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I flew, ever so briefly, with a jet suit

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There were some rules before I even arrived to test out Gravity Industries’ jetpack: Don’t wear sportswear fabrics as they could set alight, come with “robust footwear” and ensure your ankles are covered. No loose jewelry. Sign this waiver form. Don’t weigh more than 210 pounds. I was close to failing that last requirement after a year of pandemic and not much moving.

But I passed and after a brief series of elbow-bump greetings, I was soon being strapped into a hefty backpack that housed the main jet thruster and gasoline. Two engineers slipped two hefty jet outlets, also connected to the gear on my back, onto my wrists. It all felt heavy and I was now a little scared.

They guided me up onto the stage, and the crew, most of which pull double-duty as both test pilots and engineers, set up a stand to rest the arm jets on, before explaining how to control the jetpack. While the rear rocket seems tasked chiefly with getting your body off the ground, controlling the arm rockets —and keeping your own arms rigid — is what moves you, stabilizes you and generally stops you from spiraling out of control in front of a crowd of intrigued onlookers.

Gravity Industries at the Festival of Speed 2021

Mat Smith/ Engadget

As part of BP’s Future Lab at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, a long-running car show held in one of the leafier parts of southern England, Gravity Industries was showing off its latest jetpack to spectators and letting the occasional journalist and VIP, including Olympic athletes, influencers and musicians take to the air.. for a few seconds.

While we’ve written about Gravity Industries and its founder Richard Browning a few times, covering world record attempts and other experiments. All of these demanded the same miniature jet engines Browning’s been refining for years. And gasoline.

Stood on stage, with the two arm jets resting on a frame in front of me, the team finishes teaching me the fundamentals of movement: Use your right-hand trigger to adjust thrust, spread uniformly across the three jets; raise your hands to go back, bring them behind you to go forward; raise just one to rotate in that direction. Someone tapped my back and I realized I was now attached to a safety wire that ran across the very top of the stage.

And that was it. An engineer put a pair of ear protectors on me — I had a big heavy engine on each wrist — and withdrew to a safe distance. Then the engines kicked in, and I immediately realized why I had ear protectors.

These engines can roar. Collectively, they have enough power to lift up to 210 pounds, but the Gravity Industries team gently increased the engine power, meaning I could literally find my feet, moonhopping from side to side, feeling the effects of different angles on the arm thrusters.

Gravity Industries jetpack

Mat Smith/ Engadget

Keeping my arms straight not only kept these roaring engines away from me, but made it easy to stay rigid and adjust the shape of my body. Finally, my brief dalliance with gymnastic rings was paying off. As the power was stepped up, Browning (who was apparently commentating on my efforts to a crowd of spectators — I couldn’t hear him) flagged me and I powered down the motors. I hadn’t quite got off the ground for more than a few seconds at a time. He explained that I could guide where I went by looking (and turning my head) in that direction, like how you control the direction of your snowboard. I followed his hand as he walked from one side of the stage to the other, and the jetsuit was doing what I wanted it to.

Gravity Industries’ jetsuit is designed so that intuition kicks in pretty soon. We naturally raise our hands when we fall. Feel like you’re falling here, and the same gesture will keep you upright. At the same time, intuition can also mess you up. With a powerful engine strapped to your back, pointing at the floor, you should not kick your legs back. Or flail them when you panic. The stream isn’t going to flambé your legs, but you’ll feel a wave of heat that doesn’t exactly help to calm you down.

After the flailing, I’d run out of fuel, and it was time for a refill. Once topped up, and with a little more confidence, I stepped onto the stage. The engineers cranked up the power a little bit more, and I tried to hold my nerve. The engines were roaring louder than ever, and I managed to, finally, lift myself off the stage. I turned, I wobbled, I moved backwards, forwards and landed when I felt like landing. Did I feel like I was six feet off the ground? Yes. Was it really only a foot and change? Yes.

Earlier this month, on Independence Day, Mark Zuckerberg published a video of him atop an electric surfboard — if not jetpack — holding the United States flag as he was propelled across the water’s surface. The very, very weird clip raises the question with a lot of these bleeding-edge transport concepts: are they simply play-things of the rich-and-famous?

Gravity Industries, as well as US rivals like Jetpack Aviation offer “experience days” for groups that include training with the jetsuit and a tour of the company’s research facilities. These cost a few thousand dollars. You can also register for dedicated flight training, which is even more money. Tapping into enthusiastic early adopters does offer the funding needed to evolve these projects, and fuel is expensive — so are these jetsuits. But beyond day trips for the rich and showing off the suit to Tom Cruise, what are they for?

The immediate example might be military uses. The military is often the first to adopt new technologies, willingly funding many innovations that have dripped down to civilian life. Browning mentions how helicopters once subverted military strategy when first introduced, with the ability to drop off fully-equipped soldiers into packed jungles changing the assumptions of modern warfare.

Jetpacks are, for now, noisy, fuel-hungry and vulnerable, however. But the posit is that they could offer an entirely different paradigm in warfare — one not yet imagined (or perhaps affordable) just yet.

The British Royal Marines have already tested out Gravity Industries’ suit as an alternative to rappelling from helicopters. In the test, one soldier launched from a boat, landed on a larger vessel and lowered the ladder to the rest of his squadron, cutting out the need for a bigger helicopter.

It’s not all warfare, however. In a recent experiment with the UK’s Great North Air Ambulance Service (GNAAS), Browning flew to a simulated casualty in a mountainous area in just 90 seconds, far faster than the 25 minutes it took air ambulance medics to make it on foot. The time reduction could literally save lives, if a solution to the high-cost and learning curve can be found. The suit is also limited by how far it can fly before needing more fuel. It can typically run for around 5-10 minutes, depending on the pilot’s weight and other factors. Like drone deliveries, for now, jetsuits can only offer last-mile movement — and it has to be less than a mile.

Before the pandemic locked down travel pretty much everywhere, Gravity Industries was also mere weeks away from holding its first race event in Bermuda. It would involve two racers flying around a circuit mixed with an obstacle course built over water, competing for the fastest time. It sounds like something out of The Running Man.

I’ve watched most of the clips of Gravity Industries’ YouTube channel, and Browning’s other appearances on TV shows. But seeing someone with skill put the jetsuit through its paces, that’s when I got the appeal of someone flying around that wasn’t me.

Gravity Industries jetpack

Mat Smith/ Engadget

He finishes addressing the crowd at Goodwood and drops his mic behind a couple of loudspeakers. He steps to the middle of the stage, no safety line, and blasts upwards about three feet. He glides off the stage to the grass between it and the crowd. He punches the thrust harder, going even higher, and takes a tour around the perimeter of the stage. Blades of grass fly around, the engines roaring so loud that it’s hard for the audience to choose between Instagramming this spectacle or plugging their ears with their fingers. He makes another loop, then gingerly lands, center stage. 

Everyone around claps, passersby ask Gravity Industries staff if there’s any chance of them trying the jetsuit at the show. They’re politely told that the slots are fully booked, and nudged towards the test flight sessions they offer online.

At the event, Gravity Industries also revealed what could be the future of something that’s already a near-future concept: a prototype electric jetpack. It was a surprise, given that Future Lab is sponsored by BP, the multinational oil and gas company, or perhaps that’s exactly why there was a non-fossil fuel project to show off.

This bigger model, with rougher edges, is more prototype than the gasoline models. Following the reveal, Richard Browning tells me that it was really to prove that “we can get someone off the ground.”

The challenges of an electric jetpack make gasoline versions seem easy. Gravity Industries’ electric proof-of-concept weighs twice that of the fuel iteration, yet it can only last for 10 to 15 seconds of “getting one of the lightest team members off the ground,” notes Browning.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/gravity-industries-jet-suit-test-impressions-future-lab-festival-of-speed-160009551.html?src=rss

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Louis Vuitton is making a mobile game with embedded NFTs

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The worlds of fashion and gaming are cozying up to one another. From Gucci selling digital items in Roblox to Vogue‘s virtual fashion spread starring Gigi Hadid, the two industries are increasingly overlapping to capture a young, tech-savvy audience. Now, Louis Vuitton is jumping on the bandwagon by releasing a mobile video game to celebrate its founder’s 200th birthday. Louis: The Game stars the fashion house’s mascot Vivienne, a wooden doll embellished with the company’s flower insignia, on a journey through the brand’s history, reports Austrian newspaper Kurier.

The iOS and Android game reportedly tasks players with exploring a colorful world by completing various quests — all pretty generic so far. Whether it turns out to be more than just an unashamed bit of promotional fluff remains to be seen. The game drops on August 4th. If LV goes all-out psychedelic like it did with its recent UFO-style speaker, then it could be worth a look.

According to WWD, the game will also feature “embedded NFTs.” Though, that hardly sounds promising. The one-of-a-kind digital collectibles have gone from multi-million dollar auctions to freebies designed to promote throwaway pop culture, like Warner Bros. recent Space Jam reboot.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/louis-vuitton-mobile-game-nft-105507072.html?src=rss

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Rocket Lab launches US Space Force satellite after its failed mission in May

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Rocket Lab has successfully launched a US military satellite in its first mission since its 20th Electron launch ended up in failure back in May. The company’s Electron rocket made its way to space from its New Zealand launch site, carrying a small demonstration satellite from the US Space Force called the Monolith. Peter Beck, Rocket Lab founder and CEO, tweeted shortly after the event that the payload was deployed and praised the team for a “flawless” launch.

Monolith’s target location is in low-Earth orbit around 370 miles above our planet. The satellite will demonstrate the use of a deployable sensor, “where the sensor’s mass is a substantial fraction of the total mass of the spacecraft, changing the spacecraft’s dynamic properties and testing ability to maintain spacecraft attitude control,” Rocket Lab explained in the official mission webpage. The results from the demonstration will help companies build more affordable satellites within shorter timeframes.

Rocket Lab’s 20th mission failed in May when it suffered an “anomaly” after the second stage ignition. The company lost both its Electron rocket and BlackSky’s Earth observation satellite payloads as a result of its second launch failure within the span of a year. After investigating the issue, Rocket Lab determined that the root cause was a problem with the second stage engine igniter system that “induced a corruption of signals within the engine computer.” The company says it has since implemented fixes “to prevent any future reoccurrence.”

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/rocket-lab-launches-us-space-force-satellite-103541725.html?src=rss

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Facebook’s next product will be its long-awaited Ray-Ban smart glasses

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Facebook’s booming business is dominated by digital ads, but it also has hardware ambitions beyond VR. During the company’s latest earnings call, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said its next product release would be a pair of smart glasses from Ray-Ban. 

“The glasses have their iconic form factor, and they let you do some pretty neat things,” the Facebook co-founder said. “So I’m excited to get those into people’s hands and to continue to make progress on the journey toward full augmented reality glasses in the future.” 

Facebook’s sunglasses have been the subject of rumors since 2019. Back then, sources told CNBC that Facebook was working with Ray-Ban owner EssilorLuxottica on AR eyewear nicknamed “Orion.” The glasses were billed as a full-fledged phone replacement on which you could take calls, see information and even broadcast livestreams. That inevitably drew comparisons to Google Glass (another Luxottica collab) instead of the phone-tethered Spectacles from Snap. Last year, Hugo Barra, then VP VR at Facebook Reality Labs, confirmed that the glasses would land in 2021. But, we haven’t heard much since.

For Facebook, the glasses hold the key to its future. Alongside virtual reality, augmented reality (AR) is integral to building the “metaverse,” Zuckerberg said. In the future, Facebook will morph into a shared, liveable platform that lets you “teleport” between different social experiences using VR and AR, Zuckerberg explained. 

The term metaverse is the latest buzzword seized upon by Silicon Valley and futurists. While the concept has been around for well over a decade, it gained traction after the breakout success of multiplayer game creation platforms like Fortnite and Roblox. Earlier this week, Microsoft chief Satya Nadella mentioned an “enterprise metaverse” on his company’s earnings call.

For Facebook, the metaverse is more than just a fad. The company is spending billions in order to build its shared universe, which will be populated with Facebook users and digital ads, according to Zuckerberg. In order for it to become a reality, the company needs more people to buy its computing hardware. Therefore, the plan is to make those devices more affordable.

“Our business model isn’t going to primarily be around trying to sell devices at a large premium or anything like that because our mission is around serving as many people as possible,” Zuckerberg noted. “So we want to make everything that we do as affordable as possible, so as many people as possible can get into it and then compounds the size of the digital economy inside it. So that’s kind of at a high level how I’m thinking about this.”

Sunglasses aren’t the only hardware Facebook is reportedly working on. Multiple reports have claimed Facebook is developing a smartwatch with a built-in cellular connection and a detachable display. Initially, it was believed that the watch would be first out the gate, but it seems Zuckerberg had other plans.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Source: https://www.engadget.com/facebook-ray-ban-smart-glasses-100518155.html?src=rss

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Old Amazon Kindle devices will soon lose 3G access

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If you have an older Amazon Kindle with 3G internet, take note that you may not be able to wirelessly access and download new content anymore starting in December. As The Verge reports, Amazon has sent out emails to owners with old Kindles, telling them that previous-generation devices will lose internet access after mobile operators transition from 2G and 3G networks to 4G and 5G.

The e-commerce giant listed the particular devices that will be affected by the switch in its FAQ page. It noted that the first- and second-generation Kindles, as well as the Kindle DX, won’t be able to connect to the internet at all since they don’t have WiFi connectivity to fall back on. The other devices in the list are the Kindle Keyboard (3rd Generation), Kindle Touch (4th Generation), Kindle Paperwhite (5th, 6th and 7th Generation), Kindle Voyage (7th Generation) and Kindle Oasis (8th Generation), all of which have WiFi connection.

You’ll still be able to access your books on an older device and can do wired transfers if you want, though. And if you have a newer 4G or WiFi-only Kindle, you won’t be affected at all. In its email, Amazon included a code customers can use to get $50 off a new Kindle Paperwhite or Oasis, along with $15 in eBook credits. You may want to check your inbox to see if you got the company’s notice in case you’ve been looking to upgrade anyway.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
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Source: https://www.engadget.com/old-amazon-kindle-lose-3g-access-093056232.html?src=rss

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