BMW took the YD challenge!

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It’s hilariously karmic, when I wrote this article about a BMW Motorrad concept bike that ushered in the age of self-driven two-wheelers, I also issued a shout-out, asking designers world over to give fuel to the fire and make autonomous bikes as popular as autonomous cars… And just within a month, BMW comes up with its own Vision 100 motorbike concept that’s smart enough to change the motorbike landscape!

Let’s talk about the concept. The Motorrad Vision 100 makes the bike truly autonomous and insanely smart. Which leads to the death of the helmet. If your bike won’t crash, you won’t need protective headgear, right? However, there’s some face-gear in question. The helmet gets replaced by AR glasses that act as the interface display for when you drive. They also keep the dust out of your eyes. The new method of driving the bike comes naturally to the user as most of the work is done by the automobile itself. The aesthetics obviously take on an absolutely new avatar, while still retaining the bike-esque elements. Tires grow wider so that the bike may stand/balance on its own, and the tire pattern, a triangular matrix (if you notice keenly) goes to become somewhat a symbol for BMW’s Vision 100 design challenge, with its presence being felt even in BMW’s Vision 100 car design. Let’s just say I’m really impressed! Way to embrace a challenge, BMW!

Designer: BMW Motorrad

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Combining Skiing and Wingsuits Seems Like a Very Bad Idea

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One reason a product ends up on crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo is because companies, or investors, have deemed it too dangerous to bring to market. Wearing a wingsuit while skiing seems like it would make an already dangerous sport even riskier, but you can still pre-order one via Indiegogo.

Looking a cross between the superhero cape you used to run around in as a five year old, and the wingsuits that let daredevils zip through the air, the Wingjump can dramatically increase your hang time after launching off a ramp or mogul while skiing downhill. It won’t actually let you fly, however, and should in no way be used as a parachute if you decide to ski off the edge of a mountain.

The creators of the Wingjump claim their creation can actually help make skiing safer, because in addition to increased hang time, it can also double as a drag chute, letting you easily control your speed and stabilize your downhill run. There’s no doubt it works that way too, but few people will be donating to the Wingjump’s $22,000+ Indiegogo campaign looking for increased safety.

There are three versions of the Wingjump available, but it’s the extra-large $350 Activ’Carve that most thrill seekers are going to want to contribute to. Delivery is expected sometime in December of this year, assuming the Indiegogo campaign is a success, and production goes smoothly. So it should arrive just in time for the skiing season here, but there’s no reason you can’t also wear the wings while you’re riding a bike, rollerblading, or other outdoor activities that just seem too safe.

[Indiegogo – Wingjump via GearJunkie]

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Periscope introduces Producer to help professionals broadcast to Twitter

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Twitter wants to help you step up your livestreams. 

The social network’s livestreaming app Periscope is opening up its app so that users can live stream directly from cameras other than the ones on their smartphones. The effort, called Periscope Producer, is meant to help broaden the reach of live video on Twitter by making it more accessible to professional broadcasters.

At a basic level, Producer allows broadcasters to livestream to Periscope and Twitter directly from their own camera setup — whether it’s a laptop webcam or a professional-grade video camera. But it also opens up other features likely to appeal to pros, such as the ability for broadcasters to add custom animations, graphics and even advertising to their streams. (Periscope doesn’t have these tools built-in, but Producer makes it possible for broadcasters to add these elements manually.)

The goal, says Periscope CEO Kayvon Beykpour, is to expand the type of live video content that’s available on Periscope and Twitter.

We want to broaden what can go into the Periscope ecosystem

“We want to broaden what can go into the Periscope ecosystem,” Beykpour said during a press event in San Francisco on Wednesday. “If it can be captured and distributed live through either software or hardware, we want it to be able to be piped into Periscope and Twitter.”

Periscope has been testing the platform for the last six weeks with a small group of partners that’s included media companies like ABC, Telemundo, Fox and CBS, as well companies like Disney and Louis Vuitton. Now, Twitter is ready to open Producer up to more people. 

Organizations and individuals who are interested in using Producer can now sign up to be part of the platform.

Previously, Periscope had introduced a couple of hardware integrations, including the ability to broadcast from a GoPro and DJI drones. Unlike those one-off integrations, which required you to pair the Periscope app to your drone or action camera, getting set up for Periscope Producer is a little more involved. 

getting set up for Periscope Producer is a little more involved

Producer requires broadcasters to use encoding software or hardware in order to link Periscope to the relevant camera feed. This is similar to how livestreaming on YouTube works, but it does mean that Producer is more likely to be used by brands, media companies and professional streamers than casual users.

Beykpour says he expects broadcasts created via Producer will be “an extremely small subset” of Periscope’s daily broadcasts, most of which will continue to come from smartphones. But as Twitter continues to prioritize live video and events, enabling professional-grade live streaming could go a long way toward realizing its goals.

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Hands on with Hover’s self-flying camera drone, which launches today

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A year or so ago a new type of drone hit the (preorder) market. It was the self-flying camera drone – a device that promised to combine camera and AI technology to create a drone that you could essentially throw in the air to follow you around and take photos and videos.

Some of these drones include Snap, Lily, Staaker and Hover. Most of these companies have raised tens of millions of dollars in either equity or preorders, but have taken a while to actually ship a product.

But today Hover is announcing that its first camera drone – named Passport – is going on sale today for $549 – a $50 discount on its eventual retail price of $599. We had a chance to try out Passport over the last week or so and were very impressed.

Compact Size

I moved to New York City a few months ago – it’s been great, except for the fact that I’ve essentially had to give up flying my drones. There’s no way I’m going to tempt fate (and the law) and fly a bulky Inspire or Phantom hundreds of feet in the air.

But Hover is different. The foldable drone weighs just half a pound, and is about the size of a book when in flying mode. When folded up, it’s basically the size of a VCR tape. I threw it in my girlfriend’s purse during an afternoon around the city, and after getting over the initial annoyance of having to carry her boyfriend’s drone she forgot about it. Compared to my Inspire’s bulky suitcase-sized case, Hover is a dream to carry around.







But of course Hover isn’t a full-featured drone like DJI’s Inspire or Phantom. While it does shoot 4K video and have a 13MP camera, it’s meant to be more of a close-up camera or tripod – not a true arial camera. The WiFi connection will drop when it gets about 60 feet away from you, and it’s just not meant to fly that high. The WiFi connection did drop once or twice on me, but this was before I even asked the company what the limit was – so it was definitely occurring when I was pushing past that 60 feet boundary. But when the connection drops the drone will just hover in place so you can walk closer and reconnect the WiFi.

But the benefit of not being a drone you can fly hundreds of feet in the air is you can fly it inside. Have you ever tried to power on an Inspire in your living room? I have, and I really really don’t recommend it. Hover on the other hand was perfect to fly inside my small New York apartment or outside on the sidewalk. The company added sonar sensors and a downwards facing camera that takes 100 pictures a second, both of which are designed to make sure the drone hovers exactly where it is supposed to. This stability is really what lets it be flown in close quarters without fear it’s going to accidentally stray into the wall.

So while one of DJI’s drones can be used to fly a few hundred feet in the air and take a video of your entire property, Hover is really meant to just fly a few feet away from you and take a photo or video of you or a group. Essentially like a flying selfie stick or personal photographer.

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But all of this idealism about a new category of drone is useless if it doesn’t take good photographs.

Hover comes with stabilization (both electronic and through a one-directional physical gimbal) – which helps steady the footage. The company recommends shooting in 1080p and not 4K in windy situations, since that’s what their stabilization algorithm is optimized for.

While Hover’s camera isn’t good enough to take photos or videos you could use in a feature film, it’s good enough for the job. The camera lens is really small – about the size of an iPhone camera. And the footage it takes is about on par with what an iPhone 6S would take – which really isn’t bad for a $599 half-pound portable drone.







It also has a flash built in, which really helps with group or solo shots that are taken when the drone is just a few feet away from you. And the fact that Hover really has a flash really reiterates the fact that the drone was designed to be used for close-up photos and not true arial shots.

Essentially the camera will capture pictures that are more than good enough for Instagram or to send to your friends – but if you buy it hoping to capture stunning arial shots like you see in movies, you’re going to end up disappointed.

Artificial Intelligence & Manual Flying

Part of Hover being more flying camera than drone means it comes packed with some technology to help it take cool pictures. Once your drone is in the air you can switch to video mode which brings up a bunch of AI modes – follow, 360-Spin and Orbit.

Follow is self-explanatory – once the stream on your phone shows that you are in Hover’s field of view a yellow square will appear around your body. Double tap yourself and the square turns green, which means Hover has locked on. The drone will then follow you around when you walk (or slowly run). While it got confused when I would run and quickly change directions, the follow functionality was pretty well done.

Orbit is also really cool – after locking on Hover will stay about 10 feet away from you and orbit around you (even while you walk) the result is a cool video straight out of an action movie.

Hover can also be flown manually via on-screen joysticks in its mobile app. This was a great added benefit – some of these autonomous flying cameras brag that their AI is so good they don’t need to be (and can’t be) flown manually. This ends up being a pretty sucky experience, because at least part of the fun of owning a drone is being able to fly it yourself. And Hover’s small size meant I could fly it around inside my apartment, which is always fun.

Wrap Up

I was really impressed with Hover. I’ve played with drones in this new category of “flying camera” before, and most ended up being half-baked and disappointing. But Hover is really well done. If you’re looking for a second drone to supplement a beast like the Inspire or Phantom, or looking for a entry-level drone you can fool around with indoors or around friends, Hover could definitely be for you.

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Spectacular Timelapse Footage Makes Storms Look Like Floating Waterfalls

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When you’re caught in a downpour, you never stop to think about the scale of the storm that’s soaking you, you’re just trying to stay dry. But through Mike Olbinski’s timelapse camera, we get a rare glimpse of raging storms from a safe distance, revealing their massive scale, but also their limited reach as they pour rain down on the earth.

[Mike Olbinski – Monsoon III]

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The ‘Apple of vaping’ made an e-cigarette for marijuana — here’s what it’s like

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pax era pax labsPax Labs

This summer, Pax Labs reinvented the e-cigarette with its best-selling device Juul.

Now, the San Francisco-based startup dubbed the “Apple of vaping” is back with a device that aims to bring the same simplicity to marijuana smokers that the Juul delivered for tobacco smokers.

The Pax Era is a vape pen that works by heating up a liquid form of marijuana concentrate contained in tiny, Keurig-cup-like canisters. Users need only inhale to activate the device.

Here’s how the Pax Era holds up.

The Pax Era is a lightweight, portable vape pen that uses technology developed for the company’s best-selling nicotine e-cigarette, Juul. It retails for $59.99.

The Pax Era is only sold in California and Colorado, where marijuana is legal in some form.

Since the company introduced its flagship vaporizer, the Pax, in 2012, it’s garnered buzz for making user-friendly vapes on par with Apple’s high standards of product design.

It’s clear from the packaging that Pax Labs embraces the Apple comparison.Melia Robinson

Source: Business Insider

The newest device is three inches long, making it compact enough to fit in your back pocket or a purse. The matte aluminum finish gives it a clean, modern look.

It charges through a micro-USB port at the bottom, so consumers can tether it to a laptop for a quick charge in between uses. A full charge takes about 45 minutes.

The marijuana-oil cartridges, called Era Pods, are sold separately through third-party providers (Pax Labs never touches the pot plant) at dispensaries in California and Colorado.

The Era Pods come in bulky, child-proof cases like this.Melia Robinson

Each pod holds up to 0.5 grams of highly concentrated marijuana oil. While that might not sound like much, the oil provides between 300 and 500 puffs depending on device settings.

The cartridge, which sells for about $40 depending on the retailer, clicks into place. This is impressive for two reasons: First, most cartridges have to be nimbly screwed in.

Second, the cartridge takes the hassle out of filling your vape pen with messy marijuana oil, as other devices require. Users can pick from sativa, indica, and hybrid strains.

While the Pax Era gets points from me for being no-fuss, some marijuana users would find this to be a disadvantage. Other vape pens allow you to pick out your preferred oil — which vary in strain, potency, and effect — from a local dispensary and fill the cartridge yourself.

With the Pax Era, you take what’s compatible with the device.

Learn the difference between sativa and indica strains.

Taking a hit is as easy as placing your lips on the mouthpiece and inhaling. The LED lights glow when the device is in use. There are no buttons.

A couple shakes of the Pax Era cause the LED lights to display the device’s current battery level. Each petal in the logo indicates 25% increments of charge.

It pairs over Bluetooth to a smartphone app, Pax Vapor, which allows you to customize the LED light colors, change their brightness, and ramp up the temperature for bigger hits.

This feature is cool, but unnecessary. I could see myself dimming the lights when using my device in public, but otherwise, what’s the point of personalizing the LED colors?

Plus, the Pax 2 vaporizer could change temperature by pushing a button on the device. In the case of the Pax Era, I think it’s Bluetooth-compatible for the sake of being high-tech.

Portability was a huge pro for me. At an outdoor concert in Berkeley, California, I took puffs in between sets while my friends waited in line to buy alcohol.

The oil doesn’t produce the same skunky smell as a joint. Clouds of vapor dissipated quickly, so I felt comfortable using it in public (this is true of many vapes).

The number one drawback was usability. I would often place my lips on the mouthpiece and inhale, but receive no vapor. It needed to be handled just so in order to work.

Unfortunately, its erratic behavior became its downfall. I grew so frustrated that I started ditching the Pax Era for the Highlighter vape pen, a more fool-proof device.

Coincidentally, the Highlighter vape pen is made by San Francisco-based medicinal marijuana company Bloom Farms, which also provides oil for the Pax Era pods. 

Source: Business Insider

Most users don’t need a smart, connected vape pen. They want something that works every time..

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