above it.

This accomplishes the kind of spiral pour that you’ll see many a barista doing, making sure the grounds are all evenly wet and agitated, without creating too thin of a slurry (sounds delicious, right?). And in fact that’s just what the Geesaa does — as long as you get the settings right.

Like any gadget these days, this coffee maker is “smart” in that it has a chip and memory inside, but not necessarily smart in any other way. This one lets you select from a variety of “recipes” supposedly corresponding to certain coffees that Geesaa, as its secondary business model, will sell to owners in perfectly-measured packets. The packet will come with an NFC card that you just tap on the maker to prompt it to start with those settings.

It’s actually a good idea, but more suited to a hotel room than a home. I preferred to use the app, which, while more than a little overcomplicated, lets you design your own recipes with an impressive variety of variables. You can customize water temperature, breaks between pouring “stages,” the width of the spiral pattern, the rate the water comes out, and more.

Although it’s likely you’d just arrive at a favorite recipe or two, it’s nice to be able to experiment or adjust in case of guests, a new variety of coffee, or a new grinder. You can, as I did, swap out the included carafe for your own cone and mug, or a mesh cone, or whatever — as long as it’s roughly the right size you can make it work. There’s no chip restricting you to certain containers or coffees.

I’m not sure what the story is with the name, by the way. When you start it up, the little screen says “Coffee Dancer,” which seems like a better English name for the device than Geesaa, but hey.

When it works, it works, but there are still plenty of annoyances that you won’t get with a kettle and a drip cone. Bear in mind this is with a prototype (3rd generation, but still) device and app still in testing.

One thing I’ve noticed is that the temperature seems too low in general. Even the highest available temperature, 97 C (around 206 F), doesn’t seem as hot as it should. Built-in recipes produced coffee that seemed only warm, not hot. Perhaps the water cools as it travels along the arm and passes through the air — this is nontrivial when you’re talking about little droplets! So by the time it gets to the coffee it may be lower than you’d like, while coming out of a kettle it will almost always be about as hot as it can get. (Not that you want the hottest water possible, but too cool is as much a problem as too hot.)

I ran out of filters for the included carafe so I used my gold Kone filter, which worked great.

The on-device interface is pretty limited, with a little dial and LCD screen that displays two lines at a time. It’s pre-loaded with a ton of recipes for coffee types you may never see (what true coffee-lover orders preground single-serve packets?), and the app is cluttered with ways to fill out taste profiles, news, and things that few people seem likely to take advantage of. Once you’ve used a recipe you can call it up from the maker itself, at least.

One time I saw the carafe was a bit off-center when it started brewing, and when I adjusted it, the spinning platform just stopped and wouldn’t restart. Another time the head didn’t move during the brewing process, just blasting the center of the grounds until the cone was almost completely full. (You can of course stop the machine at any point and restart it should something go wrong.)

Yet when it worked, it was consistently good coffee and much quicker than my standard manual single cup process.

Aesthetically it’s fine — modern and straightforward, though without the elegance one sees in Bodum and Ratio’s design.

It comes in white, too. You know, for white kitchens.

The maker itself is quite large — unnecessarily so, I feel, though I know the base has to conceal the spinning mechanism and a few other things. But at more than a foot wide and 8 inches deep, and almost a foot tall, it has quite a considerable footprint, larger than many another coffee machine.

I feel like the Geesaa is a good coffee-making mechanism burdened by an overcomplicated digital interface. I honestly would have preferred mechanical dials on the maker itself, one each for temperature, amount, and perhaps brew style (all at once, bloom first, take a break after 45 seconds, etc). Maybe something to control its spiral width too.

And of course at $700 (at the currently available pledge level) this thing is expensive as hell. The comparisons made in the campaign pitch aren’t really accurate — you can get an excellent coffee maker like a Bonnavita for $150, and of course plenty for less than that.

At $700, and with this thing’s capabilities, and with the side hustle of selling coffee packets, this seems like a better match for a boutique hotel room or fancy office kitchen than an ordinary coffee lover’s home. I enjoy using it but its bulk and complexity are antithetical to the minimal coffee making experience I have enjoyed for years. Still, it’s cool to see weird new coffee making methods appear, and if you’re interested, you can still back it on Kickstarter for the next week or so.

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