Weekly Rewind: Crowdfunding astronauts, flying cars, self-cleaning toilets

top tech stories
Copenhagen Suborbitals/Flickr
A lot can happen in a week when it comes to tech. The constant onslaught of news makes it nigh impossible for mere mortals with real lives to keep track of everything. That’s why we’ve compiled a quick and dirty list of this week’s top tech stories, from a Black Friday countdown to a flying car — it’s all here.

 Uber wants flying taxis to soar above Los Angeles by 2020, with help from NASA

flying taxi

In the future, car traffic will have no effect on your taxi ride — at least, that is what Uber and NASA are counting on. On Wednesday, at the Web Summit in Portugal, Uber’s head of product Jeff Holden announced more details about Uber’s flying taxis program.

Holden said Los Angeles will be the third city Uber plans to use as a test site for its flying taxi project, “Elevate,” by 2020. Dallas and Dubai were the first two cities added as initial test sites for Uber’s flying taxi initiative in April. Holden also revealed Uber signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA in an effort to create a custom air traffic control system that would manage Uber’s fleet of low-flying aircraft.

Read: Uber wants flying taxis to soar above Los Angeles by 2020, with help from NASA

Amazon Cloud Cam review

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With a line of home-centric devices like the iconic Echo speaker and Fire TV, it was only a matter of time until tech giant Amazon dipped a toe into home security. Turns out that the Seattle company dove right in with the release of the Amazon Cloud Cam, an indoor security camera available now. We had a chance to test out an early review unit to see if its night vision, two-way audio, and smart motion detection could stack up to more expensive cams.

Read: Amazon Cloud Cam review

Facebook can use uploaded nude images to protect potential revenge porn victims

facebook messenger 2017 android

Facebook is conducting trials of a new preventative measure to combat revenge porn in Australia. The social media giant is requesting that those who consider themselves vulnerable to such tactics pre-emptively upload their images to the social network. While it might seem counter-intuitive, such a solution would let Facebook, and by extension, the uploader, get ahead of the problem.

Revenge pornography has been a growing problem for years, especially on Facebook, with often inefficient tools (like copyright law) available to take down the images long after they’ve been shared. Facebook is looking to do something much more proactive to prevent the practice in the future, and hopes that people who have the potential to be affected will trust its A.I.-driven system to combat it.

Read: Facebook can use uploaded nude images to protect potential revenge porn victims

Count down to Black Friday with our favorite deals available now

black friday

Calling Black Friday the Super Bowl of commerce is like calling the sun “kind of hot.” Every year, on the morning after Thanksgiving, consumers across America wake up at the crack of dawn, bellies full of half-digested turkey, and sprint to their favorite stores hoping to nab items at ridiculously low prices.

While there are some people who revel in the consumer chaos, most of us are just looking to save a little bit of cash as we head into the holiday season. So if you’re trying to avoid the madness all together, join us as we count down to Black Friday with our favorite deals available right now.

Read: Count down to Black Friday with our favorite deals available now

Apple’s iPhone 11: News, rumors, specs, and more

iPhone X, iPhone 11

Even though Apple just released the iPhone X, rumors are already beginning to swirl about the next iPhone. While we don’t know exactly what the next iPhone will be called, we’re assuming it’s not going to be called the iPhone 9. For now, we’re calling it the iPhone 11.

Read: Apple’s iPhone 11: News, rumors, specs, and more

Never clean a toilet again — SpinX robot does the dirty job

spinx toilet cleaning robot

If there’s one chore truly deserving of your loathing, it’s toilet cleaning. Unfortunately, the only thing grosser than doing that particular chore is not doing that particular chore, so you grimace and bear it. But take heart, friends — your days of scrubbing that bowl may soon be coming to a close. It’s all thanks to SpinX, heralded as the toilet-cleaning robot. Promising to self-sanitize both your toilet bowl and seat in just 90 seconds, the SpinX claims to be the only automatic, toilet-cleaning robot on the market.

Read: Never clean a toilet again — SpinX robot does the dirty job

Meet the amateur astronauts trying to crowdfund their way into orbit

There’s a nondescript warehouse tucked behind an opera house in Copenhagen, Denmark, where a few dozen rocket scientists meet every week to discuss what has become their collective obsession: sending an astronaut into suborbital space.

That might not seem like such a feat. Russia ticked the suborbital box over 55 years ago, and NASA has sent people to the moon and back. But considering that every member of Copenhagen Suborbitals (CopSub) is an amateur and a volunteer with a day job outside of the warehouse, the organization’s goal is one of the more ambitious in aerospace.

Read: Meet the amateur astronauts trying to crowdfund their way into orbit

Who makes the best 4K streamer? Apple, Roku, Amazon, and more square off

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So you’ve got the whole setup: a kickin’ sound system, the perfect furniture arrangement, and a new 4K HDR TV to tie it all together. Now it’s time to put it to work.

While 4K UHD Blu-ray provides the highest quality 4K Ultra HD picture and sound, streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Vudu are a quicker, easier, and cheaper way to get the latest content onto your television. Your new smart TV probably sports some of the apps you need to watch built right in, but a 4K-enabled streaming set-top box offers some distinct advantages, such as a large number of supported apps, voice and AI assistant integration, gaming, and even external storage. What’s more, many of our picks are portable, meaning you can take them on vacation or business trips so you never have to give up on your favorite shows while away from home.

Read: Who makes the best 4K streamer? Apple, Roku, Amazon, and more square off

A drone you can’t crash? It’s finally here, thanks to AR and smart glasses

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Do you want to get a drone, but are too worried about either breaking it or something around you? The good folks at DJI, Epson, and Y Media Labs are here to help — courtesy of the world’s first augmented reality drone for smart glasses. The three companies announced in early November that they have teamed up to create an AR drone flight simulator app for the Epson Moverio BT-300 smart glasses, which allows you to rack up hours of drone flight without the need to actually shell out for a real drone — or extra home insurance.

“Drones are expensive,” Sheila Mikailli, marketing lead for Y Media Labs, told Digital Trends. “If you’ve just invested a thousand dollars on a new drone, the last thing you want to do is crash your brand-new toy. The simulator allows drone users to practice flying and polishing their skills in a safe environment. Unlike other drone apps controlled through your phone, this truly immersive experience allows users to get comfortable with how their drone actually flies because the physics are accurate and the simulator is controlled by the DJI drone controller, not through the phone.”

Read: A drone you can’t crash? It’s finally here, thanks to AR and smart glasses

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Booze-filled ski poles and crypto piggy banks

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!

Here are 19 portable tech gadgets you’ll want to use every day

If you're looking for portable tech to keep you charged up while on the go (or for some great stocking stuffer ideas), we've rounded up 19 must-have gadgets. You'll find everything from a mini gaming controller to a folding Bluetooth…

REI clearance sale extends discounts on Garmin, Fitbit, and GoPro devices

Beyond the things you typically expect to find at REI — like tents, skis, and jackets — there are tons of great deals on quality tech foryour outdoor adventures. From smartwatches to action cameras, here are the best tech deals.

The best smartphone stocking stuffers for a very techy Christmas

If you've got a tech-loving smartphone enthusiast to buy for, we can help you out. Here's a selection of top phone accessories that would make amazing stocking stuffers so you can have a very Merry Christmas.

Microsoft patent filing shows wearable that mitigates involuntary movements

A patent application from Microsoft has shown the company is looking into using wearable technology to alleviate symptoms from various diseases and disorders that cause involuntary movements.

AT&T makes 5G a reality for a dozen U.S. cities, with more to come in 2019

Ready to experience a radical transformation in mobile communication? AT&T is launching mobile 5G in cities across the country over the next few months. Here's everything you need to know about the AT&T 5G rollout.

Which smartphone manufacturers won and lost in 2018

As the curtain comes down on 2018, we take a look at the big successes and failures in the smartphone market over the last 12 months. Which phone maker had the best year, and who had a year to forget?

5G’s arrival is transforming tech. Here’s everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.
Product Review

With sapphire glass and analog dials, you'd never know this watch is smart

The world of hybrid smartwatches is getting much larger, and the latest comes from a name with history — New York Standard Watches. In our NYSW GTS Activity Tracker review, we find out what makes this watch special, and why we were so…

Scientists have charged a phone and a Fitbit with solar-powered clothes

Scientists from Britain's Nottingham Trent University have discovered a way to incorporate solar panels into clothing, and they've even managed to charge a phone and Fitbit with the energy created.

The Lenovo Z5 Pro GT packs the most RAM ever seen in a smartphone

The next generation of smartphones has begun, and it's begun with a bang. The Lenovo Z5 Pro GT comes with the next generation Snapdragon 855 processor, 12GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage.

The best iPhone XS Max screen protectors to safeguard that huge display

If you love big screens, then the iPhone XS Max's huge 6.5-inch display is perfect for you. But it won't fare well against concrete. Protect your display with the best iPhone XS Max screen protectors.

Fitbit supercharges its smartwatches with its new 3.0 operating system

Fitbit announced a new software update for the Versa and Ionic, called Fitbit OS 3.0. The new OS will allow for things like on-device daily views, as well as 10 new third-party apps on the watch.

Google’s Gboard communication app reaches 500 languages in only 2 years

In December 2016, Google launched Gboard with support for an already-impressive 100 languages. Since then, however, Google has added a hefty 400 languages to the software keyboard, bringing the total number to 500.