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Fisker is building a self-driving shuttle to replace our boring regular buses

Self-driving cars are going to be an important part of tomorrow’s smart cities, and electric vehicle automaker Fisker isn’t wasting any time cementing its position in this market. This week, the California-based company announced that it is teaming up with China’s Hakim Unique Group to create the Orbit, an autonomous electric driverless shuttle that can be used to ferry commuters around.

“Mobility choices will change dramatically in the near future,” Henrik Fisker, chairman and CEO of Fisker Inc., told Digital Trends. “It’s already on the way. There will be a time when people will select from a menu of choices, depending on their mobility needs. Fisker aims to offer a choice of mobility in as many diverse segments as possible – and we believe any type of mobility in a Fisker vehicle should be fun, exciting, and stylish. The Fisker Orbit electric autonomous shuttle is entering into the arena of short shared trips, an area that has traditionally been very mundane. We believe that it shouldn’t be that way as the future takes shape. Fisker aims to create an exciting vehicle that ushers in a new era of shuttle interior layout. Overall, the Fisker Orbit will be meant for college campuses, corporate campuses, airports, resorts, and smart city centers — where everything will be connected to each other via network and interacting intelligently.”

Autonomous shuttle buses aren’t unique to Fisker, of course. Similar schemes are being investigated around the world, and even giants like Apple have supposedly been exploring the technology. We don’t yet know too many technical details about Fisker’s Orbit offering, but Fisker tells us the company plans to offer a wide selection of dynamic interior layouts depending on environment, and will further customize the vehicles based on the needs of clients. “The interior will offer a variation of mood zones, depending on the customer’s or passenger’s preference, and the shuttle will offer new digital experiences within,” he continued.

Current plans call for the Fisker Orbit to be sold worldwide, starting in October 2018. It will initially be deployed in China at an as-yet-unspecified Hakim Unique-implemented smart city, but Fisker says that several corporate and college campuses in the United States have also already expressed interest.

Hey, it beats taking the Greyhound!

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Insta360 launches Android adapter for its 360-degree smartphone camera

The iPhone add-on Insta360 One immersive camera is no longer limited to just Apple fans — on Wednesday, December 6, Insta360 launched an Android adapter for the 360 smartphone camera.

While companies often launch one version and then create a completely new one to support the opposite operating system, Insta360 took a different approach. The Insta360 One for Android is the same exact device as the iOS-compatible camera, only Android users just need to add on a small adapter that converts the camera’s Lightning port attachment to a USB Type-C or Micro USB port.

With the adapter, the company brings the camera’s full range of features to the Android operating system, offering another option over the company’s Android Insta360 Air add-on camera. The Insta360 One offers 4K recording at 30 fps or 2.5K at the faster 60 fps frame rate along with 24-megapixel still photos, recording from two lenses. The camera also uses built-in six-axis image stabilization.

While the camera can now attach to both iPhone and Android devices, the 360 camera can also record without being attached to the smartphone, which allows for a handful of different features. One of those options is the ability to add the camera to the Insta360 selfie stick and hoist the camera up in the air for drone-free aerial shots.

The iOS app’s features will also soon be available to Android users. Along with controlling the camera, the app includes several editing modes, including the ability to split the 360 video into separate regular aspect ratio videos. Another edit allows users to convert to the standard view while choosing which parts of the 360 view to include when, making it possible to follow the action by cropping from 360. Another option, SmartTrack, will automatically follow a selected subject. Users also aren’t limited to one format for a single video, with the option to switch formats mid-recording, such as when going from immersive to that Tiny Planet effect.

The Android adapter is available for $30 for devices with a USB Type-C or a Micro USB port. Insta360 is also bundling the camera with the adapter for a limited time for $298, bringing the price of the camera to the same level as iOS users who don’t need that adapter. The discount, along with promotional prices for the standard iOS version and the Insta360 Nano and Insta360 Pro, ends on December 17.

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Drone footage of an insane big-wave surf rescue will make you kiss dry land

Few activities are as endlessly captivating as the white-knuckle sport of big-wave surfing. With surfers riding waves measuring anywhere from 30 to an astounding 60 feet, not only is the level of thrill sky-high but so, too, is the level of danger. At Portugal’s Praia do Norte coast in Nazare last February, a perfect storm of conditions produced a swell for the ages and — unsurprisingly — a few nasty spills. During one such tumble, a perfectly placed drone captured one of the most gripping rescue videos ever produced.

As Brazilian surfer Pedro “Scooby” Vianna catches one of the monstrous waves, he speeds across the water at an incredible clip of 45 miles per hour. After avoiding what appeared to be an inevitable crash, Vianna regains momentum before being caught up a bit by the crashing wave behind him. With the water violently churning beneath him, he loses his balance and goes flying off his board, into one of the spot’s most dangerous areas to be immobile.

Thankfully, for most big-wave outings, an assistance crew aboard nearby jet skis remain on-call to help (i.e. pull to safety) any surfer who has crashed or gone into the water. In Vianna’s case, fellow surfer Lucas “Chumbo” Chianca immediately rode out to pick him up. With a 40-foot wave barreling down on the two, Vianna hops onto the jet ski’s attached rear sled and Chianca pulls back on the throttle. On their way to assumed safety and with water continuing to stir furiously, Chianca attempts to steer the two of them toward shore.

That’s when the jet ski hits a series of bumps, tossing it into the air and dramatically capsizing it. Now, the two are back where Vianna originally started — stranded in an incredibly hazardous section of ocean with large waves bearing down on them as they inch closer and closer to a threatening stretch of rocks. Enter a second rescuer — another surfer named Everaldo “Pato” Teixeira — who quickly jet skis out and grabs Vianna. Because the sled is only so big, Teixeira can only take one surfer at a time.

After dropping Vianna off near shore and whipping his jet ski around, Teixeira realizes the onslaught of incoming surf is pushing Chianca closer and closer to the rocks. Though he attempts to find a good spot to grab him, the barrage of crashing waves from every direction continues to thwart his progress. Finally, Teixeira seizes on a short lull, speeding over to Chianca and escaping to shore just as another set began forming.

Incredibly, the drone captured every second of this hair-raising rescue mission and the Maquina Voadora-produced video was picked up by none other than Red Bull and National Geographic after going viral. After nabbing a nomination in 2017’s Los Angeles Drone Festival, the video took to top spot in the “News and Documentary” category.

Though ordinary people may think chasing waves of 50 or more feet is utter lunacy, the many surfers like Vianna who ride Nazare’s skyscraping swells view it as just another day at the office. Even if it’s a day at the office that occasionally brushes them with a near-death experience.

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Win one of two Jedi Challenges rigs from Lenovo and Modern Dad!

Same question, different year. What’s the hot-ticket item this holiday season? This. It’s this.

Most years I don’t have an answer for folks when they ask me what the cool nerd thing is to buy. Yeah, phones are great and you should have a great phone. TVs? Of course. Me? I want something different. Something fun. And not just fun for me, but something my kids can join in on, too.

When I got a chance to try out Star Wars: Jedi Challenges in Berlin earlier this year, I knew I’d have an answer.

This is one of those “augmented reality” games that uses your phone, along with visor and a controller. Your phone — Android or iPhone — runs the game and projects it onto the visor, through which you can still see the outside world. So you don’t get dizzy, and you shouldn’t trip on anything.

And the controller? A lightsaber. Say. No. More.

It takes just a few minutes to set up. I’ve had a blast with it. My 11-year-old has had a blast with it. It’s just a tad big on my 7-year-old, but she’s had fun with it as well. (And she still won’t even admit to liking Star Wars in the slightest.)

Do you have to be a huge fan of The Force to enjoy the three games in Jedi Challenges? Not at all. It’s worth the couple hundred bucks just to swing a lightsaber. (Holochess and Strategic Combat keep you from burning out from fighting Vader and the droids.)

Oh, and we’ve got a couple of them to give away. This contest is open until Dec. 16 and is available to anyone anywhere. So get to it, and good luck!

Win 1 of 2 Star Wars: Jedi Challenge kits from Modern Dad!

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Invest in Bitcoin and understand blockchain technology for only $19.

Decentralized currencies are becoming more popular, and have recently hit the mainstream thanks to Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency that relies on blockchain technology to function. If you want to get serious about investing in Bitcoin, you need to understand how it all works.

Learn how to invest in Bitcoin! Learn more

Of course, to understand Bitcoin you also need to understand blockchain — the technology that Bitcoin is built on and that takes some serious class time. With this new currency and technology just emerging into the mainstream finding all this info can be confusing. Don’t worry; Android Central has a deal that will have you investing in Bitcoin in no time!


Right now, Android Central offers has a deal on a two-course bundle that contains all you need to become proficient in investing, trading, buying, selling, and understanding Bitcoin and blockchain. Instead of paying the regular price of $128, you’ll instead pay just $19. That’s 85 percent off the regular price!

Just look at some of the great opportunities this bundle gives you!

  • Buy $5 of Bitcoin (BTC) on Coinbase.
  • Send and receive Bitcoin.
  • Setup a Trezor for cold wallet security.
  • Understand how to speak about Bitcoin, Blockchain, Altcoins, Ethereum, and much more.

You may have heard that this past week Bitcoin made it to above $10,000 for the first time since its inception. Don’t hesitate to invest in Bitcoin, understand the market, and know how the technology works so you can make the smartest decisions going forward!

Save 85 percent on this valuable bundle of courses! Learn more

If you’d like to get into Ethereum while it’s still getting off the ground, the time is now. At just $29, you really can’t go wrong; developers are in high demand, and the profession is on course to become quite lucrative.


Step into the future with this 2-pack of smart plugs for $26

Future-proof your home today.

Although we don’t have flying cars or robot butlers yet, recent surges in smart home technology still make 2017 feel like we are living in an episode of The Jetsons. This two-pack of Etekcity Smart Plugs from Amazon will make your home a little bit smarter and a whole lot cooler, and right now they are only $25.89.


You can do a ton of neat things with these smart plugs. Track your power usage, set timers, and schedules, or turn off your TV with your voice instead of trying to find the remote. These are easy to set up and come with a two-year warranty as well. These smart plugs do not support Google Home, SmartThings, HomeKit or IFTTT at this time, though Amazon Alexa devices are compatible.

See at Amazon


This $80 power bank puts a bonafide AC outlet plus USB-A and USB-C ports in your pocket

And you thought you knew portable battery chargers…

This RAVPower AC Outlet portable charger is down to $79.99 on Amazon. It was selling as as high as $140 in early October and has been on a steady decline ever since, but $80 is an all new low.

You can also get this 2-pack of USB-A to USB-C charging cables for free by either adding both to your cart using the AC outlet’s product page or adding them individually. Either way you should see the $10 price discounted automatically during checkout. Just make sure the seller is “Sunvalley Brands” on both products.

Compare this price with slightly larger RAVPower models that only add an incremental power increase but cost almost twice as much or the popular Jackery PowerBar, which has the same milliampere hours but still charges $50 more.


Features include:

  • New-and-Improved Version: 2-prong AC output with a power supply on / off switch indicator for devices up to 50W (To turn ON the AC power, hold the power button for 8 seconds)
  • Charge Two Devices at Once: Type-C and iSmart USB ports allow for fast and simultaneous charging of a MacBook and another device (Type-C port only supports output)
  • A 20100mAh Power Fortress: Enough juice to charge an iPhone 7 for 5.6 times, a Galaxy S8 for 3.7 times, or the 12″ MacBook 1 time
    Faster Recharge Between Uses: With the 19V/1.6A DC input, the battery recharges in just 3.5 hours while 5 LED lights indicate remaining battery
  • Advanced Protection: Keep your gadgets safe from overcharge, short circuit, and power surges with air vents for heat dissipation

If you’ve ever bought a portable charger before, this is basically the same as any one of those except it also adds an AC Outlet to the mix. That greatly expands what you can charge beyond just USB gadgets. Keep your drone’s battery charger working while you’re out in the field or charge small appliances while camping.

See at Amazon


Google Sheets updated with new machine learning features

Sheets is gaining automatic suggestions to speed up your workflow.

If there’s one thing that’s been synonymous with Google this year, it’s been machine learning. Google’s gone all-in with machine learning and artificial intelligence for many of its services and apps, and the latest to be injected with these is Google Sheets.


Google made this announcement via a blog post on December 6, and the biggest changes coming as a result of this include automatically-suggested actions based on what you’re doing. Now, Sheets can automatically suggest a pivot table to visually represent your numbers, data for rows and columns when working with a pivot table, and formulas that are based around the data you’re working with.

Along with this, Google says financial professionals will be able to “use everyday language to ask questions of their data and have the answer returned as a pivot table.”


These new features will start making their way to G Suite users soon, and you can find more exact details here.

Android 8.1 Oreo exits beta, now available for Pixel and Nexus devices


How do I know if my phone is unlocked?


An unlocked phone is the key to getting service from an alternative carrier.

We talk a lot about using MVNO carriers as a way to find a cheaper alternative for service. It’s something that’s gaining popularity and while it isn’t exactly mainstream just yet, it’s getting there. We think that’s great because having even more choices can’t be a bad thing. But in most cases, before you can try any other service provider, you’ll need to have a SIM-unlocked phone. That means you can use a SIM card from any company and as long as the hardware is compatible with the network, it just works.

While some of us already know if our phones are unlocked or how to check, here’s what you need to know if you are looking for a little help.

More: Best Unlocked Phone

Where did you buy it, and how?


In the U.S., Verizon is the only carrier who is consistent with selling all their smartphones unlocked. What we mean here is that if you walk into a Verizon store or use their website and buy a phone made for Verizon with their name on it, it’s probably going to be SIM unlocked. Note that this doesn’t mean you should buy a Verizon branded phone to use on a different network because SIM unlocked doesn’t mean fully compatible. Just that Verizon is OK with you putting another SIM in the phone and letting the hardware try to connect to a different network.

The other three networks, as well as Best Buy or other third-party carrier resellers, are not as reliable when it comes to selling unlocked phones. Some are, some aren’t — but every one of them can be unlocked, because that’s the law.


If you bought your phone from Amazon or B&H or another online retailer, it told you in the listing if it was unlocked. If you don’t remember, a quick call or email to customer service will help you find a copy of the listing to double check. Of course, if you bought your phone directly from the manufacturer, if it was listed as unlocked it will be and there is no need to check. All phones sold directly from Google and Apple (if paid in full at time of purchase) are unlocked, and many phones from other manufacturers are sold directly and SIM unlocked, too.

For the rest of the phones out there, there’s really only one fool-proof way to check — try it.

Use a SIM card from a different carrier


You’ll see references to the website that claim you can check online. While that might be true, the service costs money and has been incorrect five out of five times I have tried. I’ll come right out and say it — don’t bother.

You can call your carrier or the carrier or MVNO you’re thinking of switching to. There is a database of IMEI numbers and it says which phones are unlocked or blacklisted. You might not have any luck here, though, because the person answering the phone might not be able to give you that information. Either because they don’t have access to it or they aren’t allowed to tell you over the phone. It’s worth a try if you don’t have access to a SIM card from a different company, though.

If you do have access to a SIM card from a different carrier, checking is pretty simple.

  • Make a phone call using the right SIM card if possible. This is to check that the phone is working properly. Call your mom and tell her hello; she’ll appreciate it.
  • Shut off the phone and remove the SIM card. Look in the manual or online if you’re not sure how to do this, and if you need a SIM card removal tool, a paperclip works fine.
  • Put the different SIM card in the phone and power it back on.
  • If you’re greeted with a dialog box telling you to enter an unlock code, your phone is SIM locked to the carrier it was originally purchased from.
  • If you don’t see this, check that it says you have service. If you do, your phone is probably unlocked. Try making another phone call. Mom won’t mind two calls on the same day.

If you can’t call using the different SIM card, you’ll probably get a recorded message with some error code. you can jot down the code and check online to see why the call can’t be completed so you know if it’s because of a SIM lock or because of incompatible hardware.

If your phone is SIM-locked, don’t fret. As mentioned, a carrier has to unlock a phone unless you owe money on it according to U.S. law. Give them a call and they will help you.

When you don’t need a SIM-unlocked phone


At the top of this article, we said in most cases you do need a SIM-unlocked phone to try another carrier. That’s true, but there is one popular use-case where it doesn’t matter: using a T-Mobile branded phone on an MVNO using T-Mobile’s network.

T-Mobile actively assists resellers, and they don’t require a reseller (that’s what an MVNO is) to require you to have an unlocked phone to connect. If your phone says T-Mobile on it or on the box, it will work on most MVNOs that use T-Mobile’s network. [And there are a lot of them](Complete List of T-Mobile MVNOs).

Alternative carriers (MVNOS)


  • What is an alternative mobile carrier?
  • What are the advantages of going with an alternative carrier?
  • How to make sure your phone works on a prepaid alternative carrier
  • 8 Important Considerations When Switching To An MVNO
  • These are the cheapest data plans you can buy in the U.S.
  • Mint SIM vs. Cricket Wireless: Which is better for you?



Setting up a kid-friendly Android device


Be involved in your child’s digital life.

While handing your phone or tablet off to a child can offer a moment of peace while they are distracted by a game or video, there’s a lot more to the experiences children can have in Android. Choosing the right device for them to enjoy is only part of the process, though. Android is primarily made for adults, so there’s a little bit of setup necessary to make your average smartphone or tablet child-friendly.

Here’s a quick tour through those steps, and some tips on keeping your child safe through Android.

Creating a new account with Family Link


You used to have to jump through hoops and sort of lie to Google about your kid’s age if you wanted someone under 13 to have their own Google account, but nowadays we have Family Link. Through this app, you can create a kid-focused account for your child with lots of protections and features for parents to keep an eye on how gadgets are being used.

Want to learn more about Family Link before getting started? Here you go!

Step one for any kid having their own Android phone or tablet needs to be having a Family Link account, which you create by installing the Family Link app on your phone.


Family Link accounts are different from normal Google accounts. You create them from an app on your phone, and then the Family Link app walks you through setting that account up on the phone or tablet you want your child to use. As you log in to this account, Family Link lets you choose which apps your child has access to, and lets you set up a service that tells you what apps your child uses most throughout the week.

If you choose to allow it, this Family Link account has access to all of the basic Google apps and services. You can set up Gmail, messenger, Chrome, Google Drive, and more. There’s a lot of flexibility here, but it can take up to 25 minutes to go from creating the account to fully setting up your child’s device to suit your needs.

Using Family Link to create boundaries and keep your kid safe


Now that you have a device set up with their account, you can start using your phone or tablet to monitor activity and employ restrictions as you see fit. This includes:

  • Setting screen time limits
  • Safe Search controls
  • Permissions that apps have access to
  • Activities this account has access to
  • Password management
  • Download and purchase controls in Google Play

Accessing these controls is easy. Open the Family Link app, select the child whose settings you want to edit, and select Manage Settings at the top of the app. From here you have access to controls and filters you can adjust. You can create a list of websites you don’t want your children to access, set filters on the kinds of results Google Search is allowed to offer, set age limits on apps and movies your child can see from Google Play, and even enable location tracking.

Perhaps the most important feature is time controls. This is located on the main page of the Family Link app, and it gives you the ability to limit how many hours per day your child can use their device. You can even set specific times of the day when the tablet is locked completely, just in case someone has a habit of using their tech after bedtime. If these time zones aren’t specific enough, you can press a button and lock the device from your phone. The lock is instant, and can’t be bypassed unless you either unlock it from your phone or enter a pin number in on the locked machine.

Using YouTube Kids responsibly


YouTube gives your kids unfiltered access to everything that exists on YouTube. Some adults don’t want that, much less making it available to children. To address this, Google made YouTube Kids. It’s a separate app to watching videos that Google has approved as child-friendly. It’s a free app and all ads are removed from the videos your child has access to, creating some relative safety for your child to explore YouTube.

Like anything that promises to be “kid safe” there’s a good chance your definition of appropriate doesn’t 100% line up with Google’s. On top of that, sometimes things slip through Google’s filters and are less than “kid safe” in practice. YouTube kids does a decent job filtering out the worst of YouTube, but this is not Disney Channel. You’re going to want to know what your kid is watching and keep an eye out for videos that could be problematic.

If you want to restrict this version of YouTube down even further, you can do so with Family Link.

Increased control through parent apps


Gaining additional control of your child’s Android experience, especially if they are above age 13, requires some help from third-party apps. There’s no shortage of great apps to choose from when it comes to monitoring the mobile experience from another device, but the absolute best of the free solutions out there is DinnerTime Plus. The app is designed to let the parent monitor activity from their personal device, and make changes remotely. As the name suggests, you can even hit a button that flashes a bright red screen on your child’s device, letting them know it’s time for Dinner and to put the gadget down.

As cuts as the bright red auto-parenting tool is, the core functionality in DinnerTime Plus can be found in the reports the app generates and the control you as a parent are given over specific apps. If restricted accounts aren’t an option for you, being able to block apps is the next best thing. It’s also pretty useful to be able to set specific times for when the device can’t be used, and have a report generated to let you know when apps are being used and for how long. It’s the kind of thing Google may never make a native part of the OS, but as a parent can make a huge difference in how your child interacts with technology.

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