Monthly Archives: April 2015

Here’s what happens when a lithium-ion battery overheats

Here's what happens when a lithium-ion battery overheats

Lithium ion batteries are practically ubiquitous; they power everything from laptops and cell phones to cameras and tablets. But before they can start providing the juice for bigger and more demanding applications, research about their failure needs to happen. That’s where the fine folks at University College London come in — they’ve used 3D-and-thermal imaging to track exactly what happens when the power cells overheat, inside and out. As you can see in the GIF above, the results aren’t pretty. After cranking the heat on a pair of the batteries to 250+ degrees Celsius (482 degrees Fahrenheit) and keeping an eye on them with the aforementioned techniques, researchers witnessed one of the batteries blow its top. Prior to that happening, during what’s known as “thermal runaway,” the core collapsed.

What’s that mean?

Well, according to the paper published in Nature, the change in temperature that lead to a destabilizing further change in temperature elevates the risk for internal short circuiting and damaging any nearby components. That only happened in a battery without internal support, though. The cell that wasn’t lacking such a feature was a bit different. After hitting about 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,832 degrees Fahrenheit) the copper internals melted, the heat spread outward and caused thermal runaway. It sounds quite a bit less violent, actually.

This isn’t the sort of thing that would happen under normal operating conditions at all, and UCL’s Dr. Paul Shearing readily admits that. However! He says that this sort of testing provides invaluable knowledge regarding how the lithium-ion cells fail and will hopefully help how safety aspects are designed and considered in the future. I’d imagine that Boeing is paying pretty close attention to these experiments. Call it a hunch.

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Xbox One game streaming on Windows 10 is a killer app

Xbox One game streaming on Windows 10 is a killer app

With the release of Windows 10, Sony won’t be the only company to offer game streaming from its consoles. Today we finally got our hands on Windows 10′s Xbox One game streaming feature, which lets you bring your entire Xbox gaming experience to any PC running the new OS. And even in its early state, it looks like it will satisfy even the most demanding gamers. Microsoft made a risky bet by demoing the feature with Sunset Overdrive, a fast-paced game where you’d notice the slightest hint of slowdown. And as you can see in the video below, it’s virtually indistinguishable from the native Xbox One experience while running on a Surface Pro 3.

Xbox One game streaming on Windows 10 is a killer app

Windows 10 streamed Sunset Overdrive at its full resolution, and there weren’t any major issues or delatys. Having spent dozens of hours with the game on my Xbox One, I didn’t notice much of a difference playing it streamed. All of its acrobatic maneuvers and twitch-heavy gunplay felt as responsive as ever. Best of all, you don’t need any crazy hardware to stream games with Windows 10. The demo was running on a fairly typical Intel Core i5 system, and it can run on even slower computers if they have some form of H.264 encoding (because the stream is coming over as a video file). Naturally, your Xbox One gets locked down when you’re streaming something, since it’s still doing the heavy lifting.

So far, Windows 10′s game streaming only works with an Xbox One on your local network. But according to Kevin Unangst, senior director of marketing for Microsoft Studios, the company could eventually implement remote play. That’s something Sony already offers with the PlayStation 4 (and 3, to a lesser extent) over its Vita handheld and some Android devices. But for many people, streaming a game on a PC they already own sounds a lot more useful than having to buy a separate device.

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Microsoft Windows 10

  • Key specs
  • Reviews 4

  • Prices
  • Discussions
  • Type Computer OS
  • Source model Closed
  • Architecture 64-bit, 32-bit
  • Announced 2014-09-30

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8.8average user rating
  • Ease of use 9
  • Speed 9
  • Configurability 7.5
  • Ecosystem (apps, drivers, etc.) 9.3
  • Openness 7.3

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Microsoft wants third-party apps for its fitness tracker

Microsoft wants third-party apps for its fitness tracker

Microsoft Band users might get to enjoy a lot more third-party apps in the near future. Redmond has released the full Band SDK, giving developers power to create fully functional apps for the fitness tracker. The company already launched a preview version back in February, which allowed devs to create tiles that send glanceable notifications to the wearable. However, that only gave them access to sensors and other basic features. According to the general manager of Microsoft’s personal devices division, Zulfi Alam, the newer SDK lets developers take advantage of all the device’s features/functions and comes with the ability to:

  • Build apps that support Windows.
  • Create own custom layouts for pages on third-party tiles using icons, text, buttons, and barcodes for payment options.
  • Receive events and button-click callbacks from the Microsoft Band to the phone app. If you press a button on a page inside your tile, the app will know which button was pressed.
  • Connect to the Band from background tasks.
  • Tap into calorie subscription from the Microsoft Band.

Since the Band syncs with Windows, Apple and Android devices, Microsoft uploaded separate versions for all three platforms. Hopefully, developers design their applications for all three, so no user gets left behind.

Today we release the #MicrosoftBand SDK. Developers, start creating third party tiles now: http://t.co/5t9H9XMHD9 pic.twitter.com/yQ6FqrZcoZ

– Microsoft Band (@microsoftband) April 30, 2015

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Microsoft Band

  • Key specs
  • Reviews 41

  • Prices
  • Discussions
  • Type Watch-style
  • Tracking metrics Motion / steps, Distance, GPS / location, Heart rate, Calories, Sleep
  • Display Yes
  • Battery life Up to 48 hours
  • Weight 2.12 oz
  • Dimensions 0.34 x 0.75 x 0.34 in
  • Released 2014-10-30

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8.8average user rating
  • Durability 8.5
  • Portability 9.7
  • Ease of use 9.2
  • Design and form factor 8.1

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Researchers’ non-flammable battery could make laptop fires a thing of the past

Researchers' non-flammable battery could make laptop fires a thing of the past

Even if you weren’t the owner of an HP (or Acer, Dell or Samsung) laptop that went up in flames, you’re likely aware that lithium-ion batteries can pose a (very small) risk of setting your gadgets on fire. And that’s without mentioning larger-scale issues with the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Tesla Model S. Rare though these incidents may be, no disasters are much better than some, which is why scientists at UNC Chapel Hill are developing a replacement solution.

The team recently discovered that a fluoride polymer known as PFPE shows very little risk of ignition, especially compared to your standard Li-ion battery. (Interestingly, the material also prevents marine life from sticking to the bottom of ships, but that’s beside the point.) Using PFPE to dissolve lithium salt, researchers discovered that the polymer is a viable, non-flammable alternative to the electrolyte. According to UNC, the electrolyte is the “only inherently flammable component” of current lithium-ion power packs, so this discovery could very well pave the way to a safer product. The next step will improving battery cycle performance, with the goal of integrating the material into the standard battery design. Check out the source link for more info.

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Turn your home into a haunted house with AR game ‘Night Terrors’

Turn your home into a haunted house with AR game 'Night Terrors'

You’re home alone. It’s the dead of night and all of the lights are off; you creep down the hallway with one hand dragging along the wall, your phone serving as a makeshift flashlight. You hear a young girl’s voice whisper from the bedroom in front of you and the hair on the back of your neck stands up straight. You pause. Your heart pounds. A dull ringing assaults your ears. You creep forward, holding the phone higher, when suddenly — a high-pitched shriek as your phone’s light starts rapidly flashing and a deformed, undead monster barrels down the hallway directly toward you. You drop your phone. Game over.

That’s basically the premise of Night Terrors, an in-development, augmented reality game for mobile devices that maps out the entirety of your house and fills it with terrifying creatures, turning a home into a real-life survival-horror game. It’s currently looking for $70,000 on Indiegogo — developers say they’ve already created a system that understands spatial elements such as walls and complex floorplans, and they’re using physical special effects rather than CGI. It sounds like an innovative and truly horrifying project, even as its narrative plays off of an overused gaming conceit: Save the girl and be the hero. That’s so close to being cliche, it’s scary.

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Drift Innovation Ghost-S

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  • Reviews 0

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  • Type Consumer
  • Form factor Sports mount
  • Media type Memory card
  • Recording time 210 mins
  • Sensor type CMOS
  • Dimensions 2.05 x 1.3 x 4.13 in
  • Weight 6.07 oz
  • Released 2013-11-26

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Our first close look at Microsoft’s HoloLens

Our first close look at Microsoft's HoloLens

It’s only been a few months since Microsoft introduced the augmented reality HoloLens headset, and now we’ve finally got a close look at the unit to show you. We don’t have much to show other than these pictures at the moment — we couldn’t take pictures of the early dev unit we tried on back in January — but check back for more details shortly.

Gallery | 26 Photos

HoloLens

Nicole Lee contributed to this report

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Microsoft HoloLens

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  • Announced 2015-01-21
  • Colors Gray

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Roman school kids give the Pope a drone of his own

Roman school kids give the Pope a drone of his own

From pizza to Fiats, people love giving gifts to Pope Francis. Most recently, students from a Jesuit school in Rome presented the Holy See with a customized quadcopter painted in the colors of the the Vatican flag and replete with the Papal emblem. According to a statement from the school, the UAV symbolizes “the values of technology in the service of man.” The school continued, “drones have proved useful to check the condition of structures [in quake-ravaged Nepal] and study paths from bringing relief to people who need this in remote villages.” There’s no word yet on whether Pope Francis will have the time for flying lessons. There’s a chance that he may auction off the UAV to raise money for the poor, as he did back in January with the Fiat and a number of other expensive gifts. Or, like the pizza, he could just be saving it for later.

[Image credit: The Associated Press]

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Windows 10 ‘on track’ for summer on PCs, other platforms come later

Windows 10 'on track' for summer on PCs, other platforms come later

We still don’t have an official release date for Windows 10, but Microsoft maintains it’s on track for release this summer. That’s according to Joe Belfiore, its corporate vice president of operating systems, who spoke to media earlier today. You’ll have to wait a bit longer to get Windows 10 on your phone and Xbox, though. Belfiore noted that bringing the new OS to PCs is Microsoft’s main focus at the moment, but we’ll likely see it hit those other platforms in the fall. He also included HoloLens among his list of other Windows 10 platforms, which could be a hint that we’ll actually see it this fall. Or maybe that’s just very wishful thinking.

Windows 10 also won’t have all of the features we’ve heard about when it finally hits PCs, Belfiore added. For example, we likely won’t be seeing any Win32 desktop apps in the Windows Store at launch. While slightly disappointing, that’s something we’ll probably have to get used to. Microsoft is playing with the notion of “Windows as a service,” which means it’s never quite done. Sure, that’s not very different from how OS updates have worked in the past, but now it seems Microsoft is being a lot more flexible about how it’s building Windows.

“Our intent is to make this [Windows 10] the largest single developer platform that developers can target,” Belfiore said. So it’s no wonder Microsoft laid out an ambitious goal of bringing Windows 10 to a billion devices in the next few years.

[Photo credit: AP Photo/Elaine Thompson]

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Microsoft Windows 10

  • Key specs
  • Reviews 4

  • Prices
  • Discussions
  • Type Computer OS
  • Source model Closed
  • Architecture 64-bit, 32-bit
  • Announced 2014-09-30

see all specs

8.8average user rating
  • Ease of use 9
  • Speed 9
  • Configurability 7.5
  • Ecosystem (apps, drivers, etc.) 9.3
  • Openness 7.3

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‘OK Google, Shazam this song’

'OK Google, Shazam this song'

Siri started handling song queries when iOS 8 arrived, and now Google’s voice commands recognize Shazam as a prompt to do the same on Android. That’s right, Android devices now recognize the “Shazam” command, in addition to “recognize” or “name” for “track,” “song” or “tune” identification. It’s not the only one either, as a few other apps like NPR One, TuneIn, Zillow, Flixster and TripAdvisor (a complete list is here) are also enjoying early access to the Custom Voice Actions feature. Previously you could search apps that way, but with this access developers can get more specific. It seems like the perfect kind of feature to use along with something like Android Auto, just when your phone is slightly out of reach.

With Shazam, after you’ve spoken the phrase the app will launch, do the heavy lifting and save the results for listening later. We tried it out, and the app only launched for commands that included “Shazam,” as in “OK Google, Shazam this song.” Phrases like “OK Google, name this song” kept the process inside the confines of the voice search interface. As you might expect, the music-searching software is one of the many third-party apps that display info cards in Google Now, and there’s easy access to listen, stream and purchase from Google Play Music. Other devs that want in are encouraged to apply here, and explain what kind of commands their apps will need.

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Engadget | Technology News, Advice and Features

Engadget | Technology News, Advice and Features

Siri started handling song queries when iOS 8 arrived, and now Google’s voice commands recognize Shazam as a prompt to do the same on Android. That’s right, Android devices now recognize the “Shazam” command, in addition to “recognize” or “name” for “track,” “song” or “tune” identification. It’s not the only one either, as a few other apps like NPR One, TuneIn, Zillow, Flixster and TripAdvisor (a complete list is here) are also enjoying early access to the Custom Voice Actions feature. Previously you could search apps that way, but with this access developers can get more specific. It seems like the perfect kind of feature to use along with something like Android Auto, just when your phone is slightly out of reach.

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Engadget | Technology News, Advice and Features

We still don’t have an official release date for Windows 10, but Microsoft maintains it’s on track for release this summer. That’s according to Joe Belfiore, its corporate vice president of operating systems, who spoke to media earlier today. You’ll have to wait a bit longer to get Windows 10 on your phone and Xbox, though. Belfiore noted that bringing the new OS to PCs is Microsoft’s main focus at the moment, but we’ll likely see it hit those other platforms in the fall. He also included HoloLens among his list of other Windows 10 platforms, which could be a hint that we’ll actually see it this fall. Or maybe that’s just very wishful thinking.

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Engadget | Technology News, Advice and Features

Since we’re right smack in the middle of Microsoft’s BUILD dev conference, the company’s showing off one of it’s Azure APIs with a site you can put to the test. How-Old.net allows you to upload a picture before the site recognizes faces and analyzes them to determine their age. No, I’m not 41… I’m 31, and that picture is from over two years ago. Other folks here at Engadget received results closer to their real age, but it made us wonder: why not use a web cam to snap a picture under current conditions. You know, after I’ve had a chance to apply my daily dose of wrinkle remover. Perhaps that option on the way.

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Engadget | Technology News, Advice and Features

Eager to build a game or 3D modelling tool that takes advantage of HTC’s Vive and other SteamVR-friendly virtual reality headsets? It’s time to get cracking. Valve has released a software development kit that lets apps use SteamVR hardware, including Valve’s controller and room-scale Lighthouse tracking. On top of that, the platform now works nicely with both the Unity game engine (through a plugin) and Unreal Engine 4. It’ll be a long while before you can actually run programs built on this code — the VR devices have yet to reach many developers, let alone the public — but this at least gets the ball rolling.

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Engadget | Technology News, Advice and Features

In an effort to reduce police abuses that have occurred with frightening regularity throughout the US, the Southern California branch of the ACLU has just released a new smartphone app designed to securely record your next interaction with law enforcement. Sure, you could simply snap photos and take video using your onboard camera. But what happens when the cop smashes your phone (as one did in South Gate, California) or tries to delete the data (as another attempted in Virginia Beach, Virginia)? Instead of simply saving a copy to your local drive, the Mobile Justice CA app automatically forwards a copy of your video directly to the ACLU for review. Not only that, but it also alerts nearby users that also have the app installed that an incident is going down. The app is available on both iOS and Android, but is only for California residents. ACLU chapters in Oregon, Missouri and New York have already released similar apps.

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Engadget | Technology News, Advice and Features

The weather’s getting warm, which means here at Engadget HQ, we’re already planning our summer getaways. For us, that means we’re gearing up for the return of Engadget Live, where we throw a series of events in different cities across the US, allowing you to kick back, meet some of your favorite Engadget editors in the flesh, and try out some hot new gadgets first-hand. It’s like a reader meetup, only with more high-tech toys on hand. Oh, and a bunch of giveaways too — we always come ready to give away some free swag.

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Engadget | Technology News, Advice and Features

The first results to stem from President Barack Obama’s 2013 “Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies” initiative are in, Reuters reports. As noted in the journal Neuron, scientists were able to manipulate the brain circuitry of lab mice, making them move, stay still, eat or leave their bowls of food behind. This was accomplished through the use of DREADDs, “designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs.” The DREADDs system uses genetically engineered brain neurons to create custom receptors that lock into manmade molecules, activating whichever neuron scientists target. The DREADD method is a noninvasive form of behavior control, first introduced about a decade ago as a way to turn neurons on or off — the newest DREADDs are the first to be able to do both.

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Engadget | Technology News, Advice and Features

Earlier this year, Uber launched an in-app panic button for people in India, which lets any user easily alert local police in case of an emergency. And now this safety feature is getting improved. The ride-sharing service announced today that the real-time SOS alert can start being accessed by law enforcement officials, allowing them to track the exact location of a passenger who may require assistance during a trip. Previously, the panic button would only connect Uber users with the cops over a phone call, so this is designed to save time for potential victims — and that could turn out to be life-saving.

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Engadget | Technology News, Advice and Features

Carroll Shelby’s iconic Cobra roadster has been making jaws drop for half a century now. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Cobra’s debut the US Department of Energy built one of its own. The new Cobra’s entire chassis and bodywork–from the passenger monocoque to the grille and headrests–were 3D printed from carbon fiber reinforced ABS using the Big Area Additive Manufacturing (BAAM) machine at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. And while the exterior of the new Cobra is nearly indistinguishable from its predecessor, they look nothing alike under the hood. The DoE’s Cobra is, in fact, completely electric.

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Engadget | Technology News, Advice and Features

Welcome to the new masochism! For a decade now, games have held our hands and walked us patiently through their soft hallways. Playing BioShock Infinite? Try easy mode, darling. Rollicking your way through New Super Mario Bros. U? Fail too many times and the game will play itself. No more! The new breed of punishers like Bloodborne have brought out the gleeful self-flagellator in everyone. Acid Nerve’s Titan Souls is another banner carrier for the new masochism. Don’t let its old-school adventure, Zelda-meets-Shadow of the Colossus facade fool you; this is one tough cookie. That’s why we’re having Acid Nerve, its creators, come on to JXE Streams to teach us how to play.

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