Hardware

First ever drone-delivered kidney is no worse for wear

Drone delivery really only seems practical for two things: take-out and organ transplants. Both are relatively light and also extremely time sensitive. Well, experiments in flying a kidney around Baltimore in a refrigerated box have yielded positive results — which also seems promising for getting your pad thai to you in good kit. The test flights were conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland there, led by surgeon Joseph Scalea. He has been frustrated in the past with the inflexibility of air delivery systems, and felt that drones represent an obvious solution to the last-mile problem. Scalea and his colleagues modified a DJI M600 drone to carry a refrigerated box payload, and also designed a wireless biosensor for monitoring the organ while in flight. After months of waiting...

Facebook Portal needs more. At least it just added YouTube

To offset the creepiness of having Facebook’s camera and microphone in your house, its new Portal video chat gadget needs best-in-class software.  Its hardware is remarkably well done, plus Messenger and the photo frame feature work great. But its third-party app platform was pretty skimpy when the device launched this week. Facebook is increasingly relying on its smart display competitors to boost Portal’s capabilities. It already comes with Amazon Alexa inside. And now, Google’s YouTube is part of the Portal app platform. “Yes, YouTube.com is available through an optional install in the ‘Portal Apps’ catalog” a Facebook spokesperson tells me. You can open it with a “Hey Portal” command, but there currently seems to be no way to queue up specific videos or control playback via voice. The ...

Sony’s PlayStation Classic uses an open-source emulator to play its games

The worm has turned, it seems. Emulators, which let people run old console games on their computers, were once the scourge of the gaming industry. Now Sony is using one of the very pieces of software the industry decried as the basis for its PlayStation Classic retro console. In the licenses list for the console can be found PCSX ReArmed, as Kotaku noticed in its review yesterday. That’s the ARM port of PCSX Reloaded, itself an offshoot of the original PCSX emulator, which ceased development in 2003. Don’t worry, it’s not a crime or anything: Sony is well within its rights to do this. It’s just ironic, and indicative of the hard work emulator developers have done for over two decades, that a tool most famously (though by no means exclusively) used for piracy is being deployed officially li...

Burgerbot startup Creator hires inventor of Boston Dynamics’ Big Dog

Disney Imagineering animatronics wizard Dr. Martin Buehler is a legend in the robotics world. His work leading development of the galloping Big Dog quadruped at Boston Dynamics both inspired and terrified a new generation of makers. But after playing in the worlds of fantasy and science fiction that consumers can’t buy, Buehler has been poached to work on something much more tangible. In fact, it’s edible. He’s joining burger-making robot startup Creator as VP of engineering. “It was a great experience working on experimental validation [at Boston Dynamics]” Buehler tells me, “But one of the things I really value at Creator is the immediacy of real impact to real people. With burgers being such a big segment of the food market, we have the potential to touch millions of people.” Creator op...

Facebook starts shipping Portal, clarifies privacy/ad policy

Planning to get in early on the Portal phenomenon? Facebook announced today that it’s starting to ship the video chat device. The company’s first true piece of devoted hardware comes in two configurations: the Echo Show-like Portal and the larger Portal+ . Which run $199 and $349, respectively. There’s also a two-fer $298 bundle on the smaller unit. The device raised some privacy red flags since it was announced early last month. The company attempted to nip some of the those issues in the bud ahead of launch — after all, 2018 hasn’t been a great year for Facebook privacy. The site also hasn’t done itself any favors by offering some murky comments around data tracking and ad targeting in subsequent weeks. With all that in mind, Facebook is also marking the launch with a blog post further s...

Samsung shares a glimpse of its folding ‘Infinity Flex Display’ smartphone

After hyping its unveil of its long-rumored folding smartphone, Samsung kind of delivered an announcement, revealing a dual-screen folding phone prototype. “How can we make the screen bigger without actually increasing the size of the device itself?” a Samsung exec posited onstage. The company showcased a prototype of its “Infinity Flex Display,” a device that can be unfolded. In a pitch black room, a company exec showcased the device, which was housed in a larger case to “obscure the form factor.” There’s a conventional outer display on the front with a fairly low screen-to-body ration, but when you unfold the phone, there’s a massive 7.3″ display on the inside. It’s a bit surprising that the folding display is on the inside of the phone rather than the outside edge, though I’m sure it’s ...

Facebook reorganizes Oculus for AR/VR’s long-haul

Facebook is again looking to whip Oculus into shape for its 10-year journey towards making virtual reality mainstream. According to two sources, Facebook reorganized its AR and VR team this week from a divisional structure focused around products to a functional structure focused around technology areas of expertise. While no one was laid off, the change could eliminate redundancies by uniting specialists so they can iterate towards long-term progress rather than being separated into groups dedicated to particular gadgets. Facebook confirmed the reorg to TechCrunch, with a spokesperson providing this statement: “We made some changes to the AR/VR organization earlier this week. These were internal changes and won’t impact consumers or our partners in the developer community.” Oculus CTO Joh...

Apple will stop sharing numbers on how many devices it’s selling

Apple shared its latest quarterly earnings report today, but during its call with investors the company’s CFO Luca Maestri also delivered an unexpected announcement: it won’t be sharing unit sales of its iPhone, iPad or Mac anymore. This gives analysts (and the public) one less item to determine the health of the company, but according to Apple’s leadership, devices sold aren’t a very good indication of the company’s financial health anymore because the company is selling devices at so many price points. “Our product ranges for all the major product categories have become wider over time and therefore a unit of sale is less relevant for us at this point compared to the past because we’ve got these much wider sales prices dispersion,” Maestri said in the call. “So unit of sale per se become...

Up close and hands on with the new MacBook Air

Why, it seems like only yesterday that Steve Jobs first pulled the MacBook Air from a manila envelope for the world to see. It wasn’t, of course — that was 10 years ago this January. In that past decade, the ultraportable laptop has become a massive hit for the company, helping to redefine the notebook space. But the world moves on, of course. In fact, that was kind of a theme at today’s big event in Brooklyn — bringing some overdue updates to some of the company’s most iconic lines. Heck, even the Mac Mini got some love onstage today. But no Apple product deserved a makeover more than the MacBook. The big change to the product is the most obvious — and far and away the most requested. Apple FINALLY brought a retina display to the device. That puts the new 13-inch screen at 2560 x 1600 — a...

OnePlus edges toward mainstream with the 6T

This could be OnePlus’s moment. Back in June, the Oppo-backed Chinese smartphone maker announced that it had sold one million units of its latest handset in 22 days. These aren’t Apple or Samsung numbers we’re talking about here, of course. But they’re impressive for a less than five-year-old company odds are pretty good you’ve never even heard of. And in a sense, it’s precisely Apple and Samsung that have indirectly driven that growth. Over the past few generations, the leading handset manufacturers have made $1,000+ flagships routine. OnePlus, meanwhile, has remained steadfast, clinging to a “Never Settle” slogan that’s less about grasping for the latest innovation than it is embracing the whole picture. It’s a motto that, ironically, sometimes means settling for slightly behind the curv...

The OnePlus 6T is launching on T-Mobile

This year marks an interesting turning point for OnePlus. In December, it will hit the five year mark. The Oppo-backed company has managed to grow significantly in that relatively short window. Back in June, it noted that it had sold one million units of its latest smartphone in the first 22 days. Continued growth will require some strategic partnerships. In the States, that means partnering with a carrier — after all, most smartphone users still purchase devices through those channels here. Fittingly, along today’s launch of the 6T, OnePlus is announcing its first U.S. carrier partner, T-Mobile. Why choose the third largest carrier? Here’s what CEO Pete Lau says of the deal, “T-Mobile is the perfect wireless partner for us in the US. The OnePlus 6T clocks some serious speed, and we wanted...

OnePlus commits to releasing a 5G phone in 2019

OnePlus has made its mark with a measured approach. The company has shied away from big, flashy features, in favor of offering well-rounded, budget devices. That’s changed a bit over the past year. Take the upcoming 6T, which is rumored to be among the first to sport an in-screen fingerprint reader — one of the first times the technology is set to be available in the U.S. Or the fact that cofounder Carl Pei recently promised to deliver a 5G handset in 2019. Unlike other features, however, you can’t really accuse 5G of being a flash in the pan here. Though there’s plenty of ramp up time. Sure, lots of companies have been talking around the technology, and Motorola kind of, sort of delivered something in the form of the Z3, which will offer the cellular technology in the future via Mod. But ...