An international team of astronomers made a surprising discovery recently. They found that the Lovejoy comet is spewing a mixture of alcohol, sugar and 21 other organic compounds as it speeds through our galaxy. “Comet Lovejoy was releasing as much alcohol as in at least 500 bottles of wine every second during its peak activity,” Nicolas Biver of the Paris Observatory, said in a press statement.
Astronomers first spotted Lovejoy in 2014, though that wasn’t hard given that it is among the brightest comets to travel through the solar system since Hale-Bopp in 1997. As it neared the apex of its approach to the Sun back in January, and basked in Sol’s warming glow, Lovejoy began dumping as much as 20 tons of water and other compounds per second. See, as comets get within range of the Sun, its radiant energy causes the comets’ molecules to glow at specific microwave frequencies. The international team spotted these organic compounds using 30-meter telescope.
“The next step is to see if the organic material being found in comets came from the primordial cloud that formed the solar system or if it was created later on, inside the protoplanetary disk that surrounded the young sun,” Dominique Bockelée-Morvan from Paris Observatory, said in a statement.
A southern New Jersey town of 45,000 is testing out a new kind of ride-hailing program, this one targeted at people who’ve had a bit too much to drink. Uber has partnered with New Jersey’s Evesham Township to provide free rides to people who are too inebriated to drive themselves home, Reuters reports. The service is available to patrons in at least 19 bars and restaurants in the area. Another free-ride service, BeMyDD, also went live in Evesham on Friday, and both programs are funded via donations from local nonprofits and businesses.
In September, the town ran a pilot program that offered free shuttle rides to drinkers, and that service helped decrease DUI arrests by 65 percent — they dropped from an average of 23 per month in January to August, to just eight in September, according to the report. The pilot program provided free rides to more than 350 people, which is great, considering Evesham was on the brink of hitting 250 DUI arrests in 2015 — a record-high for the town. The Uber and BeMyDD services are available from 9PM to 2AM every night, and the partnerships are locked in through January 2nd. Happy New Year, Evesham.
Introduced to the public way back in 2004, Dyson’s first robot vacuum never wheeled itself into retail. While it was apparently close enough to a finished product to pick up a sticker with a helpline number, the sheer number of sensors (over 70), and a total of 54 batteries was a problem. While it could detect stationary objects and living things it was too expensive to both produce or sell. As Dyson’s senior robot engineer, Mike Aldred, noted: “It did the job we intended… but it wasn’t the right product.” The decision was made to can the DC06, and the team decided to focus on a single (albeit complicated) sensor to guide its robot vacuums: 360-degree vision. And that’s where Dyson’s 360 Eye comes in. It’s a bit late, but from our early experiences with it, it sucks — In the good way. And if you’ve got a thing for yellow and millennial-gray plastic, a gallery of the rare (hefty) robot vacuum awaits below.
Sixteen years and nearly $47 million in the making, Dyson’s unveiled its first robot vacuum cleaner: the 360 Eye. The company says it’s packing more cleaning power than any other robot vacuum currently on the market, but you’ll have probably noted that such improvements has also made it a fair bit taller than incumbents like iRobot’s Roomba. The WiFi-connected vacuum will arrive alongside a smartphone app that’ll allow you to schedule sessions for when you’re not at home yourself: it’ll clean up your mess for up to 20 minutes before returning (autonomously, of course) to charge. Being Dyson, though, it’s all about the engineering decisions made inside — and they look something like this.
Dyson’s reckons its new robot challenger solves some of the major issues that hamper robot vacuums: the 360 eye uses cyclone technology alongside its own energy-efficient motor which can apparently separate dust and dirt — meaning it can suck up unwanted particles as small as 0.5 microns. It’s namesake, the ‘eye’ is made up of a collection of infrared sensors and a panoramic lens with a 360-degree camera that apparently “sees” your house in its entirety and plans its cleaning route accordingly and efficiently. It updates where it’s been and can even triangulate where it is at any point, hopefully ensuring that it’ll get back to the recharging dock when it’s done.
Along the base, a nylon and carbon-fiber brush bar runs across the entire machine, and Dyson reckons this does a good enough job (alongside all that suction power), to sidestep the need for any side-sweepers along the edges. Oh yeah, it’s also got army-styled caterpillar treads that the vacuum maker reckons will ensure it maintains its speed across all surfaces and small obstacles: like, say, rugs. Rather than hash the keys on the robot itself, the aforementioned smartphone app (iOS and Android), can be used to tweak settings and cleaning schedules.
Sir James Dyson calls it “high performing robot vacuum – a genuine labor-saving device” and it goes on sale first in Japan in Spring of next year — which is probably why Sir Dyson is launching the robot in the middle of Tokyo. The rest of the world can expect to see it later in 2015. No word on pricing, but we’re predicting a suitably Dyson-like figure. Your move, iRobot.
We warned that Dyson’s first robot vacuum was going to put all that cyclone technology to use on your wallet’s contents and we weren’t wrong. After a hefty half-year delay, the 360 Eye robot vacuum goes on sale in Japan today priced at 138,000 yen — before tax! That’s around $1,150. Cutting-edge robot house cleaners that take care of themselves apparently demand high salaries (just ask Rosie). Dyson’s 360 Eye has undergone a handful of minor changes, both in the hardware and software, to prepare it for its first customers: the Japanese. My biggest takeaway? Dyson thinks the 360 Eye knows its way around cleaning a room even better than you, you big ole’ irrational human.
Sir James Dyson already explained how the 360 Eye works, but earlier this week we talked to the company’s Senior Robotics Engineer, Mike Aldred. He’s been working with robotics at Dyson for a while (including the DC06, the robot vacuum that never made it to stores), so there’s likely no-one better placed to explain what caused the robot vacuum’s debut to be delayed so much.
During beta testing in Japanese homes, the company realized the 360 Eye wasn’t ready for the posited Spring retail date. Feedback from users indicated some specific problems that the engineers hadn’t thought of: in Japanese homes most have a tiny lowered entrance, the “genkan”, which is roughly 50mm lower than the rest of the house. The 360 Eye had troubles adjusting to this feature, so the company had to reprogram how the robot saw the space. “We can’t just set a height.. We still need to go up and down things [like carpets, rugs]. So we went back to the height handling systems.” explains Aldred.
Does Dyson’s robot chew up cables? It’s designed (in a few ways) not to.
I own a Roomba robot vacuum here in Japan, and while I like the extra degree of laziness it adds to my life, there’s one crime I can’t forgive of it: its incessant hunger for cables. Does Dyson’s robot chew up cables? It shouldn’t, a it’s specifically designed not to. Dyson made the base of the machine is particularly smooth, and put the cleaning bar (aside from the bristles) flush along the base to spare cable a grisly end. It’s not perfect: the senior engineer adds that while the 360 Eye should easily run over cables and wires laid flat, any kink or loop could get drawn in. He added this was something they discovered in very early testing, especially stereo wires. In the retail model, the team had to adjust the guards on the caterpillar tread wheels which would sometimes catch on wires.
The company also offered a closer look at the companion app (you’ll be able to schedule the machine to clean, or interrupt it while it works, if you want to). The app also shows you schematics for how the 360 cleaned last — an almost artistic, yet methodical spiral showing that the robot is getting everywhere it needs to. You might think you clean methodically and completely, but Dyson’s own research showed that humans are, well, only human: missing parts, cutting corners and repeating the same area multiple times. These maps, (stored after the vacuum cleans) tries to visually convey just that.
While making changes to software is easy, it’s the hardware changes that take time. Your 360 Eye might not eat your cables, but making that happen is why we’re already in October. Dyson aims to become the global leader in cleaning robots with the 360 Eye — which Aldred calls” “a vacuum first, robot second.” The machine is set to launch in other countries in 2016: depending on what hurdles beta tests elsewhere might throw up.
Marvel fans, prepare your wallets for the hefty spending you’re going to do this holiday season. The Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase Two Collection will be available exclusively from Amazon on December 8th, for $220, with pre-orders open starting today. This limited edition, 13-disc box set follows the Phase One – Avengers Assembled Blu-ray box released in 2012, and similarly, you can expect to find a slew of goodies here as well. That, naturally, includes the latest Marvel films: Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man. You’ll also get exclusive art work from each series, bonus video content like deleted scenes, a 1:1 replica of the Orb and many other rare items.
Just as the listing on Amazon foretold last month, Marvel and Disney today revealed the case for their 10-disc Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase One – Avengers Assembled box set. It features not only a glowing Tesseract cube contained in the S.H.I.E.L.D.-issue containment case, but also six brand-new pieces of art (for each flick – Marvel’s The Avengers, Captain America, Thor, Iron Man 1 & 2, The Incredible Hulk) designed to adorn each disc case, Criterion-style. If you’re headed to Comic-Con this weekend you’ll probably be able to get a look at it yourself, hit the source link for a few more pictures of the case and artwork before deciding whether the current $139 price on Amazon is too much or just low enough to have this sitting on your disc shelf. While you decide between this and the Avengers solo release on the same day, September 25th, don’t forget to snag the accompanying iOS second screen app now. %Gallery-160266%
If you left the theater after watching Marvel / Disney / Joss Whedon’sThe Avengers ready to buy the Blu-ray disc as soon as it hit then get your credit cards ready. As Blu-ray.com notes, Amazon has listings for both a 2-disc Blu-ray edition and a 4-disc Blu-ray 3D version, but the one that’s caught our eye is the just updated listing for Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase One – Avengers Assembled. A 10 disc set, it has every movie in this chapter of Marvel flicks — Avengers, Captain America, Thor, Iron Man 1 & 2, The Incredible Hulk — with 3D copies where applicable plus collectible packaging and a bonus “The Phase One Archives” disc. The only pic of the casing we have is the promo image shown above which hints at a replica of Nick Fury’s Cosmic Cube suitcase from the movie, but more information is promised to be revealed July 15th. Until then you’ll have to decide if $153 ($25~ per movie) is worth it for the set, or maybe take this time to finance it by selling off your existing copies on Craigslist. Your choice.
Sky’s second-generation Now TV box goes on sale tomorrow, and the company’s just been in touch to say it made a bit of a boo-boo on yesterday’s announcement. You see, the new Now TV box is basically a rebranded Roku 3, and since that device supports full HD, 1080p streaming, we assumed Sky’s reskinned version would too. We were told yesterday, however, that Sky’s model was slightly different, in that it can only output at 720p like the first-gen Now TV box. As it turns out, this isn’t true: the new Now TV box does support 1080p, but Sky content will continue to stream at a maximum resolution of 720p. Also, there are “no immediate plans” to make the jump to full HD, as Sky would rather not hinge the user experience on the speed of your internet connection. By coming clean about its mistake, Sky’s actually made the £15 streaming puck a more attractive purchase. You can use the little set-top box to stream from plenty of content sources that aren’t the Now TV app, so where available, you’ll now be able to do so in glorious full HD.
Roku’s media streamers have carved out a notable niche for themselves, with what started out as a Netflix box, but quickly grew to include hundreds of other entertainment options. Whatever they’ve lacked in style, they’ve always made up for with an easy-to-navigate menu and remote, not to mention low prices. In fact, they’ve become our default recommendation in the media streamer category, and now the company is back with its third iteration.
Its approach hasn’t changed: the Roku 3 is still a simple $99 box that brings internet content including video, some simple apps and even games to your TV. But this one is touted as the most powerful Roku ever, and the team behind it has even dared to tweak that boring, but simple menu system. There have always been some rough edges that needed polishing, along with holes in its offerings — join us to see if it’s good enough to be the best.%Gallery-184294%
New UI is a welcome improvement
Upgraded CPU eliminates performance issues
Simple, capable and relatively cheap
Still no official YouTube or DLNA support
No analog AV output
The Roku 3 keeps everything that’s made the brand successful and ushers in some welcome improvements, all without boosting the price or ruining the simple setup.
The Roku 3’s design is but a small departure from the miniature hockey puck that preceded it.
The Roku 3’s design is but a small departure from the miniature hockey puck that preceded it, with a shape that bulges and flows with fewer sharp edges. It’s still all black with just a small purple tag and painted-on “Roku 3″ label — something you probably won’t see again once it’s hidden away within your entertainment center. The grippy material on the bottom covers less area than the Roku 2’s, but thanks to a slightly heavier weight, it seems to hold its placement better, where the 2 would occasionally fall victim to dangling HDMI cables and the like.
One element is missing this time around: the breakout port that provided support for analog video on the Roku 2 XS has disappeared. If you’re living an all-HDMI lifestyle, you’ll probably never notice, but owners of older TV or visitors to such forgotten hideaways should prepare for disappointment. The SD card and USB ports remain, however the power adapter has changed slightly from the previous gen — it looks the same, but it won’t plug into older models and vice versa. The new Roku is packing dual antennas inside and we didn’t have any problems connecting to home or hotel networks in our testing, although we’d never had a problem picking up a signal on the old box either. There’s also an upgraded CPU, but without detailed performance specs, we’ll consider it later by judging how the software runs.
The remote is how many users will interact with their Roku, and thankfully that remains largely unchanged. The switch to WiFi Direct for communication with the box, plus a headphone-out and small volume control buttons, have not noticeably affected the size, shape or feel. That’s good news for existing users, who won’t have to relearn anything, and its dreadfully simple setup is easy to pick up for newbies. The d-pad is responsive when navigating through menus, and the back and home buttons still function as consistently as ever within the apps. One thing that might be nice would be the ability to control the TV’s volume with those side-mounted buttons, just to cut down on any potential remote swapping. The Roku 3 still supports IR control too, so if placed correctly, your universal remote will take over without a pause. Unfortunately, there’s currently no support for HDMI-CEC control for features similar to those found on the Roku Stick.
As far as the new audio-streaming capability, we didn’t have any problems listening to Netflix, Hulu or Amazon with headphones plugged into the remote’s jack. The stereo sound was clear to our ears, however we suspect you’d be well-served by tossing the bundled earbuds and using any others you may have lying around. We tried running the batteries down, but despite 20-plus hours of headphone-equipped streaming plus additional regular use, we’re still on the original set of AAs with no low-battery indicator in sight.
While the Roku 3 features hardware improvements both inside and out, its software has received the most TLC this time around. Users will immediately notice a difference in the UI: instead of the old horizontal layout, there’s now a grid of icons, which has greatly increased the amount of information on-screen at any given time. Roku has taken a page out of the classic gaming console’s book and it shows — like the evolving experiences on (most notably) the Xbox 360 and the PS3, the new screens also include a healthy amount of promo space for additional channels and / or content. Still, the navigation is simple and the ad / promoted space is far enough out of the way that we don’t anticipate it bothering users. Overall, the change works as intended, offering quicker access to the channels you already know you want and bringing to light channels most users may not even know exist from its catalog of 750-plus.
The apps themselves have remained the same for now, although a number of the more recently released ones (Spotify, Amazon) have been chugging noticeably on the Roku 2. There’s no hint of that here, with the upgraded CPU capably handling each option we tried. One minor annoyance remains: not every channel has the same features. For example, pressing down on the d-pad doesn’t always reveal picture quality or time left information. In our limited testing with Plex, the app loaded much more quickly and began streaming videos faster. Video performance seems to be the same between the newer and older units, while forum posters report the Roku 3 could more capably handle their streaming 1080p MKVs, though YMMV. One other addition is the opportunity to change the UI with different themes. It’s not a major change, but we tried out a few and found them pleasant enough, without any that negatively affected the experience.
Users will immediately notice a difference in the UI.
Still fresh on the software front is a feature that actually debuted late last year — Roku’s cross-provider search. While other devices (TiVo, Xbox 360) and services (Flixster, TV.com) offer similar functionality, Roku’s implementation comes out on top, especially with the upgraded hardware. If you’re really trying to find a particular movie, particular actor, et cetera, one of the included services will have it and you can reliably and quickly find them, especially if you’re using the iOS or Android mobile apps for a keyboard. Of course, limited selections on subscription video services mean most of what you’ll dig up will cost more money to stream, assuming it’s available online at all. That said, Roku’s wide coverage of services and lack of a monthly service fee make it an ideal solution.
Regarding those mobile apps, we didn’t notice any substantial updates. And that about sums up our thoughts on the software changes — that they don’t go far enough. If you were expecting significantly expanded support for different file formats / codecs, it’s not here; the list of new channels is (for the moment) limited and even the updated UI will appear on older boxes within the next few weeks. We’ve seen Roku continue to mold its players via updates and we expect no different from this one, but today, the difference in experience from 2 to 3 doesn’t feel like a generational leap.
We’d like to see Roku do more to become an entertainment hub / extender with cloud-based games or more apps that tie into pay-TV services like Comcast or DirecTV. It’s already made strides in that direction with channels like TWC TV and HBO Go, plus a few games / apps, and it feels like the platform has a considerable amount of headroom going forward. It’s greedy, sure, but many with a Roku can envision a future where it’s the only box connected to their TVs, and the software hasn’t quite brought it there yet.
The Roku 3 replaces the Roku 2 XS, and unless you require an analog audio out, it’s an upgrade in every way.
Compared to other boxes in the segment, the Roku’s standing has stayed largely the same. If you’re looking for integration with Apple’s iLife, the Apple TV with support for AirPlay streaming of music, video and games will consistently win out, despite fewer options for native apps. If you’d like to bring your own content to the box via a library of rips, downloads or otherwise, the WDTV Live family offers more consistent file / format support, network connectivity and a fleshed-out local player interface, however having a Plex client here helps to even the playing field. The Roku 3’s strengths aren’t exactly game changers (yet) but as a mostly platform-independent box that offers access to many of the media services you probably already use for a reasonable price, its place remains secure.
Some of the new Roku’s biggest competition for new buyers will come from its own predecessors. Currently, the Roku 3 replaces the Roku 2 XS, and unless you require an analog audio out, it’s an upgrade in every way for the same price. The difference in the software experience will be easier to evaluate once the older boxes have been updated with the new menus — due next month — but the value proposition here, again, remains mostly the same. The $99 box offers several features you may never take advantage of over its lower-priced brethren (1080p, gaming remote), but, particularly with the processor difference, if you’re planning on using it for more than just a Netflix box, this is the only real option right now. We’ve already seen many apps require the Roku 2 and up, and future-proofing for whatever’s down the road is not so expensive that moving down the line makes a lot of sense.
For those who already own a Roku, this makes a worthwhile replacement if you’re ready to pass that box off to a friend or move it to another room. That said, we’d probably wait a bit longer to see exactly what software tweaks, upgrades and differences come out in the future. A faster, smoother-operating box and the remote control / headphone feature are nice to have, but not at $99.
Just like the Roku players before it, the Roku 3 is the easiest-to-recommend media streamer on the market. An appealing package of services, accessibility and price has gotten even better with this round of updates, and we expect it to keep improving over the coming months. YouTube continues to stand alone as the oddly shaped hole in Roku’s streaming-channel library, which can certainly be an issue when you’re searching for cat videos, but an abundance of premium content helps keep that issue hidden in the background most of the time.
Any failure of the Roku as the one true set-top box similarly fades when you look at its competition, all of which falter in one or more areas; whether DVR, game console, media player or HDMI-connected PC, they suffer from complicated UIs, subscription fees or high upfront prices that the Roku just doesn’t have. We just want to lean back and watch, and despite having room for improvement, the Roku 3 still does that cheaper, faster and better than the rest.