SAN FRANCISCO--If you've ever taken Lincoln Boulevard through the Presidio here, you almost certainly didn't know that you passed within feet of one of the best-preserved World War II-era anti-aircraft machine gun nests in the country.
In fact, all around the Presidio are dozens of these original trenches and fox holes, most of which are completely grown over with weeds and other vegetation, but many of which still have the pillars on which Army crews once mounted their .50 caliber guns in preparation for an aerial or sea-based attack that, thankfully, never came.Continue »
You knew it was coming. It was inevitable. And, yes, I'm talking about Kinect sex.
With almost any hot new tech toy, especially one with a heavy degree of interactivity--which Microsoft's motion-sensitive controller has in spades--someone is going to try to hack it and try to make it X-rated. And the Kinect is no different.
To date, there are no overtly sexual Kinect games on the market, though the folks who put together Kinect MotionSwinger would like you to believe--for a moment at least--otherwise. But that's nothing more than a joke concept for a Kinect sex game put together with some imagery from Second Life.
Still, when it comes to finding ways to utilize new technology for, shall we say, lewd purposes, there are few people more qualified thank Kyle (qDot) Machulis, the dean of the underground sex-tech genre known as teledildonics.Continue »
Law enforcement officials may be able to monitor crowds with low-flying cameras for more than 12 hours, thanks to what could be record-breaking laser beam powered technology.
Two companies, Germany's Ascending Technologies and Seattle's LaserMotiv, say they set a new standard for flying time for what's called a quadrocopter, a small electric-powered helicopter.
While the concept of a camera mounted on a quadrocopter has been around for some time, the companies said in a release today that until now, law enforcement had not been able to use them for more than 20 minutes.
But Ascending Technologies and LaserMotiv say they fashioned a one-kilogram quadrocopter called the "AscTec Pelican," which was powered by a laser beam and special photovoltaic cells and was able to stay aloft for about 12 hours and 27 minutes.
The principle behind the laser and photovoltaic cells is known as power beaming, and in this manifestation of the technology, the two companies set up a directed laser beam and coordinated it with a high speed tracking system that is designed to power objects like a quadrocopter over distances of as much as several kilometers. The AscTec Pelican was also outfitted with a battery pack that allowed the quadrocopter to fly autonomously for up to five minutes.
This technology is similar to one being proposed by a startup known as Escape Dynamics--albeit at a much different scale. Escape Dynamics hopes to be able to power a full-scale rocket launch with Continue »
OAKLAND, Calif.--"Computers don't create computer animation any more than a pencil creates pencil animation. What creates computer animation are artists."
Those words would ring true no matter who said them, but in this case, the source has just about the highest possible credibility on the issue at hand: John Lasseter, the chief creative officer for both Walt Disney Pictures and Pixar Animation Studios, and the director of four of Pixar's most loved films.
Lasseter's words hang high on a wall in the Oakland Museum of California here, where the exhibit "Pixar: 25 Years of Animation" is currently showing.
In this gallery are a series of images showcasing many of the nearly 300 films that ILM has worked on, earning 15 Oscars in the process and a total of 40 Academy Award nominations. LM got its start in 1975 when Lucas needed a visual effects department to work on "Star Wars." According to ILM, "The young team at ILM pioneered the use of computers to control and move motion picture cameras. The invention, named the Dystraflex, in honor of its primary inventor, John Dykstra, allowed camera moves to be programmed and repeated time and time again giving effects artists the ability to shoot multiple registered passes of miniatures such as the Millennium Falcon, which would later be optically composited together into a single shot."
You can read the full story at CNET.
Though there's no way to know if Halo: Reach will break any sales records, it's a sure bet to be one of the biggest sellers of 2010 and will give Microsoft yet another exclusive title to tout when it promotes the Xbox 360--none of the Halo games is available on Sony's PlayStation or Nintendo's Wii consoles.
But Halo: Reach didn't come out of nowhere. Bungie released the original Halo in 2001 for Microsoft's original Xbox, and the hits haven't stopped coming: first Halo 2, then Halo 3, then Halo Wars (developed not by Bungie, but by Ensemble Studios), Halo 3: ODST and now, finally, Halo: Reach.
To commemorate the game's release, CNET has put together this gallery of screenshots, artists' renderings, concept art, and magazine covers spanning the nine years and six games in the series.
ORLANDO, Fla.--If you were a member of the Rebel Alliance and were in the room I was in this afternoon, you might well have been a little nervous. After all, standing guard throughout the room and in the hallway outside, were uniformed Imperial Stormtroopers brandishing serious-looking weapons. They were definitely there to keep order, and if you weren't loyal to Darth Vader or Emperor Palpatine, you were definitely on their bad side. Reading this, you might think I'm a little crazy, but what I really am is attending Celebration V, the huge "Star Wars" fan convention here, and on Thursday, it almost seemed like those of us who weren't dressed in costumes faithful to the massively popular films were in the minority. Read the rest of this article at CNET
MILL RUN, Pa.--After seeing a few Frank Lloyd Wright masterpieces, you might expect to be a little jaded when it's time for the next one.
I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and have spent time inside the Marin County Civic Center--a stunning Wright creation that was the set for the movie "Gattaca." I've visited Wright's Scottsdale, Ariz., architecture school, Taliesin West and have seen a few other of his buildings along the way.
But nothing prepared me for my Road Trip 2010 visit to the incredible Fallingwater, Wright's 1937 piece de resistance, a relatively small vacation house in the woods here, just more than 60 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, the home of the Kaufmann family, for whom he designed and built Fallingwater.
For decades, the property here was a country club. Then, Edgar Kaufmann Sr. began renting this woodsy getaway as a retreat for employees of his Pittsburgh department store. Later, Kaufmann purchased the land. But it was only after the Kaufmanns had hired Wright for a Pittsburgh project that the famous architect was commissioned to built a house here. In part, that was because the Kaufmanns' son, Edgar Jr., had studied at Taliesin West and knew that Wright would be a good fit for Bear Run, as the property is known.
FORT MEADE, Md.--For anyone with even the vaguest sense of the history of World War II, the term "Enigma" should hold some special meaning.
That, of course, was the name of the encryption device the Germans used to such great success during the first years of the war, allowing them to pass messages without worry of their being decrypted by the Allies.
But when the Allies finally solved the mystery of the Enigma, it turned the course of the war. The Germans were no longer able to stay ahead of the Allies and were no longer able to communicate in secret with anywhere near the efficacy that they had before.
I'm here at the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing, which, as is probably best described by its official Web site, is America's "money factory."
More specifically, this is where the U.S. Treasury Department prints its paper money, and as part of Road Trip 2010, I've come here to see how the bureau makes the brand-new, next-generation $100 bill. The bureau's mission is emblazoned in red, white, and blue neon on a wall near where I came in: "We make money the old fashioned way, we PRINT it."
But jumping ahead of that process a little bit, I'll say it again: At the end of my behind-the-scenes tour, I've come face to face with two giant piles, or "skids" of perfect, clean, crisp $100s, all packaged up and ready to be shipped out, exactly 384,000 of them, and I can only shake my head and think, "what if."
That's getting ahead of myself though.
Although the bureau prints each of America's paper denominations, my tour is of the production process for the new $100, partly because it's the most advanced bill the country has ever printed, and mainly because the bureau is still in publicity mode for it. The new bill was unveiled officially on April 21.
My tour began in what is called "Offset." This, explained Offset supervisor James Sutherland, is where background color is printed on what until then had been blank sheets of the special paper the bureau uses for all our currency. That paper comes delivered with embedded purple anti-counterfeiting strips, and as well as the little colored security fibers that set our money apart, but nothing else.
Once Offset has printed the first rounds of background colors, the future $100 bills--which start as sheets of 32 bills--four across, eight down--are stacked up and set aside to dry for 72 hours. It seems a little weird to me that they dry in these large stacks, but that's how it works. After every stage in the printing process, the sheets must dry for 72 hours. And then it's on to the next stage.
We moved on to what is known as "intaglio," the section where the many elements of the new $100--the lettering, the back, the face, the seals, and more--are added.
This is also where many of the additional security--read: anti-counterfeiting--features are added. Here, that means specialty inks and color-shifting inks. I was asked not to say more, as a security precaution.
First up is the printing of the back of the bill. This is pretty straightforward, and when I come in, I talk to assistant supervisor Bob Smith, who explains what's going on. One interesting part of the process is the printing and examination of the so-called "smear sheet," which looks like a sheet of 32 $100 backs, dipped entirely in green ink. A smear sheet is printed once every 8,000 sheets or so.
The smear sheet, said Smith, is used by the printers as a way to see if everything in a run has been printed where it's supposed to be. On every sheet, the note's many authentication patterns are supposed to be in precise places, and by looking at the smear sheet, he added, the printers are able to ensure that that is the case.
But there's also automatic examination going on, Smith said. Built into the printing presses are inspection sensors that scan each sheet as it goes through, looking for defects, in a bid to "reduce spoilage." Those that the machine rejects are automatically separated "from the good work." All told, he added, about 85 percent to 90 percent of the sheets that come off the printer are deemed defect-free.
If, however, a defect is found--perhaps it's missing some print, is over-inked, under-inked, too lightly printed, or has smudges--the sheet isn't destroyed. Instead, if enough of it is salvageable, the good bills will be set aside and used as what are known as "star sheets." But more on that later.
Smith said that the bureau's printing presses have a general capacity of about 10,000 sheets an hour, but that for the new $100 bill, they're producing about 20 percent less, or about 8,000 sheets an hour. And that's because they're still in the earliest stages of the bill's production. Eventually, Smith suggested, the number will rise to normal production levels.
That much was evident at the press conference, which took place here Monday morning. Before Kinect was ever mentioned, those in the audience were blasted with demos of purely hardcore titles like Call of Duty: Black Ops, Metal Gear Solid: Rising, Halo: Reach, and Gears of War 3. The new Call of Duty, from the developer Treyarch, rather than Infinity Ward, which made the record-breaking Call of Duty: World at War, will be released on November 9, while Halo: Reach is expected in September.
And with a new, slimmer and smaller $299 Xbox hitting retailers this week with its 250-gigabyte hard drive and built-in Wi-Fi, hardcore gamers who choose to buy the new model will have plenty of hardware to work with.E3 Expo 2010 Pictures
There's no doubt, though, that the star of Monday's Xbox event was Kinect, formerly known as Project Natal. Kinect will be released in North America on November 4, and while Microsoft hasn't yet named its price--rumors have it in the $100 to $150 range--you can be sure Microsoft is going to want to make it accessible to the masses that it now hopes to lure in to the Xbox platform.
And that's what Kinect is: a platform play. Microsoft sees the new hardware--which can sense and respond to users' body motions as well as their voices--taking an integral role in the living room, and joining with Xbox Live to bring the Xbox that much closer to the entire family.
"I believe that the living room is being redefined and reimagined," said Marc Whitten, the general manager of Xbox Live, in an interview. "How people are going to consume entertainment is changing in this amazing time we are in. When you look at Xbox 360 and what we have with Live, and the power to bring in Kinect, which gives you this natural user interface to drive on top of that, that's what's going to be really special--whether that's about all the games you can play or the new user entertainment experiences. It's really about how you get people to expect more out of their living room."
The idea is to integrate Kinect with Microsoft's entire living room play. So, for example, users will be able to control Netflix movies or TV shows through Xbox Live with nothing more than a wave or two of their hands and a voice command to stop, pause, or play. They will be able to have video chats with friends, watch pro sports games via a Microsoft content partnership with ESPN and, of course, play games.
Read the rest of this article at CNET News.com.
On Sunday night, at the University of Southern California's Galen Center here, and during a special performance by Cirque du Soleil, Microsoft finally and formally pulled back the wraps on its much-anticipated system, now known as Kinect, but originally the work of the Israeli company 3DV.
After sitting through (actually standing, as the press was placed on the floor of the arena for a couple of hours with no seats) the performance, in which the Cirque's performers acted out and demonstrated a number of ways that Kinect can be used, my first impression is that Microsoft has hit on something with some serious potential. But at least as demonstrated Sunday, that potential hasn't been fully realized.
It might not sound like a lot on first glance, but the 36 extra seconds that the average Google.com visitor spent there last Friday playing Pac-Man adds up to a massive 4.8 million wasted hours.
According to a study by RescueTime, Pac-Man on Google--the search giant on Friday replaced its home page logo with a playable version of the iconic game--cost the economy a total of 4,819,352 man-hours and a whopping $120,483,800 in lost productivity. As RescueTime put it, you could hire every single Google employee, including co-founders Larry Page, Sergey Brin and CEO Eric Schmidt, and get them for six weeks for that much money.
Still, it's hard to get too worked up over 36 extra seconds of time someone might have spent on Google.com. After all, how much time does the average person spend not doing work when other time-sucks come along, like presidential elections, sports championships, "Lost" finales, the death of celebrities like Michael Jackson and so on. Clearly, that number is an average, and so it masks that fact that some people probably lost most of their day Friday to Google's remake of the 30-year-old game.
But long before the Halos and the Sims and the Call of Dutys and the Maddens began bringing in billions of dollars, the world was dominated by a simple yellow character munching his way through a maze of dots, trying to avoid getting eaten by ghosts.
On May 22, 1980, a Japanese company called Namco Bandai released a game in Japan called Puck-Man. The title was rejected in the United States because some worried that the "P" would chip off the cabinet and look like an "F."
Regardless, a global phenomenon was born that day. And on Saturday, Pac-Man celebrates its 30th anniversary. And unlike so many of the hit games that have come and gone since then, the little yellow disc with the missing pie-slice for a mouth has become a legend in the video games industry, as well as an inspiration for many of the best-known designers in the field.Google's Pac-Man Game
"I think there's no question that Pac-Man was sort of a watershed event in the popularity and possibilities of video games," said Richard Garriott, a veteran designer known for his pioneering work on Ultima and Ultima Online, as well as his leading roles on Lineage, City of Heroes, and Tabula Rasa. "It was by no means the first [hit game], but earlier offerings [like Asteroids and Pong], no matter how compelling [they were] to nerds like me...Pac-Man was really the first [that reached] what I would call the broad cross-section of society, men and women. It was really the first time, where people looked at video games not merely as this odd thing that teenage boys would [pump] their quarters into, but which had much broader social significance."
That may seem like a bold statement, but there is evidence to back the idea that Pac-Man may be the most influential video game of all time. For instance, the Guinness Book of World Records named Pac-Man as the best-known video game character on Earth, beating out stalwarts like the Mario Brothers and Sonic the Hedgehog. Guinness also lists Pac-Man as the most successful coin-operated game ever.
And while it may not have the attention of the typical male teen gamer, Pac-Man certainly still has a place in society today. There are popular iPhone and iPad versions of the game, many bars still feature the arcade machines. And on Friday, Google is breaking new ground by unveiling its first-ever interactive and playable home page logo, a full-featured, 255-level version of Pac-Man (see this video), built from the ground up but maintaining an almost perfect look and feel of the original.
"We are very excited about the Google [logo] project," Namco CEO Kenji Hisatsune told CNET by e-mail. "This being the first time Google has ever included sound or made a [logo] playable demonstrates just how big of an impact Pac-Man has made."
Marcin Wichary, the Google senior user-experience designer who led the Pac-Man logo project, agreed that the game has made a huge difference in many people's lives, including his.
Pac-Man was released when "there were a lot of space shooters," said Wichary. "It was the first game that tried to approach it a little bit differently. It tries to tell a story and it's not a violent game. It's very friendly, with colorful characters and music. I think that was important...It's just so amazing that Pac-Man's so timeless. Even 30 years later, it's actually [still] such a blast to play it."
One of the biggest reasons that Pac-Man, and its many sequels, especially 1981's Ms. Pac-Man, were hits, is because they were very simple. Pick up one of today's more complicated $60 Xbox 360 titles and if you're not a hard-core gamer, you can easily get so confused and intimidated that you quickly give up. But Pac-Man wasn't like that.
"Pretty much anyone could watch someone playing it for 10 seconds and understand everything about it," said Steve Meretzky, a veteran game designer who created famous Infocom titles like Leather Goddesses of Phobos and the game version of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. "It was a game everyone felt comfortable playing, even in the setting of an arcade, and that's why it became so universally popular."
In addition, Meretzky said, Pac-Man had something for everyone, be it a first-timer or someone who had spent countless dollars in quarters on it. "It's just incredibly well-crafted," he said. "It balances pretty well. Even if you are a super expert and you're playing it for the zillionth time, level one isn't boring. It still feels fun to play. And vice-versa. Even if you're a rank newbie, level one doesn't feel like a horrible crushing experience. It's still fun to play."
Fifty years ago Saturday, a Hughes Labs researcher named Theodore Maiman changed the world.
That day, Maiman became the first person on Earth to build a working laser, something that colleagues at a number of other companies and institutions had been feverishly trying to do for months or even years.
Coming out of World War II, explained Hughes Lab veteran and current Raytheon optics and lasers senior principal physicist Daniel Nieuwsma, many people were working with radar and were looking or ways to boost their power.
One method that was tried was using masers, or microwave amplification by stimulation of emission of radiation. Essentially, these are devices that, according to Stanford's Gravity Probe B program, set "up a series of atoms or molecules and excites them to generate the chain reaction, or amplification, of photons."
The maser was first postulated by Albert Einstein in 1917, but it wasn't until after World War II that anyone built one.Continue »