All posts in “Gadgets”

Apple Watch gets new bands for spring

Apple has unveiled new Apple Watch bands for spring.

Bands include Woven Nylon bands direct from Apple, Nike bands, and Hermès bands. Long story short, there are a bunch of new colors and styles.

The Woven Nylon bands focus on stripes, alternating white with another color (Black Stripe, Blue Stripe, Gray Stripe and Pink Stripe). Meanwhile, the Sport band is coming out in Denim Blue, Lemonade, and Red Raspberry, while the Sport Loop comes in Flash Light, Hot Pink, Marine Green and Tahoe Blue. And then there’s Classic Buckle, which comes in Spring Yellow, Electric Blue, and Soft Pink.

Meanwhile, The Nike Sport Loop will now be sold separately, coming in Black/Pure Platinum, Bright Crimson/Black, Cargo Khaki, Midnight Fog, and Pearl Pink, while the Nike Sport will come in Barely Rose/Pearl Pink, Black/White and Cargo Khaki/Black.

Finally, Hermès will be revealing new Apple Watch bands with an accent color. The 38mm Double Tour will come in Indigo or Blanc with rouge H polished edge and contrasted loop, and the 42mm Single Tour Rallye will offer the same colors.

Apple sold more than 18 million Apple Watch units last year.

Researchers find the best way to press a button

When all you have is a finger everything looks like a button . But what happens if you’re unable to press buttons or, more likely, we begin using robots and other tools to interact with the real world? That’s what researchers at Aalto University, Finland, and KAIST, South Korea wanted to find out when they started examining how humans tap buttons.

“This research was triggered by admiration of our remarkable capability to adapt button-pressing”, said Professor Antti Oulasvirta at Aalto University. “We push a button on a remote controller differently than a piano key. The press of a skilled user is surprisingly elegant when looked at terms of timing, reliability, and energy use. We successfully press buttons without ever knowing the inner workings of a button. It is essentially a black box to our motor system. On the other hand, we also fail to activate buttons, and some buttons are known to be worse than others.”

During their study, they assessed the push buttons – buttons with actual travel – were more usable than touch buttons and that the best buttons were the ones that reacted at time of maximum impact. The researchers created something called “Impact Activation.” These buttons activate only when they are fully pressed, thereby ensuring that users will know exactly when they are and are not tapping a key on a keyboard or even a musical instrument.

From their release:

The simulations shed new light on what happens during a button press. One problem the brain must overcome is that muscles do not activate as perfectly as we will, but every press is slightly different. Moreover, a button press is very fast, occurring within 100 milliseconds, and is too fast for correcting movement. The key to understanding button-pressing is therefore to understand how the brain adapts based on the limited sensations that are the residue of the brief press event.

The researchers argue that the key capability of the brain is a probabilistic model: The brain learns a model that allows it to predict a suitable motor command for a button. If a press fails, it can pick a very good alternative and try it out. “Without this ability, we would have to learn to use every button like it was new,” tells Professor Byungjoo Lee from KAIST. After successfully activating the button, the brain can tune the motor command to be more precise, use less energy and to avoid stress or pain. “These factors together, with practice, produce the fast, minimum-effort, elegant touch people are able to perform.”

How can we use this information in our daily lives? Well, this research suggests that high-travel, clicky keys with switches from Cherry and other “tactile” keyboard makers could be better for us, neurologically, than keyboards with less precise travel. Further, it shows us that the best interfaces are physical and not touchscreen, something that anyone who has tried to play touchscreen-based fast-twitch video games can attest.

Further, the researchers discovered that button pressing is an acquired skill and perhaps we were right to force ourselves to let Mavis Beacon teach us keyboarding. “We believe that the brain picks up these skills over repeated button pressings that start already as a child. What appears easy for us now has been acquired over years,” said Lee.

This tortoise shows kids that robot abuse is bad

When humanity’s back is against the wall and the robots have us cornered I’d say I’m all for whanging a few with a baseball bat. However, until then, we must be kind to our mechanical brethren and this robotic tortoise will help our kids learn that robot abuse is a bad idea.

Researchers at Naver Labs, KAIST, and Seoul National University created this robot to show kids the consequences of their actions when it comes to robots. Called Shelly, the robot reacts to touches and smacks. When it gets scared it changes color and retracts into its shell. Children learn that if they hit Shelly she will be upset and the only thing missing is a set of bitey jaws.

“When Shelly stops its interaction due to a child’s abusive behavior, the others in the group who wanted to keep playing with Shelly often complained about it, eventually restraining each other’s abusive behavior,” Naver Labs’ Jason J. Choi told IEEE. The study found that Shelly’s reactions reduced the amount of abuse the robot took from angry toddlers.

The researchers showed off Shelly at the ACM/IEEE International Conference on Human Robot Interaction last week.

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8bitdo’s wireless adapter adds flexibility to Xbox, PlayStation and Switch controllers

Game controller compatibility is a labyrinthine nightmare most of the time: Some controllers work with some platforms some of the time, but it’s very hard to keep track of how and when. 8bitdo’s latest accessory adds some simplicity to the mix, enabling use of Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch controllers with Switch, Windows and macOS systems quickly and easily.

Yes, that means you can play your PC or Mac games with your favorite Xbox One X/S or DualShock 3/4 controller, or even use a Joy-Con. It also means that you can use a DualShock controller to play Breath of the Wild on the Switch, ion that’s what you want to do.

The USB dongle also works with Android TV hardware, and with Raspberry Pi-based devices. It supports DualShock 4 vibration and 6-axis motion control on Switch, and it works lag-free for low latency gaming requirements. It’s also a tiny bit smaller than either the dedicated Xbox or PlayStation dedicated PC wireless controller USB adapters (and supports a broader range of platforms).

Oh, and it’s also just $20 from Amazon. I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks now and it performs exactly as advertised. If you’re looking to cut down your controller clutter or just have a strong preference for once design over another, this is definitely a smart buy.

Insta360 One gets a massive upgrade with FlowState stabilization

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One of the better 360-degree cameras out there just got a lot better: The Insta360 One, a standalone 4K 360 camera with a built-in iPhone or Android hardware connector now supports FlowState onboard stabilization. This provides much better automatic stabilization than the Insta360 One supported at launch, and enables a bunch of new editing and formatting features that really improve the value proposition of the $299 gadget.

As you can see above, FlowState allows you to do a lot more with your footage after the fact, including creating smooth pans across footage for exporting to more standard vertical and wide-angle formats (since it’s very rare that people actually watch all that much true 360-degree footage). The changes make Insta360’s device a lot more like the Rylo camera in use, and more suitable for action sports and other adventure-friendly uses.

Users can now add transition points in the mobile app to create dynamic camera angle changes, and also set object or person active tracking. There’s a hyper lapse feature that speeds up time for pulling more action out of even leisurely bike rides, and you can also take over manually to basically direct the experience as if you were shooting it in real time with a traditional video camera, including doing things like zooming.

This update will be pushed out via the updated Insta360 app, and will require a firmware update for existing cameras. It’s a big upgrade for existing users, and a compelling reason to pick this up if you’re looking for something that’s easy to use, compatible with a range of mounts (it has a standard tripod screw mount in its base) and relatively affordable (cheaper than a GoPro Hero 6).