Skip to content

Archive for

27
Sep

DJI Mavic Pro is a mean-looking, feature-rich and super-speedy new drone


DJI has unveiled the latest drone in its arsenal, and has done so with something of a new form factor. Rather than have a large, rigid quadcopter design, the Mavic Pro is foldable, and is small enough to fit in your bag.

According to DJI, the new drone collapses to roughly the size of a water bottle, and can be easily controlled using nothing more than your smartphone. This means you no longer need to cart around a chunky hard-case backpack, or a bulky radio control pad.

Similar to the GoPro Karma drone announced recently, the four quadcopter arms fold in to the body, but do so in a very neat and incredibly compact fashion. Even the new radio control pad is smaller, more compact and features foldable smartphone holder arms.

DJI

Sticking with the new control pad, DJI managed to build in some DualShock-like feedback which makes the controller vibrate to warn you of obstacles when you’re flying. And you have the choice of using the controller – utilising your phone as just a monitor – or just using your phone on its own to control the Mavic Pro.

Although it’s small, don’t let that fool you in to thinking it isn’t powerful and full of top-notch features. For instance, it can last up to 27 minutes in flight on a full battery, and it takes less than a minute to set up and calibrate to get it flying.

Mounted to the all new tiny 3-axis stabilisation mount is a camera capable of recording up to 4K resolution at 30 frames per second, or full HD up to 96 frames per second. It has a minimum focusing distance of 0.5 metres and a 12-megapixel sensor equipped with the ability to take still RAW pictures tuned purposefully for aerial imagery.

Perhaps more impressive is that the new transmission system has a range of up to 4.3 miles and can live stream 1080p footage directly to Facebook Live, Periscope and YouTube through the connected DJI GO app. It can even flip 90 degrees to shoot vertical video and photo.

DJI

But that’s only part of this air-bound gadget’s feature list. The ActiveTrack system means that the Mavic Pro can recognise objects like people, cyclists, cars, boats and animals then can send the drone to follow behind them, lead in front of them, track next to them or circle them. All of that it does automatically, or you can control the drone manually and keep the camera locked on the subject.

What’s really cool is that the new drone has a new Sport Mode which kicks the drone in to turbo, getting to speeds up to 40mph, and boosting the quadcopter’s agility and responsiveness.

There’s also a Terrain Follow mode which can get it following a subject up a slope, while staying at a preset constant height from the ground between 0.3m to 10m.

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s the new Tripod Mode which keeps its speed down to 2.2mph and reduces the sensitivity of the control inputs, giving you more precise positioning for taking photographs.

DJI

To immerse you more in to the experience of flying the drone, DJI says its new gadget will pair with a new set of immersive DJI goggles. With these on your face, you’ll see 90-degree view straight from the drone’s camera in 1080p.

The goggles connect directly to the the Mavic Pro, and not the controller to ensure latency isn’t present, reducing lag to less than 120 milliseconds.

Impressively, these goggles are equipped with motion sensitivity so that when you look down, the drone camera tilts down, and looking to the left or right changes the direction the drone is pointing.

To keep its flight smooth and crash-free, the set of five built-in sensors can detect obstacles as far as 15 metres away while flying at speeds up to 22mph. It uses its downward-pointing sensors and barometer to detect any rising slopes, and then moves to a safer height if it’s getting too close to the ground below.

If that wasn’t enough, it can survive in winds up to 24mph and can automatically avoid restricted areas and – like other DJI drones – can return to its launch location automatically when it loses contact with the controller, or if the battery is running low. When it does return, it uses video taken at the time of launch to land within an inch of where it took off.

DJI Mavic Pro is available to pre-order from DJI’s online store for £999 and will ship in October. It will also be available in Apple stores from November.

27
Sep

Halo Master Chief and Darth Vader Bluetooth speakers in the flesh, both on pre-order now


When we last met AC Worldwide, we saw a couple of superb, Star Wars-licensed Bluetooth speakers in the shape of a Stormtrooper helmet and C-3PO’s head respectively. We were also told at the time that they would soon be joined by Darth Vader and Master Chief editions.

Now we’ve seen, and heard, those in flesh too and can’t think of a better pressy for a sci-fi or gaming geek this Christmas (or slightly beyond in the case of Master Chief).

The latter of the two, based on the hero of many an Xbox game, was shown for the very first time in prototype form at an event in London, and while it’ll have a few more bells and whistles, it’s looking like an excellent addition to any gaming den.

  • ACW Star Wars Bluetooth speakers preview: Joined soon by Vader and Master Chief

It is almost life sized and has a matt finish rather than shiny, like the other models. Its front faceplate will light up on the finished version but the prototype didn’t have that feature. It did pair during the event though, with the official voice of Master Chief, Steve Downes, recording a special start-up message you will hear each time.

The Darth Vader model also makes a sound when pairing and starting-up – the Sith Lord’s trademark breathing. Its eyes also glow red to make it look even more sinister.

Pocket-lint

We also heard music played through the Vader speaker and it is hearty and bombastic, making good use of the internal 2.1 audio system. Like the C-3PO and Stormtrooper equivalents, both of the new editions are capable of 3W from each driver, with a ported 10W down-firing subwoofer handling bass duties.

Each can be powered and even used as a USB charger thanks to a port on the rear. They can also be placed anywhere thanks to rechargeable batteries built into the speakers that offer between four and five hours of music playback.

The Darth Vader speaker will be £149.99 and available from December. The Master Chief version will be £169.99 and available from January. You can pre-order the Halo version now from ACWorldwide.cool for 20 per cent off.

27
Sep

Kano returns with camera, speaker and light board coding kits


Three brightly colored boxes sit in the middle of the table. Alex Klein, co-founder and CEO of Kano, takes the yellow one and pops open the lid, revealing an array of small plastic parts inside. They sit neatly in the foam, begging to be plucked out and examined. A transparent case. Lenses and a flash ring. Some have a Post-it note on top, the word “best” scribbled in biro. Klein chuckles, admitting that some of the parts “may be completely busted.” I don’t mind. At this point, Kano is still a few weeks out from its next Kickstarter campaign. It’ll be a while before the kits are put into mass production.

A camera, a speaker and a light board. Kano is pitching all three as a new, friendly way for children to learn about electronics and computing. Each pack comes with a booklet featuring step-by-step instructions, rather like a Lego set. You pull out the parts and clip them together, learning what each of them does and how they contribute to the final product. Once you’ve completed the build, you can hook up a laptop, tablet or smartphone and program its behavior. Kano’s new web-based software includes a bunch of creative projects, all of which teach you to code along the way.

The kits are more than toys. They’re tools, designed to educate and entertain in equal measure. If you buy the camera kit, for instance, you’ll learn how to program a timer. Then, how to trigger the flash. Or a colored flash. A remote trigger. A camera that can shoot automatically when someone walks by. An animated GIF. The list goes on. Once you’ve learned the underlying bits of code, you can begin remixing the blocks and creating your own projects. Maybe you want to capture a robin that frequents your garden bird box. Or shoot a time lapse at the beach. Kano’s kits encourage this kind of experimentation.

Not a fan of traditional photography? No problem. Kano’s light board has a whole different set of capabilities. You’ll start off slow, learning how to switch on all of the lights with code. You’ll then graduate to twinkling effects, which can be manipulated every time you clap or move toward the grid. Trickier challenges will teach you how to make a smiley face, a weather monitor and a live, updating scoreboard for your favorite team. Thanks to the tilt sensor, you can even program a simple driving game.

Humble beginnings

The kits are a logical progression for the company. Kano burst onto the scene in 2013 with a crowdfunding campaign for a Raspberry Pi–based computer. The underlying board was already quite popular, and with good reason: It was small, cheap and surprisingly capable. Many felt it was the perfect hardware for teaching children about coding. There’s truth to that argument, but a problem persists: For parents and teachers with zero technical knowledge, it can be a daunting purchase. Kano’s idea was to package it up as a colorful, easy-to-follow construction kit. The board would come preloaded with software, aimed specifically at kids, that could teach them the basics of programming. A polished, but open, system.

The Kickstarter was a resounding success, collecting more than $1.5 million in 30 days. The project hit a chord with developers in particular, who wanted to spark an interest in their children or relatives. To date, Kano has sold over 100,000 computer kits in 86 countries.

In 2015, the team started work on what is now the speaker kit. Klein says the plan was to launch this product for Christmas, but he soon realized that “the technical challenge was absolutely massive.” It needed a new, custom single-board computer, and a software platform that lived on the web. “We couldn’t rely on a Linux operating system for this, because we wanted you to be able to control and code it from any device, including a MacBook and an iPhone,” he explains.

At the same time, Kano had received some interesting research about its users. Children who had a dedicated screen for their Kano — meaning they weren’t using the TV in their living room, or sharing a monitor with another PC — were far more engaged with the coding software. Sensing an opportunity, the company decided to “hold on the sound kit” and focus its efforts on a screen pack instead. The 10-inch display was mostly functional, with space around the back to store the Kano computer and its accompanying keyboard. It did, however, also come with some new “content and challenges,” as well as a magnifying glass that encouraged children to peek at the screen’s individual pixels.

A shift in thinking

Klein thinks of the monitor as the “completion” of Kano 1. The three new sets, he says, can be thought of as Kano 2. It’s no longer about computer kits, but “systems” that facilitate more interesting projects.

Such a shift in thinking was driven by Kano’s community. The team was looking at “Kano World,” a hub where users can share their code, for interesting user-created projects. Over time, they noticed that the best ones fell into one of three categories: photography, music and data. One family in Oklahoma, for instance, had hooked up their Kano to a monitor and a camera. With little guidance, they had written a custom script to capture flowers slowly blooming in their garden. Elsewhere, a musician in New York was using his Kano to power a visualizer. It would strobe and pulse in time with the music, thrilling crowds at his local concerts.

“Data” is a little trickier to describe. Klein points to the stripped-back version of Minecraft that comes bundled with each Kano. It’s a modified version with distinct challenges that require code-like commands to progress. “People would use that and hook it up to an API so that their Minecraft counter would run forward depending on the time of day,” Klein explains. “Simple stuff, but cool.” Kano, the company realized, had removed an important barrier associated with setting up the Raspberry Pi. People were now encouraged to go further, setting up projects that combined new hardware and code. “What we’re doing with these new kits is blowing that out,” Klein adds.

The new approach might surprise some people. Do you really need these kits to learn how to code? Can’t children just learn with their laptop and a stable internet connection? After all, so many jobs are about building apps and businesses on the web. It’s a narrow-minded approach, but one that does hold merit: You can learn an awful lot using sites such as Codecademy. Klein thinks a little differently, however. The learn-to-code movement, he says, isn’t about turning everyone into the next Mark Zuckerberg or Sundar Pichai.

“It’s more to do with the ability of your everyday person to understand and manipulate data,” he says, “than it does necessarily moving a cat across a screen, or even making a personal web page — because they’re so easy to do. A lot of it is about how an individual, a human being, can make connections between data, the physical world and a problem that they have, an itch they want to scratch, something they want to express. It’s not necessarily about making Clash of Clans millionaires anymore.”

“The more you can relate it to our most instinctive mode of thinking, which is physical, the more that it makes sense to people.”

Kano hopes that the kits will appeal to a broader range of people — not just children but adults too. Anyone who’s curious about the objects they use every day. “Learning this new way of thinking is hard,” Klein says. “I still find it hard. I didn’t start when I was nine, and I kinda wish I had. It really is a new way of thinking, and the more you can relate it to our most instinctive mode of thinking, which is physical, the more that it makes sense to people.”

A different path

The company’s direction could have been quite different. At one point, Kano considered doubling down on its computer kit. The original Kickstarter had been a huge success, after all, and the community had shown interest in the screen add-on too. Why not go further? A battery pack, an antenna, a series of speakers — Kano could explain each of them in turn and build out people’s understanding of the modern PC. But Klein ultimately decided against it, sensing that these new products “wouldn’t really be as in the spirit of the company.” I tend to agree. The new camera, speaker and pixel kits feel more ambitious and educational. The potential to experiment and learn new skills is far higher.

Inside Kano HQ, Klein starts to show me the build process for the light board. As he flicks out the manual and selects the appropriate parts, I’m struck by how clean and polished everything looks. The kits are colorful and approachable, while maintaining a do-it-yourself, handmade feel. Kano’s goal is to simplify the complexity associated with electronics, but if the parts are too well packaged — cloaked in too much soft, rounded plastic — it doesn’t feel like you’re making something, well, real.

Klein says it’s a balance. The team thinks carefully about how the parts should come together. Levers give way to tiny sliding mechanisms. The lenses are attached with magnets, rather than cumbersome screws. Instead of a normal printed circuit board (PCB), raw and “grinning” with “gnarled teeth,” it’s refined, with enough cues to suggest what’s inside. I pick up the tilt sensor, a thumb-size piece of plastic with a circular top. A shallow trench houses a ball bearing that freely spins around. “That aesthetic you’re describing reflects the main point, in a sense, of the company,” Klein muses. “Which is, in a word, to resolve the Jobs-Woz crisis. To prove that it’s possible to have a modular, DIY creative system that the user controls, but that’s also really simple and human and tells a good story.”

Nailing “simple and “human” isn’t always easy, however. “It’s hugely challenging, because you really don’t know until you put it in the hands of a curious and oftentimes skeptical 10-year-old, 12-year-old or 26-year-old,” Klein says. “All of your assumptions about what is going to be simple are overturned in about five minutes. And that’s just for the build process; the software is the same. Each kit is a much more complicated build than the original Kano computer, and so we have to go through it hundreds and hundreds of times.”

Finishing the kits

The three kits will have a staggered release next year. Kano is preparing the camera kit first, and hopes to have a developer version out before the end of the year. Regular backers will receive the pixel kit in January, followed by the camera in May and the speaker in July. That’s not to say Kano won’t have an exciting Christmas, however. The company has signed its first retail partnerships in the US, including ones with Toys “R” Us and Barnes and Noble. That means the original computer and screen kit will finally be available on store shelves, where parents and relatives will no doubt be prowling for holiday gifts.

“As simple and fun as Lego, but as powerful and future-peeking as an Apple product.”

The camera, speaker and light board should land in retail sometime next year, once Kano has fulfilled its Kickstarter pledges. It is, to put it mildly, an important 12 months for the company. One that could take it from a plucky upstart to a global computing powerhouse.

“This year is about convincing the people who maybe never knew, or were skeptical that coding is something they should do, and that their kids should do,” Klein explains. “It’s about making them aware of how fun, empowering and mainstream something like this can be. How it can bring you closer to your kids and prepare you for a new career. It’s about going from a niche, which will continue to be profitable for us, to the original purpose of the company, which is to create a new computing brand focused on creation. Making it as simple and fun as Lego, but as powerful and future-peeking as an Apple product.”

27
Sep

Music labels sue YouTube ripping site over piracy


With the downfall of the Pirate Bay and Kickass Torrents, users are turning to another way to get illegal songs: ripping YouTube streams. Record labels have taken note of the problem and sued the largest site, YouTube-mp3.org for $150,000 per violation. They say the site has up to 60 million users and and hosts tens or hundreds of millions of illegal downloads per month. “It should not be so easy to engage in this activity in the first place, and no stream ripping site should appear at the top of any search result or app chart,” says RIAA president Cary Sherman.

YouTube-mp3.org is one of many, many sites that let you download and keep high-quality video and audio files from YouTube. The problem is that while artists and labels get paid for YouTube plays (though not enough, they complain), there’s no money at all when users permanently download the files to a hard drive.

It should not be so easy to engage in this activity in the first place, and no stream ripping site should appear at the top of any search result or app chart.

The problem is so prevalent that you can now upload playlists from services like Spotify to YouTube, then rip all the songs from it in one go. On top of going after the ripping site, the music industry also fired a shot across the bow of Google and ISPs. “We hope that responsible advertisers, search engines and hosting providers will also reflect on the ethics of supporting sites that enrich themselves by defrauding creators,” said UK record label rep Geoff Taylor.

Via: BBC

Source: Music Business Worldwide

27
Sep

DJI’s Mavic Pro takes on GoPro’s Karma with smart features


Between Oakland and San Francisco in the center of the Bay Bridge lies the 400-acre man-made Treasure Island. It’s here that DJI let Engadget fly its compact Mavic Pro drone. It’s DJI’s first fold-up flying machine — arriving barely a week after GoPro announced the Karma — and it continues the company’s commitment to keeping cameras in the sky.

Like the GoPro Karma, the $999 Mavic Pro ($749 without controller — it can also be flown with a phone) is a foldable drone designed to fit in a backpack or large purse. The arms and propellers tuck in to turn Mavic into something that resembles a shoe box. Clearly drone-makers have realized that lugging a suitcase (or very large backpack) to a location isn’t ideal. The trick is making sure these smaller, pliable aircraft still deliver the goods.

During our test flight the Mavic handled much like the company’s Phantom line. That is to say, it’s responsive, agile and in Sport Mode can soar at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour (slightly slower than the Phantom 4’s 44 MPH).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mavic Pro also ships with a foldable controller that promises an encrypted 4.3-mile range, with support for 1080p streaming to an attached smartphone. This, in turn, can stream to Facebook Live, Periscope and YouTube via the DJI companion app in the same way Phantom-series drones do. We were unable to test the live social media streaming or the range of during our flight, but noted that latency between the Mavic’s camera and the display on the iPhone was nearly non-existent.

The Mavic Pro can be flown with the controller, of course, or just a smartphone (or as we tested, a combination of the two). The latter is the preferred method if you want to use the drone’s advance features like ActiveTrack, Gesture mode and TapFly. Both ActiveTrack and Gesture require the drone to recognize a person which during our tests didn’t always happen right away. These features are actually part of the app, which means they’re the same you’ll find on the Phantom drones or Osmo handhelds.

Once the drone locked on to someone with ActiveTrack, it followed them as they ran and walked around the field. Using on-screen controls, pilots can pivot around the person which is cool, if you want more than just the back of someone’s head in your video. Gesture mode (or selfie mode) was less exciting. While the Mavic is following a person they can make a “camera” gesture in front of their head to start the countdown to a selfie that’s indicated by the device’s flashing lights.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s difficult to make the gesture while holding the controller, so we placed it on the ground to enable the feature. Then afterwards we learned that you can’t take a selfie while also shooting video. The controller has a photo button on it; it seems it would be just as easy to just push that. But you know, selfies.

To get all those magic video and photo moments the Mavic shoots 4K at 30 frames per second and 1080p at 96 fps. The 12-megapixel camera can also snap in both portrait and landscape mode. This is possible thanks to the three-axis gimbal. With the controller, pilots can adjust where the camera is pointed independent of the drone’s flight path. The movements are smooth. During our flight, there were winds of at least 14 miles per hour but the photos and videos were void of jitters and shaking.

For pros and newbies alike the obstacle avoidance tech is on point. I was unable to get it to run into Kyle, Engadget’s video guy, despite my best efforts. While testing the TapFly feature — tap on the screen and the drone flies there — it avoided flags that were in its path. The controller also has haptic feedback that will warn you when you’re getting close to an object. DJI notes that if you put it in Sport Mode, you’re on your own when it comes to keeping the Mavic from hitting stuff.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As for keeping the Mavic in the sky, DJI says the drone’s batteries will last 27 minutes. That’s more than the usual 20-minute claim made by many rival devices. Of course, the runtime will be shorter if you’re flying around in Sport Mode. If you do find yourself needing more time, additional batteries cost $89. DJI is also offering a “Fly More” combo for $1,299 that includes the $999 Mavic Pro, two extra batteries, extra propellers, a charging hub, adapter, car charger and a shoulder bag.

As for the flight itself, the Mavic was easy to pilot, and using the controller a better experience than on the Phantom series. If the mission was to make something that’s powerful, small and easier to use, it looks like the company achieved that. The question is whether Mavic is intended to replace the similarly priced and very popular Phantom 3 (which doesn’t have obstacle avoidance), or if this is designed to go after a different customer.

For the price of a Mavic, you can also get GoPro’s Karma, plus the Hero5 Session. The Karma might not have some of the smart features, but with its detachable camera rig, Karma Grip and all-in-one controller (built-in display) shoppers will have to decide between the flexibility of a removable camera, and bonus hand-held stabilizer, or the ability to follow targets and, well, potentially not hit things.

The DJI Mavic Pro is available for pre-order now and will ship in mid-October.

Source: DJI

27
Sep

Steam is turning into the App Store and that’s OK


Steam changed the video-game industry in the same way Netflix changed television. Digital distribution was a natural evolution for gaming in the early 2010s, allowing PC players to skip the midnight-release lines at Gamestop and purchase new titles with the click of a button. While Steam wasn’t the first hub to offer digitally distributed games — Valve debuted it in 2004 — it quickly gained a massive following and by 2011 was undoubtedly the largest platform for finding, buying and playing games on PC, Mac and Linux. Today, Steam hosts more than 10,000 titles and nearly 160 million active users per month, according to Steam Spy and EEDAR.

Steam is Netflix on pixelated, interactive steroids.

Even consoles eventually followed Steam’s lead, becoming more connected and relying less on physical discs with each new generation. In 2013, Microsoft attempted to launch the Xbox One as an always-on console that would eliminate disc games, but the living-room audience wasn’t ready for a digital-only reality. Still, both the Xbox One and PS4 essentially operate as disc-less consoles, offering every game, update and service via online connections.

Steam is a leader in the gaming industry, often setting or predicting trends that will dominate the rest of the market in due time. And, over the past few years, it’s been setting another trend that sounds daunting for new, especially independent, developers: game saturation.

“It used to be that an indie game of reasonable quality, released on Steam, would probably at least break even. That is no longer true,” says Jonathan Blow, creator of Braid and The Witness. “I don’t think Steam is anywhere near the App Store in terms of oversaturation — yet? — but it has definitely gone in that direction.”

Two fans of Valve’s Team Fortress 2 at PAX 2011 (Image credit: Flickr/sharkhats)

A few major changes have rocked Steam since 2012, starting with the launch of Greenlight, a process that allows players to vote in games that they think deserve to be sold on Steam proper. Greenlight replaced Valve’s in-house curation system staffed by employees, instead allowing players themselves to determine whether a game was good enough for the service. Aside from outsourcing the curation process, Valve hoped Greenlight would help developers market their games, offering an extra layer of fan interaction and awareness.

Greenlight was confusing and even detrimental for some developers, even two years after its launch. However, Greenlight cracked open the door for plenty of new studios and Steam began hosting more games than ever before. Valve accepted 283 titles in 2011, and by 2012 that figure had risen to 381, according to Steam Spy. In 2013, 569 new games were added to Steam.

That’s when Early Access came along. In March 2013, Valve debuted a program that allowed developers to sell unfinished, in-production games on Steam. It was an idea similar to Greenlight, allowing developers to cultivate communities before their games actually went live, but this service could generate revenue at the same time. This was an easier sell to developers and it led to some great success stories, even for small titles.

These two shifts in Steam’s operation opened the floodgates. In 2014, Steam Spy says the service added 1,783 games, more than tripling the previous year’s number. In 2015, Steam added 2,989 games, and so far in 2016, the service has accumulated 3,236 more. There are 10,243 games on Steam and more than half of them have been added in the past two years, even though the service has been live for more than a decade.

Steam Early Access at a glance; screenshot taken September 26, 2016

Rami Ismail, co-creator of Nuclear Throne and Ridiculous Fishing, says Early Access changed Steam entirely. Most games on Greenlight eventually make it to Steam now and Early Access pushed developers to sell services (continually updated gaming experiences), rather than products (like a boxed game).

“The increased competition on the platform has changed some crucial elements at Valve,” Ismail says. “The curational quality of Steam has disappeared, which has its pros and cons, and developers are eagerly participating in the race to the bottom for PC games too. If anything, this will further popularize subscription-based, free-to-play and DLC models on the platform.”

That “race to the bottom” reveals itself in Steam Spy’s stats. While the number of Steam games has risen dramatically over the past three years, the average price of those games has fallen to $10.33 in 2016 from $14.21 in 2013.

With an influx of games and falling prices, developers are unable to rely on Steam the same way they used to in the early 2010s. Ismail says that, back then, a decent game could net 10,000 sales or more at launch, but today many great games end up in the “2,000 graveyard,” selling just 2,000 units before disappearing from the charts altogether.

“I think the idea of Steam being this mythical money-maker that instantly makes people rich is mostly a myth that held some truth back at the start of the decade,” Ismail says. “Nowadays, you’re less dependent on launch and more dependent on sales, maintaining visibility over time and building a community. Which, I guess, explains why Early Access is so popular.”

“The idea of Steam being this mythical moneymaker that instantly makes people rich is mostly a myth that held some truth back at the start of the decade.” – Rami Ismail

Steam may be crowded and pushing a new breed of developer-player relationships, but it’s far from a worst-case scenario. Plenty of developers keep their eye on multiple platforms, and the mobile marketplace has long been viewed as a bastion of gross oversaturation. It’s nearly impossible to get noticed on the App Store or Google Play, each of which hosts roughly 2 million programs in total.

“I don’t actually think it’s fair to compare Steam to the App Store,” Firewatch and The Walking Dead lead writer Sean Vanaman says. “The App Store sets price expectations around $1 from day one, caters to every human being on Earth with an iPhone and, due to the App Store products being so diverse — you can get Transistor, a date on Tinder and a recipe for eggplant parmesan all in the same 60 seconds — you have tremendous problems with search, discoverability and pricing. There are over 1 million apps in the App Store. Sixty-thousand games hit the App Store per month. That to me is oversaturation.”

As powerful an influence as Steam is on the gaming market, it’s still subject to the whims of a growing industry. Video games are becoming more mainstream by the moment, and the tools for creating games are more accessible than ever. More people are making games, which means there are simply more games to go around — and that’s a good thing, according to Jonathan Blow.

“It’s easier to make a game than it used to be,” Blow says. “So to ‘fix’ that you either have to make it harder to make games or you have to put up barriers for people to get their games to an audience. Both of those sound pretty bad.”

The third option is curation, and Blow sees that playing out fairly successfully on forums and other third-party websites. Steam did launch its own Curators system in 2014 featuring recommendations from established gaming websites and people, but as Blow puts it, “I don’t feel like it has a lot of teeth right now.”

Steam Curators at a glance; screenshot taken September 26, 2016

Ismail largely agrees with Blow’s assessment of the industry.

“Game development is becoming more and more like photography or music bands,” he says. “As it gets easier to make games, that trend will accelerate. Think about it this way: Almost everyone can make a good photo or learn to play an instrument, but only a few do it professionally, and of those, only few can sustain themselves. Games will be like that too.”

The process of developing, marketing and selling a game — especially an independent endeavor — has shifted drastically over the past four years. Players expect transparency and consistent updates, and many times they even want to be involved in the game’s production. This could be a side effect of the Kickstarter generation or an extreme extrapolation of the Minecraft model (the game was successfully sold in beta form for years). Whatever the reason, it’s the new reality.

Steam may not be a magical moneymaking machine for developers, but it is growing with the industry and evolving along the way. Besides, it’s ill-advised for new developers to pin all their hopes on a single platform, Octodad creator Philip Tibitoski says. Every platform, from PC to consoles to mobile, changes regularly due to circumstances that developers simply can’t control.

“I’m not sure developers could ever depend on Steam in the way a studio or individual starting out might think they could,” he says. “The games that thrived on Steam three years ago or so were games with robust promotional cycles that focused around mechanics or ideas that grabbed people within that zeitgeist.”

Tibitoski recommends finding a platform that makes sense for each individual game. That means negotiating with Valve, Sony or Microsoft to get the game showcased on their storefronts, and making sure the studio’s audience actually uses its chosen platform.

“In my experience, there are no guarantees, and all you can really do is build on your own ability to be adaptable, self-aware and cautiously courageous in the choices you make,” Tibitoski says.

Whatever the modern developer’s preference, Ismail and Blow agree it’s best to not launch a game on mobile first. Blow suggests a more curated platform like PlayStation 4, or even a dual-platform launch that hits Steam and PS4 at the same time. Ismail says to “launch as often and in as many stores as you can.”

“If you’re doing a game across Steam and mobile or console, do Steam first,” he says. “Even though you’re developing them simultaneously and the order barely matters in most cases, people hate mobile and console games coming to Steam, but console and mobile users love PC games coming to their platforms.”

Success on Steam is all about these tricks — and its marketplace has certainly gotten trickier over the past four years.

27
Sep

Nissan’s autonomous chairs politely carry you through queues


Back in February, Nissan took a break from rolling out electric vehicle chargers to develop intelligent office chairs that pushed themselves in. It wasn’t a new product, but a proof-of-concept stunt to demonstrate their assistive parking technology. But with new developments to show off comes a new seat demonstration. Voila: The Nissan chair that queues in line for you.

Sadly, you won’t get a chance to buy this chair either. In the above video showing off their autonomous driving system ProPILOT, the seats hang out in line maintaining a safe distance from furniture ahead and behind. As you could imagine, this imitates the tech’s ability to pace your car automatically in traffic, a stopgap between braindead stop-and-go commuting and fully giving the wheel over to your autonomous vehicle.

The ProPILOT is currently available only in Nissan’s Serena minivan, out last month. And while you’ll never be able to outright purchase a lazy autochair of your own, Japanese restaurants can apply to rent some out from now until the end of December by hashtagging a branded phrase on Twitter.

Source: Nissan

27
Sep

Amazon partners are reportedly exploring in-home deliveries


With Amazon steadily speeding up its shipping options — there’s free same-day shipping in plenty of cities for Prime customers, for example — it was only a matter of time until it started looking into other ways to complete orders. According to The Information, the smart lock company August and the connected garage door firm Garageio, both of which have ties to Amazon, are reportedly looking into ways to let delivery people leave packages in your home when you’re not around. And while it sounds creepy at first, it could be useful for plenty of Amazon customers who can’t receive packages at work, and who don’t have the privilege of living in a building with a doorman.

As The Information notes, the companies would offer their in-home delivery services when you’re checking out on Amazon. August’s smart lock would be able to let delivery people right into your front door, while Garageio’s technology, naturally, would let them drop it off in your garage. August is already testing the service around Seattle with an unnamed retailer.

Obviously, there are a slew of issues with in-home deliveries, including the possibility of theft and damage. And of course, very few people have smart locks, so it doesn’t make much sense to built a delivery option around them yet. It sounds like Amazon and these companies are just testing out the feasibility of in-home deliveries, rather than planning a widespread rollout soon.

As crazy as it sounds, it makes sense for Amazon to at least consider the option of in-home deliveries. It’s already offering lockers for dropping off packages, and it’s testing out in-trunk deliveries as well.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: The Information

27
Sep

Galaxy Note 7 finally goes on sale in Europe on October 28th


Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 was originally set to go on sale in Europe on September 2nd, but on that very day the launch was pulled and a global recall issued on account of their tendency to explode without warning. This made the regional recall process a little simpler for Samsung, given only those who had taken advantage of early delivery preorder promotions had devices in hand, but it also meant Europeans have never actually been able to straight-up buy — battery defects aside — Samsung’s finest smartphone yet. That changes October 28th, however, when the Note 7 will finally go on general sale in the region “subject to full completion of the exchange programme.” Though whether consumer confidence has been irreparably damaged already remains to be seen.

Alongside announcing the European launch date, Samsung has provided a number of updates on how the recall process is going today. In Europe, 57 percent of handsets have been handed over since exchanges began just over a week ago, causing Samsung to predict it’ll have every defective device back by early October. In the US, over 60 percent of Note 7s have been tracked down, up from roughly 50 percent last week — the pace is understandably slower as sales started on August 19th, so there are more handsets out in the wild.

Over 60 percent of phones sold in South Korea have also been exchanged, with Singapore residents leading the pack with more than 80 percent of handsets returned. In the immediate aftermath of the global recall, Samsung lost many, many billions in market value; but apparently people that wanted a Note 7 in the first place are happy to stick with the device, with roughly 90 percent of those choosing to receive a new, non-exploding model. Better the devil you know, we suppose.

Source: Samsung

27
Sep

Infant is world’s first to have three biological parents


It sounds like the setup of a wacky science fiction comedy, but this is actually real life. A five-month old baby boy was just revealed to be the first kid in the world with three biological parents, according to New Scientist. The infant was created by a technique that has only been legally approved in the UK, and it lets parents with genetic disorders have healthy babies. The study is believed to fast track progress in the field, and is the latest in a series of advances in genetic science we’ve seen recently.

The method used in this case was slightly different from the one legalized in the UK. Instead of fertilizing both the mother’s and a donor’s eggs with the father’s sperm and then replacing the donor’s nucleus with the mom’s, this scenario first swapped out the nucleus of a donor egg for the mother’s, then fertilized the resulting egg with the dad’s sperm. This prevented the destruction of two embryos, which the family involved were not supportive of for religious reasons.

Neither of the above techniques are allowed in the US, so the New York City-based doctor and his team went to Mexico to carry out the procedure. Five embryos were created, but only one developed normally and was implanted in the mother, who carries the genes for Leigh’s disease. Around a quarter of her mitochondria have the disease-causing mutation, according to New Scientist, and she had already lost her first two children to Leigh’s.

The three-parent technique was banned after it was last tried out in the 1990s, since the children born from that went on to develop genetic disorders. According to the Independent, critics have described the method as tantamount to playing God.

In this case, the team used a male embryo to avoid passing on any inherited mitochondrial DNA. They tested the baby’s mitochondria and found less than 1 percent of it to carry the mutation. The team plans to describe its findings at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s Scientific Congress in Salt Lake City in October. Embryologists believe this case should fast-forward progress in the field, according to New Scientist.

Source: New Scientist

%d bloggers like this: