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 March 31 2017

Weekly Recap: Iron Man suit, Matrix Voice, Samsung DeX, Comic Sans and Ikea Trådfri

Real-life flying suit

Richard Browning, Daedalus.

Daedalus jet-engine suit. © Wired / Richard Browning.

British entrepreneur Richard Browning has created a real-life Iron Man suit, by attaching miniature jet engines to his limbs. He has just founded Gravity, a tech start-up who has built and filed patents for the human propulsion technology that could reimagine manned flight. Browning has released a YouTube video showing him testing the “Daedalus”, the company’s mark 1 jet-engine suit, in fields, factories and empty car parks. Browning says his suit has already been compared to Tony Stark’s fictional superhero Iron Man. “We’ve already had a few comparisons to Tony Stark, but this is real-world aeronautical innovation,” he said. “We are serious about building a world-changing technology business. We stand at the very beginning of what human propulsion systems will do.”

Wired, “The real-life Iron Man: watch inventor Richard Browning ‘fly’ in his jet-powered suit.”

The Telegraph, “Madcap inventor turns Iron Man with real-life flying suit.”


Matrix Voice

Matrix Voice.

Matrix Voice. © Matrix Labs.

Matrix Labs released last year the Matrix Creator, a powerful Raspberry Pi accessory that adds a whole bunch of sensors to the miniature computer (including a microphone array, temperature, UV, pressure, and more), letting you extend a Raspberry Pi into a full-fledged development device with a ton of different uses. And as a follow-up to the Matrix Creator, the company is going even smaller with the Matrix Voice — a cheaper version of the creator that focuses on one thing: voice recognition. That makes it even easier to use the Matrix Voice to do something like build your own Amazon Echo using Amazon’s Alexa Voice Service. Instead of the wide range of sensors, the Voice just has a microphone array and a ring of LED lights. But it’s also far cheaper, available for $55 on Indiegogo instead of the Creator’s $99.95 price tag. A slightly more expensive version that adds a built-in microcontroller with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth is also available for $65. The Matrix Voice has already been fully funded on Indiegogo, and hopes to ship in May.

The Verge, Circuit Breaker, “The Matrix Voice is a circuit board to turn your Raspberry Pi into an Amazon Echo.”


Samsung DeX

Samsung DeX.

Samsung DeX.

Samsung DeX. © Samsung.

Samsung, like Motorola (Atrix) and Microsoft (Continuum) before it, is trying to turn a phone into a PC. Samsung’s Galaxy S8 will pair with a new Samsung Desktop Experience (DeX) dock accessory to morph into a desktop PC-like environment. The specialized dock supports a monitor connection via HDMI, keyboard and mouse via Bluetooth, and two USB 2.0 ports to help expand the Galaxy S8’s capabilities. The whole interface looks a little like Chrome OS, but you’re limited to how well Android apps are supported on bigger screens, and most apps in the Google Play Store simply aren’t optimized for this type of usage. Samsung’s own browser, Microsoft’s Office apps, and Adobe’s mobile creative suite all work fine, but the vast majority will look like stretched phone apps on the big screen.

The Verge, “Samsung's Galaxy S8 can turn into a PC with its DeX dock.”


Comic Sans, most hated font

Comic Sans MS.

Comic Sans MS. © The Guardian.

In an interview with the Guardian, former Microsoft font designer Vincent Connare said he’s proud of Comic Sans MS, a sans-serif casual script typeface that has divided the internet since its release in 1994. “It was for novice computer users and it succeeded with that market. People use it inappropriately: if they don’t understand how type works, it won’t have any power or meaning to them,” he said. As Connare himself explains the font was originally designed for Microsoft Bob, “a comic software package”. Comic Sans, which had been a standard in the Microsoft font library since it was included in Microsoft 95, was never meant to have this success. After it became a default for Microsoft Publisher and Internet Explorer, the backlash started. Some designers argued that Comic Sans, while perfectly legit in designs for children or comic books, should have no place in business or professional work usage. “The backlash, the level of hatred, was just amazing—and quite frankly funny. I couldn’t believe people could be so worked up over something as simple as a font,” he said.

Mashable, “The creators of the world's most hated font still love it.”


Ikea home automation

Ikea Trådfri System.

Ikea Trådfri System. © Ikea.

Ikea is getting into the home automation game with its own system for smart lighting. The new range of products is called Trådfri — which means “wireless” in Swedish — and is built around the ZigBee Light Link standard for connected lights (the same as Philips Hue). The system seems to have rolled out to select European countries (Sweden, Czech Republic, Italy and Belgium) last fall, but will be seeing a larger release in April. The most interesting part of the system is in what might be a motion-controlled dimmer switch, which exists as a colorful standalone puck that — if the awkward Ikea promotion video can be trusted — can dim lights simply by rolling it around in your hand. The standard Trådfri bulbs are dimmable LED lights with three color temperature options — 2200K, 2700K, and 4000K. A standalone 980 lumen E27 Trådfri bulb runs for 199 kr (all taxes included, CAD $29.65).

The Verge, Circuit Breaker, “Ikea is getting into home automation with a new smart hub.”

Ikea, “Ikea Canada launches an app that allows customers to personalize lighting.”

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