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7
Jun

Sonos and IKEA Reveal Prototypes for ‘Symfonisk’ Speakers, Including One That Doubles as a Shelf


Following yesterday’s announcement from Sonos that AirPlay 2 will be coming to its speakers this July, more details about the company’s partnership with IKEA have now emerged, after first being revealed in December. In a press release shared by the Swedish furniture maker, the two companies detail a “long-term partnership” that’s beginning with a new range of speakers called “Symfonisk” (via The Verge).

A few non-functional prototypes of Symfonisk were showcased at IKEA’s Democratic Design Day event in Sweden, and the company says that the Wi-Fi speaker system will fully integrate with Sonos’ existing products as well as IKEA’s own Trådfris smart home line of lights and switches. Of course, Symfonisk will also be compatible with many of IKEA’s furniture through a bracket system that can turn the speaker into a shelf or place it under a METOD kitchen cabinet, among other prototyped ideas.

A Symfonisk prototype attached to the wall above the Sonos Play:5 via The Verge
IKEA mentioned that it’s still early on in the design process for Symfonisk, so the look and implementation of the speakers could change before they are released sometime “after summer in 2019.” Suggested prices were also not yet given.

“Sonos’ company culture is very similar to that of IKEA. Our shared values and beliefs made us connect from day one. When the actual work started, we felt that we were the perfect match in every way”, says Björn Block, Business Leader for IKEA Home Smart.

“Many people dream of built-in sound systems, but few can afford it. Our goal is for our collective work to save space, get rid of cords, make clutter invisible, and bring sound and music into the home in a more beautiful way”, says Björn.

IKEA has already gotten into the speaker market, launching a line of minimalist “Eneby” Bluetooth speakers earlier this year. These devices come in 8-inch and 12-inch sizes, can be both mounted on a wall or displayed on a stand, and are designed to fit in the Kallax and Eket storage systems.


In 2017, IKEA launched the Trådfri Smart Lighting System in the spring, and then debuted HomeKit support for the lighting range in the fall, allowing users to easily integrate their IKEA bulbs and switches into the Home app on iOS. The company got inspired by Apple when it launched a new ad campaign for its Qi charging furniture alongside the debut of Apple’s foray into wireless charging with the iPhone X, 8, and 8 Plus in September 2017.

Tags: Sonos, Ikea
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7
Jun

Emirates moves toward windowless planes, starts with first-class fliers


Emirates

Fancy the idea of boarding a passenger plane without any windows? How about if they had digital displays relaying the view from outside instead?

Emirates president Tim Clark has been talking about virtual windows in an interview with the BBC.

And no, this isn’t just some wacky concept outlined in a recently granted patent. The first virtual windows are already here, in the first-class cabin of Emirates’ newest Boeing 777-300ER aircraft (shown above).

Clark said external fiber-optic cameras stream images to the virtual windows, apparently offering high-quality images superior to what you see when looking through a regular aircraft window.

The Emirates president said there was “absolutely no reason” why we can’t have passenger planes fully kitted out with virtual windows in the near future. Windowless cabins would give the aircraft more structural integrity while making it lighter, allowing for faster flights and improved fuel efficiency, Clark said.

But as the BBC points out, the design could prompt safety concerns. For example, in an emergency situation like a fire, cabin crew need to be able to see outside the aircraft to assess the situation before initiating evacuation procedures. If the plane’s power systems fail, it could result in the displays shutting down, leaving crew and passengers stuck inside a truly windowless, and possibly dark, aircraft.

When asked about this apparent obstacle, the European Aviation Safety Agency said it didn’t see “any specific challenge that could not be overcome” with the use of virtual windows inside passenger planes.

While some first-class Emirates passengers already have the chance to try out the virtual windows, it’s likely to be a while before an entirely windowless aircraft — one looking a lot like a cargo plane from the outside — takes off with hundreds of passengers inside.

The technology brings to mind an idea put forward by Airbus several years ago for windowless cockpits. The aircraft manufacturer suggested in a patent — one which you may or may not wish to describe as “wacky” — that it would be beneficial to move the cockpit to the back of the plane. It said that having it at the front reduces the aircraft’s aerodynamic qualities because of the complex shape and structure required to house it. The heaviness of the reinforced windows also adds to the aircraft’s overall weight, reducing its fuel efficiency.

As with Emirates’ design, on-board cameras would feed real-time video and pre-stored data to displays in the cockpit, providing pilots with all the visual information they need.


7
Jun

Xiaomi Redmi Y2 preview: Perfecting a winning formula


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After a relatively quiet start to the year, Xiaomi is once again targeting the entry-level segment with the Redmi Y2. Although the device is launching just six months after the debut of the Redmi Y1, the Y2 isn’t a mid-cycle refresh. It offers comprehensive upgrades in key areas, including an 18:9 panel, Snapdragon 625, and dual rear cameras.

What makes the device that much more enticing is the fact that it retails for just ₹9,999. We’ve seen devices in recent months that challenged Xiaomi’s position in this category — notably the ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1 — but with the Y2 the brand is reasserting its dominance. The Redmi Y2 doesn’t quite go up against the M1, but it is one of the most affordable devices in the market to feature the Snapdragon 625 and dual cameras.

With the Redmi Y2 now featuring an 18:9 panel, there are smaller bezels at the top and bottom of the display, and the phone has a 6.0-inch screen in roughly a similar chassis as the 5.5-inch Y1.

The display was flush with the body on the Redmi Y1, but the Y2 sees the panel jut out considerably from the mid-frame. The screen itself is about the same as what we’ve seen last year, but taller because of the switch to the 18:9 form factor.

The 5.99-inch 720p panel (1440×720) offers vibrant colors, and you can adjust the color balance from the settings. I used the Redmi Y2 for a few days in Taiwan — where it gets just as bright as India — and I had zero issues reading the contents of the screen under harsh sunlight. Xiaomi has been making decent IPS LCD panels in this category for a few generations now.

Xiaomi is still using a polycarbonate back with a metal mid-frame, and the overall fit and finish is top-notch. The design itself is slightly altered, and the antenna bands no longer intersect the camera module. Instead, they run along the top and bottom edges of the phone, giving it a cleaner look at the back.

The phone also comes with dual SIM card slots and a dedicated MicroSD card slot, so you don’t have to choose between a secondary SIM and an SD card. Oh, and Xiaomi is throwing in a clear case in the box.

The Redmi Y2 comes with the latest version of MIUI 9.5 out of the box, which is based on Android 8.1 Oreo. A new feature addition in MIUI 9.5 is gestures, which let you disable the nav bar and use a gesture-driven interface similar to that of the iPhone X.

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Gestures work the following way: swipe up from the bottom center of the screen to go to the home screen, swipe up and hold halfway to pull up the overview pane, and swipe up from either edge of the display to go back in an app. Xiaomi isn’t the first manufacturer to roll out gestures, but MIUI 9.5 makes them more accessible to a wider range of budget devices.

Other changes in MIUI 9.5 include easier restore options, and the interface feels more polished from previous versions. With the global version of MIUI 10 on the horizon, we should see the update make its way to the Y2 in the coming months.

The dual camera sensor is arrayed vertically, and like the Redmi Note 5 Pro, it looks a lot like the iPhone X. Although the phone has dual 12MP + 5MP sensors — with the secondary camera facilitating portrait mode — the feature is still finicky. The primary camera has received an upgrade, and the larger 1.25um pixel size lets in more light, leading to better photos in daylight conditions.

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The 16MP front camera uses pixel binning to produce more detailed photos, and one feature I’m excited about is face unlock. Xiaomi is upfront about the fact that its face unlock tech isn’t as secure as using a PIN, and there were a few times where the system failed in low-light conditions. That said, it is a convenient feature addition that works great for the most part.

Like most other Chinese manufacturers, Xiaomi has been using the AI moniker liberally in its promotional materials. For the Redmi Y2, the brand is touting an AI-assisted Beautify mode, and semantic segmentation for portrait mode. The AI-backed Beautify 4.0 mode automatically corrects blemishes, and Xiaomi says the mode is tailored for an Indian audience.

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A few features are unchanged from last year: there’s still a 3080mAh battery, MicroUSB charging, and fast charging is limited to 5V/2A. You’ll still get a day’s worth of usage with ease, and more often than not the Redmi Y2 will be able to deliver a two-day battery life.

I’ve lost count of the number of devices Xiaomi has released that were powered by the Snapdragon 625 — it’s clear that the company favors the chipset for its balance of performance and efficiency. Going with the Snapdragon 625 is a win-win for Xiaomi — the chipset has been in the market for several years now, so Xiaomi doesn’t need to pay a huge licensing fee to Qualcomm.

Then there’s the fact that MIUI is optimized for the chipset, so it should make it easier for Xiaomi to roll out a new device with the Snapdragon 625 over a Snapdragon 630.

Xiaomi’s budget lineup is getting increasingly confusing.

Sure, the Snapdragon 625 is showing its age at this point, but it is still a step up over the Snapdragon 435 that was powering the Y1. I haven’t seen any slowdowns on the Redmi Y2, and I’ve been using the version with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of storage.

The budget segment is saturated with phones that offer great value for money, and it’s getting increasingly difficult for manufacturers to differentiate their products in this category. The Redmi Y2 provides incredible value, but there are other devices from Xiaomi that offer quite a bit more for your money.

A litany of launches at the tail end of the year combined with the introduction of the Redmi Note 5 series earlier this year means Xiaomi has over eight models on sale in the budget category.

Like last year — where the Redmi Note 4 was a better purchase over the Redmi Y1 — the Y2 is going up against the Redmi Note 5. The Redmi Y2 has dual cameras going for it, but the Note 5 has a Full HD display and a significantly larger battery.

I’ll have much more to share on the Redmi Y2 in the coming weeks, including how it fares against the likes of the Redmi Note 5 and other budget phones.

But for now, all you need to know is that the Redmi Y2 continues Xiaomi’s strong showing in this category. The hardware is familiar, but the addition of face unlock and a retooled front camera make it a strong contender in this category.

The Redmi Y2 will go up for sale exclusively on Amazon India, with the 3GB/32GB set to cost ₹9,999. The 4GB/64GB option will be available for ₹12,999.

What are your thoughts on the Redmi Y2?

7
Jun

This $29 smart scale works with Google Fit, Apple Health and more


Stay in the know!

Tracking your weight has gone from a manual process to an automated one thanks to smart scales. In the past, these scales had been on the pricey side, but they have recently become way more affordable. Right now you can pick up the Eufy BodySense Smart Scale for just $28.99 with code EUFYS789 at Amazon. This deal saves you $11 off its current price otherwise.

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It integrates with Google Fit and Apple Health and supports multiple device pairings so that up to 20 people can use the scale with ease. This scale can track your weight, body fat, BMI and more. You can also view all your information right from within the free EufyLife iPhone or Android app. Not sure if this is the smart scale for you? Check out this great comparison to see how it stacks up against Fitbit’s offering.

See at Amazon

7
Jun

Moto Mods support defies planned obsolescence but restricts future designs


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This is why the whole thing was a bad idea from the start. Or was it?

The Moto Z3 Play will support the complete list of existing Moto Z Mods. That’s good news for those of us who have one or more Moto Z Mods already and might be thinking about buying a new phone, and the opposite of what most people thought would happen when Motorola showed off their Moto Mod concept.

Moto Mods aren’t some half-assed “also” feature. Moto owns it.

While we were thinking that is was a bad move to build a system that had people buying extra parts fora phone that they would only have for a year or two, Motorola was busy making sure the next phone was exactly the same in all the ways it needed to be so that we were wrong about it. It was a bold move that nobody else (OK, I mean LG here and only LG) decided to try, and it could turn out to be a bad move — Motorola is stuck with a particular design in order to support them.

There are two choices for a new Moto Z model going forward — keep it the same as the current generation (and the previous generation) design wise, or piss off everyone because they stopped caring about customers who purchased Moto Mods. Both choices are bad and serve as a reminder that phones are more “disposable” to some customers than others; some would rather ditch the mods they have purchased in order to get something new while others would hate that the company has forsaken them as early adopters.

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Supporting the existing set of Moto Mods with the release of a new model in 2018 was a smart move. It’s hard to argue otherwise. The memory of promises that Mods would be supported in the future is still fresh and if Motorola hadn’t done it, current customers and pundits alike would have crucified them because that’s what disgruntled customers and pundits do. It could be a good idea next year, too. But there will come a time when the design of the Moto Z looks dated and old, or some advancement in the tech that drives mobile would require a change, and someone will have just spent the money for a camera mod or a speaker mod when Motorola announced it was ending support. It might even be you.

Moto can kill Mod support in a way that makes them heroes if they do it right.

Motorola has to ditch this model eventually. The company knows it, I know it, and you know it. As cool as the idea that a smartphone maker tries to extend the life of a purchase instead of trying to make it obsolete and make even more money is, it’s just not sustainable year after year, forever and ever.

Motorola — stop making new mods in a few months. Tell everyone that the next Moto Z will not support existing mods when you do it. Let everyone down the right way and you’ll be appreciated even more; we’ll look back and be able to say “remember how Motorola did the Moto Mods?” whenever a company does something stupid that costs existing customers money. You might not be the same company that pioneered the entire mobile industry, but some of that DNA is still alive even if only in your customers’ minds.

We love that you do it and own it. We know that you’ll have to end it. Make sure we love how you own the end of it all, too.

7
Jun

How watchOS 5 Brings Rich Web Content to Messages and Mail on Apple Watch


Apple’s latest version of watchOS promises to bring rich HTML content to the wrists of Apple Watch users, thanks to new Webkit optimizations that improve apps like Mail and Messages.

Apple expanded on the new WebKit features at a WWDC session, in which it explained to developers how they can optimize web content for viewing on Apple Watch screens.

Currently in the watchOS Mail app, rich HTML messages are rendered in a text-only format and users are prompted to view the content on another device for the full experience.

Likewise, tapping a URL link received in Mail or Messages directs Apple Watch users to their iPhone to view the web page.

However, in watchOS 5, full HTML emails are capable of being displayed on Apple Watch in cases where text-only formatting can’t express the content of the message, and users can also view web page links, as well as interact with them, albeit in a limited way.

For example, turning the Digital Crown on Apple Watch scrolls the HTML content vertically, or users can drag with their finger to move up and down the page, while double-tapping zooms the content in and out, similar to iPhone.

In a Force Touch addition, a firm press on the Apple Watch screen reveals back and forward buttons to navigate through your viewing history (swiping left and right does the same thing).


Apple says it achieved the WebKit optimizations by shrinking the 320-pixel display used by the iPhone SE to fit the 156-pixel width of the Apple Watch display, and then computing the initial scale of the page so that the content width fits within the smaller screen. Basically, this allows text and images to appear smaller while preserving the overall layout of the page.

Apple notes that the optimizations are aimed at quickly consuming content, so some features like video playback and web fonts aren’t currently available. However, users will be able to interact with forms within HTML content, and there’s also an Safari-like Reader mode, which automatically activates on text-heavy web pages (the Reader Mode option is also accessible via Force Touch, so users can choose to read pages on their watch with extraneous content stripped out).

watchOS 5, due for release in the fall, promises several other improvements and features, including Walkie-Talkie for touch-to-talk communications with friends, automatic workout detection, and updates to the Siri watch face.

Related Roundups: Apple Watch, watchOS 4Tags: WWDC 2018, watchOS 5Buyer’s Guide: Apple Watch (Neutral)
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7
Jun

Siri Shortcuts Offer Scope for Limited Spotify Interactions in iOS 12


Last month, when we asked MacRumors readers what they hoped to see in iOS 12, one of the most frequent requests was improvements to Siri, specifically Spotify integration. Currently, Siri can open streaming media apps like Spotify, but it can’t play songs or video from third-party sources.

While Apple has yet to explicitly support the functionality, one of the components in the newly-announced Siri Shortcuts feature in iOS 12 could pave the way for Siri-controlled playback, should Spotify choose to implement it.

Siri Shortcuts lets users connect certain third-party apps to Siri to greatly streamline voice controls, allowing them to connect app-specific actions to an invokable Siri phrase.

As noted by TechCrunch, the Siri Shortcuts feature includes a “Play Media” intent that will let users summon audio and video media from third-party apps, and could theoretically be used to direct Siri on iPhone or HomePod to a designated playlist or artist on Spotify.

It’s not yet entirely clear how deep this kind of integration can go, but it’s likely to operate much less seamlessly than Siri controls for Apple Music. The Siri Shortcuts that Apple demonstrated during its WWDC keynote for instance were limited to sequential actions across apps, suggesting the “Play Media” intent is a one-off command that relies on specific pre-made shortcuts to playlists, artists, and the like.

Still, in theory, Siri could be used to play an artist or playlist from Spotify, and then the listener could use the standard Siri media playback functions to control the listening experience. But that’s still some ways off Siri’s existing integration with Apple Music, which extends to individual interface controls and even artist/genre queries.

The other issue of course is that it all depends on whether Spotify chooses to implement Shortcuts, but the new feature in iOS 12 is at least a positive sign that Apple is evolving Siri toward increased compatibility with third-party streaming services.

Related Roundup: iOS 12Tags: Spotify, WWDC 2018
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7
Jun

Instagram Reportedly Planning Hub for Longer Videos to Compete With Snapchat Discover


Instagram is gearing up to launch a hub for “longer-form video,” according to multiple sources speaking with TechCrunch, in an effort to continue its competition with Snapchat and the “Discover” tab, as well as YouTube.

The dedicated space will feature scripted shows, music videos, and more, which will all be vertically shot and viewable in full-screen 4K on compatible smartphones.

The announcement could come as soon as June 20, and Instagram is meeting with social media stars and other video partners ahead of the reveal.

Videos are expected to be 5-15 minutes in length with a spotlight section highlighting popular videos, and a “continue watching” area for quickly jumping back into videos that users start but don’t finish in one session.

Outside of the hub, these longer clips will be able to get featured on the creator’s profiles near Stories Highlights at the top. It appears that there will be heavy oversight by Instagram, since creators won’t be able to fully shoot and post these longer videos on their own, “as the section will only allow pre-made video uploads.”

As of now, no name for the hub or where it will be located in the app have yet to be given. The sources did state that Instagram is planning to let creators eventually earn money off the videos through advertisements.

Instagram is preparing to unveil a home for longer-form video — a YouTube competitor and its take on Snapchat Discover. According to multiple sources, Instagram will offer a dedicated space featuring scripted shows, music videos and more in vertically oriented, full-screen, high-def 4K resolution.

The public shouldn’t expect Netflix Originals or HBO-level quality. This is not “InstaGame of Thrones.” Instead, the feature is more focused on the kind of videos you see from YouTube creators.

The push into longer videos for Instagram comes after Facebook debuted the “Watch” tab in its own app last year. In Watch, Facebook users can watch original TV shows, jump in on live broadcasts, save items to a watchlist, check out sports coverage, and more.

Snapchat’s Discover tab has a “For You” section that highlights the latest Stories from publishers like the NBA, IGN, VICE, The New York Times, and more. Users can subscribe to these creators and get new updates pushed to a subscription box in the tab.

Instagram’s long-form video hub will likely take ideas from both of these platforms when it launches later in the summer. Snapchat has had a rocky few months and seen its “slowest user growth rate ever” in the wake of the app’s controversial redesign. As TechCrunch points out, “Instagram and its massive user count may be able to seduce publishers to bring longer videos to its app instead,” just as it did with users and the Snapchat Stories format in 2016.

Tag: Instagram
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7
Jun

How to Pick the Best Drone for Your GoPro


Drones are spectacular concerning technical features and possibilities they offer. The flying gadgets are indeed impressive and open new doors to aerial photography amateurs. However, if you instead prefer shooting videos from unique angles, you need to find and choose the best drone GoPro cameras.

If you’re done practicing with drone simulators and indoor quadcopters, it’s time to experience a real drone. Making a choice might come difficult when faced with all those technical specs. This guide aims to help you pick the best drone for GoPro you can have and use in the long run.

Decide What You Want

It may sound redundant, but knowing what you want narrows down your products list. You may want to purchase a compact drone, which folds easily and fits inside a small case. However, you may also want to open a video shooting business and work with professional drones. Knowing what you want saves you time as it determines what you’re looking for. Your wish list should include products that have passed tests and reviews.

According to Today Best Drone, customers and experts agree that the best drone for GoPro is their own Karma model which you can read about here. The product is lightweight, compact, easy to operate and comes with a stabilizer for shake-free videos and a follow me feature. Consulting reviews and customer opinions bring you additional information on products you might have failed to notice otherwise.

Decode Drone Language

The first thing you might notice when looking for a drone is that all such products include acronyms. These will help you determine what your drone needs before you can operate it.

  • RTF = Ready-to-Fly. Most of the drones are RTF, which means you only need to charge the battery, install the propellers or connect the control to the drone before flying the gadget.
  • BNF = Bind-and-Fly. You will mostly find this feature among indoor quadcopters. BNF products come without a remote, or the controller is sold separately. If you already have one or the manufacturer doesn’t sell controllers, you might find it challenging to purchase compatible accessories. Aside from frequency or communication channel, the controller and drone must use the same manufacture protocol to talk to each other.
  • ARF = Almost-Ready-to-Fly. Such drones don’t come with a receiver or transmitter. You need to assemble them or even install the motor. ARF products are also known as kits which differ between producers. If an ARF product sounds tempting, your next step should be to read the instructions to see what the package contains carefully.

Essential Features

Here are some of the features that ensure your drone’s functionality and expand its life.

  1. Brushless motors are more expensive than regular ones but quieter. They also possess a longer lifespan, so you don’t need to purchase many back-ups.
  2. Integrated GPS is mostly available for premium models. They notify the machine about its status on a map and helps it find a way back home – if it also has a return-to-home (RTH) option. Such drones navigate easier and are more stable when shooting.
  3. Headless mode helps the drone remain in one direction and then move according to your body position, instead of where the controller is pointing.
  4. Follow-me mode helps the drone track you if you move. It records your activity and follows your paths while maintaining a preset distance.
  5. Obstacle avoidance is a premium feature that protects your drone from crashing into objects. However, not all drones have all the elements to make such an option reliable.

Last but not least, battery life is essential, as it helps you determine how many additional batteries you have to grab before shooting a video. The average lifespan of a battery is of 20 minutes, while the charging time is around 30 minutes. If your desired drone has a more substantial charging time, consider taking some safety measures such as always carrying a few extra batteries.

Drone of corn field

Additional Costs You Should Consider

There hasn’t been a time when purchasing a gadget only meant buying a device. There always are some accessories, tools, and kits you might need to enjoy your products longer. In the drone scenario, some of these are free – such as the smartphone apps you might use for control purposes.

  • Aside from operating your drone, you will need transportation. Consider purchasing a case from the drone’s manufacturer or finding one on the local market.
  • The basic toolkit you need while away only consisting of a screwdriver and duct tape, in case one of the propellers gets damaged.
  • Rechargeable batteries also require an adapter to plug into an outlet. Many drones come with them. However, you will also need additional sets of rechargeable or regular batteries.
  • Extra-propellers are mandatory in case one of them gets damaged during the flight. Many drones include an extra set of propellers. After a while, you will also need to purchase some sets.

Using Your GoPro Drone

If you already owned a GoPro, you just saved the money to purchase one or return a new drone, if its video quality isn’t satisfactory. However, the road to flying the drone isn’t finished yet. Once you’ve received the product, you will need to register it with air control authorities. Also, you need a certificate from the FFA (Federal Aviation Administration) that states that you can fly a drone.

Before choosing your destination, consult with local regulations regarding restrictions. Typically, you are not allowed to operate drones near airports or public spaces. Also, you need the owner’s explicit approval if you want to shoot videos on private properties. Some laws also include other restrictions. Out of social convenience, refrain from using the drone near groups of people and respect their privacy.

Make sure you practice before operating the drone in an unknown setting. Once you feel you’re skilled enough, get your drone ready to fly! Scan the environment you’ve chosen and seen why you are operating the best drone for GoPro cameras!

Images Source: Depositphotos.com.

 

 

7
Jun

Watch Kitty Hawk’s all-new personal flying vehicle take to the skies


Personal flying vehicles are all the rage just now, with Kitty Hawk one such outfit working hard to build a viable aircraft to take you places.

Looking very different to the prototype it showed off just over a year ago, the redesigned Flyer looks like a cross between a drone, an F1 car, and a sea plane.

Unveiled on Wednesday, the all-electric single-seater features 10 sets of rotors and two control sticks. It currently has a top speed of 20 mph, but it says a future design could reach speeds of up to 100 mph.

Kitty Hawk CEO Sebastian Thrun described the latest version of the Flyer as “a recreational vehicle” as it only has 20 minutes of flying time, but he added that it could one day be used to transport people around cities, taking the company toward its long-term goal of “getting rid of [road] traffic.”

Google co-founder Larry Page is one of the people helping to finance the Flyer, the connection apparently forged during Thrun’s time with Google’s autonomous car unit (today called Waymo), which he helped to launch.

To be clear, the Flyer is a real, fully functioning aircraft. To prove it, CNN’s Rachel Crane recently took it for a spin, an experience she described as “a blast.”

Kitty Hawk

Far easier to fly than a helicopter, Crane said she doesn’t have a pilot’s license and only needed an hour’s training before getting behind the controls for her successful flight.

To ensure ease of use, the Flyer operates with software that utilizes data from multiple smart sensors for a fully stabilized and smooth flying experience. Indeed, lead engineer Todd Reichert said the team’s aim is to “take everything hard out of flying, basically to be able to give people an experience where it’s super-easy to fly,” adding that the machine is “transformational in terms of how accessible we can make flights.”

Reichert describes Kitty Hawk’s progress in terms of a story arc, moving from “recreation to exploration to transportation,” and its latest effort suggests it’s heading in the right direction.

But it has plenty of competition. For starters, there’s the Airbus-backed Vahana self-piloting air taxi, as well as the 184 flying machine from Chinese firm EHang. Uber, too, is developing its own aerial vehicle, while Joby Aviation and Volocopter are also developing their own compact flying vehicles.

One thing’s for sure. We’ve come a long way since this ropey-looking design took to the skies (just about) in 2011.


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