A closer look at Sony's first crowdfunded products

It could be the start of a new Sony -- a company that's trying to recalibrate its new product compass by throwing nascent ideas and projects to the public... and asking for money. Perhaps Sony's most interesting move might be launching First Flight, its very own crowdfunding platform-slash-online store expressly for its employees' pet projects. These projects have passed auditions in front of senior execs: In fact the Seed Acceleration Project (SAP) has even been granted a fair amount of autonomy from Sony CEO Kazuo Hirai. Even if it still feels a little odd for a firm this size to be asking you to fund its next hit, some of those seeds are now taking root. We visited the company's "Creative Lounge," where employees and outsiders work on pitches as well as prototype products. We got to take a look at three of the most developed projects. Here's what we thought.

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You've had a long day. Your alarm didn't go off, so you rush to get to work. To make matters worse, you get to your bus just as it's pulling away, so you have to wait 15 minutes for the next one. Then you spill coffee down the front of your shirt right before a meeting with a client. And to top it all off, it looks like you accidentally sexted your mom instead of your significant other. But it's going to be all right, because as soon as you get home, you fire up that one game that'll let you chill, zone out and play your problems away. For me, that Zen gaming go-to is Two Dots, with its deceptively simple connect-the-dots missive and pleasing illustrations seemingly ripped from the pages of a children's book. But there are other, equally as charming and calming video games out there. So if you're in need of a tranquil gaming fix, then we've got just the list for you.

[Image credit: thatgamecompany]

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As technology became a part of modern life in the 19th century, an increasing amount of scientific study led to breakthroughs in electronic sound engineering -- often as a byproduct of other research. Humans became enamored with the crystalline clarity of these exotic machine-borne tones and as the technology matured, so did the range of output. Electrically powered machines were recreating the sounds of traditional instruments and even mimicking human speech. Once computers arrived, the possibilities seemed boundless as software for composing and performing electronic music were developed. Below, we've gathered together a few pioneering moments that've helped shaped our electronic soundscape. So listen and learn.

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'How to gross out coworkers,' or my time with the FitDesk 2.0

It seemed like a good idea at the time. I'd been meaning to lose some weight for a while and all the recent news about how sitting for extended periods of time is terrible for your health convinced me that a drastic change was necessary. So, the best way to accomplish both goals simultaneously was with a double-duty exercise bike-workstation like the FitDesk 2.0, right? Boy, was I wrong.

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FBL-JPN-RONALDO

Cristiano Ronaldo is more than a massive football star. He's also a model, a philanthropist and (because why not?) an entrepreneur. Ronaldo, who plays club soccer in Spain and for the Portugal national team, recently showed up in Japan to promote the SIXPAD, a muscle-stimulation device that promises to make your abs look like those on his body. While much was made of the weirdness of SIXPAD's promotional video, it's far from the first time Ronaldo's been the face behind a peculiar product. In fact, people in Japan love him for it, so much so that he now has his own 3D-printed, life-size figure, which was created to show off the SIXPAD and, as a bonus, a pair of boxer briefs from his CR7 underwear line. So how do we honor the Ronaldo tech-shilling madness with all that it entails? With a collection of some of his best and most bizarre tech moments, of course. De nada.

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Early Monday morning, around 400GB of stolen internal company files belonging to Italian surveillance and intrusion software firm Hacking Team were distributed online through its freshly hacked Twitter account (changed to "Hacked Team").

They were hacked by a hacker, or hackers. It was hackenfreude.

And because Hacking Team -- a Reporters Without Borders "enemy of the internet" -- was so universally reviled by infosec professionals for their dealings with despotic governments (among other things), it became a group effort. Hackers around the world dug into the illicit files and all but completely dismantled Hacking Team's business, and reputation.

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Sphero, the ball-shaped robot, inspired a new generation of toys that aren't only fun, but can also be used as educational tools for kids. Vortex, pictured above, is one of these. Created by DFRobot, a company that's been selling open-source hardware since 2008, Vortex is being revealed today via Kickstarter, with the goal being to raise $50,000 through crowdfunding. Vortex, which is small enough to fit on the palm of your hand, is described as a smart and responsive device that's meant to inspire incredible fun and creativity -- and that it does. It's not nearly as fast as the Sphero 2.0 or Ollie, but Vortex wants to shine in other specific areas, namely its multiplayer and Arduino features.

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Engadget's new buyer's guide picks: LG's G4 and a ton of audio gear

It's been almost two months since we've updated our various buyer's guides, but we've made up for lost time by adding a dozen new picks. Most of those are in our portable audio category, with nearly everything replaced with something newer (or better). We've rounded out our other categories too, though, with the LG G4 ranking as one of our new favorite phones, and the Fitbit Charge and LG Watch Urbane getting nods in the wearables section. Those are some of the more notable additions, but feel free to poke around -- and stay tuned to see what we add next month.

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"Try to look straight," a Microsoft employee tells me in a bright, cheery tone. I'm staring through an unusual pair of binoculars -- the kind that's normally used to test your eyesight in an optometrist's office. My gaze is locked on the piercing white light inside, but I can feel my sleep-deprived eyes beginning to tire. "Oh, you've moved again," my guide mutters with a hint of disappointment. I'm sitting in a small meeting room deep inside London's Excel Exhibition Centre, waiting for the distance between my eyes to be measured. It's not even 9AM, but already the first Minecraft fans are spilling through for the second day of Minecon -- a fan convention that celebrates the blocky building game invented by Markus "Notch" Persson. Once an indie darling, the imaginative sandbox title is now a global phenomenon played by millions of children and adults around the world. But today, instead of queuing for pictures with creepers and famous YouTubers, I'm waiting to play Minecraft on HoloLens.

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Like some kind of corporate Freaky Friday, Yahama tasked its motorcycle design team with making some instrument concepts -- and asked the opposite of its instrument design team. With no constraints like commercial viability, designers were able to (and did) go to town. While the fruits were revealed back in the spring, the company has publicly exhibited the results over the weekend to the well-heeled residents of Roppongi, Tokyo. Here's a closer look.

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It's the Fourth of July and while that light show in the sky honors US independence, why not shine a little light on our DIY perseverance? To help celebrate this holiday, we've put together a collection of (even more) ingenious hacks that incorporate party essentials: lights, nighttime, fireworks, music, drinks and a bit of wild imagination. Want to watch the celebrations on TV like it's still the '80s? Will pumping up the volume help you fight fires? And just how do you innovate something as simple as sliced bread? DIY fanatics and gadget hacker extraordinaires have already done the legwork. All you need to do is sit back, relax and enjoy the (slide)show.

[Image: Styropyro / YouTube]

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Leica is known for making cameras that are too expensive for most people. Its latest one, the Leica Q (Typ 116), is no exception. You can tell a lot about its high value simply by glancing at it; the gorgeous magnesium alloy and matte black finish makes it look exquisitely premium. There are also little details around the chassis to make you further appreciate its design, including an area that allows your thumb to rest comfortably while you're shooting. At roughly 23 ounces (640 grams), the Q isn't exactly lightweight, but doesn't feel heavy either -- its mass is distributed perfectly throughout. But OK, enough about the appearance. How does this $4,250 camera actually perform in the real world?

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