Where form meets function

Every month, Maxwell Barna rounds up the best new drops and innovations in the tech world. Check out last month’s installment here

Tech news is a funny thing to write about, because when you’re sorting through the pages and pages of news stories, you realize that 99 percent of the things you hear and read about tech on any given day probably have something to do with a hip new consumer product hitting the shelves. Last month, the release of Apple’s new iPhone dominated that conversation.

It’s important to understand, though, that just because Apple came out with a new iPhone doesn’t mean that other tech companies, research teams, designers, engineers or even backdoor inventors stopped doing what they do best—innovating.

Did I include the iPhone in this month’s roundup? I did. It was major tech news, and I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t.

But a lot of other extraordinary things happened this month—a 51-megapixel medium format mirrorless camera, a one-terabyte SD card that’s probably going to change the future of data storage, a team of drone-destroying eagles and a whole lot of other awesome stuff. In fact, it was difficult to pick just 10 things to write about this month, but I managed.

Here’re the coolest things that happened in tech in September:

Apple Releases the iPhone 7


Apple dropped all the latest and greatest coming to the Apple world at their keynote event on September 7, but far and away the most exciting (and controversial) news came with the official unveiling of the new iPhone 7. It comes with a gnarly new camera, a brighter display, an internal computer that’s twice as fast as its predecessor and it’s waterproof. Those are all cool things that people have been waiting for from the iPhone for quite some time now.

But then, for whatever reason, Apple decided to fuck it all up by announcing they’d removed the iPhone’s 3.5mm audio input jack. Their rationale for doing so? Courage. No, really. Phil Schiller, Apple’s VP of Worldwide Marketing, walked right out on that stage and to a room full of the industry’s top tech writers, said that Apple removed the 3.5mm jack for one reason: courage. Long story short, the internet freaked out, and people give a substantially smaller shit about the new iPhone.

Snapchat Announces Snapchat Spectacles and Everyone Laughs

Snapchat Spectacles

Snapchat, the app made famous for allowing college-aged kids to send nude photos to each other without fear of reprehension, unveiled their first piece of physical hardware this month—the Snapchat Spectacles. In a tragically ironic twist of fate, the internet decidedly likened them to one of those terribly conspicuous pairs of POV camera glasses that all those dudes wear in certain genres of porn film. You know the ones I’m talking about.

Snapchat’s CEO, Evan Spiegel, announced the release to a small conference room of people, reportedly yelling “Boom!” after he did it. The glasses, available this fall, will come in three gaudy-ass colors—coral, teal and black—and will shoot 10-second clips of life as it happens. Not necessarily enough for a porn flick, but I’m sure someone out there will sort out the small details.

MIT Researchers Find Out How to Use Wireless Signals to Sense Emotion

Researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) announced their development of the EQ-Radio—a device that can detect a person’s emotions using nothing more than wireless signals. Without using any kind of censor devices, the EQ-Radio can detect whether a person is excited, happy, angry or sad.

Using wireless signals reflected off the human body, the EQ-Radio can measure heartbeat as accurately as an ECG monitor, and then studies the waveforms within each beat in order to predict how an individual is feeling.

SanDisk Announces the First-Ever 1TB SD Card


Also this month, SanDisk announced it has developed a 1TB SD card, which is twice the size of my laptop’s hard drive. I can’t tell whether this is one of those, “Wow, what a time to be alive” moments, or if I should go jump off the roof.

Nevertheless, the California-based firm revealed the miraculous SD card last week at Photokinia 2016. There’s no official release date for it, and I can’t even begin to guess how much it’s going to cost consumers, but any way you slice the pie, it’s a game-changer.

FujiFilm Reveals Its 51-Megapixel Mirrorless Medium Format GFX 50S


FujiFilm dropped a bomb on the photography world this month, finally confirming the heavily rumored release of their behemoth 51-megapixel mirrorless medium format rig, the GFX 50S.

The camera will incorporate Fuji’s highly lauded X-Processor Pro, as well as a brand new G format sensor, which measures a massive 43.8×32.9mm and offers a pleasantly plump 51.4 megapixels. It’s a hell of a lot lighter and more compact than traditional medium and large format cameras, and will utilize Fuji’s specialized short flange G Mount lenses.

A release date and price have not been confirmed, but Fuji’s people say it will be out early in 2017, and camera nerds speculate that we can expect to spend around 5 g’s for the new setup.

Leica Unveils the Sofort—Its First-Ever Instant Camera

Leica Sofort

Another interesting reveal this month in the photography world, Leica unveiled the Leica Sofort, its first-ever Instant Film camera. With the resurgence of Polaroid over the last few years, and with the widespread success of Fuji’s (must less expensive) Instax camera, it’s not really difficult to see why Leica decided to take a run at it.

The Sofort uses Leica glass, comes with a 60mm focal length fixed lens and uses the same Instax film—although Leica has released its own full-color and monochrome instant films with the camera, which, naturally, are more expensive.

What you do get with the Leica, aside from the awesome glass, are sharp and precise images, a modified aperture system and a flash that fires a little later than the Instax Mini 90, which means better lighting, and—allegedly—a superior product.

This Fitness Band Can Tell You How Thirsty You Are in Real Time


Fitness bands are no big deal. In fact, I don’t think I could possibly give less of a shit about fitness bands. But the LVL is interesting because of the technology it utilizes.

Essentially, the LVL band projects an infrared light into your body through your wrist, which then gets translated and comes back into the band in the form of a spectroscopic image.

What I’m saying is that the LVL band uses light to create a real-time analysis of your bloodstream, in order to figure out things like your heart rate, hydration level and other biometrical stats. THAT’S crazy, and wholly worthy of a mention on this list.

MIT Team Creates a Camera That Can Read a Book Without Opening It

Image: MIT Media Lab

This tidbit of news is one part fascinating, one part totally badass and at least four or five parts completely terrifying.

A team at MIT (anyone else notice how much ass MIT is kicking, recently?) has devised a way to use high-frequency terahertz radiation to penetrate piles of pages, read the frequencies on them, as well as the frequencies where they’re absorbed (ink absorbs terahertz frequencies at a different degree than paper), in order to figure out what the words actually say on each page.

Call me a tinfoil hat-wearing conspiracy nerd, but the potential here for government use is absolutely horrifying.

Holland Releases Team of Eagles to Destroy Rogue Drones


Once again, eagles have proven themselves the baddest mother fuckers in the valley. A team of police in the Netherlands reported that they’re ready to deploy a team of precision-trained eagles in order to take down rogue drones.

The eagles will be deployed in airspace over airports and other “sensitive areas.” The police, calling the birds of prey “a low tech solution to a high tech problem,” first began training the eagles in 2015, and reported Tuesday that the tests were successful and the birds are ready to hit the streets… err, skies.

To date, the Dutch haven’t found any other methods to combat pesky drones, but are actively exploring other, less ridiculous possibilities.

China Released Its First Robocop Security Guard at Shenzhen International Airport

Finally, this month, the Chinese National University of Defense Technology set a robotic security guard with a cattle prod loose inside a major international airport. And if you think it’s not real life and instead part of some crazy Chinese game show, think again.

The robotic guard, dubbed AnBot, began 24-hour security patrols at the airport last week, can achieve a top speed of 11 mph and can track and even disarm potential security threats using an electronic stun stick.

Yup. What a wonderful and ridiculous world we’re living in.

In more tech news, check out this insane new motorcycle that uses VR technology.

Words by Contributor
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