There’s a reason your computer’s home screen is often referred to as its desktop. The user interface is designed to emulate a physical desk covered in documents and tools. That analogy doesn’t work quite as well with a smartphone’s tiny screen, but this concept UI that switches apps automatically as you physically move your phone around your desk is potentially a great solution—or just ridiculous. We can’t decide which.
Magic UX was created by Special Projects, a London-based design studio, to address and potentially solve the challenges of smartphones becoming as powerful and capable as full-sized computers, but still limited by a tiny screen that needs to be able to fit in your pocket. You can have three or four tasks open at the same time on your laptop, all sharing the same screen, but that’s just not going to happen on your smartphone.
What Magic UX does is reimagine your smartphone’s screen as a window into a larger workspace. Various apps can be pinned to different areas of the virtual desk, and the phone’s UI will automatically switch between them as the device is moved to those specific areas. Having to physically move your phone around may not sound easier than swiping your finger through a stack of open apps, but the potential appeal of Magic UX is how it makes common desktop functions—like dragging items between apps—possible on a mobile device.
As the video demonstrates, dragging a photo from a gallery of thumbnails into an email is as easy as tapping and holding it with a single finger, moving the phone to the email app, and then releasing. Is it the perfect solution to all the limitation of mobile apps like iOS and Android? Probably not. But it could certainly help make your smartphone a little less frustrating when trying to use it as more than just a way to crush candy.
Is an e-scooter for everyone? No, but the Unagi could potentially reduce the number of times you’ll need to hop in the car to complete a quick errand. A recent move to suburbia has meant that walking to a nearby restaurant for a quick lunch is no longer an option for me, and taking the car just to grab a quick burrito makes me feel too guilty.
The Unagi is a happy medium between the two. I still prefer to walk when I can, but the e-scooter has greatly expanded the range of where I can go when time is limited, without having to reach for my car keys.
Available in two versions, the E250 and E450, I tested the pricier and more powerful Unagi E450 which features a 200-watt electric motor built into the front wheel, and a 250-watt motor in the rear wheel, allowing it to tackle hills without a significant drop in speed. Both models can hit a top speed of 15.5 MPH (which feels a lot faster than it sounds) and have a range of about 15.5 miles thanks to a series of 25 (24 in the E250) 3,200 mAh lithium batteries hidden in the base of the scooter.
The pricing reflects that power and speed, however, and the cheapest version of the Unagi goes for $890, while the model we tested is $1,090. You can get a well-equipped road bike for that much scratch, and if that’s the experience you’re after, it might be the better route. But if you’re looking for the ease of a car—minus the gas and insurance costs—the Unagi makes a strong case for its sticker shock.
The design of the Unagi is definitely one of its more appealing features. Made from a combination of machined aluminum, carbon fiber, and a lightweight magnesium alloy for the handlebar assembly, the scooter looks like a team of designers spend some time to make it look like more than a toy, which should help adults feel a little less self-conscious about scooting around town. (Raises hand.)
Weighing in at a little over 24 pounds, the Unagi is by no means lightweight, but it isn’t impossibly heavy to move around, either. To make it easier to store, or bring it up the elevator to your office after your morning commute, the scooter features a handlebar that folds down using a unique hinge mechanism that securely holds it in either position.
It works well; the handlebars don’t feel loose when upright, and when folded down they can be used as a carrying handle. However, the sliding lever that’s used to release the locking hinge mechanism can be a little difficult to move when the handlebars are in their upright position. You need to wiggle the handlebars a bit to get it to slide and unlock, and I still haven’t quite gotten the hang of it.
One of the most unique features of the Unagi are its airless tires that surround each wheel’s electric motor hub with a series of rubber spokes. Companies like Bridgestone have been touting the advantages of these tires for years: they never deflate or go flat, and they provide additional shock absorption.
The former might be true for the Unagi; you’re never going to be stranded by a flat tire. But with wheels measuring just 7.5-inches in diameter, you still end up feeling every bump and crack in the road. At slower speeds the airless tires do a better job at absorbing uneven terrain, but as you get closer to 15 MPH I found myself constantly scanning the road ahead for the smoothest patches of asphalt I could find.
Controlling the Unagi scooter is all done through a collection of buttons and levers surrounding a high-contrast display that provides details on your current speed, distance traveled, remaining battery life, and which riding mode you’re in. Mode 1 limits the scooter’s top speed to 9.3 MPH, while mode 3 lets you get it up to 15.5 MPH, and they can be toggled on the fly by double-tapping one of the buttons.
The graphical battery meter is the only feedback you have for how much longer the Unagi scooter will run, but I found it a little vague. It also tended to show more of an estimation of how much battery life was left given the current terrain you were on. So when riding up a steep hill it would drop to a single red bar, but once you hit the top and were back on level ground, it would immediately climb back up to three full bars again. An estimation of miles or minutes you had, based on the battery level, would be a nice addition here.
Braking and accelerating are handled by a pair of large thumb levers which offer a good deal of precision, once you get used to how much force you need to use. As an added safety feature, the accelerator lever (on the right) won’t function until the scooter is already moving, requiring you to manually kick off first. It’s a feature that has probably saved me from a fall more than once while I’ve been standing with one foot on the scooter, getting ready to ride.
In comparison, I think the sensitivity of the braking lever (on the left) could use a bit of a tweak. It works, but even the slightest press will activate the scooter’s braking system with enough force to make you feel a little anxious about going over the handlebars—although that has yet to actually happen to me. The brakes work quite well, and can bring the scooter to a full stop from top speed in about 12 to 13-feet. But you really need to learn to have a gentle touch with it, which isn’t always easy when you’re bouncing around at 15+ MPH.
As safety features go, the Unagi scooter’s got the basics covered with side reflectors, a series of bright red LEDs on the back that start flashing when the braked are applied, and a high-pitched electronic horn that’s one of the most unpleasant sounds I’ve ever heard. It will, without a doubt, get someone’s attention. And while they’ll probably be mad at you for blaring it, at least they’ll see you coming.
I’ll admit that I wasn’t expecting much from the Unagi’s headlight, but the cluster of LEDs it uses does a decent job at throwing enough light on the road ahead to see where you’re going at night. Odds are you’ll be using the e-scooter in urban settings most of the time when street lights already provide a good amount of illumination, but even without them, the Unagi’s headlight still made it easy to spot obstacles.
If you’re looking for something to ride up and down the street, and nothing more than a quick thrill, companies like Razor sell adult-friendly e-scooters for less than $300. But if you’re looking for an alternative to a car, or public transit, or just don’t want to work up a sweat biking to work every morning, the Unagi feels like an e-scooter that wants to be more than just a toy. It’s certainly not cheap, but it’s much cheaper than paying for parking and gas to get around a crowded urban center.
But even for someone like myself living in suburbia and working from home, in a little over a week’s time the Unagi has managed to work its way into my daily routine. It’s made the boring walk to the community mailbox something I look forward to every evening, and it’s greatly expanded my range of lunch options. Now if only I could put snow tires on it.
The Unagi Scooter is being launched today through a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign, and the single motor E250 model will be available for as little as $623 for the first backers, while the more powerful E450 option, which is what we tested, can be had for $763. Delivery is expected to start in January of next year for the first backers, with the final units shipping out in March. As with any crowdfunded product, there’s always a level of risk involved, even when production-ready products can be demonstrated, as is the case here. If you’d prefer to wait and see, the Unagi will eventually be available through the company’s website, but without the discounts.
After months of delays, Rocket Lab has completed its first commercial mission. The spaceflight startup successfully launched its Electron rocket into orbit carrying six small satellites, including five cubesats as well as a small weather satellite. The vessel also carried a payload that stuck to the upper stage to help test deorbiting technology.
The mission (“It’s Business Time”) was supposed to launch in April, but Rocket Lab pushed it back to June after discovering a motor controller fault in a first stage engine. It delayed the launch again after the fault reemerged, and decided to alter the controller’s design to provide a more substantial fix.
While this is only Rocket Lab’s third orbital flight, the company plans to step up the pace in short order. It already has another flight scheduled for December, when it will carry a bundle of cubesats from NASA’s 19th Educational Launch of Nanosatellites. And with goals of improving production to one rocket a month, these flights could quickly become commonplace. That’s important — while companies like SpaceX now regularly carry payloads into orbit, Electron promises to democratize space for companies and institutions that can’t justify using large rockets for their satellites.
As people search for solutions to the climate change crisis on Earth, scientists are working to create renewable energy sources as alternatives to fossil fuels. Now, scientists at Stanford University hope to offer a new solution as they are developing a single device that collects solar energy and shoots radiation out into space – acting as both a heater and air conditioner.
Collecting the sun’s energy via solar power has been a leading alternative energy source for many years. But this n
Today, Google announced a new feature for its Project Fi cellular service: an always-on VPN. Project Fi’s VPN previously was used to encrypt traffic while connecting to a network of free public Wi-Fi hotspots, but now Google will enable the VPN for all your traffic, be it over the LTE service or a Wi-Fi connection.
For now, the always-on VPN will need to be turned on in the Project Fi settings, where the feature is called “Enhanced Network” and labeled a “beta.”
“When you enable our enhanced network, all of your mobile and Wi-Fi traffic will be encrypted and securely sent through our virtual private network (VPN) on every network you connect to, so you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that others can’t see your online activity,” Google’s blog post says. “That includes Google—our VPN is designed so that your traffic isn’t tied to your Google account or phone number.”
Google also claims the “Enhanced network” check box will help users seamlessly transition from a spotty Wi-Fi connection to LTE service. “Our enhanced network automatically detects when your Wi-Fi connection becomes unusable and then fills in those connection gaps with cellular data,” Google’s blog post reads. “In our testing, we’ve reduced the time without a working connection by up to 40 percent.”
Project Fi launched in 2015 as Google’s MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) service. Fi combines service from AT&T, T-Mobile, and US Cellular into a single service. It combines the best features of Google Voice with great international support and sells to consumers under a flexible payment plan that works well for some usage patterns. The big downside is extremely limited device support: thanks to the need for multi-network support, Fi only works with a handful of Android phones.
As always, Project Fi users will know the VPN is active when they see a key icon in the status bar. The “Enhanced network” feature should pop up in the settings later this week for Fi-compatible phones running Android 9 Pie.
Stan Lee, the public face of Marvel Comics and co-creator of iconic superheroes such as Spider-Man, Thor, and Black Panther, has passed away at age 95.
Although the cause of death has yet to be confirmed, TMZ, who first reported Lee’s passing, has a brief statement from Lee’s daughter Joan Celia Lee:
My father loved all of his fans. He was the greatest, most decent man.
Born Stanley Lieber in 1922, Lee began his career in comics as a gofer/guy Friday, thanks to his uncle Robbie Solomon. His roots at Marvel go back to 1939, when the company was still called Timely Comics. He worked his way up from small fill-in writing assignments to eventually becoming an increasingly important figure, becoming editor-in-chief in 1941. After Timely became Atlas and the WWII-era superhero fad cooled, Lee worked on romance, monster, and cowboy comics.
Lee’s crowning triumph came when the publisher was at the brink of failure in the late 1950s. He was given carte blanche to try out new superhero concepts and, in collaboration with Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and other artists, delivered the building blocks of what would later become the Marvel Universe in 1961. The Marvel approach was to humanize their superheroes, giving them flaws and foibles that felt fresh in comparison to the prevailing execution from rival DC Comics. Marvel’s success was synonymous with the Stan Lee name, and the words ‘Stan Lee Presents’ preceded story title and company pronouncements for decades. But Lee’s day-to-day involvement in the company tapered off in the 1970s and he eventually relocated to California in 1981, partially in the hopes of getting movies made around the Marvel stable of characters. Ever a pitchman, he continued to be a tireless salesman for Marvel as characters like the Hulk and Spider-Man made it onto TV.
When Marvel hit hard times and declared bankruptcy in 1998, the company voided Lee’s contract. The move was seen as a disrespectful dismissal to one of the company’s founding fathers and Marvel’s corporate leadership eventually signed Lee back on as a symbolic figurehead, cutting him a hefty seven-figure salary and participation on any profits made from TV and movie adaptations. Once the rift with the House of Ideas healed, Lee settled into the latter-day role grandfather mascot. He continued as a jovial presence at conventions for decades—including a Los Angeles-based gathering once branded as Stan Lee’s Comikaze—and began making cameos in the blockbuster movies based on the characters he helped birth.
His career wasn’t without controversy or misstep. When weighed against contributions of legendary artists like Kirby and Ditko, the amount of credit granted to Lee for Marvel’s characters and success has been a problematic aspect of his public persona. And the deals he made later in life to put his name on a seemingly endless number of shaky ventures—most through a new company called POW! Enetrtainment—did little to shore up his legacy.
Disturbing reports of elder abuse and in-fighting plagued Lee’s later days. As a feud between his daughter and his latter-day handlers allegedly swirled all around him, Stan Lee’s name wound up in the news in the worst possible ways: the victim of alleged theft to the tune of six figures, accusations of sexual assault, reports of poor health and reduced mental faculty, and bizarre exploitations where his allegedly stolen blood was used in ink to sign comics. One could say that the legend of Stan Lee—built in part by the man himself—wound up crushing Stan Lee the human being, obscuring what he actually did during his career.
In time, though, Lee would regain control of his public presences and distance himself from the people he identified as being responsible for the emotional and financial woes he faced later on his his life. Difficult a foe as fame was for Lee, he was able to ultimately put himself in a position of strength and self-assuredness that, right up until the end, gave his fans hope.
Nevertheless, Stan Lee’s legacy will continue because there’s no denying that the energy of Stan Lee’s enthusiasm was there when the Marvel Universe was reborn. His infectious enthusiasm and endless energy reconfigured the comics medium into a new idiom, one that spread further and touched more lives than even his hyperbolic self could ever imagine.
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Somewhere deep inside Valve’s labyrinthine compound of Steam-sustaining tubes, wires, and pipes, somebody is thanking their lucky stars for Artem Moskowsky. The self-described “bug hunter” came across a glitch that allowed him to generate thousands of free keys for any game on Steam. A lesser person might have kept that knowledge to themselves. He reported it.
Moskowsky discovered and reported the bug back in August, but Valve only allowed the information to go public recently. For his troubles, the company paid him $20,000—as opposed to a lifetime of free games, which is what would’ve happened if this was a feel-good episode of a sitcom.
According to a summary by Valve on bug bounty site HackerOne, the bug took advantage of an issue with Steam’s developer tools. Using “specific parameters,” anyone with access to those tools could make the service spit out keys for games that didn’t belong to them.
Valve said an investigation did not find evidence of the bug actually being misused. That’s good news for Valve, because speaking with tech publication The Register, Moskowsky said that in one case he managed to trick the system into giving him 36,000 keys for Portal 2.
Given Steam’s documented history of problems with sketchy secondhand sites and illicit key scams, it’s not hard to imagine a few scenarios in which scammers might’ve found this bug handy. And given how easy it is to become a developer and gain access to partner tools on Steam these days, I doubt they would’ve had much trouble pulling it off. (Then again, who knows how long it would have been before Valve caught on and shut it down.)
As for Moskowsky, I imagine he’s in pretty good spirits, given that he’s spent the past few months using his digital tweezers to pluck all sorts of bugs from Valve’s back, including one in July that netted him an additional $25,000.