An anonymous reader writes with a link to an intriguing account of the challenge of designing a close-range, hand and finger-based gesture recognition interface using 3D cameras. Things like this look good in science-fiction, but it's hard to create a gesture-based system that makes sense to the user and rejects gestures not meant for the computer.
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An anonymous reader writes "The BBC reports that Sony, the creators of the MiniDisc audio format, are to deliver their last MiniDisc stereo system in March. Launched over 20 years ago in late 1992 as a would-be successor to the original audio cassette, MiniDisc outlasted Philips' rival Digital Compact Cassette format, but never enjoyed major success outside Japan. Other manufacturers will continue making MiniDisc players, but this is a sign that — over ten years after the first iPod — the MiniDisc now belongs to a bygone era."
FatLittleMonkey writes "Researchers in Germany have developed a device that allows users of portable devices, such as smartphones, experience force-feedback from games using just their own muscles... and a small EMS device. When stimulated by a painless electric pulse, the player's arm moves the device in whichever direction the game commands. The player then fights the movement with their other muscles, creating a strong sensation that the device itself is bucking in their hands. According to the developers, users found the sensation much more realistic than traditional vibrotactile feedback. (Should make PvP more interesting too.)"
ananyo writes "Transistors, the simple switches at the heart of all modern electronics, generally use a tiny voltage to toggle between 'on' and 'off.' The voltage approach is highly reliable and easy to miniaturize, but has its disadvantages. First, keeping the voltage on requires power, which drives up the energy consumption of the microchip. Second, transistors must be hard-wired into the chips and can't be reconfigured, which means computers need dedicated circuitry for all their functions. Now, researchers have made a type of transistor that can be switched with magnetism. The device could cut the power consumption of computers, cell phones and other electronics — and allow chips themselves to be 'reprogrammed' (abstract)."
jones_supa writes "Apple has been forced to remove the Mac Pro from sale in the European Union after an amendment to a safety regulation left the machines non-compliant. The updated electronics safety standard IEC 60950-1 increases requirements around electrical port protection (PDF) and the fan guards in the system. Apple does not plan to modify their machines and will simply pull them from market in the EU. Apple wishes to warn customers and partners about the change so that they would have sufficient time to order Mac Pro units and meet any needs prior to 1 March, when the amendment comes into effect."
Lucas123 writes "IronKey has released a thumb drive certified to be used as a bootable Windows 8 device, enabling users to use Windows To Go — an enterprise feature of Windows 8 — to deliver a fully portable desktop. While Imation doesn't promote this feature, users can also boot up this USB on any Intel-based Apple computer. The flash drive has its drawbacks. It's not yet FIPS certified, it can't be provisioned as storage, and it lacks admin management features. The IronKey Workspace drive comes in 32GB, 64GB and 128GB capacities. It offers either 128-bit or 256-bit full disk encryption. Users must purchase the Windows 8 software separately. According to Imation's specifications, the IronKey Workspace has a maximum average read speed of 300MB/sec. and an average write speed of 100MB/sec. to 200MB/sec. When I timed the boot-up times, the initial boot-up from the USB drive was slow — 3 minutes and 40 seconds — but the drive was configuring itself. Subsequent boot-ups took a mere 35 seconds. Shutdown is near instantaneous — about 2 seconds. The flash drive is priced from $129 to $389 depending on capacity."
hypnosec writes "The Linux Foundation's UEFI secure boot pre-bootloader is still in the works, and has been modified substantially so that it allows any Linux version to boot through UEFI secure boot. The reason for modifying the pre-bootloader was that the current version of the loader wouldn't work with Gummiboot, which was designed to boot kernels using BootServices->LoadImage(). Further, the original pre-bootloader had been written using 'PE/Coff link loading to defeat the secure boot checks.' As it stands, anything run by the original pre-bootloader must also be link-loaded to defeat secure boot, and Gummiboot, which is not a link-loader, didn't work in this scenario. This is the reason a re-write of the pre-bootloader was required and now it supports booting of all versions of Linux." Also in UEFI news: Linus Torvalds announced today that the flaw which was bricking some Samsung laptops if booted into Linux has been dealt with.
Nerval's Lobster writes "To give the Mars Rover Curiosity the brains she needs to operate took 5 million lines of code. And while the Mars Science Laboratory team froze the code a year before the roaming laboratory landed on August 5, they kept sending software updates to the spacecraft during its 253-day, 352 million-mile flight. In its belly, Curiosity has two computers, a primary and a backup. Fun fact: Apple's iPhone 5 has more processing power than this one-eyed explorer. 'You're carrying more processing power in your pocket than Curiosity,' Ben Cichy, chief flight software engineer, told an audience at this year's MacWorld."
waderoush writes "In November, Lytro, the maker of the first light field camera for consumers, upgraded its viewer software to enable a feature called 'Perspective Shift.' In addition to refocusing pictures after they've been taken, Lytro audiences can now pivot between different virtual points of view, within a narrow baseline. This 3-D capability was baked into Lytro's technology from the start: 'The light field itself is inherently multidimensional [and] the 2-D refocusable picture that we launched with was just one way to represent that,' says Eric Cheng, Lytro's director of photography. But while Perspective Shift is currently little more than a novelty, the possibilities for future 3-D imaging are startling, especially as Lytro develops future devices with larger sensors — and therefore larger baselines, allowing more dramatic 3-D effects. Cheng says the company is already exploring future versions of its viewer software that would work on 3-D televisions. 'We are moving the power of photography from optics to computation,' he says. 'So when the public really demands 3-D content, we will be ready for it.'"
silentbrad sends word of a recent lecture given by Valve's Gabe Newell to a college class. He had some interesting remarks about the future of games in the living room: "The threat right now is that Apple has gained a huge amount of market share, and has a relatively obvious pathway towards entering the living room with their platform," Newell said. "I think that there's a scenario where we see sort of a dumbed down living room platform emerging — I think Apple rolls the console guys really easily. The question is can we make enough progress in the PC space to establish ourselves there, and also figure out better ways of addressing mobile before Apple takes over the living room? ... We're happy to do it if nobody else will do it, mainly because everybody else will pile on, and people will have a lot of choices, but they'll have those characteristics. They'll say, 'Well, I could buy a console, which assumes I'll re-buy all my content, have a completely different video system, and, oh, I have a completely different group of friends, apparently. Or I can just extend everything I love about the PC and the internet into the living room.' ... I think the biggest challenge is that Apple moves on the living room before the PC industry sort of gets its act together." There's another hour-long lecture from Newell posted on YouTube talking about productivity, economics, and the future of corporations. Speaking of Steam, reader skade88 points out an article at Linux.com about the current state of the Steam for Linux beta.
Zothecula writes "A major obstruction to the development of practical 3D microchips is moving data and logic signals from one layer of circuitry to another. This can be done with conventional circuitry, but is quite cumbersome and generates a good deal of heat inside the 3D circuit. Physicists at the University of Cambridge have now developed a spintronic shift register that allows information to be passed between different layers of a 3D microchip. 'To create the microchip, the researchers used an experimental technique called ‘sputtering’. They effectively made a club-sandwich on a silicon chip of cobalt, platinum and ruthenium atoms (abstract). The cobalt and platinum atoms store the digital information in a similar way to how a hard disk drive stores data. The ruthenium atoms act as messengers, communicating that information between neighbouring layers of cobalt and platinum. Each of the layers is only a few atoms thick. They then used a laser technique called MOKE to probe the data content of the different layers. As they switched a magnetic field on and off they saw in the MOKE signal the data climbing layer by layer from the bottom of the chip to the top.'"
New submitter Zeussy writes "While looking around Thingiverse for something to 3D-print, I found this awesome public domain prosthetic hand designed for a 5-year-old child called Liam, who was born without any fingers on his right hand. The design is based on parts either 3D-printed or bought from your local hardware store. It's body powered via cables and bungees; see it in action in this video. They are currently running a Fundly Fundraiser."
An anonymous reader writes "Internationally acclaimed architecture firm Foster + Partners built the Hearst Tower, the Millennium Bridge, and the Gherkin here on earth — and now they're setting their sights on outer space with plans to produce a 3D printed building on the moon. Today the firm announced that it has partnered with the European Space Agency to develop a lunar base for four people that can withstand the threat of meteorites, gamma radiation and temperature fluctuations. Since transporting building materials to space is a challenge, the team is considering using on-site 3D printing as a solution."
Zordak writes "Micron has recently landed U.S. Patent 8,352,745, which claims priority back to a February 2000 application---well before Apple's 2004 slide-to-unlock application. While claim construction is a highly technical art, the claims here are (for once) almost as broad as they sound, and may cover the bulk of touch screen smart phones on the market today. Dennis Crouch's Patently-O has a discussion."
judgecorp writes "Yesterday's BlackBerry 10 announcement did not mention the company's tablet, the Playbook, but users will be relieved to know it will get an update to BlackBerry 10. It's not a huge surprise, since BB10 is based on the PlayBook's QNX operating system, but PlayBook users may have been worried since the company did not even mention the struggling tablet in passing at the event." Hopefully the Playbook's camera is better than the one in the new BB10-based Z10 phone, the low-light performance of which Gizmodo describes as "four-years-ago crap."
Lasrick writes "Dawn Stover has another great piece detailing why renewable energy will never provide us with all our energy needs. She deconstructs the unrealistic World Wildlife Fund report (co-written by several solar companies) that claims renewables will be able to provide 100% of the energy needs of several countries by 2050. From the article: 'When renewable energy experts get together, they tend to rhapsodize about the possibilities, believing that this will somehow inspire others to make their visions come true. But ambitious plans to power entire countries on solar energy (or wind or nuclear power, for that matter) don't have a snowball's chance in Australia. Such schemes are doomed to fail, and not because of the economic "reality" or the political "reality" -- however daunting those may be. They are doomed because of the physical reality: It's simply not physically possible for the world's human population to continue growing in numbers, affluence, and energy consumption without trashing the planet.'"
An anonymous reader writes "From the LA Times: 'Although Microsoft's 128 GB Surface Pro tablet is advertised as having 128 gigabytes of storage, the amount of space available to users is much less than that. That's also true for the 64 GB model. The Redmond, Wash., company confirmed Tuesday that the 128 GB Surface Pro has 83 GB of free storage, while the 64 GB version comes with 23 GB of open space. The reason for the difference: space already taken up by the tablet's Windows 8 Pro operating system and various preinstalled apps.' It's generally understood that your device won't have as much available storage as advertised, but it's usually a lot closer than this. Should device-makers be required to advertise how much storage is available to users, rather than the size of the storage media?"
waderoush writes "It may be the biggest art hack ever: a project to install 25,000 individually addressable LED lights on the western span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. New York-based 'light sculptor' Leo Villareal was in San Francisco last week to test the vast 'Bay Lights' art installation, which will officially debut on March 5 and last for two years; Xconomy has photos and video of Villareal running the light show from his laptop. To optimize his algorithms and figure out which patterns would be most interesting or arresting, Villareal needed to experiment on the bridge itself, says Bay Lights director Ben Davis, who has raised $5.8 million for the project so far. 'This has never been done before in history — literally debugging software 500 feet in the air, in front of a million people,' says Davis."
Space MMORPG EVE Online is best known for its amazing stories, and on Sunday it added a new epic tale. The leader of a huge coalition, preparing for a moderately sized assault, mis-clicked and accidentally warped himself into enemy territory without his support fleet, endangering his massive ship worth an estimated $3,500. Realizing the danger, he called upon every ally he could, and the enemy fleet rallied in turn, leading to an incredible 3,000-player battle. What's also impressive is that the EVE servers stayed up for the whole fight, when most MMOs struggle with even a few hundred players at the same time. The Penny Arcade report spoke with CCP Games for some information on how they managed that: "It’s hard to wrap your head around, but they sometimes move the in-game space itself. 'We move other solar systems on the node away from the fight. This disconnects anyone in those systems temporarily, but spares them from the ongoing symptoms of being on an overloaded server,' Veritas explained. 'It helps the fight system a little bit as well, especially if a reinforcement fleet is traveling through those other systems. This was done for the fight over the weekend, but is rare.' ... They do have a built-in mechanism for dealing with massive battles, however: They slow down time itself. ... Once server load reaches a certain point, the game automatically slows down time by certain increments to deal with the strain. Time was running at 10% speed during this 3,000-person battle, which is the maximum amount of time dilation possible."
An anonymous reader writes "Electronic devices are built to last, which make them very reliable. However, if during a hostile situation such a device has to be left behind or gets dropped, it will continue to function and could end up giving the enemy an advantage. With that in mind, DARPA has set about creating electronics that work for as long as necessary, but can be destroyed at a moment's notice. The project is called Vanishing Programmable Resources (VAPR). Its main aim is to develop so-called transient electronics that are capable of dissolving completely, or at the very least to the point where they no longer function. Destroying a VAPR device should be as easy as sending a signal to it or placing the device within certain conditions e.g. extreme heat or cold, that triggers the rapid destruction process."