After having been delayed for months — for reasons never publicly confirmed, no less — Apple’s AirPods are finally here. And really, what better to way to celebrate one of the most curious delays in Apple history than by tearing those things apart? The folks at iFixit have done just that (as always), and the end result is a fascinating look at $ 160 worth of meticulously crafted silicon and audio parts. Spoiler alert: there’s more glue in them than you’d think.
As you might imagine, the tiny scale of Apple’s work and all the glue sealing everything in place make the AirPods a nightmare where repairs are concerned. In fact, all the components are so tightly packed in there that the idea of replacing parts or fixing them in general is downright laughable. Still, this kind of surgery does a great job illustrating the insane, compact origami that goes into modern consumer gadgets. And if nothing else, iFixit’s strangely gorgeous imagery more thoroughly explains the importance of the AirPods’ most questionable design choice: those stems that dangle out of your ear.
People stare, but they probably don’t realize that those stems are mostly all battery — their charge capacity works out to 1 percent of the iPhone 7’s — with long antennas glued to them to maintain a strong connection between the Pods themselves and the phone. (For what it’s worth, we’ve had a pair of AirPods for months and the multiple wireless connections were more-or-less rock-solid the entire time.)
Knowing that doesn’t make the stems look any better, though, as evidenced by all the shade thrown at me by coworkers whenever I wear these things. Also nestled deep within there is what makes the AirPods really tick: the minuscule W1 chip. It’s responsible for the Pods’ dead-simple pairing and power-sipping tendencies, which so far have been the big reasons our review units have seen such consistent use. The level of tension subsides when attention is turned to the AirPods’ charging case, but make no mistake: if you’re a fan of lilliputian tech, this is one teardown you have to see.
Tiny Wings is one of the best iPhone games ever. It’s a great example of a developer making something that wouldn’t make sense on any other platform, and it’s a game equally suited to playing quick bursts or for extended sessions as you try to beat your high score. And after more than two years without an update, developer Andreas Illiger has finally released a pretty major update. Tiny Wings is now available for the Apple TV, and the iPhone / iPad version has five new levels.
Unfortunately, the Apple TV app requires a separate $ 2.99 purchase — but if it is as good as the iOS game, that’ll be money well spent. The Apple TV app features split-screen multiplayer; players can either use the Siri remote, a dedicated game controller or an iOS device to control the big-screen action. The Apple TV app uses iCloud to sync progress with your mobile devices, and it feature the same array of game modes and levels as the iOS version — including the five new “flight school” levels.
If you bought the iOS app years ago, you’ll get those new levels, and Illiger also finally upgraded the graphics to support the higher screen resolutions Apple introduced with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. There’s nothing else new here, but if you haven’t tried the game before now’s a perfect time to give it a shot. The adorable graphics, procedurally generated levels and excellent music are all as charming now as they were when the game launched way back in 2011. If you want to give it a shot, the update is live in the App Store now.
Best known for its sleek and intelligent remote controlled cars, Anki is stepping into new territory with its latest product, a small robot toy named Cozmo. If you’ve seen Wall-E, you’ve already got a good sense of its personality. Thanks to a combination of artificial intelligence, robotic movement designed by former Pixar animators and computer vision technology, Cozmo is curious and incredibly expressive, with the ability to interact with the world around it. It’s smart enough to recognize your face and remember you over time, and it can explore its environment and play games with its very own toys. But it’s most interesting feature? It’s not a perfect robot, and that’s just how Anki wants it.
“Perfect is boring,” Anki CEO and co-founder Boris Sofman said in an interview. “With the [Anki Drive] cars, the first version was boring because it was too good. When he goes and fails to do something, that’s not a bad thing… As long as you can detect what happens, it’s a good opportunity to show off the emotions it generates.”
While we’ve seen plenty of toys claiming AI and robotic capabilities in the past, Cozmo feels unique. I’ll admit, I fell for it pretty quickly during a brief demo. As it was charging, it “slept” in a tiny dock, complete with a snoring sound effect and sleeping animation that can only be described as adorable. When it woke up, it looked around the table and came up right to the edge, quickly realizing it couldn’t go any further. Upon recognizing my face, it wandered up to me with a suspicious look. Like a child, it will recognize people it’s already met and be a bit more hesitant around strangers.
Cozmo also comes with a bunch of smart blocks, which basically serve as its very own toys. It stacks them when it’s bored — and trust me, Cozmo gets really annoyed if you mess up its work. We also used the blocks to play a competitive game, which involved tapping down on them when they displayed like colors. In the first few games I easily trounced Cozmo, much to his adorable dismay. Eventually, he learned to hit the blocks faster, and he had no problem letting me know it.
Sofman says the company was inspired by how toddler and pets interact with the world. They can’t speak, but they can clearly explore and interact with you. Like a child, Cozmo slowly learns to recognize people and explore its world, and over time it learns to play games. But also like a child, it gets frustrated when things don’t work out. Instead of being annoying, though, those little personality quirks — like gloating when it wins a game, and getting angry when you beat it — make it more endearing.
Cozmo is a tiny thing, which adds to its vulnerability. It’s light, has a small display up front for its eyes, a single articulating arm to pick up objects, and uses two tiny treads to get around. Eventually, you’ll be able to replace its arm mechanism with other types of appendages. Cozmo communicates through a combination of Star Wars-like bot noises (yes, in many ways this is the Droid you’ve been looking for), and expressive movements. It relies on an iPhone and Android app to have your phone do much of the processing, which also plays a soundtrack perfectly suited to Cozmo’s mood. Its battery lasts a short two hours, but it recharges in just 10 minutes.
Anki paid particular attention to Cozmo’s emotional smarts. It has an “emotion engine” that lets it respond to situations realistically, which should help you bond with it pretty quickly. (Again, it took me all of five seconds.) Its animation team is led by former Pixar animator Carlos Baena, so they know how to toy with your feelings with simple robotic movements and noises. Anki also developed a customized version of the Maya 3D software to have it directly command how Cozmo moves, allowing the animators to quickly get up and running.
Looking ahead, Anki plans to release an software development kid (SDK) for Cozmo, which will let anyone program it. It could also end up being used in STEM programs in schools; it wouldn’t be hard to convince kids to learn programming so they can control Cozmo. The company is also sending Cozmo units to Carnegie Mellon, where Anki’s founders got their start.
You can pre-order Cozmo today from Anki’s website for $ 180, and it’ll be widely available in October. Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s only slightly pricier than Sphero’s $ 150 BB-8 toy, which every geek coveted last year (and wasn’t nearly as smart as Cozmo).