Boston Dynamics has recently revealed the latest member of its evolving line of robot creations in a brand-new video of a new Atlas robot. At 1.75m in height, the latest Atlas is much shorter compared to its previous version, however it is a far more capable machine. Not only is the new Atlas able to operate under its own steam, but it can also operate well both indoors and outside due to its significantly enhanced balancing systems. Compared with its older sibling the new Atlas has new sensors in its body and legs to assist it in balancing, along with LIDAR and stereo-sensing units which make sure that the robot does not bump into any obstacles along the way. The company’s latest video clip reveals the brand-new Atlas walking about confidently inside as well as outside even in rugged snowy terrain. It does stumble about a bit especially on unstable ground but managed to stay upright remarkably well even after completely losing its balance. The new robot also demonstrated its the ability to pick up heavy objects off the ground and place them on adjacent shelving while moving around in an incredibly human way. However, some of the most inspiring scenes centred around how the new Atlas deals with humans making life for it more difficult. In the video, a human is seen using a ice-hockey stick to dislodge a package from the bot’s hands, and then forcing the package away so the Atlas has to go after it. Needless to say the robot performs flawlessly and patiently even with all their annoying human antics!
The well-known padlock company, Master Lock, has recently jumped onto the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) bandwagon with its Bluetooth-enabled smart padlock range. The company says that its smart locks can improve safety and security, streamline sharing amongst several users, and even dispatch intruder notifications to the owner. Unlike other competitors in market space, Master Locks’ padlocks can also be put to use right out of the box and can even be used like a traditional padlock by tapping in 7-digit code on a clever keypad of 4 ‘directional’ keys. But downloading the iOS or Android app lets your phone be the passkey for the locks and really allows the padlocks to work to their full potential. Once set up, your phone can be can easily used to open the padlocks by touching the padlock itself, or via a swipe within the app depending upon your preference. Sharing access is also where the Master Lock Smart Padlocks truly come into their own allowing one to send digital ‘passkeys’ to anyone with a smart mobile device and give them either complete access or access at certain times of the day. It also allows one to withdraw access at any time, and importantly keeps track of padlock access history by keeping detailed records of whenever it is opened and also by whom. Unlike its less-intelligent brethren, the smart locks also records foiled attempts to open them. So if you’ve already jumped onto the IoT bandwagon then Master Lock’s new smart padlocks might be one more necessary tool to add to your ‘smart gadget’ armoury.
The X-Carve CNC machine is one of a number of CNC devices to hit the maker space in recent months. It is created by Chicago-based company, Inventables, which has had the brilliant idea of making it configurable, unlike its competitors. Inventables previously created a small CNC machine developed for the desktop which was called Carvey and which was a crowdfunding success. The X-Carve is Inventables’ latest desktop CNC machine and can produce accurate parts from a plethora of materials including plastic, cork, foam, wax, metal, timber, paper, cardboard, and many others. Developed for the home or work studio, the X-Carve is both expandable and customisable, meaning that if a maker currently owns an Inventables machine, they can simply update their current device by incorporating fresh parts to make the bigger machine. The X-Carve is supplied in two sizes, standard and large, both of which are reliable at precision-milling parts down to a resolution of 0.075mm. The Standard X-Carve has a work area of approximately 30cm x 30cm x 7cm, and for its larger brother, parts as big as 80cm x 80cm x 7cm can be precision crafted. But what makes X-Carve really special is that it can be configured into any size or shape the buyer wishes and with each one of the machine’s components available individually, creators can just buy only what they need. Go Inventables!
More than three years have passed since the introduction of the very first Raspberry Pi electronics circuit board, and since then a DIY electronics revolution has taken place with hackers producing almost everything electronic from DIY mobile phones to DIY touchscreen tablets. And now the Raspberry Pi Foundation has announced the addition of Raspberry Pi’s smaller sibling, the Pi Zero, which comes at a extremely low price of only five US dollars. So exactly what can you expect for your $5? The CPU of the device is a Broadcom BCM2835 / 1 GHz ARM11 processor that lives on a board that measures only 6.5cm by 3cm in surface area and with a thickness of only 5mm. It is supported by 512 MB of LPDDR2 SDRAM, and microSD memory card port acts as the hard drive-equivalent storage system for the little electronics motherboard . Given its small stature, some compromises have had to be made, and it is in its I/O connectivity where the cuts have come. The Ethernet and full-sized USB slots that are present on the model B+ have been removed, but there is a mini-HDMI port for 60 frames per second video streaming, two micro-USB interfaces for USB power and data transfer, and, importantly, a 40-pin general purpose I/O header for the board’s primary purpose to connect to and be part of DIY electronics designs. The Zero runs the same Linux-based operating system as its older siblings so no new programming skills are required if you are already a seasoned Raspbarian.
Most air compressors are big noisy affairs, but not so the latest from Airman, which has settled on shrinking an air compressor into a standard drill-sized contraption called the Airgun. In fact, if you were not a keen observer, you could easily mistake it for actually being a cordless drill as the unit has been cleverly contructed to be easily held and operated in the hand as a ‘gun’. It carries its own flexible hose attached to the side that fits the most common form of tire valve, the schrader valve, and it also carries other ‘nozzles’ that are needed for inflating balls and other inflatables. As you might have guessed with it being cordless, the Airgun is battery-operated which is unusual for an air compressor, but as a result of the compactness and the battery operation, the unit is limited in its potential uses to mostly everyday ‘household’ tasks, although it is reportedly capable of inflating a small automobile tire. For the more do-it-yourself-ers (and for inflating automobile tires more robustly), they would be better advised to opt for a more full-blown air compressor which has a far greater range of uses including operating air power tools and air paint sprayers, although even then one has to choose carefully as not all air compressors are equal!
A new environmental sensing system will soon be able to inform you on ways to enhance your indoor environment. Canadian startup Beagle Sense has just recently introduced the Beagle sensor system that promises to monitor only those atmospheric parameters that are required. The sensors achieve this by each sensing unit only monitoring one metric of either temperature level, sound, light, air pressure, air quality or humidity, allowing specific sensing units to be positioned only where they are called for. To install the equipment in the home, new owners just need to plug in their base station and link it to a Wi-Fi network as well as a mobile device for maximum functionality. When positioned about the house, they start relaying their sensor data back to the base station for owners to observe using a web or mobile app. The Beagle sensors are each powered by 2 AAA batteries and communicate with the base station using Bluetooth although they also have the ability to save up to 2 weeks of measurements using their own internal memory allowing them to be relocated out of range of the base station for a while before synchronising with it once back in range.
Apotact Labs has recently revealed a four-fingered ‘glove’ called Gest that is designed to allow users to control any attached computer or mobile device using just their hand gestures. The Gest controller is fashioned to accommodate any shape or size of hand by means of a flexible palm strap and 4 adjustable finger attachments. Each glove has 15 sensors including accelerometers, gyroscopes, and magnetometers, which are commonly found in mobile devices. The specially-designed software makes the device very sensitive even to small finger motions and is designed to get to know just how each user moves his or her hands by producing a customized configuration distinct to each user. By adjusting the software program to each individual, the device is able to provide a very high degree of precision for all types of hand movements, even small finger twitches. The company has indicated that its first application will be for Adobe Photoshop with initial devices exhibiting 5 standard motions. For instance, pointing at the computer display permits you to position the computer’s mouse anywhere on the screen, while turning your hand readjusts Photoshop’s sliders, and 3D objects can be revolved by ‘grabbing and rotating them’. The device hooks up to just about any device that has Bluetooth, and is recharged with a Micro-USB interface. Apotact Labs also demonstrated the Gest controller working as a keyboard interface, but users will have to wait for this feature as it is still only in the experimental stage. Gest was just launched on Kickstarter and is expected to be delivered to early enthusiasts by late 2016.
Wi-Fi-based webcams or IP-cameras are becoming more and more prevalent in the home. A main reason for this is their decline in price in recent times as well as the ease with which they can be installed. A recent entry into this already jam-packed market is the new Ezviz Mini Wi-Fi camera. The Ezviz Mini is a simple, 8.9cm tall unit that weighs less than 120g featuring a 16GB memory card. It is very simple to install once the camera has been activated through the free Ezviz application available for both Android and iOS. The activation process involves making use of a basic QR code check to link the camera to the app followed by linking it to a nearby Wi-Fi network. After that, the video camera and its integrated microphone will keep an eye on everything in its field of view, with users able to access the device directly or through the internet. The application itself can supply live feeds from 4 Minis, as well as serve up saved pictures or video clips from either the integrated memory card or from the cloud. It can also be used to make real-time video captures and pictures. The included 16GB memory card is able to capture approximately four days of intermittent video clips even in the most active of domestic environments, but if more is needed, the SD card can be replaced with a larger size up to 64GB. When the memory card is full, the oldest clips are then overwritten with new ones. The Mini also has night vision which is very responsive to changing lighting conditions, automatic switching on when light levels are too low. The sound, meanwhile, was pretty much the only negative, as it tended to be inconsistent and sometimes difficult to understand. It also generated some pretty annoying feedback sounds if the smart phone application was open within earshot of the Mini’s microphone. Nevertheless, this is yet another good contender for keeping a close eye over your most valued possessions.
Smart home innovation has actually made it easy to manage home thermostats, light fixtures and even door locks using smart phones. However those of us who live in a gated community or flat are usually not permitted or able to fit such devices themselves. Locumi Labs hopes to change all that with its new smart gadget, the Monkey, that attaches to one’s existing intercom to make it capable of keyless access. A 5cm x 5cm square that is only 9mm thick, the Monkey is a chip that can connect to all intercom types out there. Although necessitating the removal of the intercom cover as well as a little bit of tinkering with the internal circuitry, the creators of Monkey assure us that installation is an almost brainless procedure that anybody can do. Then once connected to the home Wi-Fi network, Monkey allows users to set it to open doors from a smart phone, or using a mobile phone’s GPS signal, or even at specific times of the day. And since Monkey incorporates into the intercom’s internal power source, there’s no requirement for a power supply or to replace batteries. The Monkey app is available for both iOS and Android operating systems, allowing homeowners anywhere to be informed when somebody is ringing their doorbell. In addition, it also provides the capability of changing who has access to the property without needing to physically change locks or duplicate keys. And if you forget your cell phone inside the house, Monkey does not prevent you from using the traditional method of a mechanical key. Check out the promotional video on Kickstarter.
Microsoft has just announced the latest version of its health and fitness wearable, the Band 2. Compared with the 2014 model, the fresh take on the personal gadget is more capable and feels much more comfy on the your forearm than its predecessor, but comes with a higher price tag. The Band 2 is challenging the other major players in the wearables market (Apple, Fitbit and Jawbone) especially when it comes to battery life, claiming that the Band 2 will last 2 days under normal use. As with the previous version, the gadget works with Windows, Android, and iOS operating systems. One of the most noticeable changes to the new model is that it has a much sleeker appearance than that of its predecessor, with a screen that curves around the wrist strengthened with Gorilla Glass 3 and a wristband that is much softer. As for the incorporated tech, whereas the first Band had a decent set of heart rate and step monitors, the new unit also includes an atmospheric pressure and elevation sensor that is useful on hiking treks. In addition, the Band 2 is fitted with a monitor for VO2 Max, which is an advanced metric of fitness that normally requires costly equipment to compute. The Microsoft Band 2 also supports a wider range of smartphone apps when it comes to their alerts and it even has a shot-tracking capability for golf enthusiasts. Speech support for Cortana, Microsoft’s electronic smartphone aide, has been added too. The company says that the Band 2 will be in US shops by the end of October.