The Alibaba Group began testing drone delivery through its e-commerce site Taobao, bring tea to 450 doorsteps within an hour. Photo: Taobao.com
Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba is redefining high tea.
Drones are taking to the skies in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou to deliver tea to a test group of 450 shoppers using Alibaba’s website Taobao. The three-day trial of drone delivery service in the Chinese cities ends Friday as Alibaba continues to push its might across the globe.
The Hexo+ flies high for stunning aerial photography. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
LAS VEGAS — Drones are everywhere at the International CES show. You can’t walk though the South Hall without hearing the feverish buzz of quadrocopter wings luring people to their booths.
Most of the new drones we’ve seen are either too expensive for normal people, or they’re cheap and lack compelling features. But after hours of searching we’ve found the one drone you should pay attention to in 2015: The Hexo+.
On the outside, Hexo+ doesn’t look too different from other drones, but it packs a killer “auto-follow” feature that will allow budding drone photographers to capture epic aerial videos without needing a dedicated pilot to frame each shot.
TrackingPoint’s Internet-connected rifles promise accuracy and “social” hunting. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
LAS VEGAS — I hate hunting. Not because I’m morally opposed to needlessly slaughtering animals, but because I’m a horrible shot.
I couldn’t hit a deer even if it was only 100 yards away, which is why I need TrackingPoint’s Internet-connected rifles. They boast the same type of precision-guided technology that fighter jets use to blast targets from miles away, while letting your family and friends watch the slaughter from the comfort of their couches.
This drone will decompose in T-minus 10, 9, 8 … Photo: NASA Ames Research Center
While we wait for Amazon to figure out how to drone-deliver our next order of energy drinks or iPhone cases, NASA has been busy coming up with a way to make sure when a quadcopter crash-lands somewhere there will no need to panic about the environmental impact.
That’s because they have made a drone from fungus.
That blur there is a quad-copter, racing through a sweet forest obstacle course. Screengrab: New Scientist
It may be hard to tell from the image above, but that’s a hot-rodding quadcopter speeding through the forest at about 100 miles an hour. The drone is taking part in the first large-scale first-person video drone race ever in the United States, held last week in Los Angeles.
For the operators, staring at video screens or wearing virtual reality goggles while their drones record the high-speed chase via tiny mounted cameras, the experience is not unlike the best part of the prequel Star Wars movies — the podracing scene.
Check out the video below for a better sense of what these guys are doing.
A bamboo bay for your Beats by Dre? A cellphone-charging carabiner? A creepy drone that follows you around? What about an iPhone case that looks like a (tiny) broken skateboard? If you were looking for any of these, you’re in luck.
‘sup dawg? No – literally. What’s up? Dog? This is the AirDog, a drone/RC ‘copter that follows you around. Hang a camera from the mount under the hovering doggy and strap the AirLeash to your wrist. Sensors beam info to the drone and it will follow your exact trajectory, only up in the air. Launch and landing are automatic, and an iPhone app can be used to tweak the flight path for, say, a continuous loop. $1,195
Possibly most notable for introducing the term “DreStation,” this bamboo stand is much more affordable than the headphones it holds. And you don’t even have to use Beats cans – any over-the-ear headphones will hang just as easily from this dumb wooden desk tidy.
It’s not all good though: The lack of a hole on the base means you can’t charge the iPhone or iPod while it stands in there. $40
Who doesn’t love a carabiner? And who doesn’t find themself in need of a Lightning cable from time to time? Nobody, that’s who. And that’s who will buy the Nomad Clip, a carabiner that unfurls to become a charger for you iDevice. Made from steel and polycarbonate, and not suitable for climbing, you can also choose a microUSB version. $39
If you like the look of Adobe’s new Creative Cloud apps Sketch and Line, but don’t fancy buying the $200 official stylus to use with them, you should pick up Adonit's new Jot Touch instead. It has a tiny “Pixelpoint” tip instead of a disk or fat rubbery point, and it works just like Adobe’s Ink stylus, letting you copy and paste to/from the Creative Cloud as well as access files and Kuler color palettes. Best of all, it’s just $120.
What’s a duck head? It’s the little interchangeable block of power plug prongs that slots onto every Apple power adapter from MacBook Pro to iPad. And the Duck Head Saver from DenVog is a widget that sticks onto the side of your AC adapter and adds a prong onto which the unused duck head can slip whenever you use a foreign duck head or the long adapter cable. $35
The cedar used to make the barrel of the Timbrr stylus contains lots of natural resins. Not only will this make it smell as good as a humidor full of Cuban cigars, but that resin also helps conduct the special human waves that are required by a capacitive screen to detect a touch. Otherwise the Timbrr is a regular ol’ stylus, with a rubber tip and a fat, easy-to-hold barrel. $34
How about a nice safe wired keyboard for your iPad? This Lightning-equipped number from Belkin doesn’t need batteries and doesn’t even require that Bluetooth be switched on on your iPad. It’s also thin, Apple-certified and comes with all the usual media keys for controlling your tablet. And with the wired connection, nobody can snoop on the keystrokes you’re sending over the airwaves. $60
Can’t decide what kind of bag to buy? Then buy the Bowerbag, a modular system that takes five (5!) separate sacks and joins them together with a modular system. Each bag, complete with its straps, connects to all the others in a huge compromise of buckles and webbing. Who cares how much it weighs? You have choice!$360
It’s an iPhone case. It’s fashioned from silicone. It looks like somebody snapped a skateboard in half. What’s not to like? Apart from the fact it won’t ever fit your pocket thanks to those wheels sticking out the back? Or the fact that you can’t reach the iPhone’s power button? Nothing, that’s what. Oh, maybe the price tag: $45
This one is SOOC (straight out of the camera). Thanks to Jim Powers (alias Windwatcher), as well as Fany & Anthony (alias Nonsenz), for their previous Kaptures of the Colosseum in Rome. That really helped us to find out where we could take off for our KAP session this afternoon. (Google Earth was also very useful.) The weather was just beautiful, the light warm as Rome can be, the wind was light and strong enough for the only kite we had with us (Dan Leigh delta R8 Travel version) and for our dual-camera autoKAP rig equipped with a Canon S95 and GoPro HD. No authority to tell us not to fly a kite, KAP at its best. A great session we are happy to share.
We stayed in Iguaçu Falls for three days -- one day for a hike on the Brazilian side, one day for a hike on the Argentinean side and one day to hopefully KAP them. For the first two days the weather was just perfect: no clouds, beautiful light, a very pleasant temperature and humidity and ... no wind at all. The last day of our stay saw some clouds, wind and a very dull light, but at least we had some wind and KAPing the falls seemed possible, even if I knew that the results would not be the best. There is a very dense forest by the falls and the closest we could take off (according to Google Earth and scouting the neighborhood) was roughly 800 meters from the 'Garganta del Diablo' on the lawn of the Hotel das Cataratas. A bit far, but not much choice, and I thought that taking some height would be the solution. But of course we had to deal with the helicopters (which are supposed to fly at 500 meters or 1,600 feet) and Heidy was so stressed that the entire session only lasted 15 minutes. The wind was very unstable, the Fled was moving like the wipers on my car, the rig was jumping all over but nevertheless we managed to get half a dozen of almost "keepers." Time for a Caipirinha!
Faafaite Vaa is a traditional Polynesian outrigger canoe that can sometimes be chartered for private events. This was one our friend's (who is 99 percent blind) birthday and this charter was just a blast for him. Once out in the open ocean, we had a steady wind of 25 to 30 knots with very limited space to move.The sea conditions were pretty rough. We had to launch the kite from the back of the canoe but had to put a life jacket on (just in case). The PFK Nighthawk Delta was the ideal kite for the job and the dual-camera autokap rig (Ricoh GX 200 + GoProHD) was not that easy to launch as we had to protect it from seawater and while making sure everything was fine.
A very warm "mahalo, mauruuru, merci" to Tom Benedict, who guided us through the telescopes of Mauna Kea Observatories and, more specifically, the Canada France Hawaii which hosts a world-class, 3.6-meter optical/infrared telescope. The summit of Mauna Kea is 4,200 meters high (almost as high as Mont Blanc ... .4,852 meters) and the sunset above the clouds is a fantastic show to watch; the moving shadow of the mountain on the clouds is an even more spectacular vision. Just a perfect setting for a crazy KAP session where oxygen is lacking and the least effort is huge but Tom, just in case, had an oxygen tank in the observatory as well as a pulsometer for heart beat and oxygen level in the blood. KAPing at 4,200 meters altitude is a very interesting experience; the air is not as dense as at sea level and despite a good 15-knots wind, the Dan Leigh Delta R8 was just enough to lift the autoKAP rig (RC rigs would not be allowed so as not to interfere with the radio telescopes). This was way too short. I can imagine a time-lapse of the sun going down over the clouds, a time-lapse of the growing shadow of Mauna Kea, another, higher KAP session looking straight down. Some good excuses to come back!
Sunrise on Raimiti seen from a kite with a Leica M9
This morning, Dec. 27, 2011, sunrise was at 5:12 a.m. and not a single cloud in the sky, Northeast trade winds blowing steadily at 20 knots, the ideal strength to lift the autoKAP rig and the Leica M9 with its 24 mm Elmarit lens. I was not totally satisfied with my previous sunrise with the Sony Nex 5 and thought the Leica M9 would give me the sharpness I was looking for. ISO 200, f4, 1/1500 sec. When looking at the original size, the difference is stunning. This session is one that probably gave me the most satisfaction since I started KAP a few years ago. Satisfaction with the light, the R8 flight, the subject, the ambiance, the pleasure and the results."
The Blue Lagoon in the atoll of Rangiroa is about an hour by speedboat from the main village, and is a pristine and virgin spot on the west coast of the atoll. Baby sharks grow up in the shallow waters before joining the hundreds of adult blacktip sharks in deeper waters. Baby blacktip sharks are curious and always hungry; it was just pure magic to feed them and watch the seagulls fight with the sharks for food. It just took us a few minutes and some dead fish to attract both sharks and seagulls, time to position the kite, the camera and to take a few pictures. I was not too sure about having both the seagulls and sharks on the same picture but I suppose it was a good day.
The sun was out by 7:40 a.m. and we only had a window of three minutes of perfect light. The kite was already up in the air and as soon as the sun rose over the ocean the rig was up above the Moais. It was interesting to see that a dozen other visitors had also made it for sunrise, but all of them were facing the sun, we were looking for the shadows!
Organized by the population of the island of Maupiti once every 10 years, this traditional fishing technique is a collective effort where the entire population of the island (1,200 people) participates. Over 200 boats and rafts circle the island’s lagoon, each throwing in the water a stone held on a string, to hopefully push the fish inside a 3 kilometer long vegetal net which will be brought back on the beach.This year, this “stone fishing” was the conclusion of a South Pacific UNESCO symposium on sustainable development and the fish were released except for one caught by French Senator Richard Tuheiava, born in Maupiti. Maupiti is an island 20 miles west of Bora Bora, French Polynesia.
KAP over Taro Fields in Areva, Rurutu, French Polynesia
Taro is a tropical plant grown primarily as a vegetable food for its edible corm, and secondarily as a leaf vegetable. It is considered a staple in oceanic cultures. It is believed to be one of the earliest cultivated plants. The name "taro" is from Tahitian or other Polynesian languages; the plant is also called kalo (from Hawaiian), gabi in The Philippines, dalo in Fiji, seppankizhangu in Tamil, Arvee in Hindi and Karkalo in Nepali.This KAP session was probably one of the most challenging we ever had. The taro field is located right behind a 100 meter high cliff protected from dominant winds but creating incredible venturi and vortex between the ground and 150 meters. "Clean air" is about 200 meters high and the whole challenge was to get the R8 delta up to this stable altitude before attaching the camera to the string.
The SV/Star Flyer set sails from the lagoon of Raiatea.A very intense KAP session, at the begining there was not enough wind to lift the camera but quicly the white storm in the background brought rain and Beaufort 5 winds and we only had a very short window of 5 minutes. Considering this is AutoKAP, I guess we were quite lucky !On this picture the storm is almost here !Thanks to the Star Flyer for a wonderful break and a special "merci" "mauruuru" to the Polish Captain who accepted that we launch our kite from his ship!!!
Rising Sun AutoKAP on Dune 45 in Sossusvlei, Namib Desert Namibia
Dune 45 raises roughly 120 meters ( 400 feet) above the ground; It is one of the few dunes where the ascencion is authorized.At sunrise the colors are absolutely exceptional and a few visitors have already climbed the Dune to admire the sunrise from the summit.
We studied maps, tides, weather forecasts as we wanted to shoot a vertical wide angle image right above the Angel on top of the Mont St Michel.The Angel (Michel Angel) raises at 157 meters (520 feet), and the idea was to bring the kite and camera right above it. This was my first VHF radio assisted autoKAP session... with Heidy radio-guiding me on the other side of the Mont. (almost as efficient as a video link!)The Ricoh GX 200 was attached 100 meters (300 feet) below the Dan Leigh Delta R8 to get some “clean” air, most of the shots were made from 15 to 50 meters (50 to 150 feet) above the angel and I had close to 400 meters (1300 feet) of line out. Thanks to Emmanuel (alias Maneke) for his assistance!
KAP on Sydney Opera House 2008 – Act III… Oct 25, 2008
A warm THANK YOU to Pat, the security officer on duty this afternoon. Pat already gave me clearance back in February and again was very nice to authorize me another KAP session over the Opera House.I originally wanted to shoot right on top of the buiding but the shape and the architecture created too much turbulence.
Maitai Dream Fakarava, Tuamotu Archipelago Aug 11, 2007
Fakarava is the second largest Atoll in the Tuamotu archipelago, an hours flight North Est of Tahiti. Population of 473 and only one hotel the Maitai Dream.The french painter Matisse was inspired by Fakarava in 1932 when he discovered the incredible palette of "blues".
Stone fishing is a traditional technique in French Polynesia, but traditions are fading away. (We were fortunate enough to participate in 2009 for the last one that was organized on the island of Maupiti).To close the mayor’s congress, the city hall of the island of Taha’a organized a stone fishing ceremony on August 03, 2012. The weather forecast looked good (15-20 knots of south east wind); space was available on Air Tahiti, as well as at the Hawaiki nui, a local hotel. A few phone calls to find a boat to take us to the ceremony and here we are, Heidy & I, for an Xtreme KAP session. Certainly one of the most challenging we ever had.Here is how this special fishing technique works. A fish trap is build on the beach by the lagoon. From this trap a 60ft long and 5ft wide canal which ends in a giant funnel where more than 100 boats will “push” schools of fish that hundreds of fisherman will guide by throwing stones hung on a rope in the water. By the time they get to the funnel, fishermen jump into the water and “push” the fish in the canal towards the beach fish trap where the local authorities will have the opportunity to harpoon the first fish that show up. (The others will be released… the fish not the officials.)
No wind for this KAP session, we just had to tow the kite at the desired speed from the back of a Toyota Land Cruiser. Lots of fun, but a bit acrobatic to launch and retrieve the rig and camera without crashing.Altitude of the Salar is 3800 meters above sea level and the air is not as dense. Average speed of the car was 40 Km/h and we had to drive around twice to frame these shots in AutoKAP without video downlink.
Short 06-24 private runway on an atoll in the south Pacific.
Go fly a kite. Marketing exec Pierre Lesage finds the practice relaxing after a busy week overseeing operations at eight hotels. It’s also perfect for shooting photos.
“Since the drones came out a few years ago, kite aerial photography lost interest for a few photographers that are just looking for photographic results,” says Lesage. “I am also looking for results but I need that poetic aspect of doing it with a kite, and as long as there is wind I never have problem with batteries.”
Quadcopters are a thrill but flying kites is the zen alternative — and the photographic results are postcard perfect. It’s a way to mix tinkering with fresh air and can be as easy as picking up a prefab rig or as complicated as diving into the world of schematics and solder.
This week’s Gadget Watch is all about getting outside. Whether you're shopping, taking photos or traveling, we've got you covered (quite literally, in one case).
From drone-based aerial photography to phone-based iPhoneography, from magnetic notebooks to overpriced tote bags, from stealthy tents to absurd iPhone cases, this week we want to get you out in that summer sun: Take a flight on a plane with a built-in iPad holder, and when you get home you can open your front door with an ultralight bike-chain key holder. Just remember the sunscreen.
They used to be called quadcopters, but now anything with a horizontal rotor blade is called a drone. Photojojo’s Phantom 2 is a drone built for photography. It has a GPS autopilot to float safely and combat wind, a three-axis gimballed mount underneath for super-smooth footage, a six-mile range and a 25-minute flight time. The price? $959 with a GoPro mount or $1,299 with a Phantom Vision+ camera included. Buy from Photojojo.
Moschino, the fashion choice for lottery winners and Russian gangsters, will sell you this McDonald’s-a-like french fries case for just $85. Yes, it probably comes from the same Chinese factory as the $5 cases in your local mall, but at least you can repurpose this as a SpongeBob case with a few licks of paint. $85
Notebook too thick? Or too thin? What if you could take that weighty-but-comprehensive paper pad and split it into smaller sections as needed? That’s the Magnote, a set of three paper notebooks that combine – Transformers-style – into one big book using magnets in their spines. What’s more, those notebooks can contain day-planner pages, plain, ruled or gridded paper, and they’re the same size as an iPad mini for perfectly pairing paper and pixels. From $29.
U.K.-based budget airline Monarch has a new plane seat. It doesn’t recline (thank God), and offers more space for passengers. There’s also a bungee-cord pouch instead of those filth-harboring pockets, but the best part is the tablet holder up top, so you can slip in your iPad for in-flight movies on a Retina screen. Monarch
Add a proper shutter button to your iPhone with the snappgrip, a Bluetooth-enabled controller that slots onto an iPhone 5/s and adds not just a shutter release, but a pair of zoom rockers and a mode dial. The USB-charged gadget has it’s own companion app, and lots of third-party apps work with it. $70
Braven makes some of my favorite Bluetooth speakers, and the Mira looks like another winner – 10-hour battery, built-in speakerphone, proper control buttons for play/pause and volume, and splashproof. But the really neat part is the fold-out hook for hanging it up in kitchens, bathroom, gardens and workshops. The hook also doubles as a kickstand for safer spaces. $99
Canvas and leather, brought to a carry-anything tote bag. The Cube Tote gets its name from the magnetic closure that gathers its flaps together and tidies them up top, but the bag opens out to carry your groceries, your BBQ gear or — well, or anything: It’s a big, open-topped bag. The best part? Those wide straps that sit comfy on your shoulders. $340
Lightweight, good, inexpensive. Pick two. Wait, no – pick three. The £150 Stealth from Trekkertent is like a luxury tarp. It weighs just 590 grams (20 ounces). Packs to a 30 x 10 cm roll (a foot long, like a fat sub) but includes a flysheet (that can stand alone) with sit-up room plus an inner mesh tent with "bathtub" base. $252
Yes, a keychain made from a bike chain. An actual bike chain. The TIK takes links from a Yaban SLA, a chain with “hollow, chromium carbide-coated steel pins and cro-moly steel plates,” and grafts your keys onto its pins. The result is a set of keys that weighs less than the keys alone.
You select the correct key blanks when you buy a set, and then head down to your local locksmith and have her dupe your own keys onto them. Or you could just grab a Dremel and make your own today. From $35