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Inhabitat’s Week in Green: The world’s skinniest tower, and more!

Local Motors just unveiled the bus of the future, and it’s fully autonomous, made by a 3D printer and controlled by IBM’s flagship artificial intelligence system. In other transportation news, a German official declared that all new cars registered in the nation will need to be zero-emission by the year 2030. Tesla announced plans to sell its electric vehicles in a Nordstrom store in Los Angeles. And a solar-powered boat embarked on a historic journey across the Atlantic Ocean.
The world’s new tallest tower was just approved for Dubai — and it’ll dwarf the reigning Burj Khalifa by 100 meters. Meanwhile, Brighton, England unveiled the world’s skinniest tower: It’s topped with a space-age moving observation pod. Kazakhstan broke ground on a futuristic eco city that will host the World Expo 2017, while a gigantic green pyramid popped up in Paris. Elsewhere in the world, researchers used lasers to reveal lost cities hidden by jungle near Angkor Wat, and a gigantic “Gateway to the Underworld” opened up in Serbia — and it’s rapidly growing.

Hydrogen is a clean, renewable energy source that can be easily stored, but it tends to be expensive and difficult to produce. That’s why it’s exciting that California-based HyperSolar has developed a breakthrough technique for producing hydrogen fuel from water and sunlight. In other energy news, Australia smashed a wind power record last month by generating 1,299 gigawatt-hours of renewable electricity, and Scotland managed to reach its aggressive emissions goal a full six years ahead of schedule. We also spotted a self-sufficient mountain hut that generates all of its own electricity and a chic floating home that’s powered by the sun. Finally, we shared 10 classic science experiments sure to inspire kids of all ages.


Blue Origin lands its reusable rocket a fourth time

Blue Origin’s reusable rocket is practically running like clockwork. The private spaceflight outfit has successfully landed its New Shepard rocket a fourth time (during its first-ever live stream), touching down with a seemingly effortless amount of grace. Jeff Bezos and company weren’t just showing off, though. They also successfully tested the redundancy of the crew capsule’s parachute system, showing that the capsule can survive even if one of the chutes fails. We’re still a long way from testing a manned capsule (the windows are still painted on in this version), but it’s an important step toward the goal of lower-cost space travel. You can watch the entire replay below — if you want to cut to the chase, the launch starts around the 1h 2m mark.

Source: Blue Origin (YouTube)


‘Batman Arkham VR’ put me inside the Batsuit

Telltale wasn’t the only developer that brought Batman to E3 this year: The folks at Rocksteady Games packed The Dark Knight into their suitcases as well. Batman Arkham VR was a surprise reveal at Sony’s keynote earlier this week and drew a huge round of applause when it appeared on stage. Once I strapped a PlayStation VR headset (it’s a timed-exclusive to the platform this October), I could tell why the team worked so hard to keep it a secret.

I started out the demo standing in the foyer of Wayne Manor, staring at a pair of beat-up disembodied hands floating in front of me. Each pantomimed in time with the PlayStation Move wands in my own hands. Bruce Wayne’s butler Alfred Pennyworth walked in, said a few words and handed me a key for the Bat Cave’s secret entrance. Putting it in the nearby piano’s keyboard cover exposed the ivories, and I instinctively dragged my finger from one end to the other.

The platform I was standing on slowly descended toward Wayne’s clandestine lair, and stopped a few seconds later, with me putting on bits of the Bat Suit piece by piece. First a pair of gloves, then strapping Batarangs, a grapnel gun and an environmental scanner to Bats’ trademark utility belt.

And then I donned the cowl that has struck fear into the hearts of Gotham City’s countless fictitious criminals. Paired with longtime Batman voice actor Kevin Conroy (who brought Bruce Wayne to life in Batman: The Animated Series and each previous Arkham game), the process of suiting up went a long way to making me feel like I actually was the Caped Crusader. Then the elevator descended further into the Bat Cave, which was beset on all sides with waterfalls.

The bust of a Tyrannosaurus was off to the left — a nod to a comic book storyline from the ’40s — and a colony of bats swirled off in the distance. Just as I was settling into my new role, gazing around in childlike wonder, because, there I was in the Bat Cave, I was whisked back to the demo’s main menu. Naturally, it was a perch on the Gotham City Police Department’s roof, with the Bat Signal at my back.

The other portion of the demo had me piecing together a murder by using Bats’ high-tech forensic tools — familiar stuff for anyone who played last year’s Arkham Knight. Like that game, Arkham VR isn’t afraid to go dark: The victim is Dick Grayson, better known as Nightwing. The scene takes place in a garbage-filled alley and implements the augmented-reality-style Detective Mode (perhaps the most natural fit for a Batman game in VR) to scour the crime scene for clues. Rotating my arm clockwise and counterclockwise to scrub through the fight’s holographic reconstruction was cool too.

At one point, the brawl was happening right in front of me and I instinctively stepped back, out of the way. I didn’t need to, but it felt like if I didn’t, I’d be bowled over. Movement in VR that doesn’t cause motion sickness is incredibly tricky to get right, so the team at Rocksteady Games avoided typical locomotion.

I was able to look around wherever I wanted, but moving from one location to the next in the alley was handled by looking at a holographic PlayStation Move controller and pressing a button on the real one in my hand. The screen briefly faded to black before warping me to the next vantage point. It breaks the immersion a bit, but I’d rather a brief interruption if it means I don’t feel queasy. After discovering that the Penguin was behind the murder, I fired my grapnel gun at a passing blimp and was transported back to the main menu.

Throughout the experience, I found myself smiling like an idiot. Each previous Arkham game has been jokingly referred to as a “Batman simulator” by fans, but it wasn’t until I donned the Batsuit and investigated a crime scene in VR that it felt like I was actually in the Caped Crusader’s boots.

A studio spokesperson at E3 said that the full experience would take around two to three hours, once the game launches this October, but when I asked about pricing, he said that hadn’t been finalized yet. Hopefully, publisher Warner Bros. Interactive will make this a free update for existing Arkham owners or season pass holders. Or for people who don’t care for the traditional Arkham games but want to role-play as The World’s Greatest Detective in VR, price it at $10 or under.

Follow all the news from E3 2016 here!


The After Math: FIRST!

Now that presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump has come right out and declared “America First”, a popular slogan among white nationalists throughout the country, here’s a look at some of the other precedent-setting events of the week. Microsoft announced that it’s getting into the legal weed game. Regulators have been presented with a proposal for the first US-based human CRISPR experiment. And Broadway announced that it will take the unprecedented step of livestream a musical. Numbers, because how else will we know how unpopular the presidential candidates are?


Bose QuietComfort 35 review – CNET

The Good The Bose QuietComfort 35 combines top-of-the-line active-noise canceling with wireless Bluetooth operation in an extra-comfortable, fold-up design. The sound is excellent for Bluetooth, and it doubles as a great headset for phone calls. Works in wired mode with included cord if battery dies.

The Bad Battery isn’t user-replaceable, and the headphone is heavier than the QuietComfort 25.

The Bottom Line Bluetooth meets best-in-class noise canceling: the Bose QuietComfort 35 is the ultimate noise canceling wireless headphone you can buy right now.

This is the Bose product a lot of people have been waiting for: the QuietComfort 35, an active noise-canceling headphone that’s also wireless.

At $350 (£290, AU$499), it costs more than the wired QuietComfort 25. But at least it’s only a $50 price bump, which puts this around what Beats’ competing Studio Wireless costs. (That 2014 headphone has been discounted in recent months, however, indicating Beats probably has something new coming.)

While the QC35 is very similar looking to the QC25 and is relatively lightweight, it is heavier than the QC25, weighing in at 10.9 ounces or 309 grams vs. 6.9 ounces or 196 grams. The one significant exterior design change Bose has made is to widen the headband, which makes for a little more stable fit with perhaps some added sturdiness.


The QuietComfort 35 has a wider headband than the QuietComfort 25 and weighs more.

Sarah Tew/CNET

With microphones inside and outside the earcups, Bose says the QC35 senses, measures and sends unwanted sounds to two proprietary digital electronic chips — one for each ear — that respond with a precise, equal and opposite signal in less than a fraction of a millisecond. According to Bose, the headphone is also equipped with a new digital equalizing system that balances the sound, whether you’re listening at lower or higher volumes.

Battery life is rated at 20 hours, which is quite good. However, Bose has moved to an integrated rechargeable battery from the the QC25’s AAA removable battery configuration. (Bose’s SoundLink Around-Ear Wireless Headphones II also uses an integrated rechargeable battery.) I personally don’t have a problem with the change — and don’t like having to buy new batteries — but some people prefer their powered headphones to use standard batteries so you can swap in a new one should the headphone die, say, mid-flight. Also, rechargeable batteries only have so many charges in them, and while the one in the QC35 should last several years, it’s not user-replaceable. (By comparison, the Parrot Zik has a removable, rechargeable battery.)

The good news is the headphone does work as a wired headphone if the battery runs out of juice (a 47.2-inch cord is included — it’s slimmer than the one that comes with the QC25 and has no integrated microphone). You just can’t use the noise-canceling or Bluetooth, of course, but at least you can get some sound out of it, and the tight seal of the ear cups does provide a fair amount of noise isolation. As a passive headphone, the QC35 sounds decent — just not $350 decent. When powered on, the digital processing and equalization features do smooth things out and improve the sound, so it’s best used it as a powered headphone.


The headphone is also available in a silver version.

Sarah Tew/CNET

It’s also worth noting that it’s important to have the corded option for airplane use. Some airlines will still restrict you from using Bluetooth headphones during portions of the flight, and a cord is necessary to plug into your seat’s in-flight entertainment system. Thats’ the one drawback of Bose’s upcoming QuietControl 30 in-ear Bluetooth headphone with variable noise-canceling: it can only be used as a wireless headphone and has no corded option.

As for other features, there’s an integrated remote on the right earcup with buttons for adjusting the volume, controlling playback and answering and ending calls. The QC35 also works with Bose’s free Connect app for iOS and Android devices, and I didn’t have any trouble pairing the headphone with an iPhone 6S, Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and and MacBook Air (you can pair the headphone with two devices at the same time and jump back and forth between them).

Bose may add features to the Connect app in the future, but currently it’s pretty basic: It allows you to manage your pairing list, upgrade the firmware and change the auto power off settings (the headphone powers down if you don’t use it for a certain length of time, which is a good battery-saving feature). When you turn on the headphones, a female voice advises you of how much battery life is remaining and with which devices you’re paired. That information is also available in the app.

Bose QuietComfort 35 (pictures)
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Available in silver or black, the QC35 is designed to be used as an advanced wireless headset, and it muffles ambient sounds like wind and crowd noise so callers can hear you better — and vice versa. There’s also a side-tone feature that allows you to hear your own voice in the headphones as you speak so you don’t raise your voice while talking.

It works really well as a headset and is great for conference calls (I’m on one as I write this). It’s superior to the QC25 in this regard.

Best noise-canceling, excellent sound for Bluetooth

The QC35 may not be the best-sounding Bluetooth headphone out there, but it’s certainly among them. I spent most of my time comparing it to the Sennheiser Momentum Wireless and the Beats Studio Wireless, both of which are Bluetooth headphones that feature active noise-canceling (the Parrot Zik 3 and Sony H.ear on Wireless NC do, too).


Xiaomi Mi Max review – CNET

The Good The Xiaomi Mi Max has a brilliant, massive 6.4-inch screen and ridiculously good battery life.

The Bad The phone’s enormous size makes it hard to use one-handed; it’s also heavy and sticks out uncomfortably in your pants pocket.

The Bottom Line The Xiaomi Mi Max’s premium build, amazing battery life and superlarge screen make this a good phone for watching videos and playing games but the size makes it hard to use with one hand.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

If the phrase “too big” never made it into your vocabulary, then the 6.4-inch Xiaomi Mi Max was made for people like you. The display is bright and the battery lasts for a good, long time, but the question for any phone this large will always come back to size: is it too much for you, or can you work with it?

I’m personally not a fan. Phones don’t need to be small, but they also shouldn’t be hard to use one-handed. And let’s be clear here, the Max is a strictly two-handed affair if you want to use it without difficulty (unless you have really large hands). I found it hard to reach apps, and it’s just a pain to keep adjusting my grip to reach stuff at the top of the phone. Still, I guess the Mi Max is really useful to shade your face on a sunny day, and I do really like how the metal chassis feels in my hands.

xiaomimimaxshade.jpgView full gallery

The Xiaomi Mi Max is big enough to use as a shade if it’s sunny outside.

Aloysius Low/CNET

Of course, the real reason you’re buying this phone is to watch video and read — e-books, articles, Facebook, whatever — and the Mi Max is perfect for this. The large 6.4-inch full-HD (1,920×1,080 pixels) is sharp and vibrant, and Xiaomi’s Sunlight Display technology makes details like words and images clearer under bright sunlight. Gaming on the phone was great. Asphalt 8 ran smoothly on High settings, and I actually liked having a bigger screen here.


Ninebot by Segway miniPro Release Date, Price and Specs – CNET

In the space of twelve months, hoverboards went from cool new gadgets to public (spaces) enemy number one. Between being a pedestrian hazard and potentially explosive, these motorized self-balancing skateboards are illegal to use outside of private property in New York City and the entirety of the United Kingdom (to name just a few locales), and many airlines ban their transport, too.

Into that challenging market comes Segway. That company’s original product, the self-balancing two-wheeled Personal Transporter scooter, was essentially the original hoverboard. In fact, Ninebot — the Chinese company that purchased Segway in 2015 — has successfully barred all rival hoverboards from the US market, saying they infringe on Segway’s patent for self-balancing two-wheeled devices.

And with its new miniPro, Segway’s pitch is now, “Why settle for those knockoffs when you can get the real thing?” Indeed, the Segway miniPro is essentially a downsized version of the old Personal Transporter. But the name brand status will cost you a pretty penny: $999, to be precise.


The Ninebot by Segway miniPro is a high-end hoverboard with unusual features including a steering column and Bluetooth remote.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The classic Segway handlebars have been shrunken down to a distinctive knee-high “steering bar” poking up from the main platform. It’s also better built than most hoverboards with chunky tires and a substantial-feeling platform to stand upon.

But while it may look like an old-school Segway, the miniPro’s weight limit is a lot more conservative — 185 pounds (84 kg) versus 260 pounds (118 kg). While most hoverboards are controlled by leaning with your feet, only the miniPro is supplemented by the steering bar which makes finer control possible. You grip the steering bar above your knee and lean left or right to turn. It’s easy to turn 360 degrees on the spot as a result.

Related Links
  • Before you even think of buying a hoverboard, read this
  • Segway bought by Chinese rival Ninebot
  • Segway offers hoverboard competitor in US for $1,000
  • Hoverboards banned again for infringing Segway patents

It pays to keep in mind that the steering bar is “live” when powered on, and should definitely not be used to steady yourself when getting on unless you want to be flung off. Instead you need to step on one of the pads, listen for the beep and then carefully lift your other foot onto it. It takes a little practice, but it’s not like balancing on a bike as the pads are unusually sensitive. You may end up scooting back and forward slightly when you stand still just to keep your balance.

Sarah Tew/CNET

While it’s locked to 4 MPH (6.4 km/h) for the first kilometer, it’s capable of a potential top speed of 10 MPH (16.1 km/h). But the device is designed to slow you down way before that and it does this by gently leaning backwards. The hoverboard beeps and notifies you when you’re going “too fast” which we found was around the 6 to 7 MPH mark (10 km/h).

It’s definitely fun to ride around and a few people including myself experienced a kind of Hello Panda moreishness. You want to keep riding as soon as you get off.

One thing we did notice is that the unit can be a little hyperactive when left to its own devices. It can slowly roll away when sitting by itself even when on a flat surface. This is surely a gyroscope issue but it shouldn’t move unless being controlled (either by a rider or by Bluetooth). While there is a balance control slider which is designed to prevent this happening it wasn’t very effective. The scooter slid backwards and forwards anyway.

Screenshot: Ty Pendlebury/CNET

And yes, the Segway is controllable by Bluetooth. The scooter comes with an app (iOS and Android) which is used for a bunch of different functions — and this includes annoyingly insistent and undefeatable safety instructions (even if you’ve sat through them before you need to wait 30 seconds or shut down the app to leave). The app also monitors speed and charge levels.

The remote control gives you a D-Pad type surface to control the miniPro but there’s no camera and it’s only over Bluetooth. This means line-of-sight with 50 feet (15m) or so. It’s a fun trick and great for scaring pets, but it’s even harder to control than when riding. Braking takes a lot longer, even when you pull right back, and it’s really easy to crash the unit. As a result it’s probably not something you’ll use a lot.

It’s worthwhile noting that there is a China-only version called the mini (as opposed to the miniPro) which is only $300. Segway says the differences between the two are in the feature set, and that the local version was subject to the UL 2272 certification which covers hoverboards specifically, unlike the mini.

Expensive, impractical — and incredibly fun

The Segway is like one of those cool mini Mercedes electric cars for kids — it looks like fun but its kind of out of the reach of most people. As a commuter device, though, the Ninebot by Segway miniPro is pretty limited because it’s not designed to go over significant humps like crosswalks. This is a toy primarily, and a pretty expensive one.

But we can’t deny that it’s also very fun. Everyone in the office was crowding around and demanding a ride. For a product in our office full of jaded tech journalists, that’s a rare feat these days.


Driverless cars could be the future of racing

Translogic host Jonathon Buckley heads to Thunderhill Raceway for the first Autonomous Track Day. We caught up with Silicon Valley entrepreneur and event organizer Joshua Schachter to find out if driverless cars will ever race themselves.
“That would be fun,” said Schachter. “We have to make sure it’s interesting. If it’s just robots driving perfectly, that’s not exciting.”

“I think we’ll figure it out.”

We also check in with George Hotz, originally famous for unlocking the iPhone and now builder of driverless cars. Hotz shared his story of how he got involved with autonomous technology through a disagreement with Elon Musk.

“Elon Musk was originally going to give me money to build this for his Tesla,” said Hotz of his driverless car. “Elon changed the deal at the last minute, said no…[I] bought this car, made it drive itself.”


  • Click here to find more episodes of Translogic
  • Click here to learn more about our host, Jonathon Buckley

Waze will help you avoid difficult intersections

You know those intersections with no traffic lights and everyone’s trying to cross at the same time? Waze calls them “difficult intersections,” and the navigation app will help you avoid them altogether, so long as you’re in Los Angeles. The app now calculates the best possible route and ETA with as few of them as possible. It could bypass them entirely if there’s route that allows you to do that. But if avoiding them will make your commute unbearably long, then Waze could still send you through a few. As the app’s announcement post said “The goal of the feature is to reduce the amount of these intersections, not completely eliminate them.”
While the feature is only available in Los Angeles for now, it will soon roll out in New Orleans and will eventually be available around the world. Take note that if you’re in LA, Waze automatically switched on for you. In case it’s not working out, you can always switch it off under Settings.

Source: Waze


Cryptocurrency raider takes $60 million in digital cash

A cryptocurrency is only as reliable as the technology that keeps it running, and Ethereum is learning this the hard way. An attacker has taken an estimated $60 million in Ethereum’s digital money (Ether) by exploiting vulnerabilities in the Decentralized Autonomous Organization, an investment collective. The raider took advantage of a “recursive call” flaw in the DAO’s code-based smart contracts, which administer the funds, to scoop up Ether many times in a single pass.

Ethereum’s Vitalik Buterin (pictured above) has revealed a planned software fork that would prevent the intruder from using the ill-gotten goods, but there are still plenty of headaches in store for both contract creators and investors. Contract makers will have to take extra care to avoid the flaw and limit the value of their contracts so that a bad actor doesn’t make off with a huge sum of cash. Buterin says that Ethereum itself is safe — miners can carry on, and users should “sit tight and remain calm” while they wait to trade again. Still, it’s easy to imagine everyone being nervous.

The kicker? People were convinced that the bug posed no risk to DAO funds just a few days prior. Clearly, that wasn’t true. While the invader didn’t get away scot-free, the breach has caused a lot of chaos. And while one person’s claims that they legitimately took the funds is sketchy, Bloomberg notes that the code defining the smart contracts may have explicitly allowed this attack even if that’s not what the DAO wanted. This may not be so much a hack as exploitation of poorly-defined terms, and there may not be a legal recourse. In short: basing an investment framework around code instead of human-made contracts may have been too optimistic.

Via: Coindesk, Bloomberg, The Verge

Source: Vitalik Buterin (Reddit), Etherscan, Ethereum

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