Tesla is making several big announcements this month, and Elon Musk just delivered the first: From now on, all new Tesla cars will be self-driving. The electric automaker also teamed up with Panasonic to build solar panels for its Powerwall home battery, which it’s set to update next week. Hyperloop One is forging ahead on its futuristic transportation system by raising $50 million and hiring Uber’s former CFO as an advisor. It looks like Apple has scrapped plans to build a self-driving car, and BMW showcased plans for a next-gen smart motorcycle that will never crash or tip over.
In energy news, scientists accidentally discovered a cheap, simple way to transform CO2 into ethanol fuel. A new study shows that wind power could supply 20 percent of the world’s electricity by 2030, and Germany is preparing to build the first wind/hydro turbines, which can produce energy even without a breeze. A new type of solar panel is able to pull clean drinking water from thin air, and Dyaqua has developed “invisible” photovoltaics that look just like stone, concrete and wood.
Target is taking fresh, local produce to the next level — by actually growing fruits and veggies in its stores. The chain is planning to install vertical indoor gardens starting next spring. In other technology and design news, Biodome Systems launched a line of geodesic dome homes that can withstand major earthquakes, and we spotted an algae-powered oxygen bar that sucks CO2 out of the air. Yves Behar launched the world’s first smart crib to help parents get more sleep, while Fend invented a packable bike helmet that collapses down to one third of its original size. And we rounded up eight inexpensive homes made from earth that almost anyone can afford.
Tesla has entered a deal with Panasonic to manufacture solar panels at the new SolarCity facility in Buffalo, NY. However, the deal is non-binding and depends on shareholder approval of Tesla’s $2.6 billion acquisition of SolarCity. In its blog, Tesla says it will sell the photovoltaic modules as part of a “solar energy system that will work seamlessly with Powerwall and Powerpack, Tesla’s energy storage products.”
Tesla and Panasonic build batteries together at the Gigafactory in Nevada, but haven’t directly collaborated on solar panels before. “We are excited to expand our partnership with Panasonic as we move towards a combined Tesla and SolarCity,” says Tesla CTO JB Straubel. “By working together on solar, we will be able to accelerate production of high-efficiency, extremely reliable solar cells and modules at the best cost.”
A proposed Tesla solar charging station.
On October 28th, Musk will show off new rooftop SolarCity panels and how they integrate with his Powerwall 2.0 battery storage systems and Tesla EVs. A year ago, SolarCity revealed the “world’s most efficient” solar panels, which hum along with 22 percent efficiency. Those can reduce the size of a rooftop solar installation or generate more power for businesses and commercial operations. Musk said at the time that SolarCity was shooting for a 55 cent per watt photovoltaic panel price.
Tesla recently announced that it would acquire SolarCity, bringing both of the Musk-led companies under one roof. However, the deal is controversial — many analysts and shareholders think Tesla isn’t liquid enough to absorb the $2.6 billion purchase price. A vote on the deal will be held on November 17th, so the upcoming event is no doubt intended to show investors and the public that Tesla and SolarCity’s products are made to be together.
Panasonic showed off a TV that hides in plain sight, there were gesture controlled origami birds, and a TARDIS-shaped machine that could 3D scan your entire body in four seconds flat. That’s the kind of show CEATEC is. There were even more robots, and while some of them might have a future, many may never be seen again. And that’s okay. Here’s everything we saw, and you can find all the best bits in the video above.
Today on In Case You Missed It: Panasonic is channeling a wonderful Jetson’s future by first using a mirror to determine your skin’s flaws, then printing out foundation and concealer within minutes, that can be smoothed onto the skin. It is a prototype system so far, which they just displayed at a Japanese tech show. Also at CEATEC, Honda unveiled its concept micro-commuter car that is 3D printed and can be customized depending on the owners’ needs, like requiring a hatchback or lower doors than standard models.
We’re also quite impressed with the Carnegie Mellon robot that has only one moving part, video of it in-action is here.
There are a number of interesting tech stories from this week but the biggest need to know is the Yahoo user data story. As always, please share any interesting tech or science videos you find by using the #ICYMI hashtag on Twitter for @mskerryd.
Panasonic showed off an early transparent TV before, but the company has now improved the image quality to the extent that the idea of a TV built into your furniture’s glass panes is not only possible — it’s right here. The OLED screen is made of a fine mesh, embedded into the glass sliding door. While the TV image is visible even with the backlighting on, once it’s dimmed, the image is clear and bright enough to be almost indistinguishable from existing TVs. (The last model was a bit too dim, and required undershelf lighting to boost the image.) Turn the TV panel off, however, and it’s hard to tell it was ever there to begin with. Want one? Panasonic’s spokesperson says the TV is likely to stay in development for a few years longer: at least another three years.
Panasonic has discovered a profitable new business in the last few years: beauty tech products. Facial moisturizing tech, hair dryers and very relaxing eye masks that I may have tested out (multiple times) at my local Japanese tech store. This time, the tech giant pitched its latest beauty concept as an “interactive mirror.” Same old story, right? Not quite. It says it could be a makeup-applying “revolution” that scans your face, decides what needs a little cosmetic help, and prints a combination pad of foundation and concealer to fix it up, with little to no makeup wasted. It sounds like a nonsensically vague future concept, but Panasonic thinks otherwise, and has the demo to prove it.
Well, there are some caveats. Buried away into Panasonic’s concept series at CEATEC 2016, the company had its face and skin-analyzing smart mirror (as we saw back in January) setup to detect skin blemishes, (sun damage, spots, wrinkles and more) then deliver that data to a makeup printer that spits out a sliver of makeup (matched to your own skin tone) in roughly two minutes. It’s not instant, and at this early development stage, the company says the printed patches also take roughly a day to dry and settle before it’s meant to be applied to a person’s face.
Once that’s happened — the company had ‘extra’ pre-printed patches aside for testing — the makeup layer is placed on a cheekbone mask sprayed with water and gently smoothed out. The user (or their makeup artist?), then lightly presses this onto their cheek, leaving the thin layer of makeup behind. A few moments later, the water has evaporated and you’re left with a kind-of temporary tattoo. That’s apparently what it feels like at first, but it becomes more natural as you get used to wearing it. Despite being offered the chance to test it out, with three-day scruff (and a lack of experience with the finer points of makeup), I got Panasonic employee Kaitlyn to test in my stead.
However, I did get to test out the skin analysis component. Computers can be cruel. Compared to Kaitlyn, the mirror singled out my open pores and crows’ feet although I apparently don’t have much UV damage or aging spots. So that’s good. I guess?
A video posted by Mat (@thtmtsmth) on Oct 3, 2016 at 12:46am PDT
The product is still in the prototype phase, but Panasonic is hoping to keep its Beauty division at the cutting edge. A spokeswoman explained that the machine could be used to cover scar tissue and even tattoos. The makeup printer is currently only able to conceal skin blemishes, but the company is looking into wrinkle reduction and more. Get ready to feel robot-level pretty.
Let this sink in: Since 2010, digital camera sales have fallen from around 120 million to 40 million units. The main reason, obviously, is that consumers can fulfill most of their photography needs with a smartphone. That leaves manufacturers a small but profitable high-end market. Judging by what I saw at Photokina, however, Canon, Nikon, Fujifilm, Olympus, Sony and Panasonic are all targeting that niche in different ways.
Canon is still popular, judging by the throngs clamoring to try the new 5D Mark VI (and our Twitter poll). The company just released the EOS M5, easily its best mirrorless camera to date. The model has some nice features, like 7 fps shooting and a fast Dual Pixel contrast autofocus system that tracks moving subjects for video. The fact that it jumped into the mirrorless game late is starting to show, though.
It’s lagging behind competitors, especially considering the $980 price (body only). For the same sum, you can get a Sony A6300 mirrorless camera with a similar sensor that shoots 4K instead of 1080p and has better low-light capability and superior (11 fps) burst shooting.
Canon’s bread and butter is still DSLRs, but as mirrorless cameras improve, folks are going to switch. Personally, I don’t want to lug around my Canon DSLR anymore when a Fujifilm or Sony model is just as good and weighs half as much. In other words, Canon’s next mirrorless model had better be at least on par with its rivals.
Nikon is doing even less than Canon in mirrorless as rumors swirl around the future of the Nikon 1 series. While still leaning on its pro DSLR market, the Japanese company is now banking on a whole new category: virtual reality. Nikon announced two new KeyMission action cameras (the 270 and 85), plus an October release date and $500 price for its impressive-looking 4K KeyMission 360 camera. Though known for its optics, Nikon has nailed the stitching software on the KeyMission 360, judging by a (very short) demo.
It is again targeting its bread-and-butter pro market by pitching the KeyMission 360 to DSLR photographers as a way to capture VR video during photo shoots. (It even has a hot-shoe mount that lets you stick it on top of a D700 or D5.) But this is a side project for Nikon right now; like Canon, it really needs to make headway in the mirrorless market.
Is Olympus held back by its smallish Micro Four Thirds sensor, compared with Sony’s, Canon’s and Fujifilm’s APS-C models? The new OMD-EM1 Mark II flagship will test that theory. It seemingly has everything a pro photographer would need: 18 fps shooting speed with AF and exposure tracking (up to 60 fps with AF locked), 4K video, a stellar EVF and a body that’s as lovely to hold as it is to look at. The company also revealed a new 25mm f/1.2 25mm lens, allowing the bokeh and light sensitivity that pros expect.
Judging by several conversations with colleagues at the show, however, many won’t even consider it with that sensor. We don’t know the price yet, but if the OMD-EM1 II is the same as the first model ($1,500), buyers will be more tempted by, say, Sony’s $1,600 (body only) Alpha A7 II, which has a full-frame sensor — twice as large as that on the Olympus model.
Panasonic again emphasized video at Photokina. The three cameras it introduced at the show all feature 4K, and the freshly unveiled GH5 (due in 2017) adds internal 10-bit, 4:2:2, 60 fps recording, making it a truly professional-grade product. Even the photo features are video-oriented. Panasonic touted “4K Photo” and upcoming “6K Photo” as features that let you take 18-megapixel stills at 30 fps. That way, photographers can choose the perfect image from an action sequence.
Like Olympus, Panasonic is hindered by the Micro Four Thirds format. The small sensor is an advantage for video, though, striking the right balance between too much and too little depth of field. However, other competitors, particularly Sony, could step on Panasonic’s turf by including 10-bit or even 6K video in future models.
Speaking of the sort, Sony not only makes the sensors used by most other manufacturers but has an excellent, well-rounded camera lineup of its own. Its latest mirrorless E-mount models, in both the APS-C and full-frame categories, have generally received raves. At Photokina, it reminded us that it also makes Alpha mount SLT (single-lens translucent mirror) by launching the flagship Alpha A99 II.
The A99 II has the specs you’d expect from a $3,600 DSLR. That includes a high-res 42.4-megapixel sensor, 5-axis image stabilization and 12 fps RAW burst speeds. It’s not messing around with video either, as the A99 II does 4K at 4:2:2 quality and, provided you use the cropped Super-35 mode, no pixel-binning. Sony’s lineup has few weaknesses, except perhaps one: Its full-frame lens selection is limited and expensive.
Finally, there’s Fujifilm, which created the most Photokina buzz with its GFX 50S medium-format model. Due early next year, the 50.4-megapixel camera is the first in a brand-new system. It was launched with three new lenses, each capable of resolving at least 100 megapixels. The company told Engadget that its X-series models already stand up against rivals’ full-frame cameras, so it wanted to jump the category altogether.
Fujifilm packed the sensor into a relatively compact DSLR-size body. It’s not going to be cheap — less than $10,000 was all that the company would say. But it instantly becomes a top choice for medium-format photographers considering Pentax, Hasselblad or Phase One. It could even take a bite out of Nikon and Canon’s high-end DSLR market for fashion, architectural and other photographers who want as big a sensor as possible.
My takeaway from Photokina 2016 is that we’re living in a golden age of high-end digital cameras — a boon for consumers. Things are less warm and fuzzy for manufacturers, however. If overall sales continue to decline, Darwinism could take its toll on brands that don’t innovate fast enough. I’m looking at you, Canon and Nikon.
We’re live all week from Cologne, Germany, for Photokina 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.
Panasonic held it’s Photokina 2016 press conference today and finally spilled the beans on the 4K GH5, the successor to its popular GH4. The big news was 10-bit 4K capture at up to 60 fps, and even up to 6K — but only for short photo bursts. We also tried out Panasonic’s G85, a 4K mirrorless camera for videographers who may not want to splash out for the high-end GH4 or GH5. Finally, there’s the LX10, a formidable 4K compact camera that challenges Sony’s RX100 IV.
Yes, there’s a theme here — 4K video now defines Panasonic’s lineup from compact to mirrorless flagship.
We’re live all week from Cologne, Germany, for Photokina 2016. Click here to catch up on all the news from the show.
Today, Panasonic is celebrating the 15th anniversary of its Lumix series with a new camera, the LX10. This compact shooter, which the company says is designed to fit in most jean pockets, features a 1-inch, 20.1-megapixel sensor and 24-75mm f/1.4-2.8 fixed Leica lens. The LX10 has a full metal body, giving it a premium look that you don’t often see in other $700 cameras. Of course, being a Panasonic product, it shoots 4K video at 24, 25 and 30 fps.
In addition to the LX10, Panasonic’s introducing the Lumix FZ2500, a bulky DSLR-like camera with a 20-megapixel sensor (also 1-inch) and a 20-48mm, 20x zoom Leica lens. Like its sibling LX10, the FZ2500 captures 4K as well, although it does so in both cinematic resolution (4,096 x 2,160) and UHD (3,840 x 2,160).
According to Panasonic, the LX10 isn’t replacing the LX100 from 2014, noting that the priority with the latest was to have a bigger sensor. On the other hand, the FZ2500 could appeal to many videographers — although its fixed lens is certainly a limitation. Still, it’s better specced than, say, Sony’s RX100 IV.
The LX10 is set to hit stores in November for $699, while the FZ2500 will arrive in December for $1,200.
Video shooters were excited about Panasonic’s Lumix G7 camera when it launched last year as an $800 alternative to the lovely, but pricey GH4. Just over a year later, the company has launched a successor, the G85. Like the last model, it captures 4K video, has an OLED electronic viewfinder (EVF), a 16-megapixel sensor and a tilt-and-swivel screen. The big change is a new shutter that cuts vibration 90 percent, along with a 5-axis optical image stabilizer that further reduces the odds of blurry photos or shaky video.
The design mirrors the previous model’s DSLR-like look, with a chunky handle and similar button placement. However, it looks a touch more compact than the G7 with fewer sharp angles. As before, it has dust- and splash-proof construction, a 3-inch 1,040K-dot free-angle LED screen, a 2,360K dot EVF and max 25,600 maximum ISO. The contrast AF system can focus in .07 seconds, allowing burst capture up to 9 fps.
If you’ve already got a Lumix G7, the G85 probably isn’t different enough to justify an upgrade. However, folks who were looking to buy a G7 will probably want the new model now instead, since it has a better shutter and 5-axis OIS.
The camera is arguably aimed less at photographers than videographers. Those folks can shoot at 4K with 30fps (either in 8-bit 4:2:0 to a high-speed memory card, or 8-bit 4:2:2 to an external recorder via the real-time HDMI output), or 60fps in 1080p. All video modes have full time, continuous autofocus. Like the G7, the G85 has a 3.5mm microphone input, but no headphone output, unfortunately.
Panasonic has tried to make its 4K video useful for still photographers, with several 4K Photo modes. The function lets you shoot 4K, 8-megapixel images at 30fps for five seconds, giving you a wider choice of potential images. By stacking the images, you can also use the “post-focus” feature to select a different focal point after you’re taken the image, or change the depth of field.
If you’ve already got a Lumix G7, the G85 probably isn’t different enough to justify an upgrade. However, folks who were looking to buy a G7 will probably want the new model now instead, since it has a better shutter and 5-axis OIS. It’ll arrive in October for $900 (body only) and $1,000 with a 12-60mm lens.