It seems like it was only yesterday that – on some vehicles, at least – the traditional car key was replaced with a Bluetooth fob. Now, Korean startup OneKey is out to replace that fob with its smartphone-controlled Keto system.

Keto actually consists of both an iOS/Android app and a device that stays permanently inside the car. Additionally, it doesn’t entirely do away with the car’s existing fob. Instead, the user removes the “key module” from that fob, and sticks it inside the Keto device.

The latter is then adhered to the top of the dashboard, with a power cord running from it to the vehicle’s AC power socket. That cord continuously charges an integrated lithium-polymer battery.

When the user approaches their car, the Keto device detects both a unique Bluetooth signal and an inaudible audio signal that are automatically transmitted by the phone. This causes the closest door (or the trunk) to unlock. Once the person is subsequently inside the car, the proximity of their phone to the device likewise enables the vehicle’s “start engine” button.

As is the case with many app-controlled house and bicycle locks, Keto users can additionally grant temporary use of their vehicle to other people. This is done through the internet-connected app, and requires the other individuals to be running that same application on their phones. The main user can revoke anyone’s access at any time, or they can restrict that access to certain times of day.

What’s more, if one person has multiple Keto-device-equipped cars, they can use the app to access each vehicle individually.

Should you be interested, the technology is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign. Assuming it reaches production, a pledge of US$99 will get you a device, with shipping estimated for December.

Keto lets you unlock and start your car, using your phone [New Atlas]

Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF) recently completed the Robinson Tower, a contemporary and sculptural high-rise in Singapore that was created in collaboration with Associate Architect A61. Designed with a mix of boutique retail and office spaces, the skyscraper champions the firm’s ideas of “sustainable urbanism” by engaging the public streetscape with floor-to-ceiling glazing and publicly accessible green space. To strengthen Singapore’s new slogan as a “City in a Garden,” the building features an abundance of greenery from an enclosed rooftop garden to the open-air garden atop the retail podium.

The integration of greenery into Robinson Tower was in part because of Singapore’s Landscape Replacement Policy, a 2014 law that requires that any greenery lost to development must be replaced with publicly accessible greenery of equal area. Because the V-shaped site was already constrained by Market Street and Robinson Road, KPF decided to embed greenery inside of and on top of the building in addition to providing streetscape landscaping.

The sculptural tower’s crystalline form takes cues from the angular terracotta roof of Lau Pa Sat, a historic building and food market nearby. The tower features 20 boutique office floors stacked atop a retail podium. Between the retail and office spaces is a manicured rooftop garden with mature trees. An enclosed rooftop garden crowns the building and, like the rest of the building, is wrapped in glass to provide marina views.

“Robinson Tower follows in the footsteps of KPF’s work at Marina Bay Financial Centre, which first introduced the mixed-use model to Singapore,” said Robert Whitlock, design principal of KPF. “Even though that project was massive in scale, with a park integrated in its plan, this distinctive tower similarly embodies the integration of context, culture and sustainability with architecture.” Robinson Tower also houses KPF’s Singapore office, which was founded in 2018.

Sculptural, tree-filled tower supports “sustainable urbanism” in Singapore [Inhabitat]

Rhode Island School of Design student Hyunseok An has created a prototype indoor micro-algae farm in a bid to sustainably and beautifully integrate algae into our everyday lives. Dubbed The Coral after its coral pattern, the micro-farm takes on the shape of a four-by-four gridded bioreactor that can be mounted on the wall like artwork. The algae that grows inside each square component is rendered visible through transparent containers so that owners can watch as the algae grows and changes color.

In 1974, the U.N. World Food Conference declared algae “the most ideal food for mankind” for its rich nutritional makeup; however, popular opinion often dismisses the superfood as nothing more than pond scum. Hyunseok An, who is pursuing a master’s degree in industrial design at RISD, wants to change our perception of algae and promote its health and environmental benefits. Algae, which grows quickly with few inputs, is also lauded for its ability to sequester carbon at an absorption rate that’s estimated to be 10 times greater than typical plants.

The Coral comprises 16 cells arranged in a grid pattern with two grams of algae in each culture cell — the recommended daily intake amount. Each cell replenishes its stock on a biweekly cycle so that users will always have access to the sustainable food. As the algae grows and replenishes its stock, the cell changes color from clear to varying shades of green. The coral pattern printed on the transparent cells symbolizes the reversal of “coral bleaching,” a global phenomenon where coral is irritated — the causes can be varied from sea temperature fluctuations or pollution — and expels algae, thus turning the coral completely white.

“Through its use and indoor experience, The Coral aims to change the preconception of algae, suggesting a socially acceptable way of reconnecting with algae and bringing it into our everyday lives,” Hyunseok An explained in a project statement. “By doing so, The Coral can help us take one step forward to a better, more sustainable way of living for us and for our world.”

RISD student designs a micro-algae farm for home use [Inhabitat]

While cafe-worthy espresso machines still lie out of the price range for most people, there are more and more affordable versions hitting the market. Still, many models at all price points either create waste from pods and filters or use a lot of energy — or both. In searching for an option that fulfills our love for coffee without creating waste and consuming a lot of electricity, we found ROK. The ROK espresso maker promises a strong, double shot of espresso with zero-waste and zero-energy needed.

After opening the box, we felt pretty intimidated by the machine. It is made from strong, sturdy steel, and is small enough to carry around, but the instructions weren’t incredibly informative. There is also a metal portafilter, which holds the coffee grounds, as well as a plastic coffee scoop that doubles as a tamper, a splitter to turn the double shot into two single shots and a mysterious additional piece that we still do not know its purpose. (If you know, leave us a comment below!)

Luckily for ROK users, the company has an informative YouTube channel, where we found plenty of tutorials as well as helpful tips and tricks to make the best espresso possible. After familiarizing ourselves with the routine, we decided to give it a go.

We added fine coffee grounds to the portafilter and tamped it firmly, but not too firmly, using the back of the coffee scoop. Inserting the portafilter into the machine is probably the trickiest part; we recommend squatting down and looking to see where the notches line up to avoid missing and dumping the grounds everywhere (speaking from experience here).

After the portafilter is secured in place, make sure your mug is lined up at the bottom under the spout, and add boiling hot water to the black plastic rim at the top of the machine. We found about 100 to 110 mL gave us the perfect amount with enough to pull a thin layer of crema at the top of the cup as well.

Pull the arms of the machine up slowly, then push down. If you feel a lot of resistance, don’t push further! The coffee might be tamped in too much, and forcing the arms down could cause the water to burn you. If the arms are moving with just slight pressure, you are doing it correctly. Push slowly, and the water will run through the portafilter and espresso will pour into your mug.

This zero-waste espresso machine is powered by human strength [Inhabitat]

The new low-light mode seems to be simulated, and it’s based on the lighting conditions in your environment. In other words, it doesn’t really depend on the quality of your phone’s camera – which means that any phone with Duo should be able to use it. Not only that, but as noted in a report by The Verge, the feature doesn’t seem to simply make your screen brighter to illuminate your face, like some phones do for selfie-taking.

Users can toggle low-light mode manually, through a button on the user interface. All users really need to do is tap the button, and the app should brighten up the image to create a clearer video call. Google has a GIF showing the feature in use, and it looks pretty incredible – though we’ll have to wait and see exactly how well it works in real life. Google Duo is also available in Google Chrome, though the new low-light feature seems to be limited to the app for now. Hopefully, it’ll roll out to the web in the near future.

The tech could be an expansion of the Night Sight camera mode in Google Pixel phones, which has been hailed for using artificial intelligence to create brighter, sharper images in low-light environments, without needing to use the flash.

Google Duo is getting a low-light mode to brighten up your video chats [Digital Trends]

A few bugs and glitches are expected with any piece of technology no matter how advanced it may be, but some bugs are worse than others. Multiple people report that their June Smart Oven turned on by itself during the night and preheated to 400 degrees, perhaps in eager anticipation of the meal it might soon cook. June did not issue a statement regarding the potential cause of this heating fiasco, but it told The Verge that user error was to blame.

In one instance, June blamed the Amazon Alexa integration for the preheating and in another instance said the user may have tapped something within the app that triggered the preheat functionality. In only one case did June send out a new oven, but the company said it was due to “unrelated issues.” The events have users concerned.

While it is possible three people made separate mistakes that resulted in accidentally turning on their ovens, the more concerning issue is that accidentally preheating the oven can even happen at all. According to the National Fire Protection Association, cooking-related fires counted for 48% of all house fires between 2012 and 2016. Although none of the June customers reported fires, one man only discovered that his oven was on because he had forgotten to take potatoes out of the oven the night before. When he went to do so the next morning, the device had preheated to 425 degrees Fahrenheit and incinerated the tubers.

The ability to browse recipes and preheat the oven to the proper temperature for a given recipe makes cooking significantly easier, especially for the culinary-challenged. The risk of fire tempers that convenience a bit. In response, June CEO Matt Van Horn said the company is working on a solution.

An update is slated for September that will supposedly allow owners to disable remote preheating. The company also plans to add another feature in the next year that will automatically turn off the heating elements if no food is detected within the oven. All of these are steps in the right direction, especially given the potentially catastrophic nature of a heating element malfunction.

Your smart oven might be more ready for breakfast than you realize [Digital Trends]

Committing to a zero-waste lifestyle in your home is one tier of “challenging.” Step out of the house and it gets one tier harder. Travel somewhere on an airplane? It might seem impossible.

Reducing waste during airplane travel is the least you can do after choosing a not-so-sustainable mode of traveling. That’s right — flying is the second most damaging thing to the planet. Jet fuel is the biggest source of carbon emissions when it comes to air travel, making up more than 98.5 percent of the carbon footprint. Electric rental cars and destinations reachable by train or bus are much eco-friendlier, but the way our world currently works, not always realistic. If you want to visit Costa Rica, a train just isn’t going to get you there. The least you can do is make sure your airplane travel is as low-waste and sustainable as possible. So, how do you achieve that?

Pack Your Reusable Items in an Easy-to-Access Carry-on

The most rookie mistake you can make is not packing your reusable items. The second-most rookie mistake you can make is packing them away in a place that’s inaccessible — either in your checked luggage or all the way at the bottom of your carry-on where you can’t reach in and grab it.

Pack the stuff you’ll need in the airport close to the top or in an easy-to-access place. Here’s what you’ll most likely need:

  • Reusable straw
  • Reusable utensils
  • Reusable hot/cold cup
  • Cloth napkin
  • Headphones

Pack Your Liquids in a Clear Reusable Bag

According to Transportation Security Administration (TSA), air travelers are allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids that are 3.4 ounces in a carry-on bag. Don’t — I repeat, do not — reach for a single-use plastic baggie in order to house your liquids. By buying one reusable, plastic, see-through bag, you will be able to reuse the bag each time you fly. You’re saving yourself money on plastic baggies and saving the environment from so much unnecessary single-use plastic.

Need to invest in a see-through reusable bag? Check out the Snack Stasher Bag or this TSA-approved toiletry bag from Lemmende.

Keep the Window Shade Down

What, really? But I want to take pictures of the plane’s wing with the sun setting in the background. True, it’s a beautiful picture, but also true, Instagram has seen it before. Plus, it’s bad for the environment.

With the window shade open, the sun beats down on your plane window, heating up the inside of the plane. A bit of warmth might not seem like a big deal, but it actually forces airlines to use more energy to cool it down. If you simply keep the shades down, this can keep the cabin up to 10 degrees cooler.

Don’t Take or Buy Anything

Pillows, blankets, tiny bottles of plastic liquor, one-and-done headphones. Don’t succumb to these so-called “luxuries.” The most sustainable thing you can do is to be ahead of the game and pack your own “luxuries” ahead of time. Those blankets, pillows, liquor bottles, plastic headphones? They are not reusable; airlines throw them out after just one use.

Pack Your Own Food (or Pick the Veggie Option)

Of course, not taking or buying anything also applies to the snacks or meals that might come as freebies on your flight. The best thing you can do to avoid any free snacks or meals is to pack your own. Snack ideas could include: nuts, trail mix, dried fruit, and other snacks available at the bulk section of the grocery store. If you don’t have the opportunity to pack your own meal and absolutely have to order a meal on a long flight, opt for the vegetarian alternative. Going plant-based — even just for two meals during a flight — reduces carbon footprint even more so than sacrificing your car would.

Why does going vegetarian have such a strong impact? Fewer animals are killed, less land is used for agriculture, and less animal meat is harvested unethically and un-sustainably. I know what you’re thinking: Sure, that’s great for the environment but can going veggie just for a flight really incite that much change? Yes! The sustainable blog WanderingChocobo points out that going plant-based shows airlines that meat is less in demand; when demand decreases, the airline carrier will have to buy less meat, simply from an economic standpoint.

Pay the Carbon Offset Fee

Not sure what the Carbon Offset Fee is? Let’s start there. A Carbon Offset Fee is an optional donation that travelers can make toward an airline. The money goes toward reductions that are made in the emission of greenhouse gasses in order to offset — or compensate — for other emissions.

What kinds of reductions does this fee go toward? Paying this fee actually has a huge environmental impact and yet a study conducted in 2008 found that only 1 percent of Quantas and Virgin fliers paid the fee. By comparison, 12 percent of Jetstar passengers opted to offset emissions. What exactly the money goes toward depends on the individual airline but it can help with offsets like planting trees, researching sustainable ways to travel, finding alternative ways to light planes, and more.

If you fly United, you can use their carbon calculator to calculate your footprint. Then, United gives you the option to donate to one of Conservation International’s carbon reduction projects. Delta Frequent Flyer? Delta offers the same option.

How to Reduce Waste During Airplane Travel [Green Matters]

Wearable robot mobility helpers can be heavy and cumbersome, but they have the potential to help those who can’t move to walk again or make light work of heavy objects. For a number of years, researchers at Harvard’s Wyss Institute have been working on a soft exosuit that’s lightweight and portable, and the latest version can provide both walking and running assistance.

The project blossomed from DARPA’s Warrior Web program, which called for the development of alternatives to bulky powered exoskeletons like the Guardian XO Max. Last year, a Harvard team comprising members from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University and the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences revealed a version of a soft exosuit that could auto-adjust assistance levels on the fly.

Now the project has expanded to include researchers from the University of Nebraska Omaha, and has shortened the unit to just the hip and thighs while automatically providing assistance for both walking and running.

The team points out that due to differences in walking and running gaits, providing assistance has proven to be a challenge. But progress has been made thanks to an extension of the hip joint that’s common for both gaits.

An algorithm detects the transition between gaits and vice versa by monitoring the acceleration of the wearer’s center of mass using sensors attached to the body. Upon determining the correct gait, the mobile actuation system attached to the lower back adjusts its profile to supply the appropriate tensile force between a waist belt and thigh wraps.

The wearable weights 5 kg (11 lb), with most of that located close to a user’s center of mass which “minimizes the energetic burden and movement restriction to the wearer,” according to co-first author on the study Jinsoo Kim.

In tests on a treadmill, the metabolic costs of walking were reduced by 9.3 percent, and running by 4 percent, compared to when the testers moved without the device. Though study lead recognizes that these metabolic reductions are small, the latest development effectively demonstrates that it is possible for wearable exosuits to support more than a single activity.

“This breakthrough study coming out of the Wyss Institute’s Bioinspired Soft Robotics platform gives us a glimpse into a future where wearable robotic devices can improve the lives of the healthy, as well as serve those with injuries or in need of rehabilitation,” said Donald Ingber, M.D., Ph.D., Founding Director of the Wyss Institute.

Grand pianos are huge and heavy, and not everyone has the space in the living room to host one. Upright pianos can help, but the sound just isn’t the same. But what if you can have a grand piano that has about the same footprint as an upright? That’s what pianist Sarah Nicolls is offering with the Standing Grand.

The idea for the Standing Grand stems from a Nicolls-designed instrument called the Inside-Out Piano, where the keys are out front as usual, but the sprawling body that’s home to the strings rises up vertically.

This was in response to performance requests, where she would be asked to open up the sound of the piano by plucking, strumming or knocking strings under the hood. Despite tapping into exciting new sounds, play was uncomfortable and also hidden from the audience. And so Nicolls began tinkering, starting with a working prototype in 2008 and moving onto an improved version in 2014.

Now she’s launched a new company called Future Piano and has hit Kickstarter to get funding help for the building of the Standing Grand. The basic idea is to drastically reduce the weight of a grand piano from around 450 kg (990 lb) to 82 kg (180 lb) using a mix of traditional and advanced materials. It will occupy about the same floor space as an upright piano, but the intention is not to sacrifice the all-important acoustic grand piano sound.

Nicolls has gathered together a team made up of veteran engineers Tim Evans and Chris Vaissière, and piano builder David Klavins. The company is ready to embark on the creation of the first Standing Grand prototype, and Kickstarter backers are being invited to support the project.

As such, a finished instrument is not being offered as a reward, but rather invitations to a one-off private concert, a piano lesson with Nicolls, a performance at an event or party, and more. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this project as it evolves, in the meantime the video below has more.

Standing Grand gives concert sound while saving space [New Atlas]

Bringing a new and innovative product to the market is nowhere near as straightforward as it used to be. A simple press release and product tour are not enough to make a noise in the digital world and, while it is possible to get coverage in print, it often requires cash.

Marketing and PR in the digital age is both exciting and varied as well as potentially confusing, so you need to give your product launch as much planning as possible. To help your product to get the exposure it needs to make a dent in the market, here are seven tips for a successful product launch.

Start preparing as soon as possible

If you want reporters to cover the launch of your product you need to start preparing and making contact as early as you can. You should start reaching out to reporters 6-8 weeks prior to the launch and then continue to follow up with them with new updates as you go.

Give samples to industry influencers

Before the launch you may want to give samples of the product to a select few from the industry, social media influencers (for your target market), bloggers or satisfied customers. If these people use the product, are pleased with it and happy to tell others about it, you can spread the word about the product with minimal costs.

Start a digital marketing campaign

Marketing a new product in 2019 is a complex task as digital marketing includes lots of different channels and platforms with thousands of businesses vying for consumer attention. While traditional marketing involved taking the product and its benefits to the masses, modern marketing is about targeting a niche segment and tailoring the message to them. With so much noise, it’s harder than ever to stand out. If you are an inventor or engineer primarily and have limited experience in business and commercial activities like marketing, consider studying for an engineering MBA which will help you to blend your engineering expertise with essential business skills.

Consider running a launch event

Depending on the nature of your product you may want to organize a launch party or event so you can invite the press, industry influencers, stakeholders and prospective customers along. This gives you the opportunity to create a buzz about the product before the event as well as press releases after the event has taken place.

Stagger your press releases and announcements

Just because you’ve released the initial product announcement that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. You should keep information back so you can continue to feed news to the press including customer feedback surveys, unusual uses of the product, publicity events or even an infographic.

Involve partners and stakeholders in the campaign

If you have suppliers, stakeholders or partners who are financially invested in the product then you should try and encourage them to get behind the launch campaign. They can do this by sharing your social media posts and news posts. The more people who are sharing and talking about the product, the further the ripples will spread.

Remove barriers to people trying your product

Consider how you can make it easier for people to learn more about or try your product. For example, you might want to include a video demonstration on your website, downloads or even a free sample or trial.

If you’re trying to save the planet, or just trying to save a few bucks on your electricity bill, the Wemo Insight Smart Plug is a great choice. Not only can you use this smart plug to turn on your appliances, lights, etc. remotely, it also monitors electricity usage and sends reports to its app. You can also use it to put your appliances, lights, window AC units and more on a schedule, ensuring they’re only using electricity when they need to be. The Insight is compatible with Google Assistant and Alexa, but you can use it as-is without an assistant or hub by just using its app.

BEST FOR ENERGY MONITORING WITH APPLE HOMEKIT

ConnectSense Smart Outlet 2 is one of the most compatible energy monitoring smart plugs we’ve seen. It can be used with Apple HomeKit as well as Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, or you can use it without any hub at all. It monitors your device’s energy usage in real-time and displays the reports on its app. It also has scheduling features so your fans, lights, heaters, and appliances are only on when they’re needed.

MOST COMPACT

Many smart plugs tend to block outlets with their bulky size. The Wemo Mini Smart Plug’s slim design is so trim, though, you can plug two into one outlet. It also has some other handy features that you’ll like its  “Away Mode” that turns your lights, fans and other items on and off at random times when you’re away to outsmart burglars. It also has a scheduling feature. The Mini is compatible with Alexa, the Google Assistant, and Apple Home Kit, but like with Insight, you can use it without an assistant or hub by using its app.

MOST AFFORDABLE

At about half the price of some of the other smart plugs on this list, the TP-Link WiFi Smart Plug is a great choice if you’re on a budget. It’s compatible with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Microsoft Cortana, or you can just use the app. With the app, you can create schedules for powering your devices on and off for up to a full week.

Best smart plugs for inside your home [Digital Trends]

 

We love big screens, and they don’t get much bigger than the enormous 6.8-inch display in the Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus. With a stunning edge-to-edge design and a hole-punch selfie camera, the Note 10 Plus is beautiful as well as big. That extends to the screen technology too, with Samsung’s most advanced Dynamic AMOLED tech being used to incredible effect. The Note 10’s display is absolutely one of the best around right now.

With all that going on, it makes sense to keep it protected. We’ve already highlighted the best Galaxy Note 10 Plus cases, but if you’re also worried about your screen, then adding extra protection there might be a good idea. We’ve dug through a pile of screen protectors to find out which ones really do the business, and are worth your hard-earned cash. With options for both film and tempered glass, here are the best Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus (and Note 10 Plus 5G) screen protectors. Best of all, they all also work with the ultrasonic in-display fingerprint scanner.

WHITESTONE DOME GLASS SCREEN PROTECTOR

It’s hard to make a list of flagship phone screen protectors and not include the Whitestone Dome Glass. Whitestone’s screen protector puts a layer of tempered glass between your phone and the outside world, but it’s not that which makes it special. It’s the way it’s applied. A layer of adhesive is applied between the display and the screen protector, and that adhesive is then cured with the UV lamp. That curing creates a solid layer of adhesive between the display and protector, meaning clarity and responsiveness is boosted significantly along with the added protection. It’s certainly not the cheapest, but it’s absolutely one of the best you can buy. It also works perfectly with the ultrasonic fingerprint scanner.

RINGKE DUAL EASY FILM SCREEN PROTECTOR

You don’t have to add more glass to your phone if you don’t want to, and film screen protectors also have a lot going for them. They’re thinner than glass protectors, and generally cheaper too — though they won’t offer the same sort of strength that glass will. This duo from Ringke offers good scratch protection at a cheap price with transparent PET film that’s formed of four layers. An automatic dust removal layer takes away any final bits of dust that could otherwise end up lodged beneath your protector, while the film also stretches all the way from the top to the bottom, even covering the selfie camera.

EIGER 3D GLASS SCREEN PROTECTORS

Designed to fit in conjunction with a protective case, Eiger’s pure glass screen protector is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a simple glass screen protector. It’s made from tough tempered glass that can take blows instead of your display, and it has fully rounded edges that won’t catch your fingertips. There’s an anti-dust layer on these edges too, which stops the edges from lifting and letting in dust — a problem with many other screen protectors on the market. It’s fully compatible with the ultrasonic fingerprint scanner too, because there’s a big hole over the top of it. That will divide opinion though, and we find something inelegant about Eiger’s solution. Still, it’s a solid protector for the money.

SPIGEN NEO FLEX HD FILM SCREEN PROTECTORS

Another great film protector, Spigen’s Neo Flex HD does the business while staying almost completely invisible. It’s made from a strong but flexible film that protects well against scratches, fingerprints, and dirt. Sure, it won’t protect as well against drops, but that’s what you have a case for, right? The flexible film adheres to the Note 10 Plus’s curves, and there’s a space for the selfie camera too. Since it’s so thin, it also doesn’t interfere with the ultrasonic fingerprint scanner. It’s easy to apply and uses a wet installation method that guarantees a close fit to your Note 10 Plus’s screen. Best of all, it’s a dual pack, so you get a spare.

ARMORSUIT MATTE SCREEN PROTECTOR

This film protector from Armorsuit has been treated with a matte finish that helps to cut out glare from strong light sources, making your Note 10 Plus’s display a lot easier to see outdoors in the sunshine. It’s also protective, offering good scratch protection with self-healing properties — so minor scratches will heal over time. It’s also been treated to resist yellowing over time, so you won’t get that unsightly aged effect that can sometimes happen with film protectors. A good price for a great protector.

The best Samsung Galaxy Note 10 Plus screen protectors [Digital Trends]

Why carry one screwdriver when you can effectively carry three? The team at Big Idea Design have debuted a new solution for handy folks after some versatility when tending to everyday tasks, with the new Ti EDS screwdriver able to hold any kind of hex bit on its tip, while stowing a couple of spares away neatly inside its titanium body.

The Ti EDS is a solid titanium screwdriver and works in a similar fashion to a pocket knife. An arm swings out from the body but instead of presenting a sharp blade, is made to hold standard quarter-inch hex bits with its magnetic tip.

This is secured in place both when extended and when folded away thanks to the tool’s frame-locking mechanism. Within the body is a storage tray where users can keep two spare hex bits of their choosing, with the idea being to save trips back to the workbench or toolbox when in the middle of a task.

In this way users can just pack their three most commonly used hex bits into the Ti EDS screwdriver, slip it into their jeans with the titanium pocket clip and carry on with their day.

The tool measures 5.25 in (13.3 cm) long when extended and a very manageable 3 in (7.6 cm) when folded up, while total weight with two extra hex bits on board comes to 2.8 oz (79.5 g).

Big Idea Design has taken to Kickstarter to raise funds for production, where the screwdriver is on offer for early pledges of US$95 and shipping is slated for January 2020 if all goes to plan.

Swappable titanium screwdriver keeps extra hex bits on hand [New Atlas]

Multitools are often about merging versatility and portability, and the newly announced M250 from Tactica is a particularly functional and classy attempt at striking this balance. The lightweight tool is built for everyday carry but can still accommodate a dozen hex bits, with a magnetic backplate making for extra options when it comes time to stow it away.

Measuring around the same size as a credit card, the M250 is made with a composite material claimed to be 40 percent lighter than titanium, but still with plenty of durability when needed thanks to a hardened stainless steel insert.

Weighing 157 g (5.5 oz) when fully loaded, the M250 comes with an assortment of steel tool bits, including flat, Phillips, torx and hex drivers packed into the magazine. These slot into a hex socket at one end of the magazine as needed, in effect turning the magazine into the tool handle, with a quarter-inch hex extender included for when a little more range is required.

When not in use, the magazine slides into a holster, which is made from nylon and features a pocket-clip and attachment point for looping onto bags. Alternatively, the magnetic backplate means it can be slapped on the fridge or any other metal surface.

In addition to the 12 included hex bits, the magazine has two spare slots so users can add their own, while the tool is also claimed to be TSA-compliant.

Tactica is raising funds on Kickstarter to get the M250 into production, where early pledges of AUD$42 (US$29) are available and will have one sent your way in October this year if everything goes to plan.

Tactica’s magnetic multitool stores a slew of hex bits inside the handle [New Atlas]

 

Rooftop camping is a common topic here at New Atlas, but typically it’s focused on tents mounted atop motor vehicles. A new hotel opening this year in Hamburg, Germany is broadening the conversation, supplementing its standard rooms with a rooftop campground. You might expect to find glampy yurts or cabin tents in such a fixture, but the Pierdrei Hotel has a different idea: craning up the Dethleffs Coco, one of Germany’s latest and most stylish small camping trailers.

For as long as we’ve followed it, Dethleffs has been in the business of pushing the boundaries of camper design, from teardrop movie theaters, to solar-powered motorhomes, to electric-drive travel trailers. So when someone else comes up with an idea that Dethleffs considers “unusual,” we definitely stop and take notice.

Those someones are the proprietors behind the Pierdrei Hotel, a new property that aims to offer comfortable, stylish and affordable accommodations in Hamburg’s HafenCity quarter, the active redevelopment area that’s also the home of the stunning Elbphilharmonie concert hall. Part of the hotel’s plan is “Camper City,” a 1,670-sq ft (155-sq m) outdoor caravan area located on a lower hotel roof 23 feet (7 m) above the bustling city below. A selection of caravans will be parked amid the roof’s rustic garden setting, providing views of the surrounding city and a soundtrack from the harbor.

Set to feature prominently in the camping area is the Dethleffs Coco, the cozy teardrop-meets-bread loaf trailer that served as the basis of last year’s show-stopping E.Home electric-drive concept caravan (linked above). Three of the attractive, little (non-electric) Coco trailers will be grabbing the attention of pedestrians below from their perch on the Pierdrei roof. The trio has made its way up to its new home via a 140-tonne (154-US ton) crane.

Each two-sleeper Coco will be specially decorated and appointed for the hotel. Amenities will include a flat-screen TV, WLAN connectivity, telephone and refrigerator. It’s not clear if the regular floor plan will remain intact, but the basic Coco includes standard features and options like an L-shaped corner sofa/bed, dining nook, kitchenette, toilet room, and plenty of natural light thanks to multiple windows and skylights, including the long, arched roof pane up front.

Coco bookings will run approximately €80 (approx. US$90) a night, according to Dethleffs, and will be available between the spring and fall months. Winter “camping” will be available upon request.

Beyond Camper City, the Pierdrei will have a total of 212 rooms categorized into five sizes between small and extra large. It will also have a premium cinema lounge, an intimate 100-seat concert and events theater, a 2,150-sq ft (200-sq m) gaming area specifically for children and teens, and a bicycle rental shop, along with hotel standards like restaurants and bars.

Glamping resorts and rental properties leveraging stylish, well-equipped trailers like Airstreams have been trending in recent years, flipping the idea of a “trailer park” into a fashionable modern getaway gently tinged with shades of invigorating #vanlife adventure. Usually such properties are planted on the ground, however; the Pierdrei is the first we’ve come across up on a roof, though we have seen rooftop camping tent and yurt installations in the past.

The Pierdrei Hotel is nearing the end of a two-year construction phase, and plans call for a soft opening in September. As for Dethleffs, we’ll catch up with its latest offerings at the Düsseldorf Caravan Salon, which starts at the end of the month.

German hotel invites visitors to book a stay in a rooftop camping trailer [New Atlas]

If cost savings and convenience aren’t enough to bolster the argument in favor of using rechargeable batteries, the environmental impact of discarded single-use, non-rechargeable alkaline batteries is the topper. According to EPA statistics, Americans throw away more than 86,000 tons of alkaline batteries each year. That’s enough to circle the globe more than six times with the batteries placed end-to-end. Single-use batteries account for 20% of the household hazardous materials in our landfills.

Pale Blue lithium polymer (LiPo) smart batteries, currently in a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, can be recharged more than 1,000 times with a unique USB charging method. Presently with close to $100,000 in pledges, more than ten times the campaign’s all-or-nothing goal, the Pale Blue AA and AAA rechargeable batteries have advantages over both single-use alkaline batteries and nickel-metal hydride (NiMH) rechargeables.

A single Pale Blue battery can replace more than 1,000 alkaline batteries and provide more consistent power output than alkaline cells.

Pale Blues can be recharged up to twice as many times as NiMH rechargeable batteries. Probably even more significant for busy users than the number of charging cycles, Pale Blue’s LiPo batteries recharge to full power much faster than NiMH rechargeables. According to Pale Blue, the company’s AA cell batteries recharge to their full 1,560mAh capacity in under two hours and the AAA cells attain their full 450mAh power in less than one hour. NiMH batteries, by contrast, take up to nine hours to fully charge.

You don’t need to carry an old school multiple-cell battery charging case with an AC adapter cable to recharge Pale Blue’s smart USB LiPo batteries, either. Each battery has a micro USB port and an LED charge indicator light. You can plug a regular USB cable into the micro USB port with the other end of the cable plugged into a USB-AC adapter or a USB port on a computer, a lamp, wall outlet, or multiport charger.

To make it easier to recharge multiple batteries, PaleBlue includes a USB to 4-Micro USB cable with each set of 4 AA or 4 AAA Pale Blue batteries. The LED on each battery glows red during charging and then turns to green when the battery is fully charged.

There are still backer deals available for people who back the Pale Blue rechargeable battery Kickstarter campaign. A 4-pack of Pale Blue AAA batteries with a USB to 4-Micro USB charging cable is available for a pledge of $28, a $2 savings. You can also sign up for a 4-pack of Pale Blue AA batteries with a USB to 4-Micro USB charging cable with a pledge for $32. Quantity purchases save even more. For example, for a pledge of $80 and a $15 savings, Pale Blue will send one 4-pack each of AA and AAA batteries and two USB to 4-Micro USB cables. Pale Blue estimates delivery in November 2019 anywhere in the world.

These smart batteries recharge in under 2 hours and outlast standard lithium-ion [Digital Trends]

The industry is now using artificial intelligence and machine learning to grow pot, and Seedo even has a machine-learning agronomy database, similar to Tesla’s shared cloud database, which teaches all the Seedo grow boxes out there how to best grow high yielding and happy crops and share that data with other Seedo machines. That’s kind of a trip, so to speak.

For parental types, it also comes with a child lock that can only be locked or opened by the mobile app, which also keeps your crops safe from any other prying eyes.

The company’s product is pretty amazing, actually. You don’t have to grow marijuana (although that’s certainly an option according to what we’ve been told), but you can also grow herbs, vegetables, flowers, and more. But here’s the kicker: Regardless of what you decide to cultivate, Seedo’s weird little hydroponic box will increase your yield even more than if you grow it in your backyard.

It’s not cheap, so it’s a bit of an investment. If you buy directly from the Israel-based company, a Seedo will set you back $2,400, plus around $350 for shipping, although the company will take a $500 down payment with the remainder due upon delivery.

Along with the Seedo, you’ll also get a full growing kit that includes one nutrient package, two CO2 cylinders, one rockwool grow slab, an air filter, a water filter, and the app, which can be run on iOS or Android devices.

Why the app? In addition to monitoring things like water levels, you can literally watch your weed grow, in high definition no less. The device can grow up to five plants at once, and self manages everything your typical gardener might, including the climate, lighting and nutrient parameters to produce a significantly larger yield than traditional grows can produce. The Seedo also drastically speeds up grow times, while a successful operation can also be maintained in a small space — no more growing ditch weed under florescent lights in a closet in your basement.

It’s a little bigger than a mini-fridge; it weighs about 90 pounds or so before plants, uses 0.24 kilowatts per hour of power, and is around 40 inches high and 25 inches wide. The Seedo’s nutrition system was developed by a dedicated agronomist, and created especially for hydroponic growth within a relatively compact size. Owners will also be able to order extra consumables, such as CO2, nutrients, etc., from an online store that’s currently under construction.

So, whether you want to grow vegetables, fresh herbs or flowers, or just want to make an investment in growing something more medicinal, you could definitely do worse than an algorithm-oriented grow box that self-manages itself to grow plants that are big, strong, and plentiful, especially compared to more traditional environments.

Seedo is an A.I.-driven, self-contained grow box for plants of varying legality [Digital Trends]

Galaxy Note devotees, your loyalty has been rewarded. After sticking with the range, even in the face of adversity, Samsung has delivered to you the ultimate Note phone yet — the Galaxy Note 10. It has taken a while, but with the Note 10, the series has regained its identity after languishing as just another big-screen smartphone in a sea of copycats.

Digital Trends sat down with Paul Scott, head of product management for Samsung, for a chat about how the Note series has evolved since the Galaxy Note 9. There’s a serious master plan behind the new range. The stunning new look of the phone has been applied to more than one model, and if you weren’t a Note fan before, prepare to be quickly converted.

ICONIC DESIGN

For the first time in several generations, we are seeing a Note smartphone that’s distinctly and unmistakably a Note. It won’t be dismissed after a casual glance as an S10 Plus. It has had a visit to the tailors, and come out wearing a made-to-measure suit that will turn heads.

“Everything we’re doing is trying to make a more iconic design for the Note,” Scott told me. “On the back, normally we would have a horizontal lens, but we have made it vertical. On the right-hand side, the buttons have gone and we have made it completely flush. We’ve just got the two buttons on the left-hand side. The pin-hole lens has been centralized for a super streamlined look. From a design perspective, it’s a complete overhaul versus the Note 9.”

The first time you pick it up, you’ll be shocked at the low weight of the Note 10. It’s so light, you’ll think the battery has been left out. The edges curve around the side of the phone, meeting tiny barely-there slivers of the bezel, and the centrally mounted pin-hole selfie camera balances the look perfectly.

“We are continually coming up with fresh ideas,” Scott said on the genesis of the new design. “We wanted it to be as streamlined and slick as possible. The device that represents the very best of technology has to look the very best as well. There was a lot of research and design that went into it, and a lot of big decisions as well.”

THE RIGHT DECISIONS

How big were these decisions? The Bixby button has sensibly been removed, increasing the streamlined look and resulting in fewer annoyances for owners, and the virtual assistant is now called up using the customizable power button. Samsung chose to remove the 3.5mm headphone jack so it could slim the Note 10’s Gorilla Glass 6-encased body down so drastically.

But it’s the number of devices now in the line-up that’s the biggest alteration. For the first time, there will be more than just one Note model released. You can choose between the Note 10, the Note 10 Plus, and the Note 10 5G.

“The big step change for us is the fact we have a Note 10 and a Note 10 Plus, with both a 4G and 5G option.” Scott said. “It was important to us to offer both a 4G and a 5G version. There will be people, especially early-adopting Note owners, who want to future proof and have 5G. At the same time, there will be others who only want 4G. We can deliver both, due to our manufacturing capability.”

There’s good news about the S Pen too. It’s the feature that defines a Note, yet always came up a little short in terms of wide appeal. Hand-written notes can now be converted into editable Word documents, which will help avid note-takers; but the best news comes with the Bluetooth connection. The battery life has been increased to 10 hours, and a new zoom feature has been added to the remote shutter feature. For the first time, Samsung will open up the software development kit (SDK) to game developers for gesture control, so the S Pen can be used as an integrated control method.

GREATER APPEAL TO MORE PEOPLE

Increasing the Note 10’s appeal is important to Samsung, and it’s the reason why we’re seeing more than one Note 10 model.

“When we look at feedback, there was an element that wanted a large screen in a smaller body,” Scott said, explaining the reasoning behind the smaller Note 10. “The Note 10 has a 6.3-inch screen, yet you’re getting so much more in the device [over the Note 9]. The Note 10 Plus has a 6.8-inch screen. What we’ve got is an option for growing the Note base, bringing more people into the Note experience, who may have been put off thinking the phone was simply too big.”

Samsung repeatedly calls Note owners its most loyal fans, so it’s no surprise to see it expand the range in an effort to attract more converts. So which is the “real” Note 10? It’s not the Note 10, it’s really the Note 10 Plus.

“Yes, it’s a 6.8-inch screen, but it’s a similar size to the Note 9, which had a 6.4-inch screen,” Scott said, essentially confirming that the Note-faithful fans should be looking at the larger model.

The keenness to appeal to more people goes deeper than the Note 10. Scott talked about a wider simplification of the Samsung smartphone range.

“We’ve now just got the A-Series, and lost the J-Series,” he said. “For consumers trying to understand which smartphone is right for them, it’s very clear. We’ve got the A range, then we’ve got the S, and then the Note.”

The low-end A-Series phones may have taken up the position of the old J Series — and you can read our Galaxy A50 review for our thoughts on one of them — but Samsung is obviously focusing on premium devices and for good reason. A massive 50% of buyers in the U.K. select what Samsung calls a premium phone, or one that costs at least 600 British pounds (~$730).

Inside Samsung’s strategy to make more people want a gorgeous Galaxy Note 10 [Digital Trends]

That’s where Bone Tech’s new IceBrkr goggles come in handy. Aesthetically, they look like a fairly standard pair of ski googles, but they’ve got a pretty cool trick up their sleeve: Bone conduction tech, which allows them to use the vibration of your skull to play your favorite songs.

To do it, the googles — claimed by the company to be the first-ever ski goggles with bone conduction integration — use patented bendable arms that provide constant contact between audio transducers and your the outside of your ears. Because there is nothing actually obstructing your ear canal — and because the sound is coming from inside of your skull, you can hear the sounds of the world around you even when your jamming out on the slopes.

The IceBrkr also use Bluetooth 5.0 MESH technology, allowing up to 18 devices that are also MESH compatible to pair with the goggles. The upper portion of the goggles features volume control and power buttons, and there is an App control key on the bottom of the frame. There’s also a bidirectional microphone for making calls, and the lenses of the goggles can be easily swapped, as they feature a magnetic lens.

“IceBRKR is the answer to staying as connected as you want to be on the slopes”; said Bone Tech CEO Marco Collini in a press release. “You can take calls, listen to music or podcasts, all without removing your gloves or mask or blocking out the sound around you.”

We’ve been impressed with the bone conduction technology we’ve come in contact with in the past, most recently the Aftershokz Aeropex, which we gave a 4-star rating. Headphones and other devices using this tech make it much safer to work out or do other public activities where hearing the outside world is vital, and that makes them really compelling products for specific listening situations. Frankly, we’re surprised it took this long for ski goggles using the tech to be developed. Skiers need to hear their surroundings — even if they want to blast AC/DC while they’re shredding.

These ski goggles deliver music using your face bones instead of earbuds [Digital Trends]

Starting an online store can be an exciting, frightening, and liberating experience all rolled into one. With endless opportunities limited only by your imagination, being a business owner is truly one of the most rewarding experiences life has to offer. If you’re thinking of starting an online store, here are five easy steps to follow to ensure you’re covered legally, financially, and practically. 

  1. Get a Web Designer/Domain Name 

The first thing you need to do is pick a domain name for your website and get it registered. You’ll pay a monthly or yearly website hosting fee, which allows your site to be hosted on another company’s servers. The company will take care of any security measures and host your website for as long as you’re subscribed.

You can change hosts if you’re unhappy with the service or cost of your current provider. Domain names and hosting fees will vary among providers; but generally, a domain name registration shouldn’t cost too much, and hosting should only be a few dollars per month.

Once you’ve registered a domain name, you need someone to design your website. Now, you may be thinking, “Well, why can’t I just use Wix or Weebly for that and save the cost?” Before you try the DIY site builders, consider the fact that you are not a web designer.

This means you won’t know the ins and outs of a website, and no matter how great you think your DIY site may look, it can never compare to the work of someone who’s spent years perfecting the craft. An amazing website can mean the difference between attracting customers and turning them away, make no mistake! Take the leap and make the right investment into your site for maximum returns. 

  1. Take Care of Legal Paperwork/Register Your Name 

You’ll want to be sure you register your business name with local and state agencies for taxation purposes. Don’t try to avoid this step; the IRS will find out whether or not you’re doing business legally; and take action if it turns out you’re operating an illegal business.

You’ll want to file for an LLC, Inc., or other business structure; so long as it’s included in your name and on file with the state you’re operating in. Business structures help protect those working for or operating the business from personal liability in the event of a lawsuit, accident, or other legal ramifications.

It’s best to have all of your legal paperwork in place before you even begin producing anything or operating as a business. Always report your earnings accurately and on time. Check with your state’s regulations to see if you need to register for sales tax. 

  1. Perform Market Research 

This should be one of the first things on your checklist when starting a business. Market research allows you to explore the market you’ll be operating in, discovering trends, best practices, and more information related to your industry and the kinds of customers you’ll be serving.

This understanding is crucial when forming a business plan, as you can’t exactly plan for something you’re not familiar with. Take the time to thoroughly perform your market research, and hire an expert in the field if you’re finding you don’t understand what you’re researching. It’s better to ask for help and not need it than to need it and never ask for it. Experts are there to help, and can assist you in forming a solid business plan to attract the right investors or other avenues of funding. 

  1. Create a Marketing Campaign 

Marketing is crucial for reaching your target audience and expanding to new customers. Creating a marketing plan early on in your business plan will help you create a solid foundation to work from later on. Your market research is crucial to forming an effective marketing plan, as without adequate research, you won’t know who your potential customers are.

Certain tools, like a POS system can help continue your marketing efforts after the business opens. With customer profiles, you’ll be able to track customer purchases and learn which products they prefer. This will help you create more focused marketing efforts with a greater turnaround.

Be sure to create a budget that allows for marketing expenses, so you have a better idea of what you’ll be spending each month. If you’re unfamiliar with budgets or finances, you can hire a financial advisor. You can compare the 5 best financial advisors in Los Angeles on the Careful Cents site. 

  1. Acquire any Necessary Permits 

If you’re producing a product for your online business, you’ll need a physical location to house your equipment; and possibly permits from local or state authorities. Keeping your business in compliance with local and state regulations ensures that production goes on without interruption-or penalties.

Be sure to check with the city and state authorities to see which permits you may need. It may turn out that you don’t actually need any permits, but it’s always better to be certain so as not to be evicted or penalized later on. Some states will have permit requirements listed on their websites in the business gateway, so be sure to check there as well.

Conclusion 

Keeping your business in compliance is good practice, and hiring a designer to create your site is just smart business. Don’t take a chance on DIY sites or legal issues; make sure you’re hiring experts to help in any areas you’re unfamiliar or uncomfortable with so all of your requirements will be met. The last thing you want six months down the road is to be fined or penalized in another way for a missing document or permit. Good luck with your business, and remember that with the right mindset, the possibilities are endless!

Tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, and “mouse arm” all have two things in common: they’re the result of muscle strain, and they’re the subject of a new wearable. Known as MLI Elbow, the Danish device is aimed at alerting users to actions that could cause such injuries.

MLI (muscle load index) Elbow takes the form of an electronic module that’s attached to an elasticized sleeve, the latter of which is worn on the user’s dominant forearm.

As they use their computer, play tennis, work in the coal mine or otherwise do stuff, electrodes and other sensors in the module measure muscle activity and movement patterns. That data is transmitted by Bluetooth to an iOS/Android app on their smartphone, which in turn sends it to a cloud-based server for analysis via artificial intelligence-based algorithms.

If it’s determined that the muscles are in danger of being subjected to too much strain, the app notifies the user via an alarm. That app also shows them the exact level of muscle load, and tells them what they should do in order to lessen it. Additionally, the module itself alerts them to the problem using haptic feedback.

The device is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign, where a pledge of DKK 1,050 (about US$157) is required to get one – that’s a 30-percent discount off the planned retail price. Assuming it reaches production, it should ship next January, although only within the European Union. A US rollout is planned to start soon after.

Wearable measures muscle activity to guard against injuries [New Atlas]

 

Ping pong is a two (or four) player game, but if you need to practice alone then a robot server can help. Though basic cheap models are available, more advanced features can come with a pretty high price tag. Joola says that its Infinity Smart Table Tennis Training Robot boasts advanced features for a fraction of the cost of high end robot trainers.

The result of a partnership between Joola and iPong, and five years in the making, the Infinity Smart Table Tennis Training Robot is currently in the final stages of development and has been launched on Kickstarter to fund production.

The robotic ping pong training partner can produce topspin, underpin, side spin or no spin, and can fire out pin pong balls at between 30 and 100 balls per minute. Joola says that it can pretty much emulate any shot by moving 150 degrees side-to-side while firing balls up by 50 degrees or down by 30 degrees. And users have custom control over spin, frequency, speed and trajectory settings.

Pre-programmed training sessions can be selected on a mobile companion app running on a Bluetooth-paired smartphone, with Joola aiming to regularly add drills – free of charge – from world-ranked players and coaches.

The Infinity Robot comes supplied with a catch net and a ball recycling feature that “funnels the balls right back into the robot for constant non-stop action.” And 100 training balls will be included in the package.

Joola’s new training robot has a similar feature set to US$2k high spec models from the likes of Butterfly and Newgy, but Kickstarter pledges start at $499, which represents a 50 percent saving on the expected retail price. If all goes to plan, units are estimated to start shipping in December 2020. The video below has more.

Joola launches versatile, app-controlled ping pong training robot [New Atlas]

In order to help prevent a guitar’s neck losing the fight against the pull of the strings, a metal rod usually runs through it. South Africa’s Rubato Guitars has done away with the truss rod for its first model – named Lassie – instead relying on the stiffness of carbon fiber to keep things nice and straight.

In fact, the double-cut body and the neck are fashioned from carbon fiber. Not one bolted to the other like the Klos travel acoustic, but served up as one piece construction. As a result, the Lassie is promised not to warp due to temperature or humidity changes while also killing unwanted noise from the guitars electronics. And other than initial setup, Rubato reckons that players shouldn’t need to tweak ever again.

There is some wood in the build, in the shape of the 25.5-inch scale, 24-fret flame maple neck. Elsewhere you’ll find a solid brass fixed bridge, Grover locking tuners, boutique mini humbuckers and proprietary fixed pickup mounts for pre3cise control over string height. Together with an ultra-low string guide, this means that string action can be set as low as 1.2 mm (though four string heights area available at checkout).

The carbon fiber construction makes for a pretty light guitar, at just 2.5 kg (5.5 lb), and an attractive one thanks to that lovely cross-weave.

The Lassie guitar is built to order at a starting price of US$3,927.83, and each comes supplied with an aluminum flight case. The video below has more.

One-piece carbon fiber guitar goes rod-free [New Atlas]

Though folding e-scooters are nothing new, you generally have to carry them about in your hands between rides. The MiniFalcon has been designed to be collapsed down in three steps and stowed away in its own ukulele-sized backpack.

The MiniFalcon electric kickscooter is just over 23 inches long when folded thanks to a telescopic steering pole, collapsible handles, folding rear wheel assembly and a relatively small deck. That deck is only really being big enough for one foot at a time during a ride, but the other foot will likely be hovering somewhere near the dual (manual and electric) rear brakes anyway.

When unfolded and ready to ride, the MiniFalcon extends to 45.6 in (115.5 cm) high, handlebar width is 17.3 in (44 cm) and wheel to wheel measures 24.4 in (62 cm). Packed down dimensions shape up as 23.6 in (60 cm) high, 13.4 in (34 cm) long and 5.9 in (15 cm) wide. Either way, it tips the scales at 17.85 lb (8 kg). And the e-scooter is reckoned capable of supporting up to 220 lb (99.7 kg) of rider weight without any sign of buckling.

The frame is fashioned from aircraft-grade aluminum, the e-scooter rocks puncture-proof polyurethane tires, and its 250 W rear wheel motor has a top speed of 15.53 mph (25 km/h). It also comes with three speed gears that allow riders to select a high-torque, low-speed gear for 15° hill climbing through to a high-speed gear for zipping through town.

The 5.2 Ah Li-ion batteries are good for 9 miles (15 km) per 2 hour fast charge, though the MiniFalcon recovers kinetic energy while braking or going downhill to eke a little more out of the battery during a ride. An ABS anti-locking system allows for better control when braking heavily, riders can also look forward to a smoother ride thanks to shock absorbers front and rear, and a digital handlebar display keeps the user informed of key system info.

The MiniFalcon project currently has 15 days left on its Indiegogo funding campaign, where pledges start at US$329. If all goes to plan, shipping is estimated to start in November. The video below has more.

Compact full-suspension electric scooter folds into shoulder bag for easy transport [New Atlas]

The Mictic body instrument is a pair of motion-sensing wristbands that connect to your phone via Bluetooth and then create music to match your movements, giving you the chance to play weird air-instruments, or generate a custom soundtrack for your dance moves.

Each Mictic bracelet looks more or less like a Fitbit, and sits on your wrist feeding back a bunch of multi-access accelerometer data, which an iOS/Android app uses to make some decisions on what sounds to play. In one mode, it makes industrial noises to give you sound effects for your robot dance. In another, it spits out drum and bass riffs to match your movements, becoming more frenetic as your dancing does.

In a third, it lets you play a kind of air piano and drums instrument, splashing jazzy improvisation around that gets higher as you move your right hand right, and lower as you move it left, while generating beats to match. And in a fourth, it lets you sit in a chair and act like you’re playing a cello, and it tries to guess what you’re playing and replicate that in a cello sound.

The Mictic is one of a range of new gadgets (they’re not really instruments, they’re halfway to toys) that aim to democratize music by obliterating the whole learning and practice barriers and making it extremely simple to jump in, have fun and make cool sounds and beats.

The tradeoff, of course, is there’s no precision to speak of, and you more or less just have to take whatever note or musical idea the system gives you. So you can probably happily improvise away and enjoy the soundscape, but you’d be hard-pressed to replicate it or play a particular song using the technology.

Still, it looks like it’d make a great tool for street performers, and a fun toy to experiment with. It’s on pre-order now for US$99 plus shipping, with deliveries slated for 2020. We’ve embedded a bunch of videos below to show the different modes.

Mictic’s motion-tracking wristbands turn movement into music [New Atlas]