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25
May

‘Hohokum’ developers make a roguelike full of loot and cute


It’s been less than a year since Honeyslug, the trio behind games like Hohokum and Super Exploding Zoo disbanded to pursue solo projects. Today, we’re seeing one of the first such efforts, Loot Rascals, a roguelike strategy game.

Loot Rascals is the first title from Hollow Ponds, a new studio founded by Nikki and Ricky Haggett, both of who were on the Hohokum team, the latter as lead designer. Also working on the game are artists Swatpaz, an animator for Adventure Time, and Meowza, who worked on Alphabear and Road Not Taken.

Development pedigree established, what exactly is Loot Rascals? , The team describes it as a “roguelike strategy experience with collectible card game elements and a retro sci-fi aesthetic,” which is a mouthful but fairly easy to comprehend. In the game, you’ll be tasked with escaping a planet full of aliens, robots and monsters, all drawn in a cutesy yet mildly unsettling style.

You’ll mount your escape attempt by exploring your environment, collecting cards and fighting enemies. Each card does one of three things: offer a special ability, applies a buff or alter your life, attack or defence stat. You have limited space for cards in your inventory, so you’ll need to constantly be making decisions on what cards to keep or discard (tossing a card converts it into currency which you can use to replenish health or activate special abilities).

The entire game is turn-based — moving your character one square takes a turn, and foes move one square with each turn you take. If you’re adjacent to an enemy, a turn-based battle begins.

Because this is a roguelike, when you’re dead, all progress is lost, and you start again. As with many games in the genre, there’s a slight twist on the permadeath idea. When an enemy kills you, it keeps one of your cards. If another player then kills that enemy, they’ll get the option to keep the card or return it to you, its rightful owner. Depending on which option they choose, a hologram AI of your character will appear in the other player’s game and either aid them or attempt to kill them.

It’s early days for Loot Rascals, and we’re bound to hear a lot more about the game over the coming months. It’s currently scheduled for a release in early 2017 on PC and PlayStation 4.

Source: Hollow Ponds

25
May

Xiaomi’s Mi Drone is pretty affordable for what it does


We knew it was coming, so it’s not a total surprise. But, the very fact that Xiaomi — best known for its phones — is getting into the drone business is a bit of an eyebrow raiser. Today, the company revealed the Mi Drone, a 4K camera-wielding quadcopter that looks more than a little like DJI’s Phantom series. The two Chinese firms are now technically rivals, of course, as more and more companies decide they want a slice of the (apparently booming) quadcopter business. No one was expecting Xiaomi to reinvent the wheel, but there was a good chance it’d be competitive on price: 2,999 yuan (about $460), which is considerably cheaper than even DJI’s Phantom 3 4K. “We want everyone to be able to afford good products. That was why I set up Xiaomi in the first place,” CEO Lei Jun added.

The Mi Drone carries a ball-shaped 4K camera beneath it, that quadcopter-buffs might think looks similar to the built-in shooters found on Yuneec’s Typhoon series. To be specific, the camera uses a Sony 12.4-megapixel sensor that can capture video at up to 3,840 x 2,160 at 30 fps; and as you’d expect, it can take RAW photos. Its detachable gimbal does 3-axis stabilization which corrects itself 2,000 times per second, and this is assisted by an optical flow sensor positioned between the camera and the battery bay on the back. Indeed, the sample clip we saw during the livestream looked satisfactory (at one point, Lei said over 1.5 million viewers tuned in), so hopefully it’s just as good once the drone lands in consumers’ homes.

While the drone itself looks a bit too familiar, its controller comes with a cute appearance that somewhat assembles a bunny — the company’s mascot — from afar. Lei claims it’s nice to hold, and he also showed off the built-in smartphone clamp (it held his 6.44-inch Mi Max just fine), though using this will require flipping down the two antennas — these can keep the Mi Drone under control over a distance of 2km, while still maintaining a 720p video stream. The controller also has a dial on the left for tilting the camera, and there’s a shutter button on the other side. At the bottom side, there’s a flap that hides a micro-USB port for recharging the controller.

To make things easier for beginners, the controller has a dedicated button for take off and landing — just do a short press and then a long press to do either. There’s a switch for returning the drone home as well, though it’ll also automatically do so when its removable battery — which is good for up to 27 minutes — is running low or when it loses contact with the controller. Like many other modern drones, the Mi Drone is able to fly itself to a point of interest, follow a planned route, and circle around a point of interest while filming it. There was also a rumor that the Mi Drone might have a “follow me” feature that worked with the company’s super cheap Mi Band, but this turned out to be false.

All of this sounds pretty awesome for a $460 drone (propeller guards included, no less), but Xiaomi appears to be in no hurry, as its first-ever drone will only be entering an open beta towards the end of July. That said, there will also be a slightly cheaper 1080p 60 fps version that’s launching on Xiaomi’s very own crowdfunding platform tomorrow for 2,499 yuan (which is about $380), with another trade-off being its range is limited to just 1km, but that shouldn’t be a problem for casual users. Oh, and there’s going to be a 99 yuan (about $15) backpack designed to fit this drone, too. If the Mi Drone ever manages to leave China, we’ll let y’all know right away.

Additional reporting by James Trew.

25
May

Microsoft Lays Off Nokia Employees, Exits Consumer Phone Business


Microsoft has laid off hundreds of employees tied to its smartphone business, as the company finally exits the consumer phone market and attempts to streamline its worldwide mobile division (via The Verge).

The move will impact up to 1,850 jobs worldwide, said Microsoft’s head of Windows and devices Terry Myerson, while up to 1,350 of the positions will be in Finland. The cuts are expected to be completed by the year’s end.

The move signals the final nail in the coffin for Microsoft’s Nokia business, which the company acquired under former CEO Steve Ballmer’s management for $7.2 billion in 2014. Today’s announcement will see $950 million written off, adding to the $7.6 billion the company wrote off last year when it cut 7,800 jobs to refocus its Windows Phone plans.

Microsoft is now shorn of almost all of its 25,000 former Nokia employees, and will only retain a small number in R&D roles. Last week, the company announced it was selling off its feature phone business to FIH Mobile, a subsidiary of Foxconn, for $350 million.

All indications point to an end of Microsoft’s Lumia phones and a focus on a single Surface phone, with Myerson promising “great new devices” in an internal memo to employees, although he withheld any specific timeframe. The immediate focus for Microsoft and its new CEO, Satya Nadella, is more likely to remain on bringing the company’s software and services to iOS and Android devices, rather than risk another consumer phone failure anytime soon.

Microsoft has been scaling back its consumer phone ambitions ever since its ill-fated Nokia mobile acquisition two years ago. Nokia meanwhile has shown far loftier ambitions, last month announcing its acquisition of French health tracking company Withings for an estimated $192 million, as it seeks to expand into the consumer electronics market while maintaining its networking and commercial VR business.

Tags: Microsoft, Windows Phone, Nokia
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25
May

Toys-to-Life Franchise Gets iOS Card Game With Skylanders Battlecast


Hugely popular toys-to-life business Skylanders announced its first mobile card game on iOS yesterday, as its seeks to further penetrate the $1.2 billion digital card market.

Officially launched by parent company Activision Blizzard, Skylanders Battlecast takes the traditional formula established by the former’s wildly successful Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft and injects a grab bag of classic RPG elements into its cartoonish game environment.

Players control a team of three characters and compete with another group in turn-based combat. Each character represents one of eight different combat elements, and players can change which character takes the lead role for each round, which affects which cards can be played. The goal is to knock out the opposing group by casting spells with cards and directing characters to attack individual opponents.

As with most card games, Skylanders Battlecast is free to play, but expanding card collections requires players to spend money to buy the game world’s virtual currency. A 22-card “battle pack” for instance costs 1,400 virtual coins, or $14.99 in real terms.

Skylanders also lets players buy packs of physical cards which they can then import into the game world using their device’s camera. The scheme works out cheaper than buying digital cards, with $4.99 for booster packs and $9.99 for battle packs.

Skylanders Battlecast_08
Mobile card games have experienced seemingly unstoppable growth in recent years, with Activision Blizzard’s Hearthstone reportedly earning $20 million a month. Translating the toys-to-life Skylanders franchise into the digital arena will likely drive even more growth for the parent company as it seeks to reach a new audience.

Skylanders Battlecast is a free download for iPad and iPhone on the App Store. [Direct Link]

Tag: Skylanders Battlecast
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25
May

Kanex Launches GoPower USB-C Battery Pack for MacBook


Kanex has introduced a new GoPower rechargeable 15,000 mAh USB-C battery pack capable of delivering one full charge to the 12-inch Retina MacBook.

The slim aluminum battery pack also has a traditional USB port that can provide multiple charges to iPhones, iPads, and other USB devices.

USB-C to USB-C and USB-C to USB-A cables are included for charging the GoPower itself. A four-LED status indicator lets users know the power level of the battery pack based on 25 percent, 50 percent, 75 percent, and 100 percent intervals.

Kanex has also included a built-in circuit protection board with priority charging detection technology that enables pass-through charging to plugged in devices when the battery pack itself is plugged into a power source.

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The battery pack’s USB-C output is 5V at 3 Amps, while its USB output is 5V at 2.4 Amps.

GoPower retails for $99.95 on Amazon and Kanex’s website.

Related Roundup: Retina MacBook
Tags: battery pack, USB-C, Kanex
Buyer’s Guide: MacBook (Buy Now)
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25
May

iPhone 7 screen protector and cases spotted in the wild, new model will not be major refresh


It has been rumoured for a while that the iPhone 7 will not be a massive revolution in design terms to the iPhone 6 and 6s. Instead, it will continue the slim, rounded aesthetic we have seen for the last two generations.

Now we have further proof that could be the case. Literally.

During the Computers Unlimited Exposed event in London, Pocket-lint was told that a series of case designs and a glass screen protector made by Cygnett were not for the iPhone 6, but the iPhone 7. We took photos naturally.

If true they show that the iPhone 7 will look almost identical to before. Indeed, all the case designs that we were told were for the iPhone 7 looked to be wrapped around an iPhone 6s when you could see the handset. This suggests the size will be very similar.

READ: Apple iPhone 7: What’s the story so far?

The screen protector, which is designed to stick over the front of a phone to make the glass more sturdy, shows two sensor holes above the front microphone instead of one.

There are reports of some iPhone 6s models having two sensor holes, but this is very rare and we’re not 100 per cent sure as to why. Nor can we work out why Apple would want two sensors on a new device rather than the usual one.

We do advise an element of caution in believing that these are genuinely for an iPhone 7. We were told they were genuine, based on iPhone 7 design specs, but cannot corroborate that claim officially.

One thing’s for sure, this isn’t the last leak we’ll see or hear about on the build up to September.

READ: Apple iPhone 7 in pictures: Renders and leaked photos gallery

25
May

Driver caught sleeping at the wheel as Tesla Autopilot drives for him


The future of cars might be here, or the future of next-level marketing. A driver was caught, not driving, but sleeping at the wheel of his Tesla Model S as it drove for him.

The Tesla Model S Autopilot system works both at speed on motorways and slowly in stop-start traffic. This video, apparently shot from another car in the traffic, shows the Tesla driver sleeping against his seatbelt. This appeared on the Reddit Tesla Motors community.

While this is technically possible, it’s hard to imagine someone would nod off completely. When Tesla was asked about the video, by Tech Insider, it responded with this statement:

“Tesla Autopilot is designed to provide a hands-on experience to give drivers more confidence behind the wheel, increase their safety on the road, and make highway driving more enjoyable. Autopilot is by far the most advanced such system on the road, but it does not turn a Tesla into an autonomous vehicle and does not allow the driver to abdicate responsibility. Since the release of Autopilot, we’ve continuously educated customers on the use of the feature, reminding them that they’re responsible for remaining alert and present when using Autopilot and must be prepared to take control at all times.”

While there has also been a video of a Tesla dodging a truck that swerved into its lane, there have also been fails. Some have reportedly swerved into traffic, exited the highway too soon or in one case even had the Autopilot knocked out by a large moth.

It’s still early days for this kind of technology with little legislation and no fully self-driving system available yet. But the future of driverless cars is edging ever closer, fast. Soon everyone could be asleep at the wheel, legally.

READ: Tesla: Everything you need to know about Model 3, Model S, Model X, and more

25
May

ISS’ expandable module has a shield that protects it from debris


You had a lot of questions when we wrote about NASA gearing up to inflate BEAM on the ISS. Does it inflate like a balloon? What if it gets hit by micrometeoroids then? Does it protect against radiation? While there are many things we won’t know for sure until the end of BEAM’s two-year testing, NASA’s and Bigelow Aerospace’s Reddit AMA and Facebook Q&A could answer some Q’s floating around your head. To start with, the team clarified that BEAM isn’t an “inflatable.” Its walls don’t stretch like a balloon — they’re incredibly stiff and are “several times stronger per weight than metals commonly used in space applications.” When the ISS crew expands the module on Thursday, the process could be more accurately described as “unfolding” rather than “inflating.”

The team added that the module has a thick layer of Kevlar-like materials that acts as its debris shield. If a micrometeoroid hits it, for instance, it becomes trapped in those laters without penetrating the structure all the way through. Bigelow Aerospace said the company performed hypervelocity impact testing here on Earth by pelting projectiles flying at a speed of 7 kilometers per second at it. Based on the team’s tests, they concluded that its debris shield is as tough as, if not better than, the space station’s debris shield.

Besides answering questions about the module’s toughness, the team also revealed that BEAM can last up to five or more years in outer space. The experimental model, which is as big as a small bedroom, can’t be reused and can only be deployed once. Also, astronauts won’t have to wear spacesuits when they check in on experiments inside BEAM and assess its condition twice a year.

The ISS crew will help the team collect data on radiation, thermal and micrometeoroid impacts. If the module proves to be as tough as the team believes it is, then expandable habitats like Bigelow Aerospace’s bigger model called B330 could be used on Mars or as spacecraft’s living spaces for deep space missions in the future. NASA TV is airing BEAM’s expansion live on Thursday, May 26th, starting at 5:30AM Eastern time. The space station crew will introduce air into the module through a small port, after which they’ll activate BEAMs’ internal tank system. It could take up to two hours for the module to completely unfold, though, so you may want to have some snacks at the ready.

.@Blkwooly @andyweirauthor @BlairBigelow @BigelowSpace Their materials are proprietary, but pretty sturdy stuff. Think “kevlar vest++”

— Tory Bruno (@torybruno) May 24, 2016

Source: Reddit AMA, ISS (Facebook)

25
May

Mom behind most-watched Facebook Live video visits its HQ


It’s only been a few months since Facebook opened up live video streaming to everyone, but with over a billion daily users the emergence of a massive hit was inevitable. Late last week an odd yet charming video stream of Candace Payne amusing herself by trying on a Chewbacca mask went viral, and currently stands at 143 million views with more than 3 million reshares. According to CEO Mark Zuckerberg that makes her video the most-watched Facebook Live video ever, and just that quickly, she’s on the company campus riding bikes with guess who — Chewbacca.

Most importantly for the social network, beyond selling out the masks at Kohls, she’s kept its live streaming feature in the news cycle for days. She’s made appearances on The Late Late Show with James Corden and Good Morning America, and even if a viewer didn’t stick around to watch the whole video on Facebook, they’ve probably heard about the feature by now. Twitter’s Periscope live streaming and even YouTube Live have been around longer, but Facebook’s massive audience — and algorithmically driven feed — may give it an edge in being able to promote its platform.

Source: Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook)

25
May

Microsoft kills what’s left of the old Nokia


Last week, Microsoft sold off what remained of Nokia’s feature phone business while Windows Phone’s market share slid below a single percent. Now, the company has taken what’s clearly the last step in correcting Steve Ballmer’s decision to purchase the mobile world’s former number one. The Verge has secured an internal memo from Microsoft’s Terry Myerson saying that the company will cull 1,850 jobs, 1,350 of which are in Finland. The company has also recorded a $950 million impairment and restructuring charge on its balance sheet, of which $200 million will be severance payouts to those employees.

The job cuts are, essentially, rinsing the company of almost all of its obligations towards the smoldering remains of Nokia. Microsoft went to pains to state that the firm’s Finnish sales vision are protected, with the cuts entirely focused on Microsoft Mobile Oy. As CEO Satya Nadella says, the company is focusing its phone efforts where it has “differentiation — with enterprises that value security, manageability and our Continuum capability.”

When Microsoft sold off its feature phone business, it put out a weirdly-worded statement that only affirmed a commitment to “support” Windows Phone devices. The implication being that it was done actually building handsets itself, and will instead let third parties like Acer, HP and VAIO take over. Alternatively, it’s rumored that Lumia as a brand is done, and the company will instead build a mobile device from its more successful Surface division.

“This in fact describes what we are doing (we’re scaling back, but we’re not out!), but at the same time I don’t love it because it lacks the emotional impact of this decision.”

Recode has published a copy of the internal memo, in which Terry Myerson explains that the company is scaling back, but is refusing to abandon mobile altogether. He also mentions that Microsoft will continue to “develop great new devices,” although that’s no indication that it’ll manufacture them off its own back. A bigger part of the firm’s focus, however, will be to “embrace other mobile platforms with our productivity services,” or getting its apps and services available on Android and iOS devices.

Via: The Verge

Source: Microsoft, Recode

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