Panic’s Playdate is a pint-sized gaming machine with a ‘season’ of 12 intriguing titles

Tired of your smartphone games, and don’t want to take the Switch with you on the train today? Panic, renowned creator of useful Mac apps and more recently publisher of interesting games, has created a tiny handheld console that goes anywhere and receives a regular trickle of new games. It’s called Playdate.

One has to admire the gumption of jumping into a space that has been so thoroughly dominated by Nintendo and smartphones over the last decade that hardly anyone has even attempted to break in. But Panic isn’t trying to build an empire — just do something interesting and new.

“Nothing’s surprising anymore and surprises are great!” reads the Playdate’s FAQ. “Panic saw an opportunity for something truly different in the world of video games. Something small-scale that could deliver a dose of fun and delight to video game players who have otherwise seen it all.”

It’s different, all right. Bright yellow with a black and white screen and with no spot for removable media like cartridges, the Playdate is more or less self-contained, except of course for the charger and wireless connection. And it’s over the wireless connection that the games come: 12 of them, exclusives created by well-known developers like Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy), Bennett Foddy (Getting Over It) and Zach Gage (Ridiculous Fishing).

They appear one at a time, weekly; the first title is Crankin’s Time Travel Adventure, from Takahashi. Oh, right — did I mention it has a crank?

Yes, the gadget has the usual d-pad and two buttons, but on the side is a little crank that you’ll be using in all these weird little games. In the first one, for instance, you use it to advance and reverse time. Perhaps you’ll be reeling in fish, charging a flashlight, grinding stones for crafting or any number of other tasks. It’s not necessary for every game, though, so don’t worry if it seems too weird. (The crank was the inspired choice of Teenage Engineering, Panic’s hardware design partner.)

In case you didn’t notice, the games are also black and white. The 2.7-inch, 400×240 screen has no backlight; it isn’t e-paper, but rather just an LCD without color filters. I’ve been saying we should do this for years! It should make for improved battery life and change the way you play a bit — in bed by the light of a lamp instead of on the couch looking at a bright screen.

“We thought Playdate needed to be a different experience than the one you get from your phone, or from a TV-based console,” said Panic’s Director of Special Projects, Greg Maletic, in an email. “This bizarre 1-bit reflective screen was a big part of that: you just won’t see a lot of devices go this route, and for us, that was part of the attraction. And it’s worked out really well: developers have felt energized designing for this weird but cool screen.”

When the 12 titles have all been delivered, there’s the possibility that more will come, but that depends on lots of things, the company said. But they were careful to make the platform easily hackable.

“Most hardware platforms nowadays have tight restrictions, so it was important to us that Playdate be open enough to allow experimentation,” said Maletic. “That’s the kind of platform that we, as developers, were personally craving. So we’ve made sure that people will be able to develop their own games and easily share them with their friends, without having to worry about plagues of mobile development like code signing and provisioning profiles.”

You’ll be able to preorder a Playdate for $149 later in the year. Yeah, it isn’t cheap — but it’s weird and fun and for now one of a kind. That has to count for something in the increasingly genericized world of gaming hardware.

Documentary series Foundation is back with a season 2

Paris startup campus Station F and Le Studio Next have teamed up once again for a second season of Foundation, a documentary series about building a startup. If you liked the first season, you’ll feel right at home.

A video team followed the entrepreneurs working for three startups through their work issues, their personal life and their emotional reactions. You’ll feel like you know them after watching the series.

This year, Foundation focuses on three startups that try to have a social impact. You’ll meet Jean Guo and Binta Jammeh, co-founders of Konexio; Ruben Hallali, founder of HD Rain; and Olivier Jeannel, founder of RogerVoice.

So without further ado, here’s Foundation season 2:

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 4

Episode 5

Episode 6

Modsy scores $37M to virtually redesign your home

Modsy has raised some new cash as the computer vision startup looks to get physical and build more of the furniture it recommends. The startup announced they have closed $37 million in Series C funding led by TCV. They’ve now raised north of $70 million to date.

The service combines computer vision tech with human designer know-how to let users design the trendy home of their dreams. The process begins with a user snapping pics of their room (or multiple rooms), which Modsy then stitches into a complete 3D model of the room.

Prices range from $69 to $349 depending on what level of finesse you’re looking for.

From there Modsy designers drop in furniture from their partners, like Crate&Barrel, Pottery Barn, West Elm and others, if you pay for their $149 single-room premium package, you can chat with the designers and swap out pieces or try completely different styles. All-in-all the app gives you a lot of options for the price, although the startup’s main method of monetization isn’t these one-time packages, it’s earning cash when you buy the furniture they suggest.

Earlier this year the company branched out into creating their own furniture line of sofas and chairs, which they are injecting into their room designs and recommendations. This could allow the company to transform into more of a smart furniture company as opposed to an AR/computer vision startup.

“I founded Modsy on the premise that in the future we would all be shopping from a personalized catalog-like experience within a virtual version of our real homes,” CEO Shanna Tellerman said in a statement. “This new round of funding will bring us even closer to this reality.”

My desk doesn’t deserve the $600 Dyson Lightcycle lamp

Like many of you, I’m assuming, my desk was purchased at Ikea and is the center of my life. Such as it is, the desk is littered with bits of crackers, memory cards, branded Moleskin notebooks and countless coffee cups. I’m not a slob. I just live here. The desk is clean enough.

Then Dyson sent me its new task light to try out. My desk suddenly felt dirty. After assembling the light, I looked around and took inventory of my life and choices. If I was going to have something as lovely as this on my desk, I would have to have a cleaner space. I cleaned up my desk.

Review

The Dyson Lightcycle is, well, a light. It makes the room brighter. And because it’s made by Dyson, it’s over-engineered and expensive. The Lightcycle is $600 and I’m not going to attempt to justify its price. I can’t. This is a product that costs countless times over its utility.

First the good.

The light works. Hit a button on the top and it turns on. Slide your finger across the top and the light’s brightness and color temperature changes.

The light is constructed with an insane attention to detail. It’s perfectly balanced. As the light slides up and down its main pole, a counterweight ensures an effortless motion. Likewise, the light arm slides back and forth on three large wheels. All the while, its seemingly wireless with all the connections and wires hidden throughout the mechanisms.

The Dyson Task light is beautiful. It’s impossible to look at the light and not be impressed by the construction. The function of the design is perfect for my desk. I placed it in the center of my workspace and the long arm allows it to reach where ever it’s needed.

The light works great and thanks to adjustable color temperatures, works in every situation. There are two touch-sensitive bars on top of the unit. Just slide a fingertip across the bars to make the light brighter or change the color temp. Dyson took the light temperatures option to the next level. The owner can connect the lamp to a smartphone app through Bluetooth, and when the light is connected, it will sync the color temp to the idea setting to match the owner’s location on Earth. It’s a clever function and is said to have a host of mental and physical benefits.

According to Dyson, this lamp’s LED unit is good for 60 years thanks to a heat pipe system. It’s said to pull the excess heat generated by the LED away from the unit, ensuring it lasts as long as possible.

And now the bad.

This lamp costs $600. That’s a hard sell. There are countless minimalist task lamps on the market. None have all the features found on the Dyson Lightcycle, but one could argue that a person doesn’t need all of the features.

I found the light produced by the Lightcycle adequate. The intensity is adjustable and there’s even a supercharged mode that turns the intensity up to 11 — but that’s only accessible through the smartphone companion app. To me, when you need extra light, you need it immediately and not after the 30 seconds needed to use an app.

The Lightcycle’s main selling point is the automatic adjustable color temperature. It’s a lovely feature and my eyes feel great after using this lamp. Just to be clear, there are a lot of products on the market for much less than the Lightcycle that can replicate the ideal color temperature. Get one. They’re a great gadget to have around in the winter months.

Bottom line.

I can’t recommend a person spend $600 on a light. That said, the Dyson Lightcycle is a lovely object, should last a lifetime and works as advertised.