These days, most content is streamed or played on Blu-ray discs. But there was a time when videotapes were the media of choice. Mental Floss takes a trip in the wayback machine to tell the story of VCRs, the epic war between Betamax and VHS, and how the technologies changed everything for visual entertainment.
THE BEST Tech
Founded by former Apple designers and engineers, Syng is showing off their high-end wireless speaker. It packs upward- and downward-firing woofers and a three-element beamforming driver array. Three built-in microphones calibrate the speaker to your room, and multiple Cell Alphas can be networked for surround sound.
Google Arts and Culture and David Li present an experimental plaything that lets anyone create their own opera masterpiece. Blob Opera uses machine learning tech to create operatic sounds as you play with four blobby creatures that produce bass, tenor, mezzo-soprano, and soprano vocals. Sing and share!
Love Hultén has designed and built many wonderful things over the years. His latest creation is a synthesizer that moves 25 sets of mechanical teeth in concert with its keyboard. It’s both disturbing and fantastic at the same time. If the idea seems familiar, that’s because he was inspired by Simone Giertz’s toothy instrument.
Looking for something fun to do today? Why not visit with a giraffe, a zebra, or maybe a penguin? Thanks to Google, you can enjoy the company of 50 new animals using augmented reality tech on your phone. Using the Google mobile app, search for an animal, then tap “View in 3D” to invite these virtual pets into your world.
The ability to upload one’s knowledge, experiences and even consciousness into a computer is a frequent concept in science fiction. In this Cyberpunk 2077 inspired episode, Kurzgesagt explores what would be necessary to store and simulate our minds, along with some of the ethical concerns about digitizing humanity.
Inspired by 1980s boomboxes, but updated with modern audio tech, the Flare6 cranks out 150-watts of power via its three speakers. It offers 12 hours of wireless playtime, and has a 1/4″ microphone input, SD and USB ports for playing MP3 files, and five EQ settings. For even more power, check out the 200-watt Flare 8.
You don’t see vector-based video games these days, but there was something really cool about systems like the Vectrex and games like BattleZone. Electronics wiz Mixtela was longing for the days of vector graphics too, so he built himself an impressive little system, complete with game cartridges. More details here.
Korg packs the awesomely rich and rhythmic sounds of its classic Wavestation synthesizer into a compact 37-note model called Wavestate. Its wave sequencing sound engine generates totally unique tones, and can produce up to 64 stereo polyphony. In-depth demo video here.
The stark, monolithic design of the Xbox Series X is just crying out for customization. In this video from Miffed, he shows how to disassemble the console and repaint the case. He also installed RGB LED lighting behind the grid of vent holes, which we really thought should have been standard from the factory.
Wheelkinetic claims their electric scooter is the most portable and lightweight model you can buy. The BooZter folds to just 10″ x 18.5″ – small enough to fit into a backpack – and weighs just 6.5 kg (14.3 lb). Despite its size, its makers say it can run up to 20km (12.4 mi) on a 2-hour charge. It has a 100 kg (220 lb) weight capacity.
In a race to become the first in the industry to build a car body from 3D-printed parts, car customizer 1016 Industries revealed its prototype McLaren 720S widebody. Known for its carbon fiber parts, 1016 used computational fluid dynamics to model parts and build a drivable car. The production carbon fiber kit drops in 2021.
To celebrate the launch and spatial sound capabilities of the Xbox Series X, Microsoft released this bit of ear candy for you to enjoy with your headphones on. It features 3D surround sound based on dreams that Steve Saylor, AKA BlindGamerSteve experienced after playing Destiny 2: Beyond Light.
They’re not cheap, but Apple’s $549 over-the-ear wireless cans sure look slick. We haven’t heard them yet, but Apple touts ultra-low distortion sound with deep bass, accurate mids, and crisp highs. A 10-core audio processor cancels outside noise, adapts sound based on fit, and enables spatial sound. Available in five colors.
Bitluni’s Lab continues to upgrade his DIY video wall project by supersizing it to 1920 ping pong ball pixels, each illuminated by an RGBW LED. With its latest circuit, it can stream live video at up to 74fps. Unlike the prior versions, he didn’t have to drill tons of holes, and it’s made up of multiple small panels instead of one big one.
Gazillions of packages are nabbed by porch pirates, especially during the holidays. The Yale Smart Delivery Box solves the problem with brains and brawn. When a package is placed inside, the Smart Cabinet Lock bolts the lid, notifies you, and remains locked until you open it with the Yale Access app, Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri.
There’s software out there that can stylize images, but this technology makes images from real wood. Its algorithms compare greyscale levels between images and patterns in wood veneer, then instructs a CNC machine to cut out pieces that can be assembled to form a complete portrait. Two Minute Papers explains.
We’re not sure if they’re street legal, but we think every car should have taillights like the ones on this 1991 Nissan Skyline GTS-4. Steve Molans of Skeptik Innovations built these custom lights which use RGB LEDs and mirrors to create an infinite effect and can change colors. They still work as normal brake lights and turn indicators.
Last Christmas, maker Jiří Praus decided he wanted a unique ornament. So he set about building a light-up sphere that can display colorful patterns. He built the orb using meticulously-soldered brass wires, 194 individual RGB LEDs, and an ESP32 microcontroller. Check out the full build details on Instructables.
Atari, working in collaboration with UNIS Technology, Ltd. is bringing back its 1970s arcade classic PONG. This tabletop gaming system has a 7.9″ LCD panel and offers both classic 2-player mode, and 1-player vs. AI mode. It runs on USB power or AAA batteries and is shipping in limited quantities now.
If you’ve ever shot a video where you wanted everyone to do something at the same time, you know it’s hard to get that level of coordination. Two Minute Papers shows off an AI-based technology that can re-time moving elements in a video, complete with shadows, reflections, and deformations. Read the full paper here.
The CableEndy is a robot that uses a cable-driven mechanism to manipulate and stabilize an object at its center. To show off its mechanical prowess, its makers at B&R Automation and Brno University of Technology created this demonstration that shows how it can toss and catch a tennis ball with amazing precision.
Scendo’s true-wireless earbuds offer the unique ability to be stored on the MagSafe mounting point on the back of the iPhone 12 (and presumably future iPhones). They slide securely into their magnetic charging case, which provides up to 45 hours of playtime. A stick-on case mount is included for other phones as well.
Rather than hand-program their robot to walk on varied terrain, scientists from ETH Zurich, KAIST, and Intel allowed their quadruped to learn for itself through software simulation. They then turned it loose using only basic sensors to give the robot awareness of its own internal state. Two Minute Papers explains.
Placing a turntable close to a speaker can cause unwanted feedback and resonance. But the SpinBase uses proprietary tech to eliminate these issues, so it can sit right underneath your record player. It kicks out room-filling sound and works with any turntable. It also doubles as a Bluetooth speaker. Measures 18″ w x 13.5″ d x 3.25″ h.
Injection molding is the process of injecting melted plastics into a mold to create parts. It’s typically reserved for large, industrial machines, but the MicroMolder changes that. It can accept aluminum, 3D-printed SLA, or high-temp cast urethane tooling, producing production-quality parts from pellets.