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Amazon’s Echo Buttons get their own version of Trivial Pursuit

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Echo Buttons got lost in the deluge of Alexa products announced by Amazon a few months back. Understandably so — they were fun, but weird additions to company’s portfolio of smart home products. The little glowing devices finally start shipping today, priced at $20 for a two-pack, and Hasbro’s offering one of the more compelling reasons to pick them up for the holidays.

The buttons pair to an Echo device via bluetooth, serving as gameshow buzzers. Trivial Pursuit Tap is one of the first third-party applications to take advantage of the little plastic discs, turning the smart home speaker into a makeshift, at-home, Alexa-based gameshow. Users can connect up to four of the Buttons at once, assigning different colors to each player.

It’s a fun little divergence from the standard Echo line — one that apparently started off as a bit of a pet project and somehow made its way to retail. Given the recent surge in popularity of app-based trivia games, however, this could actually prove a bit of a dark horse success for the company, especially given their low barrier of entry.

According to Amazon’s site, the Buttons should arrive prior to Christmas, which makes them solid candidates for stocking stuffers, and will give the family something to do other than argue about politics and the new Star Wars after all of the presents are unwrapped. Whether or not they’re stashed away in the closet come New Year’s, however, is entirely dependent on whether other game companies embrace the tech. 

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Caavo’s over-the-top TV box for over-the-top TV boxes ships February 14

Comments are closed Caavo’s over-the-top TV box for over-the-top TV boxes ships February 14 Comments are closed

The streaming box that aims to bring sanity to your streaming world by combining all your streaming hardware sources into one will ship on Valentine’s Day next year, according to The Verge. Caavo offers a solution to a very modern problem – making it easy to switch between devices including your DVR, your Roku, your Apple TV, your PS4 and other devices seamlessly, using one remote and a single interface.

It uses a modified version of Android to unify all these disparate sources, and automatically switches to whichever device contains the content you’re looking for when you want to watch it. You can set different defaults for various services, including Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, in case you find that one or another of your devices is better at streaming that particular service than another (or it’s only available in one place).

The Caavo can support up to eight inputs, with 4K resolution – but it has one major limitation that might be a deal-breaker for the kind of home theater nut who’s likely to need something like what the Caavo offers in the first place: It doesn’t support HDR.

Caavo’s retail price is $400, which is, if you’re counting, double the price of an Apple TV or Shield TV, which are themselves already considerably more expensive than a Roku or Amazon Fire TV streamer. The startup is betting that there are enough customers out there willing to spend on individual devices like an Xbox and PS4, as well as an Apple TV and a traditional TV subscription that also crave an added level of convenience vs. what you’d get from a universal remote like those offered by Logitech. That’s a very big, very questionable bet.

Honestly, there’s probably no way this boondoggle of a product succeeds. But the company’s ambition and technology could still have promise, and per The Verge, it’s already looking at what else it might make, perhaps in a more affordable price range.

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NASA engineers stare at the sun to see shockwaves from supersonic flight

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Before the eclipse this summer, NASA warned us over and over again not to stare directly at the sun — but now they’re doing just that. Its researchers have reinvented a photography technique more than a century old, using the sun itself as a backdrop in order to capture the shockwave produced by a new supersonic jet.

Schlieren imaging was invented by a German physicist in the 19th century as a way to capture objects moving at supersonic speeds; it basically works by tracking tiny distortions to a uniform background illumination that are produced when the air is disturbed by a passing object.

The results are striking and you’ve likely seen them before. But traditional Schlieren imaging is limited in its range and scale; NASA’s Background Oriented Schlieren using Celestial Objects (BOSCO) allows the sun itself to be used as the background, and not only that, but it’s reliable enough to be used from a chaser plane 10,000 feet up.

Another Schlieren photo from NASA that uses the edge of the sun as its uniform background; BOSCO uses the disc itself.

Previous background oriented Schlieren imaging efforts for viewing the distortion patterns of planes in flight have been shot top-down with a featureless landscape as their background, or bottom-up using the edge of the sun (as you see above). But BOSCO aims its telescopic camera directly at the disc of the sun, capturing the aircraft as it causes a partial, highly local eclipse.

In order not to be completely blown out, the camera system uses a “hydrogen alpha filter,” which only lets in a very specific wavelength of light, which is produced by the sun in a nice granular pattern.

You can see it in action in this video, which does double duty to remind you that much science is done in circumstances that are decidedly less than glorious but nevertheless awesome:

How cool is that? (Although I do have to say that aesthetically speaking, the smooth gradients of film photography better suit this type of imagery.)

Don’t try this at home.

They’re not just doing this for fun, though. BOSCO is part of NASA’s Quiet Supersonic Technology program, which aims (as you might have guessed already) to create a supersonic aircraft that doesn’t create that vexing sonic boom wherever it goes. Such a craft could help bring back consumer supersonic flight, and would even be able to do overland routes.

The future Low Boom aircraft would likely fly at around 60,000 feet, though, but since it would be difficult for a ground-based system to capture good shots of a plane flying that high, the team needed to create something that create this kind of imagery from the air.

So the latest development is the deployment of a new, miniaturized BOSCO that can fit into the wing pod of a chaser aircraft. This lets the researchers capture images from as close as 10,000 feet, while the target plane is actually flying at the target altitude.

“The main objective here was to see what the image looks like at close range, including what kind of shockwave structure we can make out,” said BOSCO principal investigator Mike Hill in a NASA news release. “We needed to use our new compact camera system in order to get an idea of the quality of the images of those shockwaves using a smaller system.”

The new setup is what was being tested in the video above; the flight you see was at 20,000 feet, but subsequent ones were at 15,000 and 10,000 feet, proving that the technique works at the range likely to be encountered during an air-to-air shoot.

Of course, getting a clear shot of one supersonic jet from the wing of a second is a major challenge in and of itself — but at least they know the camera works.

Featured Image: NASA

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