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Airline smart-luggage ban is going to be a real headache for some travelers

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If you own any high-tech “smart” luggage and travel with it on planes, you may have a problem.

American Airlines, Delta, and Alaska Airlines announced on Wednesday that if the battery is built into the luggage and cannot be removed, you won’t be able to take it onto the aircraft.

The ban is effective from January 15, 2018, and comes because of fears the battery could overheat and catch fire.

United and Southwest could also announce similar policies shortly.

To be clear, if the battery can’t be removed, you won’t be able to take it on board the plane as checked or carry-on luggage. However, if it can be removed, it can be left inside the bag and taken aboard as carry-on. Alternatively, you can remove it from the bag, check the bag, and then take the battery aboard as carry-on.

Alaska Airlines explains it like this:
Smart bags will be allowed as carry-on baggage, if they meet carry-on size limits, and if it’s possible to remove the battery from the bag if needed.
– If the bag will fly as a checked bag, the battery must be removed and the battery must be carried in the cabin.
– If it’s not possible to remove the battery from the bag, the bag won’t be allowed on the plane.

So-called smart bags, which have been growing in popularity over the last year or so, feature a variety of (battery-powered) tech features that can be anything from GPS capability so you don’t lose it, to built-in digital scales so you don’t exceed your weight limits, to a motor that turns it into a scooter so you can whizz through the airport to your gate. DT reviewed some of the best ones just last summer.

The new rule will be a serious blow for outfits like New York-based Bluesmart, which came to prominence in 2014 with its debut smart suitcase that proved a hit with Indiegogo backers. It has since produced a range of smart luggage options and sold 64,000 of them globally, but their batteries can’t be removed.

“We are saddened by these latest changes to some airline regulations and feel it is a step back not only for travel technology, but that it also presents an obstacle to streamlining and improving the way we all travel,” Bluesmart said in a statement. It added that it plans to meet with the airlines to show its bags are safe in the hope that they’ll make an exception for their products.

Due to their fire risk, lithium-ion batteries have been a worry for airlines ever since the technology was introduced. The smart cases aren’t the first gadget to face an airline ban. Last year, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) banned Samsung’s troubled Galaxy Note 7 from being taken on planes, and before that bans were put in place for so-called hoverboards after some batteries inside the personal transporter suddenly exploded.

But banning a product whose very purpose is for travel will come as a huge disappointment for the many travelers who’ve already spent out on the technology, and presents a worrying problem for makers of smart bags. Now we’re waiting to see if other airlines follow America, Delta, and Alaska.

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***This post originally published on Digital Trends***

Digital Trends is a leading consumer technology publisher helping people navigate an increasingly digital world. With easy-to-understand product reviews, entertaining news and videos, Digital Trends serves more than 30 million unique visitors each month. Digital Trends reaches 90 million tech influencers through their own media network, and its syndicate partners include Yahoo!, FOX News and more than 200 broadcast news stations. Digital Trends is headquartered in Portland, OR with offices in New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Chicago.

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A stretchable battery, powered by sweat, could revolutionize wearables

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Whether it’s the AA batteries that go in TV remotes or the lithium-ion batteries found in smartphones, you probably have a pretty definite image that springs to mind when someone mentions “battery.” That could soon change, however, based on research coming out of the Binghamton University in New York, where scientists have developed a stretchy, textile-based, bacteria-powered bio-battery which could one day be used to power wearable devices. In demonstrations, the battery was shown to be able to exhibit stable electricity-generating capabilities even after repeated stretching and twisting cycles.

The breakthrough tech was developed by a team led by Professor Seokheun Choi. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Choi has previously been responsible for some innovative new battery technologies, such as a paper-like microbial fuel cell designed to produce electricity when activated by saliva. “All my previous experiences and technologies on paper-based bio-batteries have been leveraged to develop, for the first time, an entirely textile-based bio-battery,” Choi told Digital Trends. “The device generated a maximum power of 6.4µW/cm2 and current density of 52µA/cm2, which are similar to other flexible paper-based microbial fuel cells.”

If you’re wondering what “bacteria-powered” means in this context, the answer is that the battery could be powered by natural bodily secretions — most obviously our sweat. That would make it perfect for a lycra-type material that could be employed to make sports wear or other types of smart clothing. While it probably won’t be rivaling your iPhone in terms of sheer battery power anytime soon, it might open the way for wearables that would be able to gather sensor data from your body and then transmit it to a separate device. A T-shirt which could monitor our workouts or a pair of socks able to track our steps? Yes, please!

Choi said that the team is currently working to improve the power and current generation for practical applications. “But it will take more time for the commercial products,” he noted.

A paper describing the work, titled “Flexible and Stretchable Bio-batteries: Monolithic Integration of Membrane-Free Microbial Fuel Cells in a Single Textile Layer,” was recently published in the journal Advanced Energy Materials.

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Bugatti doesn’t deal with recalls like an ordinary car company

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The Bugatti Chiron is no ordinary car, and not just because it has 1,500 horsepower, costs $3 million, and is vying for the title of world’s fastest production car. The surreal nature of the Chiron also extends to more mundane things, like recalls.

Bugatti is in the process of recalling the grand total of 47 Chirons (including 12 in North America) that have been delivered so far because the cars may have improperly welded seat brackets. But while most car owners get a letter in the mail with instructions to visit their local dealership at their earliest convenience, Bugatti does things a little differently.

Each Chiron owner will get a house call from a so-called “Flying Doctor,” who will inspect their cars to make sure everything is in order. If necessary, the car will be loaded on a truck and shipped to the nearest Bugatti service center, where the entire seat bracket assembly will be replaced, according to Bloomberg. Since this is a recall, all work will be done free of charge.

Apparently that’s the kind of service owners can expect when spending seven figures on a car. While one would expect that kind of money to entitle a customer to special treatment, the lengths Bugatti is going to avoid inconveniencing its owners may be unnecessary. Most owners probably don’t use their Chirons as daily drivers, after all.

While most Chirons likely won’t be driven often, the experience will always be memorable. Like its Veyron predecessor, Bugatti’s latest hypercar boasts an 8.0-liter quad-turbocharged W16, producing the aforementioned 1,500 hp, plus 1,180 pound-feet of torque. You definitely want to make sure the seats are securely fastened to the floor before unleashing all of that.

So far, the Chiron has proven capable of going from a standstill to 249 mph and back to 0 mph in just under 42 seconds, briefly giving Bugatti a world record until Koenigsegg beat it. The real question is whether the Chiron can achieve the highest top speed of any production car.

Bugatti believes the Chiron will beat the 267-mph top speed of the old Veyron Super Sport, but that hasn’t been independently verified. The Super Sport is still considered the world’s fastest production car by Guinness World Records. A Hennessey Venom GT hit 270 mph in 2014, but because the car didn’t make runs in both directions to compensate for wind, Guiness did not acknowledge it. Hennessey is now preparing an even faster car called the Venom F5, and is aiming for 300 mph.

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Imgur adds looping GIF feature, new iOS news feed before big desktop redesign

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GIF-library Imgur is continuing to add more social features by adding one of the biggest, most imitated features across multiple networks: Stories. A recent update to Imugr brought Snacks, the platform’s variation on Stories, a full-screen option for wasting time on a looping stream of GIFs, along with a new news feed and an announcement for an upcoming desktop redesign.

Snapchat first coined Stories in 2013, a feature that automatically plays a list of short video clips or photos from the user’s day, with that content disappearing after 24 hours. The feature has since been widely imitated, first by Instagram and Facebook and now even extending with variations on the idea to YouTube and even Skype.

Imgur’s variation on the idea is called Snacks and brings the idea of a string of endless short clips to the GIF library. Unlike most Stories, Snacks isn’t necessarily a list of all the content friends shared, it’s GIFs pulled from the library on a specific category. Like Stories, however, the feature plays that content full screen and continues until you tap out.

Located at the top of the search page inside the app, Imgur says the Snacks change daily.

Snacks launched alongside another social feature with the addition of a new feed that allows users to customize their experience browsing on Imugr. The feed will curate content from other users you follow, as well as tags that you choose to follow. Like a social network, you can comment on posts, or vote them up in the Imgur ranks. The feature is also designed to help you find new users or tags to follow, though an option for a vertical feed will exclude suggested content and only include followed accounts and tags.

The update, which launched to iOS users before the weekend, appears is iOS only for now but will be coming to other platforms soon, the company said. Imgur launched an Android update on the same day, but the change only included bug fixes and a new icon. Imgur appears to be continuing the social features that platform launched a year ago. That update introduced the ability to follow and chat with other users.

The mobile update also comes with an announcement for an upcoming redesign to the desktop app. The home page, which hasn’t had a design update since 2014, will have a more modern look, Imgur said, while also improving search and expanding tags. The update is currently in beta testing.

While Stories have had some significant success on Instagram and Snapchat, other platforms haven’t seen the same level of use. Time will tell how “hungry” Imgur users are for a similar feature, but at any rate, it’s now easy to watch a full-screen roll of GIFs.

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