This Is the Gear You Need to View the Upcoming Solar Eclipse

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It’s tempting to stare at the sun during a solar eclipse, but if you try to do so without protection, you could damage your eyes. This image of a partial eclipse in 2012 was taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory satellite. (Courtesy of NASA/SDO and the AIA, EVE, and HMI science teams)

On August 21, North America will experience the first total solar eclipse visible across the continent in nearly a century–and, while it may seem illogical, this period of semi-darkness is an important time to practice sun safety.

That’s because while during an eclipse, you won’t want to tear your eyes away from the show, staring directly at the sun can lead to solar retinopathy, a condition where light floods the eye’s retina. In 1999, 45 patients visited an eye clinic in Leicester, England, after viewing a solar eclipse without proper eyewear. About half of the patients suffered from eye pain; the others reported impaired vision. Although these eclipse watchers were not totally blinded, several incurred long-term damage.

The United States hasn’t experienced a total eclipse since 1979, and that one only passed over a small swath of the Northwest. This year, in contrast more than 500 million people in North America, plus parts of South America and northwestern Europe, will be able to see at least a partial eclipse. Those within a 70-mile wide pathbetween Oregon and South Carolina will witness a total eclipse.

A partial eclipse occurs when the moon blocks part of the sun from view. A total eclipse, in contrast, is when the moon completely blocks the sun. “Totality,” the part of the total eclipse when the sun is completely covered, lasts only around two minutes.

Most people in the continental United States live within a one- to two-day drive of the total eclipse’s path. Madhulika Guhathakurta, the lead program scientist for NASA’s “Living With a Star” initiative, says the breadth of the path makes the eclipse accessible to everyone. She says observing a total eclipse is transformative: “It’s akin to the way astronauts describe their first trip to space. You’re just so in awe of nature.”

To view the solar eclipse, you’ll need proper equipment. It may seem odd to don protection in the semi-darkness of a partial eclipse, but staring at the sun can cause retinal injury. The only time it’s safe to look at the sun without protection is during totality. Keep your equipment on hand, and put it back on when the sun starts to reappear.

Opt for gear featuring ISO-approved solar filters, which are about 100,000 times darker than everyday sunglasses. The American Astronomical Society’s website includes a list of manufacturers that have certified their products meet the ISO 12312-2 standard. If you purchase equipment from other outlets, double check that their merchandise meets ISO standards.

Whether you’re a stargazing neophyte or dedicated astronomer, this gear will help you make the most of a spectacular event.

These solar viewers give 2x magnification and protection from the sun during the partial eclipse.
These solar viewers give 2x magnification and protection from the sun during the partial eclipse. (Celestron)

Eclipse glasses and handheld viewers

Eclipse glasses look like hybrids of 3-D movie glasses and sunglasses. As Guhathakurta explains, these glasses have the added protection of a solar filter. Whereas sunglasses only block UV rays, eclipse glasses also cut off visible light.

If you’re a casual observer or part of a large group, you’ll like these glasses’ low prices and bulk packaging. You can buy a pack of five paper glasses from Rainbow Symphony for around $12. If you want a sturdier option, try these plastic glasses from American Paper Optics. And feel free to go for style: TSE17 has a $5.05 stars-and-stripes five-pack, and American Paper Optics features everything from Bill Nye glasses to astronaut-themed frames.

Looking for something between basic glasses and high-tech binoculars? Check out this handheld viewer from Celestron. For $9.95, you’ll receive two viewers with 2x magnification capabilities and a pocket eclipse guide.

Binoculars and telescopes

Binoculars and telescopes are pricier than eclipse glasses and handheld viewers but can be worth the investment. They feature a higher magnification, but higher magnification results in a shakier image––as power increases, the equipment becomes more sensitive to its holder’s small hand movements.

Binoculars are rated with two numbers. The first number is the magnification, the second is the aperture—the diameter of the front lens, measured in millimeters. If you’re buying a pair of binoculars and plan to use them for other astronomy viewing, the bigger the aperture, the better, but bigger lenses also mean heavier equipment.

The following options offer a range of viewing strengths. Celestron’s EclipSmart binoculars feature non-removable solar filters, so you’ll only be able to use them for solar viewing. A 10×25 pair (10x magnification and 25mm aperture) costs around $35, while a 10×42 pair costs just about twice as much. A cheaper option is Lunt’s mini SUNocular. A 6×30 pair costs $29.95.

If you prefer binoculars with removable solar filters, Meade has a $69.99 10×50 pair that works for both solar viewing and nighttime stargazing. Once you remove the solar filters, the binoculars will operate like a normal pair.

Telescopes offer some of the best eclipse views, but you’ll pay more for added detail if you want an advanced model. A basic lightweight option is the Explore Scientific Sun Catcher 70mm telescope. It costs $59.99 and can be used during both the day and night. A more advanced option is the $99.95 Celestron EclipSmart telescope. It offers 18x magnification, 50mm aperture and non-removable solar filters.

Another choice is the Meade EclipseView telescope. The cheapest model is a $79.99 82mm reflecting telescope designed for on-the-go use. A sturdier long-term bet is the 76mm reflecting telescope, which costs $129.99. Both models feature removable solar filters and are suitable for solar and nighttime use.

The Meade EclipseView 82mm telescope is designed to be portable, for eclipse watching anywhere.
The Meade EclipseView 82mm telescope is designed to be portable, for eclipse watching anywhere. (Meade)

Add-on solar filters

Another category of eclipse viewing gear is add-on filters. These can be attached to binoculars, telescopes and cameras not originally designed for solar viewing and are mainly used by experienced observers. Similarly to eclipse-specific gear, add-on filters prevent retinal damage. They also protect your equipment’s optics from the heat of the sun, as the intensity of an eclipse can damage gear designed for nighttime observing.

Filters are typically made of metal on glass (sturdy but most expensive), aluminized polyester film (also known as Mylar) or black polymer (also used in eclipse glasses). Rainbow Symphony sells black polymer and silver Mylar filters starting at $19.95. Thousand Oaks Optical and Orion offer higher-end filters ranging in price from $22 to $150-plus.

Pinhole projectors

If you want to view the eclipse without spending money on special equipment, you’re in luck. Stand with your back to the sun, and use your hands, a hole-punched index card or even a patch of leaves to create a tiny opening. As sunlight flows through the empty space, an image of the sun will project onto a nearby surface. For more detailed instructions, visit the American Astronomical Society’s pinhole projection page.

Guhathakurta’s final words of advice are simple: During the partial eclipse, “do not look at the sun without glasses on, but absolutely look at the total solar eclipse without glasses on. These are two binary events. When you wear glasses and you cannot see anything anymore, that’s totality.”

[“Source-smithsonianmag”]

Google Daydream View VR Headset Launched in India at Rs. 6,499

Image result for VR gear

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Daydream View VR headset available for Rs. 6,499
  • Apps include YouTube VR, Street View, Play Movies and more
  • Daydream supported phones include Google Pixel, Pixel XL, and Moto ZGoogle’s Daydream View VR headset is now available in India priced at Rs. 6,499. The VR headset has been listed on Flipkart and will include the controller as well. The headset was first made available in the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and Germany back in November last year.

    The headset is being offered on Flipkart with 5 percent off for Axis Bank Buzz Credit Cards and Rs. 300 cash back on payment through PhonePe. EMI options are also available and each pair of headset comes with 1 year of warranty. First 30 customers to buy Google Daydream View VR via Flipkart will also receive Google Chromecast for free, while the first 50 customers will receive a Google Play Store Credit worth Rs. 500.

    The Daydream View VR headset functions along the lines of Samsung’s Gear VR and you will need Daydream-supported smartphones for the headset to work. As of now, the list of phones that support Daydream is small with the likes of Google Pixel, Pixel XL, and Moto Z, to name a few and will also come to Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ soon. So, for those considering to buy the headset in India may want to check they have a Daydream-ready smartphone first.

  • google daydream vr google
  • The Daydream View VR headset is made up of a lightweight fabric for a comfortable feel. The controller lets you interact with the virtual world, letting you take various actions with help of motion and gesture sensors and physical buttons. The Daydream app that houses a collection of apps and games for Daydream-ready phones. The YouTube VR app will let you watch 3D or standard 360-degree videos with the Daydream View headset. The Street View app lets you tour over 150 popular real-world places, while Play Movies offers some VR-ready movies. Third-party developers too provide Daydream-ready content via their apps.

    “Daydream View promises users a mesmerising experience. Swim with a pod of dolphins, stand at the edge of a volcano and even visit Pluto with Daydream View. Users can teleport from virtually anywhere to pretty much everywhere. Our aim is to make the VR experience mobile so that customers can easily carry it anywhere with them. We at Google are also working with developers, smartphone companies, and content creators to make VR accessible to all,” said Clay Bavor, Vice President of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality at Google.

[“Source-ndtv”]

Twitter Starts Testing View Counts to Surface the Best Videos

twitter video view count story Twitter Video View CountTwitter Starts Testing View Counts to Surface the Best Videos
HIGHLIGHTS
The view count is visible right next to the usual timer on videos
View count could possibly be used to rank content going ahead
Twitter spokesperson has confirmed that test is being conducted
Twitter has reportedly started showing view count on videos for some users as the social network continues to experiment with video related features on its platform. Much like other social media platforms, Twitter has also been trying to figure out video features that are desired by its users so that it can stay relevant.

The view count on videos, which was first spotted by BuzzFeed’s Dorsey Shaw, is now showing up for some people right next to the usual timer, as pointed out in a report by Mashable.

twitter video view count story Twitter Video View Count

Photo Credit: Twitter/@dorseyshaw

“As video consumption continues to increase on Twitter, we are constantly experimenting with ways to provide a rich video experience,” a Twitter spokesperson told Mashable via email. “View counts provide helpful context on the popularity of a video, and we are exploring this feature to help surface the best content,” the spokesperson said.

With this test, it appears like Twitter will soon be ranking content on the basis of their popularity, possibly for its Explore tab, which was added with the aim to make it easier to find interesting content.

The spokesperson has also clarified that within this test the views will be counted as “[Media Rating Council]”. This essentially means that the view will be counted by industry standard of “2 seconds consecutively in view at 50 percent visibility,” Mashable said citing the spokesperson in its report.

It remains to be seen when this new feature will eventually be rolled out to everyone. Twitter recently started looping all videos posted on its website with duration less than 6.5 seconds after the conversion of Vine into a pared-down camera app.

Tags: Twitter Videos, Twitter Video View Count, Twitter, Social, Apps, Social Media Networking Website

[“Source-Gadgets”]

Google Home, Google Wifi, Daydream View, Chromecast Ultra, and Other Announcements

Google Home, Google Wifi, Daydream View, Chromecast Ultra, and Other Announcements

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Google unveiled an array of hardware products on Tuesday
  • The products are the fruits of the unified hardware division
  • The central theme of the products was smart home automation

Google at its #MadeByGoogle event unveiled its hardware portfolio, the fruits of the newly-formed hardware division under Rick Osterloh, the former President of Motorola Mobility. Apart from the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones, Google unveiled the Home smart speaker, the Daydream View VR headset and controller, the Google Wifi smart router, and Chromecast Ultra.

The Google Daydream View virtual reality headset and controller have been priced at $79 (roughly Rs. 5,300), and will go on sale in the US in November. The Google Home smart speaker, powered by Google Assistant, will be available for $129 (roughly Rs. 8,600) – it goes up for pre-orders on Tuesday, and will start shipping from November 4 with a 6-month subscription to the ad-free YouTube Red.

The Google Wifi router is priced at $129 (roughly Rs. 8,600), will be available for pre-orders from November, and will ship in December in the US. A 3-pack of the router will cost $299 (roughly Rs. 19,900). The Chromecast Ultra, which now supports 4K video streaming, will be available in November for $69 (roughly Rs. 4,600).

The Google Home (seen below) smart speaker represents an important move in an intensifying battle between Google and other major tech players to establish the dominant “digital assistant.” Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri are vying for supremacy as more people search the Web and make purchases online through voice commands, which may eventually supplant keyboards and touchscreens as the primary means of controlling some digital devices.

Google Home was described as a voice-based virtual assistant that lets people tap into the company’s online capabilities to answer questions, manage tasks, set up alarms and calendar events, control devices in homes, stream videos, audio casting, and more. Activated by the ‘Ok Google’ hotword, it acts as the centre of home automation, it connects to third-party IoT devices and platforms such as Next, Philips Hue, Samsung SmartThings, and IFTTT. It features a mic mute button, to reassure privacy conscious users it is not listening to them all the time. A Google Assistant SDK will be released later this year to help developers create compatible bots – for example, booking an Uber through the speaker.

Describing the audio capabilities, Google says the Home speaker features a three-speaker setup, alongside a dual passive radiator design for “crystal-clear highs and deep lows”. It also sports two omni-directional microphones and neural beamforming to recognise the user’s voice in spite of background noise and music. Apart from grouping several Home speakers across the house, the speaker can also be paired with Chromecast Audio and Cast-enabled speakers for multi-room support. The base will come in several colour variants and finishes, while the top portion remains the same, and features a capacitive touch surface to control it if required.

Coming to Google Wifi (seen below), the smart router uses mesh Wi-Fi technology to support modularity, letting users distribute several of the small routers across their home to ensure a widespread Wi-Fi network, instead of one single massive router for the purpose. The 3-pack is meant for users with a house larger than 1,500 square feet. It sports a LED light to show network status, an Ethernet port, and a USB Type-C port for power. It supports dual-band 5GHz Wi-Fi and AC1200 standards, with additional support for the Bluetooth Smart specification.

Google says the router uses machine learning-based Network Assist tech to let connected devices intelligently switch between one router to another, with a handoff time of less than 150 milliseconds. Everything about the router will be managed by a smartphone app for both Android and iOS, including administrator settings like parental controls and bandwidth prioritisation. Privacy and security features like verified boot and auto updates were also touted.

The Chromecast Ultra’s biggest USP is its support for 4K video streaming as well as HDR and Dolby Vision. The company is touting major Wi-Fi improvements that will let it load videos up to 1.8 faster than previous Chromecast dongles, and bears an Ethernet port if required. Chromecast Ultra (seen below) supports the new Google Home smart speaker hub, letting users control their TV via voice commands.

Finally, we come to Daydream View, the company’s first Daydream-ready headset and controller. The company says the headset is inspired by clothing, and features soft, breathable fabric that make it comfortable to wear and also 30 percent lighter than competing devices – it also works over spectacles. The headset is also hand-washable – a thoughtful addition considering the sweat and grime that can collect after hours of use. It will be available in Slate, Snow, and Crimson colours. Google says users just have to insert their Daydream-ready smartphones in the headset, and it takes care of alignment by itself.

As for the Daydream View controller (seen below), Google says the Bluetooth powered device can fit into the headset for easy storage, and features motion tracking sensors and a volume button. Apart from the US, the Daydream View headset will make its way to Canada, the UK, Australia, and Germany. Content partners such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and J.K Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them were also announced, apart from MLB, NBA, Hulu, HBO, and Netflix.

Written with agency inputs

Disclosure: Gadgets 360’s travel and hotel for the event in San Francisco were sponsored by Google.

Subscribe to Orbital: The Gadgets 360 Podcast via iTunes or RSS and just hit the play button below to catch us discuss Pixel phones and all other announcements from Google’s event on Tuesday.

[“Source-Gadgets”]