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ICYMI: Surviving an island disaster and self-bagging stores

ICYMI: Surviving an island disaster and self-bagging stores

Today on In Case You Missed It: The National Institute of Informatics in Tokyo created a game called Everscape to both study and teach people in a gamified world who are trying to escape a tsunami following an earthquake. The goal is to use the gamers’ playing style to figure out how people will try to survive similar events in real life. Meanwhile, the Panasonic and Lawson store team up in Japan should roll out machines that can determine what products are in a shopping basket, then automatically bag them for an easy check-out experience.

If you’re looking for the propane soap bubbles video, that’s here. As always, please share any interesting tech or science videos you find by using the #ICYMI hashtag on Twitter for @mskerryd.


The best toaster oven

By Brendan Nystedt

This post was done in partnership with The Sweethome, a buyer’s guide to the best homewares. When readers choose to buy The Sweethome’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.

After more than 50 hours of research and testing—and making stacks and stacks of toasted white bread, mini pizza bagels, and cookies—we think the Panasonic FlashXpress toaster oven is the best for most people. This model performed as well as (or better than) models that cost twice as much. Its compact size takes up less space on a counter, yet its interior is still large enough to comfortably reheat leftovers and frozen snacks.

Who should get this

A toaster oven is a great multipurpose small appliance that lets you toast bread and bake and reheat foods without firing up your full-sized oven. A compact one works well when you’re making single-serving meals and snacks or if your rental has a tiny kitchen with an oven that doesn’t work well (or is missing altogether). Looking for regular old toasters? We have picks for those, too.

How we picked and tested

Photo: Michael Hession

We looked for toaster ovens that were easy to use, reliable, quick, great at toasting bread and baking cookies, and available for between $25 and $270. A Sweethome survey revealed that most of our respondents wanted to cook leftovers, pizza, and convenience foods like Hot Pockets, so we looked for a model with enough capacity for those jobs that wasn’t too big. Our pick would ideally take up very little counter space in the type of tiny kitchen you find in small studio apartments or a mother-in-law unit.

Our heat-map test results from five of the better ovens we looked at. Photo: Katie Hausenbauer-Koster

We put seven toasters through a battery of tests with three tasters in our New York City test kitchen. First, for our toast test, we filled each toaster with as many slices of basic white bread as we could. For consistency, we set each machine to the medium shade setting and used the toasted results to create a heat map. This showed us any hot spots, as well as how each one performed as a toaster.

For the second test, we made break-and-bake Toll House cookies and pizza Bagel Bites, evaluating the finished cookies and bagels for color, consistency, and doneness. To keep the ovens on an even playing field, we didn’t turn on any of the ovens’ convection settings when we tested.

In the five models we thought had the most promise after the heat-map toast test, we also ran a bonus round of testing on boneless, skinless chicken thighs to test each oven’s broil mode (except the Panasonic FlashXpress, which doesn’t have one). The results were disappointing on every single model, so don’t expect much from this feature, even if the oven can roast and bake with no problem.

Our pick

The compact Panasonic FlashXpress excels at basic tasks like toasting bread, reheating pizza slices, and cooking bite-size snacks. Photo: Brendan Nystedt

We recommend the Panasonic FlashXpress for its strong baking performance, compact size, and reasonable price. It cooked toast and other foods to an even, lovely golden-brown better than most other models we tried, and its toast shade settings were among the most accurate we tested. For a relatively low price, the FlashXpress stands out from a crowded pack of mediocre, cheap models, offering performance and features we found comparable to toaster ovens that are larger and double the cost.

Bread toasted on the medium setting came out beautifully golden brown without any scorching or charring. Only one other toaster oven we tested was able to toast bread as impressively—the Cuisinart TOB-260N1. Other models we tested, such as the KitchenAid KCO273SS, toasted bread unevenly, with extreme light and dark patches. The Panasonic FlashXpress was the only toaster oven we tested that had both quartz and ceramic infrared heating elements, which consistently produced evenly browned toast batch after batch. For more on different heating elements, check out our full guide.

Low heat—and a lack of color—on the two pieces of bread we put in the front of the oven. Photo: Katie Hausenbauer-Koster

When mapping the Panasonic’s internal heat distribution, we found a 1-inch margin right behind the door where the toast didn’t brown well. Because you can’t fit full slices of bread in that space anyway, it’s not a huge deal (just remember to push your bread all the way to the back of the oven rack). However, it did affect other foods that were in that zone. Though Bagel Bites and cookies placed in the cool area were thoroughly cooked, they weren’t as pleasantly browned. However, similar problems were common in many of the ovens we tested.

A pricier, medium-sized toaster oven

The roomier Breville Smart Oven is our runner-up pick. Photo: Michael Hession.

If you need a larger toaster oven than our main pick, we recommend the Breville Smart Oven. This model did well across the board in our tests, evenly toasting bread almost as well as our upgrade pick, the Cuisinart TOB-260N1. Though it’s pricier than our main pick, the Breville Smart Oven has a more modern, intuitive interface and an easy-to-read display.

This model doesn’t have an internal light, but it turned out consistent results batch after batch.

A large toaster oven with more accessories

Our upgrade pick, the Cuisinart TOB-260N1, is large enough to fit nine pieces of bread. Photo: Brendan Nystedt

If you want your toaster oven to cook nine slices of toast at once, the big, versatile Cuisinart TOB-260N1 convection toaster oven is the best that we found. The Cuisinart TOB-260N1 is a different beast entirely than the Panasonic FlashXpress: It’s more than twice the price and almost twice the size, and its much bigger oven cavity can handle a wider variety of cooking tasks. Compared with all the other large toaster ovens we tested, this was the top performer by an impressive margin. When compared head-to-head with the Breville Smart Oven Pro, the Cuisinart TOB-260N1 cooked toast more evenly. It has a better warranty, more accessories, and a slightly bigger capacity to boot.

This guide may have been updated by The Sweethome. To see the current recommendation, please go here.

Note from The Sweethome: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.


Panasonic checkout machine also bags your items

The rush to automate manual labor jobs has reached new heights in convenience stores. Self-service checkouts are hardly new, but Panasonic and Lawson have taken them one step further in Japan. The pair has developed a basket system which can detect the items you’re placing inside and then, once you’ve reached the till, bag them up automatically. It’s an elaborate concept — the bottom of the basket slides out, allowing your chosen goods to carefully fall into a bag underneath. The basket then slides away from you, creating a space to pick up the bag and walk out.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, the experimental “Regirobo” isn’t finished just yet. You have to manually scan the items, for instance, before placing them in your basket. (Electronic item tags will be introduced in February, enabling the automatic detection.) It’s also restricted to a single store opposite Panasonic’s headquarters in Osaka. Should the trial be successful, the company will pursue a wider roll-out in 2018, however.

The new Lawson and Panasonic collaboration follows the reveal of Amazon Go, an arguably more ambitious take on grocery store shopping. The company hopes to remove the checkout experience entirely using a mixture of “computer vision, sensor fusion and deep learning.” You merely launch the Amazon app and swipe it across a terminal to enter; once you’re inside, the system will detect when you pick up items and add them to your virtual cart. The basket is negated entirely — you simply place the items in the same bag you wish to walk out with. Like Panasonic’s system, however, it will be limited to one store on Blanchard Street, Seattle.

For now then, convenience store jobs are secure. But for how long? That’s a difficult question. An even trickier one is the effect a global roll-out would have on the economy, the retailer sector specifically and employment.

Source: Wall Street Journal, Lawson, Panasonic


The Wirecutter’s best deals: An $800 Dell laptop, down to $660

This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer’s guide to the best technology. When readers choose to buy The Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, they may earn affiliate commissions that support their work. Read their continuously updated list of deals here.

You may have already seen Engadget posting reviews from our friends at The Wirecutter. Now, from time to time, we’ll also be publishing their recommended deals on some of their top picks. Read on, and strike while the iron is hot – some of these sales could expire mighty soon.

Dell Inspiron 15 7000

Street price: $780; MSRP: $800; deal price: $660

A solid price on this gaming laptop. The Inspiron 15 7000 typically hovers around $800 with periodic sales dropping the price to the $750 range, but with this drop to $660, it’s the best price we’ve seen to date.

The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 gaming laptop is our pick for the best budget gaming laptop. In our guide, Kimber Streams writes, “The Dell Inspiron 15 7000 has amazing specs for the price and is easy to upgrade when your budget allows. The $800 configuration we recommend has a sixth-generation Intel Core i5-6300HQ processor, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 960M graphics card with 4 gigabytes of dedicated memory, 8 gigabytes of RAM, and a 256-gigabyte solid-state drive—that’s powerful enough to run Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor on high settings, but you’ll have to step down to medium or lower on more trying titles like XCOM 2.”

Logitech Marathon M705 Wireless Mouse

Street price: $35; MSRP: $50; deal price: $20

A nice deal on this wireless mouse, which typically hovers between $30 – $40. At $20, this is one of the lowest prices we’ve seen.

The Logitech Marathon M705 is our top pick for the best wireless mouse. In our guide, Kimber Streams writes, “The Logitech Marathon Mouse M705 is the best mouse for most people. It was our testing panel’s favorite, and we think it has the best overall balance of features: medium size, ergonomic shape, six customizable buttons, long battery life, a Unifying Receiver (which lets you use up to six Logitech keyboards and pointing devices on a single USB port), and a three-year limited warranty. When we first recommended the Marathon in July 2014, it cost $50, and it’s an even better deal now that the price has dropped to around $30.”

Allen Sports Deluxe Two Bike Rack

Street price: $35; MSRP: $60; deal price: $22

This is a rock-bottom price on an already affordable car bike rack. Those searching on a limited budget will find a less full-featured and easy to use but functional option in this Allen 2-bike rack, now at $22, the lowest price we’ve seen.

The Allen Sports Deluxe 2-Bike Rack is a super-budget car bike rack we like in our best bike racks and carriers for cars and trucks guide. Kristen Hall-Geisler and Rik Paul write, “If money is your number-one criteria when buying a trunk rack, you can’t go wrong with the Allen Sports Deluxe Two Bike, which sells for less than $50. Though it’s made of aluminum rather than plastic, it doesn’t weigh much more than our top pick, and it was very stable on the back of our vehicles. We found it a little hard to set up, though; it’s not nearly as easy as the Saris Bones.The rack’s frame has one setting only, and getting the arms that brace the bike frame in place can be difficult.”

Panasonic Lumix G 42.5mm f/1.7 Portrait Lens

Street price: $350; MSRP: $400; deal price: $300

This portrait lens from Panasonic is a very good deal, marking the lowest price we’ve seen on this lens in over a year. While it’s been bouncing between its $400 MSRP and its $350 street price pretty steadily, we haven’t seen any other significant sales. This $50 drop is the best we’ve seen in a while, bringing it to below the price of the “cheaper” Olympus M. Zuiko 45mm pick.

The Panasonic Lumix G 42.5mm f/1.7 is our upgrade portrait lens pick in our guide to the first micro four thirds lenses you should buy. Amadou Diallo wrote, “The Panasonic Lumix G 42.5mm f/1.7 ASPH Power OIS lens is just a bit more expensive than the Olympus portrait lens (although the prices for both lenses fluctuate) but it offers image stabilization, making it a better choice for those who own Panasonic cameras without built-in stabilization. With an 85mm-equivalent focal length, this lens offers a similar field of view as our top portrait pick and is comparable in size, weight, and build quality.”

Deals change all the time, and some of these may have expired. To see an updated list of current deals, please go to The


Panasonic’s OLED-fighting LCD is meant for professionals

Panasonic’s salad days in the consumer TV space are in its past, but today the company announced a new IPS display technology that might help it win back some of the professional market. Essentially, it’s making an LCD panel with the precision backlighting capabilities of an OLED. Thanks to a new backlight technology, these panels can turn off the backlight on a per-pixel basis, granting them an advertised ” over 1,000,000:1″ contrast ratio. Meaning that blacks will be absolutely black while whites could be eye-searingly bright — within the same image — and HDR and colors should look incredibly life-like.

The company says that these are perfect for use in video production work, while one of the provided sample images shows a 31-inch panel being used to display an x-ray image. Sony has dabbled in the medical display space, as well. What’s more, the new light-modulating cells help the screens hit a maximum (and stable) brightness of 1,000 cd/m2. For context, Samsung’s KS8000 TV hits 137 cd/m2, and 766 cd/m2 with HDR on, out of the box. So yeah, this could be pretty impressive.

Whether we see this tech hit a TV you can grab from Best Buy is anyone’s guess. These types of panels are usually incredibly expensive and not meant for folks like you and me.

Source: Business Wire


The Wirecutter’s best deals: Samsung’s SmartThings Hub is 50 percent off

This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer’s guide to the best technology. When readers choose to buy The Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, they may earn affiliate commissions that support their work. Read their continuously updated list of deals here.

You may have already seen Engadget posting reviews from our friends atThe Wirecutter. Now, from time to time, we’ll also be publishing their recommended deals on some of their top picks. Read on, and strike while the iron is hot—some of these sales could expire mighty soon.

Breville BFP800XL Sous Chef Food Processor

Street price: $400; MSRP: $400; Deal price: $320

A big $80 drop below the street price on this more powerful pick. While we did see a $300 sale last Black Friday, we haven’t seen many worthwhile deals since. The last drop to $320 was back in March for around a day.

The Breville BFP800XL is our more powerful pick in our best food processor guide. Our staff wrote, “This is the machine you want if you plan to use it several times a week or need a tough motor when cooking for large groups. But it’s twice the price of our main pick, and it’s more powerful (and much bigger) than most people need.”

Panasonic FlashXpress Toaster Oven

Street price: $120; MSRP: $150; Deal price: $100 with code EARLYBF

We haven’t seen this good of a sale since June, and sales on this model were somewhat rare this year. While we used to see $75 and $85 prices over a year ago, those have dried up and it’s consistently been $120 or more. Use the code EARLYBF in your cart to drop the price down to $100.

The Panasonic FlashXpress Toaster Oven is our pick for the best toaster oven. Brendan Nystedt wrote, “For excellent toast, strong baking performance, compact size, reasonable price, and enough room to quickly heat leftovers and frozen snacks, the Panasonic FlashXpress NB-G110P is the best toaster oven we found. It cooked toast and other foods to an even, lovely golden-brown better than most other models we tried, and its toast shade settings were among the most accurate we tested. For a relatively low price, the FlashXpress stands out from a crowded pack of mediocre, cheap models, offering performance and features we found comparable to other models that are much larger and more expensive.”

Netgear Arlo Q Wired Security Camera 2-Pack

Street price: $400; MSRP: $400; Deal price: $280 with coupon

We haven’t seen many deals on the Arlo Q camera since we only recently made it our runner-up pick. We saw it at $330 and that was already the best price we’d seen, but within the past couple of days, Amazon added a $50 coupon which drops it to $280, the best price we’ve seen by far.

The Netgear Arlo Q is our runner-up pick in our guide to the best wireless security camera. Stewart Wolpin wrote, “If the Logi Circle is sold out or otherwise unavailable, get the Netgear Arlo Q, which offers very good A/V and still-photo quality in bright, dim, and no light, relatively easy setup, smart and welcome geofencing alerts, unique and customizable activity zones that limit where the camera will detect motion, and free seven-day video recording and storage, all of which offset its slightly higher-than-average price.”

Samsung SmartThings Hub

Street price: $100; MSRP: $100; Deal price: $50

This is a new low price for the Samsung SmartThings Hub, beating our previous deal by $25 and below the usual price by $50. We’ve seen a number of sales and bundles for this hub in the past few months, but this is an excellent deal on it in standalone form, allowing you to use your savings to pick and choose what companion tech to purchase to pair it with.

The Samsung SmartThings Hub is our pick for the best smart hub. Jon Chase wrote, “The Samsung SmartThings Hub is a polished, powerful option for tech-savvy DIYers who have a desire for an integrated smart home but lack the budget for or interest in a professionally installed system. It’s easy to set up on your home network, and pairing it with other smart devices is largely seamless.”

Deals change all the time, and some of these may have expired. To see an updated list of current deals, please go to The


Tesla’s self-driving future, and more in the week that was

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 and Panasonic to build solar panels for PowerWall systems

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.

Source: Tesla


The best of CEATEC 2016: virtual tea, printed makeup, too many robots

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.


ICYMI: Get your makeup done in minutes

ICYMI: Get your makeup done in minutes
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.

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