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9
Jun

Denon adds Hi-Res to HEOS, confirms wider system expansion


Denon announced a major upgrade to its HEOS multi-room speaker range in the form of the HEOS HS2 a couple of months ago and the new range is now available to buy.

The HEOS HS2 range carries the same design as the original HEOS HS1 system and the two ranges will work together but the HS2 speakers add Hi-Res audio support and built-in Bluetooth functionality.

There are four speakers within the HEOS system comprising the HEOS 1, HEOS 3, HEOS 5 and HEOS 7. Alongside this, there is also the HEOS HomeCinema, which is a soundbar and sub duo, the HEOS Drive, which is a multi-zone AMP and the HEOS AMP, which will turn any speakers into a wireless zone.

Denon also offers the HEOS Link which is a wireless pre-amplifier that will turn any stereo system into a wireless zone, allowing users to connect up a separate AV receiver for example.

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This latter device might not be necessary for too much longer for everyone however as Denon has also announced its HEOS technology will be introduced to a couple of AVRs across the Denon and Marantz ranges.

The AVRs powered by HEOS will enable users to access music streaming services including Spotify, Tidal, Deezer and Napster, among others, as well as control them through the main HEOS app, removing the need for the HEOS Link.

The Denon 4300H and 6300H AVRs will be powered by HEOS when they arrive, along with the Marantz SR7011 and AV7703 but prices and availability are not yet known.

The HEOS technology will be added to other products across the brands in the future and Denon has also said it will be introducing a HEOS AVR. When asked when it would arrive, we were told sometime in 2017 so it’s all systems go for HEOS. Watch out Sonos.

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9
Jun

Tesla drops the price of its entry-level Model S, say hello to the 60 and 60D


Followers of Tesla’s EV march will have noticed a slight change to the line-up the company offers for the Model S. Gone is the 70D and in its place is the 60 and 60D. 

For those who don’t know, Tesla’s model naming follows its available battery capacity, so it’s no surprise to find that the Tesla Model S 60 has a 60kWh battery. Well, it doesn’t, but we’ll get to that.

There are two models of the new 60, the regular rear-wheel drive option and the 60D, which adds all-wheel drive for a £4,400 premium. Currently in the UK, the Model S 60 is the only rear-wheel drive option, and now the cheapest at £46,900.

We say £46,900, but that includes the government’s rebate as well as an estimation for fuel savings, so the actual cash price is £53,400, but let’s not dwell on that.

The specifications for the 60 reads out as a 248-mile range (NEDC), 0-60mph in 5.5-seconds and a 130mph top speed. The 60D manages 253 miles (NEDC), 5.2-seconds to 60mph as a slight boost. 

Of course you get all the technical gubbins, with the option for Autopilot at £2,200, or the premium package for £2,600 and plenty more.

However, there’s a twist to this tale that might sound familiar. There’s the option to boost the battery to 75kWh with the payment of a fee of £7,500. This brings with it a 50-mile range boost. Take that option on the 60D and you get a 51-mile boost.

But it seems that the Tesla Model S 60 already has the larger capacity battery on-board, you just can’t access the full capacity. This has been the subject of debate over the past few months as this was also the case with the Model S 70D that’s just been phased out. 

With that in mind, the introduction of the Tesla Model S 60 is really a shift down in price for a slightly lower entry point to the Tesla world, rather than any shift in battery capacity or technology. 

But, if you do part with your money, there’s still the option to get that battery boost after you’ve bought the car: it just costs £7,850, £350 more than if you do it at the time of purchase. 

The Tesla Model S 60 is available to order now, with a delivery expected in August 2016.

9
Jun

Denon’s AH-7200 over-ear headphones: Wood you wear them?


Denon has announced it will be launching a new model of over-ear headphones at the end of 2016.

The AH-D7200s feature real wood housing similar to the company’s D7100s but the new model is a little larger and rounder in comparison to the older model.

There is a 50mm Denon Free Edge Driver within the new headphones to enable pure piston motion for what the company says will deliver superior sound, and the wood is also said to enhance the sound quality.

Additionally, the AH-D7200s feature three dimensional-cut artificial leather ear-pads, a 7N purity cable and a 3.5mm detachable cable system. There is an Apple remote and microphone cable included and a cable jack floating system to stop cable vibration noise is also on board.

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While we weren’t able to test the sound quality of the D7200s, they were comfy, even if they felt a little large for our head. The cushioning felt nice though and the design is sophisticated.

A pair of dual driver in-ear headphones and another pair of in-ear headphones were also announced at the company European conference in the form of the AH-C821s and AH-C720s, respectively. The C821s will arrive in September for £149 and the C720s will also launch in September for £119.

The flagship over-ear Denon AH-D7200s will be available from December for £599.

9
Jun

Anki Overdrive Supertrucks: Extending AI racing to big rigs


Anki has steadily improved its Overdrive AI racing system since it launched last year. Software enhancements have added extra modes, like One Shot Kill and Balanced Cars, and it now sports handy features, such as replaying the same track without the cars having to scan it again.

Now we get the first major hardware update. The company has added new vehicles in the form of two big articulated supertrucks: Freewheel and X52. These hold true to the Matchbox toy aesthetic while mixing in the talents of Harald Belker, who also worked on the movie Minority Report.

In the hand, they have more weight than the cars. They’re three times the size, after all. They also have upgraded motors to offer the extra grunt needed to pull those trailers around any of your Anki Overdrive tracks.

It takes a bit of getting used to. The trucks handle very differently to the cars. Their articulation requires you to take corners a little wider to avoid clipping the connection bumps. They take longer to get going, but once rolling they’re harder to stop.

READ: Anki Overdrive review: App-controlled car racing fun for all the family

The smartphone app used to control the vehicles has been updated to match, with bespoke designs for each car and truck making it easier to remember who you are controlling in the current challenge.

The trucks’ acceleration is controlled by an on-off pedal rather than slider, which adds to the sense that these big rigs need constant power to keep them rolling. There’s also a new rage meter for them which slowly fills as their speed builds.

Once the rage meter is full the real fun starts. Tapping rage puts the truck straight into top speed and triggers a weapon that whizzes any cars in front of it off the track. It sounds a bit over-powered but actually requires quite a bit of skill to use.

The trucks each have a special weapon as well. Freewheel has “Gravity Trap” that disables opponents making them to lose control. X52 has an “Air Ram” attack that forces cars up to top speed to send them sprawling off corners.

Speaking to Anki Engineer on Supertrucks, Tommy Liu, I asked how the trucks’ weapons would effect other trucks: “We can race two trucks but the exact effect we are still figuring out and tuning the best way for it to be the most fun,” he said.

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Hearing how the Supertrucks required Anki to redesign the artificial intelligence, there is obviously a lot more going on under the hood here than is immediately apparent. “There’s a lot of work that went into modelling the truck and how it handles. We had to change our AI path-finding so it could plan the best place to use the truck weapons.”

Liu was keen to talk about the new game mode that trucks offer, in addition to being able to add them into existing battles and challenges: “The user interface detects if you have a truck connected,” he explained. “The Takeover mode will be greyed out unless you have a truck. We also customised the screens so you can see more easily which car you are driving.”

This Takeover mode is where Supertrucks really starts to get exciting. Human opponents each race in a car, but to earn points they must Takeover the truck by shooting it. Get a successful hit and they are swapped into the truck’s driver seat and can earn points by taking down the other cars.

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It works well because everyone has a chance to drive the truck, and there’s a balance between being in the more powerful truck and having all the other players trying to take you down.

It’s in this balancing of the game between trucks and cars that Anki must focus for Supertrucks to be a success. It’s certainly fun to drive the big rigs around the track, blasting the cars out the way, but it’s also important that the cars can fight back too. Modes like Takeover go a long way to resolve this tensions.

The two trucks will be available from 3rd October and cost £59.99. To use them you need an Anki Overdrive starter set that retails at around £149.99.

9
Jun

Denon AH-C160W wireless fitness headphones: Small, light and waterproof


Alongside a new model of flagship over-ear headphones, Denon has also announced an upgrade to its wireless fitness headphones. 

The AH-C160Ws are said to be 20 per cent lighter and smaller than the original AH-W150s, alongside offering better comfort. They feature a sporty, premium design and a waterproof rating of IPX/7, which is an improvement on their predecessors. 

The new wireless fitness headphones will be available in three colours comprising black, white and blue, all of which will offer support for voice prompts in seven languages. The previous model came in yellow, blue and black.

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The AH-C160Ws are equipped with Bluetooth, as you would expect, and they feature a Sports Comply ear tip that Denon says will offer a comfort fit. Driver size has not been detailed as yet but their predecessors offer an 11.5mm so we would imagine the new model will be similar.

We weren’t able to try the new wireless fitness headphones on, but they look nice and slim so we’re hoping they won’t look too bulky when worn. There are volume controls on the side and the rubber texture looks comfortable.

The Denon AH-C160W wireless fitness headphones will be available from November 2016 for £129, complete with a carrying case.

9
Jun

The smarthome journey so far


The term smarthome has become increasingly common, no longer a phrase we associate with the future, instead become something of the now.

The evolution of the smarthome hasn’t happened overnight however. It has been a long road to bring us to the present day and there have been many key milestones along the smart home road, such as the very thing that connects it all together becoming more affordable.

You might think that smarthomes started with a connected thermostat or lightbulb, but there was a lot more happening before we arrived at that point.

Without home appliances emerging in the first place, we couldn’t even begin to consider the possibility of receiving notifications from them, Or even sending them messages.

The smarthome journey has followed a long and winding road and will continue to do so as new technologies and devices continue to launch.

We’ve pulled out some key markers in the smarthome’s journey so far. Click here to head to the gallery to see where it all begun and run through some of the biggest influences to where the smarthome is now.


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9
Jun

Hot Jupiter planets can speed up their stars’ rotation


Hot Jupiter exoplanets are the farthest thing from habitable, but that doesn’t mean they’re boring. Scientists from Princeton University and elsewhere have discovered one that is so large and close to a star that it actually changes its rotational speed. Called HATS-18 after the main telescope (HATSouth) used to discover it, the planetary system is about 2,100 light-years away. However, it’s ridiculously near its star (closer than Mercury is to our sun) and huge, at 1.34 times the size of Jupiter, so it completes an orbit in less than an Earth day.

After taking about 10,000 images of the star with HATSouth and other telescopes, the researchers inferred the planet’s transit around it. They concluded that it actually causes disruptive tides on the star that change its orbital speed. “The high planet mass, combined with its short orbital period, implies strong tidal coupling between the planetary orbit and the star. In fact, given its inferred age, HATS-18 shows evidence of significant tidal spin up,” wrote the researchers.

The team believes that the system could become a laboratory of sorts to help scientists learn about planetary formation. They next want to compare the results with the few other hot Jupiter-style planets out there to more accurately predict how planetary tides affect stars and vice-versa. For instance, their calculations suggest that the planet will take a full extra minute to orbit the star in just 28 years. “HATS-18 is an extreme short-period planet which is among the best targets for testing theories of planet-star interactions,” they say.

Via: Popular Mechanics

Source: Cornel University (PDF)

9
Jun

The BBC takes its first steps into ‘true VR’


The BBC is in something of an enviable position. As part of its duty to “inform, educate and entertain,” the broadcaster is effectively mandated to innovate — to explore new technologies that can better serve the public. This is the job of BBC R&D, which is looking to virtual reality as a new way to tell stories, without the same commercial pressures other broadcasters face. There’s a certain freedom in this, and it’s allowing the BBC to go beyond 360-degree video and dip its toe into more immersive “true VR” experiences, with the first of these being published today.

Easily accessible, 360-degree video has already found favour at the BBC. You don’t even need a cheap headset like Google Cardboard to take a tour of the Large Hadron Collider, walk alongside a titanosaur with David Attenborough, learn about Rome’s Pantheon or get the best seats in the house at a Strictly Come Dancing show. This type of content is (relatively) quick and inexpensive to produce, making it attractive in the nearer-term.

The BBC’s latest 360-degree video, launched today on BBC Taster, Facebook and YouTube, puts you in the front row of the recent dress rehearsal of “Trooping the Colour,” the annual pageant that this year will mark the Queen’s 90th birthday. The beauty of 360-degree video is you can consume it on pretty much any device in one form of another. Aided by third-party expertise, though, the BBC has also begun testing more powerful hardware and creating “true VR” experiences in fully computer-generated worlds to tell stories in new and different ways.

A couple of these early experiments are available to download from today on the BBC Taster site, including “Easter Rising: Voice of a Rebel,” created for the Oculus Rift. This almost dreamlike production puts you in the shoes of Willie McNieve, who participated in the Irish rebellion against British rule in Dublin, 1916. It succeeds in making this historical event an extremely personal one, using an audio account McNieve himself recorded to guide the story.

Also designed for Oculus Rift and published on BBC Taster today is the slightly more arresting “We Wait.” In it, you become one of a group of fictional migrants waiting in the night to cross from Turkey to Greece in an ill-suited smugglers’ boat. Despite the angular looks of the computer-generated avatars, elements like the blinding flashlight beams, the rumble of the boat’s small motor, and the shudder in your companions’ voices leave you with a palpable sense of unease.

On a lighter note, “The Turning Forest” is a modern VR fairytale that uses 3D audio to compelling effect. A rustle of leaves in the enchanted wood may be telling you where to look, or perhaps it’s just a distraction. Several light, interactive elements anchor you in this psychedelic fantasy, while a giant friend takes you on a journey of pure escapism. “The Turning Forest” premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year, and will be available for the Oculus Rift via BBC Taster in the coming months.

Probably the BBC’s most ambitious project, “Home – A VR Spacewalk” uses the HTC Vive and motion controllers to put you to work on the International Space Station. My demo also entailed wearing a heart-rate monitor that fed real-time data and sound back into my spacesuit, and sitting in a haptic feedback chair for even greater immersion. The premise of the player-driven experience is simple: get out there and repair some minor external damage. It ends up being far from simple. Debuting at the Sheffield Doc/Fest today alongside several other VR experiences, it’ll be available on BBC Taster later this year.

These first steps into “true VR” aren’t just an opportunity for the BBC to explore different headset hardware, virtual reality formats and techniques, but a range of content too: from educational to emotive, entertaining to unnerving. The BBC is well aware that only the earliest of adopters have Rifts and Vives at home, but there was also a time when TV was a brand new medium, and sets scarce.

By conducting these trials, the BBC wants to put itself in a position to work with VR if and when powerful headsets become more common. “The BBC’s storytelling tradition is all around experiences,” BBC R&D Controller Andy Conroy told me. “I suspect somewhere in here is one of the genres where that notion of ‘experiencing VR’ is the perfect way of telling that story. And that’s what it’ll add to us.”

Source: BBC (1), (2), BBC Taster

9
Jun

Tesla’s most affordable Model S returns with bigger battery


Tesla’s more affordable Model S 60 is back, and it comes with a more attractive base price of $66,000 (£53,000). That’s around $4,000 less for the 60kWh sedan that the automaker originally sold from 2012 to 2015 before it was replaced by the 70D. To sweeten the deal, Tesla added a 75kWh battery pack to the car and the extra power and range can be unlocked via a software update if the owner needs to do so. Of course, there’s an added cost involved for the update, but exact pricing for that hasn’t been revealed.

So, why is Tesla bringing back the lower-cost option? It’s simple: consumer demand. “We’ve heard from a number of people who would like to buy a Model S, but can more easily afford it only at a lower price point,” Tesla spokesperson Alexis Georgeson told CNBC. The 60 and 60D won’t be the the most affordable option in the company’s garage for long though, as its $35,000 Model 3 is set to debut next year. For now, the Model S 60’s 210 miles of range (pre-upgrade), 130 MPH top speed and 0-60 MPH in 5.5 seconds is the most budget-friendly Tesla.

Model S 60 & 60D now available starting at $66K https://t.co/6SRhJSbtBK pic.twitter.com/LVPxEu3fvn

— Tesla Motors (@TeslaMotors) June 9, 2016

Via: CNBC

Source: Tesla Motors (Twitter)

9
Jun

HTC launches the Vive Business Edition for $1,200


HTC has just made a surprising reveal of a new version of a business version of its Vive VR headset. It’s called the Vive Business Edition (BE), and you basically get the same headset and accessories (two Vive controllers, two base stations and four face cushions) as consumers. However, business buyers also get a dedicated customer support line and the option to buy more than one headset (right now, consumers sales are limited to a single device). For all that, you’ll pay $1,200 in the US, or £849 in the UK and €1,080 in Europe — a significant premium to the $799 consumer price.

After strong initial sales, you can now get a regular Vive pretty soon after you order it — a sign that consumer demand may have waned. While $799 is a big ask for you or me, $1,200 isn’t a big deal for many companies, so HTC obviously wants to tap that market. “Virtual reality has already proven its appeal among consumers and is now revealing its potential for enterprise, says VP Daniel O’Brien. “We are answering the overwhelming demand from global industries for a complete VR experience.”

HTC recently launched the Vive X fund to help companies build VR apps for the device. Virtual reality also has huge potential in the business world for architecture, visualization and design, among other applications. As an example, it cited partner Dassault, which has developed software to help companies design and collaborate in a VR environment.

As such, HTC is offering a commercial license and limited 12-month guarantee as part of the Vive BE package (the consumer guarantee is limited to non-commercial applications). The Vive BE is launching this month in the US, Canada, UK, Germany and France, and will arrive elsewhere “in the coming weeks.”

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