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15
Sep

Photo FOMO: Recharge and stash lenses with this smartphone photo bag


Manfrotto

Afraid of missing out on the latest photo industry news while you’re out, well, actually taking pictures? Photo FOMO is all the news you might have missed this week, published on the weekends. Alongside the biggest stories of the week, like Photoshop’s upcoming advanced Content-Aware Fill, Adobe Premiere Pro’s AI audio clean-up, and Aurora HDR’s latest update, find briefs on the latest in accessories and photo industry news from this week with Photo FOMO.

The Manfrotto Befree is a bit more free with a convertible monopod built-in

The Manfrotto Befree is a popular travel tripod option, but now the line allows photographers to skip packing a monopod too. The Manfrotto Befree 2N1 is a tripod that converts to a monopod in a few steps. The company says that a new locking system allows the system to remain sturdy as both a tripod and monopod.

The tripod converts to a monopod by twisting off one leg and locking into the center column for use as a monopod. The Befree 2N1 will have two versions, one with twist locks and one with lever locks. The convertible tripod will be available later this month at a retail price of $220. The company also announced that the new Befree Live tripod designed for video will also be launching with a lever lock option.

Cosyspeed wants to launch camera bags for … smartphones?

Most camera bags are dedicated to stashing larger gear and accessories, but what about smartphone photographers? Cosyspeed’s Phoneslinger bags are designed for the smartphone photographer with a place to stash add-on lenses and even wirelessly charging your smartphone on the go. The company says the line is the first bags designed specifically for smartphone photography and videography.

The line comes includes three different options, all that can be worn on a belt the strap of another bag or with Cosyspeed’s modular belt system. The Phoneslinger Power includes a wireless power bank to charge your phone while it’s stashed in the bag. Phonesligher Prime is designed to hold a smartphone and up to four smartphone lenses, while the Phoneslinger Outdoor is constructed from a rugged material. The bags can also be added to the Flowbelt Modular Belt system along with other existing Cosyspeed bags.

The company aims to launch the smartphone photography bags on Indiegogo, where there are two months left to raise $25,000. The smartphone bags start at $39 with accessories starting at $16 — if the crowdfunding is successful.

Moment’s new $99 iPhone case charges your phone too

After funding on Kickstarter, Moment now has iPhone cases designed both for the company’s lenses as well as wireless charging. Compatible with the iPhone X and XS with options for the XS Max and XR expected out later this month, the case also has a two-stage shutter release. That shutter button means the camera shoots similar to a DSLR with a half press to focus and a full press to shoot, a feature in Moment’s new camera app.

Sigma’s cinema lens line gains a new 28mm, 40mm, and 105mm

Sigma’s cinema lens family just got a bit bigger — this week, Sigma announced the 28mm T1.5, the 40mm T1.5, and the 105mm T1.5. All three lenses are designed for 6K and 8K resolution, Sigma says. The update brings the total lens count for the cinema line to 10, with options in PL, Canon EF and Sony E mounts. The 105mm is slated to arrive first next month, with the 40mm to follow before the end of the year and the 28mm early next year. Prices haven’t yet been announced.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Photo FOMO: Wearable monopod, phone viewfinder are odd, but maybe useful
  • Photo FOMO: A tripod with literal strings attached, Flickr’s new look for albums
  • Photo FOMO: This retro-inspired instant camera has swappable lenses, $69 price
  • Photo FOMO: VSCO makes harsh sun look cool, Apple wants to make 360 look better
  • How to take travel photos with just your smartphone



15
Sep

Lidar-equipped drones could help protect California from future wildfires


Flight Evolved

Last year saw the most devastating wildfire season on record in California. Over the course of the year, more than 9,000 separate fires burned through 1.3 million acres of land in the state, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Upward of 10,000 buildings were destroyed in the wildfires, which also claimed the lives of 47 people. In the aftermath, a large number of people are understandably looking for a proactive solution to help avert future blazes. Could drones help?

One company, Flight Evolved, is doing its part to help. Having long used drones to create 3D maps for utility companies, Flight Evolved has been called in by some of the Golden State’s largest utilities to find ways of avoiding another destructive season. The innovative startup uses multicopter drones equipped with lidar remote sensing for its work.

“If you’ve been following the automotive industry, you’ll know that lidar is the hot-ticket item right now,” David Ilgenfritz, owner and chief operating officer of Flight Evolved, told Digital Trends. “It shoots out laser pulses and measures distances to objects in a way that allows it to make maps in 3D space. We use similar scanners, designed for surveying, to map out utility assets for companies — in this case as part of a fire mitigation program. We’re working with engineering companies and vegetation management companies to provide them with data to assist in the assessment of potential fire threat zones.”

Ilgenfritz said that utility companies have long created maps showing the layout of power lines and electrical equipment, and their proximity to trees and other forms of vegetation — which could result in fire hazards. However, before Lidar-equipped drones came along, this was either achieved using ground surveys or, at best, snapping a few photos from a helicopter.

“Our drones shoot out a million laser pulses, compared to a surveyor who is shooting one image at a time,” Ilgenfritz said. “The efficiency gain is therefore pretty significant.”

Using state-of-the-art RIEGL VUX-1 lidar detectors, the team creates detailed maps of the scenery and then uses forecasting and modeling techniques to predict how wildfires are likely to spread. As a result, they can gather deep data insights which could help prevent fires by, for instance, removing vegetation that would let it spread — or, in the case of a fire, potentially offer other actionable data.

While it’s still relatively early days, the hope is that projects such as this one could help save billions of dollars — and people’s lives, too.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Some folks still think it’s a good idea to fly drones over wildfires
  • 7 amazing anti-drone technologies designed to swat UAVs out of the sky
  • It flies and floats! The Spry drone wants to master both the sky and sea
  • Parrot Anafi drone review
  • U.S. Army wants to use laser power to keep drones airborne indefinitely



15
Sep

InvisbleShield’s new screen protector helps spare eyes from blue light


As we continue to stare at our phones on a daily basis, we often don’t realize how much damage we’re doing to our eyes. That’s where InvisibleShield comes in — with its Glass+ VisionGuard that filters out portions of blue light specifically on Apple’s new iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR.

InvisibleShield is known for creating screen protectors for a variety of devices. It also offers a “lifetime protection” against scratched, shattered, and cracked screen thanks to its military-grade solutions.

With its latest Glass+ Vision Guard, high-energy visible (HEV) blue light exposure has shown that it contributes to eye strain. With eye strain, also comes along the possibility of irritated eyes, sleep loss or disruption, but also premature eye aging or blurred vision.

So what exactly does the screen protector do to help combat those issues? For starters, there’s a protective “EyeSafe” layer along with an “Ion Matrix” technology that is strengthened at the molecular level. This then preserves the glass-like feel of the screen protector, to allow for a more comfortable experience that mimics the way your display would feel without it.

“We use mobile devices in nearly every facet of our lives, whether texting with loved ones, responding to a work email, browsing social media or consuming entertainment. These levels of screen time can take a toll on our eyes,” said Steve Bain, general manager for InvisibleShield, in a press release. “InvisibleShield Glass+ VisionGuard is specifically designed to filter harmful blue light, all while maintaining your screen’s color and image clarity.”

Those who have had an iPhone for a while likely know the iPhone already offers a ‘Night Mode’ feature that filters out blue light. You can either turn it on manually or set a specific time you would like to schedule it for which will allow it to automatically turn on each time it’s set for. When it’s on, you’ll notice your display adjusts to a warmer, more yellowish tone.

But with the Glass+ Vision Guard, you can choose to not use the setting. If you’re bothered by the change in colors, you’ll be glad to know the screen protector doesn’t change the look of your display.

InvisibleShield Glass+ VisionGuard is available on InvisibleShield’s site, as well as with T-Mobile and Verizon. As for the cost, the screen protector retails for $45.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Apple iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR: All the hands-on photos you could ever need
  • The best iPhone XS cases
  • Apple iPhone XR: Everything you need to know
  • iPhone XR hands-on review
  • Apple iPhone XS: News, release, specs, and more



15
Sep

Whitestone Dome glass screen protector for Galaxy Note 9 review


Last week we uploaded our Galaxy Note 9 review and had some overall positive words to say about the device. Such a device is an investment though, and with phones rising in price, you should protect them. That’s where Whitestone Dome arrives. They have, over the past few years, created the best, tempered-glass screen protectors especially for phones with curved displays.

The reason Whitestone Dome’s tempered glass protectors are better than others is in part due to the installation process. They use a process called curing, which uses a UV light to dry solution under the glass. In this process, the adhesive thoroughly covers the display instead of just the corners or sides, like other protectors. Also included in their process in an installation tray, and other accessories to make it virtually impossible to screw applying the screen. The total process takes about 30 minutes, but I assure you, it’s worth it.

There is a little thickness to your Note 9 after you install the screen, not too much to disturb any case. Also, there may be a slight smell for a few hours afterward due to the curing process. Now though, your phone’s display is protected against scratches and impact. Note that glass is still glass and it can still break. You still need to keep your phone in safe conditions, or you’ll have to implement Whitestone Dome’s lifetime warranty process.

With the Whitestone Dome screen protector, you near-$1000 phone now has a great chance of keeping its display in perfect condition. The Note 9 is a great device and keeping it looking good should be something you’d want to do with it. For all this easy and worthwhile protection, Whitestone Dome’s screen protector is $45 for a 1-pack, $60 for a 2-pack. You can get them on Amazon via the link below.

Let us know how you’re liking your protected Galaxy Note 9, and your general thoughts on the phone as well.

Amazon: Whitestone Dome Glass Galaxy Note 9 (1-pack)

Amazon: Whitestone Dome Glass Galaxy Note 9 (2-pack)

15
Sep

Fossil Q Control review


Think back a few years to when Android Wear was introduced and how many thought that Google had tapped into something extremely special. Having all but pulled the plug on its Google Glass endeavor, Android Wear seemed much more practical and beneficial.

As much as we didn’t picture ourselves wearing Glass, or having this little screen hovering right outside of our eye, we were intrigued. There truly was something interesting and intriguing about it — regardless of how dumb we might have looked.

Android Wear was going to fix that. We would go back to wearing watches again, relying on them for not only the time, but notifications, tracking, and so many other things. Right? Yeah, right.

Fitbit, Jawbone, and Pebble notwithstanding, the first few years and iterations of smartwatches were exciting and full of promise. We had companies like Motorola, LG, Samsung, and Huawei getting into wearables.

Android had already conquered the smartphone space on the backs of these brands; it made sense that the same would be replicated on the wrist. And, really, why buy an activity tracker when there was something much smarter to consider?

Today that landscape is entirely different. Pretty much all of those phone companies have gone stopped working on wearables with some deciding to go after VR and AR instead. But, despite that, Google has continued to refine and rebrand its wearable OS.

Known now as Wear OS, it’s the platform of choice for smartwatch makers. The problem? That list of watch manufacturers has evolved and is now largely comprised of traditional companies like Fossil, Casio, Movado, and TAG Heuer.

Somewhere along the line tech brands stopped caring so much about watches. At the same time, your favorite watchmakers got smarter and began tapping into Wear OS.

One wearable brand we’ve reviewed a few times here is Fossil. Historically, we’ve found the watches to be among the best in the space, largely because of the hardware and materials. Today finds us looking at one of its newest models, the Q Control.

Fossil Q Control

The Fossil Q Control is one of the first models under the brand to focus more on the sporty side of things. Whereas the company’s umbrella covers the likes of Kate Spade, Diesel, and Michael Kors, the main brand has been more traditional in its approach. To be more specific, it tends to focus on leather and premium bands with fashion-focused designs.

The Q Control looks unlike most of the Fossil stuff you’ve seen over the years. At first blush it reminds us of something that Samsung might produce. The black on black is not all that exciting but it’s not meant to be. This is the sort of watch you want if you’re looking to track your activities and/or live a more active lifestyle.

The Q Control also calls to mind the Misfit Vapor, another brand under the Fossil line. In fact, there’s a lot of crossover between the two models with both offering the same tracking features.

Design

The review unit we received was all black, however there is also a rose gold version offered, too. Both have a 45mm case which comes in at 14mm thick. Water resistant up to 50 meters, you can certainly take it for a swim or keep it on in the shower.

With interchangeable 20mm straps, you can change up the look of the watch by simply sliding a pin on the back of the band. Heading out to a formal event or night on the town? You can go from sporty and uninspired to eye catching inside of a few seconds.

As we see it, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with the design of the Q Control. Our main complaint, at least with the black, is that it’s pretty uninspiring. The side edge of the face is more of a brushed nickel than black but it’s dark and semi-stylish nonetheless. Fossil calls it “Gunmetal” and it’s comprised of stainless steel. With the right band we could see this being a very attractive unit.

The display is a 1.39-inch circle with 450×450 pixel resolution and it offers up a bright, rich image. The blacks are deep and dark thanks the OLED screen, but the color can sometimes feel a little oversaturated. On the other hand, it’s better than having a watch that makes you squint or causes you to cover it from light.

We applaud Fossil for giving us a full circle here as the flat tire seems to be a thing of the past. That wasn’t necessarily the worst thing in the world, but we appreciate that a circular display is a full circle again.

As far as other physical characteristics go, there’s one button to the side of the screen and a heart rate monitor on the back. The included silicone bands are very soft and flexible, making for a comfortable wearing experience. The face feels somewhat heavy upon first wearing it, but we got used to it fairly quick.

We’ve had watches, especially those in the “active” market, which employ generic materials in the band. Moreover, we’ve seen our share of bands which cause minor skin irritation, or feel generally stiff. This is not the case here as the out-of-box Q Control experience is a pleasure to wear.

Hardware

Internally, the watch houses a Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor with 768MB RAM and 4GB storage. If you want to add your own music, and somehow still have MP3 files to do so, there’s room here.

Noticeably absent from the Q Control are LTE radios and NFC connectivity. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of owning a watch with either of those, you know how convenient it can be. But, LTE is not a necessity and NFC (Google Pay, for instance) is more want than need. There’s also no GPS inside, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

There’s a microphone located on the left edge of the display which allows for voice commands and usage. Want to trigger or use Google Assistant? Talk to the hand because the face ain’t… Well, talk to the hand. It works, and it’s really nice to have when your phone is tucked away.

Software

In terms of software, the Wear OS has grown over the years and feels a little bit more natural and intuitive with each iteration. The Q Control comes with standard fare of apps and features including reminders, weather, and translate. Indeed, there are also plenty of watch faces to be found with many of them offering further personalization.

Although Wear OS has grown in the four years since it launched as Android Wear, there’s still something in it that sometimes feels like a hacked-on software experience. It’s nowhere near what it was in the first few years, but we’re occasionally reminded that the hardware and software come from two different places.

As a “sports watch” the Q Control does an okay job. It’s certainly not going to be in direct competition with any Garmin or high end Fitbit, but it’s an excellent everyday unit.

If you’re just starting to get more active and want some help with accountability and tracking, this is a great option. However, if you’ve come to rely on GPS and a more standalone experience, you’ll find this one lacking.

If you’re interested in tracking walks, runs, or bike rides, you’ll need to rely on your phone for the GPS side of things. This isn’t always convenient, especially if you’re pushing for personal bests or looking to improve on times. Do you want to wear a phone on your arm or hold one in your hand?

Checking your heart rate isn’t quite as simple as it sounds as there’s not really an always-on way to simply glance at it. You’ll have to go through the app to pull it up and even then your rate could have changed a fair amount in that time.

Want to track calories or measure steps and distance? Google Fit handles that for you but it’s something that you’ll be manually working with instead of passively reading. Unlike, say, a Fitbit Ionic, you aren’t going to glance at your wrist and see all of that stuff updated on a regular basis.

Swimming is another area where you might encounter a wonky experience. Out of the box there’s nothing here that makes it easy to track your swims. However, an app like MySwimPro is available, but it looks to be geared toward serious swimmers.

As a whole, the aforementioned things are what cause us to remember that one company is creating software that is designed to work on a variety of devices. The common denominator approach is okay, but it’s certainly not optimal. This is where a Garmin, Misfit, or Fitbit rises above — at least when it comes to sports and activities.

Battery & Charging

The Q Control will get you through a day of usage without any issue. Much longer than that, though, and you’ll be reaching for a charger. Unlike less “smart” watches, you will want to plug this one it at night.

The charging mechanism is similar to what we’ve seen before from Fossil and other players. It amounts to a USB cord with a magnetic platter. There are three pins on the “dock” which line up to the back of the watch. There’s a noticeable vibration and animation to signal that charging is underway.

Conclusion

It’s hard to fault Fossil for anything here as it’s not necessarily their sole responsibility to create a smooth and intuitive user experience. This is a watchmaker first, and one that didn’t rely on any software in the past. It surely doesn’t need to be “smart” to stay in its current line of work. The shortcomings we experienced fell at Google’s feet.

Wear OS is the best that’s available to them and it’s good stuff to be sure. We like having all of the features available within a literal arm’s length, whether with or without a phone. Maybe what the platform needs is a whole litany of features and options that watchmakers can enable or disable based on hardware.

There’s something really great about how cohesive the experience is on a Pixel phone. Given Google is directly responsible for how the hardware works with its software, it makes sense. We’d love to see a Pixel-like watch from Google but as of today that doesn’t seem to be on the horizon. Until then, we‘ll (hopefully) continue to get various watch manufacturers employing the ever-evolving Wear OS.

If it sounds like we hate the software experience, we don’t. In fact, it grows on us more with each update. Further, we root for it and hope that Google is able to deliver something that works for watches in the same way that Android does for phones.

Could the Q Control stand to include GPS, LTE, and/or NFC? Sure, but that comes with a cost. As of today you can purchase the watch for less than $200 from Fossil. This is a good price point for smart wearables designed for the everyday user. Much more and you’ll start looking at dedicated stuff like a Garmin.

Interestingly, and oddly, enough, the Q Control launched with a $275 price tag. That’s way too much for our liking given the overall package. We would have knocked $50 off the wearable before we’d consider it. Where it is today is the right pricing.

Each time we’ve taken a look at Fossil we come away impressed with the overall package. And, each time we’re reminded as to how handy and helpful Android Wear/Wear OS can be on a daily basis. Unfortunately, once we stop wearing them for a bit of time we don’t exactly miss it. The longer we’re away from one, the less enthusiastic we find ourselves at considering the next one.

We have enjoyed our time with the Fossil Q Control to be sure; however, we don’t know that we’ll miss it when we send it back. It’s a solid buy for the money, and well built, but it’s not the cohesive sports tracker and standalone watch that we’d like to see. We understand keeping the cost down and respect that this sits where it is — yet there’s just something lacking.

When it comes to all-around tracking of activities and life, we love Fitbit. Its software experience, and hardware, is among the best you’ll find and there’s a whole array of offerings at different prices. Why does it work so well? Likely because it keeps everything under one roof. If only that were the case here.

When you start to get into $200 or so, and look at what you want versus what you need, then an educated buyer does his or her homework. Our advice, look around, find out exactly what you plan to do or how you want to use a smartwatch, and then narrow your decision.

If, when you’re done whittling down a list of potential sport and fitness watches, you have various Wear OS models to choose from, definitely consider the Fossil Q Control. Other than that, it’s hard for us to fast-track this one to the top of a pile of contenders.

15
Sep

Google tried to kill ‘www,’ until Chrome users protested the change


Google has made it no secret that it wants to reinvent how you visit websites on your browser by eventually getting rid of web addresses altogether. With the launch of Chrome 69, Google stunned users last week with a surprising decision to no longer display the “www” and “m” part of the URL in the Chrome search bar, but user backlash forced Google to soften its stance. Google’s course reversal, although welcomed by users, is only short term, and the search giant said it will change course once again with the release of the Chrome 70 browser.

“In Chrome M69, we rolled out a change to hide special-case subdomains “www” and “m” in the Chrome omnibox,” Google Chromium product manager Emily Schecter wrote. “After receiving community feedback about these changes, we have decided to roll back these changes in M69 on Chrome for Desktop and Android. ”

Critics have argued that by not displaying the special-case subdomains, it was harder for users to identify sites as legitimate, and the move could lead to more scams on the internet. Others go as far as questioning Google’s motives for not displaying the “www” and “m” portion of a web address, and these users speculated that the move may be to disguise Google’s AMP — or Accelerated Mobile Pages — subdomain to make it indistinguishable for the actual domain.

“Please leave URLs as they are,” one user commented on Google’s feedback forum. “Not always example.com is equivalent to http://www.example.com, so leave the freedom to the user to see what they typed in the address bar.”

Other users were more direct in their criticism of Google’s proposed changes for Chrome 70.

“I remain firmly convinced that some solutions are worse than the problems they address, and that hiding bits of the URL is one of them,” another user commented. “As others have stated previously both here and in other discussions about this, it will not help users learn about URLs if browsers like [Chrome] simplify them to remove complexity at the expense of clarity. Feel free to dim the unimportant parts of the domain name, or make whatever visual tweaks you think will be helpful to emphasize the main component(s) that all users should be aware of, but do not hide anything.”

Before reversing the changes it made, users were able to reveal the full web address — including the www or m subdomains — by double-clicking on the address bar in Chrome 69.

Google plans to initiate public discussions over the proposed changes for Chrome 70, and according to Schecter, the company does not plan to force other browsers into standardizing in the way web URLs are displayed. With the launch of Chrome 70, Google plans on hiding the ‘www’ portion of a web address inside the search bar, but it will continue to display the ‘m’ subdomain. ” We are not going to elide ‘m’ in M70 because we found large sites that have a user-controlled ‘m’ subdomain,” she said. “There is more community consensus that sites should not allow the ‘www’ subdomain to be user controlled.”

Google also made headlines in recent weeks with its intentions on killing off URLs altogether in a bid to make the internet safer.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • To make the web safer, Google says URLs must die
  • Unlock Google’s cool new Material Design interface hidden inside Chrome 68
  • Riddled with problems, Chrome 69 isn’t the celebration Google hoped for
  • Chrome 69 arrives in September with Google’s Material Design overhaul intact
  • Google completely revamps Chrome to celebrate browser’s 10th birthday



15
Sep

We’re going to the Red Planet! All the past, present, and future missions to Mars





NASA

SpaceX founder Elon Musk says travel to Mars is within reach, with a goal to have one million people living on Mars within 100 years. SpaceX isn’t alone in working toward reaching Mars, however. In fact, there are quite a number of missions, both manned and unmanned, that currently planned or under proposal from government space organizations and private space flight companies across the globe.

Exploration of Mars and eventual human travel to it are nothing new. While manned missions have remained financial and logistical near-impossibilities, unmanned missions began in 1960. There have been 56 Mars missions so far, of which 26 have been successful — a testament to the difficulty in reaching the Red Planet.

As it stands right now, there is one rover currently operational, with another enroute to arrive late this year (as of the writing of this story, Opportunity is stuck in a massive dust storm with low chances for survival). Orbiting Mars are six satellites, providing massive amounts of data on our dusty neighbor.

It doesn’t end there either. Many more missions are planned for the 2020, 2022, and 2024 launch windows, and there are proposals to put humans on Mars by the 2030s.

Operational and En Route Missions

This portion of the list includes the world’s most notable past missions, most of which are still in operation.

Mars Odyssey – 2001

NASA

Named after the iconic sci-fi novel and film 2001: A Space Odyssey, Mars Odyssey is a NASA orbital satellite that is currently about 2,400 miles above Mars’ surface. It launched on April 7, 2001, and holds the record as the longest-operating spacecraft orbiting Mars. Mars Odyssey’s mission was to find proof of past or present water on Mars, using spectrometers and a thermal imager to map out the distribution of water, which was successfully proven on July 21, 2008, by the Phoenix lander. Mars Odyssey also serves as a communications relay between Earth and Martian rovers, the Mars Science Lab, and the Phoenix lander. It is projected to remain in operation until 2025.

Mars Express – 2003

ESA

Mars Express was launched along with the Beagle 2 lander by European Space Agency on June 2, 2003. While Beagle 2 suffered a lander failure, Mars Express has remained in successful communication with Earth. Mars Express was launched with the intent of surveying Mars’ surface using high-resolution camera, radars, and spectrometers. Thus far, Mars Express has discovered water ice and carbon dioxide ice in Mars’ southern ice cap along with an area of liquid water underneath, and has provided better detail of the elemental and chemical makeup of the planet’s surface and atmosphere. The project has also resulting in a topographical map of Mars, high-res surface images, and flybys of Mars’ moon Phobos. This data has been incredibly valuable, and has earned the craft several end-date extensions. It’s currently scheduled to remain in operation until the end of 2026.

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter – 2005

NASA

On August 12, 2005, NASA launched the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which entered Mars’ orbit on March 10, 2006. The MRO has been observing the landscape, and has made numerous high-profile discoveries, including the recent observance of flowing salt water on the surface and subsurface of the planet. MRO was also used to find a landing zone for the Phoenix Lander, and also acts as a relay for communications between active rovers and Earth.

Curiosity Rover -2011

NASA

Like nearly all other unmanned craft listed here, NASA’s Curiosity was made to study the landscape and climate of Mars, comprising the rover portion of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL). Specifically, Curiosity is looking for potential evidence of microbial life-sustaining conditions — either past or present — and assessing Mars’ habitability ahead of humans contact. It’s most notable discovery so far is the discovery of organic molecules on the planet’s surface in 2018. The rover is equipped with a vast array of instruments and cameras, and has been operational on Mars since 2012.

Mangalyaan (Mars Orbiter Mission) – 2013

The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) launched its first interplanetary mission on November 5, 2013. Dubbed “Mangalyaan,” the craft is an orbiter that has primarily been used as a proof of concept for ISRO’s interplanetary tech capabilities, testing various flight and communications systems, and providing telemetry data. Mangalyaan is also outfitted with a small suite of research instruments designed to capture atmospheric data. It is also the cheapest Mars mission to date, costing only $73 million USD.

MAVEN – 2013

The Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution Mission (MAVEN) is currently searching for explanations for how and why Mars’ water and atmosphere have been slowly deteriorating and escaping. After entering orbit in 2014, it was quickly able to confirm that Mars’ atmosphere was escaping into space, and further observations found the planet’s magnetic field is more like a tail, disrupted by the solar wind. This could explain the Red Planet’s loss of atmosphere, but scientists are still investigating.

ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter – 2016

Launched in 2016, ExoMars is the first in a series of joint Mars missions through a partnership between the European Space Agency and Roscosmos. The mission actually included two probes, the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) and the Schiaparelli EDM Lander, however the lander crashed on the Mars surface after being delivered by the TGO. Researchers hope to  gain a better understanding of methane and other trace gases present in the Martian atmosphere that could be evidence for possible biological activity.

InSight Lander – 2018

Launched in May 2018 and due to arrive at Mars in November, the InSight Lander, short for ‘Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport,’ aims to study the core of Mars and observe any possible seismic activity on the planet’s surface. It is hoped through the data collected will lead to better understanding of how rocky planets such as Earth, Mars, Venus, and Mercury are formed. The current plans are for a two month deployment phase upon landing, followed by nearly two years of observations as part of the initial mission.

15
Sep

Overclocking made simple: Nvidia RTX cards will perform task with a single click


If the idea of overclocking your graphics card is scary, intimidating, or just boring, but you want the improved performance anyway, Nvidia’s new RTX-series of graphics cards may be just what you’re looking for. The new cards will be supported by an application called Nvidia Scanner, which will automatically adjust clock speeds and voltages to get the absolute maximum performance from your card with just a single click.

Historically, graphics card overclocking has been more complicated than CPU overclocking. You needed specialist software or a modified BIOS — and even then it was rarely as easy as just upping the multiplier. Today, it’s much easier, with a number of software tools to make the process more layman-friendly (here’s how we do it), but testing for stability can still be a laborious process. Nvidia’s Scanner is designed to be the next step in that evolution, making it possible to overclock your new RTX GPU to the max, without risking crashes or overheating.

With increased power requirements over their last-generation predecessors, Nvidia’s Founders Edition RTX-series GPUs come equipped with dual-fan coolers for the first time. That extra cooling power means that they should have some extra thermal headroom, and Nvidia claims that it planned to leverage that all along with easy overclocking.

An early example of Nvidia Scanner at work in EVGA Precision X1 Nvidia

Nvidia Scanner is a big part of that, but it’s not an application — it’s an API that software partners like EVGA and MSI can utilize for their own overclocking tools. According to PC World, Nvidia Scanner is designed to speed up the often slow process of small speed increases in between stability tests. With the press of the Test button, the API will test your graphics card’s ability at different frequencies and voltages, all the way up to its practical maximum. When Scanner starts to detect low-level mathematical errors, it can shut the overclock down before a system crash occurs, making it much easier to avoid hard reboots and system crashes.

This automated overclocking is claimed to take around 20 minutes to complete, but once it’s there, you should have a pretty stable graphics card overclock that you can then fine-tune yourself if you want to push things further or tweak noise levels and power usage.

There are some drawbacks, namely the limitation to core clock increases and the Turing-series of RTX cards. Nvidia is looking to expand into older GPU generations in the future, and may make it possible to use Nvidia Scanner for automated memory overclocking at some point too.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Everything you need to know about the Nvidia GeForce RTX 2000 series
  • Leaked benchmark shows the RTX 2080 outperforming the GTX 1080 Ti
  • Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Mobile sighting hints at more powerful gaming laptops
  • New 3DMark benchmark will support Nvidia’s RTX 20 Series possibly this October
  • Nvidia’s GeForce RTX 2060 might launch next year without ray tracing



15
Sep

The 49-inch Samsung CHG90 QLED gaming monitor is absolutely massive


Calling Samsung’s CHG90 an ultrawide monitor feels like selling it short. This is an ultra-ultrawide. Featuring a 32:9 aspect ratio, the curved screen is designed to fill your entire field of view with its 3,840 x 1,080 resolution VA panel. It also supports great gaming features, making this not only a huge display for productivity purposes but a truly immersive gaming experience too. People might be wondering if you really need a 49-inch monitor — and, of course, you don’t. But as with all ultrawide monitors, loading up a game like Battlefield 1 and letting it suck you is an experience unlike any.

The CHG90 also has HDR — though it doesn’t meet the new accreditation standards. It also supports high refresh rates up to 144Hz for fast-paced gaming without ghosting or motion blur and a response time of just 1ms. Even if you do run into lower framerates on really intense games, support for AMD FreeSync 2 means that anyone also running an AMD graphics card will be able to effectively synchronize frame rates without using V-Sync.

For those who aren’t so interested in the gaming features, the CHG90 also has some nice professional features like strong color coverage of the Adobe RGB gamut at 92 percent, with NTSC 1976 at 88 percent. We haven’t fully tested it yet, but thanks to the addition of quantum dot technology, we expect whole visual experience with this display to really pop out of the screen with vibrant color.

Other useful features include Flicker Free and Eye Saver modes which should help avoid eye strain over long periods of usage.

The physical frame of the display is height adjustable and you can tilt and swivel it by a few degrees too, making it easy to find the right physical setting for you. You’ll want to be careful with the adjustments though, because, at 33 pounds, this is not a light monitor.

In terms of connectivity, the Samsung CHG90 comes with a pair of HDMI ports, one DisplayPort connector, a mini DisplayPort connector, a USB hub for updates and charging, and a 3.5mm headphone jack.

If you like what you see, the Samsung CHG90 QLED gaming monitor is available now starting at $1,100.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • The best monitors of IFA 2018
  • Samsung looks to woo gamers with Thunderbolt 3-equipped curved QLED monitor
  • The best ultrawide monitors of 2018
  • BenQ EX3501R ultrawide monitor review
  • Samsung CF791 ultrawide curved gaming monitor review



15
Sep

This amazingly acrobatic winged robot moves just like a fruit fly


Humans may have to worry about robots taking their jobs, but you know who else should probably be watching their back? Fruit flies! At least, that’s if you’re going by a new robotic creation from researchers at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. They have built an awesomely agile, quad-wing flapping robot, which can exhibit the same kind of winged motion as its insect inspiration. It’s the latest robot in a series of so-called DelFly robots created by the researchers — but with one very important twist.

“Our previous DelFly robots had an airplane-like tail, which made it stable, and was used for steering,” Matěj Karásek, who led the work, told Digital Trends. “Fruit flies, but also other insects, have no such tail. Instead, they control their flight by adjustments of the motion patterns of [their] flapping wings. The DelFly Nimble does the same: It uses its flapping wings not only to produce lift force that keeps it flying, but also for control. The loss of tail makes it much more agile, like flying insects.”

DelFly’s four wings let it control three axes of flight. With them, it’s able to exhibit some dazzlingly fly-like moves — and even a full 360-degree flip. At present, it’s able to fly for only around five minutes, however. That limits its usefulness, but with the proper amendments, this could well change in the future.


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“Currently, the robot can already carry a small camera, sending live images to the operator, and can fly for more than a kilometer when fully charged,” Karásek continued. “We are already working on making the drone fully autonomous by adding a camera system as in our previous DelFly Explorer.”

Guido de Croon, another researcher on the project, said that the flapping wing propulsion the team has developed will make it possible to more easily miniaturize versatile flying robots in the future. De Croon imagines “swarms of these tiny, fully autonomous robots pollinating plants in greenhouses, or searching for survivors in collapsed buildings after earthquakes.”

That’s out of reach for now, but — even taken purely as a technical demonstration of the power of biomimicry — the latest DelFly is pretty impressive in its own right.

A paper describing the work was recently published in the journal Science.

Editors’ Recommendations

  • Watch this Japanese ‘dragon’ drone slither through the air like a flying snake
  • Spirit animals: 9 revolutionary robots inspired by real-world creatures
  • Strawberry-picking robots could replace human workers in the field
  • Harvard’s latest robot can walk on water. Your move, Jesus
  • The best drones under $500



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