Crosby, Stills and Nash return to Spotify after COVID-19 misinformation boycott

The music of Crosby, Stills and Nash is once again available to stream on Spotify. In February, the supergroup left the platform to protest Spotify’s inaction against Joe Rogan, who was accused of spreading COVID-19 misinformation through his podcast. According to Billboard, the trio plan to donate their Spotify earnings to COVID-19 charities for “at least a month.”

Crosby, Stills and Nash were among a handful of musicians who left Spotify in response to Rogan’s interview with vaccine skeptic Dr. Robert Malone. The exodus, such that it was, began with Neil Young and later came to include Joni Mitchell, as well as author Brené Brown.

In the end, Spotify did not drop Rogan. Instead, the company said it would add a content advisory to any episode that includes a discussion about COVID-19. The protest’s effect on Spotify’s bottom line appears to have been minimal, with the company recently reporting that it grew to 422 million monthly users.

Despite the return of Crosby, Stills and Nash to Spotify, don’t expect to see all of the music the trio helped created on the platform. As The Verge point outs, Young’s continued absence from the service means not every song from Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young is available. For instance, tracks like “Helpless” and “Country Girl” are missing from the band’s 1970 album Déjà Vu, 



Source: Engadget – Crosby, Stills and Nash return to Spotify after COVID-19 misinformation boycott

NASA's CAPSTONE satellite breaks from Earth's orbit and heads toward the Moon

NASA’s grand plan to take humans back to the Moon for the first time in over half a century has taken another step forward. The 55-pound CAPSTONE (Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment) cubesat has broken free of Earth’s orbit and is on its way to the Moon.

Rocket Lab launched CAPSTONE on an Electron rocket from New Zealand last week. Following six days of orbit-raising burns to build up enough speed, the pathfinding satellite set out toward the Moon. It’s a relatively slow trip, though. CAPSTONE won’t reach the Moon until November.

NASA will try to put CAPSTONE in a Near Rectilinear Halo Orbit around the Moon, a feat that’s never been attempted before. The agency plans to use the same orbit for the Gateway space station, which will provide support for long-term lunar missions under the Artemis program. The outpost will have living quarters for astronauts and a lab. That mission won’t launch until at least 2024.

Meanwhile, it emerged last week that NASA has targeted a launch window of between August 23rd and September 6th for the Artemis 1 mission. It will send an uncrewed module around the Moon to assess how the journey might affect the human body. The agency ran a successful wet launch fueling test for Artemis 1 in June.



Source: Engadget – NASA’s CAPSTONE satellite breaks from Earth’s orbit and heads toward the Moon

Hacker claims they stole police data on a billion Chinese citizens

A hacker (or group of hackers) claims to have stolen data on a billion Chinese citizens from a Shanghai police database. According to Bloomberg, the hacker is attempting to sell 23 terabytes of data for 10 bitcoin, which is worth just over $198,000 at the time of writing.

The data includes names, addresses, birthplaces, national IDs and phone numbers. The Wall Street Journal reports that the hacker provided a sample of the data, which included crime reports dating as far back as 1995. Reporters confirmed the legitimacy of at least some of the data by calling people whose numbers were listed.

It’s not yet clear how the hacker infiltrated the police database, though there have been suggestions that they gained access via an Alibaba cloud computing company called Aliyun, which was said to host the database. Alibaba said it’s investigating the matter.

The true scope of the leak is unknown. However, cybersecurity experts have dubbed it the biggest cybersecurity breach in China’s history.



Source: Engadget – Hacker claims they stole police data on a billion Chinese citizens

Amazon starts making deliveries by e-bike and on foot in London

Amazon has started delivering packages by cargo e-bike and on foot in the UK for the first time as it makes more progress toward its climate goals. The company has opened a micromobility hub in central London. The company says the walkers and e-bikes will make more than a million deliveries a year from the hub in Hackney. It claims those trips will replace thousands of van deliveries. 

At the outset, the e-bikes and on-foot couriers will be in service across more than a tenth of the city’s ultra low emission zone (ULEZ). E-bikes and fully electric vehicles are exempt from the London Congestion Charge and ULEZ fees, so Amazon and its delivery partners will avoid having to pay those.

Amazon plans to open more e-cargo delivery hubs in the UK in the coming months. It already has more than 1,000 electric delivery vans on the road in the country. Earlier this year, the company added five fully electric heavy goods vehicles to its UK fleet to replace diesel trucks.

This isn’t the first time Amazon has used cargo e-bikes. Euronews notes that they’re being used for deliveries in five cities in France and seven metropolitan areas in Germany. It also employs electric scooters in Italy and Spain. As of last November, the company was fulfilling two-thirds of deliveries in Paris with e-bikes, on-foot couriers and electric vans.

Under its Shipment Zero project, Amazon aims to deliver 50 percent of packages with net-zero carbon emissions by 2030. It expects to become net-zero carbon by 2040 as part of its Climate Pledge.

The company also plans to run its operations entirely on renewable energy by 2025. It will install more than 30,000 additional solar panels at its sites in Manchester, Coalville, Haydock, Bristol and Milton Keynes by the end of the year. Amazon has 18 on-site solar projects in the UK and it’s working to double that number by 2024.



Source: Engadget – Amazon starts making deliveries by e-bike and on foot in London

Xiaomi 12S Ultra has a Leica camera with a massive 1-inch sensor

Merely six months after its previous flagship launch, today Xiaomi announced a trio of familiar-looking smartphones to mark the beginning of its partnership with Leica. The new 12S Series features MIUI 13 based on Android 12, and it runs on Qualcomm’s allegedly more efficient Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 flagship processor, with the headlining 12S Ultra packing a massive 1-inch, 50.3-megapixel Sony IMX989 main sensor. This translates to a generous pixel size of 1.6um, which then doubles to 3.2um via pixel binning for a supposedly more impressive color accuracy and low light performance. And unlike the Sony Xperia Pro-I, the Xiaomi 12S Ultra apparently uses the entire portion of its 1-inch sensor.

According to CEO Lei Jun, Xiaomi took part in the Sony IMX989’s development, and the $15 million cost was also split evenly between the two companies. Interestingly, the sensor won’t be exclusive to Xiaomi; Lei added that it’ll be made available to his local competitors after the launch of the 12S Ultra, in order to “promote the advancement of mobile imaging together.”

A close-up of Xiaomi 12S Ultra's rear camera module, co-engineered with Leica.
Xiaomi

As for Leica’s part on the Xiaomi 12S Ultra, you get a “Leica Summicron 1:1.9-4.1 / 13-120 ASPH camera system” covering all three rear cameras: the aforementioned 50.3-megapixel main camera (23mm, f/1.9), along with the 48-megapixel ultra-wide camera (13mm, f/2.2) and the 48-megapixel periscopic camera (120mm, f/4.1). Both 48-megapixel cameras use a 1/2-inch Sony IMX586 sensor. The entire circular camera island — now with “Leica” co-branding — benefits from some coating magic to mitigate lens glare and improve image consistency across each lens. Oh, and there’s a 23K gold rim here as well.

In addition to some Leica filters, users will be able to switch between two photographic styles: “Leica Authentic Look” for natural-looking shots with stronger three dimensional depth, and “Leica Vibrant Look” which adds Xiaomi’s input on vibrancy while preserving authenticity, somehow. You can also toggle the watermark bar at the bottom of your photos, which will add Leica’s iconic red logo, photo metadata and location coordinates to the right, along with phone model and timestamp on the left.

A sample shot taken with the Xiaomi 12S Ultra, featuring a cyclist on a river bank in the early morning before sunrise.
Xiaomi

On the other side of the phone, there’s a 32-megapixel selfie camera powered by an unknown RGBW sensor. Most of these cameras are capable of Dolby Vision HDR video recording (up to 4K@60fps) and playback, thus making the 12S Ultra the first Android device to sport these features. Some also utilize the motor-based “HyperOIS” for more stable footage. As for still shots, the entire 12S Series supports 10-bit RAW format calibrated by Adobe Labs, with color correction metadata embedded in the files for easier post-production with the likes of Adobe Lightroom.

The 12S Ultra also happens to carry two proprietary Xiaomi Surge chips: a Surge P1 fast-charging chipset and a Surge G1 battery management chipset. These provide support for 67W wired fast charging, 50W wireless fast charging and 10W reverse charging for the 4,860mAh single cell silicon oxygen anode battery. Note that some fast-charging solutions use a dual cell battery instead to split the current load, which is why it’s a good thing that the Surge P1 can handle an output current of up to 16A here, and apparently with 96.8% conversion efficiency. Like Oppo’s and ASUS’ recent handsets, the 12S Ultra offer adaptive charging as well, which allegedly increases the number of charge cycles by 25 percent.

Keeping the phone cool is also key to a healthier battery, not to mention a more stable performance while gaming. The Xiaomi 12S Ultra is equipped with a “three dimensional cooling pump” which moves cooling liquid across warm surfaces using a capillary mechanism similar to that on leaves. This apparently improves thermal conductivity significantly, compared to conventional vapor cooling modules.

Xiaomi 12S Ultra
Xiaomi

The rest of the Xiaomi 12S Ultra is standard flagship affair. For the display, you get a 6.73-inch Samsung E5 AMOLED panel (3,200 x 1,440, 522ppi; LTPO 2.0), with a peak brightness of up to 1,500 nits, a 1-120Hz AdaptiveSync Pro refresh rate, native 10-bit color depth and support for P3 color gamut. As you can tell from the camera features, the screen can handle Dolby Vision, as well as HDR10+, HDR10 and HLG; these will go well with the Harman Kardon speakers which also support Dolby Atmos audio. The device is IP68-rated, meaning it should survive accidental dives into sinks and pools. You’ll also find an infrared remote port at the top for controlling home appliances.

Options include up to 12GB of LPDDR5 RAM, up to 512GB of UFS 3.1 storage — featuring Xiaomi’s self-developed FBO (File-Based Optimization) storage refresh tech, which supposedly maintains the same read/write performance for at least four years (and Lei added that FBO has already been written into the next-gen UFS 4.0 storage specification). Buyers can choose between a “Classic Black” and a “Verdant Green,” both wrapped in vegan leather. 

A close-up of the Xiaomi 12S Pro's Leica Vario-Summicron 1:1.9-2.4/14-50 ASPH camera system, with all three cameras featuring a 50-megapixel sensor.
Xiaomi 12S Pro
Xiaomi

The lesser Xiaomi 12S Pro shares the same 6.73-inch display and Surge P1 fast charging-chipset as the 12S Ultra, though it supports a whopping 120W wired charging for its smaller 4,600mAh battery, but lacks 10W reverse charging. It features a more regular (but apparently still pricey) 1/1.28-inch, 50-megapixel Sony IMX707 main sensor, which is a variant of the IMX700 previously found on Huawei’s Mate 40 Pro series. This still offers a good pixel size of 1.22um (or 2.44um after pixel binning), and it matches the resolution of its ultra-wide camera (14mm) and telephoto camera (50mm) — all fine-tuned by Leica as well, of course. 

As for the “basic” Xiaomi 12S, it has the same main camera as the 12S Pro and the same fast-charging features as the 12S Ultra, but with a smaller 4,500mAh battery in a more palm-friendly body under the 6.28-inch 120Hz display. Apparently there is still a sizeable demand for small flagship phones, according to Lei.

The Xiaomi 12S Series is now available for pre-ordering in China ahead of retail launch on July 6th. The 12S Ultra is priced from from 5,999 yuan (8GB RAM, 256GB storage; around $900) to 6,999 yuan (12GB RAM, 512GB storage; around $1,000). The 12S Pro is cheaper, asking for 4,699 yuan (8GB RAM, 128GB storage; around $700) to 5,899 yuan (12GB RAM, 512GB storage; around $880). The 12S is the most affordable option here, starting from 3,999 yuan (8GB RAM, 128GB storage; around $600) and capping at 5,199 yuan (12GB RAM, 512GB storage; around $780). We’ll keep an eye out for international availability later.



Source: Engadget – Xiaomi 12S Ultra has a Leica camera with a massive 1-inch sensor

HBO Max halts original productions across large parts of Europe

HBO Max is halting original productions across much of Europe, Variety has reported. The streaming service confirmed that it will no longer produce originals in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Central Europe, the Netherlands and Turkey, leaving only Spain and France untouched. The news is part of a plan from parent Warner Bros. Discovery to cut some $3 billion in costs following its split from AT&T

“We are reviewing our current content proposition on the existing services,” a spokesperson told Variety in a statement. “As part of this process, we have decided to remove a limited amount of original programming from HBO Max, as well as ceasing our original programming efforts for HBO Max in the Nordics and Central Europe. We have also ceased our nascent development activities in the newer territories of Netherlands and Turkey, which had commenced over the past year.”

Some of the service’s most praised shows including Lust (Sweden) and Kamikaze (Denmark) came from the Nordics and other affected regions. On top of ceasing production, HBO Max will remove those shows along with the Hungarian drama The Informant from its service globally. Projects already in production and other approved shows will reportedly continue — but they may be sold to other platforms, with Warner acting strictly as producer. 

Streaming content production has been a bright spot in Europe, as Netflix and other platforms have hit the 30 percent local content quotas required in major markets there. HBO Max’s announcement may put a damper on that, though, as “redundancies are likely across [HBO Max’s] European business,” Variety noted. 

More ominously, “similar decision-making for HBO Max is currently taking place in all territories where the streamer operates, which spans the U.S., Latin America and parts of Europe,” it added. Along with layoffs recently announced by Netflix, it’s the first sign of dark clouds during the era of peak TV. 



Source: Engadget – HBO Max halts original productions across large parts of Europe

Tesla EVs can now scan the road for potholes and adjust the suspension height

Tesla has introduced a software update that allows its vehicles to scan for potholes, broken pavement and other defects, Electrek has reported. It can then use that to generate “rough road map data,” and trigger the adaptive suspension in supported vehicles to adjust the ride height for more comfort. 

Back in 2020, Musk tweeted that such a feature was coming, and this appears to be the first step. “This adjustment may occur at various locations, subject to availability, as the vehicle downloads rough road map data generated by Tesla cars,” the release notes state. That means pothole and other data should become increasingly refined as Tesla vehicles ply the roads. 

The ride adjustment will only work in Tesla Model S and Model X cars with adaptive suspensions, Elektrek notes. It’s not clear if the Model 3 or Y vehicles also scan for rough roads, even if they lack the adaptive suspension to benefit from the data. Both the Model 3 and the Model S have eight cameras in total. 

To enable the feature you’ll need the latest update 2022.20, then you tap “Controls > Suspension > Adaptive Suspension Damping, and select the Comfort or Auto setting,” Tesla notes, adding that “the instrument cluster will continue to indicate when the suspension is raised for comfort.”

Tesla isn’t the first automaker to think up pothole scanning technology. Some manufacturers like Ford have proposed features that even detect individual potholes and instantly damp the suspension, for example. Tesla’s system could be far more practical, though, by simply softening the ride parameters over known patches of rough road. 



Source: Engadget – Tesla EVs can now scan the road for potholes and adjust the suspension height

The Morning After: The next Apple Watch may detect if you have a fever

The next Apple Watch may have a body temperature sensor to warn you when you’re coming down with a fever, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. The Series 8 won’t provide an exact reading, but it could notify you to see a doctor or use a dedicated thermometer.

The feature has been a rumor for a while now but is more likely to appear than a blood sugar monitoring, which uses more elaborate sensors and technology. Gurman says he believes the body temperature feature is “a go” for the standard Series 8 and the oft-rumored rugged edition Apple is creating for extreme athletes.

If you’re hoping for next-gen AirPods Pro with heart rate or body temperature monitoring features, while we might get a new pair this year, they won’t pack health monitoring tech this time around.

— Mat Smith

The biggest stories you might have missed

British Army Twitter and YouTube accounts were compromised to promote crypto scams

The Army is investigating.

The British Army is investigating an apparent hack of its official Twitter and YouTube accounts on Sunday. The breach was first reported by Web3 is Going Great, which noted both accounts were simultaneously compromised to promote two different cryptocurrency scams.

Although it has since been scrubbed, the Army’s verified Twitter account was briefly changed to look like a page for The Possessed, a project involving a collection of 10,000 animated NFTs with a price floor of 0.58 Ethereum (approximately $1,063). During that time, the account tweeted out multiple links to a fake minting website.

Continue reading.

How to survive the inevitable CD revival

For better or worse, the compact disc could make a comeback.

The compact disc turns 40 this year, and there are already signs of its mini-revival. For the first time in 17 years, CD sales went up — by almost 50 percent. It’s still a long way from the format’s peak. In 2021, 46.6 million CDs were shipped in the US — compared to nearly a billion back in 2000. Some reports claim the uptick in CD sales is mostly due to mega-artists like Adele and BTS releasing new albums (the former’s ‘30’ accounted for two percent of total CD sales alone). There’s also an increasing appetite for CDs as memorabilia and many good albums are structured experiences to enjoy from start to finish.

Continue reading.

Ducati’s first electric motorcycle is designed for MotoE racing

The V21L has 150 horsepower and a top speed of 171MPH.

TMA
Ducati

Ducati has unveiled not just its first electric motorcycle but a key piece in the 2023 season of MotoE e-motorcycle racing. The V21L prototype has that classic Ducati look but is swathed in carbon fiber and packs a 150HP electric motor with a 18kWh battery. Ducati will be the exclusive supplier of all 18 bikes used for FIM MotoE World Cup racing from 2023 to 2026.

Continue reading.

German traffic watchdog says 59,000 Tesla cars affected by safety bug

Some vehicles couldn’t automatically call emergency services after an accident.

Germany’s Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt traffic regulator is calling on Tesla to recall 59,000-plus vehicles over a software issue. On June 29th, the KBA published a notice on its website telling Model Y and 3 owners of a bug with the eCall safety system on those cars, according to Reuters. The glitch prevents the tool from automatically calling first responders in the event of a serious accident. 

Continue reading.



Source: Engadget – The Morning After: The next Apple Watch may detect if you have a fever

British army Twitter and YouTube accounts compromised to promote crypto scams

The British army is investigating an apparent hack after its official Twitter and YouTube accounts were compromised on Sunday. News of the breach was first reported by Web3 is Going Great. According to the blog, both accounts were simultaneously compromised to promote two different cryptocurrency scams.

Although it has since been scrubbed, the army’s verified Twitter account was briefly changed to look like a page for The Possessed, a project involving a collection of 10,000 animated NFTs with a price floor of 0.58 Ethereum (approximately $1,063). During that time, the account tweeted out multiple links to a fake minting website. It’s possible the hack is part of a broader campaign to leverage the recent popularity of The Possessed. On Saturday, the project’s official Twitter account warned its followers of another verified account that was similarly hacked to promote a NFT scam using The Possessed brand.

British army YouTube channel
Web3 is Going Great

Over on YouTube, the army’s channel has been made to look like a page for Ark Invest. As of the writing of this article, the channel is livestreaming videos that repurpose old footage of Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey and Ark CEO Katie Wood discussing cryptocurrency. The clips feature an overlay promoting “double your money” Bitcoin and Ethereum scams. According to Web3 is Going Great, a similar scheme netted scammers $1.3 million this past May. It’s unclear who is behind the attacks.

“We are aware of a breach of the army’s Twitter and YouTube accounts and an investigation is underway,” an army spokesperson told The Guardian. “We take information security extremely seriously and are resolving the issue. Until the investigation is complete it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

While 2022 has seen its share of crypto hacks, few have targeted government organizations like the British army. To date, most have involved groups like Yuga Labs, the creator of the popular Bored Ape Yacht Club NFT collection. In April, the project’s official Instagram account was compromised in a $2.4 million phishing scam. BAYC’s Discord community has also fallen to two separate phishing attacks in 2022.



Source: Engadget – British army Twitter and YouTube accounts compromised to promote crypto scams

German traffic watchdog says 59,000 Tesla cars affected by safety bug

Germany’s Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt traffic regulator is calling on Tesla to recall more than 59,000 vehicles over a software issue. On June 29th, the KBA published a notice on its website notifying Model Y and 3 owners of a bug with the eCall safety system on those cars, according to Reuters. The glitch prevents the tool from automatically calling first responders in the event of a serious accident.

The KBA said the problem affects 59,129 vehicles globally, including Model Y crossovers manufactured at the automaker’s recently opened Berlin Gigafactory. German media first reported on the notice on Saturday.

Before this week, three of the 11 recalls Tesla issued this year involved a software bug. Most recently, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced a recall involving approximately 130,000 vehicles over a glitch that could cause the infotainment system in 2021 and 2022 Tesla cars to overheat. The news of a new safety issue comes after Tesla reported a nearly 18 percent decline in vehicle deliveries on Saturday.



Source: Engadget – German traffic watchdog says 59,000 Tesla cars affected by safety bug

Summer Games Done Quick 2022 raises $3 million for charity

In its first in-person event since 2020, GDQ’s Summer Games Done Quick 2022 raised more than $3.01 million for Doctors Without Borders. In all, some of the world’s best speedrunners descended on Bloomington, Minnesota to complete 134 different playthroughs of games like Doom Eternal, Tunic and Control. Across seven days of programming, Games Done Quick collected more than 42,000 individual donations.

And while the final tally fell short of the record-breaking $3.4 million the organization secured for the Prevent Cancer Foundation at Awesome Games Done Quick at the start of the year, it was more than the $2.9 million raised during SGDQ 2021. This year’s event saw the departure of Kasumi “Sumichu” Yogi. For the past eight years, Yogi has served as GDQ’s director of marketing and business development, helping the organization grow into the community cornerstone that it is today. Games Done Quick’s next fundraiser, the all-women Flame Fatales showcase, starts on August 21st, with proceeds from the event slated to go to the Malala Fund.



Source: Engadget – Summer Games Done Quick 2022 raises million for charity

Apple Watch Series 8 may be able to detect if you have a fever

The next Apple Watch will reportedly include a body temperature sensor that will warn you when you’re coming down with a fever, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. The Series 8 won’t provide an exact reading, but it could send a notification that prompts you to see a doctor or use a dedicated thermometer.

This isn’t the first time Gurman has brought up the possibility of the Series 8 including a temperature sensor. He first mentioned Apple was working on the feature back in June 2021, reporting that it would likely arrive with the company’s 2022 wearable lineup. He backtracked on that prediction in January, warning fans that blood temperature monitoring was among a handful of capabilities that were a few years away.

However, a few months later, he said the Series 8 would include a body temperature sensor, provided the feature passed Apple’s internal testing guidelines. Now, writing in the latest edition of his Power On newsletter, Gurman says he believes the feature is “a go” for the standard Series 8 and the oft-rumored rugged edition Apple is creating for extreme athletes.

Gurman says other changes to the Series 8 “will probably be minor.” Reiterating his reporting from last week, he suggests the wearable will feature the same processing power as the Series 7 and Series 6. He also mentions that higher-end Series 8 models could include an updated display. Another device that reportedly won’t come with many upgrades is the second-generation AirPods Pro. Gurman writes that they won’t include heart rate or body temperature monitoring features, as had been suggested by some reports. “I’m told that neither feature is likely to arrive in the 2022 upgrade, though both enhancements have been explored inside the company and could arrive one day,” he says.



Source: Engadget – Apple Watch Series 8 may be able to detect if you have a fever

Hitting the Books: How 3D printing helped make cosplay costumes even more accurate

Additive manufacturing is one of the most important technological advances of the 21st century. It’s revolutionized the way we build everything from airplanes and wind turbines to medical implants and nano-machinery — not to mention the tidal wave of creativity unleashed once the tech made its way into the maker community. In Cosplay: A History, veteran cosplayer and 501st Legion member, Andrew Liptak explores the theatrical origins of the craft and its evolution from costuming enthusiasm to full-fledged fandom. Liptak also looks at how advances in technology have impacted the cosplay community — whether that’s the internet forums and social media platforms they use to connect, the phones and cameras they use to publicize their works, and, in the excerpt below, the 3D printers used to create costume components.

Cosplay cover
Simon and Schuster

Excerpted from Cosplay: A History – The Builders, Fans, and Makers Who Bring Your Favorite Stories to Life by Andrew Liptak, published by Simon & Schuster. © 2022 by Andrew Liptak.


In the summer of 2017, I picked up a Nintendo Switch and began playing the latest installment of Nintendo’s The Legend of Zelda series, Breath of the Wild. My son, Bram, and I hacked and slashed our way through Hyrule. Featuring a massive open world, the game is full of fascinating costumes, objects, and weapons, and, without question, we settled on a Halloween costume for that year: one of the main character Link’s colorful outfits, to be accompanied by a handful of cool-looking items: a sword, shield, bow with quiver of arrows, and a magical tablet called a Sheikah Slate (a magical data pad).

My local library had just installed a 3D printer, and after a bit of poking around online, I found the files for the Sheikah Slate, then sent them a file to print. A day or so later, I had the white tablet in hand. After a little sanding, some paint, and a ribbon, I had a serviceable replica. When I came across another set of plans for a lightsaber-like Guardian Sword++ (1), I had a friend with a 3D printer of his own print me one. Before I knew it, I had two of my items for the character.

My personal 3D printer: a Snapmaker, which I’ve used to print a variety of parts for
costumes. The expiration of 3D-printing patents has helped the home-printer market explode.
Courtesy of Andrew Liptak

The process of 3D printing also goes by “additive manufacturing,” “computer automated manufacturing,” “layered manufacturing,” or “rapid prototyping.”(2) The process starts with a designer-developed 3D object known as a Computer Aided Design (CAD), which the software converts to a file that can be read by a printer (usually a Standard Tessellation Language file, or STL). This STL file guides the computer to lay down plastic in a series of fine layers. As the machine lays down each successive layer, one can slowly build up a three-dimensional object like a part for a costume. While slow, the process allows makers to print extremely detailed objects that you might not be able to create with traditional manufacturing methods.

There are three main 3D printing methods makers can use. The most common is fused filament fabrication (FFF), in which a spool of thermoplastic (like ABS or PLA) is melted in a heated nozzle and extruded onto a build surface to form the object. The next method is stereolithography (SLA), in which a printer beams a laser into a vat of resin, bonding the material into a solid object, layer by layer, as it slowly works its way from bottom to top (or top to bottom). The third method is called selective laser sintering (SLS), in which a machine puts down a layer of powdered material like fine resin or metal. When the layer is in place, the machine uses a laser to trace the desired pattern, fusing the layer into the right shape. Once one layer is complete, the machine lays down another layer of powdered material, and the process repeats itself.

Each of these methods can be used in a variety of ways. Chemist David E. H. Jones had initially proposed the process in his New Scientist magazine column in 1974, observing that “many liquid monomers can be polymerised to solid by ultraviolet light, or even visible light. Accordingly, a laser-beam shone through a tank of monomer should leave an optically straight fibre in its path,” he wrote. “A laser beam aimed in the right direction zig-zags all around the tank to create an interlaced web of fibres. By proper settings of the mirrors anything from a Brillo-pad to a vest can be made: and with no moving parts at all (3)!”

A cosplayer poses as Tony Stark/Iron Man at FAN EXPO Boston in 2019. His armor was entirely 3D-printed.
Courtesy of Andrew Liptak

From here, engineers and scientists began to devise systems to realize his theory. In 1981, Japanese scientist Hideo Kodama wrote a paper for the Review of Scientific Instruments—“Automatic method for fabricating a three-dimensional plastic model with photo-hardening polymer”—in which he described the method for printing up an object (4), which several companies and entrepreneurs followed a couple of years later before registering a series of patents for specific systems. Thus, 3D printing was born.

The automated process initially found a home as a manufacturing technique. It allowed companies to construct new types of models, but also became an easy way to create a prototype of an object: one merely needed to develop a computer model and print it up, without having to manufacture a new set of molds or a machine part. But the process didn’t immediately become widespread, thanks in part to the patents that individuals and companies held on these techniques. That began to change in the mid-2010s as those patents expired, causing a boom in the availability of 3D printers. As Filemon Schöffer wrote in TechCrunch, “When the Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) printing process patent expired in 2009, prices for FDM printers dropped from over $10,000 to less than $1,000, and a new crop of consumer-friendly 3D printer manufacturers, like MakerBot and Ultimaker, paved the way for accessible 3D printing (5).”

Prop-making studios in Hollywood have used the technology for years to create costumes, but the newfound availability of home devices has been a boon for cosplayers, allowing them to create individual props or entire costumes (6).

Before the widespread availability of 3D printers, sculptors had to rely on a variety of techniques to replicate costume parts: carving out EVA foam, making resin molds, machining metal parts, sculpting bucks for vacuum formers, and other techniques—a lot of effort if you’re looking to build only one item or a limited run of items. Now, a cosplayer can print up an entire preset suit of armor with a 3D printer.

Ahead of Dragon Con 2019, Jack Durnin of Charleston, South Carolina, decided to build a Martian marine from Syfy’s science-fiction series The Expanse. “I saw the promo for season two,” he told me at the convention, “and I saw the Martian marines in the teaser, and was like, ‘What is this show?’ ”and ended up binging the entire series.

Durnin was already an experienced hand when it came to costuming. In high school and college, he made short films, for which he built many of the sets, costumes, and props himself. As he got into cosplay, he built Commander Shepard’s N7 armor from Mass Effect. When he watched The Expanse, he realized that he could put together his own set of the Martian marine power armor.

While some of the show’s fans had tracked down the real-world helmets and components that the studio’s makers had used to create the onscreen costumes, the Martian marine costume was different. It was entirely original to the series, and if he wanted his own version, he’d have to make it himself, from the ground up. “I started with the helmet,” he explained, “because I knew that would be the hardest and would take the most time. I started with screenshots and then the initial shape, trading the three dimensions of the helmet, and then started sculpting it.” From there, he went to work on sculpting the forearms and armor, using the same EVA foam that he had used for his Mass Effect armor. Durnin and his then-girlfriend (now wife), Jenni Tyler, debuted their costumes at that year’s convention. Their work was rewarded by astonished onlookers and even garnered praise from the cast and crew of the show.

Access to a printer has another effect on the costuming community: it democratizes the field in a completely unprecedented way. In earlier days, a skilled modeler could produce a detailed model to sell to or share with the community at large. But this method inherently came with a bottleneck: said maker could produce their products only one by one. By creating a file and sharing it with others, ten or more makers could put together the piece at the same time. Hundreds of identical costumes could materialize worldwide almost simultaneously.

In the lead-up to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, interested cosplayers started a number of groups to create costumes for one of the film’s new trooper classes: the shoretrooper. While some makers decided to go the traditional route of sculpting and vacuum forming their own versions, one maker decided to model up his own printable version.

Brian Anderson sits in the Millennium Falcon’s lounge booth at FAN EXPO Boston in 2019. He’s spent decades building costumes of all types, and has focused extensively on 3D printing, making everything from droids to costumes to the game figures sitting on the table before him.
Courtesy of Andrew Liptak

In 2016, Sean Fields launched a website featuring a Dropbox link that contained all of the files required to put together the costume. Best of all, he released the files at no cost for anyone to download on their own. As a result, hundreds across the world built their costumes from his design. Fans from the US, Europe, Asia, and elsewhere constructed the costume, turning out at events clad in it. Others followed: a maker named Paul Prentice developed his own set of highly accurate shoretrooper armor, which he gave to interested makers in exchange for a charitable donation.

This technology had another, unexpected side effect: it helped to shorten the amount of time it would take someone to develop and build a costume. “When I was first becoming a prop maker,” Brian Anderson explained to me at FAN EXPO Boston in 2019, “there was an enormous investment in being able to produce something.”

When Lucasfilm released the television series The Clone Wars in 2008, Anderson, a longtime member of the 501st Legion, wanted to build a set of clone trooper armor from the series. “It took me over a year to sculpt and produce the molds for that suit, and an investment of several thousand dollars and materials just to get to that very first set.” Making armor in that fashion, he explained, wasn’t something one could do on impulse: it required a lot of planning and investment to complete. But once that money was spent, “subsequent suits were easy to make, because I could then vacuum form the armor [onto the existing molds].”

But with those molds already formed, he couldn’t easily improve them, especially as new details came to light. “Now, with 3D printing, the risk is so much lower.” At the time we spoke in August 2019, the final Star Wars film, The Rise of Skywalker, had yet to hit theaters, but he had already printed up a helmet that would appear in the film. “They were just shown in publicity photos for the first time a couple of weeks ago,” he said, but if there was a significant change, the original developer could simply take the model, tweak it, and rerelease it online for builders to print out again. “That happened to me with the helmet from The Mandalorian; I’ve already made that helmet from the file that Sean Fields produced. He said from the beginning, ‘This file probably isn’t accurate, and as I find new details, I’m going to iterate on the model, and anyone who buys the file now will get every free iteration through completion.’ When I first started working on that, a bunch of people asked why I was wasting my time on it if I knew it wasn’t going to be accurate. It’s twelve dollars’ worth of filament to print one. If I have to print a new one, it’s no big deal. And so, it lets people jump on trends very early and not have to worry so much about getting it right on the first try.”

Cosplayer Amie Dansby uses 3D printing extensively in her costumes. This is her take on Vanellope von Schweetz from the Disney film Wreck-It Ralph, and much of the costume features parts that have been separately printed.
Courtesy of Andrew Liptak

But while 3D printing has proved to be useful to cosplayers, it’s not the be-all and end-all technique that will replace the methods that preceded it. Processes like traditional sculpting, molding, and others remain in use throughout the world, and printing an object doesn’t mean that one can simply pull it off a printing bed and step into a convention with it in hand. These objects often require postproduction work, usually sanding down the lines left by the printer to a smooth surface (itself a labor-intensive process), filling in cracks and seams made when joining two parts together, and priming and painting the object.

Even once complete, a prop might not be very durable. A maker might opt to print out a hollow version of their desired prop, with a honeycomb-like interior structure, to save printing time and weight. A couple of years ago, I bought a replica run from Neill Blomkamp’s 2013 film Elysium. The parts were beautifully designed and printed and were extremely light. I built the prop, but when it fell (twice!), it broke along a couple of weak points, requiring fixes. When a friend printed up Link’s Guardian Sword for me, I had him do it as a solid part, realizing that it would be much sturdier.

Cosplayer Amie Dansby works on a helmet that she’s 3D-printed. Printed parts typically
require a considerable amount of work to produce a finished version.
Courtesy of Andrew Liptak

Given that 3D printing often relies on melting plastic to extrude, props can also be extremely susceptible to heat: more than one cosplayer has noted that they’ve had a prop or costume part that’s melted on them in extreme heat, like in a hot car in the sun or if left next to a heater. This isn’t to say that other manufacturing methods are inherently better: objects cast in resin can melt, deform, or shatter; fiberglass and plastic can crack with age or strain; and fabrics can tear.

But despite those drawbacks, 3D printing is a game-changing technology, allowing cosplayers to work up entire outfits and costume components quickly and cheaply, opening the field to new costumers who might not have been able to take part previously.

——

(1) “Un Bal Costumé Chez Jules Verne” [A Costume Ball at the Home of Jules Verne], Le Monde illustré, 21st year, no. 1044, April 14, 1877, https://laporteouverte.me/2016/11/13/un-bal-costume-chez-jules-verne.

(2) Herbert R. Lottman, Jules Verne: An Exploratory Biography (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996), 204.

(3) Lydia Smith, “5–10 March 1891: Bovril and the First Ever Sci-Fi Convention, at the Royal Albert Hall,” Royal Albert Hall (website), March 2, 2016, https://www.royalalberthall.com/about-the-hall/news/2016/march/5-10-march-1891-bovril-and-the-first-ever-sci-fi-convention-at-the-royal-albert-hall.

(4) “ ‘The Coming Race’ and ‘Vril-Ya’ Bazaar and Fete, in Joint Aid of the West End Hospital, and the School of Massage and Electricity,’ ”Royal Albert Hall (website), https://memories.royalalberthall.com/content/coming-race-and-vril-ya-bazaar-and-fete-joint-aid-west-end-hospital-and-school-massage-and-1.

(5) Alex Palmer, “The Strange Story of the Vril-Ya Bazaar and Fete, the ‘World’s First Sci-Fi Convention,’ ”Mental Floss, May 31, 2021, https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/646499/first-sci-fi-convention-vril-ya-bazaar.

(6) The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, A D Condo (entry), updated May 24, 2017, http://www.sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/condo_a_d.



Source: Engadget – Hitting the Books: How 3D printing helped make cosplay costumes even more accurate

WhatsApp may soon let you hide your online status

WhatsApp is developing a feature that would allow users to hide their online status, according to WABetaInfo. On Saturday, the outlet shared a screenshot of new privacy settings that allow someone to decide who can see them when they’re using the app. The feature would complement the recent tweaks WhatsApp introduced to the app’s Last Seen functionality.

Following a beta rollout in April, the company released an update that added a “My Contacts Except” setting, allowing for more granular control over who can see when you last checked the app. The problem with WhatsApp’s Last Seen status was that it gave contacts a way to find out if you had seen their message even if you turned off read receipts.

Per the screenshot WABetaInfo shared, the new online status feature will allow you to restrict the same people who you don’t want to see your Last Seen status. It’s surprising it has taken this long for WhatsApp to start work on such a basic privacy feature, but now that it’s finally on the way, it’s something many users are sure to appreciate.



Source: Engadget – WhatsApp may soon let you hide your online status

‘Genshin Impact’ Summer Fantasia update arrives on July 13th

Hoyoverse will release Genshin Impact’s next major content update on July 13th, the studio announced on Saturday. Dubbed “Summer Fantasia,” version 2.8 will reintroduce the Golden Apple Archipelago, a zone Hoyoverse has redesigned to add new plotlines and challenges for players to complete. By finishing the included quests, you’ll have the chance to recruit Fischl, a four-star playable character, to your party for free.

Moreover, as part of the game’s upcoming Resonating Visions event, you’ll have a chance to collect conch shells you can later trade for an outfit for Fischl. The shells will also reveal more of the game’s story. Separately, the update adds sailing challenges you can complete with your friends, and a new playable character named Shikanoin Heizou. Hoyoverse describes him as Genshin’s first melee catalyst user. Shikanoin can deal extra damage to enemies affected by elemental attacks.

Additional content for Genshin Impact is one of a few projects Hoyoverse is working on at the moment. In recent weeks, the studio announced it was developing two new games, Zenless Zone Zero and Honkai: Star Rail. Neither title has a release date yet, but you can sign up to beta test the former on PC and iOS.

Meta’s Novi cryptocurrency wallet is shutting down

Meta is shutting down Novi, its short-lived cryptocurrency digital wallet. In a notice spotted by Bloomberg, the company announced it would sunset the platform on September 1st, with July 20th being the final day to add funds. Meta advised users to withdraw their balance “as soon as possible,” noting it would “attempt to transfer” any remaining money to customer bank accounts and debit cards after Novi’s final day of operation.

For the time being, the shutdown effectively marks the end of Meta’s cryptocurrency ambitions. The company began a “small pilot” of Novi last October. The wallet launched without support for Diem – Meta’s in-house cryptocurrency, which was previously known as Libra. One month later, David Marcus, the company’s crypto chief, left Meta. At the start of 2022, the Diem Association announced it was selling its assets and “winding down” operations.

But the demise of Novi and Diem doesn’t mean Meta won’t make another digital wallet. “We are already leveraging the years spent on building capabilities for Meta overall on blockchain and introducing new products, such as digital collectibles,” a company spokesperson told Bloomberg. “You can expect to see more from us in the web3 space because we are very optimistic about the value these technologies can bring to people and businesses in the metaverse.”

In fact, the company announced last month that it was rebranding Facebook Pay to Meta Pay. At the time, Mark Zuckerberg called the change a “first step” toward creating a digital wallet for the metaverse. The executive said he envisioned a future where Meta Pay would function as a place to store all the digital items you buy or create in virtual worlds.



Source: Engadget – Meta’s Novi cryptocurrency wallet is shutting down

Pandemic-related manufacturing shutdowns catch up with Tesla

Tesla produced 258,580 vehicles in the second quarter of 2022, the automaker announced on Saturday. While that’s a 25 percent year-on-year increase from the number of cars it made during Q2 2021, it’s also fewer vehicles than the company produced at the start of the year amid an “exceptionally difficult quarter.” In the first three months of 2022, the company manufactured 305,407 cars, meaning production volume declined by 15 percent from the previous quarter.

As a result, Tesla also delivered fewer vehicles in the past three months than it did at the start of the year. Deliveries declined by nearly 18 percent between Q1 and Q2 2022 to 254,695. The setback marks the first time in two years that Tesla’s deliveries have fall quarter over quarter.

The company saw production slowed by ongoing component shortages that affected the entire auto industry. Tesla was also forced to stop work at its critical Shanghai Gigafactory multiple times in March due to the strict COVID-19 lockdowns that hit China’s most populous city.

If there’s a silver lining for Tesla, it’s that the company would appear well-positioned to bounce back next quarter. According to Tesla investor Sawyer Merritt, the company said it achieved its highest monthly vehicle production volume in June. We’ll know more about Tesla’s outlook when the company shares its full Q2 2022 results on July 20th.



Source: Engadget – Pandemic-related manufacturing shutdowns catch up with Tesla

NASA targets late August to early September launch for Artemis 1 Moon mission

NASA has set an aggressive launch target for its Artemis 1 Moon mission following the successful June 20th “wet dress rehearsal” fueling test of the SLS rocket that will carry the flight to space. In an interview with Ars Technica, Jim Free, associate administrator with the agency’s Explorations Systems Development program, said this week NASA is working toward an August 23rd to September 6th launch window for Aretmis 1. “That’s the one we’re targeting,” Free told the outlet. “We’d be foolish not to target that right now. We made incredible progress last week.”

For those keeping track, NASA recently announced the earliest it could get Artemis 1 in space following a successful fueling test of the SLS was between July 26th and August 10th. Instead, NASA selected the second earliest launch window it had open to it.

Before the flight can get underway, technicians must complete final preparations on the SLS rocket, including replacing a seal that led to a hydrogen leak during its June 20th test. NASA began rolling the SLS back to the Kennedy Space Center’s Vehicle Assembly Building, where staff will work on the launch vehicle, on July 1st. “I don’t think we’re stretching ourselves to get there,” Free said. “We’re probably pushing ourselves a little bit, but we’re not going to do something stupid.”

Once Artemis 1 is finally underway, it will carry an unmanned Orion module on a trip around the Moon to study how the flight might affect the human body. Artemis II will later take four astronauts to the satellite ahead of a planned lunar landing sometime in the second half of the decade.



Source: Engadget – NASA targets late August to early September launch for Artemis 1 Moon mission

Twitch's latest test lets you preview channels without watching ads

Twitch has begun testing a new feature that could introduce you to great streamers you haven’t seen before. Channel Switcher shows random channels as a carousel at the bottom of the screen. When you click on any of them, you’ll be able to watch a one-minute preview of the streamer’s content, enough to give you an idea of what they offer. The previews have no ads either, so you can channel surf undisturbed until you find something to watch. As Twitch explains, the feature will make it easier to figure out if you like a specific channel before committing.

A Twitch spokesperson told The Verge that “only a small percentage of [randomly selected] users who are logged in” will get the chance to test out the feature. The company plans to end the test in July and then analyze its results. While it’s unclear if Channel Switcher will get a wide release at this point, the spokesperson told the publication that Twitch intends to roll out future iterations and is thinking of offering it as an opt-in discovery solution. 

Alongside Channel Switcher, Twitch also launched Guest Star, which allows up to five guests to join a host in a stream. It works similar to Clubhouse in that streamers can include other streamers and viewers in their broadcast, but it of course supports video and not just audio conversations. 



Source: Engadget – Twitch’s latest test lets you preview channels without watching ads

Recommended Reading: Google's biggest hardware flop

Google’s worst hardware flop was introduced 10 years ago today

Chris Welch, The Verge

Ah, the Nexus Q. The $300 media player Google never release to consumers fetched poor reviews from nearly every outlet that tested it. The Verge recounts all that went wrong with the device, which was nearly everything aside from an eye-catching design. 

A brief history of (unintentionally) unbeatable games

Kyle Orland, Ars Technica

The Switch version of Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II has a glitch that makes it impossible to complete the game. There’s a plan to fix it with a patch, but that’s not always possible when games carry unintentional flaws. Ars Technica provides a brief history of other titles that fall into this unfortunate category.

The rise of the 0.5 selfie

Kalley Huang, The New York Times

Taken with the ultra-wide lens on the back of a phone at 0.5x on the camera, a new selfie trend is a far cry from the meticulously curated self-portraits we typically see splattered across social networks. 



Source: Engadget – Recommended Reading: Google’s biggest hardware flop