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Samsung Galaxy A8

Wondering how Samsung manages to cram a 16-megapixel camera into seemingly wafer-thin phones like the Galaxy A8? By developing a brand-spanking new sensor that fits, that's how. The Korean company has built an ISOCELL-based CMOS imager that uses extremely tiny 1.0-micron pixels instead of the 1.12-micron units from the previous model. That may not sound like much of a difference, but it amounts to a sensor that's 20 percent thinner, at a scant 5mm (0.2 inches) deep. In short, you won't have to accept an unsightly camera hump just to get high-resolution shots.

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Livescribe has refreshed one of its older smartpens from way before it had an option that can automatically sync with iOS and Android devices. The new Echo 8GB Pro edition can save up to 800 hours of recording and connects to a Mac or a Windows computer via old-school USB connection, just like its predecessor. It doesn't differ that much from its older sibling, so it's presumably more powerful, with more advanced components. Similar to other Livescribe pens, Echo Pro digitizes what you write on the company's special dot paper and records audio, such as a professor's lecture (or incessant droning, depending on how you see it) at the same time.

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Wearhaus Arc: Is the world ready for 'social headphones'?

Almost exactly a year ago, I received an email about "the world's first social headphones." The main feature of the Wearhaus Arc was their ability to wirelessly connect with other Arcs nearby, letting users broadcast (or listen in to) each other's tunes. Owners of the Arc would be able to create impromptu silent discos, or hyper-local radio stations with just one media player. At a romantic level, I liked the idea. I imagined all the conversations they could start, or connections they might spark, so I wrote about them, suggesting the technology might be better as a "feature" that other brands could license. Despite my reservations, Wearhaus went on to run not one, but two successful rounds of crowdfunding for its bespoke headphones. That product is finally here, and about to go on sale. I've at last had a chance to try it. Has it changed my mind?

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Want to show that the art of sincere, thoughtful communication is dead? You only have to take advantage of a little-known (but recently discovered) Facebook feature. The social network has been quietly rolling out SMS birthday notifications that let you wish a generic "Happy Birthday!" simply by replying "1." Yes, you too can reduce an important milestone in someone's life to a single-digit text reply that takes less effort than it does to unlock your phone. It's true that this could come in handy for the birthdays of Facebook friends you barely know, but we'd say that taking the few seconds extra to write posts on their timelines would be infinitely more considerate -- you're never in that much of a hurry.

[Image credit: Shutterstock / Ruth Black]

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Amazon's drone-delivery service may be a little fanciful, but it looks as if another company is working to make something similar to it a reality. Workhorse has applied to the FAA for special permission to begin testing drone deliveries made from the back of one of the firm's electric cargo vans. The idea is simple enough: as the truck makes its rounds, the roof-mounted HorseFly UAV selects, transports and drops off a parcel right outside the recipient's front door. The neat trick to all of this would be that the system is autonomous, with the human operator only keeping an eye on the landing to ensure there's no accidents.

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If you've ever spent time in the company of young children watching colorful and cartoony TV shows geared to their innocence -- say something on Sprout or Nick Jr. -- then you'll know what it is to live in the world of Henry. The computer-animated virtual reality short about a lonely hedgehog is only the second to come from Oculus VR's newly founded Story Studio, an innovation lab of sorts for VR. But whereas most recent gaming- and entertainment-focused VR works have relied on cheap thrills, suspense and fear to dazzle viewers, Henry instead engages with empathy.

"That was the big question for me: How are people going to connect with him?" says director Ramiro Lopez Dau of Henry's emotional bent. "So we came up with this character who has an obvious problem: He wants to hug people and he's super spiky. So that was the connection because everyone deserves a friend. And Henry doesn't have a flaw. He's just like that; he's a hedgehog. ... So it's more about, okay, there's some meaning here. You will find someone who will accept you for who you are, which is a very universal message. ... There's going to be a very strong point to feel empathy for this guy."

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Cyanogen's certainly set on loading its Android version with Google app replacements. Earlier this year, it announced that it will make Boxer's Gmail-like email app the stock option for Cyanogen OS 12. Now it has revealed that the new calendar made by the same firm will also become a stock app in future versions of the platform. As Boxer is known for making Google app substitutes for those fond of them but who'd rather not tie their details to an account, its new calendar's pretty much like GCal, with events indicated by color-coded blocks. It's integrated with the company's email app, which means you'd instantly know if you're available when you receive an invite in your inbox. Boxer's calendar will come preloaded on Cyanogen OS devices to be released in the next few months, but you can download it right now from Google Play or iTunes.

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Xbox One streaming on Windows 10 is nice and all, but how about getting the power of your PC on the console? Xbox head Phil Spencer has confirmed to the Verge that Microsoft is working on Windows 10 streaming to the Xbox One. He already hinted that such a feature would happen after tweeting that Microsoft would support mice on the Xbox One. He said that "it's actually a little more challenging doing the encoding on the PC side to Xbox," since PC hardware varies widely from user to user, unlike the Xbox One. He added, however, that "challenge is good."

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Back in October, we told you about Afineur's goal of replicating the process of civet coffee without all the pooping. To create a flavor profile similar to the pricey Kopi Luwak beans, and bypass the bowel movements, the company uses fermentation to create coffees with low bitterness and astringency so that fruit and other flavors shine. Well, now's your chance to try it as Afineur's first batch is up for grabs via a Kickstarter campaign. The so-called cultured coffee not only leverages science to create its flavors, but it makes the brew easier on your stomach while leaving those cute little animals out of the equation. The coffee is made in Brooklyn (where the company is based) with the help of Pulley Collective's roasting facility. In terms of origin, the beans are currently sourced from Guatemala, but the folks behind Afineur are "open to new collaborations."

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NASA's InSight Lander won't be reaching the red planet until 2016, but the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is already preparing for its welcome party. In order to make sure that it's at the right place to be able to receive radio transmissions from InSight during the landing process, the MRO is firing six intermediate-sized thrusters (it has one set of bigger and another set of smaller ones) for 77 seconds today, July 29th. Those thrusters are capable of producing five pounds of thrust each, and firing them will adjust the spracecraft's orbit timing from crossing the equator every 3PM local solar time to 2:30PM. The last time the MRO performed a maneuver of this magnitude was in 2006, and the next instances are scheduled to happen in 2016 and 2017 to return it to its original orbit timing.

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We've seen Microsoft's HoloLens do an awful lot of different things so far, but Halo, Minecraft and even medical applications are just scratching the surface of what the augmented reality headset is capable of. In a new research paper, Redmond outlines how it plans to grab live video that'd work as fodder for the device's holographic capabilities. Perhaps most importantly these holographic video feeds would be streamable over the internet, as Road to VR points out. By taking advantage of some 106 RGB and infrared cameras and a green screen, Microsoft says that it's able to capture, compress and recreate pretty lifelike results.

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On August 5th, Lexus will finally reveal its hoverboard, which has been in development for the past 18+ months, to the public. Let that sink in for a bit: Lexus has created a working hoverboard in 2015, the year Marty and Doc Brown jumped to in Back to the Future...! Unfortunately, we don't know if you'd be able to buy one before October 21st -- or at all, really -- but even if it does become available for purchase in the next few months, you can't ride it to a B2F anniversary screening. See, it can only levitate over metallic surfaces, so it's pretty much useless in most places. That's about the extent of what we know about the device, though Lexus is bound to divulge more info during the event.

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Amiibo gladiator pit

Nintendo has posted yet another slim profit as it moves beyond the financial difficulties of the past few years. The slow launch of the Wii U and the stagnation of its handheld sales caused Nintendo to fall dramatically from grace after the runaway success of the Wii. After recording its first annual profit since 2011 earlier this year, though, it's proved it can stay in the black in spite of the Wii U's meagre popularity, making just over $9million in the latest quarter.

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In case Shenmue 3 and a Castlevania spiritual successor were a bit too recent and console-centric for your nostalgia kick, maybe the new King's Quest will tickle your fancy. The hand-painted adventure game's first episode is out today across a wide swath of platforms (PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 an Xbox One, Windows). Creative director Matt Korba writes on the PlayStation Blog that the aim was to make a family-friendly game in an effort to bridge the gap between players of yore and today. What's more there are apparently quite a few references to the original games hidden here and there. Should you want to try and find 'em for yourself, it's $9.99 per episode or $39.99 for the season pass.

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LG's latest earnings report shows just how tough the smartphone market is getting. On the one hand, LG Mobile shipped 8.1 million LTE smartphones, its best result ever. On the other hand, it sold fewer premium models in Korea and spent a lot of money marketing its flagship G4 in the US against models by Apple, Samsung, et al. (The company singled out Apple, saying that iPhone sales hurt its earnings this quarter.) The net result was a mobile operating profit of just 200 million won ($172,000) or 1.2 cents per phone. The good news is that the LG G4 has only been on sale in the US for two months, so it may have a stronger impact on LG's bottom line next quarter.

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Today's the day! Windows 10 is now available in 190 countries as a free upgrade to Windows 7 or 8.1 owners. Replacing an OS is no one's idea of fun, but we're actually looking forward to this one. First off, we'll be leaving behind the most hated version of Windows ever (sorry, Vista). In return, we'll get one Microsoft was so confident in that they skipped version 9 altogether because hey, Windows 10 sounds better. So how to get it? We've got a handy guide, and Microsoft has info here, but if you already reserved your free upgrade, hang in there, as Microsoft says it's rolling out in waves.

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Red laser in laboratory

A team of researchers from Osaka University recently fired the most powerful laser on the planet: a 2 petawatt pulse, that's 2 quadrillion watts, albeit for just one trillionth of a second. It's called the LFEX (Laser for Fast Ignition Experiments) and it measures more than 300 feet in length. Interestingly, while the LFEX boasts immense power, it doesn't actually require that much energy to operate.

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It's easy to think about tinkering around with Arduino, but take more than 30 seconds to look at the platform, and suddenly it becomes daunting: not only do you need an Arduino itself, but to get started you need resisters, wires, LEDs, screens and a host of other components that are almost always sold separately. Have no fear, newbies: there's a new Arduino Basic Kit in town, and it has all the spare parts a beginner could want.

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