When HTC pulled the plug on its Watch service in a number of European countries last year, it told us that it was merely streamlining its efforts, and that movie rentals and purchases would continue to be offered in places with the “highest engagement.” But now it looks like the closures are spreading to those areas too, with UK users receiving an email warning them that the Watch store will close on March 31st, by which point any purchased movies must be downloaded to a device in order to remain accessible. We’ve asked HTC for a fuller explanation, but in the meantime we’re left with the feeling that the company’s in-house streaming platform may actually have been dying a slow death this whole time, due to a lack of popularity. Either that, or the name “HTC Watch” has suddenly become very inconvenient.
Welcome to Time Machines, where we offer up a selection of mechanical oddities, milestone gadgets and unique inventions to test out your tech-history skills.
Born out of sci-fi cinema, pulp literature and a general lust for launching ourselves into the wild blue yonder, the real-world Rocket Belt began to truly unfold once the military industrial complex opened up its wallet. In the late 1950s, the US Army’s Transportation Research Command (TRECOM) was looking at ways to augment the mobility of foot soldiers and enable them to bypass minefields and other obstacles on the battleground by making long-range jumps. It put out a call to various aerospace companies looking for prototypes of a Small Rocket Lift Device (SRLD). Bell Aerospace, which had built the sound-barrier-breaking X-1 aircraft for the Army Air Forces, managed to get the contract and Wendell Moore, a propulsion engineer at Bell became the technical lead.
Bill Suitor geared up and ready to demo the Rocket Belt for NASA and the USGS – circa 1966.
Bell Aerosystems Rocket Belt
The most viable design at Bell’s Buffalo, NY, facility was a hydrogen peroxide rocket-propulsion system, which offered a relatively stable fuel with no combustion. It was dubbed the Rocket Belt and was essentially a three-tank system mounted onto a fiberglass corset molded to fit the operator. The center tank was filled with nitrogen gas and the side tanks contained a 90 percent hydrogen peroxide mix. The nitrogen would force the fuel into a gas-generating catalyst that converted it into a highly pressurized mix of oxygen and water (steam), and then out of two nozzles on either side of the operator, providing 280 pounds of thrust (and a good deal of heat). After the thrust capability, one of the primary difficulties was in achieving a steady and stable flight. Phase one in Bell’s testing was completed by December 1960, and due to the experimental nature of strapping rockets onto the test pilot (Moore himself), they were all done with a safety tether attached.
It was time to move on to phase two of the Rocket Belt’s testing, which meant free-form, untethered flights. After injuring his knee in one of the flight tests, Moore had to pass on the torch to his associate and engineer Harold Graham, who took over as test pilot. After significant testing, Graham made the first successful untethered flight with the Rocket Belt in April of ’61, managing to hit 10MPH during a 13-second flight and covering a total distance of 112 feet. It was a promising achievement, but fuel depletion and flight longevity were major concerns when considering potential field applications. In fact, about 10 seconds of the flight would need to be focused on making a landing. Early designs even included warning lights and a steady beeping that was piped into the pilot’s headset at the 10-second countdown, as if flying around with a rocket on your back wasn’t nerve-racking enough. Although, according to Bill Suitor, who later joined the team, they maintained a 100 percent safety record over the course of 3,000 flights between April 1961 and 1969.
Bill Suitor mid-flight in the Rocket Belt at Hopi Buttes, AZ – circa 1966.
Graham’s successful flight with the Rocket Belt led Bell Aerosystems on a nearly decade-long series of demonstrations for the public, press and various government officials. In October 1961, Graham even demoed the Rocket Belt for President John F. Kennedy, launching from a boat to meet the president at shore nearly 200 feet away. With the number of appearances growing, Bell needed to find more pilots and the Army even requested that untrained personnel be among them. Moore decided to offer this exciting opportunity to Suitor, his 19-year-old neighbor, and it’s no great surprise that he took the job. After making 60 tethered training flights, Suitor was free to rocket about the place unrestrained and join the Rocket Belt flight team. As 1965 rolled around, already a veteran at state fair demonstrations, Suitor landed a role as stunt double for the James Bond movie Thunderball, replacing special effects with the real thing.
Although the Rocket Belt had a degree of success with its tests, it failed to meet the standards of the Army and was never put into production. In 1966, Bell took the device out to Hopi Buttes, Ariz., to show it off to NASA and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) as a potential Lunar Flying Vehicle (LFV) for upcoming moon missions. By this time, the Rocket Belt was managing to stay aloft for about 21.5 seconds and approached a maximum range of 860 feet, and eventually hit top speeds of up to 80MPH. In 1968, NASA granted Bell Aerosystems a $250,000 contract (about $1.7 million in today’s market) to develop lunar vehicle concepts with its rocket system. This led to the development of various “pogo” type units, which had rigid frames and could carry up to two passengers. One of the primary avenues of research was to develop a LEAP (Lunar Escape Astronaut Pogo), which could be used as a backup plan to help astronauts stranded on the moon’s surface to return to the orbiting lunar command module. Problems with limited range and rapid fuel depletion reared their heads again and the designs were never adopted.
The TAM Jetpack.
While the Rocket Belt never turned our armed forces into valley-leaping juggernauts, it continued to capture the hearts of the public. In 1984, Suitor piloted a version of the Rocket Belt during the opening ceremonies of the Los Angeles Olympics. Jetpack-type devices became a popular attraction at auto rallies, aviation shows and other high-energy gatherings. Inventors and hobbyists continued the work that Moore began at Bell Aerospace, creating their own variations of the hydrogen peroxide-powered pack, including a later model Jetbelt built by Juan Manuel Lozano Gallegos for his company Tecnologia Aeroespacial Mexicana (TAM). You can currently get one of the TAM Jetbelts built to your own custom specifications and it comes with a device that helps you make your own rocket-grade 90 percent hydrogen peroxide fuel mix. It’s considerably lighter than Moore’s version, using modern materials like carbon fiber and composites to accommodate slightly larger tanks for extending flight times up to 35 seconds. The TAM Jetbelt may set you back a modest $95,000, but that’s still cheaper than a fully loaded Tesla Model S and once you’re cruising through the air at $2,700-per-second on that first flight, money will probably be the last thing on your mind.
[Image credits: USGS (Bill Suitor 1966, Hopi Buttes, AZ); USPTO #-3021095 (diagram); Keystone/Getty Images (Pogo); TAM (TAM Jetpack)]
Ten years ago today (in fact, exactly 10 years ago, if you’re reading this post in real time), Engadget was born. Our first post featured T-Flash, a new memory card format created to serve cellphone users who wanted extra storage — as long as they were willing to cap their needs at 128MB.
We followed that initial post with another 13 that day, all written by founding editor Peter Rojas in his New York apartment. Peter had recently left Gizmodo, which he also co-founded, and saw both of those sites as being at the forefront of a reinvention of journalism. As he pointed out in a recent conversation:
I liked writing about tech, and I wanted to write as a fan, as someone who was really into this stuff — not just as a journalist or a dispassionate observer. That’s one of the things that made blogging great; it was people who were talking about things from their own perspective as enthusiasts, not just telling you industry news.
The T-Flash brand featured in our first post was eventually dropped in favor of the better-known microSD. The latest iteration, announced by SanDisk just last week, has 128GB of storage space, a thousand-fold increase in capacity over the version we highlighted a decade ago.
Like those memory cards, Engadget has continued to grow. Fourteen-post days have given way to periods when our daily updates number in the hundreds, as we cover major product launches, breaking news and industry events like CES and Mobile World Congress. Along the way, we’ve added videos, a massive product database, user reviews and forums and our own reviews of thousands of products. We’ve also built a team that has included some of the most talented writers and editors in the tech space, including Peter’s successors, Ryan Block, Joshua Topolsky and Tim Stevens.
During the next few months, our 10 Years In series will commemorate our 10th year by highlighting the many ways the consumer electronics landscape has evolved during the past decade. Stay tuned for the final word on PDAs, PMPs and CRTs.
As we celebrate our 10th anniversary, one thing hasn’t changed: our obsessive approach to providing you with the best news and information about consumer electronics and technology. Thanks for joining us as we enter our second decade!
Coming tomorrow: The early days of Engadget, with more comments from Peter Rojas and an exclusive look at the evolution of Engadget’s iconic logo.
(Engadget birthday cake by Bruno)
We’re not sure how long it takes for someone to become an honorary Tokyoite, but whatever the answer, it’s clear Mat Smith is still fairly green. After two years as an Engadget editor based in London, Mat moved to Japan last summer to run our coverage there. And run it he does. But can he call himself a transplant? Probably not yet. But adopting a robot was a good first step.
When in Japan, you buy a robot vacuum. That’s the rule, right? I needed no persuasion, although I’m already imprinting pet-owning behavior on the not-sentient Roomba 770, which I’ve now named TBD-3000. I managed to game the multiple chains of electronics retailers here in Tokyo, cutting around $150 off its MSRP, but even then, robot vacuums (the decent, sensor-loaded types) aren’t cheap. The argument goes they’re more of a supplementary dust and hair remover you can add to your existing OCD cleaning arsenal. I don’t believe that: I don’t own a normal vacuum cleaner. Instead, I go for the old-school dustpan and brush when the TBD can’t clean where I want it to.
One month in, I’m still very much in the honeymoon period of robot vacuum ownership. When it bumps into the same table leg umpteen times in a 30-minute period, it’s still adorable. The iRobot models are far quieter than regular upright vacuums, but by no stretch are they silent. I’ve scheduled mine to clean mid-morning as a sort of brutal alarm clock to ensure I make the most of my weekends. My apartment is practically built for a robot cleaner too: it’s a one-floor affair, with hard flooring and a few rugs, none of which the bot had trouble getting onto. Disposing of what the robot finds is easy and pretty much mess-free, and I’ve been pleased with how much cleaner the floor remains. As long as the Roomba manages a few circuits every two weeks (you can schedule specific days too), I don’t need to concern myself with floor cleaning at all.
It’s not perfect, however. Sometimes it simply peters out of power, and I’ll later stub my toe on it under the dining table, or beneath the corner of my bed. It also likes to chew up the mat next to my kitchen sink — this is where I find it most days, stuck. It’s also gone through one pair of iPhone headphones and two USB cables, coercing me into being tidier. A little more disturbingly, I often catch TBD-3000 chewing its own AC charger, which hooks into its charging dock. That’s not going to end well.
– Mat Smith
Filed under: Household
Each week our friends at Inhabitat recap the week’s most interesting green developments and clean tech news for us — it’s the Week in Green.
Extreme weather is dominating the headlines yet again this winter. California is in the midst of a historic drought, which has many observers wondering if desalination is the answer to the state’s water problems. This week, workers broke ground on what will soon be the largest desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere near San Diego. Man-made fixes like desalination plants aren’t likely to solve the problems brought on by climate change, but they could help mitigate the effects. For example, a team of researchers found that offshore wind farms could reduce wind speeds, wave heights and storm surges resulting from hurricanes. A string of harsh winter storms has battered most of North America all winter, but here’s one vehicle that can cut right through the snow: A Quebec man created a crazy battery-powered sled that can navigate the most treacherous terrain. And architects from the London-based firm Orproject have drafted plans for large inflatable bubbles that would give residents of Beijing a place to escape from the city’s suffocating smog.
Tesla has been ruling the electric car world recently, and now the company has another feather to put in its cap: Consumer Reports just named the Tesla Model S the Best Overall Car. Tesla also announced plans to build a new large-scale “gigafactory” that could reduce the cost of lithium-ion batteries by more than 30 percent. In other automotive news, Hyundai announced that it will begin leasing a fuel cell version of its Tucson crossover in the US next year. When the car becomes available, drivers in Southern California will be able to power it using processed sewage. In Spain, the Electric Mobility Company developed a solar-powered recharging station for its Xkuty One electric bike. And one of Inhabitat’s editors tested out the ShareRoller, a new compact device that can transform any Citi Bike into an easy-to-ride electric bike. In Italy, a retired schoolteacher bought a used Ape motorbike and modified it to create a portable library that houses 700 books.
The tiny house trend has taken off in recent years, and now tiny homes are being used to help solve America’s homeless problem. From Portland to Provo, people are building micro dwellings to give homeless people a place to sleep. Small-space living isn’t just popular in the US — in Tel Aviv, architects from Raanan Stern’s studio designed a highly efficient 15-square-meter apartment that’s filled with transforming furniture. On the island of Sandhornøya in northern Norway, Solardome Industries built a large geodesic dome that contains a three-level cob home. Architect Vincent Callebaut recently released renderings of a futuristic city district designed for Kunming, China that consists of 45 energy-positive villas set on a huge community orchard and food garden. And the Swiss Alpine Club recently redesigned a hut nestled in the heart of the Valais Alps that is completely powered by the sun.
In environmental news, scientists have confirmed that a piece of zircon found in Jack Hills, Australia is the oldest fragment of Earth ever found. Last week, Google Earth users were surprised to see a massive mysterious spiral in the Sahara Desert — turns out it’s an immense land art installation created by three artists near the Red Sea over two years. Google also unveiled Global Forest Watch, a new online tool that allows organizations to monitor deforestation around the world. Fitbit announced that it is voluntarily recalling its Force fitness-tracking bracelet after some users complained of rashes and burns on their wrists. And for tech-savvy moms and dads, Sleekbit has created a new Android app called Dormi that can turn smartphones into mobile baby monitors.
Filed under: Misc
Job adverts aren’t most reliable way to hear about new technology, but interesting ones do crop up from time to time, and that’s why our eyes are drawn to one recently posted by Daimler, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz. The ad requests the services of a software engineer who can help the German car maker implement Google’s forthcoming in-car system, which is apparently called “Google Projected Mode” and which is described as a way to “seamlessly integrate” Android smartphones into a dashboard’s head unit. This head unit would presumably house a bigger display that mirrors a simplified version of the Android UI — unless the use of the word “projected” implies something more futuristic.
The ad makes no mention of how the connection is made between the phone and the dash, for example whether it’s cabled, wireless or a mixture of the two. However, it does refer to media playback, messaging, calls and navigation all being handled “safely” through the vehicle’s control system, which suggests this will be a fully featured alternative to Apple’s “iOS in the Car.” Perhaps the most revealing thing is a line at the end of job description that refers to Google Projected Mode coming to “all Mercedes-Benz vehicles in all markets worldwide.” That sounds like a pretty firm commitment to the platform, even if Daimler can’t claim to be a founding member of Google’s new Open Automotive Alliance.
[Thanks to everyone who sent this in.]
Source: Daimler [German]
Whatever you think of Apple’s products, there’s no denying that Tim Cook has played a large role in making them profitable, first as an operations executive and later in running the company. But just what kind of a leader is he? Thanks to an excerpt from Yukari Iwatani Kane’s upcoming book Haunted Empire, we have a clearer picture of what makes Cook tick. He’s both very meticulous and a motivator, according to Kane. While he’s known for holding six-hour review meetings and chewing people out for minor slip-ups, he also inspires hard work and encourages a charitable, friendly atmosphere at 1 Infinite Loop. He’s also characterized as relentless — the sort who’d go straight to the office after a red-eye flight. The excerpt likely won’t change your mind on Cook’s strategy, but it’s worth a read if you want to know what drives one of the technology industry’s most distinctive CEOs.
Source: Wall Street Journal
Search engine marketing or Search Engine Optimization is essential to the success of your blog. Get it proper and you will see floods of free traffic coming to your web site from the search engines. Get it mistaken and your blog could be dead within the water before you even start.
There are specific things that the bots are looking for when they’re crawling your site. They need to know immediately what your weblog is about. Also they need to have the ability to navigate round your site and from page to page easily. If they can do this then they will give you good credit within the search engines.
A great place inside Google, Yahoo and Bing can ship you numerous pretty free, focused traffic.
These are the 5 issues that you must do to increase your probabilities of an excellent ranking.
Key phrase Analysis: As soon as you already know your area of interest the following job is to define your primary keyword. You’re in search of an essential key phrase that describes your area of interest effectively, that has good search quantity however low to medium competition has. For those who get this proper than half the battle is done. While you determine on your predominant keyword, look for 5-10 Lei (Layton Symantec indexing) keywords. These lengthy tail keywords might be what Google determines are valid and linked to your fundamental keyword.
Your Blog URL: Now you could have your foremost keyword, this keyword must be in your blog URL. Or no less than function in your URL. Let’s simply say your key phrase is “pet coaching” your weblog URL would want to include the key phrase “pet coaching” in some form.
Your Weblog Title: Again your keyword needs to be in your blog title. This manner when the bots and folks search for a key phrase and your site comes up with that keyword in the URL and in the title they’ll know immediately what your blog matter is.
Weblog Classes: We talked earlier about lengthy tail keywords (LSI). Ideally these 5-10 keywords should make up your category titles. When the various search engines have a look at your site they will see your major key phrase but also keywords that they affiliate with your primary keyword. Subsequently providing you with higher recognition in the serps.
Inside Linking: Inner linking is a key part to your own web page SEO. This means that all your posts and pages should connect to every other. When you write a put up put a link in it to a previous post. Another good tip is to have a listing of hyperlinks to relevant posts underneath each post. This not solely gives your reader more selection, it also hyperlinks all your posts together making navigation easier.
The identical goes to your pages; you can link to them from your home web page, however then link the pages to each other as well.
When first creating your weblog, it’s fairly simple to get your on page web optimization right; it is nevertheless a bit harder as soon as your weblog is up and running. Comply with the following pointers and your weblog will rank fairly simply in the search engines.
What if you could turn the music down on your phone by just waving your hand? That’s the idea behind AllSee, a new gadget under development by computer scientists at the University of Washington. Built by the same guys who created the gesture-recognition in the Galaxy Nexus, the tiny sensor works completely different than the feature in devices like the Galaxy S5 that require the use of the forward-facing camera. Instead, AllSee uses TV signals to not only help it recognize gestures, but also as exceptionally efficient source power. That means it doesn’t need a battery to operate and can see your movements even when your phone is out of sight in your pocket — pretty awesome.
AllSee is able to do that by working essentially as a wireless receiver. When you move your hand, you disrupt the wireless signals around you in a way that it can recognize and then translate into a command. The best part? AllSee is able to do it all at a price of less than a buck. While the tech is currently being demoed on a phone, it’s a pretty neat trick that we can see implemented a number of pretty fantastic ways. A robot to bring you a drink with a simple ‘come hither’ motion, anyone?
Well, that took awhile. Remember Instacube, the purpose-built digital photo frame designed to pull images directly from your Instagram feed? The Android-powered photo screen found itself short on both funding and manufacturing options last summer. These issues set production back almost a year, but come April 5th, it’ll all pay off — the first units are finally shipping out. Instacube’s creators used the extra time productively, at least: the final hardware was redesigned to include speakers (to support Instagram video). Future updates will imbue it with the ability to stream content from Facebook, Vine, Flickr and other services, too. Kickstarter backers who opted for the white or classic models should get their units in the next few months, but the team says additional styles won’t be available until production hits full steam. A bummer for sure, but hey, folks have waited longer to get Instagram.
Filed under: Internet