Posts with «hobbies & personal activities» label

Yukai Engineering's cute stuffed animal robot will nibble on your finger

It wouldn’t be CES season without at least a couple of offbeat robots showing up. Yukai Engineering, the maker of the Qoobo robotic cat tail pillow, has revealed a soft robot that nibbles on a user’s fingertip. The company hopes the "somewhat pleasing sensation" will brighten up your day.

Amagami Ham Ham has an algorithm called a “Hamgorithm” that selects one of two dozen nibbling patterns, so you’ll never be sure exactly what you’ll feel when you shove your digit into the robot’s maw. Yukai designed the patterns — which include Tasting Ham, Massaging Ham and Suction Ham — to replicate the feeling of a baby or pet nibbling on one’s finger.

Yukai Corporation

“Amagami” means “soft biting” and “ham” means “bite” in Japanese. Yukai based the look of the robot on a character from Liv Heart Corporation’s Nemu Nemu stuffed animal series. There’ll be a couple of finger-munching models to choose from: Yuzu (Calico Cat) and Kotaro (Shiba Inu).

“Most people like the nibbling sensation but know they need to teach their children or pets to stop it, because kids and animals will otherwise bite them with full force eventually," said Yukai Engineering CMO Tsubasa Tominaga, who invented the robot at a hackathon earlier this year. "Amagami Ham Ham is a robot that frees humankind from the conundrum of whether ‘to pursue or not to pursue’ the forbidden pleasure.”

Pricing hasn't been determined, but Yukai and Liv Heart plan to run a crowdfunding campaign in the spring. In the meantime, those braving CES can check out Amagami Ham Ham at the show, and perhaps leave Yukai's booth with a slightly more tender finger.

Among the other devices Yukai will show off at CES is Bocco Emo. The company has updated the original Bocco robot to act as a smart medical device. Yukai says hospitals in Japan are using it to monitor patients' vitals (via connected sensors like pulse oximeters and thermometers) and notify nurses about a patient's condition.

During a pilot period, Bocco Emo was used to inform patients' families about how they're doing. It can also communicate with patients using sound effects, facial expressions and gestures while they wait for a nurse to arrive.

Lego's 'Sonic the Hedgehog' set arrives January 1st

Lego isn't quite done mining your video game nostalgia. After nearly a year of work, the company has revealed that its Sonic the Hedgehog Green Hill Zone set will be available online and in Lego stores on January 1st, 2022 for $70 (£60). The brick-based recreation of the game's best-known area includes minifigs for Sonic, Dr. Eggman (aka Dr. Robotnik), two critters and the Phantom Ruby. Sonic won't dart around loops, unfortunately, but there is a Technic lever to launch him (or any other characters) along with the rings and powerups you'd expect.

The set is the finished adaptation of Sonic fan Viv Grannell's submission to the Lego Ideas platform. Their concept set racked up the 10,000 votes necessary to be considered for a real set. Lego officially began work in February.

You probably won't see too many more video game-themed Lego sets in the near future. Sonic and Mario are two of the best-known franchises — other game-related Lego Ideas for Legend of Zelda, Metroid and other classics haven't come close to passing the 10,000-vote threshold. This does illustrate the power of crowdsourcing, though, and it's good news for kids who grew up with a Genesis (or Mega Drive) in the living room.

Samsung's latest C-Lab projects include a smart guitar with LED guides

As it does every year around this time, Samsung has unveiled its C-Lab incubator projects for CES 2022, with the aim to gauge customer response and further advance the most promising ideas. The star of the show this year is ZamStar, a guitar and app combo designed to make collaboration and learning easier. Other notable projects include an AI solution to help kids develop good smartphone habits and a nursery mobile that can allow for early detection of infant strabismus (eye crossing). 

ZamStar consists of an app and a custom guitar called ZamString. The idea is that you can play a part on the guitar, add effects and then sync it up with other musicians around the world. It's clearly a riff on the COVID-19 TikTok trend of musical collaborations (remember all those sea shanties early this year), with the idea of making it easy to sync up your music. Meanwhile, the ZamString guitar has a fretboard that lights via input from a song, making it easy to figure out where to put your fingers. It's not a new concept, but perhaps the first to marry both the learning and collaboration aspects. 

Piloto, meanwhile, is what Samsung calls an "AI solution that helps children develop proper smartphone usage habits." The aim is to teach kids "self-regulation skills" on smart devices to help them make good choices. Finally, Innovision is "a daily life eye-care system with a nursery mobile to catch suspicious symptoms of the strabismus and monitor visual ability development status for babies." That seems like a smart idea, since babies gaze natural towards mobiles.

Along with its inside incubators, Samsung's C-Lab Outside is backing nine startups, including an AI-based biometric recognition solution for pets called Petnow. All of these projects will be on display with their own booths at CES 2022. So far, Samsung still appears to be planning to attend the event and has not followed the lead of other exhibitors (Google, Lenovo, Intel, Amazon, Meta, T-Mobile) by cancelling.

LG's first gaming laptop comes with an NVIDIA RTX 3080 GPU and 11th-gen Intel CPU

LG is best known for productivity-oriented laptops and particularly, its lightweight Gram 17 — but not any serious gaming models. Now the company has revealed what it calls its "first gaming laptop" with some high-end specs. The 17-inch UltraGear 17G90Q model packs an 11th-generation Intel Tiger Lake H CPU, NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Max-Q graphics, up to 32GB of RAM and 1TB of storage.

It also comes with a 300 Hz 1080p IPS display, and should have pretty decent endurance for gaming or content creation with the 93Wh battery. There's a good selection of ports, including a USB 4 Gen 3x2 (Type C) with Thunderbolt 4, another USB-C 3.2 2x1, two USB 3.2 Gen 2x1, HDMI, microSD, headphone jack and RJ45. Other features include a power button fingerprint sensor and 1080p webcam. 


It's got an aluminum case with an attractive grey/purple color scheme and is fairly slim for a 17-inch gaming laptop (21.4mm). It's decently lightweight at 5.82 pounds, though a bit heavy compared to MSI's 17-inch GS76 Stealth laptop, which is 5.4 pounds and has a bigger battery.

LG didn't reveal the key pricing, but it could be a good option for folks who like the LG brand and appreciate the understated styling. It's set to arrive in the US and South Korea starting in early 2022, and LG will reveal more details at CES 2022 on January 4th.

Fender's newest Acoustasonic guitar is cheaper, but not cheap enough

When I tested out the Fender Acoustasonic Jazzmaster earlier this year, I was admittedly skeptical. One of the biggest reasons was the price. I just couldn’t justify $2,000 for something so niche. But I said if the price ever fell below $1,000 I’d consider it. Well, the new Acoustasonic Player Telecaster doesn’t quite hit that benchmark, but at $1,200 it is a lot more affordable.

Obviously, something had to give for the company to shave $800 off the price, but from a pure build quality perspective it doesn’t seem like you’re losing much. The made-in-Mexico Player Acoustasonic is nearly indistinguishable from the made-in-America models. The body and neck have a similar satin finish on a combination of mahogany and spruce. And the components, from the tuners to the knobs, are exactly the same. This certainly doesn’t feel like an entry-level guitar.

Terrence O'Brien / Engadget

There are some physical differences, though. The most notable being the fretboard, which was ebony on the original, but is made of rosewood here. Even so, I wouldn’t say ebony is better; it’s just a slightly different experience. The rosewood fretboard, combined with the lower action out of the box, makes the new Acoustasonic Telecaster play more like an electric than an acoustic – a stark contrast to the Jazzmaster version, in my experience.

The biggest differences here are in the electronics. Where the pricier Acoustasonics have three pickups and a five-way switch for a total of 10 different guitar sounds, the Player model has just two pickups and a three-way switch with six sound options.

The Player Acoustasonic also loses the rechargeable battery and replaces it with a standard 9V. I’ll say this: The guitar chews through 9V batteries surprisingly fast, but being able to just swap in a new one (rather than wait for it to charge) is a nice convenience.

Terrence O'Brien / Engadget

Just like the other entries in the Acoustasonic series, the main controls are basic, but a little different than your typical guitar. There’s a volume knob, but the selector doesn’t just switch pickups (though, it does that too); it switches between pairs of “voices”, while the second knob blends between the two.

Moving from back to front, the voice pairs found on the three-way switch here are Noiseless Tele and Fat Noiseless Tele, Lo-Fi Clean and Lo-Fi Crunch, Mahogany Small Body Short Scale and Rosewood Dreadnought. What’s immediately noticeable is that there are a lot fewer acoustic simulations than on the other Acoustasonics. The two models here, the Rosewood Dreadnought and Mahogany Small Body, cover a decent amount of ground. It’s very satisfying to play a simple chord loop on the Rosewood and turn the blend knob forward to the Mahogany to play leads over it.

The two acoustic voices here are good but not as convincing as they are on the Jazzmaster Acoustasonic. I attribute that to the missing third pickup: Fishman’s Acoustasonic Enhancer. The two pickups here – Fender’s Acoustasonic Noiseless and Fishman’s Under-Saddle Transducer – do an admirable job delivering electric and piezo acoustic sounds, but they’re not quite as good at delivering the variety and nuance of the Enhancer system it seems.

Terrence O'Brien / Engadget

That being said, I actually prefer the electric sounds on the Telecaster to the Jazzmaster. It sounds a bit more like the guitar that inspired it to my ears, and plays better with pedals. The “Fat” Tele sound has just the right amount of bite for my taste. The “lo-fi” voices are basically just the same piezo sounds you’d find in your average acoustic / electric. That’s not a bad thing, to be clear. I love the crunch of a slightly overdriven piezo pickup. If you’re banging out Neutral Milk Hotel covers or playing along with Nirvana’s Unplugged, this is the setting for you.

The dreadnought and small body voices are still more convincingly acoustic than what you’d get on your average acoustic / electric. They have depth and character that your average piezo alone can’t quite match. But those two voices alone aren’t necessarily worth the premium you’re paying here.

In fact, price remains the biggest obstacle for the Acoustasonic line. $1,200 isn’t exactly cheap for a guitar. Sure, it’s better than $2,000, but even many avid players will live their entire lives never spending more than $1,000 on a guitar. A standard made-in-Mexico Player Telecaster will set you back $800, and you can pick up a decent acoustic / electric from Fender for about $400 – and arguably those two as separate instruments are more versatile than the hybrid Acoustasonic. And the value gets even muddier when you consider that the American-made Acoustasonic Telecaster is currently on sale for $1,600.

The Acoustasonic Player Telecaster remains an almost perfect couch guitar and it’s exciting to see Fender bringing its hybrid guitar tech down to a more affordable instrument. But it’s still too expensive for most.

LANDR’s Chromatic DAW lets you make music with artist-generated loops

Sample and mastering site LANDR has unveiled a new subscription-based DAW app called Chromatic that makes it easy to piece together artist-created loops into all-new creations, the company announced. The company has partnered with artists, session players and others who created "inspiring playable instrument loops, vocal hooks, one-shots, and soundscapes," along with a story behind the sounds. You can then use those samples in any way you like to create your own tracks. 

Chromatic is as much about the interface as the capability, according to LANDR. It gives users access to content across genres of music through color-coded mood boards, so you can "quickly audition or earmark individual sound sets" and incorporate them into your workflow. At the same time, they're matched to the tempo and key of any project. 

"As an instrument, Chromatic lets you explore, play, and manipulate original sounds created by artists and producers, making them your own," says LANDR CEO Pascal Pilon in a statement. "We've developed Chromatic to bring the human element back into your virtual studio, a unique way to collaborate and engage with the creators of your favorite tracks and musical styles."

Artists who contribute the loops will receive royalties for when they're used. However, for certain specific artists and labels, LANDR will support splits on works created with their sound sets. "With this unique arrangement, Chromatic will serve as a foundation for emerging producers to collaborate with featured artists, resulting in a split release and promotion of a new work made with their Chromatic content." This presumably means that Chromatic users would share royalties on commercial releases with select, high-profile loop creators. 

Chromatic is LANDR's first instrument, and a move towards a trend of subscriptions toward virtual instruments. A recent example is Output, which recently unveiled a similar subscription-based product called Arcade. Auto-Tune also offers a subscription, and Splice recently launched two vocal VST plugins that are behind subscription walls, as well. 

Chromatic is now available as a free download with access to the full library of royalty-free sound sets at $10 per month. It's also offering an "All Access Pass" at $10 per month for six months and $15 per month thereafter, with royalty-free access to the sample library, AI-assisted mastering, music distribution on sites like Spotify, Sessions collaboration and more. 

The Roomba j7+ vacuum hits new all-time low in iRobot's Cyber Monday sale

The holiday shopping season is one of the best times of year to look for a new vacuum — robotic or not. We've seen numerous models go on sale before and during Black Friday, and now a new Cyber Monday sale has knocked iRobot devices down to new record lows. Key among them are the new poop-detecting j7 duo of robot vacuums, both of which are $200 off. The Roomba j7 has dropped to $449 while the j7+, which comes with a clean base, is down to $649. Those prices are being matched at Best Buy and Wellbots, too.

Buy Roomba j7 at Amazon - $449Buy Roomba j7+ at Amazon - $649Shop Roomba Cyber Monday sale at Amazon

"Poop-detecting" might sound gimmicky, but these robot vacuums have new AI-driven computer vision technology that helps them detect obstacles as they clean so they can move around them. That means, instead of bumping into chair legs and tables, these machines will do a better job of cleaning around those permanent fixtures in your home — and they'll more easily avoid surprise hazards like pet poop. And if your new robo-vac doesn't avoid your pet's latest mess, iRobot's Pet Owner Official Promise (yes, P.O.O.P.) ensures that you'll get a new vacuum if such a disaster happens within your first year of ownership.

Otherwise, the j7 devices are higher-end Roombas, so they have features like dual multi-surface rubber brushes and Imprint Smart Mapping, which lets you control which rooms the robot cleans. The biggest difference between the j7 and the j7+ is the inclusion of the clean base on the latter. When it returns home to charge, the j7+ will automatically empty its bin into the clean base and you'll only have to empty the base about once every two months.

A number of more affordable Roombas are included in the sale, too, like the Roomba 694, which remains on sale for $179. This is one of our favorite budget robot vacuums thanks to its good cleaning abilities and easy to use mobile app. You can also get the top-of-the-line Roomba, the s9+, with the Braava Jet mopping robot for over $450 off, bringing it down to $1,299.

Get the latest Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers by visiting our deals homepage and following @EngadgetDeals on Twitter.

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Virgin Galactic unveils the first winner of a free trip to space

Virgin Galactic has announced the winner of its Omaze giveaway. Announced in July, the sweepstakes saw the company give everyday people a chance to earn two tickets to the edge of space. The winner is Keisha S, a health coach from Antigua and Barbuda. She plans to give the second ticket to her daughter, who, it turns out, is an astrophysics student.

“I’ve always had a lifelong love of flying and a fascination with space, and this is truly a dream come true for me,” said Keisha. “It means the world to me. I hope to share this experience with my daughter, so together we can inspire the next generation to follow their dreams.”

While the sweepstakes was free to enter, you could also donate to Space for Humanity, a charity devoted to making spaceflight more accessible, to earn more entries. Virgin Galactic estimates it raised about $1.7 million in grants for the organization’s Citizen Astronaut Program in that way.

As we noted when the company first announced the sweepstakes, it was a way for Virgin Galactic to drum up hype for its space tourism efforts. At the same time, it was something of a moment for private spaceflight. The idea of winning tickets to space wasn’t something a person could dream of when government-funded agencies were the only organizations flying to space.

Splice's music creation plans are going on sale for Black Friday

Music creation and collaboration platform Splice is offering new users a discount for Black Friday. If you sign up for a year-long Sounds+, Creator or Creator+ plan between November 24th and 30th, you'll save $20. During that time, a year of Sounds+ access will cost $80, the annual Creator plan will drop to $180 and a 12-month Creator+ subscription will be $280.

We recommended the Creator plan in our holiday gift guide. The entry-level Sounds+ plan might offer enough for hobbyists, with 100 credits for royalty-free samples each month. Creator subscribers get twice as many credits, along with access to Splice's Astra soft synth, the Beatmaker drum machine and music production lessons and tutorials. The Creator+ plan is almost the same as Creator, but with 500 sample credits instead of 200.

Those aren't enormous discounts, admittedly, and you do have to commit to a year-long subscription. Still, if you've been on the fence about leaping into Splice, this might be a good time.

T-Mobile made a magenta Lite-Brite with help from Hasbro

T-Mobile and Hasbro have released a limited edition Lite-Brite that comes with 200 magenta pegs and custom templates related to the carrier, including its 5G logo. You may never have read the words T-Mobile and Lite Brite in the same sentence before this, and even T-Mobile knows the partnership is a bit odd. In its announcement, the carrier said "You may be thinking... 5G... toy from 1967... what the eff? And you wouldn't be wrong." 

As for why you'd want a T-Mobile Lite-Brite, well, some of the kits come with prize packs, and you're not exactly stuck with just magenta pegs and the carrier's templates. The kit has 412 pegs in all — 212 are multicolored — and you can download and upload templates at the product's official website. 

Four of the kits hide a Magenta Ticket, which gives winners two new 5G smartphones with a free year of T-Mobile Magenta Plus service. The prize pack includes an HD flatscreen TV with a free year of the carrier's Home Internet service, as well. In addition, the winners get an all-expense paid trip for two to an event of their choice to any of the three of the company's venues: T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, T-Mobile Center in Kansas City and T-Mobile Park in Seattle.

If you want to get the Lite-Brite T-Mobile edition for the magenta pegs or for the chance to win those prizes, you can get one from the carrier's website for $20. It'll ship for free until Cyber Monday and will only be available for a limited time.