Tim Hornyak

Wicked’s Inferno isn’t exactly a lightsaber, but who cares

You won’t get a glowing blade, but the Inferno gets more exciting with the lights off.

(Credit: Tim Hornyak/CNET)

I’ve always wanted a lightsaber. It would come in mighty handy in a zombie apocalypse, robot uprising, or alien invasion.

There are many gimmicky toys out there that attempt to emulate the signature “Star Wars” weapon, and Wicked Lasers‘ Spyder series of handheld lasers truly look the part.

Wicked recently released the Inferno and Lunar additions to its Spyder lineup, and I had a chance to fool around with them.

The units themselves resemble lightsaber handles and are made of tough, aircraft-grade aluminum. The metal is cool to the touch and has remarkable heft.

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When you… [Read more]

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Arrow: A four-wheeled ‘fighter jet’ for the road (Q&A)

Charles Bombardier’s Arrow is a concept design for weekend escapes.

(Credit: Charles Bombardier)

What if your main occupation was dreaming up fanciful, futuristic concept vehicles? If your name is Charles Bombardier, that’s exactly what you do.

The scion of Canada’s Bombardier, which manufactures planes and trains, Charles Bombardier recently showed off designs for his Arrow concept car, an electric two-seater that looks like a retro racing car.

It’s designed with a torpedo-shaped body and “a cockpit that opens up like a fighter jet to reveal tandem seats.”

Bombardier came up with the Arrow concept as a cool commuter vehicle that can also be used for weekend escapes.

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Like that house for sale? Get a drone’s eye view first

This beach house in Connecticut was photographed with drones.

(Credit: Video screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET)

Anyone want to buy this heap in Connecticut for $7.6 million? No? What if you can see it from a flying robot’s perspective?

Until recently, most real estate agents could only show off headshots with fake gigawatt smiles to distinguish themselves from the competition. But some have been using drones for years to sell luxury homes.

New York-based Halstead Property shot exterior and interior footage of this sprawling beach house in Darien, Conn. Featured on “The Today Show” months ago, it’s still for sale.

The agency has commissioned similar photography for hundreds of multimillion-dollar properties. Video reels highlight the best features of homes with high-def, cinematic footage from drones that fly over, around, and inside them.

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Relax in this $30,000 ‘Star Trek’ Enterprise basement

Enterprise bridge stations adorn Line Rainville’s basement TV room, along with a tribble.

(Credit: Line Rainville)

You’ve got $30,000 to spend upgrading your home. Do you buy yourself a boring redecoration or do you try something a little more unusual?

If you’re a “Star Trek” fan and your name is Line Rainville, you build yourself a woman-cave that Spock himself would dig more than the prehistoric ice cave on the planet Sarpeidon.

The Canadian social worker is a diehard fan of the original, 1960s-era “Star Trek” series, and recently overhauled her basement by transforming it into something that looks like it came right off a Desilu Productions sound stage.

She has re-created parts of the Enterprise bridge, transporter room, recreation room, observation deck, and even Spock’s quarters in her home in Notre-Dame-des-Prairies, Quebec, about an hour north of Montreal, birthplace of The Shat.

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Virtual women lure men to Japan’s vending machines

"I'm waiting at the usual spot," this virtual barista says.

(Credit: Coca-Cola Japan)

TOKYO — Drinking coffee in Japan is a particularly sad enterprise.

Much coffee here comes in the form of cans dispensed from 5.5 million vending machines nationwide. And many of those machines have Tommy Lee Jones’ sour-looking face plastered on them.

The long-eared thespian may be laughing his way to the bank, but now Coca-Cola ad hacks seem to be laughing cynically at the average Japanese male working stiff. They believe he’ll buy more joe if virtual women send out text messages from vending machines.

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Coke’s local brown swill is Georgia coffee and it’s available in more than 20 varieties. Like everything else in the multiverse, it has an app: Hanaseru Jihanki Georgia (Georgia the Talking Vending Machine).

When you install this piece of iOS or Android software on your smartphone, you can choose one of six virtual females who will send you text messages centered on your mutua… [Read more]

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Japan’s Schaft has all the right stuff at DARPA robot trials

Schaft’s humanoid robot prowls through long grass. What are Google’s plans for it?

(Credit: Video screenshot by Tim Hornyak/CNET)

It may look like a clunky Asimo prototype from 20 years ago, but a humanoid rescue robot built by Japanese university graduates overwhelmed the competition at a prestigious Pentagon-sponsored robotics event over the weekend.

Tokyo-based Schaft won the day, scoring 27 out of 32 possible points in the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC), a series of trials for robots designed to aid in disaster relief efforts, such as nuclear plant accidents.

The victory is ironic for Japan. Despite the country’s robotics prowess, it had no robots on hand to help with the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant meltdown in 2011, the kind of emergency the DRC is trying to tackle.

IHMC Robotics, based in Florida, grabbed second place in the DARPA Robotics Challenge, which was held at Homestead Miami Speedway in Florida. Carnegie Mellon University’s Team Tartan Rescue placed third.

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Crablike robot walks on walls, ceilings with magnet feet

Thankfully, BIREM won’t be showing up on your walls anytime soon.

(Credit: Osaka City University)

Here’s what we all long to see — a robot crawling along the ceiling.

That may or may not give you goosebumps. But if you’re an engineer, a magnetic wall-crawler developed at Osaka City University in Japan could prove useful when inspecting bridges and other structures.

The awkwardly named Bridge Inspection Robot Equipping Magnets (BIREM) can move as fast as 7.8 inches per second. Imagine that skittering up your wall.

Operated by remote control, BIREM moves on four wheels, each with eight spokes that are capped with powerful magnets.

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Billion-pixel Gaia camera to map galaxy in 3D

The Gaia stargazer launched from French Guiana en route to an orbit 932,000 miles from Earth.

(Credit: ESA)

The Milky Way is about to be seen in a whole new way.

The European Space Agency has successfully launched its Gaia satellite into orbit, bringing a 1 billion-pixel camera detector to map our galaxy in 3D.

The stargazer lifted off on Thursday aboard a Soyuz-Fregat rocket from a launch pad at Sinnamary in French Guiana. Its mission is to map the precise location of over a billion stars.

Its instruments are expected to help discover planets, asteroids, and supernovas, as well as reveal a better understanding of the origin and structure of the Milky Way.

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For extreme gardeners, shotgun shells full of seed

Flowers are even more beautiful when they come out of the barrel of a gun.

(Credit: Indiegogo)

Gardening too boring for you? Just add a shotgun.

If you believe this Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, there’s a new way to sow your seeds: blasting them into the soil with a 12-gauge.

Flower Shell is a shotgun shell filled with flower seeds that will produce anything from daisies to sunflowers to poppies to meadow flowers.

“Imagine a shotgun shell that gives life instead of taking it,” reads the Indiegogo campaign page. “Imagine fields of meadow flowers and sunflowers. Imagine gardening as something fun.”

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Of course, things are always more fun with guns.

It sounds like a joke, but developer Per Cromwell of Studio Total, associated with the … [Read more]

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Fly over Titan’s methane lakes in NASA’s video

A colorized mosaic from the Cassini probe shows the many lakes and seas on Titan, Saturn's moon.

(Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASI/USGS)

Dreaming of an exotic vacation destination? How about relaxing on the shores of Kraken Mare, a hydrocarbon sea on Titan?

It’s a tad chilly at minus 290 degree Fahrenheit, but that’s a small discomfort compared with the wow factor of being at the only spot in our solar system — outside Earth — with stable surface liquid.

Thanks to the adventurous Cassini space probe, you can get an overview of this lovely land of lakes and seas in a dramatic NASA video of Saturn’s biggest moon. The data form the most detailed view of the planet to date.

Aside from imaging Saturn’s hexagonal north pole, Cassini has been doing flybys of Titan’s northern hemisphere and using radar to probe formations such as Kraken Mare and Ligeia Mare, the largest seas, and local lakes.

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