Asmoke’s portable pellet grill is super affordable and great for small spaces

Smokers and pellet grills are growing in popularity, likely because a lot more people are cooking at home – and looking for other ways to up their home chef game. The Asmoke Pellet Grill, which is currently in the final stretch of a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, has a price point that’s far below most other options out there – but don’t let the price tag fool you, the grill packs more punch than its cost and portable size might suggest.

Basics

If you’re not familiar with pellet grills, they’re a combination of smoker and BBQ that burn condensed hardwood pellets feed by an auger to create smoke and heat. The most popular options out there include Traeger’s grills, as well as Camp Chef, Pit Boss, and others. The Smoke Pellet Grill is a new, portable pellet grill that features a lot of the same features you’d see in higher-priced brand name options, but at a much lower cost when you factor in their accessories – particularly now, during the tail end of their crowdfunding campaign.

Asmoke’s $176 USD backer price includes one grill, a meat injector, a thermometer, grill gloves, shredding tools for breaking down smoked meat, tongs and a 5lb bag of their applewood pellets to get you started cooking right away. That’s over half-off their estimated retail price once the campaign ends. Even at the full final price you’re still going to come out cheaper than the closest brand name competitor – the Traeger Ranger – once you factor in all the included accessories.

The Asmoke is electrically-powered, so you can use it outside anywhere you have access to an outlet. It includes a larger cooking surface that can fit up to 8 burgers at once, or one full rack of ribs. As mentioned, there’s a temperature probe included that plugs into the front and displays the internal temp of any meat you insert it into within the grill itself while cooking. A dial on the front provides the only control you need, enabling setting temp from 180 all the way up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.

Design

The Asmoke Pellet Grill is designed to be portable, at just over 2 feet by around 1.5 feet, and 14.45 inches tall. It weights around 45 lbs, which is heavy, but that’s still portable compared to most pellet smokers, which tend to be very large and essentially designed to sit in a fixed location. The Asmoke is also made from steel and stainless steel primarily, so that weight represents durability, which is good for an appliance designed to be used exclusively outside.

Construction of the grill feels very sturdy and high-quality, with good fittings and finishes across the board. The heat resistant paint comes in four different colors, including the red and blue shown below, as well as an aquamarine green and black. Latches secure the lid while cooking, and there’s an insulating gasket that runs the length and width of the edge to keep the heat in while giving you a secure closure. A large handle opens and closes the lid, and four feet elevate the grill off whatever surface you’re resting it on.

Inside, there’s a hopper where you put the pellets on the left which is separated from the cooking area on the right. The cooking area includes a large grill surface, and an optional raised rack for a small second level cooking area. A stainless steel grease slide installs over the cup where pellets are driven by the auger to burn and smoke, and a second slide goes over that – giving you the ability to keep it closed for smoking and grilling, or opening it up to allow flame through for char-broiling.

On the front, you can see the control unit, which includes a large, readable display that uses a few different colors to clearly present information including the set temperature of the drill, auger speed, and sensor temperature when cooking with the probe. The large, single dial is your only control mechanism, providing temperature setting and letting you turn the grill on and off.

Some assembly is required to get the Asmoke ready to cook, but it’s actually super easy to do. Basically you just install the legs and front handle, and then remove all the internal components from their packaging and put them back in the grill. It took me about 20 minutes start to finish. The grill needs to be primed upon first use (and any time you run out of pellets), but that’s only a few more minutes. And the first time you ever use it, there’s a burn-off procedure that involves running the grill at higher temps for around 30 to 40 minutes, but it’s very easy to do.

Performance

The Asmoke punches above its weight class. In testing, I did an extended, 7-hour smoke of a pork shoulder blade roast using the provided Applewood pellets, and the results were fantastic. I’ve smoked a lot of meat using a Traeger Pro 575, and this was easily on par with the best results I’ve had out of that cooker in terms of the quality and flavor of the finished product.

Image Credits: Darrell Etherington

Best of all, the Asmoke is small enough to work on my condo deck, which is not somewhere I’ve typically been able to consider using a smoker cooker. The grill does put off a lot of smoke through its exhaust, particularly when it’s first heating up to reach temperature, but it also dissipates rather quickly, especially if you’re on a higher floor. Just be aware that especially in close proximity, the smoke produced from cookers like these will be powerful and strong-smelling – which is a benefit for me, but which might not be what you’re after if you’re living in a dense city environment.

Actually using the Asmoke is very simple. You can find smoker cooker recipes available readily on the internet, and then it’s a matter of just following those instructions. The Asmoke gets up to target temperature quickly, and is good at maintaining a constant temp throughout a cook once it reaches those levels. If you need to refill the hopper mid-cook, it’s simple enough to open the box and do so, and you won’t lose all that much temperature so long as you do it quickly. And since the hopper compartment is insulated separately from the cooking area, you can do it without fear of burning yourself, too.

Because the Asmoke offers such a wide temperature range, it’s also good or grilling, and even baking. I also made burgers on it at a much higher temp, and those results were fantastic, too – far exceeding standard BBQs in terms of retaining juices and adding subtle smoke flavor.

One thing to consider is that post-cook, especially after long ones like the pork roast I did, there’s a fair amount of cleaning up involved. It’s not difficult, but it is time consuming, and includes scraping the grease tray, cleaning the cooking grate, and vacuuming out the leftover ash from the pellet pot and the bottom of the cooking box. This isn’t specific to Asmoke: It’s part and parcel of operation any pellet cooker, and I found that Asmoke’s high quality materials ensured it was relatively easy to clean.

Bottom line

If you’re looking to bump up your outdoor cooking game, the Asmoke Portable Pellet Grill is a remarkably affordable way to do so, especially during this crowdfunding effort. Normally, I’d advise caution in any crowdfunding scenario, but in this case, grills are already in the process of shipping to customers, and they work exactly as advertised, providing high-quality results.

This is a category where top-brand incumbents rightly earn a lot of respect and customer loyalty for their long history of delivery reliable products, so it’s hard for a newcomer to break in. But Asmoke’s product and results far exceed their newcomer status.

More new space consolidation as Voyager Space Holdings acquires Pioneer Astronautics

It’s beginning to be a sign of the times: smaller or younger space companies getting acquired by larger entities. Today, the company being acquired is Pioneer Astronautics, which has been bought by Voyager Space Holdings in a combined cash and stock deal. Voyager, which bills itself as the “first space-focused holding company,” now has a portfolio that includes both Pioneer and Altius Space Machines, which it acquired last year.

Pioneer Astronautics was founded in 1996, and focuses on R&D of new technologies related to space exploration. The company’s focus of late has been on sustainable human space exploration, including leveraging materials found on deep-space destinations, including the Moon, and turning them into resources that are required for sustained human presence in those places. Pioneer was actually selected by NASA recently to research materials systems for use under the Artemis program, for instance, and it plans to demonstrate how it’s possible to create oxygen for breathable air, and steel for construction, from lunar regolith – essentially the soil analog found on the Moon’s surface.

Voyager Space Holdings, which is led by co-founders Dylan Taylor and Matthew Kuta, aims to bring together a number of different smaller new space companies to “increase vertical integration and mission capability,” the company said in a press release announcing this news. There’s definitely an opportunity in the current climate to bundle a number of different more niche and specific services together for the larger players in the commercial space sector, as well as for government and defense clients.

Others appear to be pursuing a similar strategy, with Redwire, a PE firm-created holding company, having recently acquired Adcole Space and Deep Space Systems, along with in-space manufacturing pioneer startup Made in Space. All those acquisitions happened this year, with the Made in Space deal announced in June.

There are a number of factors that point to this being a trend that’s likely to accelerate. First, the current global economic climate is making it difficult for many small businesses to continue to operate independently, particularly in high-cost, long-term return areas like pioneering new technology development. And while that is probably driving down acquisition costs for the holding companies, long-term, the commercial space sector seems poised for growth, driven especially by the renewed global interesting space exploration and science, fuelled by public-private partnerships.

For the smaller space companies, this consolidation represents a steady source of funding for ongoing work that’s not dependent on a VC or other capital raise effort. Space is expensive – particularly when you’re trying to do something no one’s ever done before – so it’s logical that they’d look to these kinds of tie-ups as a means to continue their ambitious work.

Nanoleaf’s new Hexagon Shapes are a surprisingly lively and organic addition to your home decor

Nanoleaf essentially created a new smart lighting category with its connected light panels, and since then it has iterated with its pixel-like Canvas and, most recently, its new Shapes Hexagons. The Hexagons already seem to be proving popular with customers, as they’re currently waitlisted, but I got the chance to spend some time with them and have found them to be a unique, interesting and very pleasing addition to my home decor.

The basics

The Nanoleaf Hexagons don’t change the basic formula of Nanoleaf’s products: They’re individual light panels, which connect to one control unit that has a hardware controller and connects to the power supply. Each one has an electronic connector that snaps into a two-sided connection module that you can then use to connect another panel, in whatever configuration you desire. The panels attach to walls by way of 3M strips, which are pre-mounted on a plastic pad that makes it relatively easy to detach them from the panels for damage-free removal from walls, and replacement by using new 3M strips if you’re redecorating or changing things up. You can also optionally mount them with screws if you want a more permanent installation.

The panels come in a few different configurations, including a Starter Kit that includes seven panels ($199.99), add-on packs that contain three additional panels and larger packs, including 13 and 19-panel bundles. You can configure them basically any way you want — but if that sounds like too much freedom, Nanoleaf provides a number of preset configuration suggestions, and its app has an augmented reality feature that lets you mock up and preview different arrangements on your walls before installing. I ended up just free-styling with a rough idea of where I wanted the design to start and end in terms of height and width, and was very happy with the results.

Image Credits: Darrell Etherington

In terms of specs, each panel is very thin at only around 0.24 inches, and they measure roughly 9 inches by 7.75 inches. They each put out around 100 lumens of light, which is not going to replace an overhead light fixture, but which proves perfectly usable for actually supplanting entirely things like bedside lamps and mood lighting in other rooms.

Nanoleaf has made the Hexagon controllable in a number of ways, including via the hardware controller included with the base kit, through their mobile or desktop app and through smart assistants, with compatibility for Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant and Apple HomeKit — all of which proved convenient and user-friendly ways to interact with the panels in my experience. You can also touch individual panels to provoke a lighted response.

The Hexagons also include audio responsiveness, meaning they can react to sound. You can use the default programs included with the app, download user-created ones or make your own, both for sound-reactive modes and for configurations that just play back a set pattern. The sound-reactive modes work amazingly well with music played back through your home audio devices, and really bring the Nanoleaf Hexagons alive — lending an almost biological feel to the devices.

Design

Image Credits: Darrell Etherington

The individual Hexagon panels are each very lightweight and thin, but still feel sturdy and durable. They feature a lighted area that takes up nearly all of their surface, minus rounded corners at each point of the hexagon shape, to create a more organic look once they’re powered on. Each side of the hexagon features a receptacle for the connector clip on the back, allowing you to connect another panel to them and provide power and control through each. One controller unit can control up to 500 hexagons, so you shouldn’t ever really need more than one, and one power supply can provide power for up to 21 hexagons. Each can be snapped to any panel in your configuration for flexible positioning.

Nanoleaf’s original light panels are triangular, and they also created the square Canvas later on. The Hexagons have a honeycomb effect and are the most organic looking to my eye, with an ability to work with a wider range of decor, including softer, less industrial interior aesthetics.

The light emitted by each panel is even and bright, and can be tuned across the RGB spectrum. Whites ranging from warm to very cool can also be achieved with the panels for more general day-to-day use. The hardware controller allows you to cycle through some standard white presets, too, including Warm White (2700K), Reading Light (4000K) and Daylight White (5000K) — plus you can control it to essentially any temperature you want, as well as different colors, through the app.

Nanoleaf has come up with a very simple mounting solution that’s easy to do on your own. I had mine installed and configured in probably around 15 minutes today, once I’d worked out a rough idea of how I wanted to lay them out on the wall. I used a level to get the first panel plumb, but it’s not necessarily required, as the shapes look great even if they’re off-level relative to the room and surrounding objects.

Because of their modular nature, you can easily add more to your existing layout by picking up additional expansion packs, should you decide to grow your collection in the future. There’s enough play with the mounting equipment that you can snap one of the connectors in place behind previously installed panels to attach new ones.

Features

Nanoleaf has evolved their product since its introduction to include a wide range of built-in features, including ambient music modes that use audio to dynamically change the lighting on the panels. This is probably my favorite feature of the Hexagons, and the mode I use most often, especially because I’m often playing music via Sonos throughout the house on most days.

Image Credits: Darrell Etherington

The hardware controller is also a great option in case you want to skip the app features altogether and treat your Hexagons more like a traditional light source — with added flexibility. It allows you to turn the brightness up and down, power them on and off, and cycle through different stored patterns and sequences.

App-based control offers a much wider range of options, however. It provides access to a range of pre-installed scenes, including both standard dynamic ones as well as Rhythm modes (those that react to sound) and you can set scheduled events, including scene changes, and have them occur just once or repeat on whatever schedule you prefer.

A built-in scene creator allows you to fully customize your light show, panel-by-panel, and then save that and share it with the community as well. It’s a great way to get just the look you want, and combined with the scheduler, means you can ensure your setup is custom-tailored to exactly which colors, brightness and effects you’re looking for throughout the day.

Image Credits: Darrell Etherington

Bottom line

The Nanoleaf Hexagons are a terrific addition to the Nanoleaf lineup, and I think they’re the model that’s mostly likely to appeal to a much broader customer base when compared to the company’s existing options. I personally didn’t expect to be that big a fan of Nanoleaf in general — I’d never been more than mildly interested in their offerings before. But as soon as I powered on the Hexagon, I was amazed at how much I felt like they improved the aesthetics of the space.

Their Rhythm features feels like having a living, dancing electric decor element, and the general pattern and even ambient lighting modes are all very pleasant additions to any room that impress without feeling overly techy or overwhelming of other aspects of your home design and furnishings. They command a high price versus traditional lighting, but when you factor in their smart features, they’re a good value in terms of bringing something unique and highly personal into your home’s look and feel.

Currently, Nanoleaf is sold out of its initial pre-orders, but you can sign up to be waitlisted for when they become available again (the company expects new shipments to resume in August).

NASA signs agreement with Japan to cooperate across Space Station, Artemis and Lunar Gateway projects

NASA has signed a new agreement with Japan that lays out plans for the two nations to cooperate on the International Space Station (continuing existing partnership between the countries there) as well as on NASA’s Artemis program, which includes missions in lunar space and to the lunar surface.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine signed the agreement with Government of Japan Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Koichi Hagiuda on July 10. It’s a Joint Exploration Decoration of Intent (JEDI), which essentially commits the two countries to laying the groundwork for more concrete plans about how the two nations will work together on projects that will extend all the way to include both robotic and human exploration of the Moon .

Japan was one of the earliest countries to express their intent to participate as an international partner in NASA’s Lunar Gateway project, all the way back in October 2019. Since then, a number of countries and agencies have expressed similar support, including Canada, which will contribute by building a third version of its Canadarm, the robotic manipulator that has been used on the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station, and the European Space Agency.

This new agreement formalizes that arrangement, and from here you can expect both parties to begin to detail in more specificity what kinds of projects they’ll collaborate on. Japan has plans to launch a robotic space probe mission to the moons of Mars and return samples from Phobos, its largest natural satellite, with a launch schedule for 2024, and it has launched a lunar orbiter exploration spacecraft called SELENE, and is planning a lunar lander mission dubbed the ‘Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) for 2022 that will be its first lunar surface mission.

The best WiFi 6 home networking tech to upgrade your setup

Wifi 6 is here – making its way to more and more devices, with a noteworthy inclusion on last year’s flagship iPhone 11 lineup. This next-generation Wifi technology provides faster speeds for transferring data between devices, but more importantly, it also means your system will be better equipped to handle multiple Wifi devices connected at one time, without slowdowns or interruptions – and it can even reduce battery drain in mobile devices.

The number of Wifi 6 routers and mesh systems has definitely improved dramatically since the debut of the iPhone 11, and there are a range of options available at a variety of price points. But for those looking to get the most out of their Wifi 6 setup, two available systems in particular can provide all the power you need, with two different approaches that will appeal to differing user needs.

Orbi AX6000 Mesh WiFi System (starting at $699.99)

Image Credits: Netgear

Netgear’s Orbi lineup is a popular mesh option, and its latest AX6000 series offers WiFi 6 networking in either a 2- or 3-pack configuration. Even the 2-pack is able to cover a home of up to 5,000 square feet, Netgear claims, and it an support up to 2.5G internet connections from an Ethernet connected modem.

The Orbi AX6000 includes Netgear’s X technology, which can optimize streaming and media connections for optimal performance. Both the base unit and the satellite include 4 Gigabit Ethernet LAN ports for hardwired connections, which means you’re less likely to need an Ethernet switch to connect all your gear.

In real-world testing, the AX6000 proved a remarkably reliable and far-reaching mesh system. I tested a 2-device configuration, with one base unit and one satellite, and really saw the advantages of its range. In my testing, I was able to enjoy a consistent and strong Wifi connection with the AX6000 as far as around 500 feet or more outside – useful in the situation where I had it installed in a lake house for reaching all the way down to a dock.

Orbi’s system can be managed from a mobile app, which provides an overview of devices attached, with detailed information available for each. You can pause and resume access for each connected device from the app, and also enable features like a dedicated guest network.

Netgear also offers a service called Armor that provides real-time threat detection and protection on your network. It’s a subscription service, with a limited free trial included when you first set up your Orbi system. In practice, it did seem to effectively detect and block phishing and malware connections, and it’s optional as an ongoing paid add-on.

The real strength of the Orbi system for me was that when I used it with a cellular-based network connection in a relatively remote setting, it dramatically improved performance. That was true even when I used it with my home fibre connection, which is a 1.5Gbps network, but it improved the much less reliable 50Mbps mobile connection so much that it went from relatively unreliable to fully reliable.

Netgear’s offering also offers a level of simplicity in terms of the app and network management that has advantages and downsides, but that is probably much better suited to casual or non-technical users. I found that it lacked some advanced options I was looking for, like the ability to separate 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz networks under separate network SSIDs to more easily connect some smart home devices, but that’s probably not a feature most users want or need.

AmpliFi Alien WiFi 6 Router (starting at $379)

Image Credits: AmpliFi

The AmpliFi Alien router from AmpliFi, which is the consumer arm of commercial networking giant Ubiquiti, offers all the customization that an advanced user could want, on the other hand. The $379 device can act as a standalone tri-band router, or it can pair up with other Alient base stations (a 2-pack is $699) to form a mesh network for greater coverage. Unlike the Orbi option, AmpliFi’s hardware doesn’t have dedicated base station and satellite units, meaning they can be swapped out as needed to set up different networks if you don’t need the mesh capabilities.

AmpliFi’s Alien in testing also offered excellent coverage, and worked extremely well providing access to the full capabilities of my 1.5Gbps finer optic connection. In long-term testing, their reliability has been impeccable in terms of network uptime, and AmpliFi has consistently and reliably pushed updates to improve their performance as well.

Building on their reputation for delivering the best in advanced networking through Ubiquiti, AmpliFi has also equipped the Alien with some impressive hardware specs, including a custom antenna array and a dedicated 2.2 GHz 64-bit quad-core CPU in each base station. That’s more computing power than you’ll find in some mid-range Android smartphones, all committed to the task of continually optimizing your network and device connections for maximum performance.

All that onboard intelligence doesn’t necessarily translate to complexity, however – AmpliFi is meant to be Ubiquiti’s more accessible consumer brand, and it stays true to that with its simple, app-based setup and control. The AmpliFi app is very user-friendly and well designed, and includes all the features you’d expect from a mesh networking system including individual device views and controls, as well as rule creation and full stats reporting. You can also set up guest networking, and configure more advanced features like distinct SSIDs for different frequency networks.

The AmplifFi Alien also has a colorful, high-resolution display that provides at-a-glance information including current network performance, signal strength, and a list of connected devices. Both these menus and the in-app ones can get a little information dense compared to other options like the Orbi, however, which is why I think it’s a much better option for someone more comfortable with tech in general, and networking tech in particular.

The Alien system offers great expandability and flexibility (albeit with a cost since each is $379) and amazing custom control features. It’s definitely the networking solution to beat when it comes to advanced at-home Wifi 6 networking.

Bottom line

More and more Wifi 6 options are coming to market as the technology shows up on more consumer devices, and as mentioned, you can also get them at increasingly affordable prices. But Wifi 6 stands to be an investment that should provide you with many years of networking advantages, with more benefits accruing over time, so it’s likely worth investing money in a top-tier system that will provide future-proof performance.

Both the Netgear Orbi system and the AmpliFi Alien offer terrific performance, easy setup and a host of great features. Orbi’s AX6000 is likely better for those who prefer to set-it-and-forget-it, and who might appreciate the option of setting up threat detection on an ongoing basis. The Alien is better for power users and anyone who wants the ability to change their configuration over time – including potentially splitting up their networking hardware to use in multiple locations.

Canon’s new R5 and R6 mirrorless cameras offer big video upgrades, bird eye autofocus and more

Canon has finally fully revealed its much-anticipated R5 and R6 mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras, and they look like very strong contenders for the field. The R5 is the new flagship of Canon’s mirrorless line, and it’s priced accordingly at $3,899 for the body alone. The R6 is its ‘affordable’ sibling at $2,499 for the body alone, and still includes an impressive list of features including some of the biggest autofocus system improvements common to the R5.

Canon EOS R5

The R5 is essentially now Canon’s top of the line interchangeable lens camera, barring the 1D X III. It has a 45 megapixel full-frame sensor, which is brand new with this camera, and uses the same DIGIC X processor found in the EOS-1D X III. Along with in-body image stabilization (which stacks with lens stabilization, if available), it has the ability to shoot 8K video at 30 frames per second – uncropped, meaning it uses the full resolution capabilities of that large sensor for maximum quality.

The R5 can capture 4K footage at up to 120 fps, and it can record 10-bit 4:2:2 footage using either C-Log and HDR PQ internally for maximum dynamic range and editing flexibility. This is really the camera that video pros and enthusiasts have been asking Canon to make, and beyond, since the 8K capabilities should mean it’s relatively future-proof.

Image Credits: Canon

Catering further to video pros, there are both mic and headphone jacks on the R5 body, and an optional wireless title transmitter grip can add an Ethernet jack and facilitates more advanced multi-camera linked shooting features. The R5 also features a fully articulating fold out display, and an electronic viewfinder with 5.76 million dot resolution. It’s weather sealed for outdoor shooting in a range of conditions, and has two card slots, including one CFexpress slot and one SD card slot.

For both still and video shooters there’s an autofocus system that uses Canon’s Dual Pixel technology to deliver AF across the entire frame. It can also detect human faces and yes, as well as the eye face and body of animals including not only dogs and cats but also birds – sure to be a popular feature among wildlife photographers. Also great news for still shooters is the 12 fps burst rate, which climbs to 20fps when using the software shutter.

Canon EOS R6

Image Credits: Canon

The R6 is similar in size and feature set to the R5, but has a much lower resolution 20.1 megapixel full frame sensor. It also shoots video at a maximum of 4K/60fps (with slight cropping), and has a lower resolution OLED EVF vs. its more expensive sibling. It also has Dual UHS-II SD card slots in place of the CF/SD combo on the R5, and less rigorous weather sealing. It also lacks the R5’s top e-ink display.

Still, it does include the same AF features and uses the same new battery type as the R5, and is compatible with the BG-R10 battery grip that also works with the more expensive camera. It finally sounds like a true and capable competitor to other options that have retained popularity among video enthusiasts and creators like the Sony A7 III even as Canon has released newer cameras like the EOS R and RP.

One potentially disappointing note for both cameras is regarding battery life, where the rating is around 320 shots with the LCD or just 220 shots on a full charge when shooting with the EVF. Sony’s A7R IV manages between 530 to 670 shots with the EVF and LCD respectively, for comparison.

New RF lenses

Canon’s camera hardware sounds like it delivers on a lot of what Canon fans, photographers and videographers have been looking for from the company for many years. But the real advantage of Canon’s system might reside in its RF glass, which has excellent reviews for all its existing lenses, and which is also gaining a bunch of versatile new products across the price range.

Image Credits:

These include a new 100-500 f4.5-7.1 superzoom ($2,699), which includes built-in image stabilization and should be a fantastic option for birders and wildlife photographers. There’s also affordable new RF600mm ($699) and 800mm ($899) fixed aperture f11 primes that won’t be useful in low lighting but that should be fantastic for sports and wildlife outdoors. Finally, a new RF85mm F2 ($599) with close-focusing macro capabilities seems like an awesome mid-range portrait and close-up lens.

Canon is also releasing 1.4x ($499) and 2x ($599) teleconverters for its RF lenses, which is a standby that every well-rounded system needs.

The R5 is set to be available at the end of July, and the R6 is going to begin shipping at the end of August. The lenses range in available from July to October, and the extenders will be shipping at the end of July as well.

Kernel raises $53 million for its non-invasive ‘Neuroscience as a Service’ technology

LA-based bio science startup Kernel has raised $53 million from investors including General Catalyst, Khosla Ventures, Eldridge, Manta Ray Ventures, Tiny Blue Dot and more. The funding is the first outside money that Kernel has taken in, though it’s a Series C round, because founder and CEO Bryan Johnson has provided $54 million in investment for Kernel to date. Johnson also participated in this latest round alongside external investors.

The funding will go towards further scaling “on-demand” access to its non-invasive technology for recording brain activity, which consists of two main approaches. Kernel has distinguished these as two separate products: Flow, which detects magnetic fields created by the collective activity of neutrons in the brain; and Flux, which measures blood through through the brain. These are both key signals that researchers and medical practitioners monitor when working with the brain, but typically they require use of invasive, expensive hardware – or even brain surgery.

Kernel’s goal is to make this much more broadly available, offering access via a ‘Neuroscience as a Service’ (NaaS) model that can provide paying clients access to its brain imaging devices even remotely. Earlier this year, Kernel announced that this platform was available generally to commercial customers.

The technology sounds like sci-fi – but it’s really an attempt to take what has been a relatively closed and prohibitively costly, expert and potentially dangerous to its subjects tech, and make it available as an on-demand capability – in much the same way that many human genome companies have emerged to take advantage of the advances in the speed and availability of human genome sequencing to do the same, for the business and research community.

Johnson’s ambitious long-term goal with the company is to ultimately develop a much deeper understanding in the field of neuroscience.

“If we can quantify thoughts and emotions, conscious and subconscious, a new era of understanding, wellness, and human improvement will emerge,” Johnson writes in a press release.

It’s true that the brain’s inner workings are still largely a mystery to most researchers, especially in terms of how they translate to our cognition, feelings and actions. Kernel’s platform could mean significantly more people studying the

Harvard biomedical engineering professor to launch nasal spray that could reduce COVID-19 transmission risk

A new product developed by Harvard professor of the Pracice of Biomedical Engineering David A. Edwards is set to launch this fall, and claims to be able to provide a nearly 100 percent reduction in the particles present in exhaled air – thus reducing the potential transmission of SARS-CoV-2 both into, and out of, the lungs while breathing. That could mean a significantly reduced risk of contracting COVID-19, particularly for frontline healthcare workers when used in combination with other PPE like face masks.

The product, called FEND, and produced by Edwards’ tech startup Sensory Cloud, is set to be available from September. It’s a saline mixture (essentially a “salty mist”) that contains no drugs, and is instead directed from naturally-occurring salts that are most often found in sea water. The mist, when delivered via deep nasal inhalation in misted form, has been shown in peer-reviewed research published on Tuesday by Sensory Cloud in medical journal QRB Discovery to clean upper human airways of particles that are less than a micron in size that aren’t typically filtered out by most conventional mask designs.

The study conducted by the company is based on a small-scale sample population of 10 volunteers, including five who are above 65, and five who are below that age, so it’s worth taking that into account when considering the results. Still, cross the sample group, the researchers found that it reduced transmitted particles per liter of air by around 99 percent – with most of those particles blocked being ones that would’ve been too small to be filtered by conventional masks.

Sensory Cloud contends that FEND could provide “anyone at risk of SARS-CoV-2” with additional protection – in terms of scrubbing the airways of both inhaled particles for those who don’t yet have the virus, and also for preventing the expulsion of viral particles for those that do. Accordingly, while the company plans to launch it to get general public through its online sales platform, it is also “committing to facilitating access” of FEND once it becomes available to “needy at-risk populations” including frontline workers around the world. Sensory Cloud is also debuting a number of clinical trials this summer, the results of which should go a long way in terms of supporting their early small-scale study results, if positive.

The startup plans to price Fend, including the mister delivery device, at $49 for a two-pack – with individual refill bottles priced at $6 each afterwards, with each refill providing around 250 total uses (each use provides the cleaning benefits described above for roughly 6 hours based on the company’s research).

Karma Automotive raises $100 million as it looks to resell it EV platform to other automakers

Karma Automotive has raised a $100 million lifeline from outside investors, as reported by Bloomberg, with the struggling electric vehicle maker’s fortunes likely buoyed by the current market optimism on other EV companies including Tesla. Karma is the reincarnated version of Fisker Automotive, which previously faced bankruptcy before being acquired by Wanxiang Group in 2014.

Karma Automotive has made more progress than Fisker ever did, including actually delivering around 500 of its inaugural Revero electric sport sedan in 2019. The company will be continuing to sell the Revero, which retails staring at around $140,000, and will also be looking to add a high horsepower GTE version, as well as a supercar for an even higher-tier customer.

The automaker also says that it’s in discussions with a partner for a commercial delivery truck, which it intends to develop in prototype form by year’s end. There are a number of different companies pursuing delivery vans for use by courier companies including UPS and FedEx, and the increase in e-commerce spending does present an opportunity for multiple players to succeed in this category, even as there is a rush on in terms of entrants.

Karma will also seek to leverage and extend the benefits of its fresh investment by shopping around its EV platform to other automakers and OEMs, the company says, and also will eventually expand beyond pure EVs to hybrid fuel vehicles. In short, it sounds like Karma is willing to try just about everything and anything to chart a path towards profitability, but time will tell if that’s intelligent opportunism, or scattershot desperation.

Autonomous driving startup turns its AI expertise to space for automated satellite operation

Hungarian autonomous driving startup AImotive is leveraging its technology to address a different industry and growing need: autonomous satellite operation. AImotive is teaming up with C3S, a supplier of satellite and space-based technologies, to develop a hardware platform for performing AI operations onboard satellites. AImotive’s aiWare neural network accelerator will be optimized by C3S for use on satellites, which have a set of operating conditions that in many ways resembles those onboard cars on the road — but with more stringent requirements in terms of power management and environmental operating hazards.

The goal of the team-up is to have AImotive’s technology working on satellites that are actually operational on orbit by the second half of next year. The projected applications of onboard neural network acceleration extend to a number of different functions according to the companies, including telecommunications, Earth imaging and observation, autonomously docking satellites with other spacecraft, deep space mining and more.

While it’s true that most satellites operate essentially in an automated fashion already — meaning they’re not generally manually flown at every given moment — true neural network-based onboard AI smarts would provide them with much more autonomy when it comes to performing tasks, like imaging a specific area or looking for specific markers in ground or space-based targets. Also, AImotive and C3S believe that local processing of data has the potential to be a significant game-changer when it comes to the satellite business.

Currently, most of the processing of data collected by satellites is done after the raw information is transmitted to ground stations. That can actually result in a lot of lag time between data collection and delivery of processed data to customers, particularly when the satellite operator or another go-between is acting as the processor on behalf of the client rather than just delivering raw info (and doing this analysis is also a more lucrative proposition for the data provider, of course).

AImotive’s tech could mean that processing happens locally on the satellite, where the information is captured. There’s been a big shift toward this kind of “computing at the edge” in the ground-based IoT world, and it only makes sense to replicate that in space, for many of the same reasons — including that it reduces time to delivery, meaning more responsive service for paying customers.