Elgato’s Cam Link turns your DSLR into a souped-up webcam

If that sounds familiar, you’ve probably Googled “how to use a GoPro as a webcam” before. Unless your camera is designed to be used as a webcam, an HDMI capture device is usually your only option. In fact, content creators have been using capture cards to integrate higher-quality cameras into their workflow for years — but Elgato’s take on this idea is just a bit more streamlined.

Instead of finding a workaround to make an HDMI capture device work natively with various apps as a webcam, Elgato’s dongle does it in one shot: getting the Cam Link operational is as simple as downloading the latest version of the company’s Game Capture HD software and plugging an HDMI output up to the device. That’s basically it — and with the exception of a few hiccups, it actually works really well.

This is mostly because of how your PC recognizes the Cam Link compared to most HDMI capture cards. If you hook up a camera to Elgato’s own HD60 Game Capture device, for example, it will be recognized by broadcasting software as a USB video capture device. Most of the time, that’s perfectly fine, but what if you want to use it as a camera for Skype or through your operating system’s native camera app, you’ll need to download additional drivers and software to trick it into behaving as a webcam. The Cam Link, on the other hand, does that by default. Better still, Elgato’s own Game Capture HD software recognizes the Cam Link as a separate capture device, which makes embedding a “face cam” over gameplay a snap.

Because my main PC is a desktop computer and doesn’t have a built-in camera, this made the Cam Link an incredibly convenient way to pipe decent video to my machine for Twitch streaming and Skype calls. Elgato’s software takes some of the guesswork out of it, too — when I stream a webcam through OBS, I usually have to add an offset to make sure my webcam feed syncs up with my gameplay footage. The Game Capture HD desktop suite did that automatically. I even used it to record an unboxing video for YouTube, and was able to embed my external microphone’s audio directly into the recording. Normally I have to sync that up in editing. It was nice to have one less thing to worry about.

It’s an easier way to solve a cumbersome problem — but it still has some pain points. Like any HDMI capture device, it can only deal with the signal you give it. That means any overlay menus that your camera displays over its video-output will appear in the Cam Link stream, too. That wasn’t a problem for my GoPro, which has an option to disable the overlay, but I had trouble with my other cameras. My Canon Rebel T3i has a great lens, but you can’t get a clean HDMI signal out of it unless you use a custom firmware like Magic Lantern. The quality of that image depends on the camera, too. I can get a 1080p signal out of my action cam, but my DSLR won’t push anything higher than 480i.

That resolution issue comes into play even if you have a camera with decent output. In a best case scenario, the Cam Link can only capture 1080p footage. In my tests, 1080p recordings over HDMI were about the same quality as videos captured directly by the camera — but if you have a camera that shoots in 4K, you won’t be able to get that kind of fidelity when streaming through the Cam Link. Finally, I had one or two instances where the Game Capture HD software simply didn’t save a video I shot with the dongle. Elgato support is looking into it for me, but it made me cautious enough to move my workflow over to OBS.

What Elgato’s Cam Link does isn’t technically a new idea, but it’s a consumer-ready implementation of it that’s easy to set-up and use. In my perfect world, it still wouldn’t be necessary — I still think it’s bizarre that my GoPro isn’t natively recognized as a usable camera by my PC — but the Cam Link does exactly what I want with almost no hassle at all. If you have a nice camera that can output a clean HDMI signal, and you desperately want to use it as a webcam, the $130 Cam Link is an easy way to get it working.

https://www.engadget.com/2017/09/30/elgatos-cam-link-turns-your-dslr-into-a-souped-up-webcam/

Super-thin edible sensors can monitor food temperature

The research team, led by post-doc Giovanni Salvatore, reported its findings in the Advanced Functional Materials journal. These super-thin microsensors are made with a polymer created with corn and potato starch, magnesium (which humans can digest) and water-soluble silicon dioxide and nitride. At 16 micrometers thin this sensor is much thinner than a human hair, which comes in at 100 micrometers. “In preparation for transport to Europe, fish from Japan could be fitted with tiny temperature sensors,” said Salvatore in a statement, “allowing them to be continuously monitored to ensure they are kept at a cool enough temperature.” Not only do these sensors need to be edible, but they need to be pretty sturdy as they will have to stay viable even with rough food handling.

So far, the new sensors have to be connected with biodegradable cables to a micro-battery, microprocessor and transmitter, but the team is looking at ways of powering and transmitting the sensor data wirelessly, using a “biocompatible energy source.” Creating these types of biocompatible microsensors is time-intensive and expensive, too. Salvatore thinks that with more time and production, the price and labor required to produce them will decrease significantly. He notes that they would then be useful “virtually anywhere” for a variety of purposes including monitoring for gas build-up, UV exposure, or pressure.

https://www.engadget.com/2017/09/29/super-thin-edible-sensors-monitor-food-temperature/

What to expect at Google’s Pixel 2 event

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel XL

From left to right: Leaked images of the Google Home Mini, Pixel XL 2 and DayDream View. Image credit: Droid Life

Sure, the smartphone may be a commodity at this point, but it’s still exciting to see what Google has cooked up to take on increasingly strong competition in the Android space. The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL have been leaked pretty extensively at this point (as happens with almost every major smartphone these days), so we largely know what to expect here.

VentureBeat believes that the smaller Pixel 2 will be made by HTC (don’t forget that Google just bought HTC’s phone division), just like both of last year’s models. In a lot of ways, this phone is expected to be a minor physical upgrade over the original — it’ll keep the large top and bottom bezels, something that many flagship phones are moving away from. The screen will stay in the same 5-inch range. Like most other phones in its size class, the Pixel 2 won’t feature a dual-camera setup either.

That’s not to say that the Pixel 2 won’t offer some new features. It looks like HTC’s “squeezable” frame (found in the U Ultra and U11) will show up in the Pixel 2. Additionally, it should include front-facing stereo speakers, but it may not have a headphone jack this time around.

Image credit: Android Police

Considerably more interesting is the Pixel 2 XL, which is said to be made by LG. While last year’s two Pixel phones were basically identical aside from screen size, Android Police reported that the Pixel 2 XL will have a number of new features and design flourishes that set it apart. Most notably, the XL 2 should have a nearly bezel-less, edge-to-edge screen, similar to Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8, the LG V30 and the new iPhone X. Thanks to the lack of bezels, the XL 2 should be able to fit a 6-inch AMOLED panel into a frame that’s about the same size as the original Pixel XL. That screen is expected to have a Quad HD, 1440p resolution, the same as last year’s screen.

Just like the smaller Pixel 2, the Pixel 2 XL is expected to ditch the headphone jack in favor of a stereo speaker array. And even though it’s made by LG and not HTC, the XL 2 should also have a squeezable frame. As for the internals, both phones reportedly have Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM and either 64GB or 128GB of storage.

Pricing comes in about where you’d expect for flagship phones: the Pixel 2 is rumored to cost $649 for 64GB of storage or $749 for 128GB, while the XL 2 would go for $849 or $949. Thanks to its entirely new design and lack of bezels, the larger phone is pushing into the same expensive territory as the Galaxy Note 8 and iPhone X.

Home Mini

Last year’s voice-activated Google Home speaker represented the company’s big push to bring the Google Assistant off phones and into people’s houses. While it looks like the original isn’t going anywhere, Google is also readying a smaller, cheaper sequel meant to compete with the Echo Dot. Droid Life says that the Home Mini will cost $49 and give you unfettered access to the Google Assistant; it just won’t have the larger speaker found on the regular Home. As such, you’re not going to want to play music through this device, but if you already own decent speakers the Home Mini might be worth looking at.

Home Max

While we’ve been hearing about the Home Mini for a while now, a new report from 9to5Google suggests that Google will reveal yet another smart speaker next week. This larger device, reportedly dubbed the Home Max, is designed to better compete with Apple’s forthcoming HomePod, along with Amazon’s newly announced Echo and whatever voice-activated speakers Sonos is getting ready to unveil. Details on this new speaker are minimal right now, so it’s a bit of a toss-up as to whether we’ll actually see this next week or further down the line. But given how many speakers Amazon is now offering, diversifying the Google Home lineup isn’t the worst idea.

Daydream View

Google’s VR headset is also apparently in line for an update, according again to Droid Life, but it’s unclear what’ll be different here, aside from some new color choices. It’s rumored to cost $99 this time around, $20 more than the original. At the very least, it looks like Google is moving away from the cloth-like finish of the original for something more closely resembling nylon (though it’s hard to say for sure without trying it out for ourselves). Whatever the case, we can count on this headset working with Google’s new phones.

Pixelbook

Image credit: Droid Life

It’s been awhile since Google has had much to say about Chromebooks and Chrome OS. Last year’s event skipped over the platform entirely, and Google has seen it fit to let partners like Samsung and ASUS show off their vision for Chromebooks. Google also hasn’t dipped its foot into the ill-fated world of Android tablets in some time, either — not since introducing the Pixel C two years ago. But it looks like Google may jump back into both categories with one product: the Pixelbook.

Droid Life believes that the Pixelbook will be a 2-in-1 laptop powered by Chrome OS that can fold back into tablet mode. It’s essentially a successor to the two previous Chromebook Pixel laptops, but it’ll have an entirely new hardware design compared to its successors. It’ll also be the first to officially include stylus support — in fact, Google will be selling its own “Pixelbook Pen” alongside it.

Since Chrome OS can now run Android apps, the Pixelbookl have access to the wealth of software in the Google Play Store (though, to be fair, most of those apps aren’t optimized for larger screens). It’ll still be a step up over your average Android tablet, though, as running the full desktop version of Chrome is significantly better than using its mobile counterpart.

As with Google’s previous Pixel laptops, it appears the giant caveat will be price. Reports indicate this device will start at a steep $1,200 — that’s $200 more than the 2015 Pixel. That’ll net you 128GB of storage, and Google is supposedly also selling versions with 256GB and 512GB at $1,400 and $1,750, respectively. While it wouldn’t be surprising to see Google deliver new Chrome OS hardware, it would be pretty unusual to offer these storage options. Chrome OS has never been a platform dependent on large amounts of local storage — as things are now, there’d be essentially no benefit to getting those higher-priced options.

Google Assistant headphones

The Google Assistant has been popping up in all manner of hardware lately, including headphones, so it’s logical for Google to make its own pair. Some sleuthing by 9to5Google a few months back revealed some references to Google Assistant headphones inside the Google Android app. And with the new Pixel phones expected to drop the headphone jack, having a wireless solution would be an important part of Google’s hardware ecosystem. Perhaps the strangest part of this rumor is that these headphones appear to be an over-the-head model rather than earbuds.

ARCore details

Late in August, Google announced ARCore, the company’s answer to Apple’s ARKit. It’s a set of developer tools that’ll make it easier to bring augmented reality apps to a huge variety of Android phones. Rather than use the more advanced but far less commonplace Tango hardware, ARCore will strive to bring AR to the masses. As this will be Google’s first public event since announcing ARCore, it wouldn’t surprise us if the company shows how it works with the new Pixel phones. We have our fingers crossed we’ll be able to try it out for ourselves following Google’s presentation — but regardless of what Google announces next week, we’ll be there bringing you the news live as it happens.

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https://www.engadget.com/2017/09/29/google-pixel-2-event-what-to-expect/

Roli Blocks makes its connectable music-making module more responsive

Lightpad M, the new touch-sensitive controller block, has added tactile feedback via “microkeywaves,” a redesigned silicone surface layer for more responsiveness and a brighter surface illumination. The updated Noise 3.0 app is still free to download and has better clip launching and editing along with user interface improvements. It also has some new acoustic sounds to add to your projects. Dubbed Bass Quartet (bundled with the LIghtpad M) and Treble Quartet (bundled with the mini-key controller, Seaboard), the new soundsets bring things like cello, violin, clarinet and saxophone to the Noise app. They’re also available for $10 each separately.

Roli is also expanding to work with more than just the app, as well. You can now connect the Noise app to mobile GarageBand via audio unit, as well, with more than 400 polyphonic sounds to play and edit in Apple’s digital audio workstation app. Roli will also bundle Ableton Live Lite with Lightpad M soon, turning the block into a control surface to launch clips, control instruments and create tracks within Ableton’s digital audio workstation for desktop. You can still get the original Lightpad Block for $180, though the new Lightpad M is only $20 more at $200.

https://www.engadget.com/2017/09/28/roli-blocks-connectable-music-module-more-responsive/

US Senate reaches deal on self-driving cars

Industry has been seeking US approval of autonomous cars without steering wheels and pedals, provided regulators find them to be safe (as it stands now, self-driving vehicles must have human controls). It also wants the law to prevent individual states from blocking the use of self-driving cars. According to Reuters sources, the bill won’t include commercial trucks.

The House measure allows car companies to sell up to 25,000 self-driving cars with no controls in the first, year and up to 100,000 by year three, as long as the vehicles are found as safe as current models with human controls. After it passed the bill, it seemed like the Senate’s stamp, and therefore passage of the law, was a fait accompli. However, things were a bit thornier, as the Senate has reportedly been negotiating over the inclusion of trucks and issues with self-driving lawsuits currently in progress.

We expect adoption of self-driving vehicle technologies will save lives, improve mobility for people with disabilities, and create new jobs.

Automakers like Ford and GM, along with Waymo, Uber and other tech firms, have also lobbied for legislation that’s consistent from state to state. They’ve complained, for instance, that too-strict California rules are are impeding self-driving progress. With the law, states could reportedly control registration, licensing, liability and insurance but not interfere with technological standards.

We’ll know exactly what’s in the law later today, but as of now, no tech or auto companies are even close to being able to put driverless cars with no human controls on public roads. When it does happen, the US Department of Transport (DoT) and most experts agree that they’ll reduce road deaths considerably. After all, the AI and sensors never have lapses in concentration and aren’t, obviously, affected by drugs or alcohol.

As it stands, only one car company — Audi, with the A8 — has released a commercial vehicle with level 3 self-driving capability (stay tuned to see how that works). That allows you to look away from the road and do other things during certain phases of driving, but you still must be ready to take the wheel at any time. For a car without driver controls to be feasible, you need level five autonomy — and by all accounts, we’re still far from that.

https://www.engadget.com/2017/09/28/us-senate-reaches-deal-on-self-driving-cars/

Gogoro’s electric scooter-sharing program is coming to Japan

The endeavor will start with a pilot program on the southern Japanese island of Ishigaki and then expand to other cities and markets in 2018. It hinges on the Gogoro Energy Network, a series of charging stations (potentially their new solar-powered ones) for users to drop off their scooter’s depleted batteries (two at a time) to swap in new ones. Per the press release, GoShare seems to be both an efficient transit solution and a way to saturate Japan with electric vehicles: The release even mentions potentially using Gogoro’s batteries and stations to power “compact four-wheel vehicles in the future.”

“I am excited for Sumitomo Corporation to start collaborating with a technology innovator like Gogoro to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles,” Masaki Nakajima, executive officer and general manager, Automotive Division, No.1, Sumitomo Corporation, said in the press release. “The opportunity to expand Gogoro’s smart energy system for vehicles and other applications is significant.”

The release didn’t note how many scooters would be coming to Japan, nor how quickly it would expand to other areas, and didn’t give a launch date. But folks looking for quick, nimble personal transport around the island nation’s metropolitan areas might look forward to GoShare — and whatever other vehicles might harness its battery-swapping stations in the future.

https://www.engadget.com/2017/09/27/gogoro-electric-scooter-sharing-program-coming-japan/

Worth it for the games alone

The experience

The SNES Classic, in the US at least, comes with two controllers, a micro-USB power adapter and 21 games. I tested the UK version, which means it’s visually different (obviously I think it’s prettier, but all of my US colleagues disagree). Europeans just get a micro-USB cable, sans adapter, but all the games are the same. Pretty much any USB adapter will do the trick, for what it’s worth, and I just powered it from a spare USB port on my TV.

I love the original design of the SNES, but I’m not as enamored with the miniaturization. I’ll accept that this is a detail most people won’t care about, but I dislike the fact that the “controller ports” on the front are just for show. To plug in a pad, you have to pull down a flap to reveal the actual ports beneath. With the controllers connected, it looks a little goofy. If you’re the type who unplugs everything after use, then it’s probably not a big deal, but I’m not that sort of person at all.

Other than that, there’s little to complain about. It’s a tiny Super Nintendo, and it looks pretty when the pads aren’t plugged in. My colleague Sean Buckley (who has been playing with the US version for our video review) tells me that the dimensions of his console “are perfect, the colors are spot on, and the power and reset buttons not only work but also feel nearly identical to the respective click and springy tactility of the originals.” Here in Europe, our power button doesn’t spring, but it does make a satisfying “click” when you slide it upward.

If you were to take a random sampling of NES Classic reviews, you’d find two issues repeated everywhere. The first was the length of the controller cables; the second, the reset button on the console itself. Only one of those has been fixed.

The controller is a faithful reproduction of the original. It was the best controller around at the time, and there’s nothing I’d rather play these games on. While the NES Classic controller had a tiny 20-inch cable, the SNES Classic’s has 43 inches to play with. It’s just long enough for my apartment but still probably not up to scratch for the average American living room. Still, it’s a huge improvement.

Sadly, the complaints about the reset button have been ignored. If you want to go back to the menu to change a setting or swap games, you have to get up and press the reset button. Every. Time. Of course, this exactly mimics the original experience, but this was clearly something people didn’t like about the NES Classic and it’s strange that Nintendo didn’t do anything to address it. How simple would it be to make, say, a three-second hold of the start and select buttons return you to the main menu?

Honestly, though, I’m only annoyed for the people I know will hate this. As a kid, almost all the games I played at home were in front of a tiny TV in my brothers’ room. Then, as my eldest brother went to college and the other got a better console, I got to play games in front of a tiny TV in my room. Perhaps out of instinct, I installed the SNES Classic in my bedroom on a “tiny” 28-inch TV. It wasn’t until I was perched on the end of my bed, two feet away from the screen and an hour into Final Fantasy III, that I realized I’d unknowingly copied my mom’s ban on gaming in the living room.

I ended up moving the console to the living room the next weekend for a multiplayer session, but I put it straight back when that was wrapped. At least to me, playing this on my bed, when I know I should be doing homework (or writing this review), just feels right.

Navigating the SNES Classic is similar to its predecessor, which is to say, reset button aside, it’s a pleasure. Games are organized in a simple horizontal line of tiles that can be arranged alphabetically, by release date or by publisher. Like with the NES Classic, you get four “save” slots per game, but now you can also rewind up to 40 seconds from your save point. This sounded useful: Older games can be unforgiving, and being able to quickly save and retry after dying is neat. In reality, though, it’s cumbersome, and I barely used it outside of testing that it worked.

Having to press the reset button, navigate to the correct game and save file, and then rewind means rather than being an instant restart, you’re talking a good 30 seconds or so. Given that it’s an add-in feature and basically cheating, it’s not that important, but it does feel like it could’ve been implemented better.

One unexpected benefit of the rewind system is that your save files essentially become screen savers. If you’re at the home screen doing nothing, the system will cycle through your saves, showing you 40-second gameplay snippets right where you left off. It’s a neat feature, and on more than one occasion I was enticed to jump back into a game because I saw where I’d left off. Also, the menu music on this thing is amazing.

https://www.engadget.com/2017/09/27/snes-classic-edition-review/

Tesla switches from NVIDIA to Intel for its infotainment systems

For the most part, NVIDIA’s deal with Tesla has been more about prestige than raw numbers. As a luxury EV maker, Tesla wasn’t about to sell in huge volumes. That’s changing with the Model 3 — when Tesla has hundreds of thousands of pre-orders, the bottom line suddenly matters a great deal. Intel is hopping aboard right as Tesla’s unit sales will make a significant difference for component partners. Combine that with Intel’s other victories, such as its Waymo deal, and it’s quickly becoming a fierce competitor in the automotive world.

It’s doubtful that NVIDIA will be crying in its Corn Flakes, even if the loss is significant. It already has established brands like Audi, Toyota and Volvo in its pocket, and it’s bound to play a crucial role as EVs and self-driving cars take hold. If it had any dreams of overwhelming dominance, though, it’ll have to put them on hold for the time being.

As for how this affects your in-car experience? It’s hard to say, but this would be a prime opportunity for Tesla to upgrade the performance of its infotainment tech. That’s rather important when the Model 3 depends almost entirely on its touchscreen — you don’t want any delays while you’re navigating an unfamiliar system or turning up the AC.

https://www.engadget.com/2017/09/26/tesla-switches-to-intel-for-infotainment/

Driving with AR glasses may be information overload

While VR continues to underwhelm, AR is becoming a larger part of our lives thanks, in part, to Pokémon, Apple’s ARKit and Google’s Tango. So it’s understandable that companies like Aero Glass are trying to put augmented reality everywhere — including in front of the eyes of drivers. The company’s vision is to give anyone behind the wheel access to visual cues to their surroundings. Imagine a heads-up display that’s visible no matter where you look. But instead of just your speed, you can see the Starbucks logo off in the distance because you need a caffeine fix. Or maybe you’re a sports fan new to San Francisco and can’t find the ballpark. No problem, here’s a massive spinning Giants logo.

doesn’t make the hardware that was sliding down my face. Instead it creates the software that surfaces landmarks and brings navigation to your face. But founder Akos Maroy does believe that in two to three years AR glasses will be lighter and (more importantly) more stylish. His company is more interested in how the world looks to people wearing those specs. “We consider ourselves a visualization platform,” Maroy said. Aero Glass would grab the geolocation data from other sources like a car’s navigation system, Google Maps or from the car’s sensors.

It’s those sensors and cameras that might yield the most intriguing feature of AR. Maroy says that his company is talking to BMW about his system, which makes sense. Back in 2015, Mini (a subsidiary of BMW) showed off glasses that let you look “through” the car using the car’s external cameras to see pedestrians. Sort of like X-ray vision for driving.

While the safety features seem helpful, there is the chance of visual overload. When a system decides that everything is important enough for you to see, it’ll be difficult to separate the signal from the noise. Making your brain wade through five Starbucks logos to note that there’s a potential hazard up ahead is a concern.

Maroy knows this is an issue “depending on the situation you would want to prioritize.” He says that in the next few years his company will be working to figure that out. Plus as we slowly move into the world of autonomy, these glasses could display more data because you’re not actually driving anymore. One wrinkle in that plan is that automakers like Audi are researching making displays out of the windshield and windows in you car. It’s augmented reality without the need for headgear.

What Aero Glass envisions, though, is hardware you have on all the time. The glasses you would use in the car would be the same ones you use everywhere else. Sort of like when you get in your car with your smartphone and start using Android Auto or CarPlay, the Aero Glass app would kick in when you get behind the wheel. The company’s experience building HUD systems for the aviation market makes its foray into the automotive world a logical plan to connect with more users.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The question is: Is that what we want? Audi and BMW are both researching what the autonomous car of the future will be like. Will it be a relaxing oasis or an extension to our already overloaded digital lives. We still have awhile before AR glasses are small and comfortable enough to wear around town, but the last thing we need is another distraction behind the wheel. Even if it’ll help you find the nearest Starbucks.

https://www.engadget.com/2017/09/26/driving-with-ar-glasses/

Verizon gives up on its Android Wear watch after 4 months

To begin with, there was nothing particularly noteworthy to justify the $350 price. The design could be charitably described as… inoffensive. It wouldn’t trigger revulsion, but no one was going to fawn over it, either. The feature set was strictly middle-of-the-road and didn’t include support for mobile payments like the LG Watch Sport (which Verizon dropped, we’d add) or Samsung Gear S3. Many users panned the speaker, too, which made the Wear24’s signature LTE calling feature near-useless without headphones. The wearable really served as Verizon’s attempt to control smartwatch sales in its stores. It was an extra device for staff to sell to someone who was buying the Android phone du jour and looking to accessorize.

And then there’s the nature of the industry. Like it or not, Apple dominates the smartwatch market — outside of fashion brands like Fossil, most competitors aren’t faring well. Verizon was always going to face an uphill battle selling to customers who weren’t even buying smartwatches from brands like LG and Samsung, let alone a carrier’s in-house model. Without name recognition or a huge audience for Android-powered watches, the Wear24 just wasn’t going to attract much attention.

https://www.engadget.com/2017/09/25/verizon-discontinues-wear24-smartwatch/