Daily Report: A Net Neutrality Setback for Facebook in India
In the United States, the social media giant has been an advocate of equal treatment of all Internet content. In India, regulators who share that belief have effectively blocked a free Facebook service.
Sci-fi sandbox game Planetoid Pioneers debuts on Steam Early Access
Planetoid Pioneers is a sci-fi sandbox game where you visit little “planetoids” and explore the physics-based environments. It is debuting today on Steam Early Access on the PC. The game from independent developer Data Realms is sort of like Minecraft in space, and it is counting on users to help make the game into a […]
GamesBeat weekly roundup: Rockstar’s new lawsuit, and Titanfall 2 announced
Welcome to another GamesBeat weekly roundup! This time, the PlayStation 4 outsells the Xbox One (again), someone puts Flappy Bird on an e-cigarette, and we review anticipated games like Dark Souls 3 and Bravely Second: End Layer. Happy reading, and have a great weekend! Pieces of flair and opinion The DeanBeat: The narrative of the […]
The DeanBeat: The narrative of the underdog in the gaming industry
Our GamesBeat Summit 2016 event is approaching on May 3-4, and I am the head cheerleader and organizer of it. It’s going to call out stories about the “underdogs” of gaming and the lessons that we can extract from them. It’s only our second GamesBeat Summit event, and I’m looking forward to the talks, stories, […]
Microsoft rolls out preview of plugin-free Skype for Web support in Edge
Microsoft today launched a preview of plugin-free Skype calls in Microsoft Edge. The new functionality works anywhere you can use Skype in the browser: Skype for Web, Outlook.com, Office Online, and OneDrive. Both voice and video calls are supported, including one-to-one and group sessions. A Microsoft spokesperson says the preview is rolling out gradually and […]
ASUS has yet to make a large impact on the global smartphone market, but the manufacturer is back again with a new family of flagship smartphones that look to be some of the best yet. The ZenFone 3 family continues to refine and improve ASUS’s flagship line, bringing in three new smartphones aimed at a [...]
HTC offering big sales on Memorial Day, free RE with HTC 10
HTC is hosting a Memorial Day sale and it’s a pretty good one. If you were looking to buy an HTC 10, now is a good time. The company is offering a free HTC RE camera with your purchase, regardless of the model you buy.
Acer Liquid Zest Plus coming to US with a 5,000 mAh battery for $200
It’s not a soap or a ranch. No, the Acer Liquid Zest Plus is a budget smartphone that features some pretty respectable specs. It has a 5.5-inch 720p display, a quad core MediaTek MT6735 processor, 2GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, a 13MP camera, Android 6.0, and a huge 5,000 mAh [...]
After a shaky start DTS:X is finally ready to take on Dolby Atmos - CNET
Twelve months after DTS' next-generation surround-sound format was announced, compatible discs and hardware are still scarce. We visit the company's headquarters to find out how it plans to compete against Dolby.
The Great Barrier Reef Is Even Worse Off Than We Thought
We’ve known for a while that the Great Barrier Reef is dying, but new numbers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies drive home exactly how much of it has been affected by mass bleaching.
New Wearable Tech Can Make Hospital Visits More Comfortable
In the age of the Internet, you can do almost anything wirelessly. This is especially intriguing in the health care field where professionals can monitor the data of patients without having to be in the room.
A Drill-Powered Skateboard Is the Silliest Way to Get Around Town
Boosted boards—those snazzy electric longboards—are in high demand, and they’re expensive. Fully decked out, one of these is going to run $1,600. And they won’t ship until late July at the absolute earliest. There’s an obvious solution—but it’s not easily embarrassed.
Can Liquid Nitrogen Put Out an On-Fire Swimming Pool?
Teenage rebellion takes many forms. Some of us get dumb haircuts or listen to some truly terrible music. But for the amateur scientist, breaking your mother’s heart* involves diethyl ether and the family pool.
This year's Computex Taipei 2016 will mark a turning point for Asia's biggest tradeshow, as Taiwan begins asserting itself as being not only the center of the global ICT supply chain but also as a key partner for building the global technology ecosystem and driving innovation. This new positioning for the show will be highlighted in new exhibits including InnoVEX - a startup village - and iSTyle, which will feature a collection of Apple MFi certified products and accessories.
The next wave of computing is now beginning to define the IT industry, where the boundaries of computing are expanding as billions of smart and connected devices, new data-rich services and cloud apps fueled by the Internet of Things (IoT) increasingly bring new experiences to our lives. Aligning itself with this trend, Intel has defined what it calls a virtuous circle of growth whereby the company continues developing the platforms and tools for customers to derive value from edge devices, the network, and the cloud. Digitimes spoke with Intel VP and Taiwan Country Manager Jason Chen before Computex to find out more Intel's new strategy.
A new cycle begins for desktop motherboards: Q&A with, Gigabyte technical marketing manager, Leon Chen
The launch of virtual reality headsets for the consumer market and the increasing demand for ultra high-definition (4K) gaming and movies are putting pressure on tablets, smartphones and games consoles which are struggling to enable these next-gen experiences. As a result, the traditional desktop PC has an opportunity to return to favor as a major content consumption device in the home over the next few years.
Touch panel industry could be transformed in 2017, says TPK chairman
Out-OLED touch solutions, OLED panels matched with add-on touch panels, will come into use in 2017 and this could transform the touch panel industry, with new competition to culminate in 2018-2019, according to Michael Chiang, chairman for TPK Holding.
Kaolinite, the main material of porcelain clay, has been found to be able to absorb carbon dioxide and thus can be developed as an absorbent to help reduce carbon emissions, according to the Department of Earth Sciences at National Cheng Kung University (NCKU).
Oppo has unveiled its latest smartphone, the Oppo R9 Plus, in the Taiwan market with the availability to begin on June 1, priced at NT$16,990 (US$522) unlocked for a 64GB version and NT$18,990 for a 128GB version, according to Oppo Taiwan.
Lenovo suffers net loss of US$128 million for fiscal 2015
Lenovo has released its financial report for fiscal 2015 (April 2015-March 2016), recording revenues of US$44.912 billion, decreasing 3% on year, gross margin of 14.8%, up 0.4pp, and net loss of US$128 million.
Advocacy group: police chiefs can protect officers’ mental health before and after mass casualty events
Top Priority Sector:
National Alliance on Mental Illness
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) today released a guide for police leaders, Preparing for the Unimaginable, to help police departments prepare for mass casualty events and support emotional resiliency for first-responders and their communities.
NAMI developed the guide at the request of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Chief of Michael Kehoe (ret.) of the Newtown, CT police department, following the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in 2012.
Army receives new digital radios from General Dynamics
Top Priority Sector:
General Dynamics Mission Systems delivered 30 new two-channel Manpack networking radios to the U.S. Army for evaluation. The digital radios are the first to be delivered by General Dynamics under the Army's production contract awarded in March.
M2Mi wins federal contract for IoT security initiative
Top Priority Sector:
Machine-to-Machine Intelligence (M2Mi) Corporation, a leading supplier of Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine-to-Machine (M2M) applications and technologies including the award winning M2Mi Intelligence® platform, today announced that the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) has awarded M2Mi a multi-phase development contract under the Homeland Security Innovation Program (HSIP) for a next-generation ultra secure IoT Security Suite for devices, platforms and browsers.
Knight Security Systems announces today a new contract deal with the State of Texas DIR, titled, DIR-TSO-3430. This new DIR contract gives State of Texas Purchasing Agents the ability to purchase more security solutions than ever before, on top of capabilities already available via their preexisting contract, DIR-SDD-2224. This enhanced contract comes with a large variety of discounted products and services, representing the finest integrated physical security solutions.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a charming platform puzzle game that’ll tug at your heart
One of console’s true gems has made its way to Android. It’s Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. No, it isn’t exactly Grand Theft Auto, Final Fantasy or any other big names we’ve seen enter Google Play. But it’s a game that’s definitely worth your attention. Brothers follows the tale of, well, two brothers — Naia ...
An anonymous reader writes: In addition to the razor thin ZenBook 3, Asus unveiled a cute talking robot for the home at this week's Computex trade show in Taipei. The robot, called Zenbo, is priced at $599 and is pitched as a personal assistant that can help look after elderly relatives or read stories to the kids. It's about two feet tall and rolls around on wheels, with a display that can show animated faces or be used for making video calls and streaming movies. When asked, "Hey Zenbo, is it true you can take pictures?" by ASUS Chairman Jonney Shih, the robot replied with, "Yes, I can take photographs." Zenbo took a photo of him on stage with the audience in the background when Shih told it to. The robot doesn't have an official release date yet, but developers can sign up for a software kit to build applications for it now.
Microsoft Warns of ZCryptor Ransomware With Self-Propagation Features
An anonymous reader writes from a report issued by Softpedia on May 27: Microsoft and several other security researchers have detected the first ransomware versions that appears to have self-propagation features, being able to spread to other machines on its own by copying itself to shared network drives or portable storage devices automatically. Called ZCryptor, this ransomware seems to enjoy quite the attention from crooks, who are actively distributing today via Flash malvertising and boobytrapped Office files that infect the victim if he enables macro support when opening the file. This just seems to be the latest addition to the ransomware family, one which recently received the ability to launch DDoS attacks while locking the user's computer.
Computer Generates Largest Math Proof Ever At 200TB of Data
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: A trio of researchers has solved a single math problem by using a supercomputer to grind through over a trillion color combination possibilities, and in the process has generated the largest math proof ever -- the text of it is 200 terabytes in size. The math problem has been named the boolean Pythagorean Triples problem and was first proposed back in the 1980's by mathematician Ronald Graham. In looking at the Pythagorean formula: a^2 + b^2 = c^2, he asked, was it possible to label each a non-negative integer, either blue or red, such that no set of integers a, b and c were all the same color. To solve this problem the researchers applied the Cube-and-Conquer paradigm, which is a hybrid of the SAT method for hard problems. It uses both look-ahead techniques and CDCL solvers. They also did some of the math on their own ahead of giving it over to the computer, by using several techniques to pare down the number of choices the supercomputer would have to check, down to just one trillion (from 10^2,300). Still the 800 processor supercomputer ran for two days to crunch its way through to a solution. After all its work, and spitting out the huge data file, the computer proof showed that yes, it was possible to color the integers in multiple allowable ways -- but only up to 7,824 -- after that point, the answer became no. Is the proof really a proof if it does not answer why there is a cut-off point at 7,825, or even why the first stretch is possible? Does it really exist?
'Huge Wake Up Call': Third of Central, Northern Great Barrier Reef Corals Dead
iONiUM quotes a report from The Sydney Morning Herald: More than one-third of the coral reefs of the central and northern regions of the Great Barrier Reef have died in the huge bleaching event earlier this year, Queensland researchers said. Corals to the north of Cairns -- covering about two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef -- were found to have an average mortality rate of 35 percent, rising to more than half in areas around Cooktown. Bleaching occurs when abnormal conditions, such as warm seas, cause corals to expel tiny photosynthetic algae, called zooxanthellae. Corals turn white without these algae and may die if the zooxanthellae do not recolonize them. "It is fair to say we were all caught by surprise," Professor Hughes, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, said. "It's a huge wake up call because we all thought that coral bleaching was something that happened in the Pacific or the Caribbean which are closer to the epicenter of El Nino events." The report says, "The northern end of the Great Barrier Reef was home to many 50- to 100-year-old corals that had died and may struggle to rebuild before future El Ninos push tolerance beyond thresholds."
Google Scholar Users Report Badly Malfunctioning Captcha
Google's search engine for academic research materials is blocking many users with a malfunctioning captcha screen, according to complaints on a Google help forum. "I'm a doctoral student and a professor, which means I use this extensively. Now I'm blocked from using it at all, even after answering all of the stupid image questions (3 times)," reads a typical complaint.
Heart44 writes: A lot of researchers when using Google Scholar are being asked to prove they are not a robot. You have to find all the rivers (but not the sea or lakes) or all street numbers (but not other numbers) or all the store fronts from nine poor quality images, sometimes more than once and, surprise, you will fail more than two thirds of the time and then just get an error 400 "Malformed request, that's all we know". You are offered an audio challenge but clicking on that simply loads more pictures... Is that the best they can do distinguishing between man and machine?
One post ended by stating succinctly "I'm not a robot, I'm an academic professional, and this process is wasting nontrivial amounts of my time. How do I stop it?"
Vox is strongly criticizing coverage of a supposed link between cellphones and cancer suggested by a new study, calling it "a breathtaking example of irresponsible science hype." An anonymous reader writes:
A professor and research monitoring administrator at an American medical school reported that to get their results, the researchers "exposed pregnant rats to whole body CDMA- and GSM-modulated radiofrequency radiation, for 9 hours a day, 7 days a week," and the results were seen only with CDMA (but not GSM-modulated) radiofrequency. "[F]alse positives are very likely. The cancer difference was only seen in females, not males. The incidence of brain cancer in the exposed groups was well within the historical range. There's no clear dose response..."
An emeritus professor of applied statistics at the Open University in Britain also called the study "statistically underpowered..." according to Vox. "Not enough animals were used to allow the researchers to have a good chance of detecting a risk from radiofrequency radiation of the size one might plausibly expect."
Systemd Starts Killing Your Background Processes By Default
New submitter nautsch writes: systemd changed a default value in logind.conf to "yes", which will kill all your processes, when you log out... There is already a bug-report over at debian: Debian bug tracker.
The new change means "user sessions will be properly cleaned up after," according to the changelog, "but additional steps are necessary to allow intentionally long-running processes to survive logout. To effectively allow users to run long-term tasks even if they are logged out, lingering must be enabled for them."
Massive Backlash Building Over Windows 10 Upgrades
Some Windows users are now disabling critical updates on their systems rather than face the prospect of mistakenly upgrading to Windows 10. An anonymous reader writes:
"By pushing it on users in such a heavy-handed way, Microsoft is encouraging users who have very valid reasons to stick with Windows 7/8 to perform actions that leave their machines open to attack," writes PC World's senior editor. He adds that "Over the past week, I've received more contact from readers about this issue than I have about everything else I've written over the rest of my career combined."
Now even China's official news agency is reporting that users are angry about stealthy Windows 10 upgrades, saying over 1.2 million complaints appeared on one microblogging site. It quotes a legal advisor with the Internet Society of China, who says Microsoft "has abused its dominant market position and broken the market order for fair play," saying that lawsuits would be justified over Microsoft's action. "Yang Shuo, a worker at a Beijing-based public relations company, told Xinhua that the sudden update interrupted his drafting of a business plan and led to a meeting cancellation for a deal worth 3 million yuan ($457,735). 'Just because I didn't see the pop-up reminder does not mean I agreed.'"
In a possibly-unrelated development, the Chinese military plans to send nuclear submarines into the Pacific Ocean.
Sprint: LG G Flex Will Launch Online on January 31 for $299 on Contract
Starting today, Sprint customers can pre-order the unique LG G Flex smartphone for $299 online with a two year contract. By pre-ordering between now and January 31st, customers will receive a complimentary Quickwindow Folio Case, which is valued at $60. Sprint…
Motorola Announces Moto X Launch in UK, France, and Germany on February 1
Certain European consumers interested in the Moto X smartphone from Motorola will soon have their chance to purchase the excellent handset. Expected to launch on February 1st, Motorola will sell its iconic Moto X device in Black or White in…
Lionhead Studios may have shut down, but a collectible card game will carry the torch for the Fable franchise.
Fable Fortune, planned as the next entry in Lionhead's fantasy universe before the studio's sudden closure, is being revived via crowdfunding for the PC and Xbox One, IGN revealed
Ex-Lionhead developers Craig Oman, Mike West and Marcus Lynn - now reborn as Flaming Fowl Studios - will take Fable Fortune to Kickstarter tomorrow, May 31 at 3pm GMT.
All cards, no cardboard
Under development in secret for a year and a half, Fable Fortune will be easy to adjust to for those already acquainted with digital CCGs like Magic: Duels, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, or Elder Scrolls: Legends.
Players assume the role - and accompanying deck - of characters in Fable's world as they summon creatures, cast spells, and knock their opponent's life total to zero.
Some unique mechanics have also been revealed, such as completing quests during the middle of a match, and using your character's morality to transform cards in your own hand into either good or evil variants.
Despite Microsoft putting an end to Lionhead, members of Flaming Fowl explained that the company was still interested in keeping the franchise alive and allowed Fortune keep the Fable license.
Flaming Fowl's goals for the Kickstarter are to raise £250,000 (approximately $370,000) and put out a closed beta shortly after the fundraising is complete. An open beta for both PC and Xbox One are planned for October, with the full game expected to be out in late 2017.
There has been no word yet on if the cancelled Fable Legends will also rise from the ashes of Lionhead's demise. The heroes-versus-villain multiplayer game was canned by Microsoft in April after four years of development and reportedly costing a whopping $75 million.
In Depth: 5 ways wearables will transform the lives of the elderly
How wearables are helping our elderly loved ones
Most of us think of wearables in terms of smartwatches and fitness trackers, gadgets that can help us be fitter and more efficient. But for some people, they're far more important than that - these wearables are the difference between dependency and freedom.
They might not hit the headlines as often as the shiny new wrist jewellery from Apple and Samsung, but wearables for older people are fast becoming an essential way to keep them safe, healthy and happy.
It's early days yet, but already we're seeing some impressive technological innovation to improve the lives of those later in life - and the even better news is they'll be easy enough for even the most averse of technophobes to use safely and happily.
1. Keeping them safe
Everyone wants their loved ones to be safe, and in the case of older relatives and friends, the risks are more worrying, especially if you live a distance away. Wearables can help keep these people safe by connecting them to relatives or the emergency services in the event of an accident - even if they're unable to call for help themselves.
The Kickstarter-funded KanegaWatch from UnaliWear - available for sale later this year - can detect falls and long periods of non-movement and raise the alarm.
Working through voice control and without the need for a connected smartphone, the watch notices if the wearer has been immobile for a while and asks if they're OK. If there's no response, the device can contact designated people or the emergency services. It also records some location information so it can guide the wearer home if they get lost.
There are no buttons - it's all done by voice, with the watch having a name set by its owner that it responds to. The wearable even offers medication reminders at appropriate times, reading out dosage instructions if the user asks for them.
Similarly, the CarePredict wearable monitors sleep, personal care and daily patterns, alerting carers if something seems out of the ordinary: if the wearer used the bathroom more than usual last night, for instance, or got up later than they normally do.
Lively's Safety Watch system goes a step further, using a home hub connected to a series of sensors around the home to check that medication's been taken, meals haven't been missed and the user is moving around as normal.
If something's amiss, the watch will remind the wearer, then alert family members or carers if things don't go back to normal.
The hub doesn't require a phone line or internet connection, and the activity sensors are designed to attach to household objects including pill boxes and fridge doors.
Of course, the fact that the fridge door's been opened doesn't mean your relative's necessarily had a meal, but the hub can compare data over time to assess what seems normal for that person - and it's more useful than no data at all.
Sadly, some older people are more at risk of wandering off due to conditions like dementia, which can lead to frantic searches and vulnerable patients unable to find their way home. The upcoming Proximity Button, invented by the daughter of a dementia carer, is designed to be an effective and affordable way to keep loved ones safe without intrusive tracking.
Connecting to the carer's phone with Bluetooth, the button simply sends an alert when the patient goes out of bounds.
Creator Natalie Price tells techradar that the design was a particular challenge in testing: "It's very common for people living with dementia to become upset with things that they aren't familiar with.
"Those wearing the earlier bracelet prototype kept asking me if I wanted my watch back, or fiddled with the strap in an agitated way. The pendant prototype didn't cause any discomfort issues, but was too easily removed.
"The badge prototype came out on top. Once attached, the person wearing the badge completely forgot it was there, and it stayed in place. The design has been tested and has proved totally successful; it's discreet and doesn't cause any discomfort."
The Proximity Button will begin crowdfunding this summer through Indiegogo.
3. Saving them from falls
One of the biggest concerns for older people is the risk of falling over and breaking a hip, particularly as the injuries can be difficult to recover from in later life. One of the more radical ways tech firms are addressing this is by developing wearable airbags that automatically deploy when a fall is detected.
While it might seem extreme to wear an airbag all the time, products by companies like Philadelphia's ActiveProtective and the Netherlands-based Wolk Company are worn as belts, making them less intrusive and noticeable. Packed inside the (admittedly quite thick) ActiveProtective belt is a folded airbag, a fall-detection system and a gas inflation mechanism to quickly open the airbag when the wearer is falling.
Neither product has reached the mass adoption yet, but ActiveProtective's claim that 1 in 3 people over 65 take a fall every year suggests they won't be short of customers when they do.
For people more at risk of falling because of conditions like peripheral neuropathy (where damaged nerves can make it difficult to walk) tech can help in a different way.
California company WalkJoy has created a device that straps around the knees of people who've lost sensation in their feet, and replaces the signals their foot would usually send to the brain. This completes the circuit (known as a feedback loop) and allows them to walk unaided again.
Some of the health problems that can affect older people aren't so easy to talk about. The Dfree website opens with the memorable words: "Two years ago I got sudden diarrhea and pooped my pants on the street."
While most of us would never speak of this again, in this case it led to the development of a device that claims to predict bowel movements, allowing users to plan ahead and get to a bathroom in time.
Using an ultrasound wearable belted around your stomach, Dfree sends a push notification (no pun intended) to the accompanying app on your phone to let you know how much time you have.
This could avoid the kind of incident that decimates older people's confidence and makes them less willing to leave the house.
After some teething problems with skin irritation, Dfree is still in development but Japanese manufacturer Triple W received seed funding for the device earlier this year.
5. Helping us understand what it's like to be them
It's easy to grasp the fact that we'll all be old one day, but significantly harder to imagine what that will actually be like. Many of us prefer to think the world will somehow have radically changed by the time we age, or that we'll be defiantly break-dancing in our own homes at the age of 90.
To bridge the empathy gap, insurance company Genworth and innovation firm Applied Minds teamed up to create an 'ageing suit' - a wearable in the most literal sense - that simulates some of the conditions associated with getting older.
The adjustable exoskeleton can show you what it's like to live with cataracts, tinnitus, hearing loss, joint pain, arthritis and a range of other conditions, in a realistic and accurate way.
Genworth CMO Janice Luvera told techradar, "Education through experience is the best way to build empathy and awareness, to engage and educate consumers in hopes of inspiring a conversation about growing older with loved ones."
That first-hand experience really seems to work. When techradar tried a similar ageing suit earlier this year, Editor Gareth Beavis commented, "my overwhelming feeling was one of frustration, my body and mind desperate to break out of the restrictions and just start running freely again."
Growing older isn't something you can really comprehend until you've experienced it, but tech like this moves us a lot closer to understanding what it's like. And that can only be a good thing for the next round of lifesavers for seniors.
It's been a long, long wait for Half-Life 3 - a wait that might never end - but in the meantime fans of the series are busy making the game's technology a reality. Take a look at this amazingly realistic City Scanner drone mod from Russian Valentin Demchenko.
Apparently made from scratch using carbon fibre and polystyrene, the drone is 80cm (31 inches) long and 55cm (22 inches) tall. It can stay in the air for a maximum of 11 minutes and you really do get the impression it's watching you. You can see some of the manufacturing involved in a separate video here.
For those who haven't set foot in the Half-Life universe, these City Scanners were designed for all kinds of surveillance operations and helped to keep citizens in line. If our government ever gets more oppressive, it's reassuring to know the technology is now available to build something like this.
We're seeing more and more drone mods like this and they're improving in quality all the time - take this Millennium Falcon drone mod from last year, which looks almost good enough to feature as a prop in the next Star Wars movie.
The tour saw the Metal Gear Solid developer visit developers throughout the world, including studios owned by Sony, EA and Ubisoft.
Kojima has yet to reveal what form his new game will end up taking, but the collective works of the various studios gives us some tantalising clues about what might be to come.
What engine has he chosen to use? Which games have inspired him? Let us speculate.
Naughty Dog is a studio that has set the bar for how story in big budget games should work. From The Last of Us' incredibly acted cutscenes to the incidental bits of dialogue that pepper every mission in Uncharted, the studio has consistently combined solid acting performances with excellent technical artistry.
More than any other games designer, Kojima's games have been consistently remembered for their stories. At a time when most other games didn't even include full voice acting, Kojima's first Metal Gear Solid devoted hours to non-interactive cinematic cutscenes.
If Kojima takes any cues at all from Naughty Dog, we hope it ends up being in the motion capture department.
Quantic Dream, the French studio who are perhaps best know for Fahrenheit (titled Indigo Prophecy in the US) and PS3 thriller Heavy Rain.
In a similar vein to Naughty Dog, Quantic Dream have made a name for themselves with story-heavy games that have been powered by some impressive motion-capture work, especially facial motion-capture.
In fact the studio was so impressed with its facial animation that the loading screens in Heavy Rain were literally just closeups of the game's character's faces.
We would be very happy to see characters even half as good looking as those in Heavy Rain make it into Kojima's next game. But please, don't let it include the same quick-time event heavy gameplay.
For years, one simple question was the bane of PC gamers worldwide.
"Does it run Crysis?"
The question typifies what Crysis-developer Crytek is know for. Vast, technically impressive game engines that took a mammoth PC to run.
Later Crysis games would end up coming to the low-powered consoles, but at its core the studio will always be known as the brains behind the highest of the high-end.
Crytek wasn't originally on Kojima's list of studios to visit, but a tweet from Crytek's twitter account changed all that.
Crytek's games have always existed in the middle ground between traditional corridor-based shooters and fully open-world games. Both Far Cry and Crysis featured wide-open levels that gave you the freedom to approach encounters in a variety of ways.
Previous Metal Gear Solid games - up until 5, which moved towards a completely open world - would have suited Crytek's engine with their linear levels that were still open enough to offer a large amount of freedom.
Kojima's games have never been a slouch in the graphics department, and if Kojima ends up using Crytek's engine this trend could continue into his next game. Just don't expect it to be open world if it does.
In recent interviews Kojima appears to have been more taken with the staff of Media Molecule than their technology.
"There are lots of women working there [at Media Molecule], for one thing. That's a strange feeling! But at the same time there's a feeling like it's family there." Kojima said in an interview with Eurogamer.
Kojima said that he'd like to achieve this same intimate family feeling in his own studio, which implies he might want to keep his studio small as opposed to the sprawling teams that worked on each Metal Gear Solid title.
Reportedly two hundred people worked on the first MGS, and this number is likely to have risen as the games became bigger and more complex.
But all this focus on staff should not detract from the fact that Media Molecule's Little Big Planet engine was enormously impressive, with a level editor that offered an amount of control that was previously unseen on consoles.
Kojima's games have never previously included any user-generated content, but after leaving Konami anything's possible.
"Media Molecule told me that the kitchen is crucial too," Kojima also said, so we know one solid idea he's taking to his new studio.
Dice's games have been defined by their massive multiplayer matches, which normally result in half the level being... well... levelled thanks to Dice's strong emphasis on destructible environments.
Kojima's later games such as MGS4 and Peace Walker began to include multiplayer elements, but they've never included anything even remotely destructible elements.
It's always felt strange that although Kojima's games have often featured tanks in addition to giant mechanoid nuclear robots, the smallest wall will always work perfectly as an invincible shield against all incoming attacks.
Destructible environments would also significantly change how any stealth gameplay works in Kojima's next game. Walls that could previously perfectly conceal the player might end up being reduced to rubble in the blink of an eye, forcing the player to adapt their route through the environment on the fly.
Mojang is best known for creating the uber-hit Minecraft, which at this point is a game that needs no introduction.
But similar to Media Molecule, Mojang's titles are about as far from Kojima's catalogue as it's possible to get. In fact, before Minecraft blew up it was primarily the product of just one man, Markus 'Notch' Persson.
Notch doesn't work at Mojang anymore, after having left his company back when it was acquired by Microsoft in 2014, but that doesn't mean Kojima doesn't have anything to learn from the company.
For one thing, Minecraft has perhaps the biggest YouTube following out of any game in the world. Every year thousands of video creators uploading tens of thousands of hours of footage of the game to their channels, and often these videos go on to generate millions of views.
Kojima's games are not unknown on YouTube, but their comparative lack of user-created content means that they're less well suited to the kinds of videos that have served Mojang so well.
We'd be surprised Kojima's next game ends up being user-generated to the same extent Minecraft is - although as we mentioned with Media Molecule, there could certainly be a bit - but we'd be equally surprised if it didn't include at least a cursory glance in the direction of YouTube.
Massive Entertainment is the studio best known for this year's Tom Clancy's The Division after having helped out with development duties on Far Cry 3 and Assassin's Creed: Revelations.
As previously discussed, Kojima's games have sometimes included multiplayer components in addition to their single-player campaigns, but these have often been very separate experiences.
Metal Gear Online felt like a completely separate game from Metal Gear Solid 4, despite being included on the same disk.
The Division, meanwhile, blends the two into a single cohesive experience. You can take your character from single player to multiplayer in a very seamless way.
Kojima has previously explored this in Peace Walker for the PSP, but the feature has never appeared on one of his console games outside of the Peace Walker remake that made it to PS3.
We loved Peace Walker back in the day, and the experience got even better when the game was ported to home consoles, even if the low-fidelity graphics betrayed its roots as a PSP game.
If we could get a console-focussed Peace Walker, with a persistent character that you can train up offline before heading online to play alongside others, we'd be very happy indeed.
Ok, we know J.J. Abrams isn't a development studio, but his film production company Bad Robot has recently been working with Infinity Blade and Shadow Complex's developer on a new game called SpyJinx.
According to its website, Spyjinx will offer "a unique mix of action strategy gameplay, dynamic world building and RPG character development."
Kojima is famously a massive cinephile, which points towards his meeting with Abrams being more to do with the world of cinema than gaming.
Kojima said he visited Abrams to "inform him about my new studio," but didn't indicate whether he'd taken any inspiration from JJ himself.
Spyjinx has been described as a "live service product" that will run for many years, so if Kojima's next game is to take a similar approach, Abrams could have been a good person to draw inspiration from.
Sucker Punch were historically one of Sony's more niche studios until they hit the big time with Infamous back in 2009.
Infamous as a series has always been about setting you loose in a massive city and giving you a seemingly infinite amount of powers to get around. Scaling buildings, flight, and zipping along rail-lines.
Meanwhile Kojima's games have historically seen you limited to running about by foot, and in fact most of the Metal Gear Series sees you crawling about on your stomach to minimise your chances of being spotted.
Metal Gear Solid 5 changed this by giving you a horse and a variety of vehicles to travel around in, but more interesting transport options have always been limited to your enemies.
MGS2 saw you fighting against a bomb-disposal expert on roller-skates, MGS3's The Fury chased you around with a jetpack, and Psycho Mantis from MGS1 could just straight up hover around the room.
It would be great if cues from Sucker Punch lead Kojima to let his next protagonist jump, climb, and fly with the same grace as Infamous' Cole MacGrath.
It's hard not to mention Guerrilla games without immediately thinking of the Helghast, the iconic enemies in the Killzone franchise.
Their orange gas masks have come to define the dark industrial look of the series, the gameplay of which has often paled in comparisons to its visuals.
It's hard to argue that Gorilla Games doesn't have some seriously impressive technology powering their games. However, engine aside, it's hard to know what design cues Kojima could end up taking from Guerilla Games, whose titles have always played it safe with the first person shooter formula.
Every game needs an engine, and with Kojima having entered into a partnership with Sony, Guerrilla Games' in-house engine is as good a one to use as any.
The Amazon Echo's reputation and prowess just keeps on growing, so much so that Google has copied it and Apple is about to (or so the rumours suggest). Now we've got a few more details about what we can expect from the 'Apple Echo'.
Sources speaking to CNET say the device (which may or may not be an overhauled Apple TV) is going to have face recognition technology that spots you as soon as you walk in the door. Apple itself has made no comment at all on its plans, as usual.
Such a feature could be used to automatically disable an alarm, for example, or to set up separate profiles for different members of the family. It could also be used to start up some music or set the lighting to match a personalised list of preferences.
Is it me you're looking for?
Facial recognition would also help Apple's upcoming kit distinguish itself from both the Amazon Echo and Google Home. However, CNET's sources say these plans aren't set in stone, and could change before the device finally appears at some point in 2017.
That pours cold water on the idea that we'll be seeing something at WWDC 2016 in a couple of weeks, though Apple might offer up an early preview of the device ahead of its actual launch (as it did with the Apple Watch).
If such a device does exist, no doubt Apple's existing Siri and HomeKit technologies will play a major role, and it'll obviously have AirPlay too, we would have thought. We'll be covering the news as it happens from WWDC in California, which starts on 13 June.
Amazon's new tool lets you test Alexa in your browser
Considering how much attention the likes of Facebook and Google are giving them, conversational, AI-powered bots are our future, and the Amazon Echo is one of the most well-known smart home devices with a software-driven personality.
Alexa is the name of the AI and search technology that powers the Echo, and Amazon just released an online tool called Echosim.io so you can try out the technology for yourself, even if you don't have one of Amazon's devices at home.
You're going to need to log into the site using your Amazon credentials and grant the website access to your microphone, but setup just takes a couple of minutes and the service is free for anyone to make use of. You could have a Siri vs Alexa head-to-head challenge, if you really wanted to.
It's not the first time Alexa has appeared outside of the Echo, as we've also seen the smart assistant appear on a smartwatch, and Amazon seems keen to have its software technology available on a whole host of devices in the future.
With Google Home arriving later this year and Apple rumoured to be building an Echo competitor of its own, the quality of the underlying code is going to be crucial in helping customers pick one always-on smart home device from another.
There are now several Echo devices on sale, though they're still only available to customers in the US - how about some love for the rest of the world, Amazon? If you don't own an Echo, then Echosim.io is the next best thing.
What would a 'world beyond apps' be like? It's hard to imagine using a smartphone that doesn't have any apps, and yet there has been talk of the 'post-app era' for some time. Cue futuristic ways of interacting with computers and data, with virtual assistants and natural language processing at the forefront.
However, few think that apps are going to disappear completely, only that the way we interact with them will change. "In the near-term we will see a demise of individual apps at the front-end, with instant messaging and social media interfaces used as a gateway into technologies," says Claus Jepsen, Chief Architect at business software company Unit4.
So will we still be physically opening apps in a few years? Probably not, but that trend started when push notifications appeared on our phones long ago. Since then, apps have added always-on functionality, background monitoring, interactive notifications, integration with wearables, and automatic updates.
Now get ready to watch as apps are consumed within contextually-aware virtual assistants like Siri – and almost completely disappear.
Apps on the rise… and fall
Ever since the creation of the smartphone, the App Store has been a battleground between Apple and Android. So who won? Although apps in Apple's App Store make the most money, they accounted for just 15% of all apps downloaded in 2015. IDC reports that Apple's share fell 8% from the previous year – quite a tumble, and largely down to the massive volume of Android-based phones being sold around the globe.
"While IDC forecasts that mobile app installs and direct revenues will continue to grow over the coming years, it also expects that growth to slow considerably," says Michael Allen, Solutions VP at application performance management software company Dynatrace. "For businesses, this offers a wake-up call that the mobile race is starting to reach its climax – consumers are reaching app saturation, and they're now looking for quality over quantity."
That's borne out by Dynatrace's own research, which found that nearly half (47%) of people will only give an app three seconds to load before they give up and go elsewhere, while nearly a third (32%) will never try it again if it doesn't work the first time.
Blame the browser?
It's not always the apps' fault – some apps lose their shine over time. Remember that flashlight app on your phone? Now it's built into the phone itself. There are speciality camera apps, polished email apps and countless pointless brand apps, but few of them add much to what your phone can already do. Besides, the mobile web is getting more app-like every day.
"It really depends on what we mean by an app," says Jamie Turner, CEO of address verification and data quality services company PCA Predict. "Many apps are little more than website bookmarks pointing to a mini-site that looks and feels like something that's native."
Turner thinks that we only have native apps because they operate without the performance and security limitations of a browser. "This is changing fast with significant work being placed into newer browser technology that feels as fast as native apps and more sensible security models," he adds.
However, even slick mobile websites can't get round the inherent problem with apps; their scope is very limited. Spotify aside (its 30 million tracks make this service the de facto web-based music library), how many apps do anything other than give you access to a walled garden of content?
Nobody wants to use the Uber or Lyft apps specifically, they want to get a ride. It's the same with Netflix. Rather than go hunting for a particular movie and failing to find it, wouldn't it be easier if your phone just told you where to find that movie?
Goodbye apps, hello smart agents
We've fallen out of love with apps, and that's not going to change. Gartner predicts that by 2020, smart agents will facilitate 40% of mobile interactions, and that 'post-app era' will begin to dominate. For 'smart agent', read virtual private assistants like Google Now, Cortana, Siri and Alexa, each stuffed with so-called 'learning algorithms' and artificial intelligence.
These agents will be the principal way that we navigate information. "No longer will you have to load a specific application," says Gartner. "The algorithms on the systems that you touch will understand your needs and serve you the correct data in context." The future is algorithms, not apps.
App aggregation and the post-app future
The services that apps offer are already being consumed en masse by virtual private assistants. "Siri is already an example of aggregation as it enables the user to perform multiple tasks such as checking the weather, searching online, sending an email, scheduling a meeting, and many other things," says Magnus Jern, President of mobile enterprise tech firm DMI International, who thinks we're on the cusp of sophisticated aggregation services.
"Facebook will do it with Messenger and new third-party services' APIs for chatbots etc, and WeChat and Line already do this," he says of instant messaging apps that are fast becoming 'smart agent' platforms themselves. But will aggregation services actually replace apps? "Not in the short-term, because depending on the use case, apps will still provide a better experience for a lot of our daily tasks," says Jern. "Instead the aggregation services will integrate with the standalone apps."
However, that does suggest that the most popular, wealthy and ambitious apps – such as Facebook and WeChat – are at least as well positioned as OS developers Apple and Google to create the dominant new virtual assistant platforms.
The spoken word
How we interact with the services currently offered by apps will change, too. The smart money is on voice. "Interaction models are changing," says Frank Palermo, Executive VP for Global Digital Solutions at IT services company VirtusaPolaris, who thinks that with advances in AI-powered virtual assistants, voice will soon be at the centre of the user experience. A supercharged, more conversational Siri (and other assistants) will effectively make individual apps redundant.
"You no longer need to click on your phone and open an app," adds Palermo, "it is a much more immersive experience where you are interacting with your device in a more conversational way – it literally becomes your pocket PA."
Is natural language good enough?
Not quite yet. Siri is getting cleverer, certainly, but doesn't understand everything it's told. Ditto Nuance's Dragon Dictation; every year it gets less muddled and more accurate. "We are very close to having natural language being the primary means of interacting with the software," thinks Jepsen, who predicts a 'conversational experience'.
"Rather than navigate screens, tools and clunky interfaces, employees will be able to type or say 'show me my payslip' or 'complete my expenses'," says Jepsen, whose Unit4 company has created a digital assistant for workplaces called Wanda that inserts itself into existing apps. "We don't need to build our own screens or apps to accommodate this, we can use somebody else's, like Skype for Business, Twitter, or Facebook," he adds. "Everything will become easier, it will become natural."
The post-app future
Apps are on the watch-list, and are already being phased out. That's no surprise to some, who think they're inherently unnatural. "Clicking through buttons is not natural human behaviour," says Palermo, who believes we're moving towards a more immersive and ambient world, where it's possible for people to have a natural discussion with their surroundings.
"We won't need to type, we will just speak and our device will present the information we need in a visual way – perhaps by combining with virtual reality to help us visualise our answers," adds Palermo. Either way, the era where smartphone users launched apps individually is soon going to seem archaic.
FormLabs is established as the leading manufacturer of Stereolithography (SLA) 3D printers. SLA printers use a resin rather than a filament that hardens when exposed to ultraviolet light.
Although the technology of the SLA printers is quite different to that used by fused filament modelling (FFM) printers, the basic principle – building layer upon layer to create the print – is the same.
At £3,120 (around $4,580, or AU$6,350), the Form 2's price is at the top-end of the consumer market and the basic cost is almost double that of the high-end FFM printers such as the Ultimaker 2.
The design differences between an SLA and FFM printer are instantly obvious. The main build platform of an SLA printer is suspended over a resin tank so as the print is mapped out by the laser, the print is built bottom-down rather than bottom-up as with an FFM.
The whole process looks futuristic, as layer upon layer is being mapped by the laser and the laser's path is set in the resin. As the print progresses and the build plate slowly lifts the print slowly emerges from the resin.
Unlike FFM printers that use infill to alter the amount of filament that is being used inside the solid parts of the print, an SLA printer will always print solid, and this ultimately makes the models stronger but does mean that more material is used.
On unboxing the printer the initial setup process is relatively straightforward. Compared with other SLA printers such as the XYZ Nobel 1.0 the design is more refined as there are no feed pipes between the resin tank or bottle that could lead to spillage.
The first item that needs to be installed is the resin tank and this simply clips into the base of the printer. It's a good idea to have a tank for each resin that you use, although each additional tank is quite expensive at around £52 ($59 over in the US, which is around AU$82).
Once the resin tank is in place a small wiper is clipped onto the relevant part in the printer's base. This wipes through the tank after each layer is built to ensure that the resin is evenly spread and helps prevent the build-up of solidified resin as the beam passes through the tank.
The tank itself sits over a glass panel beneath which is the laser. It's important during the setup and when you switch tanks that the base isn't touched as this could affect the beam and the quality of the print.
When you swap out the resin for another colour or type the tank can be quickly removed and comes with a loose fitting top that enables you to neatly store it away for later use.
Leaving a tank of resin for more than two months isn't a good idea, and you also shouldn't return the resin to the bottle after use as this can cause contamination.
The resin arrives ready to go in a specially shaped bottle that is dropped into the back of the printer. Once in place the resin automatically pours into the resin tank as the printer is primed before use.
The Form 2 is fully Wi-Fi compatible so when it comes to printing you have the choice of tethering the printer to your computer by means of a USB, network cable or via Wi-Fi.
Setting up the Wi-Fi connection using the small interface is quick and easy enough and once done you can send prints through to the printer from the software without the need to reconnect physically.
The software handles the majority of the printer's settings and enables you to quickly select quality as well as the material type.
Materials and printing
Unlike the huge selection of materials available for FFM printers when it comes to resin there are far fewer options. However, the material types available for SLA are generally tailored for specific uses or have certain properties such as being flexible or tough.
This diversity of material type is in contrast to the huge variety of colours available with FFM filament and really does show that this printer is designed for use by businesses and high-end enthusiasts.
There is a standard resin type that is available in clear, black, grey and white. Other materials include those designed for casting, heavy use and even dental, not something you'd expect from a normal desktop 3D printer.
Commissioning the printer takes a good 20 minutes and once started it's best to wait with the machine just to check that everything is in order. Due to the design there really is little to go wrong and if you do try to print on an uneven surface the printer will alert you to level it using the small adjustable feet on the base.
Initial test prints showed that even at its lowest setting the Form 2 is capable of prints that equal if not better the vast majority of FFM printers at their highest quality, with only the Zortrax M200 coming anywhere close.
Once the print completes it can then be removed from the build plate. Unlike an FFM printer the process of print removal is a little more involved and time consuming requiring the build plate to be removed, print extracted and then cleaned in IPA or Acetone before being washed and then left to cure.
The whole process from start to finish can take about 24 hours for the print to fully harden but the end result is well worth it.
Alongside the printer FormLabs also produces a finishing kit and if you're thinking of investing it's well worth paying out a little more for this set.
The finishing kit includes two washing basins, a series of tools and a handle for the build plate that can be used when removing the prints.
As with the vast majority of new printers the Form 2 arrives with its own software: PreForm. Initially this software looks much the same as any other, but as you start to use PreForm it becomes quickly apparent that this offering is on another level.
On importing a 3D model the software will instantly be able to tell if there are any issues with the model and then it repairs them automatically. In testing we found that the software did an incredible job eliminating intersecting faces and repairing those that are missing without issue.
Once the model is repaired and loaded into the software you can quickly prepare it for print and add supports. During the test we found that placing the model diagonally across the build plate produced the best results and also made the prints easier to remove when ready.
A single button at the base of the interface shows you what material will be used to print and at what quality – if you click this a simple interface opens enabling you to change the settings.
As you flip through each of the materials you'll see that there are only a limited amount of options to ensure that you can only print within the tested limits of that material.
Then once you have selected the material and quality you can hit the print button. This will send the print across to the machine either through USB or Wi-Fi – then you'll see the job appear on the printer itself. To print you need to click the option to confirm and the printer will warm up and print.
Print times are slower than an FFM printer, but only by about 10-20% depending on the model. The major time drain is the clean-up of the model afterwards.
There's no doubt that the Form 2 is one of the best desktop 3D printers presently available. Build quality is excellent with good solid construction and careful attention to detail.
Small features such as the adjustable legs for levelling make life easier, and the design of the resin tank that slots directly into the back of the machine keeps everything very neat and tidy.
The interface on the Form 2 is extremely easy to use and connecting to your Wi-Fi or wired network is a straightforward simple process.
The bundled software might look simple but the powerful built-in tools ensure that you always get a decent print.
What really makes the Form 2 stand out is the incredible quality of prints. Printed at the highest quality setting and using standard resin, the prints produced showed far greater detail than any other printer we've seen.
The Form 2 is expensive both to buy and run costing more than double that of a good high-end FFM printer.
Depending on the type you use, resin also costs considerably more than filament and there is far less choice.
The more expensive resins also need a high level of skill to use properly. Unlike filament printers, SLA printers print solid, and this uses up more material again making it far more expensive.
The biggest downside of the Form 2 as with all SLA printers is the cleaning process once the print is finished. When carried out properly, this process can consume as much time as it takes for the print itself to be produced.
The Form 2 is designed for anyone needing a high-end 3D printing solution and is ideal for those needing to produce prototypes, small product runs or highly detailed quality models or jewellery designs.
The process of producing a print is far more time consuming, messy and expensive than an FFM printer, but the end results are exceptional.
The amount of resins presently available does limit you on colour but the specialist resins such as castable, tough and flexible open up a huge variety of possibilities.
Although the Form 2 is a desktop printer and is well priced enabling it to be purchased and used in the home, it's really designed for the work, education or for the high-end enthusiast.
If you're looking for the best possible finish and quality from a desktop 3D printer then at present there is nothing that comes close to the Form 2.
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