- FIRST Stronghold Kicked-Off the 2016 Robotics Competition
- Intel RealSense and Uraniom Put Your Avatar in Fallout 4
- Video Games Drifting Towards Even More Open Play
- 15 Awesome Star Wars: The Force Awakens Behind the Scenes Photos
Posted: 10 Jan 2016 01:53 PM PST
What could possibly be better than watching teams of robots trying to destroy each other’s fortress, and all that in real life? That’s exactly the goal of the 2016 FIRST Robotics Competition.
Senator for New Hampshire Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) and New Hampshire Governor Margaret Hassan (D-N.H.), along with more than 1,000 people, attended yesterday at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester, N.H., hometown of FIRST HQ, the kickoff of a new robotics game called FIRST Stronghold, which marked the beginning of the 2016 FIRST Robotics Competition season. They were all joined through a miracle called live broadcast by 75,000 high-schoolers that make up more than 3,100 teams at 114 venues from the entire world.
“One of the amazing things about FIRST is that everyone involved gets more out of it than they put into it,” said Dean Kamen, president of DEKA Research & Development, inventor and founder of FIRST. “The kids get opportunities they'd never get elsewhere; it might give them career options they’d never thought about. The teachers see kids who become passionate about learning and the relevance of technology and math. The corporations are creating their own futures. Most of what I get out of it is being part of an incredible community. We get to be part of a group that is creating the future of the world.”
The FIRST Stronghold game has a very simple premise: two Alliances of three robots are on a Quest to destroy each other’s fortifications. Boulders are used for weakening each Alliance’s tower, and capturing the opposing tower grants victory to whoever does that. However, that last part can only happen in the final 20 seconds of the Quest.
At yesterday’s Kickoff, each team was explained the details of the competition and got a Kit of Parts that included motors, batteries, control system components, construction materials, and a bundle of additional automation components. The high-school students will be tutored by adult Mentors, and over a period of six weeks, they need to design, build, program, and test their robot. Once they do this, they can take part in one or more of the 118 Regional and District events that gauge just how effective each robot is, and how closely the team members collaborated.
“We recognize that the talented youth who join FIRST Robotics Competition teams are learning the skills Comcast NBCUniversal needs in the future engineers and technologists we hire,” said John Schanz, executive vice president and chief network officer at Comcast Cable. “That's why we are thrilled to support FIRST and pledge our resources, funding, talent, and time. We wish the teams a great build cycle and competition season."
A replay of the live broadcast can be watched below in glorious 360p. To watch the game explanation, jump to 35:38. It’s really weird that a competition that listed NVIDIA and Comcast NBCUniversal among its sponsors didn’t get a higher-quality broadcast.
Comcast customers have until February 6 to watch the FIRST Robotics Competition Kickoff video and some extra content from FIRST on Xfinity On Demand, and hopefully the quality of those videos is higher.
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Posted: 10 Jan 2016 12:55 PM PST
While Intel’s RealSense 3D scanning technology isn’t particularly new, the application exhibited at CES 2016 by Intel and Uraniom is revolutionary, as it enables gamers to become the stars of Fallout 4 and several other games.
Games where the character’s features can be altered have been around for quite a while now, and people who paid attention to such details spent a lot of time trying to get the character to resemble, even remotely, to themselves. They had to pick a hair color, face shape, type of facial hair, so on and so forth, and at the end of this lengthy process, all that they ended up with was a generic character they shared not more than five features with. Enter Intel’s RealSense 3D scanning technology and Uraniom’s platform for turning raw 3D scans into playable video game avatars, and you end up with a character created in your image that’s roaming around in the open-world environment.
Intel claimed in September 2014 that it would bring 3D scanning to smartphones and tablets in 2015. While there have been a couple of devices equipped with the RealSense technology (most importantly the Dell Venue 8 7840 and the HP Spectre X2), this whole trend hasn’t picked up steam as fast as I would’ve hoped. Maybe implementing depth-sensing cameras into mobile devices is expensive for manufacturers and they don’t want to make their products unapproachable. Personally, I think 3D scanning goes hand in hand with 3D printing, and since that industry has gained a lot of momentum, I think that Intel RealSense should, too.
Erica Griffin, the technology nerd who likes to film stuff, exemplified in a video shot at CES 2016 (that you can watch below) how all of this works. She had her head scanned using an HP Spectre X2 tablet that’s equipped with Intel RealSense R200 depth-sensing cameras. This process is a bit awkward, as someone needs to hold the camera and walk around the subject, who in turn isn’t allowed to move.
According to Intel, the RealSense R200 cameras provides reliable depth information. To facilitate the scanning process and make sure that the resulting avatar looks proper, Uraniom recommends keeping a neutral face, having the neck exposed, the hair (if any) tied back, and homogeneous lighting. The low-res scan was then uploaded to the cloud to render a high-res that can then be adjusted in Uraniom’s avatar editor. Some facial parameters need to be aligned prior to exporting the avatar and importing it into the game. As Erica pointed out in her video, seeing yourself in a game is equal parts amazing and disturbing.
Even though Intel has only exemplified inclusion of avatars in Fallout 4, the technology can be used for several other games, including FIFA 2015, Arma 3, GTA V and The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. Hopefully, more developers of games where character customization makes sense will join the trend.
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[Source and image credit: Erica Griffin]
Posted: 10 Jan 2016 12:40 PM PST
While the most popular video games in the world are very story-driven and probably cinematic in their structure, including the three-act structure, the ever changing way in which we consume gaming (like Twitch) means there’s also room for more freedom and less restrictions on one’s game playing experience.
2016 Will be another step in that direction. Not a massive one, but an example of how developers understand gamers want more control over the narrative, and less being told or forced to follow a certain set path, even if its within very wide parameters.
Maybe the best example for this among upcoming games will be No Man’s Sky, a space exploration game with what seems like a huge amount of planets to visit, and supposedly, no two players' journeys will be alike despite heading towards the same place.
Another interesting game coming out will be Firewatch, following the story of a volunteer fire lookout after the Yellowstone fires of 1988. There is a plot, but it comes with a very broad framework, which enables the protagonist’s relationship with those around him.
Minecraft might be the best example of those looking for complete freedom. A sandbox game, with a clean slate, in which you can express your personality and creativity, although not a lot actually happens in the game. It’s not for everyone, but it’s been a massive success.
Cinematic, story-driven games aren’t going away, and will probably remain on top of the pyramid. But there’s room and demand for more than that in the gaming world, and we might see a shift or at least more experimenting in that direction.
Posted: 10 Jan 2016 12:10 PM PST
Now that Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens has shattered every box office record and there’s no more need for secrecy, behind the scenes photos are coming out to the delight of the movie’s and series fans, who can never have enough of the Star Wars universe.
Anything special? Not too much. A little bit of Stormtroopers standing around, Maz Kanata’s cantina, a lot of Millennium Falcon, a little bit of Finn, one nice resistance photo and a lot of the guys who make the film but aren’t really known standing around the set.
But it’s still cool. Unlike the current trend (which happens with a lot of geek-oriented films), which is bashing the film due to the “honeymoon” period being over, we still think it’s an awesome movie: Fun, really fun, and not filled with the BS from the prequel trilogy (who I still like, but is completely unnecessary to watch in order to understand a single thing about this film).
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