Sony’s Xperia Z5 family includes the world’s first 4K smartphone

Sony's Xperia Z5 family includes the world's first 4K smartphone

To say that Sony’s mobile division has had a tough time lately would be an understatement. As the company puts out half-hearted efforts like the Z3 and Z3+, sales have been dropping steadily. We’re now at the point where Sony is losing more than $1 million per day just keeping the division going. Something has to change. Sony has to take smartphones seriously, and this is its attempt to do just that. Meet the Xperia Z5 family, which includes the world’s first 4K phone display, “next-generation” cameras and some tiny, tiny fingerprint scanners.

For what seems like the first time in ages, Sony is announcing a trio of flagship phones at the same time. From big to small, we’ve got the Z5 Premium, the Z5 and the Z5 Compact. The trio share many attributes, but thanks to one spec, the Premium is by far the most interesting.

The world’s first 4K phone display

Sony's Xperia Z5 family includes the world's first 4K smartphone

I’m totally besotted with the Premium’s display. It’s got a truly ridiculous, world-beating 5.5-inch 4K (3,840 x 2,160) panel, with rich colors and deep blacks. We’ll need to spend more time than the few hours we’ve had with the new lineup to give a proper verdict, but right now we can say for sure that it looks great. I’m not sure I want a 4K display in my phone, but I am sure that the allure of an 806-ppi display will be enough to win some over. Sony’s thrown down the gauntlet, and at least in pixel density, the Z5 Premium is the phone to beat.

Unfortunately, Sony’s saved all of its new screen tech for the Premium, with the regular Z5 retaining the same 5.2-inch 1080p unit as the Z3 and Z3+, and the Z5 Compact getting a 4.6-inch 720p display.

Apart from their displays, the devices are almost identical.

As far as specs go, though, the displays are pretty much the only things distinguishing the Z5 Premium from the Z5 and Z5 Compact. All three have Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 processor inside, up to 32GB of internal storage (expandable by microSD), high-res audio chips and “up to two-day battery life.” That’s a cute way Sony found to say “you only need to charge this one once a day.” How they eke out that battery life differs of course, with the Premium having a 3,430mAh battery, the Z5 a 2,900mAh and the Z5 Compact a 2,700mAh. The only other differentiator is RAM: The Z5 Premium and Z5 have 3GB; the Z5 Compact only has 2GB.

The same, but different

Sony's Xperia Z5 family includes the world's first 4K smartphone

The Z5s’ power buttons house fingerprint sensors.

If you’ve seen any Sony phone made in the last couple of years, I’m sure you’ve already noticed the Z5 family is a very familiar one. Sony’s “OmniBalance” design theme has been knocking around since the Xperia Z1, and it’s really difficult to get excited about: They’re rectangular slabs with clean lines; they’re waterproof; and they’re uncomplicated. That said, this is probably the tightest iteration on that theme. The Z5 Premium and Z5 both feel very polished, with carefully considered color schemes and materials. The Z5 Compact feels sturdier and a little chunkier, but not necessarily in a bad way.

The Z5 Premium is available in black, gold or chrome, all with a mirrored glass back, while the Z5 has white, black, gold and a subdued green, with a frosted glass back. Sony’s clearly targeting the younglings with the Compact, especially with some of the bright and “fun” colors. It comes in the usual white and black, but also vibrant yellow and coral (pink) — again with frosted glass at the back. Of course they’re all different sizes too; The Z5 Premium has a 5.5-inch display and is 7.8mm thick; the Z5 has a 5.2-inch display and is 7.3mm thick; while the Compact has a 4.6-inch display and is 8.3mm thick.

Sony's Xperia Z5 family includes the world's first 4K smartphone

The Z5 Premium in chrome makes for a very effective mirror.

I think the yellow Z5 Compact is probably my favorite of the bunch; the bright color wrapping around the edge of the black display frames the device really well. The green Z5 is also kinda classy looking, and it’s a nice step away from the staid colors we’re used to from flagships. Also, big shout out to the chrome Z5 Premium, which is essentially a mirror with a phone attached to the back. It’s ostentatious; it’s ridiculous; and it’s impossible to keep clean, but I kinda love it.

So all these new Xperias are familiar, but changed. The same, but different. Those coming from a previous-generation Z will notice how nicely this latest bunch feels to hold, as well as some neat design additions. There’s now a little “Xperia” wordmark etched into the phones’ metallic sides, and the series’ small circular power button is no more, replaced by an oval-shaped button that somehow squeezes in a tiny fingerprint reader.

Taking care of number one

Sony's Xperia Z5 family includes the world's first 4K smartphone

All three phones share the same camera setup.

Sony’s new sensor is exclusive to Xperias, for now.

Sony’s image sensors are everywhere. Of course you’ll find them in the company’s own smartphones, mirrorless and SLT cameras, but they’re also in high-end Nikon and Fujifilm models. Not to mention flagship smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S6 and LG G4. Put simply, they’re considered some of the finest in the business, and one of the increasingly few areas that Sony is a market leader in. Not all sensors are created equal, though, and this time, Sony’s keeping the best smartphone sensor for itself. All of the Z5s have a 1/2.3-inch Exmor RS 23-megapixel image sensor. It’s brand-new, and Sony says it’ll be exclusive to Xperias, at least for a while.

Sony's Xperia Z5 family includes the world's first 4K smartphone

Click image for original 7MB file. Shot by Sony at f/2.0, 1/2500s, ISO 40.

This fancy new sensor is backside illuminated and has embedded phase-detection pixels. It’s housed in Sony’s first mobile camera module with a closed-loop actuator, and in front of the sensor is a new six-element 24mm lens with a wide f/2.0 aperture. If you’re unsure what all of this means, I’ll break it down for you:

Sony says that, thanks to the phase-detection pixels, the Z5 family can autofocus in as little as 0.03 second, claiming it’s the “world’s fastest autofocus in a smartphone.” All we can say is it’s very quick. The actuator helps with this by swiftly moving the lens to focus, and because it’s closed-loop, it’ll also offer better image stabilization, especially for video. As you’d expect, all three will shoot movies in 4K, although evidently the Z5 Premium is the only one capable of playing footage back natively on the phone itself. Sony says the new sensor is capable of oversampling images (PureView style) for digital zoom “without loss of image quality.” Take that claim with an ocean’s worth of salt, of course, but the zoomed images definitely seemed good enough for a Facebook or Twitter share.

Sony's Xperia Z5 family includes the world's first 4K smartphone

Click image for original 3MB file. Shot by Sony at f/2.0, 1/30s, ISO 250.

All of this adds up to… well, no one knows yet. What I can say is that Sony’s sensors are the envy of the business; Sony’s “unedited” sample images look fantastic; and, in my brief time with the Z5s, I took some quite pretty images that I’m sadly unable to share with you. But it’s too early to say whether this new camera represents a huge leap forward, or even if it’s at the front of the pack.

A fresh start

Sony's Xperia Z5 family includes the world's first 4K smartphone

Although it’s not quite stock, Sony has all but removed its Android skin.

On the software side, the Z5 family runs Android 5.1.1, and Sony says “stay tuned” about an Android M update. The good news for virtually everyone but the most die-hard of Sony fans, though? The company’s Android skin is no more. Instead, the devices all run a virtually stock Android experience. Sure, there are some differences in iconography, but the general look-and-feel isn’t too far from a Nexus device. That’s a huge step forward from current Xperias, which feel like they’re stuck in the past despite many of them actually being on the latest version of Android.

Google won’t officially bake in fingerprint support to its OS until Android M is released this fall. Like other manufacturers, though, Sony already has things up and running. I wasn’t able to test out the functionality myself, but the placement seems very natural, and I watched Sony staff unlocking their devices with various fingers and thumbs at a 100 percent success rate.

The big questions

Sony's Xperia Z5 family includes the world's first 4K smartphone

A close-up of the Xperia Premium’s etched metal wordmark.

I’m pretty impressed with Sony’s new lineup. But there are still three lingering questions that Sony needs to answer. First, there’s the small matter of price. So far, we’ve got this from Sony: “Pricing will reflect the premium quality of the smartphone.” Make of that what you will, but Sony isn’t exactly known for producing budget devices. In the age of the OnePlus 2 and the Moto X Pure, you can get a lot of smartphone for a few hundred dollars.

Second is battery life and performance. The chip inside all three, the Snapdragon 810, has had some well-reported issues with overheating, and is not known to be very frugal when it comes to battery life. Couple that chip with a 4K display, and it’s easy to question Sony’s claim of “up to two-day” endurance when it comes to the Premium. The company points to its on-display memory (which effectively switches off the processor when the screen isn’t moving), and other battery-saving tech as proof it can hit that target. Many will remain unconvinced until the phone’s been properly tested.

Third, and perhaps most importantly for Sony’s shot at a global success, is availability. The Z5 and Z5 Compact will be “globally” available in October, with the Z5 Premium following in November. But Sony has really struggled to persuade carriers to push its devices. That’s especially true in the US, where sometimes it feels like Sony doesn’t exist.

If a 4K display doesn’t pique the US carriers’ attention, nothing will.

You could argue that this is Sony’s fault. Several generations of Xperias have come and gone, all of which looked pretty much the same, and none of which blew the competition out of the water. They’ve been solid phones, but plenty of companies make solid phones. Why should carriers put their weight behind Sony when Samsung et al. offer the same basic package? With iPhone season fast approaching, there’s a real chance Sony could be left by the wayside again. At least with the Z5 Premium, Sony has clearly put everything it can into a single device, short of a new design. If the world’s first 4K smartphone doesn’t get the attention of AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile, nothing will.

Check out all the news from Berlin at our IFA 2015 hub.

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A first look at Hexo+ — the slick-looking drone that follows you

A first look at Hexo+ -- the slick-looking drone that follows you

If you’re in the market for a drone, you won’t be short of choices in 2015, if CES is anything to go by. Even if it’s one that follows you. Hexo+ is no new kid on the block, though. We actually saw it back in the summer when it launched on Kickstarter the same week as that other follow-you drone, AirDog. A rivalry no doubt heightened by the fact that both campaigns bagged almost identical amounts of money ($1.3 million) in funding. Until now, though, any evidence of a physical Hexo+ had remained out of view. With just the occasional teaser clip of sample video to whet the appetite. Finally, here at CES, we get a look at the drone itself. In the fairly utilitarian world of multirotor-design, it’s a stealthy-looking piece of kit. The six sets of rotors give it a more aggressive appearance, and the blue front props add a splash of color. Of course, looks are one thing; another is seeing it do its job. Sadly, that’s not possible in the confines of a Las Vegas exhibition hall, but all going well, we’ll remedy that later in the week.

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Here’s what the astronauts aboard the ISS have been up to

Here's what the astronauts aboard the ISS have been up to

The first piece of the International Space Station (ISS) was launched into orbit in 1998 and two years later, its first occupants arrived. It’s currently the largest artificial body orbiting the planet and much of it’s devoted to testing aspects of living in space. When astronauts aren’t busy exercising, eating or working on David Bowie covers, they’re knee-deep in an endless array of experiments and observations. We’ve gathered a sampling of those projects to see just what they’ve been working on over the years in their orbital laboratory.

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What you need to know about life on the International Space Station

What you need to know about life on the International Space Station

In an unfortunate turn of events, Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket exploded a few seconds after launch last week. The rocket was thankfully unmanned, but it was intended to ferry critical supplies to astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the International Space Station. Luckily, crew members currently aboard the space station have enough food to last until March 2015 — more than enough, as some are scheduled to come home this month. People living on the ISS depend on the ground crew for most of their needs, and each resupply mission brings spare parts and hardware needed for repairs and experiments, packaged food and hygiene supplies. These hygiene amenities and prepackaged chow differ quite a bit from what we typically use: The shampoo and hand soap, for instance, are the special no-rinse kind, while some of the food comes in dehydrated powder form. Want to hear more about life out there in zero-g? We do too, so we’ve dug deep into how astronauts and cosmonauts live each day in the ISS: from what kind of work they do to how they use the toilet.


The International Space Station is a habitable satellite that orbits the Earth at an altitude of 220 miles once every 90 minutes, which means the sun sets and rises for the crew 16 times a day. It’s a huge project not owned just by a single country: NASA (USA), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (several European countries) and CSA (Canada) all pitched in to build it. These space agencies regularly send astronauts (and “cosmonauts,” in the case of Russia) to the station for six-month expeditions, the first of which took off on October 31st, 2000. There can be as many as 10 people living on the station at a single time, or as few as two to three.

What you need to know about life on the International Space Station


You might be wondering how American astronauts get to the station without an operational space shuttle program. There’s a simple answer to that: They “hitch” rides (to and from Earth) aboard Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the tune of $71 million per person. According to American astronaut Ron Garan, who lived on the ISS in 2011, Soyuz capsules are really small (it’s a tight fit in there), so you can feel every bump of the crazy ride. He even likened the re-entry process into our atmosphere to “going over Niagara Falls in a barrel (that’s on fire) followed by a high-speed crash.” Good thing astronauts now only have to spend six hours per way in its cramped quarters, instead of two days like a few years ago.

It’s unclear how the recent friction between NASA and the Russian Space Agency will affect future missions. The former’s already working with private space companies to develop manned vehicles that can launch from US soil by 2017. Aboard the space station, however, crew members don’t let politics bother them. NASA astronaut Cady Coleman told us in an interview that they emphasize the non-political and just look for what they have in common with each other.


We asked Coleman (whom you might remember as the astronaut who advised Sandra Bullock on what it’s like to live in space … straight from space) to run us through her typical day, and she gave us this sample schedule:

  • 7 AM — Wake up
  • 7:10 AM — Conference
  • 7:30 – 8 AM — Breakfast and prep for work
  • 8 AM – 12 PM — Do experiments as assigned (Setting up, performing, tearing down experiments)
  • 12 – 12:30 PM — Lunch
  • 12:30 – 6 PM — More experiment work
  • 6 – 6:30 PM — Conference with ground crew to review that day’s activities and discuss the next day
  • 6:30 – 7:30 PM — Dinner while watching the news taped by the ground crew from the day before and beamed up to the station
  • 7:30 – midnight — Clean up and read the procedures for the next day, family time and time to look out the window to see the glorious views outside.
  • Sometime within the day, 5-6 days a week — Two-hour exercise (30 min. on the treadmill and 70 min. of resistance exercise)
  • Fridays — Astronauts work on personal projects and watch movies together as a crew

When a crew member isn’t working on an experiment or two, they’re doing maintenance work or preparing for extra-vehicular activity (EVA), which you might know better as spacewalking.


The ISS has hosted a slew of scientific experiments for other government agencies, private companies and educational institutions since the year 2000. Experiments vary in nature from growing zucchinis to observing ant colonies, though some recent ones include 3D printing in zero-g and testing Robonauts‘ (a humanoid robot) potential to help humans with their tasks. When we asked Coleman to name what she thinks is the most interesting experiment, she said it’s the astronauts themselves. She called herself a “walking, talking osteoporosis experiment,” as humans in outer space lose bone mass 10 times faster than a 70-year-old. Their blood and urine samples apparently help us better “understand the mechanism of bone loss and bone rebuilding.”

In addition to performing experiments, crew members are in charge of making sure the station is in tip-top shape — after all, if anything goes wrong, it’s their lives on the line. Sometimes, they even need to fix parts outside the station or to clear space debris (junk hurtling through space that can damage spacecraft) lodged into the station’s nooks and crannies. In cases like those, a couple of crew members don their space suits and step outside. One of the most notable spacewalks in recent years involve astronaut Sunita Williams using a toothbrush to help fix the station’s solar power system.

Since EVAs are typically time-consuming, though, the Canadian Space Agency attached a two-armed helper robot named “Dextre” to Canadarm2. Like its name implies, the latter is a robotic limb that catches unmanned vehicles heading to the station, such as SpaceX’s Dragon capsule. Dextre, which is remotely controlled from the ground, takes care of minor repairs in lieu of crew members — it was even used to repair the Canadarm2 itself earlier this year.


Bits of hair and nails or blobs of water don’t play well with expensive equipment; add microgravity to the mix, and you’ve got a disaster waiting to happen. That’s why crew members are extremely careful when it comes to cleaning their bodies. Canadian expedition commander Chris Hadfield (who became a social media superstar while out there in 2013) said that they even go so far as to swallow their toothpaste after brushing their teeth. Hadfield also made YouTube videos to explain how they wash their hands (using no-rinse soap), shave their stubble (using a special type of shaving gel), cut their hair (with the help of a vacuum) and clip their nails (while catching every clipping that floats) aboard the station. Coleman said they use no-rinse shampoo to wash their hair, but she didn’t shower out there — and she didn’t exactly miss it. To wash their bodies, residents take sponge baths instead.

The inner workings of the #SpaceToilet maintained by a certified #SpacePlumber

– Reid Wiseman (@astro_reid) October 21, 2014

Now that we’re done with how ISS crew members keep themselves clean, let’s talk toilets. Naturally, the ISS can’t use the same toilets as the ones here on Earth. Space toilets use a suction system to collect wastes, which are then stored in bags and kept inside aluminum containers until they’re full. Each container that’s full to the brim with fecal matter is thrown to the atmosphere, so it burns upon re-entry. Tracy Caldwell Dyson (who was a crew member in 2010) told Huffington Post that while she made it work somehow, the toilet wasn’t made with women in mind, as it was designed by the Russian space agency composed mostly of men.

As for urine, well, Hadfield says it goes straight into the water recycler, where crew members get water to drink and to rehydrate their food. Yup. Speaking of food!


Food aboard the ISS is typically packaged in pouches for easy consumption. The crew gets different types of meals, from main course to desserts — some are packaged and ready to be eaten, while others (say, powdered spinach or ice cream) need rehydration to be edible. Crew members need to throw these disposable packages away and prevent them and any food crumbs from getting into the equipment. Also, some commanders ban particularly pungent (gumbo) or crumbly (coffeecake?) food onboard.

The crew has access to different kinds of media for entertainment: movies, TV shows, books and music to name a few. But for Garan and many others who lived on the ISS at one point, nothing compared to looking out the windows to watch and take pictures of our planet from afar. That’s why you’ll see tons of results when you Google search “pictures from the ISS.” (You should seriously do that right now.)

Truth. @astro_reid: There is no room with a finer view than the #Cupola on the #ISS

– Karen L. Nyberg (@AstroKarenN) October 17, 2014

What with all these crew members uploading space snapshots to social media, it’s obvious that they do have internet access on the station. According to Clayton Anderson, the ISS gained internet access in 2010, though Coleman told us it was still painfully slow when she got there in 2011. They could communicate with the ground crew and their families via video and voice chats sent through S Band channels, but the internet itself was “slower than was worth using on [her] expedition.” These days, though, internet on the ISS (which takes advantage of one of NASA’s communication satellites) has a max downlink speed of 300 Mbps.


Crew members are prone to “space sickness” during their first few days out there, exhibiting symptoms such as nausea and dizziness. They’re typically given a special (barf) bag, with built-in tissue to wipe their mouths with and seals to prevent globules of vomit from floating around. With time, their bodies grow accustomed to it, though they experience some physical changes. These include growing an inch taller while in space due to the spine elongating, as well as having a swollen face as the body’s fluids move upward. Unfortunately, some also experience eye problems, defined mainly by seeing flashes and streaks of light. NASA’s still looking to pinpoint the exact cause, so it has asked crew members to monitor each others’ eyes and send data to the ground regularly. Some researchers, however, believe the issue comes from the increase in pressure within the skull (remember those body fluids moving upward?).

And then there’s the fact that the longer you spend in space, the more you lose bone mass and muscle definition due to the absence of gravity. Hey, floating around is fun, but you’ll literally waste away if that’s all you do on the ISS. Luckily, crew members can combat those issues by exercising for two hours every day using special exercise equipment: a cycle ergometer (like the space version of a stationary bike), a treadmill (with lots of straps to weigh you down), and the Advanced Resistive Exercise Device (ARED), which uses vacuums to simulate deadlifts and squats (among other things). Williams even used it once to simulate swimming, so she could complete a triathlon in space!


Okay, so ISS residents take care of their muscles and bones, but what about their mental well-being? Coleman told us she talked to shrinks every two weeks during her expedition, though she was given the option to do so more often if she wished. It also helps that crew members get in touch with their families regularly and that they (usually) get along well with each other. “The importance of the mission becomes really clear when you are up on the ISS, and it is easy to get along with folks,” she said. “Easier than down here on the ground, when your common purpose is not always so easy to feel or see.”


With all the experiments, maintenance and exercise they need to do, you’d think these people never sleep. But they do — they can even choose to sleep while floating around. They do have sleeping compartments for privacy, though they’re really just tiny closets, which conceal vertical sleeping bags that hold you in place while you snooze. Crew members can sleep for as long as eight and a half hours every 24 hours, though most are ready to go after a bit more than six, as the body’s not as fatigued in microgravity.


If you want the latest pictures and news from the station, the best people to follow on social media are the current crew members.

These ISS veterans are worth a follow, as well:

Official ISS accounts:


You believe yourself capable of fixing satellite equipment with toothbrushes and finishing triathlons in space? Okay then! Get ready to train for three long years after you get your degree (with outstanding grades), fly jets for a total of 1,000 hours and pass a rigorous physical exam. Also, you’ll need to learn Russian before you can hop aboard a Soyuz, so you may want to get started as soon as you’re done following Williams around the station below.

[Image credit: Space station (NASA), Russian Soyuz spacecraft (Wikimedia)]

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Recommended Reading: The gadgets and cocktails of James Bond

Recommended Reading: The gadgets and cocktails of James Bond

Recommended Reading highlights the best long-form writing on technology and more in print and on the web. Some weeks, you’ll also find short reviews of books that we think are worth your time. We hope you enjoy the read.

The (James) Bond Index
Bloomberg Business

With the latest installment in the Bond collection debuting this weekend, Bloomberg Business offers a guide to the drinks, gadgets, clothes and one-liners of the secret agent. The interactive piece is not only a handy reference tool, but it’s rather fun to scroll through, too. It’s certainly a must-read for the Bond trivia nerds.

Inside BlackBerry’s Last-Ditch Plan to Win You Back With Android
Roger Cheng, CNET

Reviews of the BlackBerry Priv, the handset maker’s first Android device, are a mixed bag. Here’s a look at how the company looks to survive with a different OS.

What the New Star Trek TV Series Can Learn From Fargo and True Detective
Todd VanDerWerff, Vox

The announcement of a new Star Trek series was met with more than a few groans here at Engadget. Vox offers some advice on how the show’s crew can avoid a flop.

Twitter Unfaves Itself
Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic

Twitter replaced Favorites with Likes, and stars with hearts, but will the move bring new users?

Sonos’ New Products Are a Win Against Forced Obsolescence
Seth Porges, Forbes

Sonos wants to design products that last 10 years, devices that actually get better with age. And that’s a crazy strategy in an industry of annual refreshes.

[Image credit: AFP/Getty Images]

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ICYMI: Record-setting bot walk, holographic drones and more

ICYMI: Record-setting bot walk, holographic drones and more

Today on In Case You Missed It: Researchers from Queens University built tiny quadcopters that can join to form a hologram display, hovering in mid-air. A Guinness World Record for furthest distance by a quadruped robot was set in China by a quirky cute robot we’d love to see more of. And we’re into this Kickstarter project for a device that would turn any watch into a smartwatch with vibration for notifications, a heart rate monitor and control for music and photos.

We also round-up the week that was in a quick headline blast but we’re most into the Comcast plan to cap internet usage and NASA hiring new astronauts.

If you come across any interesting videos, we’d love to see them. Just tweet us with the #ICYMI hashtag @engadget or @mskerryd.

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Researchers turn a swarm of drones into a physical hologram

Researchers turn a swarm of drones into a physical hologram

The augmented reality interface in Minority Report was futuristic, but what it lacked were objects that you could physically touch, according to researchers from Queens University. The problem is that the film’s virtual interface floats in mid-air, and physical objects tend to be ground-bound. To get around that, the team developed a system called BitDrones, with flying nano-drones serving several functions. “PixelDrones” have a basic LED display to show information, “ShapeDrones” are cubic objects that form a physical 3D “display,” and “DisplayDrones” contain a touchscreen interface. All of them, plus the human operator, are tracked with a 3D motion capture system.

The technology is still in early stages, so the wobbly drones can’t form complex objects, but the potential is there. In one case, the team used the system to browse “files,” swiping drones left and right to show the contents. After the operator opened an architectural drawing, the cube-like ShapeDrones form the basic positioning of the building in 3D space. Then, a user can “drag” the drones around to adjust the building’s orientation. The operator can change the parameters of the ShapeDrone by using the touchscreen on the DisplayDrone to change the LED color. You can perform other common gestures like pinching and rotating by touching multiple drones (see below).

Researchers turn a swarm of drones into a physical hologram

Right now, the system supports around a dozen large drones, but the researchers are hoping to scale it up to work with “thousands” of flying bots no larger than a half-inch across. Those would act, in essence, like 3D physical pixels to form simulated objects. We’ll admit it would be cool to see swarming drones form a flying 3D display, but in this case, donning a headset actually looks easier.

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Turn any watch into a smartwatch (kinda)

Turn any watch into a smartwatch (kinda)

Have you been eyeing your friend’s Apple Watch and wishing you had one of your very own? Well, tech startup Trivoly has developed a way to squash that burning jealousy. The company launched a crowdfunding campaign for a newly developed disc of the same name which promises to turn any watch into a smartwatch. It is made out of a thin plastic and basically acts as a notification hub, vibrating when you receive a message…or set an alarm…or add an event to your calendar. You can control your smartphone camera and music by tapping all sides of the disc and it contains a heart rate monitor that syncs to native fitness apps.

Trivoly seems to fall short of being a fully-fledged wearable (much like the Wena Wrist) as it isn’t a standalone product. Sure, you can use the native app to “customize” your disc (change the color it flashes when you receive a notification) but you’ll need to commit the various colors to memory and still reach for your smartphone. The company says the device is fully operational and ready to go, yet the estimated delivery date is February 2016. Whether or not you opt to grab a Trivoly, it looks like your smartwatch envy still has a few more months of life left.

[Image credit: Trivoly LLC]

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Amazon’s 12 new pilots include animated, spy and biopic series

Amazon's 12 new pilots include animated, spy and biopic series

It’s Amazon pilot season, which means there are a bunch of new shows you can stream via Prime Instant Video for free — well, their first episodes anyway. The selection includes a handful of animated shows, one of which brings the Teletubbies to mind (The Numberlys) and another that targets young adults (Everstar). There’s also a Western tale of revenge (Edge), a bio-series of an early feminist (Z), a story of five female journalists in the ’60s based on a non-fiction book (Good Girls Revolt) and a dramedy about a spy sent to Iran to prevent a nuclear war (Patriot). As always, Amazon will take your opinions into account when deciding which of the twelve gets turned into full-blown Originals and which get tossed into the pile of forgotten pilots.

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Amazon Studios has two new pilots for you to judge

Amazon Studios has two new pilots for you to judge

While Amazon has a track record to go by for its upcoming car show, it’s still crowdsourcing impressions for its new dramas. Today the service posted pilot episodes for two new series that it might pick up for streaming, and you can check them out for free. First up is the Brian Cranston-produced Sneaky Pete (not Skinny Pete, this is not a Breaking Bad spinoff), starring Giovanni Ribisi as an ex-con who has assumed the identity of his former cellmate. Meanwhile, Casanova is directed by Jean Pierre Jeunet (Amelie) and stars Diego Luna (Y Tu Mama Tambien) telling the “true” story of the legendary playboy. Pilots for both are live for viewers in the US, UK and Germany, so watch and give your opinion — or just check out the newest clip for Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle, which debuts November 20th.

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