Although smartphones can perform many tasks on their own, they’re also able to make devices such as drones, robots and cameras cheaper and/or more capable by acting as their “brains.” One of the latest gadgets to receive such a treatment is the humble – and potentially treasure-finding – metal detector.

Presently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign, the Ukrainian/American-designed Air Metal Detector features a 9.5-inch (241-mm) submersible electromagnetic coil that is reportedly able to detect small metallic objects located up to 12 inches (305 mm) beneath the ground, or larger objects as far down as four feet (1.2 m). When such an item is detected, the Air Metal transmits a Bluetooth signal to the user’s Apple or Android smartphone, which is mounted on the handle.

An app on that phone alerts users via an audible tone and an onscreen display, the latter indicating the type of metal and its depth within the soil. In order not to be bothered by alerts for things that they aren’t looking for, users can set the app to ignore certain metals or sizes of objects. Additionally, GPS coordinates of unearthed items can be recorded on the app for future reference.

The device itself weighs 900 grams (2 lb), and folds up/telescopes down when not in use. Along with its signal-processing electronics being offloaded into the user’s phone, some of its other features include an underside LED light for illuminating finds, and a small OLED screen on top of the coil that displays basic info.

Power is provided by a 900-mAh lithium battery, that should reportedly be good for 10 to 12 hours of use per charge.

If you’re interested in getting an Air Metal Detector, you can do so with a pledge of US$199 – the planned retail price is $450. Assuming it goes into production, shipping should take place in November.

Another smartphone-enabled metal detector – Akyor’s hard-wired, non-Bluetooth CSP86 – was successfully Kickstarted last year, but has yet to reach backers.

Bluetooth metal detector uses your smartphone to do its thinking [New Atlas]

Virtual reality headsets are cool to use, not so much to wear. Even our favorite VR headsets tend to be bulky, especially the more powerful models. The Luci Immers is a sleeker take on a VR headset, and looks more like a thick pair of sunglasses than a box you wear on your face. It’s also lightweight at a mere 180 grams, noticeably less than the 470 grams of our beloved HTC Vive, and packs a 38 by 1080 display within.

A headset is just a cyberpunk cosplay accessory if you don’t have things to do on it, and the Immers is a versatile device. In addition to Luci’s own library of videos, users can also hook the Immers to their computer, phone, even game consoles like the Nintendo Switch. For those who are interested in VR but don’t want to commit to a high-end gaming headset, the Immers promises a beautiful viewing experience in a device you won’t hate wearing.

Luci Immers portable personal cinema [Digital Trends]

An innovative rhythmic and melodic percussion instrument has launched on Kickstarter which kind of puts a full drum kit on your chest. The KeyTam features a main drum where the head tension can be adjusted in real time using a lever on a wooden handle, and a number of mini cymbals for tambourine-like accompaniment.

The brainchild of France’s Guillaume Toutain, and born of frustration at the limits of current instruments, the KeyTam has a main body diameter of 40 cm (15.7 in), and is 70 cm (27.5 in) long, including the handle. That handle has a lever that’s pulled in or let out to change the pitch of the main drum, starting at 30 Hz and moving up through one and a half octaves.

There’s a switch for engaging or disengaging the snare, and percussionists can even create a kind of wah wah sound by repeatedly flexing the lever. Mini cymbals to the rear can be left to jingle or locked down, and magnets can be moved around the drum head to tweak the tone even further.

The KeyTam is made using wood from a common tree species so as not to adversely impact on the environment, and the pre-production prototype makes use of 3D-printed PLA components, though injection molding will eventually be used when production is ramped up.

The instrument is worn like a guitar, and can be played using one or two hands, or with sticks. It’s been designed to go wherever the player goes, and comes with a custom cover.

Adventurous musicians can just dive straight in and see what sounds they can produce, or two learning modules will be made available to ease players into the KeyTam universe – an introduction and a more indepth playing package. The learning package will include a total of 60 to 80 demonstration videos and exercises for students.

The KeyTam has launched on Kickstarter to move from functional prototype to limited production run. Pledges start at €750 (about US$850) for the first 15 backers, rising to €950 once they’ve gone. If all goes to plan, shipping is expected to start in December.

The instrument will be on show at Frankfurt’s Musikmesse expo next week, and the video below has more.

KeyTam booms, bops and jingles like no other [New Atlas]

No matter how watchful of an eye parents may keep on their small children, it’s still possible for those kids to fall into swimming pools, lakes or other bodies of water. The Buddy Life-Collar was designed for such incidents, as it automatically inflates to keep its wearer’s head above the surface.

First invented by Tadas Juknius when he was a Materials Sciences PhD student at Lithuania’s Kaunus University of Technology, Buddy has been around in prototype form for the past couple of years. It is now being commercially developed by spinoff company Smartmedic.

The 120-gram (4.2-oz) device takes the form of a hinged collar that is worn around the child’s neck as they play near the water, and it reportedly doesn’t restrict their movements. A built-in moisture sensor detects if they fall in, triggering four airbags to inflate out from Buddy’s sides. These deploy within three seconds, which is said to be fast enough to prevent drowning, while not being so rapid that the deployment itself could cause injury.

According to the university, the inflated Buddy then keeps the child’s head held out of the water, until they can be rescued. Once they’re safe, the collar can simply be taken off.

Smartmedic claims to have received good responses to the prototype at trade shows, and is now moving toward mass production.

The Seal pool safety system also incorporated collars worn by kids, although in its case those collars wirelessly transmitted an alert to a central hub device. It failed to meet its crowdfunding goal.

Neck collar for kids deploys air bags to prevent drowning [New Atlas]

According to researchers from Austria’s Technische Universität Wien (Vienna University of Technology), propelling conventional wheelchairs puts users’ joints in unnatural and potentially injury-causing positions. They’ve developed what is claimed to be a more ergonomic alternative, in the form of a hand-cranked wheelchair.

Created by a team led by Prof. Margit Gföhler, the new prototype certainly isn’t the first wheelchair to substitute a crank system for the traditional hand-rims on the wheels. It is, however, set apart by some unique features.

The chair was developed using a biomechanical computer model that analyzed various upper-body motion sequences. This resulted in a drive system that incorporates two armrest-mounted cranks. Turned by separate arms, each of those cranks is linked to the wheels via toothed belt-drives (stopping is handled by dual hand-lever-activated disc brakes).

This arrangement allows for continuous propulsion – as opposed to the series of pushes delivered to hand-rims – along with smaller-diameter wheels than those used on regular wheelchairs. The chair itself isn’t any wider than traditional models.

Additionally, the crank levers change length throughout each revolution, resulting in a cranking pattern that is oval instead of perfectly circular. This apparently maximizes power transfer to the wheels, as it compensates for the fact that users’ arms don’t deliver a consistent amount of power throughout their range of motion.

The prototype met with good reviews when assessed by users at an Austrian rehabilitation center, and its drive system is now the subject of a pending patent. “Our new wheelchair concept really could improve many people’s quality of life,” says Gföhler. “We hope to find a partner in the industry soon to develop our design into a commercial product.”

Wheelchair users looking for alternative forms of propulsion might want to also check out models are “rowed” using arm levers.

Hand-cranked wheelchair is claimed to be safer and more efficient [New Atlas]

Not only do firefighters have dangerous jobs, but they often work in dark, smoke-filled environments where they’d be difficult to find if they ran into trouble. A new motion-powered wearable sensor could make all the difference in such situations.

Developed by an international team of scientists, the inexpensive button-battery-sized device is largely made up of a new carbon aerogel nanocomposite. Not only is this material fireproof up to at least 300 ºC (572 ºF), but it also serves as a triboelectric generator, harvesting electricity from the friction produced by movement.

Worn someplace such as the sole of a boot or the arm of a jacket, it produces an electrical current as long as its wearer is moving.

Therefore, were the sensor to be equipped with a nanoantenna, it would be able to continuously transmit a signal to crew members outside of a burning structure. If its wearer were to become incapacitated and they stopped moving for an extended period, however, the current and thus the signal would cease. This would let the crews know that their assistance was required inside.

McMaster University’s Prof. Ravi Selvaganapathy, who is overseeing the project, tells us that the firefighter’s location could then be ascertained “using triangulation where many receivers are positioned around a building.”

A paper on the research, which also involves scientists from UCLA and the University of Chemistry and Technology Prague, was published this week in the journal Nano Energy.

“It’s exciting to develop something that could save someone’s life in the future,” says McMaster PhD student Islam Hassan, coauthor of the paper. “If firefighters use our technology and we can save someone’s life, that would be great.”

Motion-powered device made to save firefighters’ lives [New Atlas]

According to the Federal Highway Administration, 54 percent of all US traffic fatalities occur on rural roads. Many of those accidents are in turn caused by drivers not seeing stop signs. New technology could help, by illuminating flashing lights on those signs in response to approaching vehicles.

Developed by a team led by professors Sara Ahmed and Samer Dessouky, from The University of Texas at San Antonio, the system is powered by an integrated solar panel. This allows it to run completely off-grid.

As a vehicle approaches a stop sign that’s been equipped with the technology, a multi-pixel passive infrared sensor detects the trajectory and velocity of that vehicle’s thermal signature. The sensor can also ascertain what sort of vehicle it is.

Based on that data, a red light above the sign starts flashing to alert the driver – it does so soon enough to give them time to safely stop, based on their current velocity.

In tests conducted so far, the system has demonstrated a vehicle-detection accuracy rate of 90 percent, which is actually better than that of existing car-detection technologies such as magnetic loop inductors, video image processors and microwave radar. Additionally, the U Texas setup requires less power, and should be cheaper to manufacture – whereas conventional safety systems reportedly cost up to US$5,000 a pop, the new one could sell for as little as $60 to $100 per unit.

When you get a cavity filled, you may just assume that the fix will last indefinitely. In fact, though, fillings do have a limited lifespan. That said, a new dental material – and a new adhesive to keep it inside the tooth – could allow fillings to last longer than ever before.

Developed by scientists at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU)’s School of Dentistry, the composite material is claimed to be two times more resistant to breakage than regular filling materials. Among other things, it incorporates thiourethane, which is a compound commonly used in protective coatings for decks and cars.

The adhesive, on the other hand, contains polymers called (meth)acrylamides. As compared to standard dental adhesives, it’s said to be much more resistant to damage caused by water, bacteria and enzymes in the mouth – after being tested for six months in a simulated oral environment (pictured below), it was found to be 30 percent stronger than such adhesives.

“Today’s dental restorations typically only last seven to 10 years before they fail. They crack under the pressure of chewing, or have gaps form between the filling and the tooth, which allow bacteria to seep in and a new cavity to form,” says Assoc. Prof. Carmem Pfeifer, corresponding author of a paper on the research. “Stronger dental materials mean patients won’t have to get fillings repaired or replaced nearly as often. This not only saves them money and hassle, but also prevents more serious problems and more extensive treatment.”

The paper was recently published in the journal Dental Materials. And as an interesting side note, OHSU scientists previously developed a different long-lasting filling material, which incorporated bioactive glass.

New tooth tech shows promise for stronger, longer-lived fillings [New Atlas]

 

Today, Samsung announced two premium 2-in-1 convertibles aimed at creative types. Available in 13.3 and 15 inch display flavors, the Notebook 9 Pen models come with an 8th Gen Core processor, Gigabit Wi-Fi and can run for up to 15 hours between charges. And as the model name suggests, they both rock an S Pen that slots into the body when not being used to draw onscreen.

 

The S Pen that comes with the Notebook 9 Pen 15 slots inside the all-metal and aluminum body when not in use. This version is the company’s most advanced yet and promises much less lag than the previous model, for a real pen feel during use. It doesn’t need to be charged up for use and three different tips are available for more creative freedom.

Samsung will also offer a 3 month free trial of the MyScript Nebo App from Microsoft’s Store, which converts hand-written text into digital form and cleans up hand-drawn sketches and diagrams.

Thanks to a 360 degree hinge, the Notebook 9 Pen can serve as both laptop and tablet, but with the increasing availability of 4K displays on laptops and the 2-in-1’s premium status, Samsung’s Full HD effort here is perhaps a little disappointing. But the bigger screen on this 2-in-1 and the thin side bezels are nonetheless welcome.

Inside, processing power comes from an Intel 8th Gen Core i7, graphics from an Nvidia GeForce MX150 card with 2 GB of video memory, and support shapes up as LPDDR3 RAM and PCIe NVMe SSD storage. There’s 802.11ac Wi-Fi, two Thunderbolt 3 ports and one USB-C, and a 54 Wh battery for up to 15 hours of use between charges, with fast charging support.

A backlit keyboard caters for late night work or play, a HD IR camera and fingerprint reader make for easy login, and audio is pumped out through AKG stereo speakers with smart amplifier technology.

Apart from the 13.3 inch FHD display and integrated graphics, the Notebook 9 Pen 13 is pretty much a smaller version of the Pen 15.

Samsung will release both 2-in-1 machines next year, but will no doubt first show them off to potential US buyers at CES 2019 in Las Vegas.

Samsung’s 2019 Notebook 9 2-in-1 convertibles come with slot-in S Pen [New Atlas]

Remember netbooks? Small-screened internet machines that, for the most part, were woefully underpowered but supremely portable. A Chromebook waiting to happen, kind of. The GPD Pocket 2 sees a return to the once popular format, but with a little more power under the hood. It marries the touchscreen of a 7-inch tablet and the traditional keyboard of a laptop, packs in a 7th gen Intel SoC and runs Windows 10.

As its name suggests, the GPD Pocket 2 is the second version of the company’s Pocket laptop, which raised more than 3.5 million bucks on Indiegogo last year. Naturally, given such phenomenal support from the crowdfunding community, GDP has returned to Indiegogo to raise production funds for its latest portable.

The Pocket 2 more than doubles the performance prowess of the first gen model, rocking a 7-inch Gorilla Glass 4 IPS touchscreen with a not too shabby 1,920 x 1,200 resolution and a bezel of just 4 mm. Inside, there’s a dual-core m3-7Y30 processor with integrated HD graphics that turbos to 2.6 GHz, which is supported by either 4 or 8 GB of LPDDR3 RAM and 128 GB of solid state storage with SD card expansion. The micro-laptop runs Windows 10 Home 64-bit operating system.

Elsewhere in the 181 x 112 x 8-14 mm (7.1 x 4.4 x 0.3-0.5 in), 465 g (16.4 oz) micro-laptop is Bluetooth 4.1 and 802.11a/ac/b/g/n dual-band Wi-Fi, two full-size USB ports and one USB-C, a 6,800 mAh Li-Pol battery that’s reckoned good for 6-8 hours on the go and built-in speakers.

The Pocket 2 wears a stylish magnesium alloy chassis, and features a chiclet keyboard and an optical navigation sensor rather than a space-hogging trackpad. GPD has even managed to squeeze in an active cooling system, “rather than a passive cooling thin design that sacrifices performance.”

The Pocket 2 project has already reached its campaign target with a month remaining on the clock. Pledges for a 4 GB model start at US$529, while you’ll need to stump up at least $599 for the 8 GB flavor. If all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to start in October. The video below has more.

Micro-laptop puts portable productivity in your pocket [New Atlas]

Tivic Health has unveiled the ClearUp Sinus Pain Relief device at the Consumer Electronics Show 2019 in Las Vegas. The company describes it as the first bioelectronic treatment for sinus pain. It’s a handheld device which provides a new way to manage sinus pain for the 40 million Americans who suffer from allergic rhinitis.

It’s different from conventional methods of dealing with sinus pain, in that it’s not a pill, nasal flush or spray. This small, handheld device is used exclusively on the outside of the sinus passages.

Simply glide it along the cheek nose and brow bone for it to locate areas of the skin where electrical waveforms can pass easily. This low-current stimulation is called microcurrent and it stimulates the nerves under the skin to provide relief from sinus pain.

It has easy one-button control and three intensity levels for customization. The device offers quick five-minute treatment and is portable enough that users can carry it with themselves when they’re out and about. Tivic Health mentions that the device has been clinically proven to be safe and affective. It has also received FDA clearance.

ClearUP Sinus Pain Relief Offers First Bioelectronic Treatment For Sinus Pain [Ubergizmo]

Trying out an Instant Pot for the very first time? You might not want to invest a lot of money (or kitchen space, for that matter) on an appliance you have no experience with. For beginners looking to cut down on cooking time, the Instant Pot Duo Mini is a great place to start. It’s one of the top-selling multi-cookers in the world, and it combines a rice cooker, pressure cooker, slow cooker, steamer, yogurt maker, and warmer into one convenient package.

The small size also makes it an ideal option for college dorm rooms, camping trips, and even boating excursions. But you can still cook a decent amount of food in this appliance. Soup, stew, broth, yogurt, risotto, potato dishes, and fall-off-the-bone meals are all fair game, albeit in smaller doses. For reference, it can handle up to six cups of uncooked rice (that’s 12 cups cooked). You’ll also receive a bundle of accessories with your pressure cooker, including a rice measuring cup, stainless steel steam rack, soup spoon, and recipe booklet. If you want a larger version of the Instant Pot Duo, it also comes in 6-quarts (retails for $100) and 8-quarts (retails for $140). You can check out our full review of the 6-quart Instant Pot Duo here.

INSTANT POT DUO PLUS 3 QT 9-IN-1 MULTI- USE PROGRAMMABLE PRESSURE COOKER

Cooking for a small family? Dealing with limited counter space? Just because you’re only cooking for a few people doesn’t mean you have to miss out on trying the Instant Pot. This mini-sized Instant Pot Duo Plus all-in-one multicooker proves that good things can come in small packages. Like the previous option, the inner pot has just a 3-quart capacity, but you can also opt for a larger 6-quart (retail price of $130) or 8-quart (retails at $160) version. The Duo Plus carries the power of nine different kitchen appliances: pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, yogurt maker, egg cooker, sterilizer, and warmer.

The egg-cooker function can create perfectly prepared eggs in just a couple minutes, while the sterilizing capability can effectively pasteurize milk and clean utensils. The embedded microprocessor constantly monitors the pressure, temperature, and intensity of the cooking process, evenly distributing heat to ensure a perfectly pressure-cooked and deliciousness creation every time. If you’re ever concerned about high pressure, you can use the quick release toggle on the top of the lid to release. However, if you’re just using this one-pot system for slow-cooking, there’s no need to worry.

INSTANT POT LUX80 8 QT 6-IN-1 MULTI- USE PROGRAMMABLE PRESSURE COOKER

For a basic Instant Pot multi-cooker that’s a bit larger than the mini sizes above, try this one. The Instant Pot Lux features six different functions: pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, saute, steamer, and warmer. There are also ten different built-in programs to help you cook specific foods, including soup/broth, multigrain, and meat/stew, so you can easily cook your favorite Instant Pot recipes with the press of a button.

The 3rd generation microprocessor enables up to 240 minutes of pressure cooking, with up to 24-hour start delay, so you can program the machine ahead of time and come home to a ready-to-eat meal. The machine can also automatically keep food warm for up to ten hours, so your family will never have to eat cold food. The pressure cooker features 10 safety mechanisms to ensure users can handle the device safely, and the inner cooking pot is made of food-grade 304 stainless steel, with no chemical coating. In addition to the 8-quart size, the Instant Pot Lux also comes in 6-quarts (retails for $80) and 3-quarts (for a retail price of $65). There’s a 5-quart version too, but it’s more difficult to find. You can also buy the 6-quart model in different colors and floral patterns.

INSTANT POT ULTRA 6 QT 10-IN-1 MULTI- USE PROGRAMMABLE PRESSURE COOKER

The Instant Pot Ultra electric pressure cooker covers just about anything you might want to do in the kitchen. It has a whopping ten functions: pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice/porridge cooker, yogurt maker, cake maker, egg cooker, saute/searing, steamer, warmer, and sterilizer. That means you can have just one appliance in the place of ten. It’s also easy to use, with a central dial that makes it easy to select different programs, adjust times, and more.

This device also features an embedded microprocessor, which helps to monitor the pressure and temperature while adjusting  the intensity accordingly, helping to ensure perfectly cooked food every time. Plus, the pressure cooker offers 11 safety features, including a new steam release reset button that makes it safer for users to handle the appliance. The mid-sized 6-quart size is perfect for both small and large families, but buyers can also choose the 3-quart (retails for $120) or 8-quart ( retails for $180) option. If you’re brave enough, you can even check out the Instant Pot Max for the ultimate experience, although it hasn’t received as rave reviews as some of the other Instant Pots.

The Best Instant Pots of 2019 [Digital Trends]

Oppo wants its smartphones to become synonymous with amazing cameras and super fast battery charging. Some would say it’s already pretty close, with devices such as the N3 with its rotating camera module, and the impressive first-generation VOOC technology that charges up to 2 hours use in five minutes. Still, neither of these are enough for Oppo .

It’s working on two new technologies that have massive potential, and Digital Trends got the chance to see both in action.

Let’s start with the camera. Oppo has developed an optical image stabilization smart sensor that can practically eliminate smartphone camera shake. The key word here is ‘sensor.’ This isn’t a optical image stabilization lens unit that relies on a mechanical, motorized platform to steady your shots. Instead, it’s stabilizing power comes from inside the sensor, which brings a variety of important benefits. It’s the result of considerable research and development, and is now in the prototype stage.

Oppo’s sensor stabilizes (on three axis) without motors, making it 10 times more precise, less power intensive, and much faster than those inside of lenses. Power consumption is 50 times less than a lens-based system, but the speed with which it reacts has fallen from around 50 milliseconds to 15 milliseconds. When dealing with often minute movement in your hand, this can make all the difference. The sensor is also tuned for use in a phone. Because of the way we hold a camera phone when shooting pictures and video, stabilization needs to concentrate on yaw angles, which the Oppo sensor does, rather than the pitch which is favored by lens systems.

The Smart Sensor was demonstrated to us in a prototype phone, where it was put up against the LG G4, an excellent camera phone that comes equipped with lens optical image stabilization. Shooting the same image through both cameras, the difference was instantly noticeable — the Oppo image was not only completely steady, it was more clear as a result. Distortion caused by shake is the enemy of the smartphone photographer in a variety of situations, but is especially irritating in low light, when the shutter remains open for longer — letting in both more light and more blur. Oppo’s Smart Sensor tech may have overcome that problem.

Of course, this was a demonstration set up by Oppo, so is obviously going to favor its new hardware, but that doesn’t stop it being very impressive. It just means we’ll have to give it a try in a finished smartphone before making final judgement. At this early stage though, it looks great.

Super VOOC supercharges charging

The Smart Sensor isn’t Oppo’s only new tech breakthrough. It also showed off something called Super VOOC, the latest evolution in its fast charging technology. Before we get into how, here’s why this is equally as cool as the camera tech — Super VOOC battery charging will charge a 2,500mAh battery from zero to 100 percent in 15 minutes, or a five minute charge will give enough juice for 10 hours of use.

Oppo’s old VOOC system was already great, returning two hours use after five minutes, but this goes way beyond. It has taken three years of painstaking work for Oppo to get Super VOOC to arrive at operating prototype stage. The company proudly demonstrated it during a presentation, plugging the Super VOOC charger into a phone with about 7 percent charge, chatting for five minutes, then showing the state had leapt to more than 50 percent. Rather than rely on the OS, Oppo used independent battery tracking software to prove it.

Super VOOC’s different to Qualcomm and MediaTek’s fast charging systems because it’s low voltage. This means it doesn’t generate as much heat, and therefore doesn’t waste energy, increasing efficiency. This also means you can use your phone while it’s fast charging, and it won’t suddenly switch over to normal charging due to overheating issues, a common situation for higher voltage systems. A new algorithm dynamically regulates the charging current and voltage pulse, and military-grade materials ensure the charger is safe, durable, and efficient.

It’s compatible with Micro USB and USB Type-C chargers, but does require a special battery to work. That means the Super VOOC tech is likely to remain in Oppo’s hands, and only for compatible phones in its range. There’s no denying having a fully charged battery in just 15 minutes is a very tempting proposition, and a compelling reason to consider an Oppo phone when the tech arrives. Both Super VOOC and the Smart Sensor are at prototype stage, but the intention is to have both inside an Oppo phone you can buy before the end of the year.

The next Oppo phone may end camera shake, and fully charge in 15 minutes [Digital Trends]

 

I don’t know about you, but I feel that the best part of buying new hardware is for that small hit of excitement you receive when finally opening it.  Nothing comes close to that feelings of taking the lid off a box and seeing your new computer that you’ll be using for a good while.

But after that rush of ecstasy, you have to open it and actually set things up.  Bleh.  The setup stage is perhaps the most boring part of this process, especially when you’re constantly buying new technology or replacing your phone every year.

So to make the process go by a bit quicker, I’d thought I’d help new or soon-to-be MacBook users so they can skim by the setup process and get right to work on their new premium laptop!

1.   Backup, backup, BACKUP

Apple catches flak for some of their software choices, but their backup solution, known as iCloud, has been heralded around as a reliable and easy to use backup solution.  Best part?  It’s free to use on every Apple device, granted that you stay within the data limit.

Setting it up is just as easy!  Just log into your Apple account, which you’ll be doing anyways to access your MacBook.  After logging in, iCloud will be there in your settings waiting for you.  Personally, this is the biggest bore of the things to set up, so I say go ahead and get it done first, so you can forget about it later.

2.   Make that Home Screen Nice

Apple likes to just cram every piece of software they have on the Dock at the bottom of the screen.  It may look a bit untidy, but it’s no matter.  Apple lets you simply remove the apps you aren’t planning on using from the Dock, so all that’s on your Dock is what you need quick access too.

Apple products look premium from the outside, so make sure the software side of things looks just as sleek!

3.   Secure Your Privacy

While Apple has a reputation of being secure with your data, it never hurts to have some extra security when it comes to your data. Fortunately, Apple doesn’t make it too difficult to keep your Mac secure.  Realistically, macOS is more secure than Windows, considering the closed ecosystem nature that is macOS.

All I can really recommend to do is install a VPN on your brand-new Mac.  This way, if you’re ever out and about, you don’t need to worry about your data falling into the wrong hands.

4.   Make It Feel Like Home

Lastly, just make your Mac yours!  Customize it however you’d like.  Install any apps you need, optimize settings to your needs, make it your second home.

Only you can tailor your experience to be the best it can be on macOS.  So just sit back, relax, and enjoy your new Mac.

We knew foldable phones would be one of the smartphone trends of 2019, but we’re now starting to see the actual devices appear. Days after Samsung took the wrappers off its Galaxy Fold phone, Huawei has been showing off its own foldable Mate X handset at Mobile World Congress 2019.

Huawei’s handset folds in the opposite direction to Samsung’s – so the screen ends up on the outside rather than the inside when it’s closed. You get an 8-inch display in the flat tablet mode, and in the folded over mode the Mate X offers a main 6.6-inch display on the front and a secondary 6.4-inch display on the back.

Other highlights include a 4,500 mAh battery (split into two sections), fast 55W charging that gives you 85 percent of a full charge from zero in 30 minutes, and 5G – another technology we’re going to be hearing a lot about this year.

As for a camera, the phone sports a triple-lens camera that sits on the back when you have the device open, and on the front or the back when it’s closed (depending on which way round you’re holding it). The camera tech is backed into a black strip on one side of the screen, which doubles as a closing mechanism and handle.

Keeping the screen bending reliably is what Huawei is calling a Falcon Wing Mechanical Hinge. It apparently won’t stretch when folded over, and won’t bulge when laid flat, making it perhaps even more of a technological marvel than the one Samsung is using (which folds the other way).

Inside you get the latest super speedy Kirin 980 processor from Huawei, paired with 8 GB of RAM and 512 GB of internal storage. The fingerprint sensor is built into the power button for one-touch unlocking.

Huawei says the on-board software will adapt to suit both open and closed modes. If the phone screen is laid open, the extra screen space can be used for movies and photos and so on, or a split screen mode can be set – enabling you to drag pictures from a gallery into an email, for example.

So what will it cost you? As you might expect, this foldable, 5G-equipped phone doesn’t come cheap: Huawei says the handset will retail for €2,299 in Europe (roughly equivalent to $2,605 US dollars, though it’s unlikely to go on sale there).

What we don’t have yet is an official launch date. Samsung says the Galaxy Fold will go on sale in April, but it’s notable that the tech press haven’t been given any actual hands on time with either the Samsung or the Huawei foldable phones yet – so it’s possible there are still some technical wrinkles to be ironed out.

Huawei unveils the foldable Mate X phone, complete with 5G [New Atlas]

Millions of metric tons of plastic are produced each year and in reality, very little of it is recycled. But what if there were more ways of turning this waste into something valuable, such as new plastics or different types of fuel? Scientists at Purdue University have taken a promising step towards this goal with a new technology that can turn the majority of a commonly used plastic into the building blocks for all kinds of materials, something they hope can inspire new solutions for our plastic pollution problem.

Estimates vary on how much plastic winds up in landfill, how much ends up being recycled and how much washes into the ocean, but there’s no question plastic waste is a big problem. As an indication, a 2015 paper estimated that somewhere between 5 and 12.7 million metric tons of plastic waste winds up in the ocean each year, and what happens to it from there is a great unknown.

The solution to this problem is far more complex than finding new ways of recycling the ubiquitous material, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. Elsewhere, we have seen promising experimental technologies that can convert plastic bags into high-value carbon nanotubes, turn ocean plastics into usable diesel fuels and turn plastic bottles into other fuels and waxes.

“Our strategy is to create a driving force for recycling by converting polyolefin waste into a wide range of valuable products, including polymers, naphtha (a mixture of hydrocarbons), or clean fuels,” says Linda Wang, chemistry professor at Purdue University and leader of the research team. “Our conversion technology has the potential to boost the profits of the recycling industry and shrink the world’s plastic waste stock.”

In pursuing this strategy, Wang and her team turned to a technique called hydrothermal liquefaction, a process of heating materials up to moderate temperatures under high pressure to convert them into oil. In this case, the team was able to transform 91 percent of the polyolefin into oil consisting of paraffins, cyclics, aromatics and olefins, unsaturated hydrocarbons that serve as the foundation for polyolefins.

And that opens up a range of possibilities, according to the scientists. This oil and its ingredients can then be turned into gasoline blendstocks and feedstocks for other chemicals. They can also be separated into specialty solvents or fuels such as gasoline or diesel. So much so, the team estimates that the fuels generated from discarded polyolefin could meet around four percent of the globe’s demand for gasoline and diesel fuels each year.

To that end, the researchers have now teamed up with Purdue University’s Fuel Laboratory of Renewable Energy to try and optimize the conversion process. They are also looking for partners to help demonstrate the technology’s potential on a commercial scale.

Chemical conversion process gives plastic waste new life as fuel [New Atlas]

Wearable gadgets are making clothes smarter all the time, but one of the most basic functions you’d want in a garment – the ability to warm you up or cool you down as needed – is still frustratingly elusive. Now, researchers at the University of Maryland (UMD) have developed a new material that senses how warm a person’s body is and automatically adjusts how much heat it traps or releases.

One of the easiest ways to regulate your body temperature is just to put on or take off layers. But previous work in smarter clothing has led to different solutions, such as a reversible jacket that was cooling on one side and warming on the other, so you could turn it inside out as needed. A higher-tech attempt to fix the problem was a “robotic” jacket that used machine learning algorithms to judge how hot or cold a person was and open or close vents accordingly.

To do this, the fibers are made of two different synthetic materials, one that absorbs water and one that repels it, both of which are then coated in carbon nanotubes. The idea is, when water (i.e. sweat) gets absorbed by half of each fiber, it distorts the fibers so they come closer together. That allows the fabric to cool the wearer in two ways at once.

First, it opens up the pores of the material, allowing more heat to escape. Secondly, the more active cooling comes from bringing the carbon nanotubes closer together. That changes the electromagnetic coupling, “tuning” the nanotubes to absorb over 35 percent more infrared radiation and draw away more heat from the wearer.

“You can think of this coupling effect like the bending of a radio antenna to change the wavelength or frequency it resonates with,” says YuHuang Wang, corresponding author of the study. “It’s a very simplified way to think of it, but imagine bringing two antennae close together to regulate the kind of electromagnetic wave they pick up. When the fibers are brought closer together, the radiation they interact with changes. In clothing, that means the fabric interacts with the heat radiating from the human body.”

The team says this dynamic infrared gating makes the fabric the first “true bidirectional regulator” of body heat, and it apparently kicks in before the wearer even realizes they’re getting too hot.

It definitely does sound less cumbersome than an AI-enabled jacket, and according to the creators all the materials are already easily available on the market, while the carbon nanotube coating can be applied during the regular dying process.

Infrared-sensing, auto-cooling fabric knows you’re too hot before you do [New Atlas]

Whether you love it or hate it, below-freezing temperatures are a fact of life for many, and that also means adapting to snow, freezing rain, and other conditions. But cold weather doesn’t play well with smartphone batteries, and if you’ve experienced some super-cold temperatures recently, you may have noticed your phone’s battery isn’t lasting as long. In more extreme cases, it might even say it has more than enough battery left before randomly shutting down.

WHY DOES THIS HAPPEN?

It’s pure science. All smartphone batteries, whether lithium-ion (Li-ion) or lithium-ion polymer (LiPo), are made from a series of metal plates — split between a positive and a negative — held inside a bath of chemicals. The chemistry behind exactly how batteries work is complex, but in simple terms, recharging your battery fills the negative metal plate (the anode) with electrons and positive ions from the positive metal plate (the cathode). When the battery is full, the electrons and positive ions try to return to the anode, but are prevented by the chemical bath between the metal plates. They also move another way: Through the phone’s systems. The passage of electrons and positive ions through your smartphone provides the energy it needs to function.

Extreme temperatures of both kinds disrupt the careful balance these systems need to function properly. In this case, extreme cold increases resistance, reducing the amount of electrons and positive ions which are able to make it through the smartphone — effectively reducing your phone’s battery capacity. Worst of all, scientists don’t fully understand the careful balance needed, according to Live Science, so phone manufacturers aren’t able to account for the change — explaining why your phone’s battery indicator sometimes seems like it’s lying to you.

Cold temperatures below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (zero degrees C) will cause issues for your phone’s battery. Apple recommends iPhones are best suited to temperatures between 32 and 95 F (zero to 35 C), while Battery University highlights temperatures between 32 and 113 F (zero to 45 C). Battery University takes this further, recommending not to charge your phone in below freezing temperatures, lest you cause permanent damage to it.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

So now you know why your phone’s battery is impacted by the serious cold, but what can you actually about it? While you can’t change the weather, there are a few steps you can take to make sure your battery lasts a little longer in even the most inclement of weather.

Activate battery-saving mode

The first good tip is making sure you’re eking out as much performance as possible from your battery. We’ve covered battery saving tips for iPhones and tips for phones like the Samsung Galaxy S9 before, but one of the best ways to ensure a longer-lasting battery is to flip on your device’s battery saving mode.

The exact way to do this will likely vary from device to device — for example, on a Samsung Galaxy phone, you’ll need to access your Battery menu under Device Maintenance — but most Android phones will allow you to toggle on a power-saving mode by pulling down the notification shade and selecting the battery-saving mode from your quick settings. On an iPhone you’ll find your low power mode under Settings > Battery > Low power mode.

Low power and power-saving modes on different devices will do different things, but common measures employed by these modes include switching off background data syncing, lowering display brightness, and throttling CPU performance to conserve power.

Keep your phone warm

Another great piece of advice is just to keep your phone as warm as possible. So if you have to take it outside, make sure it stays in your pocket and out of the cold wind as much as possible. Keeping it close to your body is also a good idea, as the gentle heat of your body will help to keep it warm. However, don’t be tempted to use an external heater like a hand warmer to keep it warm. While these may work for your hands, the sudden high increase in heat may do your phone more harm than good — plus, overheating a battery is just as bad as letting it get too cold.

Treat your phone with care and keep it insulated against the worst of the weather, and it’ll do a lot better than it would if kept in the cold.

OTHER PROTECTION AGAINST COLD WEATHER HAZARDS

If you’re willing to spend a little money, then there are other ways to keep your phone’s battery from being affected by frozen temperatures.

Slap a case on it

Much like putting on a coat, having a barrier between your phone and the outside world is a great way to keep your phone slightly warmer. If you have a supported phone, Lifeproof offers some options with a fully waterproof seal that may help keep the cold out as well as water. But while cases offer some protection, they’re best used alongside the other techniques, not as a replacement.

Get a more protected phone

This is a much more extreme solution, and should only be considered if you consistently find yourself in freezing temperatures either as a part of your job or as a hobby. Many of the best rugged smartphones come with protection against extreme weather changes, and will probably cope much better with extreme weather conditions.

THINGS NOT TO DO

Packing a portable charger

Grabbing one of our favorite portable chargers may seem like a great solution to your problem — as the best antidote for lack of energy is … more energy! But charging in freezing temperatures can do permanent harm to lithium-ion batteries — and it likely won’t even charge properly. While having a portable charger is generally a great idea, make sure you’ve managed to warm your phone (and charger) up to above 32 F (zero Celsius) before you attempt to refill the rapidly draining battery.

Although there’s nothing like cycling with a good tailwind, your bike and your body are only capable of catching a limited amount of that wind. The CycleWing was designed to help, acting as – you guessed it – a sail for your bike.

Developed by software engineer Jorge Pando and mechanical engineer Nathan Rose, the CycleWing isn’t intended for use on crowded city streets. That would just be crazy. The idea is more that touring cyclists could use it while cruising for long distances along country roads, potentially saving them a considerable amount of effort.

Mounted like a rear rack, the sail and mast stay folded down and covered when not in use. Once riders want to get going – and if the wind is coming somewhere from behind – they manually set the CycleWing up within a few minutes.

As they subsequently pedal, riders use two handlebar-mounted buttons to rotate the sail to either side, in order to better catch the wind. A bar-mounted e-paper screen displays the angle to which the sail is currently set, along with the remaining battery life of the motor that rotates it.

Although it’s still in rough prototype form, plans call for the finished product to be made from lightweight materials such as carbon fiber, tipping the scales at less than 15 lb (6.8 kg).

And should you be interested, the CycleWing is presently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign. A pledge of US$500 (30 to 40 percent off the estimated retail price) will get you one, when and if it reaches production.

Retractable sail could give bikes a boost of wind power [New Atlas]

Motorbike riders have been clamoring for an augmented reality (AR) enabled bike helmet for years, hence the long-running and infamous Skully debacle. But now Singapore-based startup Whyre have come up with a simple way to make any bike helmet smart, using an attachment which can overlay AR information on a helmet’s visor. They showed off the Argon Transform, as its known, at CES 2019 this year.

The Argon Transform is a dual-camera system which works by sticking one camera to the back of a helmet and one to the front. The front piece acts as a high definition dash cam with a black box recording feature, and has a simple mounting system that should work with any helmet. The back piece holds a rechargeable battery which the manufacturers estimate should last for five hours of use, plus a dedicated high speed computing board, a high definition wide-angle lens camera, Bluetooth integration, expandable memory, and an audio and microphone system.

Once in place, the Transform displays an overlay image in the peripheral of the rider’s vision. The image is semi-transparent so it doesn’t block the view of real-world objects, and it can display information like a rear-view camera feed, a visual map and audio navigation system, a virtual speedometer, caller ID, and the time. The image is overlaid in a position designed to be easy to focus on which should reduce visual stress. In addition, the front camera can be used to record rides for fun or in the case of an accident. If there is an accident, the footage will be backed up to an isolated memory compartment using the BlackBox feature.

As you would expect from a smart helmet, the attachment can be paired with a smartphone through a dedicated app which can log mileage, calculate average speed, bookmark locations, answer phone calls, and listen to music. These functions are controlled with a separate button controller.

The Whyre company is a group of five graduates including one former member of Singapore’s ambulance force, all of whom have lost friends in motorcycle accidents and who wanted to find a way to increase rider’s situational awareness. The Argon Transform will be launching on a crowdfunding platform early this year and is expected to cost around $680 retail.

Add futuristic AR to your bike helmet with the Argon Transform [Digital Trends]

Merging synthesized sounds with rocking riffs on a guitar might involve installing a MIDI pickup, or plugging into a stomp box or blending the two in post production. Now the UK’s Lucem Custom Instruments has collaborated with Seattle’s Tracktion Corporation for an interesting concept guitar that has a BioTek 2 synthesizer built in.

The Spirit Animal has a BioTek 2 software synth X/Y pad displayed on a 5 inch touchscreen mounted behind the hardtail bridge of the twin humbucker double-cut guitar, angled slightly up towards the player. The BioTek 2 is a virtual sampling and synthesis design playground that comes with over 500 patches created by Richard Devine and Christian Halten and would normally require a laptop running digital audio workstation software.

But the Lucem concept rocks a Raspberry Pi computer inside the hollowed out body to provide all of the processing power needed to support the synthesis engine, and you can actually see some of the electronics through the cutout that arches above the bridge.

Elsewhere, the guitar features a 22-fret rosewood fingerboard with dot inlays, chrome 3×3 tuners, a three-way pickup selector and five volume/tone dials.

The signal from both the cooked-in synth and the guitar’s pickups can be blended using the pan pot and the whole shebang is output via the instrument jack to the front of the body. There are two ports on the bottom edge of the body, one is USB for charging the Li-ion battery and the other is Ethernet for connectivity/screen sharing.

The Spirit Animal is purely a concept design study at this stage and no further details have been revealed ahead of a NAMM 2019 debut later this week in Anaheim, California.

Concept guitar blends string picking with Pi-powered synthesis [New Atlas]

Made by French company R-Pur, the mask has been made available through crowdfunding site Indiegogo and is designed primarily for cyclists and motorbike users, through the company also says it could be useful for runners or other urban athletes too. It filters out harmful air pollutants like toxic particles, fine particles and diesel, pollen, and viruses and bacteria using a nano filtration system, working on particles that are between 10 microns and 0.04 microns in size. This makes it one of the most effective air filtration systems out there, as most European protection masks only filter particles of down to 0.4 microns in size.

For reference, a grain of sand is about 90 microns in size, a human hair is 50-70 microns, dust and pollen particles are 10 microns, fine particles caught by conventional masks as 0.4 microns, and the R-Pur mask filters all the way down to nanoparticles of 0.04 microns.

The filtration system works through a replaceable filter, and in addition has an active carbon layer which should absorb harmful Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) and gases. When you breathe out, the hot air is channeled downwards to prevent your goggles and visor from becoming misted, a particular concern for motorbike riders.

There was a cool update to the mask on display at CES 2019 too — a prototype illuminated version of the mask that had lights on the side which changed color based on the current air quality. The mask also connects to a smartphone app which can inform you about air quality conditions, and lets you know how long the filter is expected to last and when you might need to change it. The makers estimate that the filter will need to be changed every one to two months depending on its usage.

If you want to capture video footage with yourself in the shot, you can plonk a smartphone on the end of really long selfie stick, instruct your camera drone to follow you around or get someone else to handle the filming. Now China’s Remo Technology has launched a new videocam at CES 2019 in Las Vegas that uses AI to keep moving subjects in the shot at all times.

Whether you’re tricking out at a skate park, busting moves in a dance hall or making the next viral cute kid or puppy video, you just need to position the Obsbot Tail so it has a decent view, tap the subject on the companion app’s live feed and set it off.

The 7.3 x 3.3 inch (185 x 83 mm) tube-shaped camera has an optical zoom lens and is mounted to its own 3-axis motorized gimbal. A sensor strip out front keep track of the subject while the Tail captures 4K UHD video at 60 frames per second in life-like HDR10 quality or 12 megapixel stills.

Remo has cooked some artificial intelligence smarts into the camera’s HiSilicon Hi3559A processing brains, and users can leverage a host of AI-driven filming modes to control exactly how shots are composed. More than 20 camera movements and functions can be set up in the mobile app and the company says that gestures can be programmed in that will trigger certain camera functions when the sensors pick them up.

“We’ve worked with dozens of dance groups, street sports teams and vloggers to design a camera that can truly capture movement,” said Remo’s Bo Liu. “We hope that with Obsbot Tail, people can enjoy the freedom of expressing their creativity through videos, without the hassle of getting help from others, or having to endure the complex process of setting up or adjusting a camera.”

That’s about all the available information at the moment. The Obsbot Tail is set to make a production bid on Kickstarter next week. We’ll up date this article once more details are known.

Obsbot Tail keeps you in the frame as you move around [New Atlas]

Many of us suffer from sleep deficiency and/or poor quality sleep. That being considered, CES 2019 is really shaping up to be a great year for sleep tech. One of the companies aiming to help us rest better is Urgonight, which is showing off its non-invasive headband at the show, aiming to help train our brains to sleep better.

Developed by French startup Urgo Group, the headband connects to an app that is worn during three 20-minute sessions each week. During these sessions, the band takes an EEG (electroencephalogram) of your brain and then presents the data on your screen in such a way that helps to train your brain waves to act in a certain manner, a technique known as visual neurofeedback.

Urgo says that viewing these special images at least three times a week for those 20 minutes helps develop healthier sleep patterns in as little as three months. Since this is all done during waking hours — and there’s no need to wear the headband during the night — getting better sleep doesn’t require making yourself uncomfortable in the process.

This is great news. Insomniacs know any kind of disruption can make your insomnia worse — whether it be sounds, light, or touch — so instead of wearing something or listening to something at night, you can focus on whatever you need to do in order to make yourself as comfortable as possible naturally.

“Urgonight allows consumers to fit in exercises for sleep in whatever timing or habits that are best suited for their lifestyles,” Urgo founder Guirec Le Lous said in a statement.

Urgo’s research showed that patients were on average falling asleep 40 percent faster, reducing the number of times they woke up during the night by more than half after completing a training cycle. Urgo also suggests you repeat a series of sessions three months after you complete your last one to maintain the positive effects.

There’s one negative though, and that’s the price: $600. But for those of us that may have spent tons of money on medications, sleep studies, self-help materials and whatever else to try and get a good night’s sleep, it doesn’t seem like a high price to pay. Pre-orders are expected to begin in the spring, with delivery coming by the end of the year.

The Urgonight headband trains your brain waves for better sleep [Digital Trends]