Microsoft wowed me a few weeks ago with its internal HoloLens programs, but like we’ve seen with Kinect, the coolest uses aren’t always the ones Redmond devised. To help make more applications a reality, the tech giant has opened up what it’s calling the Academic Research Request for Proposals. Five awards — each including $100,000 and two HoloLens development kits — will go to accredited universities and be announced this October 6th. The official reasoning here is that Microsoft wants to “better understand the role and possible applications for holographic computing in society.” So, to see what people outside of the Redmond campus think augmented reality is capable of. Got it. Other objectives include spurring research for mixed reality and generally getting more people to make holograms. A few examples the company lays out are data visualizations (similar to Epic Games) and creating 3D models for medical training.
Microsoft stresses that these proposals need to be absolutely complete and that those submitting them be fully capable of carrying out the research or experiments. From the sounds of it, projects that answer high-value research questions and could be easily published in places like academic journals will curry favor among judges. All that to say, Microsoft isn’t giving any of these awards out lightly. Think your US-based institution has what it takes? Deadline for sign-ups is September 5th.
Source: Microsoft Research
The Shenmue series represents a milestone in the gaming industry for many fans, a point where console experiences truly took off. The first Shenmue, released in 1999 for the Sega Dreamcast, was an immersive, emotional, cinematic role-playing game that expanded the definition of an action experience and pushed existing technology to its limits. A new documentary from filmmaker Adam Sipione and Fauxpop Media, A Gamer’s Journey: The Definitive History of Shenmue, dives into the franchise’s history and explores the recent announcement of Shenmue 3. Series creator Yu Suzuki revealed Shenmue 3 and its $2 million Kickstarter on-stage during Sony’s E3 2015 press conference, and nine hours later, the project had cleanly smashed that goal. Check out the teaser for A Gamer’s Journey, including footage direct from Sony’s E3 showcase and accompanying fan reactions, below.
[Image credit: Fauxpop Media]
Last year around this time, word got out that Felix Kjellberg, a 24-year-old Swedish bro known online as PewDiePie, made $4 million a year by playing video games, recording his reactions and uploading the resulting videos to YouTube. At the time, he had 27 million YouTube subscribers. Today, Kjellberg has 37.7 million subscribers on YouTube and his company, PewDiePie Productions, pulled in roughly $7.5 million in revenue in 2014, according to Swedish newspaper Expressen. It looks like this whole “watch people play video games on the internet” craze is here to stay.
When Kjellberg’s revenue numbers hit last year, he was inundated with questions and messages of incredulity — so many that he did a Reddit AMA to clear the air. He confirmed the $4 million figure and noted that he does charity work alongside his “Let’s Play” gaming videos: “I still spent far more money on charities than anything I’ve ever spent for myself. Which I am proud to say at least.” In June 2014, Kjellberg announced that his bro army (see: fans) had raised more than $1 million for various charities, including the World Wildlife Fund, Save the Children, St. Jude hospital and Charity: Water. In March this year, Charity: Water thanked Kjellberg for helping 10,028 people in Rwanda get access to clean water. Not bad for a band of bros.
Kjellberg’s next big thing is the launch of his book, titled This Book Loves You, a collection of inspirational quotes that he’s said over the years as an online personality. For example: “Don’t be yourself. Be a pizza. Everyone loves pizza.” This Book Loves You is due to drop in October.
Predator — the Invisible Eviscerator; the Brutalizer in the Brush — creeps into Mortal Kombat X tomorrow, July 7th, for anyone who owns the $30 Kombat Pack as well as the full game. For everyone else, the Dreadlocked Destroyer will be available to buy as a standalone character on July 14th. The Terror of the Trees enters Mortal Kombat X as part of the Predator Bundle, which includes three additional character skins: Commando Johnny, Infrared Scorpion and Carl Weathers as Jax. Predator joins fellow movie murderer Jason Voorhees as a DLC character in Mortal Kombat X — and the two face off in the following trailer. Spoiler: It doesn’t end well for Jason.
Gotham, get ready. The first bit of DLC for Batman: Arkham Knight stars Batgirl, and it’s due to hit PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on July 14th for $7 in North America (£5.80 in the UK). This is a story-based expansion called Batgirl: A Matter of Family, Gamespot reports, and it puts players in Batgirl’s badass boots with new missions, side quests, a fresh hacking feature and Dual Play with Robin. A Matter of Family is the first installment in Arkham Knight‘s bulk-DLC season pass program, so anyone who purchased that will get the add-on at no additional charge.
There’s no word on a PC launch for the Batgirl DLC pack, which isn’t surprising considering the serious issues Warner Bros has encountered with that version of the game. Soon after release, the studio pulled Arkham Knight from digital PC shelves because of critical problems on the platform and it remains shut down today. The PC version should return in the fall.
Nintendo has had a number of high-profile flops (Virtual Boy, anyone?). However, one of its biggest failures may have been one you heard almost nothing about — at least, until now. Unseen64 has published a documentary detailing the largely unknown story of Project H.A.M.M.E.R (aka MachineX), a Wii game from Nintendo Software Technology that died after nearly six years of painful development that began in 2003. The hammer-swinging sci-fi brawler was supposed to be mostly finished by the time it was first acknowledged in 2005, but a culture clash between the Japanese management and American staff all but killed progress. The two sides had differing ideas about what would fix the mediocre gameplay. The top brass thought better environments would improve things, for example, while the rank-and-file wanted to overhaul the core gameplay mechanics.
That deadlock was never resolved. Eventually, the management’s requests (which included revamping the game for a “casual” take) led to numerous departures and an attempt to blame the head designer for what was ultimately a problem with the higher-ups. The game was quietly cancelled in 2009, and saw NST fall from its top-tier status to become a smaller, digital-only studio. It’s a bleak story, to put it mildly, but it’ll hopefully teach other game companies about the value of trusting creative leaders.
Source: Unseen64 (YouTube)
Mighty No. 9 might not even be out the door, but Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune is already looking for your help with a new project — and this one is considerably more ambitious. His studio has launched crowdfunding for Red Ash, a project that combines both an open world action game (The Indelible Legend) and an anime movie from Studio4ºC (Magicicada). While both will share familiar characters and the theme of treasure hunting in a robot apocalypse, they’ll otherwise be set in “parallel worlds” where the producers are free to tell whatever stories they want.
As with Mighty, there are a lot of pledge options that sometimes let you directly shape either project. It’ll take a minimum $25 pledge to get the game, or $24 for the movie; plunk down at least $499 and you can start creating achievements, naming items and more. Studio4ºC is even willing to accept fresh ideas for free, and it’ll give you a small reward if your vision makes it into the anime. Neither Red Ash effort is expected to ship until July 2017 if everything goes according to plan. However, this is a rare chance at jumpstarting an entire media universe masterminded by a team of video game pioneers — it might be worth a close look.
Recommended Reading highlights the best long-form writing on technology and more in print and on the web. Some weeks, you’ll also find short reviews of books that we think are worth your time. We hope you enjoy the read.
How Video Games Influenced Popular Music
by Hua Hsu
The New Yorker
Andrew Schartmann’s new book, Koji Kondo’s Super Mario Bros. Soundtrack, discusses how Nintendo’s first dedicated sound designer completely changed music in games. Kondo’s iconic music for that title not only provided some of the most memorable tunes of the era, but also influenced gaming and music for many years after. The New Yorker offers a brief glimpse at the book, explaining how Kondo’s work changed video game development, too. “As a result of the collaboration behind Super Mario, during which graphics and audio were developed in tandem, games became more of an all-sensory experience,” notes Hua Hsu.
How Airbnb is Taking Over Paris
Officials in Pairs may have their hands full with UberPOP, but another startup is taking over the city, too. This graphic-driven piece shows how Airbnb is giving visitors more options, but raising concerns among the locals.
So, You’re Thinking About Flying Your Drone Through Fireworks
You didn’t think we’d let the Fourth of July pass without mention, did you? Fireworks are the tradition here in the States after a buffet of burgers and hot dogs. Thinking about using a drone to get a better view? You better use caution.
[Image credit: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File]
Microsoft and Mojang don’t just have a story-based Minecraft game to show at Minecon 2015 — they’re also revealing a beta version of Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition. This release will ditch the less than ideal Java code of desktop versions in favor of native Windows code, and shares some roots with the Pocket Edition you typically find on phones. You’ll even get to build worlds with those mobile players through an update that should hit “soon” after the beta arrives. And to no one’s surprise, the construction title will do a lot to take advantage of Windows 10’s many Xbox tie-ins, such as 8-way multiplayer (both locally and on Xbox Live) and game video recording. The beta will be ready on July 29th, and it’ll be free if you already have the existing PC version. If you’re new to all this, it’ll cost $10 to get in during the test phase.
Source: Xbox Wire