This could be the brand that finally takes 3D printing to the masses

3D printing has, in many ways, been a smash hit technology. People around the world have used it for everything from prototyping to medical assistance, and there isn’t a day that goes by where we don’t see some clever new use for it.

But when it comes to finding 3D printers in our homes, the story is a little different. Last year, market analysts were warning that the technology could take another 5-10 years to make it into homes, and it is rare to find someone that has such a device outside of businesses.

However, that could change, with the launch of a suite of 3D printers from newcomers XYZprinting.

For one thing, they are a lot cheaper than many rivals, starting at only £299/$349, but have also been designed to be very simple and easy to start using, something many cheaper 3D printers have not prioritised.

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At the entry-level end of the range is the da Vinci Jr, which is the first 3D printer we’ve encountered that’s as easy to operate as a microwave.

XYZprinting has done away with the need to calibrate the machine, and even the biodegradable PLA filament self-loads once it has been clicked into place. It’s the kind of device you can see families buying to use with their kids, and would probably make an awesome source of rainy day projects.

Other touches, such as the bright design that is reminiscent of the first iMacs and the cover that prevents tiny hands and dust from getting where it shouldn’t also help to make this highly accessible to non-techy users.

Appealing to the regular person is something a lot of 3D printer brands claim to do, but when you get to the detail, the majority don’t actually follow through.

By contrast, XYZprinting has gone to more effort than some might seem reasonable, providing an array of tutorials on everything from how to unbox the printer to how to work it, alongside a hefty library of free 3D models. There’s even an SD card in the box to transfer the files.

Provided it is well marketed, this device will serve as a kind of litmus test for 3D printing. If it fails to sell, then families really aren’t ready for 3D printers. But we will be surprised if that happens. xyz-printers-3

For those who consider themselves a bit more capable, there are also more complex models, which again have been priced low enough to make other brands a bit concerned.

For £599/$699 you can bag a da Vinci 1.1 Plus, which allows you to browse and print designs directly from the printer, or through a paired app that also lets you check on the progress of your print via a built-in camera, as long as you are on the same network.

The plus also lets you print with PLA, ABS or TPA filament, the latter of which produces flexible objects, making it perfect for jewellery, or – if you fancy – wellies.

The print quality is really very good on both, especially considering the price, which the company says is kept so low because all their r&d and manufacturing is done in-house.

Unlike pretty much every other 3D printing company, XYZ’s parent company has been making regular printers for brands such as HP for years, so they’re not exactly new at this kind of thing.

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Finally, the premium model, Nobel 1.1, is the product people looking to do serious printing will want. Unlike a lot of printers it uses a method called stereolithography, which involves forming the print upside down out of liquid resin using a UV laser beam.

This means it can print objects of more-or-less any shape, including with protruding sections at angles the typical layering method cannot achieve. The resulting detail is really impressive, rivalling what you’d get if you paid thousands for a professional print shop’s work.

This model is £1,500 in the UK, but even with the £100/kilo resin added, it works out a lot cheaper than paying someone else to print things for you. Plus when its running the printer itself looks like it’s been borrowed from several decades in the future, which is always a plus in our book.

With all three models launched in the UK later this month, and coming to the US later this year, 2015 really could be the year home printing takes off.

Valve’s ‘Knuckles’ controller brings individual finger control to VR

With a prototype first revealed at the company’s Steam Dev Days conference last October, Valve’s new ‘Knuckles’ controller is now being shipped to developers as a prototype, while a blog post unveils a few more of the specs.

What’s important about the new controller is that it on only utilises an ‘open hand’ design that will mean you don’t have to spend your entire time gripping the controller like a weapon, but  it also features basic tracking for individual fingers.

The device is similar to the current HTC Vive motion controller, positioning in 3D space via Steam’s Lighthouse tracking system, but looks to build to the next stage of what can be done with motion control in VR. Specifically, Valve is looking to bring a much greater presence of your virtual hand into the market.

Moreover, they’re looking to make that virtual hand feel far more natural. With the controller able to grip onto your hand – think somewhat similar to securing your Wiimotes to your wrist – you’ll be able to operate in the virtual space with an open hand. While it may seem a small thing, it brings a whole new realism to any kind of grabbing or catching motion.

In addition, the ability of the Knuckles to track the movement of individual fingers could prove a real game-changer to virtual reality experiences.  Using a number of capacitive sensors to detect the state of your hands when your finger is on a button, or particular part of a controller, the controller will, according to the dev post, “return a curl value between zero and one, where zero indicates that the finger is pointing straight out and one indicates that the finger is fully curled around the controller”.

In essence, this means that the controller will be able to sense fine gradations of movement in each of your fingers, rather than relying on a binary “open” or “closed” status. Beyond lending a more organic feel to the use of your virtual hand, this will also allow users to make use of a range of hand gestures currently unavailable with VR controllers. A screenshot from a new version of SteamVR Home displays the possibilities with a Knuckles user’s avatar throwing up devil horns.

Images courtesy of Valve

It’s worth noting that this isn’t a perfect tracking system. While farther along than, for example, the Oculus Touch controllers, which allow you to slightly open your fingers while tracking the three non-index fingers together via an analog trigger, the Knuckles aren’t exactly ‘full’ finger tracking. Ideally, controllers will reach the point of knowing where your fingers are at all times with pinpoint precision. Until then however, the Knuckles are no small step forward.

The current Knuckles controller dev kit reportedly has a battery life of three hours and requires an hour of USB Micro charging to fill up (if accurate, these numbers put it roughly in the same realm as Vive controllers in regards to battery). We’ll have to wait on confirmation of this and other details,

Elon Musk speaks to LA's mayor about his Boring Company

Elon Musk said this week that he has held “promising conversations” with L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, regarding the potential of bringing his recently formed Boring Company to the city. One of the ideas reportedly under consideration would see an express line to LAX airport from LA’s Union Station being built.

Source: Tech Crunch

Atari is back with a new console

Last week, Atari began teasing a new product called the Ataribox. Now, in an exclusive interview with GamesBeat Atari CEO Fred Chesnais has confirmed that the pioneering video game company is working on a new game console. “We’re back in the hardware business,” said Chesnais.

Source: Venture Beat

Nasa find 10 planets that could potentially host life

Nasa has added a further 219 candidates to the list of planets beyond our solar system, 10 of which may be about the same size and temperature as Earth, and may host life. Scientists found the candidates in a final batch of Nasa’s Kepler Space Telescope observations of 200,000 sample stars in the constellation Cygnus.

Source: The Guardian

Tesla Model S told driver to put his hands on the wheel before fatal crash

Federal regulators said on Monday, the driver of a Tesla Model S, who was killed in a collision while the car was in autopilot mode, did not have his hands on the steering wheel for a prolonged period of time despite being repeatedly warned by the vehicle that having his hands on the wheel was necessary.

Source: Ars Technica

Uber founder Travis Kalanick resigns

Having last week said that he was taking an indefinite leave of absence, Uber boss Travis Kalanick resigned as chief executive of the company this week after pressure from shareholders. His resignation comes after a review of practices at the firm and scandals including complaints of sexual harassment.

Source: BBC

Facebook defends against injunction to remove Oculus Rift from sale

Facebook and Oculus want a federal judge to let them continue selling Rifts despite a jury deciding Oculus stole another company’s computer code. Lawyers for Facebook said halting the sale of Oculus Rifts “would serve no one but ZeniMax, who would use it only as leverage to try to extract money from Oculus”.

Source: Bloomberg