A Chopper Just Projected Video Onto a Giant Screen Towed by Another Chopper


If you watched the night skies over New York City on Wednesday, you might have seen a UFO. It zoomed over the Hudson River like a colossal ghost—a ghost that looked like Ariana Grande.

Here’s the weirdest part: You weren’t hallucinating. To promote the upcoming MTV Video Music Awards, a pair of helicopters cruised over the Hudson. One towed a 250-foot-wide banner, and a second flew alongside it, beaming video onto the banner.

Obviously, flying a Jumbotron is not possible, so we had to find a new way. Branding By Air director of technology Ryan Osbourne

The result was an airborne video loop of Grande, Nicki Minaj, and the MTV Video Awards logo, all projected onto a screen twice the width of a drive-in movie screen, and almost as wide as the Statue of Liberty is tall. It was a feat conceived and performed by Branding By Air, an “aerial marketing” firm that’s launched everything from giant shoes to massive beer cans into the skies. This particular stunt was the first of its kind, earning Branding By Air and MTV a spot in the Guinness World Record books for the largest aerial projection screen.

“MTV is known for delivering firsts,” says Dario Spina, EVP of marketing at Viacom Velocity. “We like the innovation behind this. It takes an old-school piece of media and elevates it with new technology.”

Branding By Air director of technology Ryan Osbourne says his company has been testing the stunt for two years. The problem they wanted to solve was straightforward: It’s too dark to see the company’s other creative aerial banners at night.

“When the sun set, it disappeared,” Osbourne says. “Obviously, flying a Jumbotron is not possible, so we had to find a new way.”

Osbourne’s team conducted wind-tunnel testing in Australia, using scale models to optimize the aerodynamics of dragging a massive piece of fabric through the air. Seemingly simple things such as retaining a 16:9 aspect ratio on a massive flapping banner required a lot of engineering.

Branding By Air makes its own banners; its team stitches together rows of fabric to make a larger banner. That pieced-together approach helps the giant flag respond forgivingly to wind gusts and torque. Pockets at the top of the massive banner help lift it, while weight bags at the bottom of it help it fly square. All that gives the projector a flatter surface to project onto.

The stunt actually used three 4K projectors, stacked on top of one another in the Huey flying about 200 feet away from the screen. With all the equipment onboard, Osbourne says the military aircraft is the only type of helicopter muscular enough to carry all the cargo while flying steadily. The image from each projector overlaps on the screen, improving some aspects of image quality.

“You don’t so much gain lumens when you do that, you gain color saturation,” Osbourne explains. The setup has significantly more power than a movie-theater projector, although it doesn’t necessarily look as bright—it’s projecting onto a screen from much further away. “At peak performance, it’s 60,000 lumens,” he says, though this most recent stunt only required 40,000 lumens.

As crazy as it was to see this new form of in-flight entertainment over the Hudson, there are upcoming technological improvements that Osbourne hopes will make the experience even better. A few times during Wednesday’s flight, the video projection was off-target for a few seconds. And although the screen was big and visible, the projection wasn’t always tack-sharp; it could be difficult to make out what was being projected onto it.

But if everything went perfectly, it would have been boring. Osbourne is hoping new tech can improve the process.

“The first thing I’d wish for is that everything becomes a lot lighter,” Osbourne explains. “That way, I wouldn’t need a Huey. Those things are expensive to fly. Laser projectors are coming, and I can’t wait for that. Power sources, with the help of people like Elon Musk, would make things more accessible and safer.”

As for using drones instead of choppers, that won’t happen anytime soon.

“As far as towing a banner, they just don’t have the minerals,” Osbourne says. “They’re not quite strong enough. They’ll get there, but at the moment, we need drones that are flown by humans… aka helicopters.”

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Canon’s 5D Mark IV Is Here, With 4K Capability and Improved Autofocus


Look in the hands of a pro photographer or videographer at a live event or a wedding, and you’ll frequently see them holding a Canon EOS 5D Mark III. The a full-frame mainstay is a top tool of choice for a number of reasons: top-grade performance, superb photo and video quality, deep controls, and a big sensor that excels in low light.

The only “problem” with the 5D Mark III is that it came out in early 2012. While cameras—especially pro models—generally retain their value longer than other forms of technology, many features have become the norm since then. Autofocus systems have improved drastically in recent years. 4K video is solidly mainstream. Built-in wireless features are common.

The new Canon EOS 5D Mark IV addresses many of those recent expectations, and given the high marks given to of past 5D models, the new version should become the new omnipresent pro DSLR. It’s the first model in the 5D series with Canon’s insanely fast “Dual Pixel AF” technology, which uses phase-detection photosites on each pixel of the sensor. Staying locked on a moving subject fluidly while capturing video or shooting continuously should be much easier.

Canon5DMarkIVInline.jpg

Its 3.2-inch rear LCD display is now a touchscreen, which will help you lock in on subjects with a simple screen tap. And this new camera gets a brand-new feature from Canon, dubbed “Dual Pixel RAW,” which expands the powers of its unique sensor. Like a more-limited version of Lytro, you can tweak an image’s focal point ever so slightly after you take it.

Those new focus features are a huge bonus for videographers. It’s the first camera in the 5D series to shoot 4K video, capturing 4096×2160 footage at 24p or 30p. But it also shoots HDR video, albeit at a maximum resolution and frame rate of 1080p/30fps.

Other upgrades include higher-resolution images (30 megapixels versus the Mark III’s 22 megapixels); a slightly faster continuous-shooting speed (7fps versus 6fps); and Wi-Fi, NFC, and GPS capabilities built right in. The ISO range remains the same, spanning from 50 to 102,400, and the camera still has one Compact Flash and one SD/SDHC/SDXC slot.

Pro cameras aren’t cheap, especially ones with the 5D Mark IV’s skill set. Due in September, it’ll set you back $3,500 for the body only. Your old lenses should all transfer over without any problems, but there are also new lenses and kit packages to choose from.

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Gadget Lab Podcast: Privacy on the High Seas




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Hopsy’s Mini Keg Only Spits Out Delicious Local Microbrews


If you want to drink brewery-fresh beer in your home, your options are limited. You’ve got to either get a whole keg, or buy a half-gallon growler fresh from the brewery’s tap room. Both are inconvenient. Kegs are huge require a giant fridge, and growlers need to be consumed within day or two after opening, or else the beer inside goes stale.

This is where Hopsy’s HomeTap makes things easier for beer lovers. The HomeTap is small enough to fit on a countertop in your kitchen (or in the breakroom at work if you’ve hit your series A round). The beer comes in special 2-liter bottles that are filled by local microbreweries who have partnered with Hopsy. Inside each plastic bottle is a bag—just like the bag inside a box of wine, though the liquid inside this bag is much tastier.

The HomeTap pushes air into the plastic bottle, putting pressure on the bag inside and squeezing the beer out through the tap.

The path to beer is simple: You insert the big bottle, run the built-in hose to the device’s tap handle, then close and lock the door. The beer is kept cold inside the machine. When it’s time to pour, the HomeTap pushes air into the plastic bottle. This puts pressure on the bag inside, squeezing the beer out through the tap and into your glass. Air never touches the beer, so the suds stays fresh for up to two weeks.

The machine is designed by the German company Krups, and there are already systems like the HomeTap in Europe. But Hopsy is the sole US distributor. After you buy a HomeTap, Hopsy delivers beer of your choosing to your door as often as you’d like. You can either buy the machine outright and buy the beer bottles as needed, or you can sign up for an auto-renewing subscription plan that includes delivery.

The bottles are more expensive than traditional growlers; $20 and up. Also, the HomeTap is not available outside of select areas, and your choice of beers is limited to what’s offered by the local microbreweries who have partnered with Hopsy. But come on—you love beer, so surely you can find something on the menu to quench your thirst.

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Fujifilm’s X-A3 Camera Mashes Up Retro Looks and Selfie Smarts


Is there really such a thing as a “retro-themed camera” anymore? Throwback styles are the norm. Take Fujifilm’s latest mirrorless camera, with its aluminum body swathed in faux leather. It’ll look great in your study next to your globe bar and real-leather-bound tomes.

The Fujifilm X-A3 is built around a 24-megapixel APS-C sensor, which is the same size as the imager found in most consumer DSLRs. Like its predecessor, the X-A1, the X-A3’s new sensor has a Bayer pattern color filter like practically every other camera. That means you’re not getting the unique “X-Trans” sensor in the higher-end Fujifilm X-T2 and X100T, which was designed to make images look like they were shot with film cameras. With the X-A3, sharpness and color likely won’t look as delicious.

Then again, those X-Trans cameras cost more than twice as much as the X-A3.

This shooter also doesn’t have all the knobs, buttons, and advanced features of those higher-end Fujis, but the sensor size and specs are still solid for its $600 price tag. There’s a 49-point autofocus system (compared to the X-T2’s 325-point system), a top continuous shooting speed of 6fps (compared to 14fps), and 1080p video recording (stepping up will get you 4K capabilities).

The X-A3 can boast a few bonus features, like manual exposure controls, RAW mode with in-camera processing, an ISO range that reaches up to 25,600, and the ability to control the camera remotely via Wi-Fi. But clearly, this is a camera built for more casual shooters. You know, the kind that also wants to snap the occasional, automated selfie.

That’s right. As with the X-A1, the X-A3’s three-inch touchscreen tilts all the way up so you can see it from the front. This latest model, though, picks up a few tricks that help you take smarter selfies. When you flip the screen up, the camera automatically focuses on your eyes. There’s also a feature that automatically triggers the shutter when you smile, or when people huddle in front of the lens. When you’re using the camera to shoot the world around you and not just your own beaming face, the touchscreen offers smartphone-like touch-focus and pinch-to-zoom controls.

And of course, you can print your selfies on the portable Instax Share SP-2 printer, which is compatible with this camera. Synergy! The X-A3 will ship in October, and it’ll be available in brown, silver, and pink. The $600 asking price includes a 16-55mm kit lens.

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Brooks Wants You to Test Its New Helmets—Responsibly, Thank You Very Much




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Dyson Crams a Heater, Fan, and Air Purifier Into One Device


Stop me if you’ve heard this one: A fan, a heater, and an air purifier all walk into a bar. No wait, a Dyson. Sorry. Also, there’s no punchline.

For several years, Dyson has sold a stylish, bladeless fan. For slightly fewer years, it has sold a fan that also heats. For a few months, it has sold a fan that also purifies the air. On September 6, the innovative engineering company’s Pure Hot+Cool Link will complete the seemingly inevitable Venn diagram. It heats, it cools, it purifies the air. It’s a multitool for in-home comfort.

Having to Frankenstein together three features into one sleek cylindrical cyborg took a bit of work, though not in the way one might expect. Fitting all the pieces together? Not so tough.

A connected app will register air quality history so you can track which days are particularly sneeze-inducing.

“When you look at our desk purifier, you see a little bit of similarity [to the Pure Hot+Cool Link] from the filter down. They’re about the same size,” says Dyson design engineer Sean Hopkins. “And then when you look from the filter up, you see essentially everything in the A09,” Dyson’s cooling/heating fan. Integrating those was relatively simple, next to the broader challenge of making heating and air purification play nice together.

The problem, Hopkins explains, is that heating a room can affect its air quality. Heat and humidity can exacerbate allergens, which an air purify has to work harder to clear out.

“It comes down to taking into account how do we make the most efficient use of the purifier function while maintaining the room at a certain temperature,” says Hopkins. “It’s a well-timed balancing act, or more like a see-saw.”

Apparently navigating those trade-offs haven’t affected the Pure Hot+Cool Link’s effectiveness; Dyson claims it will remove 99.97 percent of particles—think pollen, mold, air pollution—in its given location, all while keeping hot days cool and cold days comfortable. A connected app will also register air quality history, so that you can track which days are particularly sneeze-inducing. It can also let you control just how clean you want your air to be, if you’d rather save your energy bill more than your lungs.

It’s a $600 device, which at first sounds like a lot, but less so when you remember that it’s a three-for-one special.

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Ingenious Power Tool Uses Machine Vision to Make Perfect Cuts


Peek into any of the commercial garages dotting San Francisco’s Mission District and you’ll find a mix of auto body shops and startups working on gleaming black-and-silver gizmos. On an intensely sunny afternoon in April, Shaper’s staff rolled up its garage door to reveal a cluster of workbenches—all made by Shaper’s handheld woodcutting tool, Origin, which goes on sale today.

You may not think of yourself as a woodworker, but the founders of Shaper can change that. The tool is built to take the mystery—and most of the skill—out of cutting even complex shapes from a piece of wood. Grab Origin by the handles, place it on a piece of wood, and start tracing along the edges of the shape on Origin’s touchscreen. The drill bit will automatically correct for your wobbly, inexperienced hands.

“While it’s really complex robotics under the hood, for users it’s kind of magic,” CEO Joe Hebenstreit says. “We want people to take the technology for granted.”