HallowMEME, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Reddit, and rubber sound in this week’s Staff Picks

Digital Trends Staff Picks

jeff van campJeffrey Van Camp: A mobile carrier with a sense of humor?

You know, I’m so used to wireless carriers finding new ways of sucking money out of us, that I sometimes forget that there are service providers out there who are more than simply giant, profit-grubbing corporations. Ting is one of them. Today, the small Sprint MVNO (a company that piggybacks on Sprint’s cellular network) put out a goofy little video showing a phone beaming from Sprint to Ting. Why? Well, because it’s excited that Ting users can now use Sprint phones. It’s the only carrier I know of that solely charges you for the data, minutes, and texts you use and actually hands refunds to customers if they don’t use the data they sign up for. I have no affiliation with these guys. It’s just nice to see a carrier that makes stupid videos instead of data plans that rob you blind and call it a good deal.

Fair warning: Do not try this at home

hallowmeme super stars and a cell plan that doesnt suck in this weeks staff picks if bsp blk

Micah AbramsMicah Abrams: Phoning it in

I am not what you would call an audiophile. My only problem with the original iPhone ear buds was that they were too big for my ears and often fell out. My only problem with the fancy new iPhone ear buds is that … they’re too big for my ears and often fall out. I would say that i demand value over robust tones from my speakers, except that I don’t really demand anything from them.

So, to be clear: the iFrogz Boost Plus is far from an impressive audio experience. Caleb would eviscerate this thing if it weren’t beneath a home theater critic of his caliber to acknowledge it even exists. Having said that, the Boost Plus is a gadget of such pure purpose and flawless design that it’s hard not to love.

Utilizing an NFC-style technology they call Near Field Audio, the Boost Plus sucks music playing on your phone or iPod through a modest amplifier the size of a small alarm clock. It works off AAA batteries or a USB power source. That’s it; no bells, no whistles, and no pro-level sound. Also, no setup, no wires, and almost no space taken up in a laptop bag. This might not be the best speaker ever made, but as a travel speaker it’s hard to beat. 

caleb denisonCaleb Denison: Rubber soul

The problem with the tiny speakers we find in our mobile phones, tablets and laptops is that they sound…well…tiny. Manufacturers are forced to reckon with limited space, and limited space = limited bass. But the new technology featured in this video could transform the way our portable devices sound in the future. Check out the world’s first rubber speaker. The design utilizes “smart rubber”, which was originally developed for use in artificial muscles, and it’s capable of producing low frequencies even though it is extremely thin. Though we doubt anyone will be rockin’ a block party with their phone any time soon, perhaps we can look forward to mobile devices sounding a little more musical and a lot less like tin cans.

 andrew coutsAndrew Couts: In defense of Reddit

Social news site Reddit has gotten a lot of heat since Gawker outed the identity of its most notorious user, Violentacrez (known offline as Michael Brutsch), the man behind much of the website’s vilest content. But as a long-time redditor myself, I’d like to take a moment to remind everyone that sexualized pictures of children and the glorification of domestic violence against women is far from the only thing Reddit offers.  

For example, the “DIY” subreddit offers great home projects, especially if you’re looking to build a sweet coffee table. “FoodForThought” provides a superb mix of quality articles, while “Frugal” offers a wide variety of fantastic tips for how to cut your living expenses down to nearly nothing. “AskCulinary” gives you access to people who really know how to cook, with plenty of inspiration to be found at “Cooking.” And “LifeProTips” will make you better at life in general. 

Of course, you can always rely upon the wildly popular subreddits like “Pics,” “Videos,” “GIFs,” and “Comics” that will eliminate any moment of boredom you have throughout the day. 

See, folks? Reddit isn’t just for wacko creepers and pedophiles — it’s for people like you, too. 

ryan flemingRyan Fleming: Star powerhallowmeme super stars and a cell plan that doesnt suck in this weeks staff picks star talk radio with neil degrasse tyson

When I grow up, I want to be like Astrophysicist Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. Despite his impressive academic background, Tyson manages to relate with people of all levels of education with ease, and his enthusiasm for the sciences is positively infectious. Whether it is addressing audiences on Nova ScienceNow about the algae’s use as fuel or addressing Congress about the need for better funding to NASA, Tyson can relate to people in a way that everyone can understand and appreciate. 

If you grew up staring up at the stars and dreaming of a universe filled with mystery, then Tyson is someone who you should pay attention to. He will soon be back on the air hosting a sequel to Carl Sagan’s Cosmos on Fox, but in the meantime check out his podcast, Star Talk. Now in its third season, each episode features a different co-host, as well as a new topic that can range from the nature of black holes to the physics of superheroes.  

Tyson’s affable nature mixed with his desire to educate people through his love of science makes Star Talk one of the best podcasts around – so good that we can forgive him for leading the movement to strip Pluto of its planet status.

amir IliafarAmir Iliaifar: The coolest car you’ll never drive

As if living in a country that gave us Paul Hogan, Men at Work, AC/DC, and Vegemite wasn’t enough, earlier this week our friends down under became the first to get up close and personal with Lexus’ beautiful, bold, and bedazzling Lexus LF-LC concept at the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney. While this isn’t the first debut of the stunning LF-LC (we saw it earlier this year at the Detroit Auto Show) the latest version rolls in with an updated design and radiant Opal Blue finish. Naturally, details are as barren as my bank account, but word is the latest concept from the Japanese automaker sports Lexus’s next generation Hybrid drivetrain, which utilizes a smaller, more efficient (read: powerful) battery. Apparently, the LF-LC also takes a page out Lexus’ other supercar, the equally sexy LFA, by sporting a healthy helping of lightweight carbon fiber. Can someone pick up my jaw please? 

 It’s likely the LF-LC will never see the light of day, but if Lexus, and by extension Toyota, keep pushing the envelope like this, we see the luxury marquee reclaiming its throne from the Germans in the near future. Until then, I’ll just have to dream of driving this metallic work of art and replaying the video seen  below over and over.

natt garunNatt Garun: I can haz HallowMEME?

Fellow New Yorkers, listen up! If you are a fan of all things Internet culture, you best be joining me at the annual HallowMEME party at The Bell House in Brooklyn this coming Thursday. It’s a place where you can see memes come to life, and judging by last year’s Nyan Cats, Scumbag Steve’s, and Hipster Ariel’s, you can bet this year’s multitude of cultural goodness shall make it to the party. We’re expecting tons of #bindersfullofwomen, pouty McKayla Maroney’s, and gangnam-styling PSY’s. RSVP by Monday to make the list to this free event and hopefully I’ll snap a picture of you for our full coverage later this week. What are you looking forward to seeing?

Product Review

The last American midsize plug-in hybrid is being squeezed out of existence

The 2019 Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid can’t catch a break. Ford is planning to discontinue production next year, but looming tariffs could spell doom for an otherwise comfortable and very economically sensible sedan.

Will Detroit be the ultimate test for Argo A.I.’s self-driving Ford?

Ford-backed Argo A.I. revealed its third-generation autonomous prototype in Detroit. Based on the Ford Fusion Hybrid, the car is fitted with technology that sees better and further, thinks faster, and is more comfortable to ride in.

Tesla screens may support YouTube with next software update

Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced today at E3 that the infotainment screens will support YouTube video streaming very soon. This most likely lines up with the latest software update that is expected later this year.

Volvo has created an autonomous truck that looks like a sports car

Volvo’s autonomous truck, called Vera, is about to start work at a Swedish port. The vehicle has a modest top speed of 25 mph and features a striking design that makes it look as if the usual cab has been swapped for a sports car.

Florida allows autonomous cars to drive on its roads without human supervision

Florida governor Ron DeSantis passed a law that establishes a legal framework for self-driving cars to operate within the state. It allows car and tech companies to test self-driving cars without a human operator behind the wheel.

New Toyota tech will automatically shut off engines, apply parking brakes

Toyota is launching two new safety features for the 2020 model year. One will automatically shut off a car's engine when stationary, and the other will automatically shift into park and apply the parking brake to prevent rollaways.

It’s not easy being green. Why EVs have a long road to replace gas vehicles

Electric vehicles are all the rage right now, but are they really better than your average gas-powered car? We take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of the technology, and whether or not they're ready for mass adoption.

Aston Martin will put its Valkyrie hybrid hypercar to the ultimate test

The Aston Martin Valkyrie will race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2021. Aston Martin is taking advantage of new rules that encourage automakers to bring their fastest hypercars to the legendary French race.
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: Florida’s autonomous vehicle law, E3 updates, and more

On this episode of DT Live, we take a look at the biggest trending stories in tech, including Florida allowing fully autonomous vehicles on the road, Atari’s new gaming system, E3 updates, high-speed rail, and more.

The best smart helmets are full of cool tech, and totally worth the messy hair

Helmets might be a haircut's worst nightmare, but they're constantly evolving, and have undergone a 21st-century makeover. No matter your sport, here are the best smart helmets currently on the market.

Kia draws inspiration from Greek mythology to create a crossover for millennials

Kia will expand its global portfolio of crossovers and SUVs when it unveils a model named Seltos on June 20, 2019. Developed for milennials, the Seltos is a small, high-tech model named after the son of Hercules.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Plant-based shoes and a ukulele learning aid

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Don’t let the SUV bodies fool you, BMW’s X3 M and X4 M are bonafide M cars

BMW is launching the first M versions of its X3 and X4. The 2020 X3 M and X4 M Competition pack a new 503-horsepower 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged inline-six and BMW’s usual array of performance tech.

After years of Le Mans misfortune, Toyota became impossible to beat

Toyota scored a one-two finish at the 2019 24 Hours of Le Mans, its second win a row at the legendary French race. Toyota is the first Japanese automaker to win Le Mans twice, but its wins came without any real competition.