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2018-07-19T22:42:43.824Z
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I have to hand it to 8BitDo. At first I thought they were just opportunistically hawking cheap hunks of plastic in an era of unparalleled nostalgia for retro games, but… well, who am I kidding? That’s exactly what they’re doing. But they’re doing it well. And these new DIY kits are the latest sign that they actually understand their most obsessive customers.

While you can of course purchase fully formed controllers and adapters from the company that let your retro consoles ride the wireless wave of the future, not everyone is ready to part with their original hardware.

I, for example, have had my Super Nintendo for 25 years or so — its yellowing, cracked bulk and controllers, all-over stains and teeth marks compelling all my guests to make an early exit. I consider it part of my place’s unique charm, but more importantly I’m used to the way these controllers feel and look — they’re mine.

8BitDo understands me, along with the rest of the wretches out there who can’t part with the originals out of some twisted concept of loyalty or authenticity. So they’re giving us the option to replace the controllers’ aging guts with a fresh new board equipped with wireless connectivity, making it a healthy hybrid of the past and present.

If you’re the type (as I am) that worries that a modern controller will break in ways that an SNES controller would find laughable, if it could laugh, then this...

Researchers at Purdue University and the University of Virginia are now able to create “tiny, thin-film electronic circuits peelable from a surface,” the first step in creating an unobtrusive Internet-of-Things solution. The peelable stickers can sit flush to an object’s surface and be used as sensors or wireless communications systems.

The biggest difference between these stickers and traditional solutions is the removal of the silicon wafer that manufacturers use. Because the entire circuit is transferred right on the sticker there is no need for bulky packages and you can pull off and restick the circuits as needed.

“We could customize a sensor, stick it onto a drone, and send the drone to dangerous areas to detect gas leaks, for example,” said Chi Hwan Lee, Purdue assistant professor. From the release:

A ductile metal layer, such as nickel, inserted between the electronic film and the silicon wafer, makes the peeling possible in water. These thin-film electronics can then be trimmed and pasted onto any surface, granting that object electronic features.

Putting one of the stickers on a flower pot, for example, made that flower pot capable of sensing temperature changes that could affect the plant’s growth.

The system “prints” circuits by etching the circuit on a wafer and then placing the film over the traces. Then, with the help of a little water, the researchers can peel up the film and use it as a sticker. They published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of...

It took Sonos more than a month, but its new home theater speaker is now available. You can buy it on Sonos’ official website for $399 (or €449 if you live in Europe). It’s also available on Amazon and other retailers.

The Beam is an affordable soundbar for your TV. This isn’t the company’s first soundbar, but it’s a better one. According to our review, its slimmer design makes it more versatile in many cases. Sometimes your TV is hanging on a wall. Or maybe you want to hide the speaker in a TV shelf.

Just like recent Sonos speakers, it features Amazon Alexa. The company also promises Google Assistant support in the future. It’s a connected speaker for the home assistant generation.

More interestingly, the Beam isn’t just a TV speaker. If you’re not using your TV, you can use it like a normal Sonos. You can pair it with other Sonos speakers, stream music using the Sonos app, Spotify Connect or AirPlay 2. You can now also use the Beam to play Audible audiobooks.

And if you switch on the TV, the speaker automatically stops the music and gives the priority to what’s playing on the TV. It’s a seamless experience that greatly improves the sound quality of your TV.

When reviewing hardware, it’s important to integrate it into your life as much as possible. If you can, swap it in for your existing devices for a few days or a week, to really get an idea of what it’s like to use it day to day.

There are certain nuances you can only discover through this approach. Of course, that’s easier said than done in most cases. Switching between phones and computers every week isn’t nearly as glamorous as it sounds, especially when juggling multiple operating systems.

As a MacBook Pro owner, however, this one was a fair bit easier. In fact, there’s very little changed here from an aesthetic standpoint, and beyond the quieter keyboard and Siri integration, there’s not a lot that’s immediately apparent in the 2018 MacBook Pro refresh for me. That’s because I’m not the target demographic for the update. I write words for a living. There are large portions of my job that I could tackle pretty easily on an Apple IIe (please, no one tell the IT department).

This upgrade is for a different class of user entirely: the creative professional. These are the people long assumed to be the core user base for the Mac ecosystem. Sure, they only account for around 15 percent of Mac users, according to the company’s estimates, but they’re the people who use the machines to make art. And as such, it’s precisely the group of influencers the company needs to court.

Roku is getting into the speaker business with today’s announcement of Roku TV Wireless Speakers.

Mark Ely, the company’s vice president of product management, said Roku is trying to address a growing consumer problem — the fact that as TVs get thinner, you end up buying “this beautiful TV, but it sounds bad.” To address this, you may end up purchasing a soundbar or creating a more elaborate home theater setup, but Ely argued that many consumers find this process confusing and intimidating.

So as the name suggests, Roku has created wireless speakers specifically for Roku TVs, the company’s lineup of partner-built smart TVs. Ely described them as speakers that deliver “really premium sound in a really compact package,” and at an affordable price. (They’re about seven inches tall and weigh four pounds each, he said.)

Roku says it should be easy to pair these speakers wirelessly with a Roku TV using Roku Connect, and since the company controls both the video and audio experience, it can ensure that they’re sync’d up perfectly, without lag. To minimize those moments when you’re frantically reaching for the remote to adjust the volume, the speakers also come with Automatic Volume Leveling to lower the sound in particularly loud scenes and boost the sounds when it gets too quiet.

Ely said the product takes advantage of Roku’s acquisition last year of Danish audio startup Dynastrom: “The goal has been to have audio be a...

Apple released a refreshed MacBook Pro this week and top among the new features is a tweaked keyboard. Apple says its quieter than the last version and in our tests, we agree. But iFixit found something else: thin, silicone barriers that could improve the keyboard’s reliability.

This is big news. Users have long reported the butterfly switch keyboard found in MacBook Pros were less reliable than past models. There are countless reports of dust and lint and crumbs causing keys to stick or fail. Personally, I have not had any issues, but many at TechCrunch have. To date Apple has yet to issue a recall for the keyboard..

iFixit found a thin layer of rubberized material covering the new butterfly mechanism. The repair outlet also points to an Apple patent for this exact technology that’s designed to “prevent and/or alleviate contaminant ingress.”

According to Apple, which held a big media unveiling for new models, the changes to the keyboard were designed to address the loud clickity-clack and not the keyboard’s tendency to get mucked up by dust. And that makes sense, too. If Apple held an event and said “We fixed the keyboards” it would mean Apple was admitting something was wrong with the keyboards. Instead Apple held an event and said “We made the keyboards quieter” admitting the past keyboards were loud, and not faulty.

We just got our review unit and will report back on the keyboard’s reliability after a day or...

Apple has announced a new investment fund to foster clean energy usage in China. The company isn’t just trying to switch its own offices and facilities. Apple is also working with its suppliers to expand the use of clean energy across the board.

For this fund in particular, Apple and 10 suppliers will invest $300 million over the next four years. Overall, the company expects to finance multiple clean energy projects to produce 1 gigawatt of renewable energy in China.

Apple isn’t going to manage the fund itself. The company is partnering with DWS Group, a division of Deutsche Bank. DWS will also participate in the fund.

The company started working on renewable energy projects a few years ago. Earlier this year, Apple claimed that 100 percent of its offices, retail stores, data centers and Apple-owned facilities are now powered by renewable energy.

Apple is not there yet when it comes to suppliers. The company has launched the Supplier Clean Energy Program back in 2015 with 23 manufacturing partners, and regularly shares updates — Foxconn seems to be missing so far.

By 2020, Apple and its suppliers hope to generate 4 gigawatts of clean energy. And let’s be honest, this is great news for the planet.

Don’t look now, but the PC might not be dead. According to Gartner, collector of marketshare and industry metrics, worldwide shipments of personal computers just experienced the first year-over-year growth since 2012. Shipments totaled 62.1 million units, which is a 1.4 percent increase from the same time period in 2017. The report states “experienced some growth compared with a year ago” but goes on to caution declaring the PC industry as in recovery just yet.

The top five PC vendors all experienced growth with Lenovo seeing the largest gains of 10.5% — though that could be from Lenovo completing a joint venture with Fujitsu. HP grew 6.1%, Dell 9.5%, Apple 3% and Acer 3.1%. All good signs for an industry long thought stagnate. This report excludes Chromebooks from its data. PC vendors experienced growth without the help of Chromebooks, which are the latest challenger to the notebook computer.

Gartner points to the business market as the source of the increased demand. The consumer market, it states, is still decreasing as consumers increasing use mobile devices. Yet growth in the business sector will not last, it says.

“In the business segment, PC momentum will weaken in two years when the replacement peak for Windows 10 passes.” said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner said in the report. “PC vendors should look for ways to maintain growth in the business market as the Windows 10 upgrade cycle tails off.”

Consumers will likely continue, for the most part,...

How much would you pay to leave our dumpster fire of a world for just a few minutes? Blue Origin is considering charging $200,000 to $300,000 according to a Reuters report. For that price, passengers would get a seat on Blue Origin’s New Shepard, the commercial space vehicle from Jeff Bezos’ rocket company.

The rocket would take passengers to suborbital space to experience weightlessness and see the curvature of the Earth. This is done autonomously and can hold six passengers. Parachutes will return the capsule back to solid ground.

This claim comes from two people with knowledge of the space program’s pricing, Reuters says.

Passengers have time to start saving. Ferrying passengers to space is still a ways off for Blue Origin. The company has completed eight test flights including landing the rocket vertically, but has yet to strap a human into one of the seats. That’s apparently coming within weeks, one employee is quoted on saying in the Reuters’ report.

Blue Origin isn’t the only one selling tickets to space. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic says it has sold about 650 $250,000 tickets to space aboard its craft; launch dates have yet to be announced for that trip too.

Bezos has larger ambitions than just being an amusement ride. In May, speaking at the Space Development Conference in Los Angeles with the inimitable Alan Boyle, Bezos chatted about the idea of making the moon a center for heavy...

A clever little robot made by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev can roll around, flip itself over, and even crawl like a turtle through rough terrain. The robot uses wheels, a set of star-shaped rollers, and cleverly articulated arms to ride along at various speeds.

The robot, called Rising STAR, uses wheels and spoked “whegs” to roll around at about one meter per second and it can fold itself flat and pull itself forward when it finds mud or sand. It can also make itself very skinny to ride through tight spots and can even flip itself over if it falls.

A weighted “head” can keep the robot balanced as it tools along, allowing it to climb up and over steep surfaces and, the researchers say, even sneak through pipes or between tight walls.

Rising STAR is an updated version of the university’s Sprawl-Tuned Autonomous Robot that it displayed in 2013. This new version is far more capable and, thanks to its “whegs” and turtle-gait, far cooler.

Not far from Tel Aviv a drone flies low over a gritty landscape of warehouses and broken pavement. It slowly approaches its home – a refrigerator-sized box inside a mesh fence, and hovers, preparing to dock. It descends like some giant bug, whining all the way, and disappears into its base where it will be cleaned, recharged, and sent back out into the air. This drone is doing the nearly impossible: it’s flying and landing autonomously and can fly again and again without human intervention and it’s doing it all inside a self-contained unit that is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a long time.

The company that makes the drone, Airobotics, invited us into their headquarters to see their products in action. In this video we talk with the company about how the drones work, how their clients use the drones for mapping and surveillance in hard-to-reach parts of the world, and the future of drone autonomy. It’s a fascinating look into technology that will soon be appearing in jungles, deserts, and war zones near you.

Years ago, in the heyday of home video, I played a boardgames that used VHS tapes and electronic parts to help spur the action along. From Candy Land VCR to Captain Power, game makers were doing the best they could with a new technology. Now, thanks to Alexa, they can try something even cooler – board games that talk back.

The first company to try this is Voice Originals. Their new game, When In Rome, is a family board game that pits two teams against each other in a race to travel the world. The game itself consists of a board and a few colored pieces and the real magic comes from Alexa. You start the game by enabling the When In Rome skill and then you start the game. Alexa then prompts you with questions as you tool around the board.

The rules are simple because Alexa does most of the work. The game describes how to set up the board and gets you started and then you just trigger with your voice it as you play.

The company’s first game, Beasts of Balance, was another clever hybrid of AR and real life board game action. Both games are a bit gimmicky and a bit high tech – you won’t be able to play these in a cozy beach house without Internet, for example – but it’s a fun departure from the norm.

Like the VCR games of yore, When In Rome depends on a new technology to find...

Newer Sonos devices and “rooms” now appear as AirPlay 2-compatible devices, allowing you to stream audio to them via Apple devices. The solution is a long time coming for Sonos which promised AirPlay 2 support in October.

You can stream to Sonos One, Sonos Beam, Playbase, and Play:5 speakers and ask Siri to play music on various speakers (“Hey Siri, play some hip-hop in the kitchen.”) The feature should roll out to current speakers today.

I tried a beta version and it worked as advertised. A set of speakers including a Beam and a Sub in my family room showed up as a single speaker and a Sonos One in the kitchen showed up as another. I was able to stream music and podcasts to either one.

Given the ease with which you can now stream to nearly every device from every device it’s clear that whole-home audio is progressing rapidly. As we noted before Sonos is facing tough competition but little tricks like this one help it stay in the race.

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Makula Dunbar Contributor Makula Dunbar is a writer with Wirecutter. More posts by this contributor Gear for making outdoor fitness more enjoyable Gadgets and small appliances that will keep you in the kitchen

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Gearing up for a pleasant road trip entails more than picking an exciting destination. The mode of transportation, and what you’re able to do while traveling, sometimes makes or breaks hours spent on the road.

Whether you’re taking an older car on a short solo excursion, or piling in with family and friends for a cross-country drive, your road trip gear and setup can add to the experience. We’ve gathered some of our favorite picks that cover the basics.

iPad Headrest Mount: Arkon Center Extension Car Headrest Tablet Mount

If getting comfortable in a backseat and watching a movie sounds like an ideal way to pass time, do so with the help of a tablet mount. The Arkon Center Extension Car Headrest Tablet Mount securely holds iPads and most 9- to 12-inch tablets.

It attaches to the metal rods of the front seat headrest and its holster is attached to an extendable arm that can be positioned so one or multiple backseat passengers...

A multi-year legal battle over the ability to distribute computer models of gun parts and replicate them in 3D printers has ended in defeat for government authorities who sought to prevent the practice. Cody Wilson, the gunmaker and free speech advocate behind the lawsuit, now intends to expand his operations, providing printable gun blueprints to all who desire them.

The longer story of the lawsuit is well told by Andy Greenberg over at Wired, but the decision is eloquent on its own. The fundamental question is whether making 3D models of gun components available online is covered by the free speech rights granted by the First Amendment.

This is a timely but complex conflict because it touches on two themes that happen to be, for many, ethically contradictory. Arguments for tighter restrictions on firearms are, in this case, directly opposed to arguments for the unfettered exchange of information on the internet. It’s hard to advocate for both here: restricting firearms and restricting free speech are one and the same.

That at least seems to be conclusion of the government lawyers, who settled Wilson’s lawsuit after years of court battles. In a copy of the settlement provided to me by Wilson, the U.S. government agrees to exempt “the technical data that is the subject of the Action” from legal restriction. The modified rules should appear in the Federal Register soon.

What does this mean? It means that a 3D model that can be used to print the components of a working firearm is...

There’s nothing like a great new toy to make you mourn the ghost of bygone youth. I don’t have the opportunity to try many out at this job, but when I do, there’s an invariable pang of jealousy for kids today who have much broader access to sophisticated playthings than we did in our day.

Nerf Laser Ops Pro is a pretty solid example of this. It finds the company combining a solid bit of nostalgic IP with some modern technology, to good effect. The new toys, which hit virtual store shelves next Monday, look like a Nerf, play like a Lazer Tag and incorporate your smartphone to help take them a step beyond what either line has offered in the past.

Arguably the most compelling bit in all of this is the price point, with none of the sets running more than $50. I have a vague memory of the original Lazer Tag system being prohibitively expensive in my youth — or maybe that’s just what my parents told me because they didn’t want any fake guns lying around the house.

There was, after all, some controversy with the line from the outset. Here’s a pretty depressing story from the height of Lazer Tag’s success that no doubt caused its manufacturers to rethink the product’s presentation. In 1998, the brand was purchased by Hasbro, and in 2012, it was rolled into the Nerf line.

The foam gun brand has...

People ask me all the time about my favorite gadgets and I rarely have any answers. I’ve been playing with stuff since 2004 and I’m pretty gadget-ed out. But this year I’ve finally found something that I really enjoy: the GPD XD, an Android-based gaming handheld that lets you play multiple emulators including an endless array of homebrew and classic ROMS.

As an early fan of the Caanoo I’m always looking for handheld emulators that can let you play classic games without much fuss. The Caanoo worked quite well, especially for 2010 technology, and I was looking to upgrade.

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My friend bought a GDP and showed it to me and I was hooked. I could play some wonderful old ROMs in a form factor that was superior to the Caanoo and this super cheap, super awful 4.3-inch device that emulates like a truck.

The GDP, which has two joysticks, one four-axis button, four shoulder buttons, and a diamond of game buttons, is basically a Wi-Fi enabled Android device with a touch screen. It runs Android 7.0 and has a MTK8176 Quad-core+ processor and 4GB of memory. It comes with NES, SNES, Arcade, and Playstation emulators built in as well as a few home-brew games. You can install almost anything from the Google Play store and it includes a file manager and ebook reader. It also has a micro SD card slot, HDMI out, and headphone jack.

To be clear, the...

French startup Ledger has been working for a while on a brand new app to manage your crypto assets on your computer. The company is designing and manufacturing one of the most secure hardware wallets out there.

While it’s clear that security has always been the first focus of the company, the user experience has been lacking, especially on the software front. The company launched a new app called Ledger Live to handle everything you used to do with Chrome apps before.

That’s right, before today, the company relied on Google Chrome for its desktop apps. You had to install the browser first, and then install a new app for each cryptocurrency. There was also a main app to update the firmware. It could quickly become a mess.

Now, everything is centralized in a single app. After downloading and installing the app on Windows, macOS or Linux, you can either configure the app with an existing Ledger device or configure a new Ledger wallet.

The app first checks the integrity of your device and then lets you manage the device. You can upgrade the firmware and install apps on your Ledger Nano S or Ledger Blue from the “Manager” tab.

More interestingly, you can now add all your wallets to the Ledger Live app. You won’t have to switch from one app to another to view your wallets. When you click the add button, the app will try to retrieve existing wallets on...

In a truly fascinating exploration into two smart speakers – the Sonos One and the Amazon Echo – BoltVC’s Ben Einstein has found some interesting differences in the way a traditional speaker company and an infrastructure juggernaut look at their flagship devices.

The post is well worth a full read but the gist is this: Sonos, a very traditional speaker company, has produced a good speaker and modified its current hardware to support smart home features like Alexa and Google Assistant. The Sonos One, notes Einstein, is a speaker first and smart hardware second.

“Digging a bit deeper, we see traditional design and manufacturing processes for pretty much everything. As an example, the speaker grill is a flat sheet of steel that’s stamped, rolled into a rounded square, welded, seams ground smooth, and then powder coated black. While the part does look nice, there’s no innovation going on here,” he writes.

The Amazon Echo, on the other hand, looks like what would happen if an engineer was given an unlimited budget and told to build something that people could talk to. The design decisions are odd and intriguing and it is ultimately less a speaker than a home conversation machine. Plus it is very expensive to make.

Pulling off the sleek speaker grille, there’s a shocking secret here: this is an extruded plastic tube with a secondary rotational drilling operation. In my many years of...

Apple has released a handful of new ads promoting the iPad’s portability and convenience over both laptops and traditional paper solutions. The 15-second ads focus on how the iPad can make even the most tedious things — travel, notes, paperwork, and ‘stuff’ — just a bit easier.

Three out of the four spots show the sixth-generation iPad, which was revealed at Apple’s education event in March, and which offers a lower-cost ($329 in the U.S.) option with Pencil support.

The ads were released on Apple’s international YouTube channels (UAE, Singapore, and United Kingdom).

This follows another 90-second ad released yesterday, focusing on FaceID. The commercial shows a man in a gameshow-type setting asked to remember the banking password he created earlier that morning. He struggles for an excruciating amount of time before realizing he can access the banking app via FaceID.

There has been some speculation that FaceID may be incorporated into some upcoming models of the iPad, though we’ll have to wait until Apple’s next event (likely in September) to find out for sure.