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Stanford toughens up cheap solar cells by mimicking insect eyes

While silicon solar panels are already providing electricity for a lot of homes and buildings, it doesn’t mean researchers have stopped looking for better and cheaper alternatives. Case in point, a team of Stanford scientists working to make a cheaper photovoltaic mineral called perovskite a viable option for people who want to shift to solar. Perovskites are as efficient as silicon solar cells when it comes to converting sunlight into energy, but they’re fragile and can deteriorate easily when exposed to the elements. The team had to find a way to make them more durable — and they’ve found inspiration in the compound eyes of insects.

Their solution involves encapsulating perovskite microcells in a hexagon-shaped epoxy resin scaffold that measures 0.02 inches wide. They then put hundreds of those together like a honeycomb to mimic the compound eye of a fly. The study’s co-lead author Nicholas Rolston says the scaffold wall protects the fragile minerals, especially since epoxy resin is “resilient to mechanical stresses.”

To find out if their creation works, they tested their design by exposing it to temperatures that reached 185 degrees F and 85 percent relative humidity for six weeks. They found that the insect eye-inspired panel survived those harsh conditions while still generating electricity “at relatively high rates of efficiency.” Despite their success, the researchers believe they can still boost the cells’ efficiency. They’re now looking for ways to be able to direct more light reflected by the scaffold into the perovskite-flled center of each cell.

Via: Digital Trends

Source: Stanford


The smart kitchen revolution is a slow one

Of all the spaces in our homes, the kitchen is the one that has seen the least change in the last few years. Sure, that countertop CD player has given way to an Echo, but you’ve probably not invested in a smartphone-controlled oven or DRM-enabled juicer. Look hard enough, however, and you can see more radical shifts in the appliances world on the horizon. It’s just going to take a while before this technology is affordable enough for us mere mortals.

Historically, when technology has made an impact in the kitchen, it often radically redefines how our society operates. Statistician Hans Rosling believed that the washing machine was the most important invention in the world. Other academics agree, saying that freeing women from domestic labor was responsible for both huge shifts in how we work and created several economic booms.

But the last big innovation — assuming you don’t count the items you find on late-night shopping channels — was probably the microwave or dishwasher. Both of those became reasonably affordable more than half a century ago. But fear not, because the technology industry is slowly beginning to push for dramatic ways to upend the staid world of white goods.


The LG’s Styler, which was announced a few years ago and could redefine how we wash our clothes. Essentially, it’s a wardrobe-sized box into which you hang your clothes to get them steam cleaned. Simply fill up the reservoir at the bottom with water, and your outfits are progressively shaken and boiled until they’re clean and wrinkle-free.

Then there’s TwinWash, LG’s system of tiny washing machines beneath its larger free standing models. The idea is to separate delicates and other, smaller loads, from the main drum to speed up laundry times. And, frankly, it’s the sort of throw-stuff-against-the-wall thinking that makes the technology industry so exciting. Both of these have one major drawback, however, and it’s their very high price, since both cost around upwards of two grand.

Samsung’s vision for the future of laundry is exemplified by the QuickDrive washing machine, which it launched here in Berlin. The company is shouting about its decision to separate the drum from its backplate and spinning them independently. The idea is that the contrasting movement will cause the water to move more vigorously and, therefore, clean your clothes faster. The company is also celebrating the QuickDrive’s built-in artificial intelligence, which it claims will help clueless washers make better choices to pick programs.

Another crazy idea that Samsung’s been peddling for the last few years has been AddWash. It’s a secondary door in its machines that lets you add clothes to the wash after the cycle has begun. Ubiquitous in its TV advertising, it’s clear that the feature is liked enough by its customers for it to proliferate through an increasing number of Samsung’s washers.

Then there was Panasonic, which showed off its vision for replacing the washing machine as we know it altogether. The elegantly-named Sustainable Maintainer is a cabinet into which you’d chuck your dirty clothes. A robotic arm and camera then examines each item in turn, checking the washing instructions against an online database.

Once it had determined what, and how, the item should be washed, nozzles will spray the fabric with specific quantities of detergent. Then, when the hardware is confident that the stubborn stains have been taken, the clothes are suction dried and blasted with UV light. Finally, another robotic arm will fold the clothes ready for you to put them back into your drawers. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the company has been working on Laundroid, a laundry-folding robot for the last couple of years.

Panasonic admits that the Sustainable Maintainer is the better part of a decade away from being consumer-ready. But the fact that the company is, at least, trying to look beyond mere refinements to the existing technology is heartening. It’s not simply enough to look to tweak the existing formula, especially when big ideas are so en vogue.


However, that exact approach is being taken by some of the more traditional appliance makers exhibiting at IFA 2017. Hoover, Candy, Sharp and others have all decided that more iterative refinements, bolting on connected technology to their existing hardware. These devices are little more than a washing machine, oven, and dishwasher with touchscreens running Android. But, unlike the more radical concepts on show here, will actually be available in stores within the year.

Even the humble oven isn’t immune to the future, thanks to Miele’s brand new Dialog Oven. The company has developed a way to use the same electromagnetic waves that are broadcast for mobile phone networks as a vehicle for cooking food. It’s similar to a microwave, albeit using an entirely different frequency, and one that apparently will cook your food perfectly every time. It’ll cost you, though, since it’s expected to cost close to $10,000 when it launches next year.


Up close and personal, the most obvious difference between Dialog and any other oven is its two-inch-thick door. That’s to keep the device from blasting its neighbors with the waves, as well as to avoid disrupting nearby communications signals. The company showed off the technology by cooking a fish to perfection despite it being sat in a block of ice. More importantly, however, this system will mean that you can slow roast pulled pork in two hours instead of five or ten.

Some of these appliances will have an easier route to our homes than others, especially the ones that aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel. The companies that are simply trying to bolt on smart features to their existing products are going to have the most success in the short term. Hell, in a year or two it’ll probably be hard to find appliances that don’t offer some sort of smartphone control.

But in the longer term, it’ll be the bigger ideas that offer a radically improved way to live our lives that’ll win out. The downside to that is that these things take an order of magnitude more time to get picked up than, say, smartphones. On average, we replace our phones once every two-and-a-half-years, but replace an appliance once every decade. As a consequence, it’s going to be some time before you begin living with your first truly smart kitchen. But it is coming, and we’d best be ready for when it gets here.

Follow all the latest news from IFA 2017 here!


The military’s quest for autonomous drones could also yield sky taxis

Self driving cars are only the beginning. Within a couple decades, most anything with wheels, wings, or rotors will be able to operate, not just on its own, but in concert with hundreds or thousands of similarly self-guided vehicles around it. This won’t just revolutionize how current transportation systems operate, it will open up entirely new roles for unmanned vehicles — especially aircraft.

In fact, the roles of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in military applications is continually evolving. Originally developed just after WWII as self-flying targets, UAVs today perform a variety of roles, from intelligence gathering and reconnaissance to strike missions.

Their usage changed dramatically since the September 11th attacks. “The counter terrorism activities that occurred there really became an insatiable demand for a full motion video [in military surveillance],” said John Clark, Skunk Works vice president of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance — manned and unmanned. “And that full motion video, I’ll argue, is the most prominent element of driving UAV growth over the last 15 years.”

“This is a totally different ability to derive intelligence information by being able to look at video and actually understand how people are,” he explained. “How they’re behaving, what they’re doing and being able to follow them. And instead of just getting a snapshot in time… you’re able to derive intent.”

As machine learning and artificial intelligence technologies continue to mature, the roles of military UAVs will similarly evolve just as the technologies have impacted manned aircraft. “If you look at the decision aiding capabilities that exist within an F-35 or F-22 cockpit, those decision aiding tools that are giving the pilot information,” Clark said, are the same software applications that feed similar recommendations to remote UAV operators. That said, Skunk Works has a “laundry list” of projects working towards further maturing its AI systems.

For example, the company has installed autonomous control systems into an F-16 and leveraged it as a “loyal wingman,” according to Clark. “The unmanned system actually senses what the manned system is doing and responds accordingly — staying in formation with them, performing an appropriate maneuver based on what the manned system does… it becomes part of an orchestration process.”

It’s been a long road to get even to this point of automation, Clark points out. From the outset, control systems for UAVs have taken on a “satellite mindset” wherein “every payload has somebody tending to it.” The result was a workload-intensive environment with various operators stepping all over each other.

Skunk Works instead has taken a “single seat cockpit mentality”. As Clark explains, the pilot of a single-seat aircraft is responsible for handling dozens of flight subsystems. But rather than replace the pilot entirely, Skunk Works is developing systems to assist the pilot do his job more efficiently. This includes a focus on simplifying displays and interfaces to ensure that the information being presented to the pilot is timely, accurate and actionable.

And for the foreseeable future, there will be a human at the helm of the operation, even if they’re not actually operating the vehicle, Clark assured me. Regardless of how fast these assistive AI’s can process data, they’ll always need to receive confirmation from the operator before executing tasks. “It becomes a way of keeping the human in the loop so that they understand what’s going on but they’re not directly responsible for controlling or guiding every facet of the system,” Clark said.

This slow takeover of the cockpit by assistive AIs is only going to continue over the next few decades. As for what autonomous UAVs would look like in 20 year, Clark said, “I would assert it would be something that would be largely indistinguishable from a manned platform. I’d really like to see the systems grow and merge with all of the multi mission capability that we’ve seen in our manned fighters and ISR systems.”

The only thing standing in Skunk Works way is, ironically, the government itself. “The government will have to develop new processes and procedures for how they certify their aircraft,” Clark said. “There’s just the inertia of ‘how things have been done historically’ that has to be overcome” before that will happen.

And if you thought that getting the DoD to sign off on new technologies was a challenge, you’ve never tried to certify an autonomous 11,000 pound, 12-passenger Sikorsky S76 helicopter with the Federal Aviation Administration. “These aren’t the kinds of drones you can find in Brookstone,” quipped Chris Van Buiten, vice president of Sikorsky Innovations.

The AI, therefore, has “got to be designed to the highest levels of integrity, redundancy, and robustness,” he continued. “One, to preserve the vehicle that may cost $10 million or more, but much more importantly, all of our products have passengers on board.” Van Buiten estimates that certification will take another 3 – 4 years should the process go as planned.

Still, that’s a huge step up from the level of technology we saw even just 10 years ago. Back then autonomous functions were barely out of the lab. “The processing required to do high speed flight close to the ground required a supercomputer that completely filled the cabin of the helicopter,” Van Buiten explained. “It physically filled the cabin, it would have fully consumed the payload and we would have had to fly with the doors open” to keep it cool. Today, the same amount of processing power fits in a box the size of a toaster. “And we’ve doubled the number of cores!” he exclaimed.

And for the company’s self-flying research platform, the SARA (Sikorsky’s Autonomy Research Aircraft), every last bit and byte those cores can produce is vital. It’s a modified S76 helicopter outfitted with triplex fly-by-wire controls and is capable of taking off and landing without any human intervention. That massive processing capability is necessary because of the nature of how we use helicopters compared with cars or planes.

“In an airplane, it would be leaving kind of a groomed runway and fly on a preset trajectory. Typically they’re flying at 30,000 feet where there aren’t other obstacles — you just need to make sure you’re avoiding other aircraft,” Van Buiten said. Helicopters on the other hand, “operate in and amongst obstacles close to the ground. The value of a helicopter is that you can land almost anywhere.”

Van Buiten points out that roughly two-thirds of helicopter accidents are caused, not by mechanical failure, but rather what the industry calls “controlled flight into terrain.” That is when the pilot, say, accidentally snags a rotor on an overhead power line or strikes a commercial drone (or is struck by an airborne police car).

An example of “controlled flight into terrain” from Die Hard With a Vengeance

Automation could completely prevent this sort of accident from occurring, Van Buiten argues. It would act “as a third crewmember that’s hyper-vigilantly visually scanning the surroundings, looking for obstacles and risks to the mission, and provides a kind of crash-proof functionality to the crew,” he said.

The company is already testing the functionality aboard SARA. Van Buiten figures that as these sorts of autonomous systems mature and gain greater acceptance amongst a pilot community that has, to date, been reticent to embrace AI, we’ll see flight crews shrink until virtually all operational functions are handled by a computer. And that’s when things get interesting.

We’re already using autonomous helicopters to perform missions deemed too dangerous for human pilots, such as delivering supplies to forward operating bases in Afghanistan. Just wait until they take over one of the most dangerous positions for civilians: cab driving. Van Buiten envisions an “Uber-like” transportation solution for urban mobility issues.

“The really hard problem for me is the certifiable autonomy that lets those systems operate with push-button ease,” Van Buiten said. “We want someone who has zero training to walk in and take a seat and generally do what they do on an elevator, press a button, and be able to say ‘I’m next to this building and I want to end up at that building’.”

“We call it Click and Fly flight” he continued. As with SARA, “you go in and hit a button that says ‘Take Off’,” and that’s it. The computer handles the nitty gritty details of actually getting you off the ground, through the air, and then safely back onto the ground. Of course, this same technology can be applied to everything from Search and Rescue missions to Medivac flights and military operations.

But as with Skunk Works’ autonomous UAVs, Sikorsky has no intention of handing over full flight control to an AI. “There will always be people on the loop. we’re migrating from people being in-the-loop, to on-the-loop, which some people call ‘supervised autonomy’.” Still, he explained, “the power of the autonomy improvements and advancements will be that we can go from one human on one loop to one human on ten loops or a hundred or a thousand.”

There’s still quite a ways to go before we are all flying around in people-sized autonomous quadcopters. Beyond convincing pilots to let AI into their cockpits, significant changes to federal policy and certification practices will have to be enacted. And, most importantly, a cultural shift — a fundamental adjustment in how we view, value, and trust autonomous systems — must occur before the average person will be willing to set foot in a flying machine piloted by a thinking machine.


Here are the best LG V30 cases to keep your new phone safe

The LG V30 is finally here, and it’s a beautiful phone with its edge-to-edge display and glass back. It’s so beautiful you’ll probably want to keep it as protected as possible. That’s why we’ve put together this list of best LG V30 cases, aimed at helping you find the right look and feel for your device. The V30 isn’t available for pre-order yet, so case options are limited. We’ll update this list with more choices LG opens up orders.

As-Guard Flexible TPU Case ($7.90)

Looking to keep things as simple as possible? This case will keep your phone protected from basic drops and scratches, while ensuring it maintains a nice sleek profile. It will fit in your pocket without adding too much extra bulk. The case is a simple black, and it has a cutout for your camera and for the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor. It’s pretty cheap too at $7.90 on Amazon.

Buy now from:


Tauri Wallet Leather Case ($10)

The Tauri Wallet Leather Case is designed for those who want a slightly classier look to their phone. Not only does it offer a leather protective barrier, but it also includes a number of slots for things like credit cards — meaning you can leave the traditional wallet at home. There’s even a space for cash. It’ll set you back $10 in total, which is pretty reasonable.

Buy now from:


Supcase Rugged Holster Case ($18)

Looking to protect your phone at all costs, no matter the added bulk? This case is designed to be as rugged as possible, while still providing access to the phone’s ports, buttons, and so on. It’s also great for those who prefer having their phone in a belt-mounted holster rather than in their pocket. It’s a little pricier than some of the other cases, but it’s well worth the extra protection.

Buy now from:


Lumion Crystal Clear Slim Fit Cover ($14)

The LG V30 is a great-looking phone, and you might not want to cover up that sexy look. Getting a clear case is the best of both worlds — it’ll keep your phone nice and safe, while still allowing you to show off the phone’s design. The case offers a dual-layer design for shock absorption, and Lumion boasts “military grade level protection” as it meets MIL STD 810F-516 certification. In other words, it’s a pretty tough case.

Buy now from:


Wellci Tough Rugged Case Cover ($8)

This rugged case by Wellci not only protects your phone, but it comes in a range of colors — so you can personalize the look to fit your style. There’s also a little kickstand you can fold out to place your phone on the table. Like other cases, it has a cutout for things like the camera and fingerprint scanner, and it looks quite good too.

Buy now from:


Can’t get enough of the LG V30? Check out our V30 hands-on review if you haven’t yet, and we also have a video reviewing some Cine Effects from the new Cine Video mode in the V30’s camera app. If you’re coming from the V20, you may want to also check out V30 vs. V20 comparison post to see how the V30 stacks up.


Get access to Roku’s full streaming service for just $25

This deal from Thrifter features two Roku devices for just $25 today!

If you’ve got $25 to spend, you can get a Roku today. The Roku Express is down to $25 on Amazon. It’s normally $30 and has never had a direct price drop this low.

The Roku Express+ is also down to $25 during an Amazon Gold Box deal of the day. It’s a refurbished unit but it comes with a 90-day warranty from Roku and is covered by Amazon customer service. Normally, the Express+ is $35 refurbished or new.


The Roku Express is a media streaming device that gives you access to the entire Roku lineup, which includes more than 4,500 streaming channels. All of the big names like Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and Pandora, are available. Both devices plug into your TV via HDMI, offer 1080p HD streaming and have an infrared remote control.

The major difference between the Express and the Express+ is the latter is backwards compatible with older TVs and comes with a composite A/V cable (the cable with red, yellow, and white ports).

Both devices are a great way to get access to a lot of your favorite shows without paying a monthly price for cable. If you really want to cut the cord, invest in one of these simple HDTV antennae to get broadcasting stations near you.

See the Express at Amazon See the Express+ at Amazon

More from Thrifter:

  • What does Amazon’s takeover of Whole Foods mean for you?
  • Five free travel apps to help you save big on hotel stays

For more great deals be sure to check out our friends at Thrifter now!


Best microSD Cards For Samsung Galaxy Note 8


What’s the best microSD card to use with the Samsung Galaxy Note 8?

2017 is Samsung’s year to make up for the fiasco surrounding last year’s Note 7 —and the Galaxy Note 8 sure seems ready to impress!

If the 64GB of base internal storage on the Note 8 isn’t going to cut it (and you missed out on the pre-order deals that include a 128GB microSD card), you’ll want to invest in a quality microSD card and add up to 256GB of additional storage. That means you’ll have more space for all your music, 4K videos, photos, and whatever else you want to store

  • Samsung MicroSD EVO+ 256GB
  • SanDisk Ultra 200GB microSDXC card
  • SanDisk Extreme PLUS 64GB microSDXC
  • Kingston Digital 64GB microSDXC

Samsung MicroSD EVO+ 256GB


Samsung is offering a 128GB microSD card if you pre-order before September 14 — but what if you want more? You can get that 128GB card for $60 or go all out with the 256GB card for $150. Both cards feature read speeds up to 95MB/s and write speeds up to 90MB/s, meaning they will be able to handle whatever you throw at it.

Whichever you go with, you can be sure that it’ll work perfectly with your Note 8 and provide you all the storage space you desire so you never have to delete photos and videos.

See at Amazon

SanDisk Ultra 200GB microSDXC Card


If you’re serious about maximizing your storage, you definitely want to consider this 200GB microSDXC card from SanDisk. With write speeds up to 90MB/s, you’ll be able to record in HD or 4K to your heart’s content. And you’ll still have room to spare for all your movies, music and other data. Amazon regularly has this one on sale for under $80, so this is your best value for sure.

See at Amazon

SanDisk Extreme PLUS 64GB microSDXC


Looking to double your available storage without breaking the bank? This 64GB card from SanDisk is UHS speed class 3, with write speeds up to 50MB/s — more than enough to handle 4K video. With transfer speeds of up to 95MB/s, you’re able to add your favorite music and media in a flash with the included SD card adapter. This card is designed to withstand anything life throws your way — including X-rays — and comes with a lifetime limited warranty. Get yours for $33 from Amazon.

See at Amazon

Kingston Digital 64GB microSDXC Card


This Class 10, UHS-I microSDXC card from Kingston features a 64GB capacity and advertises a read speed of 90MB/s and write speed of 45MB/s. Included is an SD adapter which the microSDXC card slides into when using on a computer or other standard SD device. The Kingston Digital 64GB microSDXC card is currently available for $27, with a 128GB card available for just $55.

See at Amazon

Will you be expanding your Note 8 with a microSD card?

If you’re considering on upgrading your Note 8’s storage, let us know in the comments how much space you think you’ll need, and how you plan on using that extra storage.

Samsung Galaxy Note 8

  • Galaxy Note 8 hands-on preview
  • Complete Galaxy Note 8 specs
  • Galaxy Note 8 vs. Galaxy Note 5: Which should you buy?
  • Which Galaxy Note 8 color should you buy?
  • All Galaxy Note 8 news
  • Join our Galaxy Note 8 forums

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Leaked Apple warranty guide shows what it will and won’t repair

It’s pretty tough for individuals and even third-party shops to repair Apple products, and often hard to predict whether Apple itself will repair, decline to fix or replace a busted iPhone. However, Business Insider has unearthed a 22-page “Visual/Mechanical Inspection Guide,” or VMI, that shows what qualifies as an “eligible repair.” It’s reportedly used to conduct a physical damage inspection and assess cost, “basically half the training for iPhone techs,” an anonymous Genius told BI.

Image obtained by Business Insider

Most of the guidance is common-sense, but some things stand out. If a tech spots a dead pixel, for instance, he’s not obligated to fix it unless the customer asks — an arguably shady practice. Apple also has a detailed procedure to check for water or liquid damage, something that’s not very surprising if you own an model prior to the water-resistant iPhone 7 or 7 Plus.

It’s also interesting that Apple will repair, under warranty, a single hairline crack to the front glass, provided that it’s not “accompanied by enclosure damage in the proximity of the crack,” the VMI states. Apple will fix screen damage beyond that out of warranty for a $129 or $149 fee, depending on the model, and AppleCare covers it for a fixed $29 charge.

On the other hand, Apple will shun if you have a bad accident or try to repair the device yourself. In those cases, it’s looking for “intentional tampering or damage,” “disassembled unit or missing parts,” non-Apple batteries and “catastrophic damage.”

Apple has been recalcitrant in the past to even acknowledge product problems, but is arguably improving in that area. It might have changed its tune after the infamous iPhone 6 “touch disease,” dented its quality-control reputation and resulted in lawsuits. In recent months, Apple quietly extended the warranty on first-gen Watch models, for instance, and has been replacing iPad 4s with newer iPad Air 2 models.

As BI points out, the VMI is just a guide, and Apple techs will occasionally make exceptions. “There are always those one-off issues that the phone is technically not covered under warranty but we swap the phone anyway under warranty,” one said.

Source: Business Insider


Apple’s AirPods ‘Dominating’ Emerging Wireless Earbuds Market, Say Analysts

Apple’s AirPods have dominated the “truly wireless” earphones market in the U.S. since launching in December, according to new market research conducted by NPD Group. The industry analyst’s Retail Tracking Service found that AirPods accounted for 85 percent of over 900,000 wireless earbuds sold since the start of the year.

Apple’s success in the emerging market was put down to brand resonance, disruptive pricing, and excitement over the AirPods’ W1 chip, which significantly improves the Bluetooth connection and facilitates transfers between different devices. “With a use case centering on frictionless access to Siri and other tasks initiated by voice, AirPods really act as an extension of the iPhone,” said NPD executive director Ben Arnold, calling Apple’s wireless earbuds “a computing device for the ear”.

Apple’s early domination of the category will continue to challenge competing brands entering the totally wireless market. New entrants will have to provide some differentiation in features, sound quality, or associated services and applications in order to stand out. Consumer reception of wireless earbuds is still forming, even as their use case continues to evolve. As Alexa skills and other voice-first content diversifies, headphones, including totally wireless earbuds, are the leading candidate to be the next piece of hardware to drive digital assistant adoption.

Standout competing brands cited by NPD Group included Samsung’s “headphones-slash-fitness tracker”, IconX, which features an optical heart rate tracker and 4GB of memory for music storage, and The Dash from Bragi, featuring an ARM Cortex M4 CPU, as well as 27 sensors designed to detect movement and voice input.

“For these products, audio quality remains important, but takes a backseat to new capabilities added on top of the sound experience,” said Arnold. “With this in mind, it’s not hard to imagine a collection of mobile apps optimized for a voice interface similar to the growing ecosystem of Alexa skills.”

Apple’s Siri is set to gain enhancements with the launch of iOS 11, which could make the company’s AirPods an even more attractive proposition going into the holiday season. For the first time, the virtual assistant will sync what it learns about a user across their devices, and will also be able to perform translations from English to five languages, including Chinese and French.

Apple recently improved its shipping estimates from six weeks down to two to three weeks in many countries, after months of struggling to cater to demand. During Apple’s third quarter earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook said AirPods capacity had been bumped up and that the company was “working very hard” to get AirPods to customers as quickly as possible.

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Behold the cameras destroyed by the solar eclipse

The eclipse came and went amidst a media hullabaloo. Much of the coverage focussed on where and how you could watch the event. And, almost every report carried a word of warning: Protect your eyes. Trump didn’t listen, but most others did. Photography enthusiasts were also probably aware of the fact that the eclipse can also put cameras at risk. After all, the last thing you want is to damage your expensive piece of kit. Well, as it turns out, some people weren’t in the know. As leading camera rental company Lensrentals points out, a bunch of its pricey snappers were damaged by the event. And, it’s got pictures to prove it. Another word of warning: Look away now if you don’t like seeing broken camera equipment.

The photos include one of a Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens that had its aperture blades partially melted by the sun during the eclipse. Another image shows a Canon 7D Mark II, which had both its shutter and sensor burned by the heat. The album of horrors also includes pics of a melted mirror on a Nikon D500, and a $11,500 Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II lens — again taking damage to its aperture blades.

Although the majority of the gear came back unscathed, it seems the owners of these rentals didn’t heed the company’s advice. Lensrentals had repeatedly warned customers to attach a solar filter to the end of lenses to protect the lens elements and camera sensor.

“This is just a few of the pieces of gear we’ve gotten back that have shown damage from the eclipse,” wrote Lensrentals. “[They] will hopefully serve as a warning to those who are already prepping for the next eclipse in 2024.”

Source: Lensrentals


Daimler and Via to launch ride-sharing shuttle service in Europe

Minivans, while not the most exciting form of transportation, could have a role to play in society’s shift away from car ownership. Daimler, the company behind Mercedes-Benz, is teaming up with Via to launch a new ride-sharing service across Europe. Like UberPool, it will be an on-demand system that allows passengers to set their own pick-up points and destinations through a smartphone app. Mercedes-Benz will supply the minivans, while Via — which already runs a similar service in New York City, Chicago and Washington DC — manages the software. It’s basically a bus service, but with dynamic routes and no predetermined stops.

The new transport system will launch in London later this year. The pair then hope to license the underlying technology to public transport operators in Europe. It’s not clear if that offering will include a fleet of Mercedes-Benz vans, or whether they expect operators to supply their own vehicles. Regardless, the two companies believe Via’s “On-Demand Shuttle Operating System” will allow cities to “improve mobility while reducing congestion, and without incurring any additional infrastructure costs.” Daimler is so confident that it’s investing $50 million in the joint venture.

Via is already experimenting in Europe. In March, the company partnered with UK bus operator Arriva on “ArrivaClick,” a ride-sharing service in Sittingbourne. The service still seems to be running, however the area is too small to pose any real threat to Uber and city-focused services such as Gett, Kabbee and the Daimler-backed MyTaxi. In London, Daimler and Via will also be up against Citymapper, the navigation app-turned bus operator. Following a trial in May, the company has decided to launch a weekend bus service. Unlike Via and UberPool, however, this will be a traditional bus experience with a clearly defined route and stops.

Source: Daimler

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