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malachiorion writes: "Remember when, about a month ago, Stephen Hawking warned that artificial intelligence could destroy all humans? It wasn't because of some stunning breakthrough in AI or robotics research. It was because the Johnny Depp-starring Transcendence was coming out. Or, more to the point, it's because science fiction's first robots were evil, and even the most brilliant minds can't talk about modern robotics without drawing from SF creation myths. This article on the biggest sci-fi-inspired myths of robotics focuses on R.U.R, Skynet, and the ongoing impact of allowing make-believe villains to pollute our discussion of actual automated systems."
MojoKid (1002251) writes 'Microsoft confirmed a development rumor that's been swirling around its next-generation console ever since it announced Kinect would become an optional add-on rather than a mandatory boat anchor. Lifting that requirement will give game developers 10 percent additional graphics power to play with and help close the gap between the Xbox One and PS4. The story kicked off when Xbox head Phil Spencer tweeted that June's Xbox One dev kit gave devs access to more GPU bandwidth. Further, another Microsoft representative then confirmed that the performance improvement coming in the next version of the Xbox SDK was the result of making Kinect an optional accessory. No matter how Microsoft may try to spin it, cancelling Kinect isn't just a matter of giving game developers freedom, it's a tacit admission that game developers have no significant projects in play that are expected to meaningfully tap Kinect to deliver a great game experience — and they need those GPU cycles back.' Also on the Xbox capabilities front: Reader BogenDorpher (2008682) writes 'In August of last year, a Microsoft spokesman confirmed that the Xbox One controller will be compatible for PC users sometime in 2014. That time has finally come. Windows gamers can now use the Xbox One controller to play games on their computer. If a game supports a USB gamepad or the Xbox 360 controller, it will also support the Xbox One controller.'
Jabrwock (985861) writes 'One of the biggest limitations on lithium battery-powered electric cars has been their range. Last year Israeli-based Phinergy introduced an "aluminum-air" battery. Today, partnering with Alcoa Canada, they announced a demo of the battery, which is charged up at Alcoa's aluminum smelter in Quebec. The plant uses hydro-electric power to charge up the battery, which would then need a tap-water refill every few months, and a swap (ideally at a local dealership) every 3,000km, since it cannot be recharged as simply as Lithium. The battery is meant to boost the range of standard electric cars, which would still use the Lithium batteries for short-range trips. The battery would add about 100 kg to an existing Tesla car's battery weight.'
Nerval's Lobster writes: 'Following up on news that ActiveLink is building heavy-duty exoskeletons for work in nuclear plants, IEEE Spectrum reports that MIT researchers are experimenting with Supernumerary Robotic Limbs (SRLs) that attach to either the shoulder or waist. The SRLs are capable of lifting objects and bracing against solid surfaces. From the article: "The SRL watches what you're doing with your arms to decide how to move. It does that by monitoring two inertial measurement units (IMUs) that the user wears on the wrists. A third IMU sits at the base of the robot's shoulder mount, to track the overall orientation and motion of the SRL." In the future, we will all have the ability to become Doctor Octopus (minus two robo-limbs, of course).'
The Fuel 3-D website has a blurb that says, "The world’s first handheld point-and-shoot, full color 3D scanner. Our planned list price is $1500 but by placing your advanced order now you pay only $1,250. Fire up your creativity!" We've thought about getting a 3-D scanner ever since we first messed with a 3-D printer, but we've thought more about something in the sub-$300 price range than in $1000+ territory. But that's just us. There is no doubt a healthy market for 3-D scanners to use in commercial applications where $1250 (or even $1500) is hardly worth noticing. Ah, well. Maybe we need to look at the The DAVID website which describes their device as an "Incredibly Low-Cost 3D Scanner for Everyone!" Their 3-D starter kit is only $529 from a randomly-selected U.S. reseller, which isn't too bad compared to the alternatives. But waiting for prices in this market niche to come down is another possibility, and it's one a whole lot of individuals -- including us -- and smaller companies will probably choose. (Alternate Video Link)
Hallie Siegel writes: "The European Commission and 180 companies and research organizations (under the umbrella of euRobotics) have launched the world's largest civilian research and innovation program in robotics. Covering manufacturing, agriculture, health, transport, civil security and households, the initiative – called SPARC – is the E.U.'s industrial policy effort to strengthen Europe's position in the global robotics market (€60 billion a year by 2020). This initiative is expected to create over 240,000 jobs in Europe, and increase Europe's share of the global market to 42% (a boost of €4 billion per year). The European Commission will invest €700 million and euRobotics will invest €2.1 billion."
This is something that caught Tim Lord's eye as he cruised the 2014 Bay Area Maker Faire: A 360 4K-resolution video camera. It's not out yet for retail sale, but if you look at the Centrcam website you can see a number of videos their cameras have shot, including some high-motion ones that they say, truthfully, are excellent to watch full-screen. The people who came up with this aren't college students who have never done any professional design work. Rather, they're "the same team that engineered and built the Apple iPhone cameras." So it's no wonder they have made something pretty cool that has already been used to make videos for Fox Sports, National Geographic, and the U.S. Army, among others. Their Kickstarter blurb is pretty cool, too. It is one of the most detailed ones we've ever seen. It's sad that they only got $607,628 of their $900,000 funding goal, considering all the work they've put into their product, along with the great presentation. They didn't know this would happen at the time this video was shot at the Maker Faire; their Kickstarter time window didn't close until four days ago. But there are other ways to fund a startup, and we hope they manage find one -- because we would eventually like to get our hands on one of their cameras and test it for ourselves, possibly with a little help from some of the Bradenton Riverwalk Skatepark regulars. (Alternate Video Link)
MojoKid (1002251) writes "Last year, Intel launched two new processor families based on the Haswell and Ivy Bridge-E based Core i7 architecture. Both chips were just incremental updates over their predecessors. Haswell may have delivered impressive gains in mobile, but it failed to impress on the desktop where it was only slightly faster than the chip it replaced. Enthusiasts weren't terribly excited about either core but Intel is hoping its new Devil's Canyon CPU, which launches today, will change that. The new chip is the Core i7-4790K and it packs several new features that should appeal to the enthusiast and overclocking markets. First, Intel has changed the thermal interface material from the paste it used in the last generation over to a new Next Generation Polymer Thermal Interface Material, or as Intel calls it, "NGPTIM." Moving Haswell's voltage regulator on-die proved to be a significant problem for overclockers since it caused dramatic heat buildup that was only exacerbated by higher clock speeds. Overclockers reported that removing Haswell's lid could boost clock speeds by several hundred MHz. The other tweak to the Haswell core is a great many additional capacitors, which have been integrated to smooth power delivery at higher currents. This new chip gives Haswell a nice lift. If the overclocking headroom delivers on top of that, enthusiasts might be able to hit 4.7-4.8GHz on standard cooling."
An anonymous reader writes "The last time we saw Valve's prototype VR headset, which they said was built to the spec that could be found in a consumer product by 2015, it was a using an 'inside-out' tracking approach where a camera mounted on the VR headset tracked markers placed all over the walls and ceiling of the demo room. This week, at a VR meetup in Boston, Valve had a new prototype to show, featuring an 'outside-in' tracking approaching where a single camera trackings IR-LEDs built into the case of the VR headset, much like the forthcoming Oculus Rift DK2. Valve's latest prototype is thought to be using two 1080p displays in portrait orientation, compared to a single 1080p display in the Oculus Rift DK2."
MojoKid (1002251) writes "Crucial has been on a tear as of late. In the last few weeks alone, the company has released a couple of new series of solid state drives, one targeting the enthusiast segment (the M550) and the other targeting data centers (the M500DC). Today, Crucial is at it again with the launch of the brand new MX100 series. The Crucial MX100 series of solid state drives is somewhat similar to the M550 in that they both use the same Marvell controller. The MX100, however, is outfitted with more affordable 16nm NAND flash, and as such, the drives are priced aggressively at about .43 per GiB. However, these MX100 series of drives are still rated for 550MB/s sequential reads with 500MB/s (512GB), 330MB/s (256GB), or 150MB/s (128GB) and random read and write IOPS of 90K – 80K and 85K – 40K, respectively. The drives carry a 3-year warranty and are rated for 72TB total bytes written (TBW), which equates to 40GB written per day for 5 years. Performance-wise, these new lower cost SSDs, are on par with some of the fastest SSDs currently on the market but starting at $79.99 for the 128GB drive, they're relatively rather cheap."
An anonymous reader writes "Nick Pitton, the developer behind the Spirited Away Boiler Room VR experience, has released his second project: the bus stop scene from Studio Ghibli's famous movie My Neighbor Totoro, once again in virtual reality for the Oculus Rift. Pittom 'hand-painted' the textures in Photoshop to recreated the painted-background feel of the movie. For the characters (Totoro and the Catbus) he used a cel-shaded approached to approximate the animated look from the movie. For his next project, he plans to recreate the ship and characters from the acclaimed anime Cowboy Bebop."
TechCrunch is among the many outlets which carry news (based on a release from MIT professor Daniela Rus) of robots that take advantage of materials engineered to change shape with the application of heat. With carefully planned creases and slits "printed" into flat sheets of plastic, heat-induced deformation can be channeled to create complex three-dimentional shapes, something between origami and Shrinky-Dinks. The creases can also be used to create moving parts in the finished product, and -- as with papercraft -- folding, overlapping and other techniques can increase the stiffness or otherwise give useful properties to the robot bodies formed. From the article: "This project could also produce a variable resistor by opening or closing an electric component and even create metallic muscles that contract when heated or current is applied. It’s obviously still in very early stages right now but Rus and her team will exhibit the technology at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation this year and maybe, one day, our cake-like robotic servants will rise up and bake us."
New submitter janvlug (3677453) writes "[As of Saturday, May 31], the OpenPandora case and hardware design files have been released for non-commercial use. The OpenPandora is a hand held Linux computer with gaming controls, but essentially it is an all-purpose computer. The OpenPandora offers the greatest possible degree of software freedom to a vibrant community of users and developers."
SlappingOysters (1344355) writes "Grab It is reporting that Apple will stream its 2014 WWDC keynote live at 10am PST on June 2. The site speculates that a recent update to showcase title and previous keynote star Real Racing 3 could confirm a rumoured microconsole announcement. The App Store has seen a dramatic rise in the quality and frequency of AAA spin-off titles over the last year, giving Apple a good platform to make a move into this emerging space."
Tekla Perry (3034735) writes "Former Sun executives and employees gathered in Mountain View, Calif., in May, and out came the 'real' stories. Andy Bechtolsheim reports that Steve Jobs wasn't the only one who set out to copy the Xerox Parc Alto; John Gage wonders why so many smart engineers couldn't figure out that it would have been better to buy tables instead of kneepads for the folks doing computer assembly; Vinod Khosla recalls the plan to 'rip-off Sun technology,' and more."
An anonymous reader writes "After only one year in operation, Google's Moto X factory in Fort Worth, TX, is scheduled to close at the end of 2014. The decision to close apparently has nothing to do with Google's decision to sell Motorola Mobility to Lenovo and everything to do with poor sales numbers and high labor and shipping costs in the U.S. The factory had, at one point, employed 3,800 people. Their ranks now number at about 700. Moto E and Moto G, newer and cheaper iterations of Moto X, have sold in more profitable numbers overseas, so Google's original rationale of building phones nearer to the largest customer base to decrease time between assembly and delivery to end user will unsurprisingly force the closure of the U.S.-based factory and transfer labor overseas as well."
An anonymous reader writes "What got you into hacking? This is a question that Jennifer Steffen, IOActive CEO, often asks hackers she meets on conferences around the world. More often than not, the answer is movies: War Games, Hackers, The Matrix, and so on. But today, it is the real life hacking that is inspiring the movies of tomorrow. 'Hackers are doing epic stuff,' she says, and they are now inspiring movies and comics. So, what got you started? And what makes a good hacker today?"
Meet David. Tim Lord ran into him at the 2014 Maker Faire Bay Area. He didn't have a display, and he wasn't obviously trying to sell anything or promote a Kickstarter campaign. He was just walking around with a panel full of LEDs that he wears as a backpack while riding his bike, which beats the heck out of regular bike taillights, even the blinky flashy ones a lot of us have these days. So good on you, David. This is your three minutes of Slashdot fame -- and please note, people, that you can now fast-forward through any preroll ads longer than 30 seconds, so you won't get bombed with multi-minute ads to watch a three minute Slashdot video. (Alternate video link)
An anonymous reader writes "The SparkFun team took a tour of a factory in China that manufactures LEDs. They took lots of pictures showing the parts that go into the LEDs, the machines used to build them, and the people operating the machines. There's a surprising amount of manual labor involved with making LEDs. Quoting: 'As shipped on the paper sheets, the LED dies are too close together to manipulate. There is a mechanical machine ... that spreads the dies out and sticks them to a film of weak adhesive. This film is suspended above the lead frames ... Using a microscope, the worker manually aligns the die, and, with a pair of tweezers, pokes the die down into the lead frame. The adhesive in the lead frame wins (is more sticky), and the worker quickly moves to the next die. We were told they can align over 80 per minute or about 40,000 per day.'"
DeviceGuru writes: "An open-spec COM that runs OpenWRT Linux on a MIPS-based Ralink RT5350 SoC has won its Indiegogo funding. The $20, IoT-focused VoCore measures 25 x 25mm. How low can you go? Tiny computer-on-modules (COMs) for Internet of Things (IoT) applications are popping up everywhere, with recent, Linux-ready entries including Intel's Atom or Quark-based Edison, Ingenic's MIPS/Xburst-based Newton, Acme Systems's ARM9/SAM9G25 based Arrietta G25, and SolidRun's quad-core i.MX6-based MicroSOM. Now, an unnamed Chinese startup has raised over six times its $6,000 Indiegogo funding goal for what could be the smallest, cheapest Linux COM yet."
cartechboy writes: "Most automakers have made the jump from hydraulic power steering to electronic power steering to help conserve fuel. By using an electric motor instead of a hydraulic system, less energy is drawn from the engine. Many luxury automakers have also introduced adaptive steering with the electronic power steering systems, but now Ford is looking to bring this feature to the masses. Adaptive steering builds on the existing speed-sensitive function of the electronic power steering system by altering the steering ratio and effort based on driver inputs and settings. The system uses a precision-controlled actuator placed inside the steering wheel. It's an electric motor and gearing system that can essentially add or subtract from the driver's steering inputs. This will make the vehicle easier to maneuver at low speeds, and make a vehicle feel more stable at high speeds. The system (video) will be offered on certain Ford vehicles within the next 12 months."
An anonymous reader writes "After the HD revolution, display manufacturers rolled out gimmick after gimmick to try to recapture that burst of purchasing (3-D, curved displays, 'Smart' features, form factor tweaks, etc). Now, we're finally seeing an improvement that might actually be useful: 4K displays are starting to drop into a reasonable price range. Tech Report reviews a 28" model from Asus that runs $650. They say, 'Unlike almost every other 4K display on the market, the PB287Q is capable of treating that grid as a single, coherent surface. ... Running games at 4K requires tons of GPU horsepower, yet dual-tile displays don't support simple scaling. As a result, you can't drop back to obvious subset resolutions like 2560x1440 or 1920x1080 in order to keep frame rendering times low. ... And single-tile 4K at 30Hz stinks worse, especially for gaming. The PB287Q solves almost all of those problems.' They add that the monitor's firmware is not great, and while most options you want are available, they often require digging through menus to set up. The review ends up recommending the monitor, but notes that, more importantly, its capabilities signify 'the promise of better things coming soon.'"
jfruh (300774) writes "Amazon is pushing hard to be as ubiquitous in the world of cloud computing as it is in bookselling. The company's latest pitch is that even your highest-performing databases will run more efficiently on Amazon Web Services cloud servers than on your own hardware. Farming out your most important and potentially sensitive computing work to one of the most opaque tech companies out there: what could possibly go wrong?"
LoLobey (1932986) writes "Scott Adams has proposed a pyramid project to save the world via energy generation and tourism. Basically build giant pyramids, miles wide and high, in the desert to generate power via chimney effect and photo voltaics with added features for tourism (he's planning ahead for when robots take over all the work and we'll need something to do). He's had a few "Big Ideas" lately (canals, ice bergs, ion energy)."
Lucas123 (935744) writes "Currently, the hottest trend from TV manufacturers is to offer curved panels, but analysts say it's nothing more than a ploy to pander to consumers who want the latest, coolest-looking tech in their home. In the end, the TVs don't offer better picture quality. In fact, they offer a degraded view to anyone sitting off center. Samsung and LG claim that the curve provides a cinema-like experience by offering a more balanced and uniform view so that the edges of the set don't appear further away than the middle. Paul Gray, director of European TV Research for DisplaySearch, said those claims are nothing by pseudo-science. "Curved screens are a gimmick, much along the same lines as 3D TVs are," said Paul O'Donovan, Gartner's principal analyst for consumer electronics research."
Daniel_Stuckey (2647775) writes "The environmental benefits of streaming a movie (or downloading it) rather than purchasing a DVD are staggering, according to a new U.S. government study by researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. If all DVDs purchased in 2011 were streamed instead, the energy savings would have been enough to meet the electricity demands of roughly 200,000 households. It would have cut roughly 2 billion kilograms of carbon emissions. According to the study, published in Environmental Research Letters, even when you take into account cloud storage, data servers, the streaming device, streaming uses much less energy than purchasing a DVD. If, like me, you're thinking, 'who buys DVDs anymore, anyways?', the answer is 'a lot of people.'" The linked paper is all there, too — not just an abstract and a paywall.
New submitter stephendavion (2872091) writes "Scientists from the Institute for Flight System Dynamics at Technical University of Munich (TUM), Germany have demonstrated the feasibility of flying a brain-controlled aircraft. Led by professor Florian Holzapfel, the team is researching ways that brain-controlled flight works in the EU-funded project 'Brainflight'. TUM project head Tim Fricke said a long-term vision of the project is to make flying accessible to more people." So far, the tests are only simulator based, but promising.
sfcrazy (1542989) writes "Valve has announced that its Steam Machines won't be available in the market anytime in 2014. The company delayed the release due to ongoing work on the Steam Controller. Valve's Eric Hope explains on Steam Forums why the work on controller is causing the delay: 'We're now using wireless prototype controllers to conduct live playtests, with everyone from industry professionals to die-hard gamers to casual gamers. It's generating a ton of useful feedback, and it means we'll be able to make the controller a lot better. Of course, it's also keeping us pretty busy making all those improvements. Realistically, we're now looking at a release window of 2015, not 2014.'"
szotz (2505808) writes "There's a lot of skepticism swirling around NASA's plan to send humans to Mars in the 2030's, not to mention all those private missions. If we want to have sustainable (read: not bank-breaking) space exploration, the argument goes, there's no way we can do it the way we've been going to the moon and low-Earth orbit. We have to find a way to exploit space resources and cut down on the amount of stuff we need to launch from Earth. That's not a new idea. But this article in IEEE Spectrum suggests research on resource extraction and fabrication in low and zero gravity might actually be making progress...and that we could take these technologies quite far if we get our act together."
Bunnie Huang is both a hardware and software hacker, but that's greatly understating the case: renaissance man is more like it. Bunnie doesn't just tinker with one-off system modifications or console mods (though he's done that, too) -- he creates and repurposes at scale. (He's also an author, respected researcher with interesting thoughts on a wide range of topics, like how to think of the H1N1 flu from the point of view of a security researcher.) Bunnie's latest long-term project has been mentioned a few times on Slashdot: It's an open-source laptop computer that goes much farther than some other open-source hardware projects, and as a bonus includes an FPGA as well as a conventional -- but unusual -- processor. (Bunnie grants that there are still bits that aren't quite open source, but points out that we also don't have the software that runs the fabs; there's a point of diminishing returns.) A crowd funding campaign (via CrowdSupply) was successful enough to also fund several stretch goals, including a general purpose breakout board. I talked with Bunnie at the recent Bay Area Maker Faire. (Expect more from that show in coming weeks.) He walked us through the state of the hardware, and talked about some of the design decisions that go into making a computer that is of, by, and for hackers. (Alternate video link)
lpress (707742) writes "Amazon's Kindle is a good e-reader and they've sold around 40 million units, but it is far from perfect. It could be significantly improved with speech recognition for commands and text entry, a well-designed database for marginal notes and annotations, and integration with laptop and desktop computers. Google, Apple and Microsoft all have device design and manufacturing experience as well as stores that sell books and other written material. A Kindle-killing e-reader would be low-hanging fruit for Apple, Google or Microsoft — think of the competition if they each built one!" Handwriting as an input method would be nice too; a friend in college had one of the experimental Windows XP tablet PCs, and it was great for note taking and document annotation.
MojoKid writes: "NVIDIA recently announced that it would offer a free 24-hour test drive of NVIDIA GRID to anyone who wanted to see what the technology could do. It turns out to be pretty impressive. NVIDIA's GRID is a virtual GPU technology that allows for hardware acceleration in a virtual environment. It's designed to run in concert with products from Citrix, VMWare, and Microsoft, and to address some of the weaknesses of these applications. The problem with many conventional Virtual Desktop Interfaces (VDIs) is that they're often either too slow for advanced graphics work or unable to handle 3D workloads at all. Now, with GRID, NVIDIA is claiming that it can offer a vGPU passthrough solution that allows remote users to access a virtualized desktop environment built around a high-end CPU and GPU. The test systems the company is using for these 24-hour test drives all use a GRID K520. That's essentially two GK104 GPUs on a single PCB with 8GB of RAM. The TD program is still in beta, the deployment range is considerable, and the test drives themselves are configured for a 1366x768 display at 30 FPS and a maximum available bandwidth cap of 10Mbit."
A limitation of current (affordable) 3D printers is their use of open loop controllers and stepper motors which limits reliability (drove the motor too quickly and skipped a step? Your model is ruined) and precision (~300 steps per revolution). A new project, Servo Stock instead uses cheap RC Servomotors combined with Hall Effect sensors, using a closed-loop controller to precisely position the extruder. The Servo Stock is derived from the delta robot Reprap Rostock (which is pretty cool even with stepper motors). The sensors give a resolution of 4096 ticks per rotation, and the controller can currently position the motors to within +/-2 ticks. They've also simplified the printer electronics by driving as much as possible from the controlling computer using Bowler, a new communication protocol for machine control. The Servo Stock also includes sensors for the hot end, presumably to be used to control the filament feed rate and temperature. The hardware models are fully parametric, allowing reasonably straightforward scaling of the design. Source for the hardware, firmware, and software is available.
mdsolar (1045926) writes with news of nuclear plants across the U.S. dealing with the consequences of the failure of Yucca Mountain. From the article: "The steel and concrete containers used to store the waste on-site were envisioned as only a short-term solution when introduced in the 1980s. Now they are the subject of reviews by industry and government to determine how they might hold up — if needed — for decades or longer. With nowhere else to put its nuclear waste, the Millstone Power Station overlooking Long Island Sound is sealing it up in massive steel canisters on what used to be a parking lot. The storage pad, first built in 2005, was recently expanded to make room for seven times as many canisters filled with spent fuel. ... The government is pursuing a new plan for nuclear waste storage, hoping to break an impasse left by the collapse of a proposal for Nevada's Yucca Mountain. The Energy Department says it expects other states will compete for a repository ... But the plan faces hurdles including a need for new legislation that has stalled in Congress." There's always recycling or transmutation.
mdsolar (1045926) writes in with a story about how important buying the right kind of kitty litter can be. "In February, a 55-gallon drum of radioactive waste burst open inside America's only nuclear dump, in New Mexico. Now investigators believe the cause may have been a pet store purchase gone bad. 'It was the wrong kitty litter,' says James Conca, a geochemist in Richland, Wash., who has spent decades in the nuclear waste business. It turns out there's more to cat litter than you think. It can soak up urine, but it's just as good at absorbing radioactive material. 'It actually works well both in the home litter box as well as the radiochemistry laboratory,' says Conca, who is not directly involved in the current investigation. Cat litter has been used for years to dispose of nuclear waste. Dump it into a drum of sludge and it will stabilize volatile radioactive chemicals. The litter prevents it from reacting with the environment. And this is what contractors at Los Alamos National Laboratory were doing as they packed Cold War-era waste for shipment to the dump. But at some point, they decided to make a switch, from clay to organic. 'Now that might sound nice, you're trying to be green and all that, but the organic kitty litters are organic,' says Conca. Organic litter is made of plant material, which is full of chemical compounds that can react with the nuclear waste. 'They actually are just fuel, and so they're the wrong thing to add,' he says. Investigators now believe the litter and waste caused the drum to slowly heat up 'sort of like a slow burn charcoal briquette instead of an actual bomb.' After it arrived at the dump, it burst."
It wasn't long after the rise of the Oculus Rift that Sony hopped on the virtual reality bandwagon and announced a headset of their own. Now, Eurogamer has had a chance to operate and test Sony's hardware, which they say "has its own distinct vision for VR," as well as a distinct focus on console gaming. "On the 640x768 per eye first-gen Rift, the result was the perception of a disappointingly minuscule resolution, with a highly distracting "screen door" effect where you could see between the pixels. This is far less of an issue with Morpheus, and we were pleasantly surprised by how good image quality is in an environment where resolution remains at a premium. In discussing the situation with Sony, it's clear that some effort has gone into judging how to best apply the fisheye lens effect that distorts the image, with a stronger focus on retaining resolution in the key focus area. Over and above that, we wouldn't be surprised if the narrower field of view also contributes to improving image integrity. ... However, in comparing Morpheus to what we've seen from Oculus VR, it's perhaps surprising to discover that a truly transformative element of the proposition comes from a piece of hardware that you might already own: PlayStation Move. Our aspirations for the hardware were never fully realized, but the hook-up with Morpheus is a match made in heaven - in fact, if there is to be a struggle for market leadership with Oculus (and potentially Microsoft), the existing motion controller is undoubtedly one of the strongest weapons in Sony's arsenal."
Ars Technica reports that HP is back in the $100 tablet market, and this time with a tablet that's intended to be priced there instead of just a fire sale. The new offering lacks Bluetooth and GPS, among other features you might wish for in a tablet, and the screen is surrounded by a hefty bezel, but manages a pretty good list of features. Ars summarizes: "For $100, you can't expect much of the spec sheet. The HP 7 Plus has a 7-inch 1024x600 IPS display, a 1GHz quad-core Cortex A7 processor (made by a company called "Allwinner"), 1GB of RAM, 8GB of storage, 802.11 b/g/n, a microSD slot, and a 2800 mAh battery. The biggest downside HP could have fixed at this price point is the software: it's only running Android 4.2.2. Android versions are free, HP." Having an avaialble microSD slot beats some more expensive options, too.
TechCrunch's video introduction (not intended as a full review) to the recently introduced Microsoft Surface Pro 3 has mostly good things to say about the device. Reviewer Alex Wilhelm compares it to his MacBook Air, and though he's not sure that the Surface is a better fit for all-day typing than the 11" Air (slightly larger, slightly heavier than the Surface), he says the Surface does a good job of integrating input options (both finger and stylus input) that the Air -- and most laptops -- just don't have. The Washington Post's Hayley Tsukayama also compares the Surface to the Air, rather than to an Android or Apple tablet, writing, "It's heavy for a tablet, sure, but light for a laptop at 1.7 pounds. And while it doesn't have the array of ports that laptops do, you can make do with the two that it does have, a mini-display port that's good for presentations and a USB 3.0 that's good for, well, everything else. You will probably need a hub to get everything you want of this, though. (Or you could go to using Bluetooth accessories, which the Surface Pro 3 will also support.)" Ars Technica has an informative hands-on review as well, but one which parts from these by emphatically describing the Surface as a tablet, not a laptop; Ars reviewer Peter Bright gives high marks for many aspects of the design and materials, though he says his experience with the included pressure-sensitive pen was "problematic." (His initial sample pen had to be replaced, and even when it did work, it lacks tilt sensing.) Troubling for anyone who would prefer to use it as a laptop, Bright says the Surface 3 is better than its forebears but still an awkward fit for using on an actual lap, and that despite the improvements Microsoft's made it therefore isn't quite the system he's looking for.
Iddo Genuth (903542) writes "Forget about 4K displays, are Ultra Widescreen 'cinematic' displays the real deal? Earlier this year LG announced its new 34UM95 – a 34-inch Ultra Widescreen monitor with a cinematic 21:9 aspect ratio and a generous 3440 x1440 resolution — a recent hands-on review suggests that this monitor might be the new productivity king, for those who simply can't stand that annoying bezel between their multiple monitors. Linus Sebastian had a chance to play with the new LG 34UM95, and although he seems to start as a skeptic (after all, how really useful can a 21:9 display be right?) he ended up his review fully converted, with no going back. We still think that pro graphic users will not rush to switch over their EIZOs and NECs for this baby, but video editors, gamers, programmers and basically anybody who loves multitasking, might be very tempted — what do you think?"
According to The Wall Street Journal, Google may be planning to commoditze 3-D scanning by building the tech of its Project Tango project (essentially, thus far, a phone-sized handheld with 3-D sensing capabilities) into tablets. The Register speculates: "Given that Google has already announced the Project Tango smartphone, it seems likely that it would extend the technology to tablets, and the seven-inch form factor would tie in nicely with the existing Nexus 7 design. ...Google is hoping that developers can build applications to use the scanning capabilities of the Tango hardware. Suggested topics include providing guides for visually impaired people, building gaming maps based on actual rooms, and possibly augmenting Google Maps with interior details – Street View becoming Home View perhaps?" Setting aside what brand it might bear, how would you employ a portable 3-D scanner?
mrspoonsi (2955715) writes "A breakthrough has been made in SSD technology that could mean drastic performance increases due to the overcoming of one of the major issues in the memory type. Currently, data cannot be directly overwritten onto the NAND chips used in the devices. Files must be written to a clean area of the drive whilst the old area is formatted. This eventually causes fragmented data and lowers the drive's life and performance over time. However, a Japanese team at Chuo University have finally overcome the issue that is as old as the technology itself. Officially unveiled at the 2014 IEEE International Memory Workshop in Taipei, the researchers have written a brand new middleware for the drives that controls how the data is written to and stored on the device. Their new version utilizes what they call a 'logical block address scrambler' which effectively prevents data being written to a new 'page' on the device unless it is absolutely required. Instead, it is placed in a block to be erased and consolidated in the next sweep. This means significantly less behind-the-scenes file copying that results in increased performance from idle."
MojoKid (1002251) writes "The PC market is changing rapidly as tablets supplant some laptops, new players such as the Chromebook disrupt the old WIntel model, and innovations in processors and graphics allow for ever-smaller PCs such as Intel's NUC (Next Unit of Computing) PC. Gigabyte recently introduced a rather unique product that combines the tiny 4.5-inch square form factor of Intel's NUC PC platform together with a mini DLP projector. The Gigabyte Brix Projector measures 4.24 x 4.5 x 1.93 inches (WxLxD) but manages to fit in an Intel Core i3-4010U (1.7GHz) processor with built-in Intel HD 4400 graphics and support for up to 16GB of 1600MHz RAM. Finally, an mSATA slot inside the chassis also supports up to a 256GB SSD. The system's DLP (LED backlight) projector itself offers a resolution of 864x480 with an aspect ratio of 16:9 and a purported image size of 7 to 85 inches. It promises 75 ANSI lumen brightness, a contrast ratio of around 900:1, and 3LED (RGB) technology. It's not an HD setup but the potential use cases are interesting. A follow-on version capable of 1080p output would be even more useful for gaming and HD video."
cartechboy writes: "Automakers are scrambling to increase vehicle fuel economy every year as regulations increase, so when an automaker finds a way to possibly increase fuel economy by 10 percent with one new part, that gets some attention. Today that automaker is Toyota, and the part is a new semiconductor. Toyota's power control units (PCU) in its hybrids use semiconductors to govern the flow of electricity between the battery and the electric motor. Unfortunately, they're also an electrically restrictive component. Toyota says the PCU accounts for a quarter of the total electrical power losses in a hybrid drive system, and semiconductors alone make up a full fifth of the total. Reduce electrical losses through a semiconductor, and you can make your hybrid system (and therefore your car) more efficient. Toyota has done this, in theory at least, using a new silicon carbide material for its semiconductors, rather than a standard silicon unit. The future could be shaped by individual parts, and this new semiconductor tech is one piece of that puzzle."
An anonymous reader writes "Engadget reports that Samsung is working on virtual reality technology to compete with the Oculus Rift. Their work is fairly far along, and it's expected to be announced this year. It's being built to function in tandem with Samsung's flagship mobile devices, most likely their upcoming Galaxy phones and tablets. From the article: 'We're told it has an OLED screen, as good or better than in the second Rift dev kit; it's not clear how the headset connects to your phone/tablet, but we're guessing it's a wired connection rather than wireless. ...This is a device meant for use with games. What type of games? Android games! Sure, but which ones? That's certainly the question. Great games make the platform, and VR games are especially tough to crack given the newness of the medium. One thing's for sure: most major games won't work on VR as direct ports.' The report also suggests Samsung is targeting a lower price point than its competitors. True or not, it will hopefully help drive down prices for all upcoming VR tech." Meanwhile, DARPA is experimenting with the Oculus Rift for cyberwar visualization.
mdsolar writes: "[Former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke said] Australia bore a responsibility to assist with the safe disposal of radioactive waste, given the ample space the country possesses. 'If Australia has – as we do – the safest remote locations for storing the world's nuclear waste, we have a responsibility to make those sites available for this purpose,' he said. Hawke based this conclusion on a 25-year-old report made by Ralph Slayter, whom the former prime minister appointed as Australia's first chief scientist back in 1989. According to Slayter's report, some of the remote reaches of the Northern Territory and Western Australia could provide apt dumping grounds for radioactive waste."
When I bumped into Abram Thau at Metrix Createspace in Seattle's Capitol Hill, he showed me a few printed figurines, including a Storm Trooper (of the Star Wars variety), and I thought at first that he had printed them as duplicates of similar-sized commercial products. Not so: It turns out these are made-from-life, specifically from cos-players who have stood on Abram's human-suitable turntable (powered by a chicken rotisserie motor hooked to a 3-D printed pulley) while he scanned them in. Thau's apartment is practically shouting distance from Metrix, but that pulley was made on a large Deltabot filament printer in the corner of his living room. (A living room usefully cluttered with tools, bottles of resin, projectors in various states of repair, and more printed objects.) More interesting still, Thau's figurines are produced with a home-built resin printer. Resin is messier to work with than the filament feedstock of RepRap/Makerbot style printers (and the resin itself has a slight odor), but it allows different results. Overhanging pieces are possible without requiring elaborate support pieces built into the mesh, and the resulting product can be noticeably smoother than typical filament printing, though all 3-D printing techniques are getting better. Thau didn't buy one of the commercially available resin printers, though (like FormLabs's), but instead decided to build his own out of scavenged and off-the-shelf components. Budget concerns and improvisation rule the day (Thau is also a grad student, studying to be a middle school teacher): That means there's a book holding up the projector which is vital to curing the resin, and the printer's case is recycled from a previous one. The results look as good as the affordable commercial ones I've seen, and he's excited to teach others to make their own. Third-party resin makers and a robust market in used projectors mean that other hobbyists can follow his lead and turn their friends into figurines. (Alternate video link)
AmiMoJo writes: "A Japanese court has ordered the operator of the Ohi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture, central Japan, not to restart two of its reactors, citing inadequate safety measures. The plant's No. 3 and 4 reactors were halted for regular inspections last September. Local residents filed a lawsuit asking that the reactors be kept offline. They said an estimate of possible tremors is too small, and that the reactors lack backup cooling systems. The operator, Kansai Electric Power Company, has insisted that no safety problems exist."
First time accepted submitter steam_cannon (1881500) writes "The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA.gov) is planning to release a major 96% reserve downgrade to the amount of oil and gas recoverable from the Monterey Shale formation, one of the largest oil/gas reserves in the United States. After several years of intensified exploration the Monterey oil shale play seems to have much less recoverable oil and gas then previously hoped. This is due to multiple factors such as the more complex rippled geology of the shale and over-hyped recovery estimates by investors. By official estimates the Monterey Shale formation makes up 2/3 of the shale reserves in the US and by some estimates 1/3 of all crude reserves in the US. Not a drop in the bucket. Next Month the EIA.gov will be announcing cutting it's estimates for Monterey by 96%. That's a huge blow to the US energy portfolio, trillions of dollars, oil and gas the US might have used for itself or exported. Presently the White House is evaluating making changes to US oil export restrictions so this downgrade may result in changes to US energy policy. As well as have a significant impact on US economy and the economy of California."
bauhausinteraction writes "A team from the Bauhaus-University and Native Instruments Developers built and programmed a fully functional interactive Lego Sequencer / Tangible Groove Machine that sends control data to the Maschine drum sequencer to make music. The thing was built within 24 hours as an unofficial weekend collaboration between bauhausinteraction and NI at the MidiHack 2014 in Stockholm. A standard webcam is mounted underneath the baseplate. The image is processed by a Python Script using the OpenCV Library to track the bricks. The tricky bit was to not track the user's hand, but we succeeded at that as well.
The information about brick color, position, and orientation is derived from the image and then converted into OpenSoundControl (OSC) messages. Those are sent over a network connection to a computer running Native Instruments Maschine to play back the sounds. Of course, this would work with other sound generators as well, since the whole thing simply spits out OSC-Messages and MIDI — but hey: if the guys from Native are there, you'd better use their Maschine stuff. Being real Masterbuilders, of course we used only unmodified, standard Lego Parts and no Kragle* for the construction. (*see the Lego Movie for reference.)"
Science_afficionado (932920) writes "A new type of supercapacitor that can hold a charge when it takes a lickin' has been developed by engineers at Vanderbilt University. It is the first 'multi-functional' energy storage device that can operate while subject to realistic static and dynamic loads — advancing the day when everything from cell phones to electric vehicles will no longer need separate batteries. These devices could make it possible to design electrical devices that are not limited by plugs and external power sources."