Tech

India launches reusable shuttle

The Verge reports that this week India's space agency has successfully launched a reusable mini shuttle model into space, marking an important development in its low-cost space program. An unmanned prototype of the Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV-TD) launched Monday morning reaching an altitude of 43 miles before returning to Earth. The project has been in development for more than 10 years, on a reported budget of just $14 million. Compare that to the US space shuttle, which cost about $450 million per launch (NASA)

Creating a reusable low cost space shuttle is a huge step in any space progam. India is competing with space agencies in Europe, Japan, and Russia as well as private companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin.

Pebble 2 announced

Pebble announced not one, but three products this week: the Pebble 2, the Pebble Time 2, and the Pebble Core. A software update include with new products adds an actions list for faster access to certain app features.

The Pebble 2 and Pebble Time 2 are both smart watches that focus on health and fitness with built-in heart rate monitors. The Pebble 2 is very similar to the original Pebble with slightly beefed up hardware, a 7 day battery life, and a thinner look. The Pebble Time 2 has a color e-paper display, boasts a 10-day battery life and boasts a screen that is 50 percent bigger than the original.

The Core is a small device that clips onto your clothing and is geared towards runners. It has built-in GPS so you can track your distance and pace, as well as step tracking. The Core also acts as a music player with 4GB of storage for up to 1,000 songs.

At retail the Pebble Core will cost $99, the Pebble 2 is $129, and the Time 2 is $199.  

All the devices are available for a discount on Kickstarter with the watches shipping in September and the clip-on Core shipping in January.

Pepper the Robot at Pizza Hut

SoftBank's Pepper robot has been employed in the past at hotel desks. Now though Pizza Hut Asia is partnering with MasterCard on a trial that will use Pepper in their restaurants. By the end of 2016, Pepper will be able to interact with customers, take orders, and even take payment information. Once customers pair their MasterPass account, they can do everything from paying for your meal to asking about the calorie count.

Looks like Pepper may be putting some Pizza Hut employees out of work soon.

Google I/O news

Google made a slew of announcements this week on new projects, updated plans, and what’s next for Google. Here are the most interesting announcements of the week.

Google’s next operating system, code named Android N, is apparently far enough along that Google thinks it's ready for more people to try it out. This third beta release is out now. If you want to opt in, you'll be able to do so at Android's website. You can also submit what you think the “N” in Android N should be since Google is taking name submissions.

Google announced a voice-activated device called Home that has a speaker in the base and integrates with other cast devices like Chromecast Video and audio, and supports home networking systems for Home Control. Google Home won't arrive until later this year so Amazon’s Echo doesn’t have to worry until then.

Google also announced a messaging app called Allo.  It includes a the voice-activated smart assistant and an incognito mode that offers, end-to-end encryption, discreet notifications and permanent deletion of messages. It's coming to iOS and Android this summer. https://youtu.be/QJ3WV8N92Hs

Google also announced VR Mode in Android N and the Daydream platform for VR development which gives VR apps exclusive access to the device’s processor cores. Looks like Google’s recognized the success of the GearVR and wants all devices running android to be able to get VR now. https://youtu.be/KNR4j1DJ4Cc

Google’s VR Head Clay Bavor confirmed Google will sell its own version of DayDream VR gear saying on stage at I/O, “And, by the way, it’s not just going to be partners building from the reference design, we, Google, are also going to build a controller and a headset and make it available.” Google is partnering with Epic Games and the Unity on the motion-sensing controller.

Samsung Galaxy Surfboard

Samsung Brazil has created a commercial featuring Brazilian surfer Gabriel Medina and a wild Samsung Galaxy Surfboard concept.

It looks like any regular sleek surfboard, except it has an LED display that's powered by a Samsung Galaxy S7 that slots into the base of the board.

The surfboard can feed live conditions of the sea straight onto the display, alongside wind direction and the frequency / height of waves. Trainers can even send surfers messages to help improve their technique.

Touchscreen Arm

PC Magazine reports that Samsung has received a patent for a small projector that can display UI elements on skin and read behaviors to translate into mobile or virtual actions. PC Mag notes Carnegie Mellon researchers introduced SkinTrack last month, a similar system for turning your arm or hand into a touch screen. That system uses a high-frequency AC-signal-emitting ring to communicate with electrodes in a wristband.

Gesture Control for Gear VR

eyesight-gesture-control-phone-vr.jpg

Tired of using a controller for your GearVR or Google Cardboard? Well, Eyesight Technologies has developed gesture control that uses a phone’s rear camera allowing touch-free input for phone based VR systems. It's a great video and we can't wait to get our hands on the it. 


No mention on when it will come to phones-- though Engadget says Eyesight is bringing its control scheme to phones with built-in 3D sensors.

Self Driving Semi Trucks

Backchannel reports on Otto a startup founded by Anthony Levandowski, the man who built Google’s first self-driving car, and three other ex-Google engineers. The company has bought and retrofitted three Volvo truck cabs with lidar, radar and cameras and driven them sometimes with no human occupant, on highways in Nevada.

Otto plans to sell after-market self-driving kits at a fraction of the cost of a new cab. Initially the tech will only work on highways, exit to exit.