Timothy J. Seppala
Nuclear warfare and the technology of peace
It takes just 15 minutes to launch a nuclear warhead from a submarine and trigger mutually assured destruction. Jess Conditt's story on the past, present and future of peace in the nuclear age is full of arresting facts like that. It's a comprehensive, sobering look at what's keeping the world from nuclear annihilation. But it isn't preachy, nor is it political, although politicians are definitely part of the equation. Instead, what I came away with was a sense of cautious hope. That, regardless of who sits in the White House, "little wars" will preclude and, hopefully, prevent big ones. In 2017, that's a tough pill to swallow, but at least it's coated in optimism.
Inside Grado Labs: A legacy of hand-built headphones
Growing up working at a small, family-owned body shop with my dad, I'm an easy mark for stuff like Billy Steele's piece on Grado Labs. It has pretty much everything you could ask for: a David and Goliath story, the return of a prodigal son, and gorgeous photography throughout. What's most inspiring, though, is the company's devotion to quality, both in terms of sound and building materials. A majority of Grado's headphones, headphone amps and turntable cartridges are built and assembled in the Brooklyn building the family has owned since 1950. Perhaps more impressive is that Grado hasn't had to advertize since 1964. Rather than pump out new products every year like some of its bigger rivals, Grado keeps its lineup small, releasing a new model only when it needs to. Sometimes that takes 10 years. In our disposable society, it's nice to know that, like music, what you listen to it on can last forever too.
Associate Features Editor
The law isn't ready for the internet of sexual assault
Daniel Cooper's deep dive into sexual assault in the internet of things was not just comprehensive, but prescient. The story points out how, in the tech world's rush to connect even the most pedestrian of items to the web, hacking smart sex toys could lead to remote sexual assault or stealing data about people's sex habits. But Dan also looks toward the future with a detailed analysis of the laws that will or will not protect humans from their compromised teledildonics. It's a fundamental question in the tech world: Can the legal system -- deliberative and thus slow to change, by nature as well as necessity -- keep pace with the breakneck pace of technological change? This story brings that abstract question all the way to the most intimate and troubling places.
In the months after Daniel's story, Pen Test, the security consultancy that hacked a connected vibrator, was also able to hijack Bluetooth butt plugs from a moving vehicle (they termed it "screwdriving"). Worryingly, the issues in this story may be relevant for a while yet.
No, Kellyanne, microwaves cannot turn into cameras
This one is an obvious contender for the best headline ever to grace Engadget. (The subhead throws some delicious shade as well.)
"Cherlynn carefully and clearly explains how a camera and a microwave work."
But the excellence doesn't end there. Cherlynn Low carefully and clearly explains how a camera and a microwave work. She makes it painfully obvious to anyone with even a basic grasp of the English language (or an ounce of logic in their head) that, indeed, microwaves cannot turn into cameras. This story works both as an explainer for two common pieces of technology and as a merciless takedown of one of the more dubious public figures in 2017.
Editor in Chief
In the world of online media, it's rare that we get the chance to step AFK and connect with you IRL. It's rarer still that we get a massive chunk of cash to make it happen. That's why my favorite story of 2017 isn't a story at all -- it's an experience. Two years ago, Michael Gorman (our previous editor in chief) and I gave birth to a wildly unprecedented brain baby called the Engadget Experience, and this November, with help and a sweet pot of cash from our parent company, we got to share it with the world. Through the Alternate Realities grant program, we funded five truly out-there art projects that embraced new media like AR, VR and AI and introduced them to the world at a one-day event in downtown LA. For those of you who couldn't experience it IRL, we produced profiles of each of the five projects that will hopefully make you look at the world just a little bit differently.
Check out all of Engadget's year-in-review coverage right here.