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1
Sep

Best smartphones of IFA 2018


We’re never quite sure what to expect at IFA on the smartphone front. Occasionally a big name will release a flagship phone, but the majority of manufacturers seem to use it as a place to unveil lesser mid-range devices or skip it altogether. Samsung has already shown off its wares, Apple and Google are due to do so within the next couple of months, but there were still some smartphones of note on show in Berlin.

Sony Xperia XZ3


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Sony Xperia XZ3 review

Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

Sony Xperia XZ3 review

Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

Sony Xperia XZ3 review

Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

Sony Xperia XZ3 review

Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

Sony Xperia XZ3 review

Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

The clear headliner at IFA 2018 was Sony’s new flagship Xperia XZ3. The design is a refinement of the Xperia XZ2, which saw Sony belatedly overhaul the old angular, big bezel look in favor of curves front and back. Those bezels are slimmed down slightly further in the XZ3, but it’s the screen that’s exciting as it’s the first OLED that Sony has put in a phone. It’s a gorgeous 6-inch display flanked by front-facing speakers, which makes the XZ3 a great choice for movie watching.

The main, single-lens, 19-megapixel camera is unchanged from the XZ2, but the selfie camera has been bumped up to 13 megapixels. There’s plenty of power here in terms of performance and battery life, there’s support for wireless charging, and it’s IP68-rated. It also runs Android 9.0 Pie out of the box. All in all, it’s a stylish smartphone with plenty of high notes, but the $900 price tag might prove hard to swallow.

Read our Sony Xperia XZ3 hands-on review to learn more.

ZTE Axon 9 Pro


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ZTE Axon 9 Pro review

Simon Hill/Digital Trends

ZTE Axon 9 Pro review

Simon Hill/Digital Trends

ZTE Axon 9 Pro review

Simon Hill/Digital Trends

ZTE Axon 9 Pro review

Simon Hill/Digital Trends

ZTE Axon 9 Pro review

Simon Hill/Digital Trends

Keen to make it clear its back is business after a highly–publicized U.S. ban, ZTE decided a new flagship smartphone was the best way to do it. This is ZTE’s follow-up to the ZTE Axon 7 – there was no 8. It jumps on the notch bandwagon with a 6.21-inch AMOLED display that ZTE promises is packed with TV smarts to help it optimize video.

It has a Snapdragon 845 inside with 6GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and a big 4,000mAh battery. There’s also a 20-megapixel front-facing camera with face unlock software and the main camera pairs 20-megapixel and 12-megapixel lenses. There’s little prospect of the Axon 9 Pro being sold in the U.S. but it is coming to Europe for 649 euros (around $750).

Find out more our ZTE Axon 9 Pro hands-on review.

Huawei Mate 20 Lite


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Huawei Mate 20 Lite review

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Huawei Mate 20 Lite review

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Huawei Mate 20 Lite review

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Huawei Mate 20 Lite review

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Huawei Mate 20 Lite review

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Huawei Mate 20 Lite review

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

This svelte smartphone sports a 6.3-inch notched screen with a 2,340 x 1,080 resolution. There’s a Kirin 710 processor inside backed by 4GB of RAM. There’s a dual front-facing camera with lenses rated at 24 megapixels and 2 megapixels for perfect portrait selfies. You’ll find a similar combination in the main camera with 20 megapixels and 2 megapixels, though the aperture is wider for better low-light performance.

It shows off Huawei’s skill at turning out desirable mid-range phones, and it’s a perfect teaser for Huawei’s main event – the Mate 20 Pro – which lands in October. The price is 380 British Pounds, which is just under $500.

Read our Huawei Mate 20 Lite hands-on for more.

Honor Play


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honor play camera

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

honor play volume and power

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honor play top profile

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

honor play blue and pink models back

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

honor play back full

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

honor play headphone jack

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

honor play logo

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

honor play fingerprint sensor

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

honor play table

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

If you look beyond yet another notch-toting, derivative design, there’s a real bargain to be found here. For 280 British Pounds or 330 euros – there’s no U.S. release on the cards — you can snag a 6.3-inch screen, the Kirin 970 processor, and 4GB RAM. It has been built with gaming in mind, so there’s a grippy rear and something Honor calls GPU Turbo enhancements which boost frame rate and graphical quality.

The camera features a single 16-megapixel, f/2.0 aperture lens with a secondary, f/2.4 aperture depth-sensing 2-megapixel sensor and there are some A.I. smarts in there for automatic object and scene recognition. You’ll find Huawei’s EMUI version 8.2 installed over the top of Android 8.1. There’s also a decent-sized 3,750mAh battery.

Find out more in our full Honor Play review.

LG G7 One and LG G7 Fit


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lg g7 one and fit news 01

lg g7 one and fit news 01

lg g7 one and fit news 02

lg g7 one and fit news

lg g7 one and fit news 02

We weren’t sure what to expect from LG this year, but the stripped back LG G7 One was a surprise. This stock Android phone is part of the Android One program and it’s a step down from the flagship G7 ThinQ. It looks pretty similar, with a 6.1-inch notched display and the same build materials, but inside you’ll find last year’s Snapdragon 835, with 4GB of RAM, and just 32GB of onboard storage. It also has a single-lens 16-megapixel camera, but we’re not sure about the price just yet.

The LG G7 Fit is another step down, with the two-year old Snapdragon 821 onboard, so presumably it will come in even cheaper.

Read more about the LG G7 One and Fit.

HTC U12 Life

htc u12 life news

While it won’t be coming to the U.S., the U12 Life will be a tempting, affordable option where it’s available. Ostensibly a scaled back HTC U12 Plus, the U12 Life actually has a couple of advantages in the shape of proper buttons – we didn’t like the digital buttons in the U12 Plus – and a headphone jack. It also boasts a 6-inch display, a mid-range Snapdragon 636 processor and choice of 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage or 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage.

Rounding out a decent package, we find a fairly big, 3,600mAh battery, and a 16-megapixel camera. All this can be yours for 300 British Pounds, which is about $390 right now.

Find out more about the HTC U12 Life.

BlackBerry Key2 LE


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BlackBerry Key2 LE Hands On

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

BlackBerry Key2 LE Hands On

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

BlackBerry Key2 LE Hands On

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

BlackBerry Key2 LE Hands On

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

BlackBerry Key2 LE Hands On

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

If you’re craving some keyboard action, but the BlackBerry Key2 was out of your price range, then perhaps the Key2 LE is for you. It packs many of the same features, including the full QWERTY keyboard, into a cheaper, polycarbonate body with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 636 processor and 4GB of RAM inside. There’s a conservative slate finish and a champagne gold and blue, but it was the atomic red that caught our eye.

There’s 32GB of internal storage with a MicroSD card slot for more. The dual camera pairs a 13-megapixel lens with a 5-megapixel lens, but the front-facing camera is still rated at 8-megapixels. The battery has also dropped to 3,000mAh. All this cutting back has dropped the price by around $250, so it will cost 350 British Pounds in the U.K. and 400 euros in Europe when it launches in September. It will probably be around $400 when it launches in the U.S.

Read our BlackBerry Key2 LE hands-on.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • The hottest phones of 2018 are still to come. Here’s what’s around the corner
  • ZTE Axon 9 Pro hands-on review
  • BlackBerry Key2 LE hands-on review
  • Sony Xperia XZ2 review
  • The best smartphones of 2018



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1
Sep

Best of IFA 2018 Award Winners


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Maybe you’ve heard of IFA, the biggest technology show in Europe. Maybe you haven’t. It really doesn’t matter, because all anyone really wants to see are the hottest new gadgets, and IFA 2018 delivered them in spades. From wall-devouring 8K televisions to one of the most unique laptops we’ve ever seen, the biggest names in tech strutted their stuff in Berlin this week, and we saw it all.

As predicted, TVs were huge. Voice assistants were packed into absolutely everything. And even thought we didn’t expect much in the way of laptops, a few in particular blew us away.

But with 1,805 exhibitors, not every single one was a star. We stripped out the duds and swept away the clones to find the best of the best, and they’re all right here.

1
Sep

Best of IFA 2018 Award Winners


Share

Maybe you’ve heard of IFA, the biggest technology show in Europe. Maybe you haven’t. It really doesn’t matter, because all anyone really wants to see are the hottest new gadgets, and IFA 2018 delivered them in spades. From wall-devouring 8K televisions to one of the most unique laptops we’ve ever seen, the biggest names in tech strutted their stuff in Berlin this week, and we saw it all.

As predicted, TVs were huge. Voice assistants were packed into absolutely everything. And even thought we didn’t expect much in the way of laptops, a few in particular blew us away.

But with 1,805 exhibitors, not every single one was a star. We stripped out the duds and swept away the clones to find the best of the best, and they’re all right here.

1
Sep

DJI Mavic 2 Pro and Zoom review


Earlier this month, DJI pulled the curtain back on two new drones: the Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom — arguably two of the most advanced drones the company (or any company for that matter) has ever released. Despite being more powerful than ever before, they’re also quite similar to DJI’s original Mavic line in many regards. So to find out what sets them apart from their predecessors (and also what sets them apart from each other), we ran both drones through a week of rigorous flight testing. Here’s how it went:

Standout features and specs

Before we get any deeper into this review, it’s important to note that, aside from the cameras they carry, both Mavic 2 drones are identical to each other in terms of specs. As such, whenever we refer to a feature that isn’t camera-related, you can safely assume that said feature is present on both the Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom.

To be perfectly honest, the Mavic 2 series isn’t a massive improvement on the original Mavic Pro when it comes to raw flight specs. The drones can stay airborne for a couple minutes longer (31 instead of 29), and can fly a few miles per hour faster (44 instead of 40) than their forebears — but that’s about it. The most significant improvements are the Mavic 2’s software, sensing abilities, and cameras.

Really, the Mavic 2’s only card-carrying competitors are other DJI drones.

On the software side, the Mavic 2 ships with DJI’s new ActiveTrack 2.0, which allows the drone to follow moving subjects autonomously, and with more precision than ever before. Additionally, both the Pro and Zoom are equipped with OcuSync 2.0: the latest version of DJI’s video transmission technology, which allows you to see what the drone sees in real time — now in full 1080p.

DJI has also outfitted the Mavic 2 series with a drastically improved environmental sensing system. Whereas the original Mavic Pro only sensed obstacles in front of it (and the Mavic Air added behind and down), the second generation boasts omnidirectional sense-and-avoid, thanks to 10 sensors positioned on its front, back, left, right, top, and bottom.

Last but not least, the Mavic 2 boasts one of two new cameras. The Mavic 2 Pro carries an integrated Hasselblad camera with a 1-inch CMOS sensor and adjustable aperture, while the Mavic 2 Zoom boasts a smaller 1/2.3-inch sensor, as well as the ability to zoom from 24mm to 48mm. We’ll delve deeper into the camera specs later.

All things considered, the Mavic 2 line is definitely more evolutionary than revolutionary — but in this case that’s a good thing. It appears that DJI kept all the things that worked well in the first-generation Mavic drones, and only worked on areas with significant room for improvement. We appreciate that. There were a lot of good things going on in the original Mavic, and we’re glad DJI didn’t try to fix what wasn’t broken.

Build quality and durability

When it comes to design and build quality, the Mavic 2 line is an apple that hasn’t fallen far from the proverbial tree. In other words, it’s built like a brick outhouse. The original Mavic Pro is one of the sturdiest, most well-built drones we’ve ever flown, and the Mavic 2 series is no different.

The original Mavic Pro is one of the sturdiest, most well-built drones we’ve ever flown, and the Mavic 2 series is no different

In terms of form, not much has changed. The Mavic 2 series looks and feels nearly identical to its older siblings, save for a few minor changes. This generation is slightly larger and heavier, and also has a few more sensors built into its hull — but that’s where the differences end. Thankfully, the new fleet still has the same awesome folding-arm design and rock-solid construction.

We didn’t crash our test units this time, but due to our extensive experience with the first-generation Mavic (which is substantially similar in terms of build quality) we’re confident that both the Pro and Zoom could barrel into bushes, bump into branches, and bounce around in your backpack — and live to fly another day.

Dan Baker/Digital Trends

Battery life and recharge time

DJI says that the Mavic 2 can hover for 29 minutes in optimal conditions, and thanks to its aerodynamic design, can stay airborne for a maximum of 31 minutes if flown at a constant 7 miles per hour (25 kph). As usual, these stats were achieved in conditions that you’re highly unlikely to encounter in the real world — so we ran both drones through our own series of endurance tests to get a better read on the Mavic 2’s true flight times.

The first of these was a static hover test, where we let both drones hover in place until they drained their batteries and automatically landed themselves. Our two hover tests lasted an average of 28 minutes and 14 seconds — which isn’t very far off from DJI’s claimed 29 minutes..

Next, to get a sense of how long the Mavic 2 lasts during normal flight, we recorded the flight times from every other flight test we conducted and averaged them out. Over the course of 16 different flights that went from 100 percent battery to emergency low-battery automatic landing, the Mavic Pro and Zoom (which are functionally identical) averaged a flight time of 28 minutes and 44 seconds. That’s not quite as long as DJI’s claimed maximum of 31 minutes — but we did log a couple flights that broke the 30 minute barrier, so the Mavic 2 is certainly no slouch in the battery department

When it comes time to recharge, you can expect about 45 to 50 minutes to juice up each battery from empty to full — which is slightly quicker than previous generations.

Piloting, control, and autonomy

In the air, the Mavic 2 feels almost exactly the same as its predecessors — and by that we mean it’s tight, athletic, and supremely responsive. If you’ve ever flown a DJI drone before, you’ll feel right at home with the Mavic 2. Hell, even if you haven’t flown a DJI drone before, you’ll still be able to fly this one like a pro. DJI’s flight software is top-notch and extremely reliable, so the Mavic 2 only goes where you tell it to go — no drifting, wandering, or slippery controls. To borrow a phrase we’ve used in the past: These drones are practically bolted to the sky.

Dan Baker/Digital Trends

These stellar manual controls are just the tip of the iceberg, though. Thanks to the Mavic 2’s beefy omni-directional obstacle avoidance system, you can fly these drones with more vigor and confidence than ever before. If you’re about to crash into an obstacle, DJI’s software will beep and alert you as you approach. If you ignore these warnings and keep flying, the drone will even auto-brake to avoid a crash. It’s worth noting, however, that this only works from the front, back, top, and bottom of the drone. Unfortunately, the left and right sensors are only switched on when you’re in ActiveTrack mode and the drone is flying itself.

Still, even with sideways sensing disabled during manual flight, both Mavic 2 drones feel extremely safe and reliable. You really have to go out of your way to crash them — and that kind of in-air confidence is ultimately what helps you get better footage.

DJI Mavic 2 Pro Compared To

Parrot Anafi

DJI Mavic Air

DJI Spark

Yuneec Breeze

Halo Drone Pro

DJI Inspire 2

DJI Mavic Pro

Hover Camera Passport

Propel Star Wars Battle Drones

Parrot Bebop 2 FPV

3DR Solo Drone

eHang Ghostdrone 2.0

Yuneec Typhoon H drone

Yuneec Typhoon Q500 4K

dji Phantom 2 Vision+

Camera and accessories

As we’ve said before, the camera is the only feature that separates the Mavic 2 Pro from the Mavic 2 Zoom. The Mavic 2 Pro is outfitted with a Hasselblad camera and a 1-inch CMOS sensor, whereas the Mavic 2 Zoom is equipped with a smaller 1/2.3-inch sensor and a 24-48mm optical zoom lens.

The Mavic 2 Pro’s shooter is arguably the better of the two. In addition to the larger sensor (which gives it better resolution, better dynamic range, and better low-light performance), the Pro’s Hasselblad camera comes with an adjustable aperture — which is a huge new addition. Aperture control allows you to fine-tune how much light enters the camera, and also change the depth of field. Casual users will probably just stick to automatic mode, but for photographers and videographers, this is a massive feature that greatly expands the level of creative control you have over the images you capture.

The other big feature is Dlog M 10-bit color recording. We won’t bore you with the technical details here. All you need to know is that Mavic 2 Pro can record well over a billion discrete colors, which makes the Mavic 2 Zoom’s 16 million pale in comparison. That said, this feature is only really a necessity if you’re a professional filmmaker or photographer — but you don’t need to be a pro to see what a difference it makes.

This zooming ability is an outrageously fun feature to have on a drone.

Unfortunately, one thing that the Mavic 2 Pro can’t do is zoom, and that’s where the Mavic 2 Zoom comes in. This beast has 2x optical zoom (24-48mm) and 2x digital zoom, which effectively means it can simulate a 96mm telephoto lens that captures lossless video in 1080p.

As we discovered during our testing, this zooming ability is an outrageously fun feature to have on a drone. Not only does it allow you to get closer to your subject without actually flying closer; it also gives you access to a bunch of fun creative effects. For example, if you shoot at 48mm and orbit yourself while you stand triumphantly on a hilltop, the camera will compress the perspective a bit and make the background appear to move at super speed. You can also zoom in or out while flying to create the infamous Dolly Zoom effect popularized by Alfred Hitchcock, which gives your videos a really cool look. Ultimately, the Mavic 2 Zoom just gives you a greater degree of creative freedom — and it’s enough to make you forget about the smaller image sensor.

At the end of the day, both Mavic 2 drones boast excellent cameras, which makes choosing just one an agonizingly difficult task. Honestly, our biggest gripe is that DJI didn’t give the Mavic 2 a modular camera system, and instead forces users to choose between the Zoom and Pro. The Inspire 2 has interchangeable cameras, so DJI certainly has the capacity to build swappable camera systems into its drones. It’s puzzling why it didn’t do so with the Mavic 2 line.

Our Take

Is there a better alternative?

24-48mm optical zoom camera

DJI Mavic 2 Zoom

$1,249.00 from Amazon.com

If you’re looking for a portable drone with a great camera, then the Mavic 2 series is pretty tough to beat. You’ll be hard-pressed to find another compact UAV with comparable features — especially if you look outside of DJI’s fleet. Really, the Mavic 2’s only card-carrying competitors are other DJI drones.

If your main goal is capturing great footage, then you might want to consider DJI’s Inspire 2. It’s bigger, more expensive, and far less portable, but it can carry a more powerful camera. It also comes with the aforementioned camera swapping system, which allows you to upgrade your shooter without buying a whole new drone.

If you’re on a tighter budget and you don’t necessarily need the top-tier video performance or obstacle avoidance that the Mavic 2 line provides, then DJI’s original Mavic Pro and Mavic Air are still solid choices. Both are significantly cheaper, yet are still capable of shooting 4K video and auto-dodging obstacles. They’re just not quite as robust as the new Mavic 2 Pro and Zoom in those regards.

Finally, if you’re intrigued by the creative potential that the Mavic 2 Zoom provides with its zooming abilities, but you aren’t prepared to spend $1,249 to get them, you might want to check out Parrot’s Anafi drone. It’s not nearly as reliable or autonomous in the air, but it’s only $700 and boasts a very similar zoom function. It also has a unique 180-degree gimbal, which opens up even more doors for creativity.

How long will it last?

Hasselblad camera with HDR

DJI Mavic 2 Pro

$1,449.00 from Amazon.com

Years. DJI still provides software support for drones that it released five years ago — so we have no doubt that the company will release firmware updates and bug fixes for the Mavic 2 series for years to come. So long as you don’t crash into a lake, the Mavic 2 Pro and Zoom will likely last you a long, long time.

Should you buy it?

If you can afford it, then hell yes you should buy it. The Mavic 2 is arguably the best all-around drone you can get right now. The only question is which one to get.

1
Sep

Strawberry-picking robots could replace human workers in the field


University of Essex

If you had banked on strawberry-picking as a potential career after your current job is taken by a robot, we have some bad news for you: That’s probably not going to be an option for much longer. In the U.K., robotics experts at the University of Essex have teamed up with a British jelly manufacturer to find ways to train robots to pick strawberries on farms.

Their rationale is that U.K. farms currently waste around 20 percent of their soft fruit due to problems recruiting enough workers. This situation could potentially get even harder after Brexit, which is why there’s a need to find alternative ways of harvesting this fruit.

But just because picking fruit is an easy task for humans doesn’t mean the same is necessarily true for machines.

“The main challenge is the unstructured dynamic nature of the problem,” Vishuu Mohan, a professor in the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering at Essex, told Digital Trends. “Berries grow with time, come in different shapes, sizes, order of ripeness, and the environment cannot be fully controlled. In such conditions, solving the identification or ‘what could be a ripe berry,’ localization or ‘where is it in space,’ and motion planning or ‘how do I move to reach, grasp, and cut it’ [problems] are the main challenges.”

Considering that a human can pick a berry in a fraction of a second, the robots the team is developing will have to exhibit an impressive amount of precision, speed, and other traits to compete. It can, however, be done. In the past, we’ve covered robots designed to pick everything from cucumbers to tomatoes. Meanwhile, a Belgian engineering company called Octinion is working on similar strawberry-picking tech, which it aims to have in around 100 greenhouses worldwide by next year.

At present, the University of Essex researchers have developed a robot that’s able to accurately identify and reach for berries, with the next step being to build an end effector that can cut stems as required. A prototype is expected to be unveiled in the next several months.

But while this may seem yet another quasi-depressing chapter on the road to total workplace automation, Mohan is more optimistic. “Contrary to the notion that ‘robots are taking jobs,’ they are actually not in this particular case, and humans can move higher up in the value chain — for example controlling the robots, [and] managing the logistics,” he said.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • From picking to pollinating, agribots are pushing farming into the future
  • Born to hug: 6 of the weirdest, most outlandish robots humanity has ever created
  • Look out, bartenders: This cocktail-making robot is coming for your job
  • Want a peek into the future? Watch these robots 3D print concrete structures
  • Processed pies: Silicon Valley’s Zume Pizza ready to offer you dinner made by a robot



1
Sep

This cockpit-style simulator will make your VR experiences more immersive


Are you a virtual reality fan, who wishes the whole experience could be made even more immersive than it already is? Do you have the cash to throw down for a gaming chair that looks like something a Star Trek captain or James Bond villain would sit in? If so, you may be interested in the new “3 Degree of Freedom Motion Simulator” that’s just launched on Kickstarter.

Created by U.K. entrepreneur Mark Towner, the cockpit-style motion simulator takes the form of a hemispherical platform, seated on an array of omni-wheels. It’s similar in concept to the kind of motion simulator rigs usually reserved for large VR arcades, but intended for home use. The three degrees referenced in its name describe the device’s ability to yaw, pitch, and roll; essentially giving users the ability to quickly (but silently) rotate in any direction. For extra verisimilitude, built-in tactile transducers add immersive surround vibration. This makes it the perfect accompaniment to VR experiences like racing or flight simulators.

“VR is all about the thrill of adventure, of exploring, of flirting with danger in another world — but when you’re flying a Spitfire in VR you’re only getting half the experience,” Towner told Digital Trends. “It might look and sound amazing, but your sofa doesn’t feel like a plane’s cockpit. Most motion simulators are ugly steel frames, noisy as hell, and insanely expensive. We put the user at the center of gravity in a large half-sphere and rotate them instead of pushing them up and down.”

A particularly neat touch is the contraption’s modular design, which allows users to swap out the regular seat for specialized add-ons to fit the particular VR scenario they want to enjoy.

“There is a huge community of people who love racing, space, and flying games, but without the budget to buy a decent simulator,” Towner continued. “This really gives people an amazing new design to enjoy their hobby, and even learn new skills — such as piloting aircraft, learning to drive, or practicing flying a helicopter. This gives people the chance to experience some thrills on the race track with friends, without the cost or danger.”

As ever, we offer our warnings about the potential risks inherent in crowdfunding campaigns. However, if you’re aware of this and still want to get involved, head over to the project’s Kickstarter page. Prices vary, but the early bird option is still available for $2,590 at time of writing. Shipping is set to take place in May 2019.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Best Gear VR apps and games
  • The best free flight simulators
  • The best VR headsets of 2018
  • The best drones of 2018
  • The best PS4 games (August 2018)



1
Sep

Secret ad deal with MasterCard lets Google track shoppers’ retail purchases


Josh Edelson/Getty Images

In a secret deal estimated to be worth millions of dollars, Google paid MasterCard to track whether online ad clicks translated to sales inside retail stores. According to Bloomberg, Google has for the past year used its access to MasterCard data to gain insight into how online ads affect retail spending in an effort to bolster its $95.4 billion ad business.

When you click on an ad while logged into your Google account, your action is recorded — even if the click doesn’t convert into an immediate online sale. Many users opt to research for a product online before making the purchase at a retail store. Based on the MasterCard deal, when you head into a store to buy the item, Google will be able to link your ad click to your transaction by using MasterCard’s data, connecting the email address that you’ve shared with the store to obtain a digital copy of your receipt, or through third-party payment processors.

“Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Mastercard Inc. brokered a business partnership during about four years of negotiations, according to four people with knowledge of the deal, three of whom worked on it directly,” the publication reported. “The alliance gave Google an unprecedented asset for measuring retail spending, part of the search giant’s strategy to fortify its primary business against onslaughts from Amazon.com Inc. and others.”

In the past, Google tried to make connection between online ad clicks and sales in physical stores by relying on Google Wallet, beacons, and location data on users’ phones, but this partnership with MasterCard provides the ad giant with the most direct correlation data to confirm ad conversions.

Google also shares some of its users’ shopping data with advertising partners through its Store Sales Measurement program. Google claimed that it had access to approximately 70 percent of U.S. credit and debit cards, but it’s unclear if Google has deals in place with other credit card issuers outside of MasterCard.

With access to spending data from two billion MasterCard shoppers, the deal poses privacy concerns on how online and offline information is shared and what information Google needs to disclose to its users.

“Google is testing the data service with a ‘small group’ of advertisers in the U.S., according to a spokeswoman,” Bloomberg reported. “With it, marketers see aggregate sales figures and estimates of how many [sales] they can attribute to Google ads — but they don’t see a shopper’s personal information, how much they spend, or what exactly they buy.”

According to Future Privacy Forum, a nonprofit that receives funding from Google, Google had created an encryption method to separate data that it collects online and offline so that neither Google nor its payment partners have access to each other’s data, to mitigate privacy concerns and minimize risks if the data was leaked.

Ad agencies, on the other hand, always want to know more information, and they have been actively talking to Google to try to access such data as how much users spend and the specific time of day purchases are made.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • What is Google Pay? Here’s what you need to know
  • Everything you need to know about Samsung Pay
  • How to turn off targeted ads in Google
  • Here’s how and where to buy the Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL
  • Google tracks your location — even when you deny it permission



1
Sep

Apple reportedly hiring augmented reality team to work on Maps app


Apple has made some investments and a big bet on AR in recent years, and we’ve seen some of its early work in this space on products like Animoji, Memoji, and the Measure app on the iPhone. Now, according to recent job postings, it looks like the next Apple product that could get transformed by augmented reality will be the Maps app.

An examination of Apple’s career site by Thinknum reveals that Apple is looking for a number of AR applications engineers at various levels, along with a technical artist, FX artist, and UI artist. These AR-related job postings span from August 10 through August 22, and Thinknum posited that these jobs may have been created to support the Apple Maps team. In July, the Apple Maps team was searching for a product architect, and interestingly, augmented reality was one of the areas highlighted in that job description.

“Digital maps have become essential tools of our everyday lives, yet despite their ubiquity, they are still in their infancy,” Apple said of the Apple Maps product architect job. “From urban mobility to indoor positioning, from Lidar to augmented reality, advances in technology and new kinds of data are powering innovations in all areas of digital mapping. If you love maps and are passionate about what is possible, you will be in great company.”

Another Apple job posting from June for the position of iOS/MacOS engineer may give Thunknum’s hypothesis even more weight. Among some of the requirements for this job, Apple is looking for someone with a “familiarity with maps” and “familiarity with augmented reality APIs.” The mention of mapping and AR connects this June position to Apple’s efforts in AR and maps in the job postings for July and August.

Earlier this year, it was reported that Apple was looking at completely rebuilding Apple Maps. Apple is striving for better accuracy in this new version of Apple Maps, and the company has been collecting its own mapping data as part of this effort. If Apple adds augmented reality to Maps, it will  be able to compete against Google Maps and others in this space with more accurate maps. On phones, AR could help tourists get acquainted, navigate, and understand a new city better.

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1
Sep

Apple Launches iPhone 8 Logic Board Repair Program


Apple today announced the launch of a new logic board repair program, which will see the company offering free repairs for iPhone 8 models that are affected by an issue that can cause restarts, freezing, and unresponsive devices.

According to Apple, a “very small percentage” of iPhone 8 devices have logic boards with a manufacturing defect that are eligible for a free repair.

To check if you have an iPhone 8 that can be repaired under this new repair program, Apple has created a website where your serial number can be entered.

Apple says that affected units were sold between September 2017 and March 2018 in China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Macau, New Zealand, and the U.S.

The problem does not affect the iPhone 8 Plus or other iPhone models, so it’s just select iPhone 8 models that are eligible for a free fix.

Customers who do have an eligible device can make an appointment at an Apple retail store, contact an Apple Authorized Service Provider, or arrange for mail-in service through Apple Support.

Apple says that repairs may be restricted to the original country or region of purchase, and customers who are affected are recommended to back up their iPhone to iTunes or iCloud before seeking a repair.

An iPhone 8 that has damage that impairs the ability to complete the logic board repair, such as a cracked screen, will need to be fixed prior to Apple providing service.

The new iPhone 8 Logic Board Repair Program covers affected iPhone 8 devices for three years after the first retail sale of the unit.

Related Roundup: iPhone 8Buyer’s Guide: iPhone 8 (Don’t Buy)
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1
Sep

Apple Autonomous Test Vehicle Involved in Accident on August 24


Apple is testing its self-driving vehicles in a number of Lexus SUVs out on the roads of Cupertino, and on August 24, one of those vehicles was involved in an accident.

Apple is required to disclose autonomous vehicle collisions to the California DMV, and the information on the accident was published on the DMV’s website.

According to the accident details, the vehicle in question was in autonomous mode at the time, and sustained moderate damage in the crash, but it does not appear that Apple was at fault for the collision. From the accident report:

On August 24th at 2:58 p.m., an Apple vehicle in autonomous mode was rear-ended while preparing to merge onto Lawrence Expressway South from Kifer Road. The Apple test vehicle was traveling less than 1 mph waiting for a safe gap to complete the merge when a 2016 Nissan Leaf contacted the Apple test vehicle at approximately 15 mph. Both vehicles sustained damage and no injuries were reported by either party.

Apple has been testing its self-driving software in Lexus RX450h SUVs in Cupertino, California and surrounding areas since early 2017, but this is the first time an Apple vehicle has been involved in a crash.

Apple’s test vehicles are outfitted with a host of sensors and cameras, and while they are autonomous, each one has a pair of drivers inside. At the current time, Apple is testing its software in more than 60 vehicles.

It’s not yet clear what Apple plans to do with its self-driving software, but it could be added to existing cars and there are still rumors suggesting Apple is working on its own Apple-branded vehicle that could come out by 2025.

Apple is also working on a self-driving shuttle service called “PAIL,” an acronym for “Palo Alto to Infinite Loop.” The shuttle program will transport employees between Apple’s offices in Silicon Valley.

Related Roundup: Apple Car
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