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Interactive exhibit honors women in game development

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There’s a new interactive video game exhibit at The Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment (MADE) in California, and it’s not showing off just any game-related material. No, it’s putting a spotlight on the accomplishments female game developers — eight women who worked on influential titles, in particular. Those include Roberta Williams (King’s Quest), Yoko Shimomura (Street Fighter III) and Kim Swift (Portal). According to the museum’s announcement, the exhibit aims to raise awareness about women’s contributions to the industry, as they can be easy to overlook in a male-dominated field. “Women are not some oddity in the video game industry,” MADE founder Alex Handy told Kill Screen. “We hope this exhibit helps to highlight that fact for the next generation of game developers.” The exhibit has been open since the 12th and will run throughout the summer.

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Via: Kill Screen

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Rockstar owner sues the BBC over upcoming GTA drama

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When the BBC announced that it was making a docudrama about Rockstar Games and the Grand Theft Auto franchise, we assumed it had the blessing of the games’ creators. Not so. As IGN reports, Rockstar Games, via its publisher Take-Two Interactive, has filed a lawsuit against the British broadcaster over trademark infringement. In a statement, the company says Rockstar Games “has had no involvement” with the project and that it’s attempted “multiple times” to resolve the matter with the BBC. The show is being developed under the working title “Game Changer,” and it’s safe to assume Rockstar, its pivotal employees and the franchise itself would be named in the show. Daniel Radcliffe has already been cast as Rockstar co-founder Sam Houser, alongside Bill Paxton as Jack Thompson, a former attorney that famously campaigned against the game franchise. If the one-off TV drama is to go ahead as planned, it’s vital that the BBC settles this legal dispute quickly.

Filed under: Gaming, Home Entertainment

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If 'Rock Band' is Coachella, 'Loud on Planet X' is CBGB

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Loud on Planet X is the ultimate independent artist’s dream: It’s an indie game all about indie bands. The actual gameplay is a blend of two familiar mechanics, a Plants vs. Zombies-style tower-defense system and a rhythm game reminiscent of Patapon that has players making sweet, sweet music while they fend off streams of hostile, blobby aliens. The coolest part for music fans is that Loud lets you play as the indie bands that it features, including Tegan and Sara, Metric, Lights, METZ, Fucked Up, July Talk, Austra and Cadence Weapon. Loud is still a work in progress, but all of the bands have been great to work with so far, Pop Sandbox studio head Alex Jansen says: “The musicians we’re working with have been really incredible and genuinely excited to be involved. A lot of them are big gamers too, especially someone like Lights.”

Regardless of how cool the band members are individually, there’s still a fair bit of red tape involved in creating Loud, Jansen says. “We need to license both master and publishing rights for each song, plus likeness agreements with the bands themselves (since you’re playing as the actual band and not just playing their music); there can be multiple parties involved and usually five contracts for each artist. But the artists themselves have been super supportive and helping push through a lot of the deals directly.”

The crew at Pop Sandbox is full of huge music fans, Jansen says, and some of them even had a hand in creating Sound Shapes, a glorious little music game featuring songs from Deadmau5 and Beck, among other artists. The first band to jump onboard for Loud was Fucked Up, a beacon of Toronto’s punk scene. Fucked Up’s Mike Haliechuk and Jonah Falco did the music for Pop Sandbox’s mobile game Pipe Trouble, and they’re crafting an original score for Loud, too.

“What we’ve been aiming for is a cross-section of both favorite established and emerging artists, with the hope that people will discover amazing new music through the game,” Jansen says.

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Pop Sandbox is based in Toronto and for Loud, it’s getting financial support from the Ontario Media Development Corporation, the Canadian government and FACTOR, a nonprofit dedicated to growing the independent Canadian music industry, Jansen explains. Still, in order to launch Loud on PlayStation 4, Vita, Steam, iOS and Android by the fall, the team needs a little more money. They’re trying their luck on Kickstarter, asking for CAD$50,000 by June 5th.

“Unfortunately we weren’t able to actually get in front of Sony in person until Indiecade East a couple months ago,” Jansen says when asked specifically about the potential of financial support from Sony. “They’ve been really supportive, but haven’t been able to come forward with actual financial help. We considered the possibility of an exclusive, but have opted to try and go for as many platforms as possible.”

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If the Kickstarter takes off, Pop Sandbox wants to add support for Wii U and Xbox One, as well. So far the developers have committed to nine in-game artists and 18 tracks, though they want to hit 12 artists total.

“We’ve definitely got targets in mind for the next slots and are in the middle of some pretty exciting talks, and we’re hoping to lock things down and make at least one more announcement over the course of the Kickstarter,” Jansen says. “We also want to keep some surprises for launch.”

[Image credits: Pop Sandbox]

Filed under: Gaming, HD

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Source: Engadget - Read the full article here

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Disney Research has a 3D printer that can sew bunnies for you

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3D printing has resulted in solid solutions like cartilages, organ replicas and even tortoise shells. But Disney Research now has a printer that can create soft, bendable objects – think 3D printing stuffed toys. The mechanics of the printer are similar to conventional machines that use plastics or metals, except this one works with fabric to create flexible and functional objects. Most additive 3D printers are designed to deposit materials in a specific spot, but fabric requires an alternative technique that imitates sewing or layering.

The researchers came up with a two-step printing process suited to fabric. First, a laser beam cuts through a sheet to create 2D shapes. The process retains the fabric surrounding the designated shape so it’s easier for the sheets to sit on top of each other in the next step. Every laser-cut sheet is then layered and fused together with a heat sensitive adhesive that’s commonly used in sewing. When printing is complete, the excess fabric is peeled off to reveal the object. For now, the researchers printed a bright red bunny prototype that demonstrates the cuddly possibilities and also a touch sensor with conductive materials that could join the next generation of interactive devices.

[Image credit: Disney Research]

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'Lego Dimensions' will include 'Portal', Doctor Who and Homer Simpson

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If the combined might of Batman and Gandalf wasn’t enough to intrigue you, how about throwing in a Timelord (with a Scottish accent)? More details of the Skylanders-baiting Lego Dimensions game have been gleaned from a building instruction sheet for its Back To The Future set, with a catalog of level packs (read: figures and accessories) we’re going to see alongside the game itself. As well as Doctor Who, expect to see a Portal 2 pack, as well as Jurassic World, The Simpsons and Scooby-Doo. You can also expect multiple figures from Lego’s own brick-based franchises like Ninjago as well more characters from Lord of the Rings — these will be part of “fun packs”, likely to cost less than the aforementioned full-blown level add-ons. And if it sounds like a lot, remember: we haven’t even seen the DC comics sets yet.

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Filed under: Gaming

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Via: Kotaku

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The USAF found and flattened an ISIL base because of selfies

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Sometimes ISIS makes the US Air Force’s job just too easy. According to Air Force Gen. Hawk Carlisle, a USAF intelligence team with the 361st ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) Group in Hurlburt Field, FL, uncovered a meaty piece of intel during their routine sweeps of the extremist group’s social media accounts. Apparently somebody had taken a selfie outside of an ISIL headquarters and posted it online. Guess what happened next.

As Gen. Carlisle explained to Defense Tech:

The guys that were working down out of Hurlburt, they’re combing through social media and they see some moron standing at this command. And in some social media, open forum, bragging about the command and control capabilities for Daesh, ISIL. And these guys go: ‘We got an in.’ So they do some work, long story short, about 22 hours later through that very building, three JDAMs [Joint Direct Attack Munitions] take that entire building out.

The USAF hasn’t released many other details and is specifically keeping the location of the former HQ under wraps. Still, bottom line, don’t post pictures of your secret base in public forums because someone with airstrike capabilities could be reading.

[Image Credit: AFP/Getty Images]

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New coloring technique creates perfect spots on 3D-printed cat

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Hydrographic printing looks like a magic trick. You print a pattern on a see-through film, place that sheet on a tub of water and spray it with a chemical potion. When you immerse a bland 3D object in the tub, it bonds with the film and comes back out covered in chosen colors. This technique is hugely popular for transferring patterns on simple surfaces. But, the system lacks precision. Complex textures that are now common with 3D printers, stretch the film, and sometimes even tear it. The final pattern is often distorted. According to Wired, a group of researchers from Zheijiang University and Columbia University have devised a quirky dip-kit that adds computational capabilities to conventional hydrographics.

The team created a new apparatus with off-the-shelf hardware: a couple of aluminum rods and tripods. The twist in their technique is a 3D vision system, a Microsoft Kinect, that maps the location of the object before immersion. It gives them the ability to virtually simulate the distortion so they can use that calculation to print a precise image. In their demo video, when one of the rods slowly and consistently dips the object into the tub, the film in the water wraps around it and aligns perfectly. This method accounts for complex textures so you can immerse the object multiples times at different angles for life-like replicas.

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Jupiter's moon Europa might be coated in irradiated sea salt

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Astronomers have spent more than a decade trying to identify the dark substance erupting from geological features on the surface of Europa. Now, a team of researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab believe they’ve identified the mystery material as sea salt. You know, from the ocean that NASA suspects is hiding under Europa’s icy surface. The team, led by planetary scientist Kevin Hand, began its investigation by building a testing device that recreates the extreme conditions found on the gas giant’s moon. “We call it our ‘Europa in a can,‘” Hand said in a statement. “The spectra of these materials can then be compared to those collected by spacecraft and telescopes.”

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With it, the team subjected samples of common table salt (sodium chloride) to negative 280 degree Fahrenheit temperatures, intense radiation and near-vacuum conditions. After just a few hours, the previously white salt began to darken (as you can see above). Interestingly, the longer the team left samples in the device, the darker the samples became. When Hand’s team inspected the salt samples, they found the chemical compound’s spectra bore a striking resemblance to data gathered during previous studies by the Galileo spacecraft. “This work tells us the chemical signature of radiation-baked sodium chloride is a compelling match to spacecraft data for Europa’s mystery material,” Hand said. Unfortunately, Earth-based telescopes lack the resolution needed to corroborate the team’s findings so NASA will have to wait for a future mission to Jupiter to confirm these results.

[Image Credit: NASA Jet Propulsion Lab]

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Some Canon Rebel T6s and T6i cameras have defective sensors

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Canon has acknowledged that a number of Rebel T6s and T6i DSLRs, which were introduced in February, are being affected by a major issue with the sensor. This matter came to light a few days ago, when LensRentals, a site focused on lending gear for cash, found some of its rental units had what appeared to be dusty or oily sensors. As it turns out, though, a more meticulous inspection by the firm revealed a much bigger problem. The sensors couldn’t be cleaned because these microscopic spots (pictured below) couldn’t be removed with a simple, traditional cleaning — they’re underneath a layer of glass, making them virtually permanent.

The following phenomenon may occur due to irregularities on an optical layer located in front of the image sensor:

White spots may exist on the optical layer which may result in the appearance of dark circular patterns on the captured image under certain shooting conditions.

— Canon

Since the problem is indeed serious, Canon’s published a product advisory to help those of you who own a T6s or T6i find out if your camera is affected. What’s more, the company says any potentially defective units are going to be inspected and, if need be, repaired at no cost to people. Canon didn’t mention whether there’s a plan to recall the flawed models, but did say more details will be shared as soon as possible. “At this time, we offer our apologies to any customer who might have been inconvenienced. We are actively looking into solutions to fix any issues related to this advisory,” a Canon spokesperson told Engadget.

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An affected Canon Rebel T6s sensor. Image credit: LensRentals.com

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Smart pedals will track your stolen bike for $149

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Back when we saw Connected Cycle’s smart bike pedals at CES in January we were pretty impressed by its plan to track activity and location; now you have a chance to get in on the action. The outfit’s smart pedals recently hit crowdfunding site IndieGoGo where the campaign has already hit 171 percent of its funding goal. Since we last saw them, the duration limit on included data plans has been lifted for backers and CC is working on design modifications so the pedals accommodate “standardized” foot straps.

The discounted early-bird backer levels are already gone of course, so if you want a pair of the anti-theft and activity tracking pedals they’ll run you $149. As the campaign page tells it, that’s still a $71 savings over retail. As it stands, they’re probably a little overkill if you’re riding a Huffy from Kmart but anyone who’s dropped serious coin on something along the lines of a Cannondale or Fuji probably can’t put a price on peace of mind.

Connected Cycle Pedals – Indiegogo Campaign Film from Christian Kravanja on Vimeo.

Filed under: Transportation, Software, Mobile

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Mattel hopes you'll design 3D-printed toys

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Admit it: when you were a kid, you wished that you could design the toys that the stuffy manufacturers refused to build. Well, you’re about to get that chance. Mattel and Autodesk are teaming up to let you design and customize 3D-printed toys through a “dedicated online hub” in the second half of the year. It’s not clear just what freedom you’ll have, although it wouldn’t be shocking if you could craft your own Hot Wheels cars or Barbie accessories. They’re likely to carry a premium over off-the-shelf toys, but they could be worth it if they encourage kids to create toys, not just play with them — and hopefully, prevent the disappointment you probably felt when you were growing up.

[Image credit: Timm Schamberger/Getty Images]

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Via: 3DPrint.com

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MakerBot lays off one-fifth of its workforce

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MakerBot is perhaps the most well-known consumer 3D printer on the market, having sold tens of thousands of Replicators since its start in 2009. It’s a large part of why Stratasys, an industrial 3D printer and manufacturer, decided to acquire MakerBot in 2013. Two years after that merger, however, things don’t seem quite so rosy. Motherboard has learned that MakerBot has apparently laid off roughly 20 percent of its staff — which is around a hundred people — as part of a recent consolidation effort by parent company Stratasys. An employee told the outlet that the company is trying to eliminate duplicate positions and streamline operations as a whole.

The edict reportedly came from new CEO Jonathan Jaglom, who took over the position last month. Former CEO and MakerBot founder Bre Pettis left the role to join Stratasys late last year, as did interim CEO Jenny Lawton a few months later. Mass layoffs at the most successful consumer 3D printing company probably don’t paint a positive picture on the market for consumer 3D printers as a whole, but it remains to be seen if this restructuring will be beneficial or detrimental to the organization.

[Image credit: Getty Images]

Filed under: Misc

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V-Moda's 3D-printed headphones can cost you up to $40,000

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From clothing to food, 3D-printed consumer goods are still a hit or miss at this point. Even so, that hasn’t stopped companies from trying to feature this novelty in their products. The latest to do so is audio gear manufacturer V-Moda, which has revealed its plans to use new components for customization purposes. Starting today, V-Moda will let users personalize its XS and Crossfade M-100 headphones with 3D-printed shields made of different materials, such as fiber, stainless steel, sterling silver, solid 14 karat gold and platinum.

Don’t let that $40,000 price tag mentioned above scare you, though, as that’s only for the platinum; the 3D-printed fiber and stainless steel parts are expected to be sold for $40 and $100, respectively, depending on the style of your headphones. V-Moda says it’ll be making the program more robust in the future, so you can expect additional color and material options to be available in the future.

Filed under: Misc, Peripherals, Portable Audio/Video

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Canada greenlights an anti-terror law that hurts internet privacy

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The US government might be curbing its surveillance activities, but just the opposite is happening north of the border. Canada’s Senate has passed the heavily disputed Bill C-51 into law, granting spy agencies (like the Canadian Security Intelligence Service) greater powers to violate digital privacy in the name of fighting terrorism. The move lets government branches swap sensitive data like tax filings, and gives spies the permission to load intrusive malware on suspects’ devices. It also raises the possibility of searching devices at the border to find “terrorist propaganda,” and should allow disruptive tactics like taking down websites. Moreover, there are worries that some online discussions wishing harm against Canada and its allies might be deemed illegal.

Some of the strategies greenlit here aren’t new — just ask the US’ National Security Agency. However, there’s a concern that C-51’s vague definitions of national security risks let the Canadian government snoop on people who are merely challenging authority, such as activists and religious leaders, rather than limiting the scope to extremists. Not surprisingly, the attempts at criminalizing certain kinds of discussion could easily tread on the country’s free speech rights.

The Senate move doesn’t mean that the law is set in stone. Two political parties (the NDP and Green Party) have promised to repeal C-51 if they can, and a third (the Liberal Party) is at least open to amendments. Those aren’t idle threats, either. There’s a federal election coming up in the fall, and even supporters of the ruling Conservative Party believe C-51 could be unpopular enough to usher in a change of leadership that either softens key measures or kills the law outright. In other words, the battle isn’t over yet.

[Image credit: The author, Flickr]

[Thanks, Kristy]

Filed under: Internet

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Fove headset uses eye-tracking to make VR more real

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If you’ve shoved one VR headset on your face, you’ve pretty much shoved them all on your face. They all immerse you in a 3D world with a device that tracks your head movement so you can look around. The Fove on the other hand, does more than just track your noggin, it also tracks your eyes and recreates how you see the real world while reducing strain on the system running the simulation. The company’s slick Kickstarter video promises an impressive experience and even in its early stage, it delivers.

After an initial calibration that required me to follow and focus on a green dot, I was dropped into a game where I was tasked with shooting triangle-shaped objects from a spaceship. The first few moments of the game seemed like every other VR demo I’ve experienced. I did note that the graphics and latency are impressive for a $399 headset. Then I focused on an object sitting in the foreground (a radar ball sitting in the cockpit of the spacecraft) and realized that the depth of field had changed based upon my gaze. The game itself was nothing special, but the eye tracking had created a more realistic experience.

We don’t see the world in the infinite focus that VR headsets (or video games in general for that matter) present. Instead our eyes dart between objects in the foreground and background and our depth of field changes accordingly. While it takes a moment to register that the Fove is doing this, once I realized what was happening, I stopped playing and stared starring. The eye tracking and refocusing wasn’t instantaneous, but it was pretty close.

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It does this by tracking your pupils. It’s still in the early stages and there are still issues with it being fooled by mascara and eyeliner. The algorithm sees the dark area (usually your pupil) of the makeup and adjusts itself accordingly. Fove told Engadget that a future version of the algorithm will only look for things that are dark and round.

This future also has a one year lead time before Kickstarter backers receive their Fove. Of course with all things crowd-funded, there’s always a good chance that the ship date will slip and a larger, better-funded company could develop its own eye tracking piece of hardware. But for now, Fove is looking good by watching where you’re looking.

Filed under: Gaming, Peripherals, Wearables

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Hackers deface Tesla's website and Twitter accounts

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It’s all too common to see ne’er-do-wells compromising a website or a social network account, but Tesla just got hit with a triple whammy. At least one group has hijacked not just the electric car maker’s website and its Twitter account, but also founder Elon Musk’s account. Both social services were quickly back in running order, but the site is going up and down as of this writing. The attackers appear to be attention-seeking pranksters (they offered a “free Tesla” to anyone calling a PC repair shop, for example) rather than sinister agents. Still, something tells us that the company isn’t quite so amused — we’ve reached out for its take on the situation, and we’ll let you know if it has more to add.

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SpaceX rocket launched successfully, landed 'too hard for survival'

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Today SpaceX successfully launched its latest mission to the International Space Station, but couldn’t reach its goal of safely landing the rocket’s first stage on a barge. According to CEO Elon Musk, while the ascent was successful, the “Rocket landed on droneship, but too hard for survival.” There’s no video of the landing attempt yet, but hopefully soon we’ll be able to see how close it came. This outcome isn’t entirely unexpected either, as Musk tweeted yesterday that the chance of a successful landing by the end of the year stands at 80 percent only because the company has so many launches planned.

Ascent successful. Dragon enroute to Space Station. Rocket landed on droneship, but too hard for survival.

– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 14, 2015

#Dragon‘s solar arrays have deployed, spacecraft now safely on its way to the space station.

– SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 14, 2015

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Inhabitat's Week in Green: fish domes and 3D-printed bridges

Each week our friends at Inhabitat recap the week’s most interesting green developments and clean tech news for us — it’s the Week in Green.

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We’ve seen 3D-printed clothing, cars and houses — and now Amsterdam is building an entire bridge from 3D-printed steel! Designed by MX3D and Joris Laarman, the revolutionary pedestrian bridge will be constructed by multi-axis industrial robots. In other architecture news, Dubai has given the green light for a fleet of floating luxury islands to be built in The World archipelago. One World Trade Center opened late last year — and now it looks like New York City’s tallest building is about to get a new neighbor. Last week, Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) unveiled a set of architectural renderings for Two World Trade Center, a 1,340-foot tower that will consist of a series of stacked boxes.

Students don’t require much when it comes to housing — a place to rest their heads and a little room to stash books and clothes. With that in mind, CannonDesign’s Yazdani Studio designed a tiny prefab sleeping pod for students. The entire unit measures just 55 square feet. If you need a little more space to stretch your legs, the French company Domespace has designed a gorgeous dome house that looks like a spaceship from the outside. The entire home can rotate with the press of a button, allowing its inhabitants to change their view and take full advantage of sun and shade. And a dazzling mirrored crystal cavern popped up in Sydney Harbor.

On the green transportation front, Elon Musk just announced that the Tesla Model X will arrive as early as this September. Inhabitat also took a test drive of the 2016 Volvo XC90 T8 plug-in hybrid, and came away impressed with the SUV’s 59 MPGe rating. In other green tech news, engineers at Stanford University have developed a new type of computer that operates using moving water droplets instead of electrons. Yes, you read that correctly. The revolutionary computer looks nothing like your typical laptop. And Dyson has developed a new LED light that will last for 37 years (if used for 12 hours per day).

The free market is a major culprit when it comes to assigning blame for climate change, but private companies are beginning to step up to do their part to combat global warming. Retail giant IKEA is pledging €1 billion to fight climate change. The company will use that money to invest in renewable energy for developing nations. Google is also getting in on the action — according to reports, the tech giant is considering investing tens of millions of dollars to build Africa’s largest wind power project. In other green energy news, a team of engineers showed how the United States can be powered by 100 percent renewable energy by the year 2050. GE has designed a new type of wind turbine with a dome-shaped addition to its front. The add-on, which looks sort of like a shield, helps it to generate 3 percent more energy than a traditional windmill. The UK just installed its first new electricity pylons in 90 years. The new pylons transport the same amount of power as the old ones, while giving the country’s energy grid a visual upgrade.

A grad student at Wake Forest University designed a drone that is being used to track illegal logging in the Peruvian Amazon. In other nature news, a mysterious sinkhole has naturally developed into a gorgeous, leafy underground ecosystem in China, producing some of the most amazing photos we’ve seen. And if you’ve ever wanted to get a better look at koi fish, here’s just the thing: The company Velda has designed a floating fish dome that enables fish to poke their heads above the surface of the water.

Filed under: Misc, Household, Transportation, Science, Internet

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Why easyJet is banking on VR, drones and 3D printing

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When you book a flight with a company like easyJet, it’s usually for one of two reasons: you want the cheapest tickets possible, or it’s the only airline operator flying to your destination. Nobody chooses easyJet for their in-flight entertainment, or the drinks and nibbles that are available while you’re thousands of feet up in the air. But for the most part, that’s okay. We’re all looking for a deal, and provided the flight is on time and the seats aren’t too uncomfortable, most of us are happy to forgo these luxuries in order to save some cash.

easyJet knows its business model well, and that’s why it’s exploring new technologies that can help with its day-to-day operations. These are projects that could make its commercial flights cheaper, more reliable and ultimately less stressful for customers. Some are designed for the public and clearly visible, but others are being developed behind closed doors to improve training, manufacturing and repairs. To explain some of its more experimental ideas, easyJet crammed them all into an aircraft hangar in Milan.

Training crew with VR

Design Q is a design consultancy firm specialising in plane and automotive interiors. It often works alongside Mediasphere, a small company based in Derby, which presents its work with 3D models, animations, Street View-style “pano-tours” and other visualisations. For a company like easyJet, these adaptations make it easier for management to visualise new designs that would otherwise be communicated with Powerpoints and concept art.

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Recently, Mediasphere has been experimenting with virtual reality and the Oculus Rift. The team can take a company’s CAD designs and then remodel them in Unreal’s video game engine, visualising plane cabins that are both accurate and optimised for low-powered VR hardware. The hope is that such a technology can be used to accelerate the design and prototyping process. If the client can look at different seat designs in quick succession, it could be easier for them to pick out their preferred option. Furthermore, designers can retreat and quickly present new versions based on the client’s feedback.

There are also plans to use VR as a way to train flight crew. Inside the hangar, the company has set up a physical mesh that aligns with their virtual model. For VR newcomers, these basic constructs — which lets them touch and feel the tray table in front, or the ceiling above their seat — should make it easier to navigate the plane. The idea would be to use the simulator to teach stewards about the location of onboard safety equipment. Instead of pulling a plane out of rotation and flying staff to an airport hangar, the training could be conducted in classrooms. It’s not a perfect replacement, but it would help staff to familiarise themselves and speed up their learning when they finally step foot in the aircraft.

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In the future, easyJet says it hopes to use VR for situational training too, which would allow staff to simulate differnt flight scenarios and practise interacting with passengers.

Printing plane parts

When someone mentions 3D printing, you normally think of the small, desktop printers made by Makerbot or Formlabs. But the recent growth in on-demand manufacturing goes far beyond the hobbyist crowd. Safran, a French multinational with almost 70,000 employees, is investing heavily in the technology to produce lighter and more efficient plane parts. Snecma, an aircraft and rocket engine manufacturer, as well as a Safran subsidiary, is working with GE Aviation on the Leading Edge Aviation Propulsion (LEAP) engine, which uses 19 3D-printed metal fuel nozzles. Thierry Thomas, VP of additive manufacturing at Safran, hopes that the design will be certified by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in early 2017. There’s reason to be hopeful; in February, the FAA approved a GE Aviation-designed, 3D-printed component for its GE90 aircraft engines.

The benefits of the technique, known as “additive manufacturing,” are numerous. The 3D-printed nozzle in the Leap engine, for example, replaces a part that’s normally machined from 20 separate pieces. The ability to print “grow” the part as a complete, single unit makes it 25 percent lighter and could increase the engine’s fuel efficiency. Thierry Thomas, VP of additive manufacturing at Safran, says the technique strips away the limitations of traditional manufacturing and gives designers greater freedom when pursuing new designs. It can also reduce waste. Instead of cutting into a huge slab of metal, much like a sculptor would, industrial 3D printers can build parts using only the required powder.

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There are limitations to 3D printing, however. Some materials, such as aluminium and copper, are difficult to work with, and there’s still a degree of uncertainty about the durability of 3D-printed parts. “It’s like every new process; everyone is cautious,” Thomas admits. Nevertheless, easyJet is interested in the technology and says it’s talking to several firms, including Snecma, about whether 3D printing could be used to replace cabin parts, such as arm rests, tray tables and window blinds. In the future, the company hopes it can be used to quickly manufacture more significant parts for its aircraft.

The drone inspectors

easyJet has been interested in drones for some time now, but today it’s closer than ever to putting them to work. The company is collaborating with drone manufacturer Blue Bear and imaging specialists Createc on an inspection system called RISER (Remote Intelligent Survey Equipment for Radiation). Using an onboard laser scanner, the drone is now able to autonomously map its surroundings and scour the exterior of the plane, looking for signs of damage. The real-time 3D mapping is possible using a process called LIDAR, which involves firing a laser in all directions and measuring the time it takes to reflect off other objects. Once it’s built up a picture of the plane, the drone will automatically keep a pre-determined distance between itself and the hull, avoiding unwanted collisions.

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An onboard camera can record the inspection and stream the footage back to engineers, reducing the time it takes to assess a damaged aircraft and begin repairs. Checks that would have taken a day could now be performed in a couple of hours, easyJet claims.

“Today, we use human beings,” Ian Davies, easyJet’s head of engineering says. “If you go outside you’ll see stands, you’ll see cherry-pickers. That takes time to position around the aircraft, and manoeuvre it from A to B. In fact, it takes many, many hours. The drone is more efficient and that gives us the efficiency then of using the humans to examine the high definition footage. We know exactly where we are, because we marry the images with a detailed wireframe image of the airplane. So we we know exactly where the drone is and exactly what it’s looking at, and if we detect damage we can see it very clearly.”

A laser scanner could also be packaged onto the drone to help it carry out inspections automatically. Davies believes the technology can be adapted so the drone can identify dents, holes and burn marks on the fuselage without the expertise of a human.

The operator recently completed its first drone trial at London’s Luton airport and is now training its staff to operate them. The next stage of the company’s research will be to optimise the drone’s software and equipment so that it can work autonomously in designated aircraft hangars. easyJet’s internal target is to have the drones operational in 10 of its engineering hangars across Europe by 2016, including Luton and Gatwick airport.

A rebuilt iOS app

All of these developments should help the operator to lower its costs and keep its aircraft running smoothly. But easyJet is also looking to improve its mobile apps — especially its iPhone app, which has long needed a complete overhaul. A new version built for iOS 8 and iOS 9 will debut later this month with, the company boasts, a streamlined design that simplifies common passenger requests. On the home screen, it’ll offer dynamic widgets that present information such as your current flight status, whether the aircraft is on time, and a calendar reminder for your next flight. Shortcuts will also allow you to quickly bypass the app’s normal menu structure and quickly select a seat or book an extra bag.

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easyJet says the widgets and cleaner design should make it faster and easier to use. It’ll also incorporate Mobile Host, which easyJet launched in April as a means of guiding passengers through Gatwick airport. The feature uses Google’s indoor mapping data to show the location of your check-in desk and departure gate, as well as how long it will take to get there and information about when you’ll next need your boarding pass. Now, easyJet’s mobile team is exploring how the feature can be improved with indoor positioning. GPS isn’t reliable, especially indoors, so the company is considering Wi-Fi triangulation and beacon networks. Some airports such as Geneva have already deployed beacons, but obviously easyJet needs to persuade others to follow suit.

With indoor tracking, easyJet could know your whereabouts to within three metres and offer turn-by-turn directions throughout the airport. It’s currently talking to Gatwick about a beacon network and says Mobile Host will be available in Milan’s airport this summer.

easyJet is clearly focusing on the basics here. During a media Q&A session, Davies shrugged off a question about in-flight Wi-Fi, suggesting the company would only be interested once it was cheaper and connections had improved. Drones, virtual reality and 3D printing are attention-grabbing projects, but they also have clear, practical benefits for the company’s everyday operations: accelerating aircraft repairs, training staff, and making replacement parts that are lighter and faster to produce. These sorts of improvements could make its airline more reliable and, if there are cost benefits, lead to cheaper ticket prices. It’s not as fancy as, say, streaming Amazon Prime movies and TV shows in the sky — but let’s be honest, that’s never been easyJet’s style anyway.

[Image Credit: easyJet (top photo portraying a VR demo)]

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Source: Engadget - Read the full article here

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Tokyo bans UAVs from its public parks

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Citing concerns over visitor safety, officials in Tokyo have temporarily banned the use of UAVs in 81 public parks throughout the city. An announcement released Tuesday explains that violators could face fines up to ¥50,000 ($8,000) for violating the ordinance. This policy change follows a recent incident wherein a man protesting the country’s nuclear police successfully landed a quadcopter carrying a cup of mildly irradiated water on the roof of Prime Minister Abe’s office. According the The Japan Times, officials stated that the the metropolitan government doesn’t plan to impose the stiff penalty but is asking that residents comply with the ban nonetheless.

[Image Credit: AFP/Getty Images]

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Via: BBC News

Source: The Japan Times Follow @DailyTechWhip

Source: Engadget - Read the full article here

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