New submitter misanthropic.mofo writes with a look at the the emerging field of robtic warfare. Adding, "Leaping from drones, to recon 'turtlebots', humanity is making its way toward robo-combat. I for one think it would make it interesting to pit legions of robot warriors against each other and let people purchase time on them. Of course there are people that are for and against such technology. Development of ethical robotic systems seems like it would take some of the fun out of things, there's also the question of who gets to decide on the ethics."
pigrabbitbear writes "Areva, the French nuclear fuel company, helps supply Japan with a lot of its juice. And Areva's chief executive says that Japan is going to restart up to six reactors by the end of the year. Eventually, it's going to power up at least two thirds of them. Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe has been a little cagey, but he recently told the press that yes, despite the upcoming March 11th anniversary of the Fukushima crisis, the nuke plants are coming back online." Supposedly, they are overhauling their nuclear regulatory agencies to fix the massive failure and regulatory capture that led to Fukushima being run unsafely. They are also not going to restart reactors that are on active fault lines; this includes the largest reactor complex in the world. Vaguely related, the Vogtle plant expansion in the U.S. is running a bit over budget, with folks like the Sierra Club seizing the chance to call for an end to construction (unlikely, since Georgia Power says it'd cost customers more, even pretending natural gas is infinite and will always be cheap, to halt construction in favor of any other kind of power plant), and legislators aiming to 'protect' customers from cost overruns. However, it looks like unless action is taken the nuclear renaissance is already dead due to the inherent short-sightedness of the "free market."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Apple's long-rumored "iWatch" could earn the company $6 billion a year, if an analyst quoted by Bloomberg proves correct. Citigroup analyst Oliver Chen estimated the global watch industry's annual revenue at $60 billion a year, with gross margins of roughly 60 percent. "This can be a $6 billion opportunity for Apple, with plenty of opportunity for upside if they create something totally new like they did with the iPod," he told the newswire, "something consumers didn't even know they needed." Meanwhile, The Verge reports that Apple has " chosen to rework the full iOS to run on the watch instead of building up the iPod nano's proprietary touch operating system," which has led to battery issues: while Apple would like the device to last "at least 4-5 days" between charges, the current prototypes give somewhat less. While an "Apple TV" long dominated the rumor mill as Apple's next big product, the frequency and detail of "iWatch" rumors over the past few weeks suggests that a timepiece could be the company's next big project."
An anonymous reader writes "During the 2010 Christmas shopping season, Steve Jobs famously dissed the 7-inch tablets being rolled out by competitors, including Samsung's Galaxy, as being 'tweeners: too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with the [9.7-inch diagonal] iPad,' adding that 'the current crop of 7-inch tablets are going to be DOA — dead on arrival.' A year later Jobs was dead, and the iPad Mini, with a 7.9-inch diagonal screen, was rolled out under his successor Tim Cook in October, 2012. Looking at industry-wide tablet sales numbers for January 2013, which show that the iPad Mini surprisingly outsold its larger sibling by a substantial margin (as did 7-inch Android tablets from competitors), Motley Fool's Evan Niu thinks that the 7.9-inch form factor was the correct size all along, contrary to Jobs' pronouncements (which, of course, was partly marketing bluster — but he chose the larger size in the first place). Of course the Mini is cheaper, but not by much — $329 vs. $399 for the larger iPad, for the baseline model with WiFi only and 16GB storage. Had Apple introduced the iPad with the smaller size to begin with, Niu argues, competitors would have faced a much more difficult task grabbing market share. While the Mini is currently available only with 'Super VGA' resolution (1024x768), rumors are afloat that Minis with the Retina display (2048x1536) are close to production."
jones_supa writes "'We are going stop building our notebook 7200rpm hard disk drives at the end of 2013,' said David Burks, director of marketing and product management at Seagate Technology, during a conversation with X-bit labs. The mainstream market demand is expected shift to different products, such as hybrid drives. Users who need maximum performance and care about battery life have been choosing notebooks with SSDs for years now, whereas those who required capacity and moderate price do not really care about actual performance. With the introduction of third-generation solid-state hybrid drives later this year, Seagate will position them for performance- and capacity-demanding end-users. The company will also continue to offer 5400rpm HDDs for value notebooks."
New submitter joelville writes "After noticing artifacts and a 1600 × 900 image in the output from Apple's new Lightning Digital AV Adapter, the Panic Blog sawed it open and found an ARM chip inside. They suspect that video bypasses the cable entirely and instead uses Airplay to stream three inches to make up for the Lightning connector's shortcomings."
hypnosec writes "The Raspberry Pi turned one yesterday. Raspberry Pi was first launched on 29 February 2012 in the UK and it was received with a huge amount of enthusiasm by students and researchers alike. The Pi has had quite an eventful year, with researchers building a Raspberry Pi cluster; release of an official turbo mode patch; a 512 MB RAM upgrade; the launch of a Pi Store; sales of over a million units; and release of the Minecraft Pocket Edition."
Nerval's Lobster writes "In 2005, the first business to offer colocated Mac Minis inside a data center made its debut, provoking criticism on Slashdot of everything from how the Mini was cooled to the underlying business model. But nowadays, more than half a dozen facilities are either hosting their own Mac Minis for rent, or offering colocation services for individual consumers and businesses. While some vendors declined to give out reliability information, those who did claimed a surprisingly small number of failures. 'If Dell makes a small little machine, you don't know that they'll be making that, in that form factor, six months down the road, or what they're going to do, or how they're going to refresh it,' Jon Schwenn, a network engineer for CyberLynk Networks (which owns Macminivault) said in an interview. 'We've had three model years of Minis that have stayed externally, physically identical.' Customers are using Minis for all sorts of things: providing Mail, iCal, and the Websites for small businesses; databases, like Filemaker or Daylite; as a VPN server for those who want an IP address in the United States; build servers for Xcode; and general personal servers for Plex media streaming and other fun projects. Some are even using it for Windows."
New submitter fluxgate writes "Steve Mann (whom you might know for his having pioneered wearable computing as a grad student at MIT back in the 1990s) writes in IEEE Spectrum magazine about his decades of experience with computerized eyeware. His article warns that Google Glass hasn't been properly engineered to avoid creating disorientating effects and significant eyestrain. While it's hard to imagine that Google has missed something fundamental here, Mann convincingly describes why Google Glass users might experience serious problems. Quoting: 'The very first wearable computer system I put together showed me real-time video on a helmet-mounted display. The camera was situated close to one eye, but it didn’t have quite the same viewpoint. The slight misalignment seemed unimportant at the time, but it produced some strange and unpleasant results. And those troubling effects persisted long after I took the gear off. That’s because my brain had adjusted to an unnatural view, so it took a while to readjust to normal vision. ... Google Glass and several similarly configured systems now in development suffer from another problem I learned about 30 years ago that arises from the basic asymmetry of their designs, in which the wearer views the display through only one eye. These systems all contain lenses that make the display appear to hover in space, farther away than it really is. That’s because the human eye can’t focus on something that’s only a couple of centimeters away, so an optical correction is needed. But what Google and other companies are doing—using fixed-focus lenses to make the display appear farther away—is not good.'"
ios and web coder writes "An article at Ars notes, 'Unmanned aircraft crash. In fact, they crash a lot—though there's no recent specific data, the Congressional Research Service reported last year that despite improvements, "the accident rate for unmanned aircraft is still far above that of manned aircraft.' And while many of those accidents can be attributed to being exposed to hostile fire or operating in conditions when aircraft normally wouldn't, a significant percentage of drone crashes is caused by human error. A December 2004 FAA study of Defense Department drone crashes found human factors to be a causal factor in about a third of the cases they examined (PDF).' Drones are un-cheap. As yesterday's Super Hornet story noted, they are cheaper than manned planes... but not that much cheaper. Expect them to get more expensive. Also, as they get armed, the price paid for a bad UX decision could become quite tragic."
An anonymous reader writes "Flash SSDs are non-volatile, right? So how could power failures screw with your data? Several ways, according to a ZDNet post that summarizes a paper (PDF) presented at last month's FAST 13 conference. Researchers from Ohio State and HP Labs researchers tested 15 SSDs using an automated power fault injection testbed and found that 13 lost data. 'Bit corruption hit 3 devices; 3 had shorn writes; 8 had serializability errors; one device lost 1/3 of its data; and 1 SSD bricked. The low-end hard drive had some unserializable writes, while the high-end drive had no power fault failures. The 2 SSDs that had no failures? Both were MLC 2012 model years with a mid-range ($1.17/GB) price.'"
yenrabbit writes "A friend has just told me he has 80 CRT TVs, a stack of DVD players and hundreds of VCR machines, all broken and all mine free of charge. I can already think of a few awesome components I can extract (flyback transformers for high voltage contraptions and so on) and have a few ideas, such as DVD lasers, that I can build. But what else can be made from such a treasure-trove of components, and how would one go about processing such a large volume of stuff with the least amount of effort? Also, I don't have access to online shopping so I'd also like a pain free way of salvaging many simpler parts such as resistors as well." Another reader sent in a similar question: "The other day I went down to my University's property disposition center for the first time. In addition to mundane things like chairs and desks, it also had a wealth of technological devices, from old PCs and monitors to obscure medical and chemistry equipment. Honestly, I was a bit overwhelmed. I just don't know what I'd do with a old gene sequencing machine or a broken oscilloscope. Any ideas for fun projects? Or better yet, suggestions on how I can figure out which machines (or their components) are worth playing with?"
the_newsbeagle writes "This year, a biotech company called Ion Torrent will introduce a new chip for its genome sequencing machine, which should enable researchers and doctors to scan a complete human genome for $1000 and in just a couple of hours. Compare that to the effort required to complete the first human genome: $3 billion and 13 years. Ion Torrent has nearly reached the $1000-genome milestone by virtue of a process called 'semiconductor sequencing,' and the company's founder says his chip-based sequencing machine benefits from all the efficiencies of the computer industry. At a price point of $1000, genome scans could become a routine part of medicine. And the price could keep dropping. To test out the technology, and to investigate just how useful genome scans are these days for your typical, reasonably healthy person, the IEEE Spectrum reporter got her own genome scanned and analyzed."
Mr_Blank writes "Organizations like the EFF and ACLU have been raising the alarm over increased government surveillance of U.S. citizens. Legislators haven't been quick to respond to concerns of government spying on citizens. But Texas legislators are apparently quite concerned that private citizens operating hobby drones might spot environmental violations by businesses. Representative Lance Gooden has introduced HB912 which proposes: 'A person commits an offense if the person uses or authorizes the use of an unmanned vehicle or aircraft to capture an image without the express consent of the person who owns or lawfully occupies the real property captured in the image. ('Image' is defined as including any type of recorded telemetry from sensors that measure sound waves, thermal, infrared, ultraviolet, visible light, or other electromagnetic waves, odor, or other conditions.)' Can you foresee any unintended consequences if this proposal becomes law?" Another reader notes that New Hampshire has introduced a similar bill: "Neal Kurk, a Republican member of New Hampshire's House of Representatives knows that those drones present a growing privacy concern, and in response has introduced a bill that would ban all aerial photography in the state. That is, unless you're working for the government. The bill, HB 619-FN (PDF), is blessedly short, and I suggest reading the whole thing for yourself." Here's part of the bill: "A person is guilty of a class A misdemeanor if such person knowingly creates or assists in creating an image of the exterior of any residential dwelling in this state where such image is created by or with the assistance of a satellite, drone, or any device that is not supported by the ground."
cylonlover writes "Boston Dynamics' BigDog may have already been replaced by the beefier LS3, but that doesn't mean it's totally obsolete. Today the company unveiled a version of the quadruped equipped with an arm where a head (or tail) would go. As can be seen in a slightly disquieting video, it's powerful enough to lift and toss a heavy cinder block. Key to this work, funded by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, is that BigDog uses the dynamic forces of its whole body to help it throw the cinder block. It begins by taking several steps to the side before quickly accelerating as it swings its arm, temporarily launching itself into the air in the process. This approach is similar to the way an athlete winds up before throwing a discus, for example, and greatly enhances the robot's throwing power. Since few robots are as capable as BigDog when it comes to balance, it's an excellent platform to test these sorts of strenuous actions."
iONiUM writes "From the article: 'Many are only just getting their heads around the idea of 3D printing but scientists at MIT are already working on an upgrade: 4D printing. At the TED conference in Los Angeles, architect and computer scientist Skylar Tibbits showed how the process allows objects to self-assemble.' There could be many applications for this. Definitely a cool step forward." Pictures and video of the process.
Deathspawner writes "Using a mobile device to control an application on a PC, media player or video game console, isn't too uncommon, but it is when the content being controlled is a game. Just how possible would it be to play a fairly fast-paced game on your PC via your mobile device? Google wanted to find out, so it crafted a game called Super Sync Sports, where you control an athlete on your desktop or notebook via controls on your phone or tablet. To make a game like this possible, Google turned to WebSockets for real-time collaboration between two devices, HTML5 for the audio, Canvas for the graphics, and CSS3 for the styling and transitions." It appears that it routes your controls through the Internet rather than locally. Something like this over bluetooth or wifi with a shared touch screen might be cool for electronic board games.
Dystopian Rebel writes "A Stanford comp-sci student has found a serious bug in Chromium, Safari, Opera, and MSIE. Feross Aboukhadijeh has demonstrated that these browsers allow unbounded local storage. 'The HTML5 Web Storage standard was developed to allow sites to store larger amounts of data (like 5-10 MB) than was previously allowed by cookies (like 4KB). ... The current limits are: 2.5 MB per origin in Google Chrome, 5 MB per origin in Mozilla Firefox and Opera, 10 MB per origin in Internet Explorer. However, what if we get clever and make lots of subdomains like 1.filldisk.com, 2.filldisk.com, 3.filldisk.com, and so on? Should each subdomain get 5MB of space? The standard says no. ... However, Chrome, Safari, and IE currently do not implement any such "affiliated site" storage limit.' Aboukhadijeh has logged the bug with Chromium and Apple, but couldn't do so for MSIE because 'the page is broken" (see http://connect.microsoft.com/IE). Oops. Firefox's implementation of HTML5 local storage is not vulnerable to this exploit."
MojoKid writes "Aside from the terrible nickname (it sounds like a term for the spoiled offspring of fabulous people), phablets are somewhat controversial because they seem to be the epitome of inflated phone sizes. A lot of people wanted bigger, and this is 'bigger' to the extreme. A larger screen on a smartphone is attractive for obvious reasons, but surely there's a limit. So how big is too big? If you're not into parsing out the particulars of form factors and use cases, here's a really easy way to figure out if your phone or phablet is too big: Can you hold the device in one hand and 1) unlock the phone, 2) type out a text message with your thumb, and 3) adjust the volume with the rocker without using your other hand? If not, you might need a smaller phone."
RSA Conference in an Francisco. Kim's background is in manufacturing, but he's got an interest in security that has manifested itself in hardware with an emphasis on ease of use. His company, DataLocker, has come up with a fully cross-platform, driver independent portable system that mates a touch-pad input device with an AES-encrypted drive. It doesn't look much different from typical external USB drives, except for being a little beefier and bulkier than the current average, to account for both a touchpad and the additional electronics for performing encryption and decryption in hardware. Because authentication is done on the face of the drive itself, it can be used with any USB-equipped computer available to the user, and works fine as a bootable device, so you can -- for instance -- run a complete Linux system from it. (For that, though, you might want one of the smaller-capacity, solid-state versions of this drive, for speed.) Kim talked about the drive, and painted a rosy picture of what it's like to be a high-tech entrepreneur in Kansas.
Nerval's Lobster writes "The Apache Hadoop open-source framework specializes in running data applications on large hardware clusters, making it a particular favorite among firms such as Facebook and IBM with a lot of backend infrastructure (and a whole ton of data) to manage. So it'd be hard to blame Intel for jumping into this particular arena. The chipmaker has produced its own distribution for Apache Hadoop, apparently built 'from the silicon up' to efficiently access and crunch massive datasets. The distribution takes advantage of Intel's work in hardware, backed by the Intel Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) Instructions (Intel AES-NI) in the Intel Xeon processor. Intel also claims that a specialized Hadoop distribution riding on its hardware can analyze data at superior speeds—namely, one terabyte of data can be processed in seven minutes, versus hours for some other systems. The company faces a lot of competition in an arena crowded with other Hadoop players, but that won't stop it from trying to throw its muscle around."
AstroPhilosopher writes "In a move not far removed from the model T-101, U.S. researchers have succeeded in re-animating a dead sparrow. Duke scientists were studying male behavior aggression among sparrows. They cleverly decided to insert miniaturized robotics into an empty sparrow carcass and operate it like a puppet (abstract). It worked; they noticed wing movements were a primary sign of aggression. Fortunately the living won out this time. The experiment stopped after the real sparrows tore off the robosparrow's head. But there's always a newer model on the assembly-line. Good luck sparrows." Bad Horse has not yet made a decision on the researchers' application.
Dr. Tom writes "The U.S. has deployed more than 11,000 military drones, up from fewer than 200 in 2002. They carry out a wide variety of missions while saving money and American lives. Within a generation they could replace most manned military aircraft, says John Pike, a defense expert at the think tank GlobalSecurity.org. Pike suspects that the F-35 Lightning II, now under development by Lockheed Martin, might be 'the last fighter with an ejector seat, and might get converted into a drone itself.' The weakest link is the pilot. A jet could pull 15 Gs, out-turning any conventional aircraft, except it would kill the pilot. Is it time to stop spending billions on obsolete aircraft?"
First time accepted submitter AchilleTalon writes "Research by Harvard professor David Keith suggests that the global capacity for energy generation from wind power has been overestimated, and that geophysical / climate effects of turbines will reduce the benefits of large-scale power installations. 'People have often thought there's no upper bound for wind power—that it's one of the most scalable power sources," he says. After all, gusts and breezes don't seem likely to 'run out' on a global scale in the way oil wells might run dry. Yet the latest research suggests that the generating capacity has been overestimated."
adeelarshad82 writes "Needless to say, the march of processor speeds always continues. However, Nvidia Tegra 4's benchmark results are off the charts. Comparing the results against several other phones, it was evident that Tegra 4 will make for the fastest mobile phones yet. For instance when benchmarked against iPhone 5, results showed 1640 on Geekbench and 27 fps on GLBenchmark's Egypt HD offscreen benchmark. Whereas the Tegra 4 scores 4148 on Geekbench and 57 fps on the Egypt HD. Of course, the competition isn't standing still, either. Qualcomm is countering the Tegra 4 with its Snapdragon 800, which the company claims is even faster than the Tegra 4. And at the same time Samsung is readying the Exynos 5 Octa."
New submitter KublaCant writes "'At this very moment, researchers around the world – including in the United States – are working to develop fully autonomous war machines: killer robots. This is not science fiction. It is a real and powerful threat to humanity.' These are the first words of a Human Rights Watch Petition to President Obama to keep robots from the battlefield. The argument is that robots possess neither common sense, 'real' reason, any sense of mercy nor — most important — the option to not obey illegal commands. With the fast-spreading use of drones et al., we are allegedly a long way off from Asimov's famous Three Laws of Robotics being implanted in autonomous fighting machines, or into any ( semi- ) autonomous robot. A 'Stop the Killer Robots' campaign will also be launched in April at the British House of Commons and includes many of the groups that successfully campaigned to have international action taken against cluster bombs and landmines. They hope to get a similar global treaty against autonomous weapons. The Guardian has more about this, including quotes from well-known robotics researcher Noel Sharkey from Sheffield University."
theodp writes "You know the old adage, 'Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me?' Still, even if you got bit by the HP TouchPad debacle, HP's newly-announced $169 Slate7 tablet could prove hard to resist. Specs-wise, the Slate7 sports an ARM Dual Core Cortex-A9 1.6 GHz processor, 7-inch 1024x600 HFFS screen, Android 4.1 (Jellybean), three-megapixel camera on the back, front-facing VGA camera, 8GB of on-board storage, HP ePrint, Beats Audio, and a micro SD expandable card slot. It measures 197mm x 116mm x 10.7mm thick, and weighs in at 13 ounces. It will be available in the U.S. in April. Engadget has some pics and their initial hands-on take."
Barence writes "Are faster grades of SD memory card worth the extra cash? PC Pro has conducted in-depth speed tests on different grades of SD card to find out if they're worth the premium. In camera tests, two top-end SD cards outshone the rest by far, while class 4 cards dawdled for more than a second between shots. However, with the buffer on modern DSLRs able to handle 20 full-res shots or more, it's unlikely an expensive card will make any difference to anyone other than professionals shooting bursts of fast-action shots. What about for expanding tablet or laptop memory? A regular class 4 or 6 card that's capable of recording HD video will also be fast enough to play it back on a tablet. The only advantage of a faster card for media is that syncing with your PC will be quicker. However, a faster card is recommended if you're using it to supplement the memory of an Ultrabook or MacBook Air."
New submitter capsfan100 writes "At Christmas I got an $89 Android tablet by MID. The 7" tablet has sufficient RAM, etc. The battery, however, was rather pathetic out of the box. It's already fading, so we know where this is headed — decent tablet, but it constantly needs the plug. How would you take this 'old' tablet and turn it into a rockin' stereo component? Is there a ROM build out there titled Pimp My Tablet Into An MP3 Player? The current music app can look up lyrics on-line. I'd like to keep that feature. Any ideas on a good app for syncing music videos with my *ahem* random music collection? Any fun, off-beat party apps this middle-aged suburban dad hasn't heard of? Since the Android security nightmare is so well documented, I'd rather not use services that require passwords. I also need top-notch security and monitoring software so I can see what my kids and their friends are doing with it next year when I'm not home while keeping them anonymous and safe on-line. As for my living room stereo system, how best to mount a sleek MP3 tablet? I was thinking velcro, but it would ruin the feel. Maybe a wall-mount arm like my HDTV has? We want to be able to unplug it and move around the room, so I'll need to upgrade the speakers to wireless. Any thoughts there? I'm not afraid of the command line — indeed, I insist on one — but no Gentoo-type projects, thank you. Just a good sleek and secure ROM for optimal tunage with all the top apps the kids are using today."
Press2ToContinue writes with this excerpt from ExtremeTech: "With products like Google's Glass, the Oculus Rift, and even certain features found on the Nintendo 3DS, augmented, mixed, and virtual reality are starting to make some headway in the consumer space. Canon, best known for its cameras, is looking to break into the mixed reality scene with its new head-mounted display. ... The core of the setup is the Canon HMD (head-mounted display) which works in conjunction with various sensors — optical and magnetic, as well as visual markers — to help create the mixed reality environment. The HMD employs two cameras located in front of each eye that captures video and shoots it off to an off-board, tethered computer. The computer then combines the real-world visuals with computer-generated visuals, and beams that back to two monitors placed in front of the eyes within the HMD. The unit combines with a development platform, dubbed the MR Platform, which allows companies to create mixed reality images to display on the HMD."
rtfa-troll writes "There has been a worldwide (all locations) total outage of storage in Microsoft's Azure cloud. Apparently, 'Microsoft unwittingly let an online security certificate expire Friday, triggering a worldwide outage in an online service that stores data for a wide range of business customers,' according to the San Francisco Chronicle (also Yahoo and the Register). Perhaps too much time has been spent sucking up to storage vendors and not enough looking after the customers? This comes directly after a week-long outage of one of Microsoft's SQL server components in Azure. This is not the first time that we have discussed major outages on Azure and probably won't be the last. It's certainly also not the first time we have discussed Microsoft cloud systems making users' data unavailable."
At last year's RSA security conference, we ran into the Pwnie Plug. The company has just come out with a new take on the same basic idea of pen-testing devices based on commodity hardware. Reader puddingebola writes with an excerpt from Wired: "The folks at security tools company Pwnie Express have built a tablet that can bash the heck out of corporate networks. Called the Pwn Pad, it's a full-fledged hacking toolkit built atop Google's Android operating system. Some important hacking tools have already been ported to Android, but Pwnie Express says that they've added some new ones. Most importantly, this is the first time that they've been able to get popular wireless hacking tools like Aircrack-ng and Kismet to work on an Android device." Pwnie Express will be back at RSA and so will Slashdot, so there's a good chance we'll get a close-up look at the new device, which runs about $800.
An anonymous reader writes "For a while now, John Carmack has been pushing to bring virtual reality technology back to the gaming world. VR was largely abandoned over a decade ago when it became apparent that the hardware just wasn't ready to support it. In 2013, things are different; cheap displays with a high pixel density and powerful processors designed for small systems are making virtual reality a... reality. One of the last obstacles to be conquered is latency — the delay between moving your head and seeing your perspective change in the virtual world. In a lengthy and highly-technical post at #AltDevBlogADay, Carmack has outlined a number of strategies for mitigating and reducing latency. With information and experience like this being shared with the game development community at large, it shouldn't be long until VR makes a permanent place for itself in our gaming lives."
eldavojohn writes "A new report from China's environment ministry has resulted in long-overdue self-realizations as well as possible explanations for 'cancer villages.' The term refers to villages (anywhere from 247 to 400 known of them) that have increased cancer rates due to pollution from nearby factories and industry. The report revealed that many harmful chemicals that are prohibited and banned in developed nations are still found in China's water and air. Prior research has shown a direct correlation between industrialization/mining and levels of poisonous heavy metals in water. As a result, an air pollution app has grown in popularity and you can see the pollution from space. China has also released a twelve-year plan for environmental protection."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Earlier this month, a very public argument erupted between Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk and New York Times reporter John Broder, who claimed in a Feb. 8 column that his electric-powered Model S sedan had ground to a halt on a lonely stretch of Connecticut highway, starved for power. Musk retaliated by publishing the data from Broder's test drive, which suggested the reporter had driven the vehicle at faster speeds than he had claimed in the article (which would have drained the battery at a quicker rate) and failed to fully charge the car at available stations. Musk seems to have let the whole thing drop, but the whole brouhaha raises a point that perhaps deserves further exploration: the rising use of sensors in cars, and whether an automobile company—or any other entity, for that matter—has the right to take data from those sensors and use it for their own ends without the owner's permission. (For his part, Musk has claimed that Tesla only turns on data logging with 'explicit written permission from customers.') What do you think, Slashdot? Do we need the equivalent of a 'Do-Not-Track' option for cars?"
Vigile writes "A big shift in the way graphics cards and gaming performance are tested has been occurring over the last few months, with many review sites now using frame times rather than just average frame rates to compare products. Another unique testing methodology called Frame Rating has been started by PC Perspective that uses video capture equipment capable of recording uncompressed high resolution output direct from the graphics card, a colored bar overlay system and post-processing on that recorded video to evaluate performance as it is seen by the end user. The benefit is that there is literally no software interference between the data points and what the user sees, making it is as close to an 'experience metric' as any developed. Interestingly, multi-GPU solutions like SLI and CrossFire have very different results when viewed in this light, with AMD's offering clearly presenting a poorer, and more stuttery, animation."
derGoldstein writes "We've seen some very impressive aerobatics performed by quadrocopters before, but this is getting ridiculous. Robohub points to the latest advancement from the Flying Machine Arena, which developed algorithms that allow quadrocopters to juggle an inverted pendulum. One of the researchers working on it said, 'We started off with some back-of-the-envelope calculations, wondering whether it would even be physically possible to throw and catch a pendulum. This told us that achieving this maneuver would really push the dynamic capabilities of the system. As it turned out, it is probably the most challenging task we've had our quadrocopters do. With significantly less than one second to measure the pendulum flight and get the catching vehicle in place, it's the combination of mathematical models with real-time trajectory generation, optimal control, and learning from previous iterations that allowed us to implement this.'"
cylonlover writes "If Joseph Zawodny, a senior scientist at NASA's Langley Research Center, is correct, the future of energy may lie in a nuclear reactor small enough and safe enough to be installed where the home water heater once sat. Using weak nuclear forces that turn nickel and hydrogen into a new source of atomic energy, the process offers a light, portable means of producing tremendous amounts of energy for the amount of fuel used. It could conceivably power homes, revolutionize transportation and even clean the environment."
rtoz writes "Ohio State students have come up with a scaled-down version of a power plant combustion system with a unique experimental design--one that chemically converts coal to heat while capturing 99 percent of the carbon dioxide produced in the reaction. Typical coal-fired power plants burn coal to heat water to make steam, which turns the turbines that produce electricity. In chemical looping, the coal isn't burned with fire, but instead chemically combusted in a sealed chamber so that it doesn't pollute the air. This new technology, called coal-direct chemical looping, was pioneered by Liang-Shih Fan, professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and director of Ohio State's Clean Coal Research Laboratory."
First time accepted submitter Lirodon writes "Just when you thought Google's rumored Chrome OS laptop, the Chromebook Pixel, was an elaborate fake, think again. This high-end Chromebook with a 12.85-inch high resolution touchscreen (available in both Wi-Fi only and Verizon LTE versions) and an Intel Core i5 processor under the hood is super fancy, and also super expensive: starting at $1299. Would you want to pay that much for what is essentially a premium netbook?" Engadget has a hands-on with the device.
CES named Eyetech has a solution for this problem: an eye tracker system that can control your computer or TV (or whatever) purely through eye movements. This isn't something you buy on a whim; the system costs $3000. That's a lot, but Eyetech claims they were the first ones to produce a high-accuracy eye tracker for less then $20,000. Obviously, this is a boon to profoundly disabled people. But Eyetech's Keith Jackson says, in the video, that they also have customers who use Eyetech instead of a mouse because of carpal tunnel syndrome, and that with voice recognition and on-screen keyboards -- and Eyetech, of course -- you can use your computer without (literally) lifting a finger.
New submitter sc30317 writes "My house got robbed on Friday, and all of our electronics got stolen. Everything. Now, I have to go out and buy all new electronics with the insurance money. We had five TVs (don't ask), three laptops, a Bose Sound dock with iPod, a digital camera, and a desktop stolen. It's looking like I am going to get around $10K from the insurance company to replace everything. What would you do if you had to replace ALL of your technology in your house at once? I'm thinking: replace TVs; nice Desktop; new speakers; and new, cool stuff I don't know about (suggestions welcome). I already added a DVR security system, so hopefully the new things won't get burgled! Looking for suggestions to utilize my money in order to get the best stuff. Also, no Windows computers allowed in my house."
New submitter Nyder writes "In a move that is sure to bring tears to the eyes of kids everywhere, Connecticut State Senator Toni Harp proposed a bill in January that would ban anyone younger than 18 from playing 'violent point-and-shoot' video games in arcades or other public establishments. 'The bill also called for research into the effects of violent video games on young minds, through a committee called the Violent Video Game Task Force within the Department of Children and Families. The task force would advise the Governor and General assembly on state programs that "may reduce the effects of violent video games on youth behavior," suggesting before the research was done that violent video games have an effect on children's actions.' Hopefully this won't pass; I guess the video game lobby hasn't paid this Senator enough 'funds' for her campaign."
Several readers sent word of a new addition to the 3-D printing industry. Most 3-D printers are roughly the size of regular printers, and require design files on the computer to guide the extruder. Now there's a much smaller and much simpler alternative: the 3Doodler pen, which lets you draw 3-D objects by hand. The people making the pen set up a Kickstarter project yesterday with a $30,000 goal. They reached that within hours, and now have pledges exceeding $800,000. "The 3Doodler pen is 180mm by 24mm. The pen weighs less than 200 grams or 7 ounces (the weight of a typical apple), although the exact weight will depend on the final shell specifications once in production. And we are using a universal power supply, so provided you have the correct adapter for your country, 3Doodler will work just fine on 110v or 240v. ... While the plastic extruded from 3Doodler is safe to touch once it has left the pen, the pen itself has a metal tip that can get as hot as 270C." The pen uses the same ABS/PLA plastic as most 3-D printers, and they're planning to host stencil designs on their website so that users have patterns to sketch from.
An anonymous reader writes "Whether or not you're an owner of Microsoft's Xbox 360, chances are you find the Kinect accessory intriguing, since you don't even need the company's console to use it. That's why there's so much excitement surrounding the console's successor, codenamed Durango: it will feature Kinect 2.0, the specifications for which allegedly leaked today. The new device will reportedly be able to track players with a height of one meter, feature a mode for both seated and standing players, detect hand states (such as open or closed), as well as extra and rotated joints. As for improved features, it will be able to supposedly track six rather than two active players, occluded joints, and sideways poses. This will all be possible thanks to an increased field of vision, 1920×1080 color stream, 512×424 depth stream, an added infrared stream, USB 3.0, and 60ms latency."
kkleiner writes "Planetary Resources last year boldly claimed that they would build a futuristic business out of mining space asteroids. To that end, the firm recently completed the Arkyd-100 satellite prototype. The satellite will use its telescope to look for suitable near-Earth asteroids from low-Earth orbit. Later expeditions will rocket out to prospective real estate, do spectral analysis, and if the asteroid contains valuable resources, lay claim with a beacon."
KermMartian writes "The TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition isn't the first color-screen graphing calculator, or even TI's first color calculator, but it's a refresh of a 17-year-old line that many have mocked as antiquated and overpriced. From an advanced review model, the math features look familiar, solid, and augmented with some new goodies, while programming looks about on par with its siblings. The requisite teardown uncovers the new battery, Flash, ASIC/CPU, and LCD used in the device. Although there are some qualms about its speed and very gentle hardware upgrades beyond the screen, it looks to be an indication that TI will continue this inveterate line for years to come." Lots of screenshots and pictures of the innards too.
rtoz writes with a quick bite from rtoz.org about Google's latest news about Project Glass: "Google has released video preview of its forthcoming Google Glass wearable headset, providing a fresh, and more realistic look at the device's user interface. Based on the demo, Google Glass will allow users to receive and execute onscreen directions, send voice-controlled messages, and search the web through speech. The UI also includes voice-controlled photos, and suggests that the device will offer onscreen translation support. And, it looks like the Google Glass will be water-resistant. Google has previously said it is aiming to launch Glass by early 2014, though it is already pushing out developer editions priced at $1,500." They're looking for developers, but only if you're hip enough.
An anonymous reader writes "We've watched patents slow down the smartphone and tablet markets. We've seen patent claims thrown against Linux, Android, and countless other software projects. Now, as 3-D printing becomes more capable and more affordable, it seems a number of patents threaten to do the same to the hobbyist and tinkerer crowd. Wired has highlighted some of the most dangerous ones, including: a patent on soluble print materials that support a structure while it's being printed; a ridiculously broad patent on distributed rapid prototyping, which could affect "every 3-D printing service that has launched in the past few years"; and an 18-year-old patent on 3-D printing using a powder and a binding material, held by MIT."
Vigile writes "NVIDIA's new GeForce GTX TITAN graphics card is being announced today and is utilizing the GK110 GPU first announced in May of 2012 for HPC and supercomputing markets. The GPU touts computing horsepower at 4.5 TFLOPS provided by the 2,688 single precision cores, 896 double precision cores, a 384-bit memory bus and 6GB of on-board memory doubling the included frame buffer that AMD's Radeon HD 7970 uses. With a make up of 7.1 billion transistors and a 551 mm^2 die size, GK110 is very close to the reticle limit for current lithography technology! The GTX TITAN introduces a new GPU Boost revision based on real-time temperature monitoring and support for monitor refresh rate overclocking that will entice gamers and with a $999 price tag, the card could be one of the best GPGPU options on the market." HotHardware says the card "will easily be the most powerful single-GPU powered graphics card available when it ships, with relatively quiet operation and lower power consumption than the previous generation GeForce GTX 690 dual-GPU card."