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15
Jan

Subway Surfers: Surfing it’s way into my heart (Review)


Overview:

Subway Surfers is a Temple Run-styled infinite runner game that has a lot of charm and adds some neat elements to the familiar gameplay mechanics.

Developer: Kiloo

Cost: Free (With ads and microtransactions)

Impressions:

Temple Run was once king of the infinite runner genre, with its tight gameplay and simple controls that had you pushing for just one more high score every time. It’s been a long time since those days, and Temple Run is still around, and still fun to play, but there are so many new infinite runner games that some truly good ones get lost in the shuffle. Subway Surfers is one of those games.

Subway Surfers’ gameplay is nothing new, you simply steer your character with swipes to avoid obstacles and collect coins and powerups. The developers added some extra tricks as well, like a “no crash” hoverboard powerup and moving platforms that add some challenge and strategy to your runs. For the most part, it’s a standard infinite runner with a good balance of fun and challenge that I could recommend it to anyone.

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The graphics are bright and colorful and have a cute cartoon art style that is kid friendly. There is a surprising number of customization options that are unlockable with both in-game currency and in-game collectibles as well, which is a welcome sight. You have a number of characters, costumes, and cosmetic changes to choose from to add some flair to your game and give you a goal to shoot for while playing. The music is nothing too inspired, but it doesn’t get in the way so that’s nice.

Microtransactions and ads are present as well, as expected from a free-to-play mobile game, but thankfully they are unintrusive for the most part. I’d put Subway Surfers on the tolerable side of the spectrum here. Thankfully they reward you for viewing ads with keys and other collectibles so it’s not just ads in your face for nothing. The social aspects of the game are fairly light. You can link your Facebook account for rewards and leaderboards against your friends, but not much else. There is no multiplayer to speak of, which is understandable but would have been an interesting addition.

Conclusion

I don’t have too much negative to say about Subway Surfers. It’s an all-around polished and solid game that offers a lot of content for a simple infinite runner game. If I had to pick something negative it would be that the game is a tad too easy, and also that the microtransactions seem fairly pointless since they really only unlock cosmetics faster. On the whole, Subway Surfers is a good game, and if you’re looking for a fun infinite runner to play or something for the kids’ tablet, then I’d definitely recommend this one.

Download Subway Surfers from the Google Play Store

15
Jan

From the Editor’s Desk: Flagship spotting


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Have you heard? There’s a new Android flagship!

This industry has no shortage of irksome buzzwords (see: “iPhone killer,” “phablet,” “innovation” — I could go on.) But one that’s been almost entirely stripped of all meaning is the term “flagship.” It used to be that a flagship — the very best product in a series, intended to bear the standard of a particular brand — was easy to define. Then, with multiple high-end phone releases every year from the big brands, things became murkier.

With numerous product lines — like the Samsung Galaxy S and Galaxy Note lines, and LG’s G and V series — intersecting, and each one laying claim to the “flagship” title, confusion can quickly set in. The crown is either shared between multiple products, or rapidly passed along the line in a matter of months. (And the less said of the “mid-range flagship,” or the “entry-level flagship,” the better.)

As we head into the early spring silly season for new Android phone launches, the specter of the Android “flagship” once again raises its head. This week we got the HTC U series, a new “flagship” range from HTC, consisting of one entirely forgettable phone (the U Play) and one promising entrant (the U Ultra) hamstrung by a handful of insane product decisions, an eye-watering price and a two-month wait before shipping. In the case of HTC, that’s led to some questioning whether the U Ultra is it for the Taiwanese phone maker for 2017. (It almost certainly isn’t, but HTC’s liberal use of the word “flagship” does it no favors here.)

This week we also learned of a new Huawei flagship landing at Mobile World Congress, likely the rumored P10. Huawei has only just put its “flagship” Mate 9 on sale, with launches in the U.S. and UK this past week, yet already there’s talk of the next big thing.

HTC has a new flagship series. Meanwhile we’re just a few weeks off the next Huawei flagship announcement.

Will the P10 supersede the Mate 9? Well, no. The earlier MWC launch (as opposed to the usual April event) is probably an indicator that Huawei’s going to repackage the Mate 9’s internals into a more compact device, as opposed to leapfrogging it with a faster CPU or fancy new camera tech. (As happened with the Mate 8 and P9.) Nevertheless, the announcement of a new “flagship” just a month and a half after the old one first went on sale could be problematic. It’ll be interesting to see how Huawei handles a product lineup consisting of a potential P10 (let’s say 5.2 inches), P10 Plus (possibly 5.5), Mate 9 (5.9) and Mate 9 Pro (also 5.5). (To say nothing of the inevitable Honor 9, when that arrives.)

Each of these could be considered a flagship, though Huawei won’t necessarily sell all of them in the same markets. Nevertheless, where any crossover happens, perhaps with the Mate 9 Pro and P10 Plus, there’s plenty of potential for confusion.

I’m as guilty as anyone for splashing around the word “flagship” in headlines, articles and videos. It’s an easy term to fall back on — one that’s attention-grabbing, and that we all more or less understand.

Some other Android-related occurances of late:

  • Not to pick on HTC too much this week, but oh my, this thoroughly cringey press release. U Question Why.
  • The LG G6 is shaping up to be interesting, based on LG’s recent teasers. I’m fearful LG may have just swapped one gimmick (modularity) for another (“18:9” display.) What LG needs above all is a device that gets the fundamentals right — hopefully it can do that when its big, eye-catching feature is just a slightly weird-shaped screen.
  • Speaking of which, whatever happened to the LG Rolling Bot? That’s mostly a rhetorical question — it’s almost certainly been canned. But I’d love to get my hands on one, mainly for decorative reasons. I’d put it right next to my Nexus Q.
  • This design (and variations of it) have been doing the rounds as a possible Galaxy S8 this past couple of weeks. Wouldn’t surprise me if it was close to the new “flagship” we’re expecting in April. But at the same time, it wouldnt’s surprise me if all these leaks — including those from case makers — turn out to be nothing more than fan concepts.
  • Finally, something not worthy of its own news post, because this stuff can be faked, but I’d expect the next Android version to be 7.1.2, probably landing in early March in line with Google’s new quarterly maintenance release thing. Lots of traffic hitting our servers from Pixels + Pixel XLs on 7.1.2 over the past 2 months — slowly building since mid-November, which usually indicates Googlers testing a new version.

That’s it for this week. Smooth sailing for the week ahead!

15
Jan

Ben Heck’s Xbox One S laptop


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Since the teardown of the Xbox One S, Ben has been designing a laptop using the console’s innards. Building a hardware enclosure can be tricky, as Ben has to make sure the specifications are exact. He gets precise measurements with the help of a document scanner, later bringing in a laser cutter and CNC router. Naturally, though, it’s not just the aesthetics that are important: Ben also has to reduce the size of the hardware and ensure it’s cooled properly. To do so, Ben finds an appropriate fan that can be speed-controlled to ensure the laptop stays cool. What would you change about the Xbox One S notebook? Let the Ben Heck Show team know over on the element14 Community.

15
Jan

Bellus3D Face Camera Release Date, Price and Specs – CNET


It’s jarring to see someone’s face casually splayed on a conference table like a stack of pamphlets.

Yet, there it was.

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The creepiest mask I ever did see.

Xiomara Blanco/CNET

After a confused double-take, I realized what I was looking at that chilly January day at CES: an uncannily realistic, creepy-AF mask of some dude’s face. Bellus 3D was to blame. And, weirdly, to congratulate.

The company makes a 3D face camera for mobile devices that scans your face in high res with crazy detail, an accomplishment. Once it’s scanned, the company can send you a file that you can then send to a 3D printer to make into a mask.

bellus3dgif.gifbellus3dgif.gif Screenshot/Xiomara Blanco

And the masks that Bellus 3D was showing at CES 2017 were nothing like the wacky, cartoon-esque rubber masks infamously used to make fun of US presidents. These looked really, really real. If the masks looked any better, they would rival the the Hosts from Westworld.

The Bellus 3D folks say the infrared scanners on its camera read over 500,000 3D points on your face, and it’s really simple to use. Once the camera is connected and the Bellus 3D app is launched, you position your head within an outlined parameter, stare straight ahead, turn to the left when prompted and then again to the right.

bellus3d1.gifbellus3d1.gif Screenshot/Xiomara Blanco

The scans, which are available to view shortly after, are impressively accurate with incredible detail. You can see and zoom in on every wrinkle, pore and hair follicle in full color (eek!). The uses for dermatologists, ophthalmologists and cosmetic surgeons are immediately apparent.

bellus3dscan.gifbellus3dscan.gif Screenshot/Xiomara Blanco

There’s an eeriness knowing that you can make a lifelike replica of your own countenance. Like, what would you even do with it? Could it be used to steal your identity and rob a bank? Will this make catfishing even worse? Are we only a few years away from having the tools to make Westworld a reality? (As in the 1973 movie version, since the HBO TV series is more like year 2067 high-tech.) Is this the Upside Down? At the very least, it’s good enough to trigger my Uncanny Valley reflex of super-creepiness.

But if making accurate 3D face masks sounds up your alley, you’re kinda out of luck. The Bellus 3D face camera will be made available sometime in the first quarter of 2017, in limited quantity, to developers and partners only.

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30

The wackiest, weirdest gadgets of CES 2017

15
Jan

A visual history of gadgets that have burst into flames


Samsung had a rough 2016. Last year, the company had to recall its Galaxy Note 7 after units were catching fire, followed by millions of washing machines that were exploding in people’s homes. But Samsung isn’t the only company that’s struggled recently with faulty batteries. We’ve seen similar issues with hoverboards, a Tesla Model S and the latest electric skateboard from Boosted. Let’s take a look at other products that have had trouble in the flammability department. And let’s hope those non-exploding lithium Ion batteries get here soon.

15
Jan

Amazon Unveils Curated TV Subscriptions Strategy with ‘Anime Strike’ Prime Channel


Amazon launched Anime Strike this week, the company’s first self-branded content to appear under its Channels subscriptions program for Prime members.

Anime Strike offers U.S. Prime members access to over 1,000 anime TV shows and movies for an extra $4.99 per month on top of the $99 Prime subscription. Amazon says the channel will serve up seinen classics as well as weekly anime exclusives from Japan. A seven-day free trial lets Prime members check out the channel, which features “The Great Passage”, “Scum’s Wish, and “Blue Exorcist: Kyoto Saga”, as well as anime classics like “Paprika” and “Tokyo Godfathers”.

Amazon’s existing add-on video subscription services include channels such as HBO, Comedy Central’s Stand-Up Plus, and Cinemax, but Anime Strike is the company’s first own-branded, curated offering. Speaking to Variety, Amazon said it plans to launch additional branded subscription VOD channels in the coming months.

The move indicates intensifying competition among streaming services, with a wider range of exclusive content becoming increasingly necessary if companies are to fend off rival offerings. Back in November, sources claimed Apple was considering a price drop for Apple Music in time for the holiday period, with Amazon cited as the “biggest motivation” for the discussions over monthly pricing. However, the service’s $9.99 price tag remains in place, and with reports this week that Apple is planning to create its own original TV shows for Apple Music, more content rather than lower cost appears to be the overriding strategy.

Amazon already serves up original TV content to Prime members through Instant Video, while the company’s Amazon Music Unlimited service costs $7.99 per month (or $9.99 per month for non-Prime members). According to The Wall Street Journal, Amazon has held talks with a number of sports leagues including the NFL and NBA about obtaining live game rights, with a view to either including a sports package as part of its Prime membership or offering it as a paid add-on.

In July of last year, Amazon U.S. was estimated to have 63 million Prime members – more than half the online retailer’s customer base.

Tag: Amazon Prime
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15
Jan

3D zebrafish can replace real animals in the lab


A few years ago, zebrafish became the new lab rat because of their genetic similarity to humans. So, when a team of researchers from the NYU Tandon School of Engineering decided to develop a virtual alternative for lab animals, they chose the tropical freshwater minnows. The team used real-life data to develop a platform that simulates zebrafish swimming in three dimensions, which is accurate enough to replace the animals in experiments.

The platform started as a 2D model back in 2015. Its current iteration, however, is much more sophisticated and features speed modulation, wall interaction and the burst-and-coast swimming style of zebrafish. To prove that it works, they had the platform process data detailing the speed of zebrafish swimming in different tank sizes. They found that the size of tank affects the speed of the fish within minutes, when it would have taken much longer and thousands of real animals to come to the same conclusion.

The researchers know their creation “can’t entirely replace animal testing,” but they believe it can help decrease the number of animals used in the lab. They think it’s ideal for the pre-clinical stages of research, especially for neurobehavioral studies critical to understanding the brain. They’re tweaking it further to include other factors, though, including social interaction and response to both live and engineered stimuli.

Source: New York University

15
Jan

France isn’t ready to ban cyclists from cheating with motors


The pro cycling world may be cracking down on the use of hidden motors to cheat in races, but it doesn’t look like governments are ready to make it a criminal offense. The French government has shot down a proposed law that would have made this “technological doping” illegal, adding legal penalties to the punishments from racing leagues themselves. It’s not that the politicians endorse cheating, of course. Rather, it’s that they feel the proposal was premature and potentially too harsh given existing measures.

The would-be law promised both a fine of €3,750 (about $3,991) and up to a year in prison for individual offenders. Larger outfits involved in making or acquiring hidden motors would have faced a €150,000 fine (currently $159,653) and as many as 7 years of prison time.

The concept still has legs. A compromise will have the government study the viability of criminalizing motor-based cheating, and give more authority to France’s anti-doping agency. There could very well be legal repercussions to getting an unfair technical advantage. Observers have complained about Tour de France organizers hindering French police investigations, suggesting that the leagues aren’t always the best judges of their own actions. It’s just that officials would rather understand the potential consequences of an anti-motor law before welcoming it with open arms.

Via: CyclingTips

Source: Next Inpact (translated)

15
Jan

Dancing Line Review


dancing line game

If you’ve ever played a music/rhythm game before, you know the premise is usually simple; listen to the music to react appropriately and progress through the game. In Dancing Line, from Cheetah Mobile, you guide a line through a constantly changing world by tapping to the beat of the music. The game starts out easy, but by the time you progress to the second level, you’ll find the challenge ramps up dramatically.

Tap on the screen anywhere to change the trajectory of the forever-moving lineTap on the screen anywhere to change the trajectory of the forever-moving line

The overall look of Dancing Line is simplistic and clean. The world animates before you as you guide your line through the level. Your path becomes more clear as the world changes before you. Blocks will build up or slam down, paths will narrow or be revealed in a smooth animated way and weather effects will obstruct your view dynamically as you tap to the music. Cheetah Games has done a great job in building a clean and sharp, polygonal world for you to explore.

Being that Dancing Line is a musical game it’s important that the tunes are well composed and fitting. Thankfully both of these requirements are met in a satisfying fashion. The music is catchy with orchestral instruments layered in harmony to convey a feeling that pairs well with the visuals. It’s not music you’ll be humming years down the road, but it’s done well and fits perfectly within the aesthetic.

dancing line greenDancing Line’s overall look is simplistic and beautiful at the same time

Dancing Line is a game focused on skill–and you’ll need plenty of skill to complete later levels. Fortunately, if you get stuck on one level, you can skip around to test your tapping skills on any one of the four main levels. From the level selection screen you can see how your furthest progression, but there are no checkpoints, so you always start from the very beginning. There are five levels to play through in total, although the final one is pay-to-play, and there’s also a promise of more levels to come soon. This is a fair amount as the difficulty and length of each level provides for a healthy amount of challenge.

If you fail a level (by running off of the course or into a barrier), you will have to use one of your cubes to try again. Your cubes are limited but there is an option to attain more cubes for more playtime. You can purchase 50 cubes for $.99 or get an infinite amount for 24 hours for $1.99; or just wait for your energy to recharge over time to play more in the future. Dancing Line is also ad-supported but offers the option to remove ads for a one-time payment of $4.99.

Dancing Line supports achievements and Google Play Game services to retain your completion level as your move between devices. Within the settings menu, you can toggle graphical quality in order to play on less powerful hardware, or turn off sound completely for a real challenge.

Cheetah Games has put together a respectable, albeit short, piece of gaming software that fans of the music genre can instantly enjoy. The challenge level is high and sometimes frustrating, but the overall experience is fun and engaging.

Dancing Line Informational

15
Jan

Next ‘Titanfall 2’ update mostly ignores the robots


You’d think that any big Titanfall 2 update would revolve around the game’s namesake robots, but no — Respawn wants on-foot action to be the focus next time around. It’s preparing a free upgrade whose centerpiece is Live Fire, a six-on-six pilot-only mode. You have just one minute to either eliminate the entire enemy team or hold a neutral flag when time is up. The mode is important enough that there are even two new maps created just for the purpose.

The release will also include a new Coliseum map (again, a pilot-only mode), a new execution and fresh commander intros. All told, Respawn appears to be acknowledging the contingent of players that’s almost annoyed by Titanfall 2’s robot-centric gameplay — you’ll have considerably more variety if you prefer parkour-heavy infantry combat.

There’s one main improvement that everyone can appreciate. You’ll have the option to create your own multiplayer ‘mixtapes’ that include just the modes you want to play. If you only see yourself ever playing Amped Hardpoint and Bounty Hunt, you can include both in the rotation without having to switch from one to the other.

Source: Titanfall

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