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Opposable Thumbs

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Original author: 
Cyrus Farivar

Aurich Lawson / Jonathan Naumann / Joi Ito / Stanford CIS

Fifteen years ago, I was living outside Geneva, Switzerland, spending my lunch hours screwing around on the nascent Web a few dozen kilometers from where it was created. I popped into chat rooms, forums, and news sites, and I e-mailed family back home. I was learning French and getting my dose of tech news by reading the French-language edition of Macworld magazine. (Génial!)

I returned Stateside mere months after Ars began, reading more and more about the people behind many of the technologies that I was becoming increasingly fascinated with. I consumed just about every book I could find describing the history and personalities behind graphical user interfaces, networking, the Internet itself, and more.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned through all that, it’s that most people involved in technology continue the Newtonian tradition of humility. The most iconic innovators all seem to readily acknowledge that they stand on the shoulders of giants. In fact, when I met Vint Cerf and thanked him for making the work I do possible, he was a predictable gentleman, saying, “There were many others involved in the creation of TCP/IP, not just me.”

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Original author: 
Megan Geuss


The foc.us headset.

Ars Technica

SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Earlier this week, Ars showed up at a demo day for the painful-to-read HAXLR8R (pronounced hack-celerator), a startup accelerator program that takes ten teams of entrepreneurs, gives them $25,000, and flies them between San Francisco and Shenzhen to work on a hardware-based product of their design.

Most of the products were still in progress, so many teams spent demo day courting VC funders or imploring the crowd to visit their Kickstarter campaign. But Foc.us, a company founded by mechanical engineers Michael Oxley and Martin Skinner, actually had its product launch that day. Its Foc.us headset is a device that is meant to shock your brain with electricity—and make you a better gamer because of it.

The headset is a red or black band that goes around the back of your head, with four disks that are placed on your forehead, just above your eyebrows. The disks contain electrodes beneath small circular sponges soaked in saline solution. When the headset turns on (via a physical button in the back or a companion iOS app), you get a shock to the prefrontal cortex that can range from 0.8 to 2.0 mA. For context, a hearing aid usually runs on about 0.7 mA—but you’re not directing that electricity into your head.

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Original author: 
Lee Hutchinson

Adrian (adiera1 on DeviantArt)

369 hours.

That's nine 40-hour work weeks of time spent in the Mass Effect universe, according to the combined reports of Steam, Origin, and my creaky old Xbox 360. Eighty-six hours went into the original Mass Effect (three playthroughs), 189 hours into Mass Effect 2 (six playthroughs), and 94 hours into Mass Effect 3 (three playthroughs).

Commander Shepard and his crew—sometimes her crew, but we'll get to that—have done plenty of galaxy saving under my control. They fought aliens, robots, clones, politicians, and reporters. They stood united against enemies vast and unknowably timeless. They have, in the words of James T. Kirk, "been through death and life together."

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Original author: 
Dan Goodin

Researchers have uncovered an ongoing cyberespionage campaign targeting more than 30 online video game companies over the past four years.

The companies infected by the malware primarily market so-called massively multiplayer online role-playing games. They're mostly located in South East Asia, but are also in the US, Germany, Japan, China, Russia, Brazil, Peru, and Belarus, according to a release published Thursday by researchers from antivirus provider Kaspersky Lab. The attackers work from computers with Chinese and Korean language configurations. They used their unauthorized access to obtain digital certificates that were later exploited in malware campaigns targeting other industries and political activists.

So far, there's no evidence that customers of the infected game companies were targeted, although in at least one case, malicious code was accidentally installed on gamers' computers by one of the infected victim companies. Kaspersky said there was another case of end users being infected by the malware, which is known as "Winnti." The company didn't rule out the possibility that players could be hit in the future, potentially as a result of collateral damage.

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Original author: 
Kyle Orland

Sure, every game has an ending of sorts. For a certain class of classic game, though, that ending was always of the "You Are Dead Ha Ha Ha!" variety. From Robotron 2084's ever-increasing robot hordes to Missile Command's memorable "THE END" explosion, you went into these games knowing that failure was not just an option, but really the only option.

Then there are the games that seem like they should go on forever but, for one reason or another, just don't. Whether it's because of a coding error leading to an unintentional "kill screen" or a simple design choice stopping an otherwise never-ending series of loops, a lot of games that seem unbeatable at first glance can actually be conquered in one way or another.

To be clear, these aren't just games that are hard to beat (though most of them are incredibly difficult). These are games that, by all rights, shouldn't have a victory condition yet eventually reach a point where it's technically impossible to keep playing even if you don't fail in any way. Enjoy.

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Original author: 
Casey Johnston


All the bits and pieces that go into a pair of virtual reality goggles.

iFixit

iFixit posted a teardown of the Oculus Rift headset Wednesday to see what, exactly, the virtual reality headset is made of. The teardown reveals the types of screens and controllers the Oculus Rift uses, and though the score is preliminary, iFixit gave it a 9 out of 10 user repairability score—unusual in the glue, tape, and Torx screw times we now live in.

The Oculus Rift uses one 1280×800 LCD that is split down the middle to show one image each to the right and left eye to create a 3D image. The display is an Innolux HJ070IA-02D 7-inch LCD panel, provided by the same distributor rumored to be Apple’s source for replacement iPad mini screens. A custom-designed Oculus Tracker V2 board pings to track the headset's motion at a 1000Hz refresh rate.

The chips inside the device include an STMicroelectronics 32F103C8 Cortex-M3 microcontroller with a 72MHz CPU and an Invensense MPU-6000 six-axis motion tracking controller that has both a gyroscope and accelerometer. There is also a chip named A983 2206, which iFixit suspects is a “three-axis magnetometer, used in conjunction with the accelerometer to correct for gyroscope drift.”

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Original author: 
Kyle Orland

(video link)

It's easy to write about games that can be compared to other games. "It's like Call of Duty, but in space," or "It's like Gran Turismo, but all the cars feel like they're made of styrofoam" or "It's like the tabletop game Labyrinth, but you're controlling a monkey in a plastic ball." The games that are the most fun to write about, though, are the ones where you struggle to come up with any suitable comparisons.

Sure, you can draw some links between Antichamber and games like Portal. Both games involve wandering through a sterile laboratory and trying to find your way out. Both involve using a gun that doesn't shoot bullets, but does help you find an exit indirectly. And both take place from a first-person perspective. But Antichamber's similarities to Portal—and to most other games—end there.

Understanding Antichamber means forgetting your understanding of pretty much everything you know about how the physical world works. First to go is the idea of object permanence that you developed as a baby. Turn around in Antichamber, and the hallway that was there a second ago can easily be a totally different room. Then the game starts to mess with your ideas of depth perception—you can fall for miles, only to end up just a few feet below where you started.

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Mark Cerny gives us our first look at the PS4's internals.

Andrew Cunningham

By the time Sony unveiled the PlayStation 4 at last night's press conference, the rumor mill had already basically told us what the console would be made of inside the (as-yet-nonexistent) box: an x86 processor and GPU from AMD and lots of memory.

Sony didn't reveal all of the specifics about its new console last night (and, indeed, the console itself was a notable no-show), but it did give us enough information to be able to draw some conclusions about just what the hardware can do. Let's talk about what components Sony is using, why it's using them, and what kind of performance we can expect from Sony's latest console when it ships this holiday season.

The CPU


AMD's Jaguar architecture, used for the PS4's eight CPU cores, is a follow-up to the company's Bobcat architecture for netbooks and low-power devices. AMD

We'll get started with the components of most interest to gamers: the chip that actually pushes all those polygons.

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Joseph Dumary

Next-gen TV—with a 4K "Ultra HD" picture resolution—was this year's hot topic at CES. But its success may be in the hands of console gamers.

With leaked details of octal-core processor banks paired with 8GB of RAM, the PlayStation 4 "Orbis" is sounding powerful (just for comparison of RAM alone, the 8GB of system memory is roughly 32 times more than the current model). But to see where 4K comes in, it's worth taking a trip back seven years.

In 2005, very few people had an HDTV. According to one study, there were "as many" as 10 million homes with high-definition screens—globally. The problem, according to many commentators, was the lack of HD content: nobody wanted to buy an HDTV because there was little HD content; very little HD content was made because there were very few people to sell it to. Classic catch-22.

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Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang unveils the Nvidia Grid server at the company's CES presentation.

Andrew Cunningham

The most interesting news to come out of Nvidia's two-hour-plus press conference Sunday night was doubtlessly the Tegra 4 mobile processor, followed closely by its intriguing Project Shield tablet-turned-handheld game console. However, company CEO Jen-Hsun Huang also revealed a small morsel of news about the cloud gaming initiative that Nvidia talked up back in May: the Nvidia Grid, the company's own server designed specifically to serve as the back-end for cloud gaming services.

Thus far, virtualized and streaming game services have not set the world on fire. OnLive probably had the highest profile of any such service, and though it continues to live on, it has been defined more by its troubled financial history than its success.

We stopped by Nvidia's CES booth to get some additional insight into just how the Grid servers do their thing and how Nvidia is looking to overcome the technical drawbacks inherent to cloud gaming services.

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