New Slingbox Makes Streaming Cable TV to Your Gadgets Easier Than Ever

The new $150 Slingbox M1 is the cheapest Sling-branded way to stream from your home TV to a laptop or mobile device.

The new $150 Slingbox M1 is the cheapest Sling-branded way to stream from your home TV to a laptop or mobile device. Sling Media

After the Supreme Court ruling against Aereo, many people wondered what it would mean for the future of streaming services and devices that didn’t have the full blessing of the major networks. Indeed, an emboldened Fox is already making legal moves to ban the Dish Network’s Hopper DVRs due to their integrated “Sling” functionality, which lets users stream live programs to other devices.

None of this seems to be deterring EchoStar, the sister company of Dish and the owner of Sling Media, though. Today, the company announced a new entry-level Slingbox as well as a rebranded version of the higher-end Slingbox 500. The former, the Slingbox M1, doesn’t offer a huge jump in terms of functionality over the Slingbox 350 it replaces—bad for potential upgraders, but good for those who feared Aereo’s defeat would have an immediate chilling effect. The M1 will be the cheapest Sling-branded way to stream from your home TV to a laptop or mobile device.

The main thing it adds to the 350’s feature set is Wi-Fi connectivity. You had to connect the 350 to your router via an Ethernet cable, but now you just connect the box to your home Wi-Fi network during setup. What’s still missing is an HDMI-in option from your cable box to the Slingbox. The signal feeding into the Slingbox M1 is done via an included component-video cable.

Aesthetically, there are some minor changes, too. The Slingbox M1 is a low-key, VHS-tape-sized black box, and lacks the textured finish and space-Toblerone stylings of previous Slingbox hardware.

You can change channels while you’re watching the feed away from home, and the approach to doing so is pretty antiquated. There’s an IR emitter built into the M1, as well as an included emitter cable that gives you more flexibility when you’re positioning it. When you change the channel via the Slingbox app, you’re literally changing the channel at home. Literally meaning literally.

Because the feed is streaming from your home, you have access to your local news, sports, and other broadcasts when you’re thousands of miles away. There’s no geoblocking involved. You can also extend the feed from your cable box to other sets in your home (or your other homes) via a Slingbox app for Roku, Apple TV, and other set-top boxes.

Streaming from the Slingbox to the browser-based desktop or laptop browser is free, as is streaming to the desktop app for Mac OS and Windows. However, streaming to a mobile device will cost you, and you can’t use the browser in that scenario. The iOS and Android versions of the SlingPlayer app are $15 apiece, and buying one of those apps is required to make the Roku and Apple TV features work. The set-top boxes use your phone, which must be connected to the same Wi-Fi network, as a receiver.

The Slingbox M1 costs $150 and will be available starting July 20. But unless you plan on watching everything on a laptop or desktop, tack on that extra $15 for the mobile app.

The other “new” device is the $300 SlingTV, which is the same hardware as the Slingbox 500 running new firmware. The new platform is HTML 5 based, with its own app ecosystem, custom pop-up displays, and sports tickers that can run on top of live programming. All those new features are also available as a firmware update for the Slingbox 500. The rebranded box and firmware update are both due at the end of August.

Jawbone’s Revamped App Almost Makes Calorie Counting Bearable

Image: Jawbone


Jawbone rolled out a new version of its Up app for iOS today, and it’s full of tools designed to help you manage your weight. It’s Jawbone’s attempt to help people navigate dietary information, which has long been the bane of health tracking.

The new version of the app lets users set weight loss goals, and then tries to help people meet them by tracking what they eat, counting calories and delivering insights designed to help you make healthier food choices. But everyone wants to help you track meals and count calories, including previous versions of Up. What’s more interesting is the way it’s trying to help you understand what you eat.

To that end, Jawbone created a new Food Score system. It both redesigns the traditional and inscrutable nutritional information label you’re used to seeing to make it easier to understand, and also gives you a numeric rating for everything you eat to help you understand whether or not it’s a good pick for your diet.

As you input what you’re eating, you can see how this affects your food score and your daily calorie goals. If you’ve set a “Today I Will” goal (one of the app’s motivational features) to do something like eat more fiber, you can see how it helps you get there—or fails to.

But for that food scoring to be effective, first Jawbone had to make entering your meals easier. Meal tracking is one of those things that’s always been a total chore. Nobody has gotten this right (including Jawbone). But the demo the company showed of its new app in action shows it’s making significant progress. In addition to doing things like letting you take a photo of your meal or scan in a barcode of your food, it’s now essentially giving you suggestions of things it thinks you’re likely to be eating based on the time of day, your previous meal history, and the other things you tell it you’re eating.



For example, log onto the app to track a meal in the morning, and it’s going to show you breakfast items. Click on eggs, and it’s going to list items like bacon, toast, and coffee that it’s determined people typically eat alongside their eggs. It did this by looking for patterns in its archive of meal data that users have been entering over the past few years. If you want to check out a preview of common meal pairings, Jawbone created an interactive food wheel that lets you click on one food and see what it’s typically accompanied by.

Dining out? Up is now piping in nutritional information directly from the menus of many restaurants. Its using Foursquare location and menu data to help it try to figure out where you are, and then let you select items directly from the menu to track your meals.

That’s all in the service of cutting down how many taps it takes to enter a meal, with the ultimate goal of making meal inputs automatic—or as automatic as possible. And there are even some ways it has fully automated the process.

Other apps can send meal data directly to the Jawbone Up platform—so far Munchery, Orange Chef, Plate Joy, and HealthyOut are on board. That means that as you use those apps to order or prepare your meals, the nutritional information will all be automatically routed to the Up app.

It’s all pretty ambitious, and well done. It’s also just a start. The nice thing about Jawbone’s platform is that its a two-way data pipe. Not only will it accept data from other devices, like your Withings scale, but it will also let others import the stuff its tracking, including things like its food score.

It’s this prospect that actually gets Andrew Rosenthal, who runs Up’s wellness platform, to lean forward in his chair and get excited while we’re talking at the prospect of seeing others, like say the American Heart Association, use it to deliver very personal recommendations about things like, say, your daily cholesterol intake.

“With this platform we have a way for partners with a very narrow point of view to reach people,” he says.

A Robot-Built Pavilion Modeled After a Flying Beetle

This woven carbon fiber pavilion looks like design of a crafty spider. But it’s actually modeled after an entirely different bug. The research team at Stuttgart’s Institute for Computational Design (the same team that made this peanut-shaped building), designed its 2014 research pavilion based on the flying beetle. Or more specifically the beetle’s elytron, that hard, protective forewing that shields the wings the insect uses for flying.


Every year, the ICD constructs a research pavilion, and every year, the structure looks super weird. It’s a time that the computational designers can crack their knuckles and really dig into some big, challenging architectural questions that often get brushed aside for more practical concerns. This year, the big question was: How can you build architectural structures with composite materials like glass and carbon fiber without using massive molds to dictate the shape? This is a difficult thing to do, and the answer could usher in a radically new way of constructing buildings.

Typically when you use these composite materials, you first need to lay them into a formwork to structure their shape. This is how Formula One cars and racing sails are made, for example. But using a mold for an architectural project makes little sense, says Achim Menges, head of the ICD.

“A mold is actually a really complicated thing to build; it’s the biggest investment.” While sails and cars are mass produced in the same shape, a robust structure requires multiple different components that will likely only be used once. It made more sense to eliminate them altogether. “Rather than build a mold for every individual component, we just built the component,” he says.

That’s where the beetle comes in. The beetle’s double-layered elytron is made of a stiff, strong fibrous material. The ICD teams mimicked the structure of the elytron by connecting two woven layers of fibers without the use of a core. “You can lay the fibers in exactly the direction and density that is required to satisfy the structural requirements,” says Menges. “That’s exactly what we see in nature.”

Using a robot that could move on six-axes, the team was able to weave individual fibers on top of each other, forming a connection from the top layer to the bottom layer. This results in a mesmerizing web-like pattern that’s remarkably robust.

“Rather than build a mold for every individual component, we just built the component,” he says.

The ideas behind the pavilion are complex , which is evident when you look at intricacies of the 36 woven modules. It’s no surprise then that this method is still a while away from actually being implemented in non-folly structures. But the end goal, of course, is to take these design and fabrication methods out of the research phase and bring them into the real world as viable construction options. Past research pavilions have translated into permanent structures (the Landesgartenschau Exhibition Hall is an example).

Menges believes that someday in the not too distant future, lightweight materials like carbon fiber will be much more common in long-span architecture structures like stadium roofs. Stadiums are great, but when can we get this in our backyards?