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Researchers find a more effective way to test self-driving cars

It’s tricky to test self-driving cars. Even if you have hundreds of thousands of miles under your belt, it’s still difficult to account for every possible real-world peril. Researchers think they can fast-track that experience, however. They’ve developed a sped-up testing process that should accomplish a lot in just a small amount of time. Instead of a holistic approach that gauges everything at once (and often goes for miles without a meaningful event), the new method breaks things down into individual components you can test frequently and repeatedly in simulations. If you want to gauge the car’s reaction to someone cutting you off, for instance, you just focus on that — you use stat analysis to determine how the car would behave in “boring” moments.

The team’s own experiments also limited their metrics to the likelihoods of crashes, injuries (including severity) and “conflict events.”

Based on estimates, the improvements would be dramatic… to put it mildly. Researchers believe that 1,000 miles under their method could be equivalent to between 300,000 and 100 million miles of real-life driving. You could match Waymo’s yearly driving experience (635,000 miles in 2016) in the space of a day.

Just don’t get too excited. The researchers are aware that they need to account for many, many more situations before this testing method is ready for practical use. How does a self-driving car handle jaywalkers, overloaded trucks or snow-covered streets? And of course, there’s no guarantee that you’ll see such a massive improvement with every car or every test. If the real results come even vaguely close to this, though, the automotive industry could be in for a shakeup. You may still end up waiting several years or more for viable driverless cars (there’s still issues like regulation to consider), but they could be genuinely road-ready when they arrive. You wouldn’t have to worry quite so much about your ride going awry due to limited testing, and it could be much easier to iron out whatever glitches are left.

Source: University of Michigan


It can be done! Here’s how to Twitch on your new Nintendo Switch


So, you’ve mastered your favorite Switch game and you’re ready to stream your skills to the world. If you’re unsure exactly how to go about this, we’ve put together a basic explainer to guide you through the process.

First, you’ll need a Switch, a Switch dock, an external monitor or TV, a PC to connect to the internet, and a capture card — in this case, we chose to use a Razer Ripsaw. Next, you’ll need to set up the Nintendo Switch for streaming. To do this, connect your dock to a power source and plug in the HDMI cable to the capture card input. Next, take the capture card HDMI cable and plug it into an external monitor or television. Now take the USB cable from the capture card and plug it into your computer.

If you’re using the Ripsaw, you’ll need to download and install the Razer Synapse program. At this point, make sure the light on the Ripsaw turns green. Download Open Broadcaster Studio (OBS) — a free, open-source streaming platform — from the developer’s website. Once installed, open OBS, and under Sources, right-click Add Video Capture Device. Select New and name this whatever you’d like. Next, click Device and select your capture card from the resulting drop-down menu.

You can now turn on your Switch and open the game you’d like to stream. If the image does not appear on the screen in OBS at this point, change the resolution FPS type to Custom and set the resolution to 1,920 x 1,080 and the framerate to 60. Now, you’ll need to decide which platform you’d like to use for streaming. Below are three of the more popular options.


First go to and log in — if you don’t have an account, sign up for one at this point — and click your name in the upper-right corner to access the dashboard. Next, go to Settings and select Show Stream Key. Copy this key and go back to OBS. Click File, then Settings. Next, click Streaming and select Twitch as the service before choosing the server closest to you in terms of location. You can copy your stream key and paste it here. Afterward, select Apply. Click Start Streaming and head back to, where you should be able to see a preview in the dashboard.


First, go to YouTube and log in as you normally would. Click profile icon in the upper-right corner to access your Creator Studio, and select Live Streaming in the menu on the left. Input all of your basic information on the resulting page, including the title description, thumbnail, and other facets you might want. Afterward, scroll down to Encoder Settings and click Reveal on the stream key.

Now copy that key and go into OBS. Click File, Settings, and then Stream. Select YouTube as the service and YouTube Primary as the server, insert the stream key, and select Apply. Then, click Start Streaming and check YouTube for your stream.

Note: Once you do this, YouTube automatically pushes your stream live. You can test this by selecting Private beforehand.


Open Facebook and select the page you’d like to stream from. Click Publishing Tools at the top, then click Videos on the left and select Live. A pop-up window will now appear — copy the stream key from here. Go into OBS and click File, Settings, and then Stream. Select FaceBook Live as the service, choose the default server, input the stream key, and click Apply.

Then, select Next in Facebook and fill in the necessary details. Go back to OBS and select Start Streaming. Facebook will then show you a preview, which you can adjust using the settings on the left-hand side. When you’re ready to stream, select Go Live.


Mind-controlled bionic hand can help stroke patients move again

A team of scientists from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have proven that the mind-controlled device they developed can help stroke survivors regain control of their hands. Stroke typically causes paralysis on one side of the body, leaving patients nearly or completely unable to move some of their limbs. They can regain some voluntary movements after years of therapy, but the team’s device called Ipsihand could help make their rehabilitation go faster. For their study, the researchers asked 13 people who had a stroke six months or more in the past to wear the bionic hand and a cap with electrodes on their head.

The cap picks up on the user’s intention to open or close the paralyzed hand, the computer it’s attached to amplifies those signals and the Ipsihand follows those commands. So, how does the technology work? It’s based on what David Bundy, the lead author of the team’s paper published in the journal Stroke, discovered a decade ago. See, the parts of the brain that control movements are located on the other side of the limbs you want to move. If, say, you want to close your left hand, it’s the right part of your brain that does the work. That also means that a stroke survivor who can’t control his left arm and leg sustained damage on the the right side of his brain.

Bundy and neurosurgery professor Eric Leuthardt, however, found out that the electric signals that indicate movement first appear on the side of the limb you want to move. Those signals are responsible for activating the other side of your brain, which causes the actual movement. In stroke patients, the initial signals get lost in the ether, since the part it’s trying to activate doesn’t work anymore. That’s where Ipsihand comes in.

Out of 13 subjects, 10 were able to finish 12 weeks of testing, picking up blocks and building towers, fitting tubes around smaller tubes and moving their hands to their mouths. Their scores improved by an average of 6.2 points on a 57-point scale. It doesn’t sound like much, but as Leuthardt said, it could be “the difference between being unable to put on their pants by themselves and being able to do so.”

During those tests, the team found that patients improved based on how well the system read the signals from their brains. The more the researchers improve its capability to pick up signals, the better Ipsihand will be at helping survivors move their hands again.

Via: Wired

Source: Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis


The original ‘Crazy Taxi’ is free to play on your smartphone

If you’ve ever wanted to understand the fuss over Crazy Taxi but didn’t want to spend money on a piece of gaming history, you now have your chance. Sega has made it free to play both the Android and iOS versions of the original title, giving you a solid excuse to check out its classic mix of open-world racing and over-the-top style. That includes the original punk rock soundtrack, too. However, there’s one big catch: ads.

Like some free to play titles, you’ll have to sit through promos if you don’t want to pay a penny. You can remove the ads if you’ve already paid for the game (you just have to restore your purchases), but you’ll otherwise have to shell out $2 to get the unfettered fare-hunting experience. Really, Sega is acknowledging that most people who’ve really wanted to play Crazy Taxi have had plenty of chances. This move is more about luring in the merely curious, or those fans who would rather not buy the game a second or third time. Consider this, though: if all you want to do is fly down the streets for a few minutes while blasting The Offspring’s “All I Want,” it probably won’t hurt to endure a few ads.

Source: App Store, Google Play


Construction starts on the world’s largest optical telescope

After several years of planning and no shortage of financial anxiety, construction has officially started on the Extremely Large Telescope. Contractors are now building the main structure and dome of the Chile-based observer ahead of its initial service in 2024. That’s a long time to wait, but this is no mean feat. With a 43-yard aperture, this promises to be the world’s largest optical telescope for sometime, even compared to future or in-limbo projects like the Thirty Meter Telescope. Those gigantic dimensions will help it capture far more light, giving astronomers the chance to spot particularly distant galaxies, find small planets and capture more details of larger planets.

The ELT’s full capabilities won’t come until sometime after 2024, when the ESO starts a second construction phase. It could easily be another few years after that before the telescope lives up to its expectations. However, it’s having some positive side effects right now: the start of construction also marks the connection of its home, the Paranal Observatory (where the Very Large Telescope resides) to the Chilean electrical grid. That simple addition promises more reliability, lower costs and a reduced environmental footprint. Don’t be shocked if more modest telescopes like the VLT benefit well before their larger sibling is ready for action.

Via: Reuters

Source: ESO


Google says it would cost too much to gather wage gap data

The Department of Labor will have to keep bugging Google for the salary records it’s been asking for, because the tech titan keeps refusing to hand them over. Those records might be able to prove once and for all whether Mountain View truly pays women a lot less than it does men. If you’ll recall, the Labor Department is accusing the big G of “systemic compensation disparities against women pretty much across the entire workforce” and is suing the company for its salary information. Well, the company has just told a federal court that it won’t gather the info the DoL wants because it would be much too expensive.

Google said it would have to spend over $100,000 and up to 500 hours to be able to fulfill the DoL’s request. That’s such a small amount for a tech titan that Ian Eliasoph, one of the agency’s lawyers, pointed out that the company has a $28 billion annual income. “Google would be able to absorb the cost as easy as a dry kitchen sponge could absorb a single drop of water,” he said. He also mentioned that the company has funds dedicated to improving diversity and that Google shouldn’t be immune to anti-discrimination investigations just because it’s “too big to comply.”

The big G’s lawyers argued, however, that Mountain View has already spent $500,000 and 2,300 hours of manpower to be able to comply to the agency’s demands. They called those demands too “broad and unconstitutional,” since giving the department the company’s salary info would violate employees’ privacy. A Google spokesperson told Recode that the requests “include thousands of employees’ private contact information which we safeguard rigorously.” The lawyers also said they violate fourth amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure.

Clearly, the two parties have a long talk ahead to be able to see eye to eye. Google is adamant, however, that there’s no gender pay gap within its walls. Here’s the tech giant’s full statement:

“We’e very committed to our affirmative action obligations, and to improving the diversity of our workforce, and have been very vocal about the importance of these issues. As a federal contractor, we’re familiar with our obligations and have worked collaboratively with the OFCCP. We’ve worked hard to comply with the OFCCP’s current audit and have provided hundreds of thousands of records over the last year, including those related to compensation. However, the handful of OFCCP requests that are the subject of the complaint are overbroad in scope, or reveal confidential data, and we’ve made this clear to the OFCCP, to no avail. These requests include thousands of employees’ private contact information which we safeguard rigorously. We hope to continue working with OFCCP to resolve this matter.”

Source: The Verge


Billionaire funding the world’s largest yacht to research saving the oceans

Why it matters to you

If you’ve wondered whether all superyachts are for pleasure only, this one wants to save the oceans.

A Norwegian billionaire is building the world’s largest superyacht. The 181.6-meter (596-foot) REV, Research Expedition Vessel, is being built at Norway’s Vard shipyard. REV will be available for scientists and explorers worldwide to conduct research focused on relieving pressure on the world’s oceans and the wildlife that live within them.

Kjell Inge Røkke is funding and partnering with the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in the ship’s design and facilities to support a variety of research efforts. REV will be launched mid-year in 2020.

The vessel will be fitted with the latest equipment for studying marine areas, currents, fish, animals, and plant life. Onboard laboratory facilities with the newest equipment and an auditorium for lectures and debates will support research done on the vessel. State of the art communications systems will be available for live-streaming work on REV.

Ongoing operations and maintenance expenses for REV will be supported by charter cruises. The yacht will be available for recreation and expeditions and will also be available for use by groups conducting scientific studies and training. Røkke and his family will charter REV at times, paying the same as any other private parties.

The video below shows how REV’s moonpool will allow underwater launching and retrieval.

REV will be powered by a hybrid diesel-electric system of generators, electric propulsion motors, and controllable pitch tunnel thrusters. The propulsion motors will have 5-blade controllable pitch propellers optimized for quiet operation. REV’s green features are too many to list here, but a partial list includes synthetic deck covers, underwater noise pollution prevention, ballast water treatment to prevent species cross-contamination, and LED lighting throughout.

All waste materials including plastics will be incinerated with a high-tech system that restricts the generation of toxic gases. REV will have efficient heat recovery systems and a “free cool” air conditioning system to reduce power consumption by using sea water when it’s cold enough.

The video below explains REV’s drop keels, sonars, and control room.

Top speed will be 17 knots, but at her 11-knot cruising speed, with a 50-percent service weight load, REV’s 21,120 nautical mile range will almost stretch around the globe.

REV’s planned kit of research equipment and systems also goes on and on. In addition to two helipads for drones and helicopters, REV will have a 7.7-meter moonpool that allows direct water access under the yacht for submarines and other submersible craft.

The video below details REV’s pelagic trawling system.

Space onboard REV accommodates 90 people depending on the vessel’s use. When used for research, REV has space for 60 scientists and 40 crew — we’re guessing 10 or more scientists would work in shifts. Expedition ratings are 30 crew, 24 scientists, and 36 passengers. If REV is used as a regular yacht she’ll house 54 crew members and 36 guests.

To be sure everyone gets fed on long voyages, REV stores provisions for 90 persons for 114 days. For even longer trips, one or more reefer containers (the refrigerated container variety) secured on REV’s deck can hold 20 extra days of provisions per reefer.

REV will have another feature that hasn’t been invented yet. While the yacht is being built, other people on the team are working to figure out ways to collect plastic waste from the ocean when the ship is in motion. Oceanic plastic pollution is causing significant damage in the marine food chain and the team’s plan is to devise methods to pull the plastic onboard to be incinerated.

While the costs to build and equip REV are not public, they are obviously immense. It’s hard to conceive that an institution, a company, or even a nation would fund a vessel that size for research. In this case, one of Norway’s richest citizens is footing the bill.


Elvis Presley’s private jet sells for well below estimated auction price

Why it matters to you

Celebrity memorabilia exists in all forms, but it’s rare for something so substantial to come up at auction. Anything associated with Elvis Presley should bring in big money, but his private jet fell under expectations.

A private jet owned by Elvis Presley just went under the hammer at auction, selling for $430,000. There were not too many bids for this piece of history, which went for well below the $2 million to $3.5 million estimate, with no reserve price. We watched the sale live on the auction site, which also included other Elvis memorabilia, as well as items related to or once owned by other musicians and celebrities. There was a buyer’s premium of 23 percent. That plus the cost of shipping brought the price of this jet (lot number 6) to well over half a million dollars.

The jet in question is a 1962 Lockheed Jetstar with papers. The auction site states that this is the “lost” jet owned by Elvis and his father, Vernon Presley. It has made appearances on television with National Geographic. It has spent most of its time outdoors at a small airport in Roswell, New Mexico, and 30 years of weather has takes its toll on the aircraft.

The seller says that portions of the plane’s interior were “custom designed to Elvis’ specifications.” This includes gold hardware, unique woodwork and inlays, red carpet, and red velvet as far as you can see. The photos include a shot of the private toilet, which has its own cushioned red velvet cover. Indeed, this is a throne fit for a King.

The Jetstar is in unrestored condition, having not been altered since Elvis last owned it. The winner of this auction will receive a signed and notarized affidavit from the seller to this effect.

The plane has no engines, and the cockpit needs a substantial amount of work if this plane were ever to be made airworthy.

The jet has been privately owned for 35 years, and is supposedly the only aircraft once owned by Elvis that is still in private hands. The other two custom planes include a 1958 Convair 880 named Lisa Marie after Elvis’ daughter, and another Lockheed Jetstar named the Hound Dog II. They are on permanent display at the Graceland estate, where they are visited by thousands of guests every year. Those planes also were supposed to go up for auction, but after a surge of protest from fans, the keepers of the estate worked out a way to keep them.

Elvis Presley Lockheed Jetstar auctionJust 204 examples of the Lockheed Jetstar were produced between 1957 and 1978; a project that started as a bid to win a USAF contract. When that fell through, Lockheed continued development and created a small business jet instead.

It is uncertain who won the jet in today’s auction — was it a museum or other attraction hoping to put it on display? Or perhaps a rabid Elvis fan who will lock the aircraft away in a private hangar and live out their rock ‘n roll fantasies inside? Will it be restored or left in its current state? We will check back if we get any news.


The best gaming desktop you can buy

best-gaming-desktops-150x150-150x150.pngFinding the right gaming desktop can be a serious chore. Sorting through Amazon feedback, spec sheets, and parsing countless reviews for details relevant to your needs can be a massive headache, but we’re here to help.

It seems like we get new gaming desktops to review every week, and each one comes with its own quirks and eccentricities. Let’s be honest, the internals in all the top-of-the-line desktops are going to be remarkably similar.

When you’re buying a high-end gaming desktop you should be on the lookout for more than just raw performance. Any machine in the same price category will be capable of hitting similar benchmarks. What you’re really looking for in a long term solution is something with manageable quirks, features and eccentricities. You want a gaming desktop that reflects you and your needs, without compromising its horsepower.

Most of all, a gaming computer should be fun, so we’ve got the picks to keep the whole process from turning into a stressful mess.

Our pick

Digital Storm Velox (Kaby Lake) 2016
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

Why you should buy this: You’re in it for the long haul, you want the best gaming rig on the market, and you want to keep it up to date.

[needs product card]

Who it’s for: Gamers who want the best of the best, and don’t mind dropping some serious dough

How much will it cost: $1,300+, depending on specs

Why we picked the Digital Storm Velox

Not only does Digital Storm’s Velox own the distinction of housing Intel’s Core i7-7700K processor — it also overclocked that processor to a ridiculous 5GHz, and cleared our tests with flying colors. Simply put, the Velox is among the most powerful gaming desktops you can buy. And if the i7-7700K isn’t to your tastes, well, you can get a Core i7-6950X, or AMD’s new Ryzen processors.

Despite its speed and extravagance, opening up the Velox and tinkering with its innards is far less intimidating than performing the same process on other rigs, due to its intuitive case design, which eschews screws and buttons in favor of simple pegs that pop in and out with little effort.

You can essentially trick out the Velox to no end (playing with options on Digital Storm’s website, we managed to jack the overall price up to over $40,000), but our review model ran short of $5,000, and it absolutely hauled digital ass.

Altogether, the Velox is hard to beat — on top of being incredibly powerful, it looks great, and it’s easy to fiddle with. If you want a future-proof PC, this is just about your best bet.

Our review

The best compact gaming desktop

Falcon Northwest Tiki (2015)Why you should buy this: You’re looking for something small, dense, and deceptively powerful (like a neutron star).

Our Score

The Best Compact Gaming Desktop

Falcon Northwest Tiki (2015)

If you want something a little smaller, the Tiki is a fantastic machine, with a gaming aesthetic and satisfying growl when you turn it on.

$4,045.00 from Falcon Northwest

Who it’s for: Gamers who want compact, understated power

How much will it cost: $1,900 – $4,200, depending on specs

Why we picked the Falcon Northwest Tiki

The Tiki actually scored a little better than the Velox in our review, but they’re very different machines. Digital Storm’s desktop is a powerhouse, and that’s reflected in its aesthetic; the custom metal chassis is certainly a joy to behold, but we wouldn’t classify it as minimalistic. Sure, it’s less flashy than many gaming rigs, but it’s still eye-catching, and takes up a decent chunk of real estate. The Tiki takes after a different tradition, trading visuals and a luxuriant interior for economy of space. This thing is tiny.

It’s also a good choice if you’re averse to some of the flashier gaming PCs out there. Not everyone has a taste for neon red and flashing lights. Like most high-end gaming rigs, you can customize the appearance of the Tiki, but there’s something about its sleek, professional design that lends itself well to shades of black.

If the Origin is a cherry-red hot rod with racing stripes, the Tiki is a slick black sports coupe with tinted windows and growling engine. Really, it growls. It’s a little loud, particularly under a heavy load, but given how small it is, you could tuck this thing under your desk to muffle the worst of the fan noise. Or just sit it out in the open and enjoy the sound of a miniature jet engine.

There are quieter gaming PCs out there, but you might have to make a few compromises.

Our review

The best affordable gaming desktop

[Couldn’t find any lifestyle images, Dell’s press kits suck]

Why you should buy this: You want performance without breaking the bank, or a tiny gaming desktop.

[Also needs product card :D]

Who it’s for: Budget-minded gamers who don’t need unnecessary bells and whistles

How much will it cost: $700

Why we picked the Alienware Alpha ASM100-9000BLK 

Not everyone wants (or is able) to spend thousands on a gaming PC. Luckily, there are potent options out there for even the most frugal gamers, and Alienware’s Alpha Mini series is at the top of the list.

Alienware often catches flak for pumping out flashy, LED-laden computers that are too expensive, boasting similar specs to machines made by other companies at higher prices. That’s simply not the case with the ASM100-9000BLK, which currently retails for just $700 via Amazon.

If you’re a fiend for gorgeous graphics, you can find better options, but few — if any — desktops offer the same level of power as the Alpha for such a reasonable price. At 1080p, but it’ll play demanding games like The Witcher 3 and Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor at 60FPS without breaking a sweat.

The CPU, memory, and hard drive are replaceable, so if you need a solid state drive in place of the slower hard drive, you can make that happen (though that sort of defeats the purpose of buying a $700 gaming desktop).

The barebones, gaming-centric Alienware UI is designed to be easily navigable via gamepad or controller, and on this front it succeeds. The Alpha manages to feel like a gaming console, except with Steam’s massive library. If you’re looking for an all-purpose PC, look elsewhere, but this bad boy packs a lot of punch, considering its size and price.

How we test

You’ve read our reviews. You’ve read our conclusions. And now you’re wondering how we came to them. Reviews often lack context. We’ll give out a score and analyze the finer points of desktop performance, but how do we reach those conclusions? How do we test these machines?

Allow us to lift the veil. Here we’ll explain the benchmarks we use for objective testing and the perspective from which we approach subjective topics. We don’t expect everyone to agree with our opinions, but we hope that sharing our process will leave you better equipped to decide what desktop best fits your needs.


The best cases for the Kodak Ektra smartphone

The Kodak Ektra looks like a camera that doubles as an Android smartphone. The device has a giant, 21-megapixel camera on the back, and it’s one of the most remarkable smartphones when it comes to design. It’s thick compared to other phones, and has some very interesting curves that help separate it from the pack.

The smartphone’s unique form factor, however, also makes it difficult when it comes time to pick a case. Fortunately, Kodak has made a couple of official Ektra cases, and we have found some great alternatives to help make your search a bit easier.

Kodak Ektra Leather Case ($85)

best kodak ektra cases
One of your first choices for the Ektra is going to be Kodak’s official Leather Case, which closely resembles the classic leather cases made for traditional point-and-shoot cameras. What you have here is genuine, stitched leather with anti-scratch microfiber lining to keep your smartphone safe. The case also includes a shoulder strap so you can carry it like you would a regular camera.

Buy one now from:


Kodak Ektra Leather Pouch ($40)

best kodak ektra cases
If you want a simpler solution, but you still want to go the official route, then you can opt for the official Kodak Ektra Leather Pouch. This one also sports genuine, hand-stitched leather and a microfiber-lined interior for increased protection. It’s on the slim side, but it features additional padding on the front and back to protect your phone.

Buy one now from:


EnvyDeal Smartphone Wallet Case ($14)

If you’re keen on a wallet case, EnvyDeal has one specifically designed for the Kodak Ektra. The material is a textured, synthetic leather that is easy to grip. It also has a snap-button closure and a coin pocket on the back that closes with a zipper. On the inside, you’ll find slots for housing three credit cards or ID cards. This Ektra wallet case even has a wrist strap, and comes in a wide array of color combinations, including teal-pink, red-pink, and red-blue.

Buy one now from:


Caseable Ektra Smartphone Pouch ($28)

This Caseable pouch is best for those who wants to customize their Kodak Ektra case. The pouch is made of faux leather and comes with a pull tag, so you can easily access the Ektra. Moreover, Caseable has many designs to choose, allowing you to customize the front of the pouch with ease. The website also lets you customize your design, so you can print anything you want. If you want a picture of you and your loved ones, or you want to print something that you personally designed, you can do so.

Buy one now from:


OneTigris MOLLE Phone Pouch ($18)

best kodak ektra cases
Pouches are great, but you may want something that can withstand a bit more abuse. Thankfully, this pouch from OneTigris features a nylon, water-resistant build and a padded interior. It also has two fastener straps on the back, so you can easily attach it to your belt or a vest. This pouch is designed to fit larger phones with a case on, so there’s more than enough room for the Ektra. The MOLLE Phone Pouch is the one to get if you’re taking your Ektra on a hike or camping trip.

Buy one now from:


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