Every month, Maxwell Barna rounds up the best new drops and innovations in the tech world. Check out last month's installment here.
Every time I sit down to write one of these monthly articles, I ask myself, “What the hell could have possibly happened this month that wasn’t happening last month?” That is, until I take a look and realize that some people in this world actually get shit done instead of just binge eating tacos and pounding Tecate tallboys.
While I was deciding between carne asada and cochinita pibil, somewhere, some person was inventing a piece of gear that will revolutionize the way the world sees itself or designing some new gadget that’ll help doctors save lives, and that’s an incredible thing.
All taco talk aside, the past month was seriously incredible for technology. We heard about the long-awaited update on Google’s Ara smartphone project, and witnessed the announcement of a pretty creepy robot that’ll follow you around the house and tell you how to cook Paella. We also learned about the team of German scientists trying to teach robots how to feel pain, and read about the White House’s painfully dense attempt at understanding the world’s AI tech-driven future.
And the tech dev doesn’t stop there:
China Designs an Insane Two-Lane Bus
Nearly 20 percent of the world’s entire population lives in one country: China. And with over 1.3 billion people running around, a main priority for the Chinese government has become where to put them all, and how to expand the country’s infrastructure in order to support the massive population swell.
The latest pitch comes from designer Youzhou Song, who last weekend at the 19th China Beijing International High-Text Expo announced plans for a massive two-lane bus capable of carrying up to 1,200 passengers at a time, all while leaving enough room for other vehicles to travel underneath it.
Known officially as the Transit Elevated Bus (or “straddling bus”), each would eliminate up to 40 buses, would cost less than one-fifth of a subway system and could be completed in just one year. Is it the craziest shit I’ve heard in the last month? Yeah, probably.
Unbelievably Thin Electronics You Wear in Your Skin
This isn’t the first time this technology has made it to market, but this new tech from the University of Wisconsin-Madison is the thinnest and most powerful direct-to-skin, wearable, stretchable circuits produced. The integrated circuits are just .025 millimeters thick, something unimaginably thin up until this point.
The development is so innovative that the Air Force Office of Scientific Research has officially inquired into the research (in the hopes that the wearable breakthrough may someday help military pilots), and it’s rumored that Pornhub is already trying to partner with the university team in order to put out an intuitive condom that offers real-time analytics and statistics about nerdsex. (I’m just kidding about that last part, but holy shit I think I’m on to something.)
ASUS Takes on the Macbook Air with Razor-Thin Laptop
Hot off the press and announced just this week, the folks at ASUS are out for blood with the release of their ZenBook 3, which they claim is thinner than Apple’s famous MacBook Air, and lighter and faster than the new MacBook. The 12.5-inch display offers a total 82 percent screen-to-body ratio and features a Gorilla Glass screen.
The top-of-the-line model packs an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and 1TB hard drive. But with a price tag of $1,999, how competitive is it really? The i5 core version features an underwhelming 4GB of RAM and a 256GB hard drive, but is also priced at a far more modest $999. Still, the competition is healthy, and if you have the coin for the i7 model, it appears well worth the investment.
The New Olympus TG Tracker Can Take a Beating
The team at Olympus announced the newest addition to their Tough series of cameras this month, claiming a pretty viable stake in the action-cam market. The TG-Tracker does a bunch of silly shit that you’d honestly never consider doing to a $350 camera—like being shockproof up to seven feet, waterproof up to 100 feet and crushproof for up to 220 pounds—and comes equipped with a beautiful f/2 lens that boasts a 204-degree angle of view, a 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor with juuuust enough pixels to get away with 4K video and a camera capable of 8 megapixel still images.
The camera is also WiFi capable, comes with an LED light, and even a GPS locator to help track things like your direct location, your latitude, longitude and so on. Though officially announced in May, TG-Tracker won’t land on shelves until sometime this month.
IMAX and VR Pair Up for Hyper-Real Theater
To be fair, this is something everyone probably should have seen coming from the get-go. IMAX recently announced that it has formed a joint venture agreement with Swedish-based VR company Starbreez AB in order to roll out VR content across select multiplexes, as well as select commercial locations such as shopping centers and certain tourist destinations.
Under the content agreement, IMAX will develop unique VR content (aka movies) that will be compatible with Starbreez’s VR headsets, and we will develop motion sickness and throw up all over the theater.
Harvard Scoffs at the Impossible with New Perching Drones
Just recently we launched our miniseries about drones and how they’re slowly making way into our everyday lives. As a true testament to how very quickly the drone game continues to change (and both baffle and scare the shit out of me), a team at Harvard announced last week that they have done what was once believed to be impossible—created perching drones.
These “RoboBees,” as the team calls them, use static electricity to “perch” on anything from walls and foam pads to actual leaves. The ability to perch means that these mini-drones can conserve energy—like bees, flies, birds, and other winged insects and animals—in order to stay in the air longer.
Google’s New Gigapixel Art Camera is an Actual Robot
Admittedly, Gigapixel cameras aren’t necessarily new technology. But what makes Google’s Art Camera so innovative is that it is completely robotic, making it easy enough for anyone to use. The cameras use sonar and laser technology to both focus and compose the shots, which render exquisite detail and capture everything from distinct color patterns to individual brush strokes.
Google, in what is probably the gnarliest, most down-ass PR move ever, said that it will be shipping an entire fleet of these Gigapixel cameras to museums around the world, so that they have the tools they need to make these timeless and priceless works of art available to the masses.
Understand Any Language Instantly with In-Ear Real-Time Translators
The future is now, people! The folks at Waverly Labs announced last month the release of their Pilot earpiece, which will allow people of different regions and dialects the opportunity to communicate without barriers for the first time probably ever. The Pilot earbuds can translate live speech in any language in real-time. Both participants in the conversation will need to be wearing the earbuds, but the manufacturer of the tech will sell them in pairs.
So if you can convince a stranger to put that funky thing you just pulled out of your pocket into their ear, you’ll be able to talk to them. The announcement of the products was made in mid-May, but the products aren’t due out on shelves until next fall.
GoPro's Odyssey Costs 15k and Produces Crystal Clear Videos
Last year, GoPro announced a partnership with Google that the world hoped would revolutionize the way people made VR video, and this month, they finally delivered. The Odyssey is a 16-camera panoramic stereo rig that works with Google’s proprietary “Jump” platform and GoPro’s beloved HERO4 cameras to create incredible 360-degree video in stunningly clear, crisp 1080P HD quality.
While it has been made available for a practically plug-and-play experience, the $15k rig will be used mostly by professional studios. I can’t call it officially, but I’d be willing to bet the Odyssey is going to shake up the industry quite a bit over the next year.
Leica Gives the Finger to Digital Camera Trends
What I really, truly love about Leica—aside from the fact that they make the hands-down best cameras in the world—is that they really just don’t give a shit about where the industry is heading. In a world where your basic DSLR now offers at least full 1080p HD video with autofocusing, live view and blah blah blah, it seems like Leica, with every new camera they release, is traveling farther and farther away from the norm at the speed of light.
Last year, they gave us the Typ 246, which was a black and white only camera. Literally, they just said, “Fuck it. Here’s a black and white only camera, and we’re going to charge you $7,500 just for the body.” And the best part? People ate it up. So I guess I shouldn’t have been shocked last month when zee legendary camera liebhabers at Leica announced the M-D—a full-frame digital camera that is about as rudimentary and close to a classic film camera as it gets (save for the $6,000 price tag, naturally).
The rig is a complete time warp, offering zero video capabilities, no goofy LCD screen, no live view, no image review—just a box with a lens that captures beautiful photos.
In case you missed it, 72 new emojis—including the Kanye shrug!—are arriving this month.