Sketchfab’s app might be the best way to try ARKit


One of the big promises with iOS 11 is ARKit. This new framework makes it much easier to look at virtual objects in the real world using augmented reality. Sketchfab has been building the biggest 3D model sharing platform, a sort of YouTube for 3D models. That’s why today’s iOS update turns Sketchfab into a thorough augmented reality app.

This implementation isn’t perfect just yet as the company is using a web view on top of the real world. That’s why there might be some lag. You’ll need to install iOS 11 first.

But the fact that you can pick any object in Sketchfab’s extensive library turns the app into a wow generator. The company now offers 2 million 3D objects, so there are plenty of options.

When you’re browsing a model in the app, there’s now an AR button at the top of the screen. This button activates your camera. You then need to point your iPhone or iPad at a flat surface and tap on the screen. The 3D model appears in the middle of the real world.

You can make this object bigger or smaller by pinching with your fingers. In future versions, content creators will be able to define a default scale so that you don’t end up with a giant scary crab in your living room. You can also rotate the object with your fingers.

Once you’re done positioning the model, you can move around the object, get closer and look at details. It will feel like the model is right here in the room with the rest of the real world.

Google also announced ARCore, the company’s answer to ARKit. Sketchfab says that it plans to support ARCore in its Android app as well.

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Forget Apple Pay, Sirin Labs Finney phone is for paying with cryptocurrency

Why it matters to you

If you believe cryptocurrencies are the future, a smartphone with all the tools required to store and use them is what you need.

What do you do when one niche market smartphone isn’t a huge success? If you’re Sirin Labs, you make more hardware for an even narrower niche market. The company behind the $14,000, super-secure Solarin phone has announced Finney, an $1,800 smartphone and an all-in-one PC for the “blockchain generation,” and the “crypto crowd.”

What does this actually mean? The Finney devices aren’t made for the, “Instagram generation,” but for people who are into cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, and require the highest security to store the coins, P2P sharing systems for payment, and encrypted communication tools. In case you’re wondering, the name is a homage to computer scientist Hal Finney, who received the world’s first Bitcoin transaction.

Sirin Labs Finney

When asked to explain further, Sirin Labs CMO Nimrod May told Digital Trends: “This particular line of devices is aimed at the existing cryptocurrency community, [which] is heavily vested in and passionate about the propagation of the space and blockchain-based products and services it can bring about.”

Surely, you may ask, this is an incredibly niche market? May’s answer: “You’re absolutely right, most people haven’t heard of cryptocurrencies, but the team is betting heavily that the future will be cryptocurrency based. This is an early adopter community — for now — but we believe there is a large market opportunity right behind them.”

Let’s say you’re part of the crypto crowd; what does Finney offer? It’s two devices. A $1,000 smartphone and an $800 computer, both of which run a forked version of Android called Shield OS and Sirin Labs Cyber Protection Suite. Here’s a taste of what makes that special for anyone who understands cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology: Secure P2P sharing, built-in crypto wallet, tamper proof verification, secure text and emails, biometric authentication, and a behavioral-based Intrusion Prevention System to stop device attacks. If some of this sounds familiar, it’s because Sirin Labs has taken security features used in the Solarin phone, adapted them for Finney, and repackaged it for use with cryptocurrencies.

The phone has a 5.2-inch screen with a 2,560 x 1,440 pixel resolution, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of internal storage, a 16-megapixel rear camera, and a 12-megapixel wide-angle selfie camera. Sirin Labs hasn’t listed the processor, and didn’t answer our question on which one the phone will use. In the promotional render above, the Finney phone has an almost bezel-less screen, making it look very modern, and certainly considerably more attractive than the Solarin. The accompanying all-in-one computer is also a mystery, including how it will connect to the phone. A system similar to Samsung’s DeX dock is possible, but that is speculation on our part.

While the Solarin phone was available to buy soon after its launch, Sirin Labs is going down the crowdfunding route for Finney. It has not stated which platform will be used for crowdfunding, or when the devices are expected to be released. When Digital Trends asked to see the Finney devices, we were told it was too early for prototypes, so don’t expect it to be in the immediate future.

Also, don’t expect to use cash or a credit card to buy the Finney devices. You’ll need SRN tokens, which will be the default currency on the Finney blockchain network. We’ll assume SRN is Sirin Labs own cryptocurrency, and it’s likely through this that the company is banking on long-term success, rather than sales from the actual devices.

Finally, a firepit that won’t blow smoke in your face

It’s a common camper’s trouble: It takes forever to get a fire going and once you do, you can’t even get comfortable around it when it starts blowing smoke in your face. Worst case scenario, the smoke follows you and sends you shuffling around the campfire to find a temporary blind spot until the smoke tries to find you again. Instead of (literally) working around the campfire, Biolite is looking to cut out the smoke altogether.

Biolite has had your back on camping supplies before with a portable stove that charges your devices, and now they have a new Kickstarter to stoke their flames. The Biolite FirePit is a wood-burning device that creates an awesome campfire and dilutes all of the smoke, leaving only the warmth and glow of a cozy fire to share with your camping pals. 

The FirePit uses 51 jets to pump your fire with oxygen, thus creating a better flame (read: more s’mores) and greatly reducing the amount of smoke it lets off. The free app even allows you to control the strength of your flame via Bluetooth while the X-Ray mesh provides a full 360-degree view of your flame to make your camping experience as authentic as possible. 

The FirePit is also ideal for burning charcoal and features a grill plate so you can cook up your camp meals with ease. The pit itself is powered by a USB-chargeable battery that can also act as a power bank for your devices.

Check out BioLite’s Kickstarter page to learn more and even drop a donation.

Plume Labs’ air quality tracker is now available for pre-orders


Plume Labs wants to be the definitive startup when it comes to air pollution. The company has built an app, an API and now an air quality tracker. The Flow is a tiny Bluetooth device you pair with your smartphone to learn more about the air you’re currently breathing.

It works both inside and outside and could be particularly useful if you live in a polluted city. It tracks particulate matter (PM2.5), nitrogen dioxide, ozone, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), temperature and humidity. You can clip it to your bag, bike or stroller. It has a tiny leather strap and looks nice.

There are 12 colored LEDs so that you can get a basic reading of your exposure to pollution over the past twelve hours. If you get multiple red LEDs, it means that you’ve been walking around polluted areas. Your phone will give your more information about your day and your city.

I already covered the Flow back at CES in January 2017. But the company didn’t say much about price and availability. The device is now available for pre-orders. It costs $139 for now and it’s going to end up costing $199 after the release. The company plans to ship the device in June 2018.

And it’s a volume play. In many ways, the Flow reminds me of Netatmo weather stations. Those devices have been a huge success because the company sold a huge number of weather stations. This way, Netatmo has built a dense map of weather stations with a ton of data points. It’s a great way to crowdsource weather maps.

I hope many people living in polluted cities will end up using the Flow. It could be a great way to figure out trends, polluted areas and possible changes to improve air quality.

Beta testers have been using the Flow in London already. With just a hundred users, the company was able to sample 500,000 data points across 1,300 miles of sidewalks.

Even without this big data aspect, the Flow can help you change your daily routine. Maybe you can avoid going for a run when it’s so polluted outside and wait until tomorrow morning.

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Alexa will now play Amazon Music on your iPhone or Android phone

Why it matters to you

Just recite a few lyrics to Alexa and she’ll play the song you’re talking about on Amazon Music, all on your iPhone or Android device.

Look out, Siri. You’re no longer the only smart assistant capable of controlling tunes on an iPhone. The latest update to Amazon Alexa places the popular virtual assistant firmly within the Amazon Music streaming app on both iOS and Android, which means that you can tell Alexa what song to play next not only while in your home, but while on your phone, too.

The addition of Alexa to the Amazon Music app promises to combine natural language voice control with a rich, visual app experience. As Amazon noted in a release, “Tens of millions of songs are now at the tip of your tongue as well as the tips of your fingers – wherever you go.”

Using Alexa in the app, regardless of your operating system, is straightforward — simply tap the push-to-talk function in either iOS or Android and start barking out your commands to Alexa. Of course, you’ll have to update the Amazon Music app in order to ensure it has permission to access your microphone. Once you’re ready to start using Alexa, however, you don’t even have to be that specific in your requests. For example, you can tell Alexa, Play the new song by Fifth Harmony,” and the AI assistant will play He Like That.

Alternatively, you can ask Alexa to “Play music for a road trip,” or if you have a song in mind but don’t know the title, just say a few of the lyrics, and Alexa will do the rest.

“Amazon Music customers already know and love Alexa from listening on Echo devices,” stated Steve Boom, vice president of Amazon Music. “Now our mobile listeners can enjoy an entirely new app experience that combines the power and simplicity of Alexa voice controls with the visual richness of the Amazon Music app.”

If, for some reason, you’re not interested in controlling your music with your voice, you can still use the search box in Amazon Music to type in your search queries, but if you ever need (or want) hands-free operation, that’s now an option as well.

Alexa for Amazon Music is available in the U.K., U.S., Germany, and Austria, and it seems reasonable to assume that additional countries could soon enjoy the experience as well.

Instagram now lets you choose who can comment on your posts


Instagram is celebrating its milestone of reaching 800 million users on the platform, and 500 million using it daily, with new comment moderation tools that make it easier to silence anyone being potentially offensive. The new comment tools mean that if you have a public account on Instagram, you can limit comments to specific groups of people, including your followers or people you follow. Plus, both public and private account holders will be able to block accounts from commenting on their posts.

This is part of an ongoing effort to help curb abuse on the platform, and Instagram is also updating the automated filter to block especially offensive comments today with new tools that cover Arabic, French, German and Portuguese-language content (it was English only at introduction). The company says this will also continue to improve with time and use, which makes sense since it’s powered by machine learning.

The company also expanded a feature it launched in May that is designed to help users in need of help and resources related to mental illness. If you’re on Instagram and you witness someone in need of help via a live broadcast, you can now report it anonymously, and Instagram will send them a message with an offer to help and access to a helpline and other resources. This program launched in May with a focus on standard posts, but now expands to live video, too.

Eligo Bioscience raises $20 million to target the microbiome more precisely


French startup Eligo Bioscience just raised $20 million to develop next-gen biotherapeutics. Khosla Ventures is leading the round. This is also Khosla Ventures’ first investment in a French startup. Existing investor Seventure Partners is also participating, and the startup received a $2 million grant from the Worldwide Innovation Challenge.

Eligo Bioscience has been working on a new way to target bacteria-based diseases since 2014. Many doctors still rely on old-fashioned antibiotics to kill bacteria or prevent further disease development. But most antibiotics are very broad and target all kinds of bacteria.

It means that some antibiotics aren’t necessarily effective when it comes to fighting specific kinds of bacteria. And bacteria also evolve over time, meaning that bacteria become less and less receptive to usual antibiotics. This could be a global health challenge in the coming years.

Eligo Bioscience thinks that there’s a better way to target the microbiome. The company is designing biological nanobots made out of DNA and proteins to identify and infiltrate specific types of bacteria. Those biotherapeutics called eligobiotics can then deliver a payload.

Eligobiotics are a delivery system. There are like trucks looking for specific bacteria in your body. The company says that you can combine eligobiotics with CRISPR-Cas payloads to kill pathogenic bacteria. But there are also more use cases. Eligobiotics could create transient drug production within your body.

Developing and mass-producing something like this is obviously a huge challenge. It’s going to take years before your doctor prescribes you an eligobiotics treatment.

And there are many challenges to overcome. If Eligo Bioscience has enough funding for its biological research, gets FDA approval and mass-produces eligobiotics in house or with a pharmaceutical partner, it could become a massive product. So it’s going to be a wild ride. But there’s one thing for sure. It’s an interesting startup so let’s keep an eye on Eligo Bioscience.

Featured Image: Kateryna Kon/Shutterstock

Porsche just made a 680-horsepower plug-in hybrid wagon

Porsche may be known for powerful cars, but they want to be known these days for cars powerful electric motors. While we wait a couple more years for the fully electric Mission E, here’s a quick, plug-in Porsche that just happens to have a five-seat wagon.

This is the Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo. What the comically long name means is the most powerful Panamera available is now available in “Sport Turismo” wagon guise, should you or your family or friends or dog need more space. And there is a lot of power, from 680 horsepower leveraged by using a 4.0-liter biturbo V8 engine and an electric motor with a 14.1 kWh battery. That also allows for a 0-60 mph run of 3.2 seconds. In a wagon.

When we drove the four-seat hatchback version of the Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid this summer, it was enjoyable at any speed thanks to the abundance of power available almost from the moment you press down on the accelerator pedal, especially in its most aggressive settings when the gasoline engine and electric motor work in concert and give their all. And then when the track driving is over and city traffic comes back into the picture, the E-Hybrid can be switched back into electric mode for an estimated 30 miles of range.

The interior of the Panamera is a nice place, too, with good space for four (five is a crowd) and an interesting array of touchscreens, touch-capacitive buttons and lots of stitched leather. It’s no Volvo wagon when it comes to cargo room, but your faithful pet should be comfortable next to some luggage or snow equipment.

None of this comes cheap, however. The Turbo S E-Hybrid Sport Turismo will commands $189,450 from Porsche starting in the spring before a single item from the enormous list of extras is added. It’s therefore very easy to make this car cost as much as a nice piece of real estate in many states.

But because it has plentiful space for all your friends and things, a beautifully detailed interior with sharp gauges and screens and up-to-date technology, it’s possibly nicer than that house you could buy instead.

Sirin Labs is back with Finney, a less expensive, but even more niche smartphone

Why it matters to you

If you believe cryptocurrencies are the future, a smartphone with all the tools required to store and use them is what you need.

What do you do when one niche market smartphone isn’t a huge success? If you’re Sirin Labs, you make more hardware for an even narrower niche market. The company behind the $14,000, super-secure Solarin phone has announced Finney, an $1,800 smartphone and an all-in-one PC for the “blockchain generation,” and the “crypto crowd.”

What does this actually mean? The Finney devices aren’t made for the, “Instagram generation,” but for people who are into cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, and require the highest security to store the coins, P2P sharing systems for payment, and encrypted communication tools. In case you’re wondering, the name is a homage to computer scientist Hal Finney, who received the world’s first Bitcoin transaction.

Sirin Labs Finney

When asked to explain further, Sirin Labs CMO Nimrod May told Digital Trends: “This particular line of devices is aimed at the existing cryptocurrency community, [which] is heavily vested in and passionate about the propagation of the space and blockchain-based products and services it can bring about.”

Surely, you may ask, this is an incredibly niche market? May’s answer: “You’re absolutely right, most people haven’t heard of cryptocurrencies, but the team is betting heavily that the future will be cryptocurrency based. This is an early adopter community — for now — but we believe there is a large market opportunity right behind them.”

Let’s say you’re part of the crypto crowd; what does Finney offer? It’s two devices. A $1,000 smartphone and an $800 computer, both of which run a forked version of Android called Shield OS and Sirin Labs Cyber Protection Suite. Here’s a taste of what makes that special for anyone who understands cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology: Secure P2P sharing, built-in crypto wallet, tamper proof verification, secure text and emails, biometric authentication, and a behavioral-based Intrusion Prevention System to stop device attacks. If some of this sounds familiar, it’s because Sirin Labs has taken security features used in the Solarin phone, adapted them for Finney, and repackaged it for use with cryptocurrencies.

The phone has a 5.2-inch screen with a 2,560 x 1,440 pixel resolution, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of internal storage, a 16-megapixel rear camera, and a 12-megapixel wide-angle selfie camera. Sirin Labs hasn’t listed the processor, and didn’t answer our question on which one the phone will use. In the promotional render above, the Finney phone has an almost bezel-less screen, making it look very modern, and certainly considerably more attractive than the Solarin. The accompanying all-in-one computer is also a mystery, including how it will connect to the phone. A system similar to Samsung’s DeX dock is possible, but that is speculation on our part.

While the Solarin phone was available to buy soon after its launch, Sirin Labs is going down the crowdfunding route for Finney. It has not stated which platform will be used for crowdfunding, or when the devices are expected to be released. When Digital Trends asked to see the Finney devices, we were told it was too early for prototypes, so don’t expect it to be in the immediate future.

Also, don’t expect to use cash or a credit card to buy the Finney devices. You’ll need SRN tokens, which will be the default currency on the Finney blockchain network. We’ll assume SRN is Sirin Labs own cryptocurrency, and it’s likely through this that the company is banking on long-term success, rather than sales from the actual devices.

Get a free Google Home speaker with purchase of Alexa-compatible LG smart appliances

From October 8th to the 25th, anyone in the US of A that purchases a Wi-Fi-enabled LG home appliance will receive a free Google Home assistant, a $130 device that’s often on sale for about $99. The offer is applicable to about 90 smart appliances sold by LG, including washing machines, dryers, ovens, dishwashers, vacuums, and that fridge that runs webOS. Pretty much every appliance LG announced in 2017.

LG says it’s committed to an “open” smart home strategy. So, on top of supporting Google Assistant via Google Home and iOS and Android phones, it also supports Amazon Alexa and LG’s own Deep ThinQ intelligent voice thingie. LG’s SmartThinQ platform ties it all together by acting as a bridge between LG’s Wi-Fi devices and conventional home automation devices like Zigbee light switches, power sockets, and blind controllers. In other words, if your free Google Home speaker doesn’t work out you can always switch things up down the road — no ecosystem lock-in here folks.

Google Home… not to scale
Image: LG