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LUUV will make your videos more... Luuv-ly.

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Shooting video on phones is always getting better - every few months manufacturers will make a huge announcement about how their sensors are getting even better, but there is still one perennial problem: the user. We just can't hold the damn things still. Lucky for us then, that the LUUV has just been announced - which could solve the problem entirely.

The TV and film industry solved this problem decades ago, with the introduction of the steadicam in the late 70s, which revolutionised the sorts of shots that could be accomplished. Unfortunately, its all rather bulky - forcing camera people to wear a massive harness. Fastforward on a few decades though, and the tech is ready for consumers.

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LUUV is a steadicam designed for mobile phones and GoPros. You mount your phone in the top and hold it by the handle - then you can film skateboarding, snowmobiling or whatever dangerous activity you're trying to capture, with the built in counterweight correcting for any shaking.

If you want to manoeuvre your camera as it is mounted, you can twist a couple of controls on the unit - so you don't have to touch (and shake) your camera whilst it is recording the action.

Finally you can live your dream of recreating West Wing 'walk & talk' scenes, without worrying about a shaky camera. (It's not just me who wants to do that, right?).

Like everything these days, it is being crowdfunded, and annoyingly it appears though the initial units will be pricey - upwards of $200 (about £120). Let's hope they can manufacturer it soon and make it cheaper.

Elgato Smart Key: Never lose your keys again

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Now where did I put that thing? After wasting so much time searching for that thing, surely most of us have despaired at some point that there isn't a Google for real life objects. Whilst Elgato haven't managed to index my house just yet - they have come up with a clever little gadget for tracking my keys.

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For a few weeks now I've been trying out the Elgato smart key - a bluetooth fob that hangs from your keyring, and makes sure your phone and your keys are never separated. If you leave your keys and walk away, your phone will ring out with an alert to remind you - so you won't already be on the bus home by the time you realise something is missing.

The way it works is by using low-powered Bluetooth 4.0. Simply download the app to your phone and the fob will connect via Bluetooth. Should the connection be severed (by distance), the alerts will kick in. The fob also has a button on it - which if you press will make your phone make a noise... so you can also use it to locate your phone if it goes missing down the back of the sofa.

The fob itself is flat and circular - slightly thicker and slightly wider than Pogs used to be (remember them?). It's powered by a watch battery that can apparently be replaced relatively easily - and Elgato claim you should be able to get months of usage off of one battery, given the Bluetooth connection is so low powered.

What's really cool is that the app enables the Smart Key to be configured in a number of different ways. For example - why not use the keys to detect when your bags are coming around the baggage carousel? You can put the Smart Key in your luggage and then when you reach your destination airport, as the bag enters the carousel it will automatically reconnect with your phone - alerting you to the fact that you should be watching out for it. Brilliant.

You can also use it to remember where you parked. Leave the Smart Key in the car and as your phone disconnects as your walk away, the app will log your GPS coordinates - so when it comes to finding your car again, you can be guided back to it.

There's also a whole bunch of custom behaviours that you can configure manually - to make your phone vibrate or make a noise based on the actions of the Smart Key.

It's great - and only £40 too, so may well be worth it for piece of mind. Plus they've beaten Tile to market in the first place. This is definitely one to watch.

Traditionally holidays are a time when you switch off and relax - but if you're anything like me, then you'll find the idea of staying away from the internet a notion as bewilderingly old fashioned as riding a penny-farthing or colonialism. The trouble is, if you go abroad then there's an immediate problem: extortionate data rates, and networks willing to relentlessly rip you off. Luckily though - GoodSpeed might have just solved this problem.

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In a world where O2 give users a meagre 15mb/day when in Europe, the dream of using your phone as though you were in Britain - completing with uploading pictures to Facebook, tweeting and checking your emails - seems like a distant one. But what GoodSpeed have done is subvert the network bigwigs entirely.

GoodSpeed is a small, phone-sized device that will connect to local phone networks in tonnes of different countries - and will then create a secure mobile hotspot, which your phone, tablet or any other wifi device can connect to and access the web - brilliant! And I'm pleased to report, having spent the last three weeks in Canada, it worked like a charm.

The Setup

When ordering the GoodSpeed, you need to order a SIM card for each country you'll be going to - though it has ten SIM card slots, so if you're going on a world tour, you can load up plenty of SIM cards in time. Then once received, it's simply a case of activating your GoodSpeed online and powering on.

After a few minutes spent registering on the local phone network (which might take slightly longer first time around), you'll see "3G" flicker to life on the screen and you're good to go. From here it is simply a case of searching for the GoodSpeed hotspot on your phone and connecting to the network using the password displayed on the device's screen. You'll then have a big fat 500mb to use every single day.

Using the GoodSpeed

Essentially, it just works. And it'll work almost everywhere you'd want to go. Here's a map of their coverage:

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Solid orange countries are all directly supported, and lighter orange countries are supported via partner companies - together, they cover a heck of a lot of places.

Brilliantly, GS supports up to five devices simultaneously too - so you can share the connective joy with your travel companions: just be careful not to go on a power trip with your new found ability to switch off your friends' internet access at the touch of a button.

Helpfully, there's a button on the side of the device to toggle what is displayed on the screen - and you can cycle it to see how much data you've used so far that day. But to put how useful the GS is into perspective... I never really had to check this and worry about how much data I was using once.

Battery-wise things are decent too - there's a 2550mAh battery inside. Which is about the same as any modern smartphone, so you'll get about a day of usage out of it before having to recharge. This is particularly good, as it means you can leave the device switched on and in your pocket, and function as you would anywhere else with data - seamless. Helpfully too, the GS also charges over the now standard micro-USB standard - so no need for carrying around a specific charger.

The broad takeaway point here though is that it simply works great - and provides an invisible connection between your phone, the device and the wider internet - so you can stay connected from the middle of a frozen lake in Canada, just as easily as you would from a warm cafe in central London. It's brilliant.

The Price

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So what's the damage? With great power, comes great financial responsibility - and the price is really the only sticking point. GS have come up with a relatively complex pricing structure - as you can see from above.

On the pro-package, for example, you pay at three points: for the device itself (€239), then a monthly fee (€9.90/month), and then for every day you use it abroad, a daily usage fee - which in most countries is €5.90, but with some going as high as €9.90 (typically for the more 'exotic' destinations).

Whilst this can certainly sound quite pricey, it certainly scales better than most travel deals offered by UK networks (500mb every day!), and because the Goodspeed works with up to five devices, it is conceivably possible that you could split the costs with four other travel companions - rather than all get ripped off by roaming charges individually.

The Verdict

So is it worth it? For frequent travellers, it is a must by - and for casual travellers, then it is still worth considering. I can vouch for GS during my three weeks in Canada - it worked great and meant I was never too far away from being able to sarcastically tweet my political opinions, which is exactly how I like to be.

More broadly too, the device is a great innovation as it is helping to break the tyranny of the phone networks. By providing a means to subvert the ludicrous roaming fees that they charge, this can only be a good thing as it will provide competition, and hopefully force down international fees across the board. Very Good Speed indeed.

The living room can be a busy place for the modern gadget lover - and with the TV, cable box, stereo and pretty much everything else demanding a remote control, that's a lot of clutter. Which is perhaps why One For All have come up with an intriguing device that promises to do away with anything as archaic as "buttons", and will enable you to control all of your infrared needs with an app.

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The Nevo Wifi Bridge is a little black box that connects to your home wifi network and, as the name suggests, acts as a bridge between the wireless signals emanating from your tablet and the infrared signals needed by your TV. Size-wise, it's about equivalent in size to an Apple TV if it were on vertical instead of flat. Helpfully too, the IR signals emanate from two places: the front of the box, but you can also plug-in an (included) IR transmitter on an extension lead, which is great if you where you position the box won't have direct line of sight to all of your IR devices.

Getting setup is relatively straightforward. Plug the bridge into the mains, and then there's two different methods for getting it connected to the wifi. The easiest way is by WPS - the little used method by which you hit a button on top of your router and on the device at the same time and it'll pair them up. If you don't have a router that supports WPS, then you can setup using an ethernet connection.

Once you're setup on the network, it is simply a case of download of downloading the Nevo app to your tablet.

In the Nevo app, once it has found the bridge on your network, you have to go through and train it to talk to all of your devices. This should be pretty straightforward - the app has built in support for hundreds, if not thousands of devices from pretty much every brand under the sun. Setting up my Samsung TV and Bush satellite box was a piece of cake.

The only thing it struggled with - and I'm going to blame myself for this rather than One For All - is an obscure HDMI switcher that I picked up from a Chinese retailer on Amazon, so I can switch the pictures on to one of two screens at will. Even with this, after emailing the company I was told that they're planning to support it shortly - so it is good to know that the company appear to be keeping their database of IR codes up to date too, which is good news for future-proofing.

Anyway - setting up devices on the app is a case of locating your TV (or whatever) in a list, and then going through a short test to ensure the TV reacts when on-screen buttons are pressed.

Once this is all done, you're good to go. Using the app is simply a case of selecting the thing you want to control, and using the on-screen remote to control it. Great.

So it certainly works okay - but there are a few things that could use improvement.

Perhaps most inconsequentially, the hardware feels a little cheap. I can't work out if this is because it is of low quality or just because the One For All brand is more commonly seen on el-cheapo universal remote controls that Argos used to sell. To be fair - it works, it hasn't broken, and once setup it is going to sit tucked under your TV.

The bigger issue is probably the Nevo App. Frankly... it's just ugly. Whereas Apple and other developers can produce beauty, here there's bevels, gradients and text that doesn't even fit on the buttons. The list for scrolling through devices is sluggish and the text doesn't fit on it gracefully - it simply doesn't look modern, and instead reinforces my preconceptions about the One For All brand.

More frustrating is that - inexplicably - the app is only available for tablets. Though on iOS and Android, if you've got a phone you'd like to use as a remote control, then you're out of luck. The fact that they haven't made the apps compatible with smaller screened siblings is frankly bewildering, given that many more people have phones, and development would be nearly identical. Desktop apps, for Mac & PC would be nice too - but let's not be picky until they've got an app that'll work on an iPhone.

So in conclusion, the One For All tablet remote is a one of a kind product - to my knowledge no one has produced anything similar. The execution is not quite there yet - but it could be easily improved. The important thing is that they've established the hardware for interacting with infrared controlled devices - so really we're only a software update away from having something great. So I dare say it might be worth waiting until that software update.

If you're a serious gamer, then you'll know the hours of effort it takes to push your skills and up that high score or kill count - so you could be forgiven for looking for a faster way to improve. The "Fo.cus" headset was launched last year, and claims to use "transcranial direct current stimulation" (tDCS) to improve your concentration... but does it work? We're not so sure.

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This sounds pretty hi-tech, right? Look at the photo of this guy wearing the headset - which has electrodes touch his head. Here's how the company describe it describe the technology:

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) uses a constant, low current delivered directly to the brain area via small electrodes. Tests on healthy adults demonstrated that tDCS can increase cognitive performance on a variety of tasks, depending on the area of the brain being stimulated. tDCS has been utilised to enhance language and mathematical ability, attention span, problem solving, memory and coordination.

So let's start with what we know: tDCS is definitely a Proper Scientific Thing - it's been used by neuroscientists for many years for research purposes - and studies have shown that it could be effective at treating everything from Parkinson's to depression.

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But could this work... as a consumer headset? And even if it could have an effect... will it actually make you a better gamer? To find out I asked my friend Dr Dean Burnett, a neuroscientist who also writes the superb Brain Flapping blog for the Graun. Here's his reaction when I told him about the Fo.cus:

"Actual brain stimulation techniques use magnetic coils which give off intensely powerful magnetic fields using big generators (anything less and the brain won't even notice it) and they have to be precisely targeted to a certain brain region by trained people.
"The idea that a device like this that runs on batteries (or even from the mains) could work safely and effectively for everyone is ridiculous. Even if it were possible to make a thing like this that actually worked, there's no way in hell it would be commercially available so quickly and readily. A device that can actually change the brain activity of people who use it via direct stimulation? This would be like giving powerful antidepressants away as prizes in cereal packets."

So colour us sceptical - and remember... if something sounds like it is too good to be true, then it probably is.

An intriguing video has emerged showing the parts used to construct a 3D printer re-imagined to create a robotic air hockey opponent.

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The machines may not have figured out how to send robots back in time to kill yet, but if John Connor challenges them to a air hockey game instead, they may have just got a helping hand from hardware hacker Jose Julio.

Watch the video:

He took the parts from the open source RepRap 3D printer project - but rather than assemble them to print, used the belt and motor systems to guide an air hockey paddle. Apparently it uses three motors - two for the Y axis and one for X. Apparently in designing the paddles, he went through several iterations in an attempt to make them as lightweight as possible - so the puck would move faster when in play.

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The tricky part appears to have been then giving the robot hockey player some intelligence. To do this, Julio rigged up a camera to look down on the table (a PS3 eye camera, in fact), which would then track the locations of the paddle, puck and human player, and then attempt to predict the trajectory that the puck would be coming from. Apparently one of the key things was to build it so that every time a new calculation was made it could quickly cancel the one before - so rather than have the paddle sliding over to where it isn't needed, it could reposition to new circumstances.

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What's cool too is that apparently if you have the time and talent to replicate the project for yourself, the strategy programming is a separate, easily configurable module of the code - so theoretically you could build different virtual opponents with different playing styles.

I, for one, welcome our new air-hockey playing robot overlords.

What has Russian technology ever done for us?

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Today marks the opening of the Sochi Winter Olympics - the most expensive Olympics in history and President Vladimir Putin's attempt to bolster Russia's reputation on the world stage. As Russia has though obviously been a major global player for centuries, it has also made a huge contribution to science and technology - some good and some... well, not so good. Here's our pick of some of the most important Russian contributions to technology.

AK47 (1949)

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Is there a more quintessential Russian emblem than the AK47? The weapon of choice for rebels and insurgency movements everywhere, the AK47 has been used to suppress dissent in dozens of countries. Famed for being durable in almost any weather, thanks to the amount of free space between components, the firearm was invented in 1949 by Mikhail Kalashnikov, presumably because he thought that war and devastation wasn't already depressing enough.

Perhaps more relevant to TechDigest readers, the gun is also a staple of pretty much every First Person Shooter under the sun, from Goldeneye to Call of Duty - making it as ubiquitous in games as it is in the endless cycle of violence in parts of Africa.

Sputnik (1957)

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Sputnik was the first ever artificial earth satellite. It couldn't do all that much - it just sent a beeping signal back to earth - but the act of getting it into space in the first place was a huge achievement in itself. Launched in the midst of the Cold War, it must have been a scary time for Americans. Though today we view America as the clear winner of that conflict, back in 1957 the story was different. The Russian-backed North Korea was booming compared to American-backed South Korea, the US was facing revolt at home due to the civil rights movement, and to top things off the Russians had a highly visible example of their technological prowess.

Luckily rather than be the harbingers of doom we could have expected, Sputnik was merely the first of hundreds - if not thousands - of satellites, which would revolutionise the way we communicate. Without satellites there'd be no global position system, no satellite TV, and communicating around the world would be much trickier.

Soyuz (1967)

Where would we be without the Soyuz space craft? Like the apocryphal tale of how NASA spent millions developing a space pen whereas the Russians just used a pencil, whilst America spent billions of dollars building the now-retired Shuttle programme, based on the idea of a space plane behemoth that could be reused, the Soyuz kept things simple and rocket-like. As a result, the Soyuz has outlived the Shuttles and is currently the only means we have of getting astronauts into space - at least until NASA get the Orion spacecraft ready... which looks to be 2020 at the very earliest. A clear victory for Russian technology!

Tetris (1984)


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Perhaps the best export from Russia is the game of Tetris. It was invented in 1984 by Alexey Pajitnov before being ported to home computers available in the US. It really found fame though in 1989 as the title launched with the original Nintendo Game Boy, in which it sold millions and millions of copies.

Apart from being released on basically anything containing a microprocessor, Tetris has also had a huge cultural impact... though strangely no one has made a Tetris movie just yet.

Chat Roulette (2011)

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Perhaps the most recent Russian technology to make a big impact isn't one they should be particularly proud of. Chat Roulette was developed by Russian coder Andrey Ternovsky, and is a chat service like no other. Rather than have a list of contacts, a la Skype, you're randomly paired up with someone else, so could end up talking to... well... anyone.

As you might imagine, being the internet this invariably involved involuntary interactions with people not wearing any clothes. Perhaps, umm, not the most dignified Russian achievement.

What next?

Most of the above innovations are quite old - what about Russia in the 2010s? Is the best modern web service it can do really Chat Roulette? As we reported earlier, the interesting thing about Russia is that services we take for granted, like Google and Facebook are not hegemonic there - there's other players like Yandex and Facebook clone Vkontakte (who apparently employ Edward Snowden, in fact) - so there must be something in these services that stop Russian internet users jumping ship. There must be lots of innovation under the surface - so surely it's only a matter of time before Russia gets another big western hit?

Could Dizmo make Minority Report a reality?

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Since the 2002 film Minority Report, much has been made of the screen technology predicted by the film. In an era when even flat screens were novelty, the film featured Tom Cruise's character manipulating data by swiping around windows, resizing them on the fly - all with a flick of the wrist.

Twelve years on and a lot of what Minority Report predicted has come true. The NSA have set about trying to replicate the draconian security state, we get our news on the train from slimline tablets and road-side adverts have started to track us to deliver personalised messages. But what about the swishy screens?

What's strange is that we now largely have the kit - we have touchscreens that are large and flat... yet they still lack the... flexibility of those seen in Minority Report. Perhaps though - there is an answer.

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A company called Dizmo have today announced the start of a Kickstarter to build a new platform for touchscreen interfaces - aiming to solve just this.

"Today's user-interfaces feel inadequate to provide a natural (easy, direct, intuitive) access to all our digital gizmos, or «dizmos» as we call them, whereas hardware performance and availability continue to rapidly grow. It is a software problem that dizmo aims at resolving."

Check out this video to see it in action:

Apparently once built, Dizmo will be compatible with all of the major operating systems and will enable users to manipulate each widget to meet their needs - rotating, and scaling them to fit where they need them to. Examples given include calendars, post-it notes, video streams and even triggers for apps like Skype and Twitter. There are even plans to have widgets on the interface interact with other "internet of things" type devices, that are becoming increasingly popular.

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It's being touted as a collaboration platform - and you can totally imagine it working in offices and learning environments:

Here's how Dizmo describe some of the key features of what you can do with different Dizmo widgets:

  • Organize (move, rotate, re-size) dizmos on any digital surface
  • Create and concurrently use different dizmos at the same time
  • Get multiple copies of any dizmo
  • Swiftly navigate through an infinite digital space with a zoomable user interface
  • Move and share dizmos between various devices, across rooms or locations, making your digital gizmos ubiquitous through the cloud
  • Build your own dizmos, by using the dizmo SDK
  • «Dock» dizmos together, allowing apps to talk to each other and work together

Beneath the hood, it all runs on HTML5, CSS and Javascript - the same thing many modern web apps run on, so shouldn't be difficult for developers to build in support for. The risk for backers though is of course that Dizmo is only a small start up, so securing the support of developers early on is going to be crucial if they're to be successful. You can bet that either way the likes of Apple and Google will be looking on with interest - ready to pounce with their own version if Dizmo is successful.

Whilst we're here wondering if the next big thing is going to be wearables or, god forbid, pointlessly curvy tellies, the big tech corporations seem to have different ideas as in recent days both Apple and Sony have been spotted making moves in the medical sphere.

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Let's start with Apple, where it is close to an open secret that they're working on an "iWatch". Whilst nobody knows the details yet, if analysts are reading the runes correctly, it's not just going to be another screen to receive text messages on - but it'll be a device in which the medical applications will play a big part.

The 9to5Mac blog have uncovered that Apple have recently hired Nancy Dougherty, who is a former head of R&D at a company that make tiny medical sensors. Here's one description from FastCompany:

The needle-less, sensor-laden transdermal patch is painless (I handled a prototype, which felt like sandpaper on the skin) and will soon be able to monitor everything you might find on a basic metabolic panel-a blood panel that measures glucose levels, kidney function, and electrolyte balance. Already, Sano's prototype can measure glucose and potassium levels. There are enough probes on the wireless, battery-powered chip to continuously test up to a hundred different samples, and 30% to 40% of today's blood diagnostics are compatible with the device.

So it's easy to imagine the iWatch having something like this on the strap, so that it can constantly monitor your health.

This tallies with the expectation that the iWatch will also replicate the functions of the various exercise bracelets you can currently buy, like the Nike+ or the Fitbit. Presumably after mashing all of this data together, Apple can provide you with some useful health advice - who knows, maybe we'll start getting notifications like "Hmm... shouldn't you see a doctor about that?".

So what about Sony? The Verge are reporting today that they're forming a new genome analysis company that will be able to sequence the personal genomes of individuals. Whilst the article talks of the implications for research institutions and hospitals and the like, this could also be a significant move for individual consumers. Sony clearly think that personalised medicine is a big deal - so it wouldn't be surprising if some of the technology or knowledge seeps over into its consumer electronics business too. Heck - we all know that as soon as Apple debut a health-centric iWatch, the rest of the industry will be racing to catch up - and this new department from Sony could give them certain advantages when it comes to analysing health analytics.

So expect to hear a lot more about medical sensors in the next year. Google, Samsung: It's your move!

Surprising news out of the Wall Street Journal this morning, as according to research carried out by Forrester Research, Apple's customers are less happy than those of mobile rivals Samsung and Sony, but even stodgy old Microsoft too.

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The survey asked 7500 US consumers three simple questions about each company: How enjoyable were they to do business with? How easy were they to do business with? and How effective were they at meeting your needs? - with the focus being on customer service (so we're not talking about how nice their apps are to use, and in Amazon's case the survey was about Kindle users, not people who have bought the multitude of other stuff from them).

As the results show - it isn't the case that Apple's customer service has just got worse - it is that everyone else has got better, faster. And this should be particularly worrying to them given that not only are the other three companies snapping and their heels in the quest for smartphone dominance, but that because part of the Apple allure is its "premium brand" status.

Part of the way of building a premium brand is making people feel like they are cared about, and solving their problems quickly - which is why any trip to an Apple store will see you almost outnumbered by the number of blue-shirted Apple "Geniuses", who are invariably creepily cheery. If this doesn't make customers any happier... why pay more when those Microsoft Surface 2s down the street are cheaper than a Macbook Pro?

Apple isn't the only story though - there's already one company sailing ahead. Maintaining its commanding lead, Amazon's Kindle users are the happiest, it seems. Speaking personally this isn't surprising - though I've had a couple of faulty Kindles in my time, Amazon's excellent customer services have replaced them and shipped out a new one super quickly. The only downside is that they don't pay their tax.

Why not let us know your best and worst customer experiences in the comments?

What's the big tech trend at this year's CES?

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You may have spotted something on TechDigest. Most of our stories this week are coming out of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas - the annual gathering of the great and the good of the tech world (apart from Apple, of course), who get together to show off their latest gadgets and use their increasingly large TVs as part of a phallocentric display of industry dominance.

One of the traditions of the show is awarding a "best in show" award to a specific gadget - but as Alex Hern pointed out the other day, it's not exactly a good indicator of what will be the Next Big Thing - in fact, it seems like a poison chalice. (Remember when we all bought Creative Zen players? Exactly - me neither).

What we can do though is look at CES and the thousands of products, and perhaps semi-accurately see if we can spot some emerging trends in the tech industry. The year after the iPad was announced, CES was awash with tablets, for example. So what's big at CES that could be next?

There seems to be two strong competitors: curved screens and wearables. And if you ask me - I'd put my money on this CES being the starting point for Wearables being a big thing.

Why? Well... why do you need a curved TV? The big guns - Samsung and LG have been willy-waving with 105" curved sets but the world's reaction seems to be a shrug of the shoulders. Why do we need this? What possible benefits are there?

As markers of possible future developments, these could be interesting - like how the car industry has "concept cars" which look awesome but don't exist. But until the tech is refined to a point where the TV can be folded up after an evening's viewing, is anyone really going to opt for this? Similarly on mobile devices Samsung have tried to make some noise about curvature - but other than showing off, there doesn't seem to be much utility there.

A much more viable contender for the technology that will make the show is in the realm of wearables. For a few years now tech companies have been trying to crack the wearable nut - with a few crappy attempts like the Galaxy Gear smartwatch or the missing-in-action Google Glass... but this year's CES could mark the point when wearables are taken seriously.

Pebble, the e-ink based smartwatch that wowed everyone on Kickstarter have announced a new model - the Pebble Steel, which takes the original "proof of concept" design and slims it down into a smaller and sleeker package. Crucially too the company have finally launched the Pebble App Store, jump starting the watch's app eco-system, which once it has remotes for all of the most common devices could become invaluable.

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CES has also been a big deal for wearable fitness technology. A number of companies, including Sony, have announced new fitness tracking bands similar to Nike Plus. The new Fitbit Force improves on previous models and will track everything from your heart rate to your calorie intake - and will hook up to an app on your phone to give you all of the details.

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3L Labs even came up with a bluetooth insole for your shoe, which can monitor health metrics.

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And of course, as we covered earlier, Intel have unveilled the Intel Edison - a fully functioning computer that can run Linux, complete with bluetooth and wifi - that is the size of an SD card. This is going to make "embedded" devices - normal things with an on-board computer, even easier for manufacturers in the future. So don't be surprised if we start seeing the Edison in everything from toasters to washing machines in future.

So could this be the start of a wearable revolution? As technology gets smaller and cheaper, we're surely on the verge of the 'internet of things' - and putting these 'things' on our bodies is surely logical progression. In a few years time - we'll all be cyborgs. But we probably still won't be watching a curved TV.

It's all happening at CES this week. Intel have made waves this week by unveiling the Intel Edison, which looks like an SD card - and is the same size as one - but is in fact a fully functioning computer. The Lilliputian government have already put in a big order.

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Intel claim that the on-board processor is a full "Pentium class" PC, and is capable of running Linux on its tiny Quark processor. There's also built in bluetooth and wifi - making the Edison perfectly positioned for the emerging "wearable technology" scene.

The Edison itself is obviously much smaller than the Raspberry Pi, perhaps its closest competitor - but given the more diminutive form and built in connectivity, it'll probably command a higher price point.

Interestingly, Intel will have an app store for apps made for Edison, and in their CES presentation showed off a couple of examples: a baby monitor that picked up metrics from sensors on a toy frog and displayed a number representing how happy it was on the side of a mug. There was also a milk warmer, which would start, umm, warming the milk when the baby started crying. Very clever indeed.

What's exciting about such a small device is that there's so many possibilities. Because it can run Linux and has connectivity options, it means that developers are already half way there, and all they have to do is write code they'll be familiar with based on common standards. Intel aren't blind to this either - they've announced a $500,000 prize for the best wearable tech development using the Edison.

So expect to see the Edison all over the place soon - if not obviously all over the place, it'll certainly be embedded in many different devices.

LaCie, who are best known for making external hard drives have turned their expertise to a problem that increasingly affects tablet and phone owners who like to carry around a lot of content: running out of space. The LaCie Fuel is portable hard disk that lets you access its terabyte of storage wirelessly - without need for an internet connection.

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The way it works is pretty simple - it's a brick of storage (we're presuming a solid-state drive), strapped to a battery and a wireless hotspot. It can then either connect to an existing wifi network, or generate it's own - meaning you can connect to it on the go and access your files through the Seagate Media app. Because it runs off of a battery you're not tethered to civilisation either - it will work just as well if you're up a mountain or stuck on a train.

Also built in is a USB 3.0 socket, so you can transfer files for storage quicker than over wifi, and there's even support for Dropbox too. The Seagate app apparently also supports Apple's AirPlay standard, meaning that if you've got an Apple TV, you can send the video to the big screen to watch on there too.

Apparently the device can cope with up to five different devices (phone, tablet or laptop) accessing files simultaneously - and will support up to 3 different HD movie streams at the same time. Or hey, you could be sociable and all watch something together.

LaCie claim that the 1TB will store up to 500 movies, 160,000 songs or 190,000 photos - though obviously your mileage may vary depending on if you like things in HD and lossless. The Fuel will be on sale "soon" and will cost £169.90 from the LaCie online store and resellers.

Good news for Marty McFly when he arrives in the future next year - he'll be able to use a new iPad add-on to recreate the 1980s' beloved ZX Spectrum more accurately.

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Whilst we're still waiting for hoverboards, the Bluetooth ZX Spectrum from Elite Systems will have to do. Designed to be used in tandem with their Spectrum iPad or Android App, it works in two different modes: as a games controller, and as a standard keyboard.

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Modelled after the classic Spectrum keyboard, it'll make playing the likes of Elite, R-Type and Chuckie Egg much easier than the on-screen controls - and when you need to do some work, you'll be able to use the keyboard to write emails and the like too. Like the original Spectrum - it has authentic rubber keys, with none of that "solid plastic" nonsense that later became fashionable. And as it's just a dressed up (albeit, very nicely dressed up) bluetooth keyboard, it'll also work with PCs and Macs - anything you can pair it too!

Unfortunately the keyboard isn't yet available. Like everything these days the makers are trying to fund it with a Kickstarter - though at time of writing it has already raised £15k of a needed £60k... so looks like we could have it sooner rather than later. When it is finally available they expect it to retail for around £40-50.

Tech & Gaming Predictions for 2014

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As we wave goodbye to 2013, it's time to start thinking about next year. 2013 has seen a revolution in home console gaming as we welcomed the next generation of home consoles, and incremental improvements to mobile operating systems... will 2014 be more of the same? What can we expect to happen next year?

KitKat makes Android as desirable as iOS

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If you've had the chance to see Android KitKat in action (currently only available on the Nexus 5), then you'll know it's rather pretty. Whilst not a radical departure from earlier versions of Android, it's both slick and works well with many of the things that iOS can't do. As an iPhone user I can't help but look on in envy at my girlfriend's Nexus 5. Homescreen widgets, lovely Gmail support, and swishy graphics that look a whole lot nicer than Apple's "my first mobile phone" flat designs. If Apple aren't careful, they risk losing the one huge advantage they have: prestige.

Apple up their game on iOS and do something (slightly) radical

Related to the above - surely Apple will have to do something radical to iOS? 2013 saw tinkering around the edges and a new lick of paint... but isn't it time we had dynamic home screens like on Android, or maybe even proper multitasking? The iPhone will be seven years old next year - time for something fresher?

Blackberry gives up (or switches to Android)

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The writing is on the wall - and crucially, not being typed on a Blackberry. The company's last ditch attempt at becoming a viable mobile platform holder with the Z10 has been a disaster - and they're already exploring other options. Don't be surprised if they try to go down the route of either making Android phones, or doing a Sega and focus on making apps... presumably they could carve out quite a niche in the business space, where the Blackberry name still has some credibility?

Don't expect to see any Amazon Drones

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I've already explained at length why Amazon's proposed drone service will be difficult to make a reality... so don't expect it to go anywhere fast.. umm, literally.

Google Glass?

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Since Glass was unveiled last year it has been only available to developers... could 2014 finally see a consumer launch? Here's hoping. Though Google will be entering a potentially crowded marketplace - whilst no one else is planning a headset that we know of, 2014 could be the year other wearable tech, like smartwatches, are taken seriously.

Women are taken seriously in games

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There's a mysterious group of gamers known as "women", who actually make up the majority of gamers. And historically - and sadly contemporaneously - the "gaming community" has a habit of, well, being a bunch of dicks. Both metaphorically and literally.

The last year or so has seen some nice pushback though - with the likes of Anita Sarkeesian and others raising the problems with the gender politics of gaming... so hopefully developers have been taking note. Even if the studios are still run by slack-jawed misogynists, surely good business sense suggests it is not worth incurring the wrath of an increasingly vocal group of gamers who care about the representation of women?

No clear winner in PS4 vs Xbox One

Both consoles launched only a few weeks ago, only a week apart, so it will be very surprising if either manages to take a convincing lead. With near-parity on specs, and a near identical line-up of games and apps, there's not much to differentiate the two - expect to see no clear winner next year, though chances are we'll end up a situation similar to last gen, when the PS4 does slightly better in Japan, and the Xbox slightly better in America. Just don't ask about Nintendo...

Third-party support for the Wii U dries up

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It's almost a grim inevitability but Nintendo's 2014 third party support is almost certainly going to be worse than 2013. Developers have been running away from the ailing console already - not even FIFA 14 will be coming to the machine (and that's released on pretty much everything). What has kept the Wii U afloat has been the ability to port across Xbox 360 and PS3 titles to the similarly spec'd machine though - hence why we saw Arkham City released with the console. This time next year though, what then? Whilst the rest of the gaming world has gone PS4/XBO, who's going to be making games for the 360 and PS3, and thus something that could be easily moved across? (Downgrading a game made for the next gen is a lot more difficult).

So I predict with some confidence that the Wii U will be kept afloat pretty much by Nintendo titles alone.

Nintendo milk retro appeal even further

Just how much more mileage can they get out of their back catalogue? Not content with re-releasing games, remaking them, or even remixing them (see NES Remix for Wii U) - Nintendo's entire business appears to be backwards looking - panning for gold in an increasingly exhausted childhood memories of taking shrooms with Mario.

Don't get me wrong - I like a little retro nod to the old World 1-1 music or Zelda pick-up as much as the next person... but it's not exactly original, is it? It's less about nods to the fans and more a nostalgia industry, that also devalues the original products. If only Nintendo would put the same effort to coming up with new games, formats and characters for the 21st century? Who knows, they could even come up with another female character who isn't a princess!

Ever bought a gadget, only to find that the newer version came out a week or two after you'd emptied your wallet? The tech industry is, of course, notorious for this - so as we're only a week away from Christmas, just how long will that shiny new thing under the tree remain the best you can buy? Having only just caught up, will you find by January you're already behind the times? Here's our guide to some of the biggest name gadgets.

iPhone 5S

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(Picture from here)

The 5S brought with it a number of improvements to the iPhone line - it was given an even better camera than its predecessors, a faster processor and perhaps most noticeably the famous fingerprint scanner - enabling the user to unlock and purchase stuff without the hassle of a pin-code.

The 5S was released on the 20th September 2013 - almost exactly a year after the iPhone 5, which similarly came almost exactly a year after the 4S. So assuming Apple stick to annual updates, you're probably safe until late September time.

Of course - what's nice about Apple is that when they inevitably do release the iPhone 6, any software updates will largely be cascaded down to older handsets, so your phone will feel refreshed anyway.

iPad Air & iPad Mini

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Much like it's smaller sibling, the iPad seems to be receiving annual updates. The Air was released on November 1st - with second generation iPad Mini arriving 11 days later. Previously - the 4th generation iPad, and original iPad Mini were both released on November 2nd 2012. Prior to that, the earlier three generations were released earlier in the year (March-May) in their respective years - but Apple seems to have well and truly fixed this now.

So fingers crossed, if you get an iPad Air for Christmas, you'll still be the toting the coolest possible iPad until next November.

PS4 / Xbox One

Now here's a safe long term bet. Both of the new home consoles are going to be around for a while - the Xbox 360 lasted an astonishing 8 years before being replaced (it was released in November 2005!). So there's no need to worry about newer hardware updates meaning your console won't be able to run the latest games and apps for probably the next six or seven years minimum.

Because of the extremely long (in tech terms) life cycles of home consoles though there is a difference to phones: as Sony and Microsoft get more adept at manufacturing the machines, and as parts become cheaper over time, we can expect to see a few redesigns along the way.

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(Pic from here.)

On the PS3, for example, the original 2006 model lasted less than a year before being replaced by one with a smaller hard disk, that wasn't backwards compatible. In late 2009 this was replaced again with the "slim" design, and then three years later in late 2012, the "super slim" replaced that.

As for the 360, it changed a similar number of times under the hood - but in terms of form factor only went through two iterations - with the redesigned console launching in mid-2010.

Still - at least there won't be software issues. It's only when the PS5 comes out it is time to worry about being out of date.

WiiU

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So what of the WiiU? Its easy to think that it might be able to expect the same lifetime as the Wii that preceded it and that may well be the case - but there has been lots of chatter urging Nintendo to think about doing something that sounds unthinkable: ditching the WiiU gamepad. The argument goes that the WiiU is failing badly, and by ditching the huge gamepad with built-in screen, they could lop £100 off of the sale price, and hopefully shift a few more consoles. Besides - it's not like any games are utilising it very well anyway.

Could this happen? It sounds mad but remember that Nintendo recently did something similar with the 3DS - dropping the 3D screen and releasing the cheaper 2DS - removing the console's most notable asset - in order to cut the price. So it's not beyond the realms of possibility.

If this did happen though - it's not like your WiiU would be useless overnight - games would instead be designed with the Wiimote or Pro controller in mind - so you'd just have a big-screened white elephant cluttering up your house instead.

Samsung Galaxy S4

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The S4 is probably Samsung's flagship smartphone - the one they want up there competing with the iPhone. It was released on April 26th - following an excruciating press event in a New York theatre, that came complete with broadway actors playing out scenes in which the S4 proved useful (seriously, it was unbearable). There was lots new at the time - hands-free motion tracking, NFC music sharing, and some clever dual-camera photos.

Now Christmas is upon us and - inexplicably - the handset feels like it's getting on a bit in a world where a phone's life expectancy is up there with the hamster. The predecessor, the Galaxy S3 was released in May 2012, and the S2 in May 2011... so we can reasonably expect a new phone - a Galaxy S5 probably - around the same time next year - which is probably only four or five months away.

This said - we can probably expect an upgrade from Android Jelly Bean to Android KitKat in the next couple of months - so the phone could have some life left in it yet!

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

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Now for Samsung's big ol' phablet. The Note 3 was first released at the end of September - almost exactly a year after the Note 2, which again came about a year after the original Note. I'm spotting a pattern!

So if you've got a Note 3 in your stocking on Christmas morning, worry not - you've got a good 9 or 10 months before your phone is no longer the best phablet you can get.

Blackberry Z10

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Finally if you're waking up Christmas morning to a Blackberry Z10 then... I'm so sorry. Whilst you've probably got the best Blackberry on the market... it's only because the company are pretty much doomed as a consumer hardware manufacturer. The Z10 was released last January as a last-ditch bid to take on the iPhone and Android platforms... yet in the year since growth has been tiny, sales have been dreadful, and it has suffered from a lack of apps and poor design. Whilst Blackberry the company will inevitably pivot to support iOS and Android - you'll be stuck with the old hardware. The Dreamcast of smartphones. I'm sorry.

5 uses for 3D printing in the near future

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It's nearly 2014 and in lieu of drones and jetpacks, there's another technology that has been perennially "only a few years away" that does actually appear to be getting somewhere. Over the last year 3D printers have come along leaps and bounds. So are they ready for the big time? Here's five things 3D printers could be used for in the near future.

Making Records

According to Digital Trends, the lead singer of Bloc Party has been kicking it old school, as they say. Kele Okereke is putting out a new record that will be sold specially in London this weekend as... well, a record. But rather than travel back in time to the factories that made vinyls, he's 3D printing them using a new 3D printing technique, which can produce better/more detailed prints than normal printers. Apparently due to the way the production produces deeper grooves (that's a comment on the physicality of the record, not the grooviness of the tune), it'll only work in mono at the moment - but you have to start somewhere, right?

Inexplicably this is all sponsored by Bacardi, of trashy drink with a poor reputation fame - so you can watch a video with the software engineer behind the clever stuff here:

Printing Happy Meal Toys

Whilst still firmly at the "speculative idea" phase, McDonalds' IT director Mark Fabes recently Told The Register that 3D printers could be used to print happy meal toys - ending once and forall the familial dischord as kids fight over who gets which toy. It seems like a match made in heaven - cheap plastic produced on demand, not just as your meal but the toy as well.

The video below unfortunately doesn't have anything to do with 3D printers, but it is an enjoyable opportunity to watch the famous "Nah, y'alright" advert which has given the world the catchphrase it really should get around to adopting.

3D Printers... in space?!

Though Commander Hadfield made it feel so close, the International Space Station is very difficult to get to - so if the astronauts on board need a spare part, it's not something they can just get an Amazon Prime delivery on. To remedy this NASA are planning to send a 3D printer up to the station - which means next time they need an inanimate carbon rod, they'll be able to get one sharpish.

Lego to K'Nex Adapters

As Wired Magazine reported back in March, some clever people have come up with perhaps the one thing our childhoods were missing: adapters to link up different construction toys. The Free Universal Construction Kit apparently provides a set of 82 adapters, which can be 3D printed to connect Lego to K'Nex, Duplo to Stickle Bricks... and every other combination in between. Perfect.

Making Guns

Finally, if all of the above uses for 3D printers are too nice, and are making the world too much of a better place, then you'll like this usage. Some awful person in America has come up with the idea of 3D printing guns - as if the world doesn't have enough problems.

Whilst it's still early days, I imagine sword-wielding knights used to laugh at early guns too. And it only took a few years before they became super sophisticated. The leading gun makers, Defense Distributors are a non-profit - their plan is to come up with the blueprints that can be fed into a 3D printer - and to prevent anyone from foiling their dastardly plan, they're making it all open source and available on the internet... so that eventually anyone with a 3D printer will be able to make a gun, without having to get a license, or register it or anything like that. Presumably this will mark the point when we finally descend into Mad Max-style dystopia.

Check out this documentary made by Vice magazine, who followed Cody Wilson, CEO of Defense Distributed around a while back - and good luck feeling hopeful for the future.

Whilst the world waits for Amazon to (literally) deliver on it's promises of drones, you don't need to wait: drones have already become something that normal (albeit relatively affluent) people can own. One of the newer drones - or quadcopters as they're known - is the DJI Phantom 2 Vision - which comes complete with a built-in camera. Here's our review.

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What's in the Box

The Phantom is made up of a central unit containing the battery and the camera, and four stems, which each have helicopter-style blades on the ends (hence quadcopter). Assembly is relatively easy - just screw in the blades, charge the battery and plug it in and you're half way there. There's also a big jumbo remote controller with two control sticks on and a range extender device that will boost the distance you can fly with wifi. Helpfully, it's possible to mount both the range extender and your phone on the remote control - it comes with a clip to make it easy.

It's then simply a case of powering up the battery, switching the camera to on, and turning on the controls and you're ready to go. The Phantom will make a noise and flash lights to show you that it's ready to fly... flip the control switches into the go position and you're ready.

Setting Up

Let me tell you a story... I actually got hold of the drone about a month ago, but had a slightly frustrating time finding an opportunity to test it.

If you take one thing away from this review, then let it be this: for god's sake, make sure you've got enough room to fly the damn thing! I live in a tiny flat, and when I got the drone I made the mistake of switching it on inside. Though relatively diminutive compared to, say, Obama's flying death machines, at only 29cm square (and 18cm deep), as soon as the blades start spinning at flight speed, you realise that taking off next to the TV might not be such a wise idea. You start to understand why the Taliban get worried when they see one in the sky.

Undeterred I then took the drone to a fairly large hall in central London to fly it inside there (with permission of the people who run it) - thinking that it'll be easier to avoid the winter weather, and also decrease the chances of me being shot for flying an unidentified flying object in central London. Unfortunately after switching it on I realise that maybe this wasn't wise either - as even in the open expanse of a hall, the Phantom lifted into the air and drifted terrifyingly close to an expensive lighting rig.

So finally I managed to get round to taking it out of London - to a large park where I could fly it outside. As far as I was aware, there wasn't a royal palace or world heritage site nearby, so all was well - and I finally got to experience the Phantom 2 in full.

Here's a ropey video of me and my girlfriend giving it a try:

Essentially if you're going to commit to the Phantom 2, then make sure you have somewhere to make the most of it. If you live in a big city then this could be problematic - but if you live in the country, you might just be about to find a brand new hobby.

Control & Flight

In short: Wow!

In long:

It's pretty weird to be in control of a flying machine - which can move in three dimensions, at some speed too. It's super easy to control - what was slightly unexpected was all of those hours flying helicopters in Grand Theft Auto 5 had actually provided some decent training, as it flies on the same principles. On the controller, one stick controls height and rotation, and the other controls movement in horizontal directions... and just like GTA5 (or, er, a real helicopter, I guess), to move forward the whole drone tilts forward a little, and so on.

The real magic is in what the drone can do itself. The reason flight is so easy is because the Phantom's on-board computer does the difficult job of making sure it stays in the air - it uses built in gyroscopes and accelerometers to ensure that it will remain stable and upright, so if you like you can leave it ominously floating in the same place in the air.

I was relatively timid with what I tried - I didn't go too far off the ground, or let it fly too far away but it seems capable of extraordinary range - especially with the range extender. Check out this video which DJI have made to prove this point:

And if you want to see how high these things can go, check out this video of Edinburgh. The drone used was nearly identical (it was a DJI Phantom) but lacked the built-in camera - so they mounted one themselves. So don't judge picture quality from this - but look how high and how far!

I've no doubt with a little practice though it'd be possible to do lots of nice swishing about with sweeping dives that don't end in a crash at the end.

Durability

Brilliantly, it seems fairly durable too. Obviously I have tried my best not to test the durability, but during my time testing there were a few bumps and scrapes. Luckily, even during a hard landing, the Phantom remained intact. The blades are flexible when not spinning, so will not snap at the drop of a hat. That said - when I, umm, hit a wall one of the blades definitely snapped in two... but luckily DJI expect this, so have included spares in the box - and a quick Google suggests that spare parts are available in abundance. The main drone unit itself - where all of the expensive stuff sits lives inside some pretty tough plastic casing.

The Camera

So I've covered the control - but what about the camera? This is what truly makes the Phantom seem futuristic. Not only can it video what it sees when it flies about... but it can beam it back to your phone in real time. All you have to do is download the associated app from the iPhone or Android app stores, and connect to the wifi hotspot that that drone itself creates - then you'll see the view from the camera. From the app you can then move and tilt the camera in real time - independent of the movement of the drone - and record video and take photos. And this works in real time - isn't that incredible?

The camera itself is 14 megapixels and can record in full 1080 HD resolution - at 60 fps interlaced, or 30fps progressive scan. It can take photos in either JPG or even RAW format. It's not messing about. The video that is sent back to the app is somewhat lower res - but the full quality recording is saved to a Micro-SD card that is in the back of the camera.

Whilst I can't claim to be an expert on lenses, there's three different fields of vision available: 90, 120 and 140 degrees, so you can make sure that you capture everything.

Bells and Whistles

There's a few extra niceties built into the Phantom that make it a more awesome experience (other than the fact you can watch the camera in real time!). As it has GPS built in, and you have GPS on your phone, you can tell it to automatically come back and find you if it flies off too far/out of range. If it's out of sight, you can even view it on the "radar" on the app.

Similarly the app will give you real time flight data - such as the altitude and speed the Phantom is moving. It's pretty incredible.

My favourite feature too is the fact that the battery is easily removable, and crucially can be charged separately. This means that if you pick up an extra battery or two, it's perfectly possible to charge one whilst using the other - meaning more flight time.

The Verdict

When testing the Phantom at the back of my mind was the assumption that it costs around £350. Having done a bit of Googling since then, I've since discovered that it costs... around £850. I wish I'd been a bit more careful now.

Let's not be coy - the done is awesome fun to fly, and it's so fully featured I can imagine all sorts of professional uses for it too - it's not just a toy. It's surely inevitably that the Phantom 2 Vision will end up being used by news broadcasters and filmmakers too?

So in principle, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this in a second. It's the Ferrari of unmanned aerial vehicles.

In practice though - I am also a sensible consumer. £850 is a lot of money - and if I had £850 to spare (I wish I did), I'm not sure a drone would be top of the list. Though if you do have £850 and want to buy the ultimate toy (perhaps you're one of the Rich Kids of Instagram or having a midlife crisis) then this is a good bet. Just remember to find somewhere with lots of space and that every time you send the drone into the air... that's £850 you're essentially gambling every time the drone dips or falls a bit too steeply. What I mean is, you don't tend to throw your Macbook Air into the air with as much regularity as you would a Phantom 2.

So in conclusion - it's awesome. But expensive - so go and buy one! But at risk of sounding like a concerned parent, make sure that you can afford it first!

6 Sceptical Questions about Amazon's Drone Plan

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The big tech news today is Amazon's "announcement" of Amazon Prime Air - in which they claim to be planning a parcel delivery service that uses unmanned flying drones to get your purchases to you. Check the advert they've put together to see what I mean:

They claim this is not just a publicity stunt. Apparently the plans are to (I guess, literally) launch in 2015 - it's just a nice bonus that they've announced this in the run-up to Christmas, and that everyone is talking about Amazon. Ahem.

But could drone delivery actually work? Amidst the internet fantasising about getting that thing they need brought straight to them by a robot in the sky, there are several questions that Amazon will need to answer. So let's cast a sceptical eye over the plans...

How long will it take the humans in the Amazon warehouse?

In the video we see a man order something and have it delivered to his front lawn in superfast time. And assuming we accept the very notion of a drone delivery as plausible, there is still a problem: The human element. To package up the item it needs a human to find it on the shelves and to package it into one of those yellow boxes. According to a commentator on Reddit who works in an Amazon warehouse, it can take up to 2 hours between an order being placed and someone actually getting around to handling it.

So if someone is on their tea break, it might be tough luck.

Are drones safe?

Not if you're the Taliban, that much is clear. What is much murkier is whether they're safe enough to use en masse yet - simply because no one has thought to operate hundreds of drones simultaneously yet. Sure - a few drones might be good at dropping bombs and shooting missiles in the Swat Valley... but safety is going to be more important when they're used in built-up areas. You can bet as soon as soon as the first little old lady is killed by a drone falling from the sky that the Daily Mail will be baying for blood - so before launching anything Amazon are going to have to be 100% certain drones aren't going to start falling out of the skies.

What about the current laws around drone usage?

The technology is so new that laws are going to differ all around the world. Chances are that at least initially rules will vary from country to country on whether drones are either permitted or banned - think about how some countries let you use your phone on take-off and landing of a plane - and some insist that phones be switched off entirely for the duration.

In the UK, the Civil Aviation Authority already has extensive rules on drone usage. The rules for hobbyist drone users appears to be "stay away from built up areas, and stay out of trouble" - which is why most drone videos are filmed in the countryside, and not flying over major cities. Unfortunately for Amazon - most people live in cities.

Is the law likely to change?

What we also don't know is whether an increase in drone usage generally, as well as by Amazon will cause the government to step in and regulate them. Take a city like London - do we really want thousands of unmanned drones buzzing around above our heads with no one keeping check?

More pertinently to Amazon, perhaps is whether extra regulation could delay deliveries, and thus render drone delivery pointless. Think about when you go on an aeroplane and the number of safety checks both you and the plane have to go through. Nothing moves quickly. Before taking off planes are checked and tested all over to make sure that they are good to fly - it's not inconceivable that Amazon will be required to do thorough checks over each drone before they can take flight. This makes sense to me - even as a technology evangelist and a utopian on matters of technology, I think I'd want to know that the drones in the sky have been checked!

Ultimately, drone use being regulated by the aviation authorities may turn out to be as weird as it is to remember that telephones used to be run by the post office - but in any case, it's going to take a long time to get to a point where the laws around (mass) drone use are sorted out... which will no doubt cause nothing but headaches for Amazon's lawyers in the meantime.

Are drones even reliable?

So let's assume drones are safe, and all of the relevant authorities are okay with them flying over our heads... are they even going to be better than your regular postie?

In the video, we see the drone gracefully land on the family's lawn and drop off the package, before flying away again... but what if you don't have a garden, or live in a flat? Are drones going to fly up to the 10th floor and tap on the window?

And what if you're not in to collect it - how can it arrange to leave it with your neighbours? (Imagine a flying robot asking you to sign for a parcel or risk extermination with lazers). Whilst digital mapping has come a very long way, it's far from perfect: how many times have you followed Google Maps to a location, only to spend another ten minutes looking for the entrance? Whilst your postman may be able to intuitively figure out that he needs to go through the gate and ring the bell - whilst avoiding the dog... WALL-E might struggle with this.

How will it ring the doorbell?

And this is the million dollar question. It's great that the drones will fly across the country, zooming over rooftops using a combination of GPS, on-board analytics and hundreds of years of technological progress. But once it arrives... how will you know?

Still - Amazon have done some impressive things before. They've turned E-Books from nothing into a huge industry that's eclipsing even traditional publishing - they've come up with a tablet that lets you speak to a real person for tech support - and even let them take over the tablet. They've revolutionised the entire retail sector and destroyed half the highstreet... and have come up with clever innovations in "tax efficiency". But drones? That's dreaming big... but is it dreaming too big?

If anyone can make it work, I guess Amazon are best placed to.

5 Doctor Who Gifts For Adults

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As the nation slowly recovers from the unrelenting nostalgia of last Saturday's Doctor Who 50th anniversary special, it's time to start thinking about Christmas gifts for the Whovian in your life. Thankfully the Doctor is a canny capitalist beneath the humanist exterior (it's not so much that he's two faced, as 13 faced...), so there's plenty of Doctor Who gadgets for adults too. Here's five of the most interesting.

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