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ICYMI: Teleport your hologram, changing ocean PH and more

Today on In Case You Missed It: Microsoft Research developed a new 3D camera capturing system that creates a live-time 3D hologram of a person that can be sent to interact with other people, as long as they have a matching virtual reality set-up. If that’s confusing, the video straightens it right up.
The National Science Foundation is releasing details on a study it has been funding for the past six years, being done out of University of California, Santa Barbara. Scientists there have been tracking the PH levels near the Antarctic and have found that sea life is struggling to survive while living in increasingly acidic water. Meanwhile an inventor in India saw the disposable plastic utensil problem in his country as an opportunity to make edible cutlery that is actually a dense millet bread.

For fun or if you are into cybernetics, check out the tutorial to create your own remote-controlled expression maker. As always, please share any great tech or science videos you find by using the #ICYMI hashtag on Twitter for @mskerryd.


‘Quantum Break’ has an audio setting just for streamers

YouTube and Twitch have come under fire for overzealous blocking of copyrighted music in video games, but Quantum Break developer Remedy Entertainment has a way around that. For folks who want to stream its latest game and not get their videos flagged for violations on YouTube, or have the audio muted wholesale on Twitch, there’s a setting in the game’s audio options that allows you to turn off licensed music playback. This is something that’s been done on the indie scale before, but perhaps not in a AAA tentpole game like Quantum Break and not one published by Microsoft.

It’s something that came after the studio got a lot of fan feedback that their Let’s Play videos of the team’s previous game, Alan Wake, resulted in the clips being pulled from YouTube. “Streaming and YouTube especially have become such an essential part of gaming culture these days,” Remedy’s Head of Media and Partners Thomas Puha told Engadget via email. “At a very late stage in the development of Quantum Break, we came up with the idea of giving the option to disable licensed music to make life a bit easier for everyone wanting to share their Quantum Break experience.”

Handy! But really, before you toggle that option and go live on YouTube or Twitch, maybe play through the game with the licensed music turned on. Each song that plays at the end of an act was deliberately chosen by creative director (and literal face of Max Payne) Sam Lake, and can foreshadow events in the game, or act as a theme for what you saw before the credits rolled. Be it The Black Keys or Nick Cave, the music is there for a pretty specific reason.

One of the biggest games of this season, from one of the biggest companies on the planet, actively supporting streaming? Don’t be surprised if we see more of this soon.


Soundcloud’s New $12.99 Streaming Service to Compete With Apple Music

In a recent update to its iOS app, popular streaming music platform Soundcloud added a subscription model into the service that will provide users with a few premium monthly upgrades on top of the discoverability and personalization previously offered. As discovered by The Verge, the service is called “Soundcloud Go” and will run users $12.99 on a monthly basis with a free 30 day trial to test the waters beforehand.

The announcement has yet to be made official by Soundcloud, but in the version 4.0.0 update release notes, the company lists a few ways upgrading to the monthly subscription could benefit its users. These advantages include a bolstered track list, the ability to listen offline, and the removal of interspersed advertisements within playlists.

Upgrade to SoundCloud Go to:
– Play all tracks
Access a newly expanded catalog of everything from Grammy-winners to garage bands

– Listen offline
Listen to your favorite tracks anytime, anywhere, with or without a signal

– Go ad-free
Listen without any ad interruptions

Soundcloud Go joins a growing list of streaming music services on offer for users to choose from, most of which are available on iOS for $9.99 per month: Apple Music, Spotify Premium, and Tidal, among others. There are variations on monthly subscriptions when factoring in family plans and an upper-tier “Tidal HiFi” offering that promises better quality sound for $19.99/month, but for the most part SoundCloud Go will enter the streaming music market at a slightly above-average monthly cost than its competitors.

SoundCloud can be downloaded from the App Store for free. [Direct Link]

Tags: Apple Music, SoundCloud
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Xiaomi’s upcoming phone may offer a 4.3-inch display and Snapdragon 820


It looks like Xiaomi is considering a mini variant of the Mi 5 with a 4.3-inch display. A recent leak out of Weibo suggests that the phone will be unveiled in the month of June, featuring a 1.8GHz Snapdragon 820 SoC.


Xiaomi’s offering is said to come with a 4.3-inch 720p display, 3GB of RAM, 32GB internal storage, 13MP camera, and a 2350mAh battery. with Quick Charge 3.0. A leaked photo of the phone reveals a home button similar to what we’ve seen on the Mi 5, suggesting that the mini variant will also house a fingerprint sensor.

The Weibo leak says that Xiaomi will position the device as a competitor to the iPhone SE, which offers high-end internals in a small 4-inch package.

Xiaomi’s phone is estimated to retail for ¥1,799 ($275). As we saw recently, there are enough folks interested in a smaller phone provided it offers high-end specs. While Xiaomi’s upcoming phone sounds alluring, it’s just a rumor until we hear something official. Until then, what do you guys think of the phone in question?



Xiaomi made a $150 rice cooker that you can control with your phone


Xiaomi’s latest smart home product is a $150 rice cooker that you can control with your phone. Dubbed the Mi Induction Heating Pressure Rice Cooker, the product is the first from Xiaomi’s Mi Ecosystem sub-brand, which will house all the smart appliances made by the vendor.


Xiaomi dabbles in more than phones and tablets, with the vendor collaborating with other brands to produce water purifiers, air purifiers, blood pressure monitors, and a Segway clone called Ninebot. The Mi Rice Cooker features Wi-Fi, and connects to your phone through a dedicated app. It can also differentiate between 200 kinds of rice, with over 2,450 heating methods available to ensure that the rice is always cooked to perfection:

Users can scan their pack of rice to identify the type of rice, brand and origin, and based on that, the rice cooker can adjust its heating methodology to best suit the type of rice. It currently supports more than 200 brands of rice, and this will be expanded in the future.

There’s also a magnetic relief valve that regulates the pressure, and the lining is made out of grey cast iron. PFA powder coating at the bottom prevents the rice sticking to the cooker. The Mi Rice Cooker will go on sale from April 6 for ¥999 ($154), which according to Xiaomi is one-fourth the price of a high-end cooker.

Who’s interested?



Sony PlayStation VR headset may work on PC, watch out Oculus Rift and HTC Vive

Sony has officially stated that it is “considering plans” to bring its PlayStation VR headset to PCs as well as its PS4.

The virtual reality headset, until now, was expected as Sony’s answer to the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, which are PC only.

However, in an interview with Nikkei, Sony’s Masayasu Ito clarified that the PlayStation VR might not be a PS4 exclusive. Of course saying the company is “considering plans” isn’t too solid, but it’s better than it being ruled out all together.

For PC owners this could mean the headset will be accessible without the need to shell out for a PS4 also. The Oculus Rift headset is £500 to pre-order while the HTC Vive is £690, yet Sony is selling the PlayStation VR headset for £349.

While the PS VR might be a more affordable option it will likely require the addition of a camera for full functionality. Also Sony has reportedly made it clear that VR games will be built to work optimally on the PS4, so don’t expect the full experience on PC, if it arrives there at all.

Masayasu Ito says there will be an “expansion into various fields” when talking about the VR headset. For now we’re going to have to wait to see what that really means.

READ: Best VR headsets to buy in 2016, whatever your budget


Spin-jump your way to ‘Flappy Bird’ in ‘Super Mario World’

To date, we’ve seen the infamous Flappy Bird show up either cloned or otherwise in roughly 853 different places. That’s a slight exaggeration, but you probably weren’t expecting to find it in a game that’s rapidly approaching 30 years in age. YouTube user “SethBling” says that by executing a glitch on a standard Super NES with no modifications, he was able to trick the game into letting him upload code for the airborne fowl’s namesake game into Super Mario World. Your homage in Super Mario Maker just got even less impressive.

In the game, you can trigger access to code functions by collecting power-ups like fire flowers or 1-Up mushrooms. Bling used code written by SNES hacker “p4plus2” to write “byte after byte of arbitrary data” by moving to specific X-coordinates and spin jumping his way into system memory that Nintendo wasn’t using. That repeated for 331 bytes of processor instructions. Written by spin jumping. Yes, it’s as crazy as it sounds.

Once that was finished, the game stopped running its own code and instead ran the version of Flappy Bird he’d meticulously spin-jumped into memory. The result? A cute little Italian plumber weaving his way through the warp pipes that Dong Nguyen’s creation was “inspired” by. The process took about an hour and he live-streamed the whole thing on Twitch over the weekend if you want to see it happen in real-time. Bling’s also written a detailed guide for doing this yourself. For the less patient among us, the video below will get you up to speed in minutes.

Source: SethBling (1) (YouTube), (2) (Google Doc)


Xiaomi’s ‘Mi Ecosystem’ starts with a smart rice cooker

With its air purifiers, water purifiers, security sensors and other home appliances on the Chinese market, it’s no secret that Xiaomi has an ambition to not only own the smartphone space, but to also litter its brand around our living space. A bit like Ikea and Muji, for the latter part: Cheap, but with good design and quality. Hence the launch of the Mi Induction Heating Pressure Rice Cooker today, because what better way than to enter every Chinese household with an affordable yet high performance rice cooker, let alone one that works with an app? Priced at just 999 yuan or about $150, this rice cooker is scarily cheap — about four to five times cheaper than its Japanese rivals like Zojirushi, Toshiba and Tiger.

In general, pressure cooking has the advantage of preserving the foods’ vitamins due to the trapped steam, as well as speeding up the cooking process with a higher temperature. In Xiaomi’s case, its smart pressure rice cooker uses 1.2 atm to push the temperature up to 105 degrees Celsius or 221 degrees Fahrenheit. Then there’s the companion app that lets you scan the barcode on the rice packaging, and the device will know how to cook it just right, according to the rice type, brand, origin and your preferred softness. There’s no word on how many types of rice have been categorized by Xiaomi, but it did mention a portfolio of over 200 brands along with 2,450 combinations of cooking methods for this rice cooker.

Despite the price tag, Xiaomi claims that it didn’t cut any corners here: The rice cooker comes with a grey cast iron inner pot which apparently doesn’t come cheap, in order to achieve optimal regenerative heating and also to ensure the rice is evenly cooked. The pot’s non-stickiness is courtesy of Daikin’s Neoflon powder coating as opposed to similar chemicals from no-namers, so that’s also one less feature to worry about. The Chinese company went as far as hiring Naito Takeshi, a former Sanyo engineer and co-inventor of the IH pressure rice cooker, to lead the development of this project. At today’s launch event, Naito is quoted as saying that he wants to “make a better rice cooker, and then sell it back to Japan.”

The other news here is that this rice cooker is actually the first of the many products to come out of Xiaomi’s new sub-brand, Mi Ecosystem (aka “Mijia” in China, which literally means “rice home”). But as with many Xiaomi products, we have a feeling that this device won’t be leaving China any time soon, but you can try hitting up a local friend when it becomes available on April 6th.


Fans persuade Blizzard to pull sexualized ‘Overwatch’ pose

Sometimes a beta test is more than a glorified demo that the marketing department pushes for to drum up pre-orders. Fans of Overwatch, Blizzard’s colorful new shooter, discovered just that recently. Over on the game’s official forums, a user noticed that one of Tracer’s — more or less the figurehead for the game — victory poses put her in a position that forum-goer “Fipps” thought wasn’t befitting of the character. In it, she’s glancing over her shoulder, her butt framed by a few straps over her leggings.

Fipps argues as such: “What about this pose has anything to do with the character you’re building in Tracer? It’s not fun, it’s not silly, it has nothing to do with being a fast, elite killer. It just reduces Tracer to another bland female sex symbol.”

And before you say, “Wait, Widowmaker is all about flaunting her body and sexuality,” Fipps posits that character is partly defined by her pronounced curves and proclivities. “This [Tracer] pose says to the player base, ‘Oh, we’ve got all these cool diverse characters, but at any moment we are willing to reduce them to sex symbols to help boost our investment game.’”

Ultimately, Kipps says he wants Tracer to be a role model that isn’t overtly sexualized for his daughter. The forums’ reactions to that plea went, well, about as smoothly as you’d expect.

Until they didn’t.

Overwatch creative director Jeff Kaplan jumped into the fray saying that the pose would be removed, agreeing with others who share Fipps’ sentiments. He later added that the decision to remove this particular pose for Tracer was an easy one because the studio wasn’t happy with it, and the pose was something the team had been debating internally prior to this coming to light.

“That pose [which] had been called into question from an appropriateness standpoint by players in our community did help influence our decision — getting that kind of feedback is part of the reason we’re holding a closed beta test — but it wasn’t the only factor. We made the decision to go with a different pose in part because we shared some of the same concerns, but also because we wanted to create something better.”

Kaplan continues that this isn’t censorship, nor is the studio ceding creative control to the community, it was doing the right thing by Tracer and the game as a whole. It’s the sort of thing that culture critic Anita Sarkeesian has focused much of her work on, too: appropriate presentations of female characters in video games.

Of course, the internet is going to internet as hard as the internet can internet, so even after Kaplan reopened the closed forum thread, there was much tut-tutting about the pose’s removal, including one multi-point takedown of everything Kaplan said. But perhaps most encouragingly, there are a number of supportive voices in the now-17-page-long thread.

As Polygon points out, this isn’t a wholesale change for the character, or other promo materials featuring Tracer even, but one pose. Other games have been toned down to be less leering of their female characters recently as well, to unfortunately predictable, similar responses from their respective communities.

The sexuality of the game sticks out because Overwatch is such a bright, colorful and upbeat game that feels more like a Saturday morning cartoon than it does a round of Call of Duty. It strikes as family friendly, Tracer specifically, which is perhaps why this has caused such a stir. No one really bats an eye at Bayonetta 2 because that’s an M-rated title with a very specific audience in its crosshairs.

It’s worth noting, however, that Tracer isn’t the only character in the game looking backward toward the camera — Hanzo’s butt is just obscured by layers of baggy clothing. Overwatch releases on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One on May 24th.

Via: Polygon



Samsung rolls out its ad-blocking Android browser

Owners of certain Samsung devices now have a new browser option: Samsung’s very own “Internet” app. Wait, don’t go! You may have given up on the app long ago, but version 4.0 has some pretty interesting features. All versions of Android on Samsung devices (not just Marshmallow) now get content blocking (aka ad-blocking), provided you have a dedicated third-party app installed. The other notable feature is “Secret” mode, which is like Chrome’s Incognito or Firefox’s private browsing settings. However, Samsung has added authentication and encryption to more fully protect your internet browsing history.

Samsung got off to a rocky start with ad-blocking for its Android browser. It initially launched it for devices on Marshmallow (Android 6.0), but Google quickly pulled the required partner app, Adblocker Plus. The search giant subsequently changed its mind, meaning there’s now a variety of ad-blockers you can use with Samsung’s browser.

For Secret mode, Samsung took privacy beyond what’s offered by other browsers. It stores saved pages and bookmarks with the same encryption tech it uses for Knox and gives you the option to access it with fingerprint authentication. To use that feature, you’ll need a recent Samsung device, like the Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S7 series, and the update is only supported on recent Samsung phones going back to the Galaxy S4 and Note 3, with Android 4.0 or later.

Source: Google Play Store

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