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Nintendo’s Switch won’t run ‘Zelda’ at 1080p

If you’re the proud owner of a Wii U, you might be wondering whether the Switch is worth a day one purchase. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is coming to both, so what’s the rush, right? Well, the two versions have a few key differences. In a statement provided to IGN, Nintendo confirmed that the Switch game will run at 900p on your TV, while the Wii U version will be stuck at 720p. Switch owners will also benefit from “higher quality environmental sounds,” covering water, grass and ornate steps. These will be “more realistic and enhance the game’s open air feel,” apparently.

Otherwise, it’s the same experience. Nintendo says a few onscreen buttons will differ — inevitable, given the two platforms have different controllers — but that’s about it. In its statement, the house of Mario also revealed that both versions will run at 30 frames per second. That will be a disappointment to some, who were no doubt hoping for a perfect 1080p/60fps performance. It should be stressed, however, that resolution and frame rate doesn’t determine a game’s overall visual quality. Art direction is far more important, and Breath of the Wild has it in spades.

Via: Polygon

Source: IGN


‘The Martian’ author to make NASA TV drama with CBS

It’s been a while since we’ve had a fictional TV series based around the present-day exploits of the folks at NASA. That’s all set to change with the news that CBS has commissioned a pilot for a drama about the next generation of astronauts, entitled Mission Control. The show will focus on the personal and professional exploits of a group of young, would-be space cowboys on a “critical mission with no margin for error.” The show has been written and created by Andy Weir, who rose to fame as the author of hit sci-fi novel The Martian.

Given NASA’s prominence in pop culture, you’d think that there’d be a whole host of TV shows based around its exploits. But the real number is a lot smaller than you’d think, especially considering how many times the agency pops up in movies. Even then, the bulk of the series focus on the golden age of the space race, like The Astronaut Wives Club and From the Earth to the Moon. You have to go back to 1996’s The Cape before you reach a NASA show that actually depicted present-day astronauts.

CBS picked up my TV show pilot! Working with Aditya Sood again (producer of “The Martian”) again. Should be fun! 🙂

— Andy Weir (@andyweirauthor) January 17, 2017

Hopefully the show will help to reignite the public’s interest in space exploration and science in general. After all, given the attitude of some people these days, NASA could do with all the help it can get.

Source: Variety, Deadline Hollywood


DoorDash and Postmates test deliveries with robots

Starship’s autonomous delivery robots have found work outside of the US, but they’re now ready to come Stateside. DoorDash and Postmates have forged partnerships that will have them respectively test Starship robots in Redwood City, California and Washington, DC. As elsewhere, they’ll carry food orders and packages with only the most basic of human oversight — someone will watch over them in case they run into trouble, but they can largely roll along city sidewalks on their own.

Both of the new partners aren’t expecting robots to become their primary couriers, even if the technology and legal permissions work entirely in their favor. It depends on cultural acceptance of robots, and humans have their own advantages (such as traveling by car). However, robots might be particularly useful for fulfilling those orders that humans don’t like to cover. DoorDash’s Stanley Tang tells TechCrunch that robots could deliver small, nearby orders that can be annoying — human couriers could focus on larger and longer-distance orders.

Source: TechCrunch


Using Tinder’s swipe UI isn’t always a good idea

Thanks to Tinder, swiping left or right on the photo of a potential hookup quickly became a common user interface element. But a new startup is reminding us that swiping right isn’t appropriate for every kind of app — say, an adoption app.

Adoptly wants to modernize adoption by letting prospective parents set up a profile, filter potential adoptable children by age, race, gender and a few other characteristics — and then let parents swipe right or left to express interest (or a lack thereof). Indeed, the company’s slogan is “parenthood is just a swipe away.”

The initial reactions to Adoptly’s Kickstarter pitch from Engadget’s staff were visceral and overwhelmingly negative. A number of us decided it had to be fake, illegal or at the least tone-deaf. There’s no way around it: The idea of a Tinder for adoption was repulsive to everyone I spoke to. But after doing some research, Adoptly seems to be aboveboard. The company’s service essentially functions as an intermediary between interested parents and the many agencies representing children who need to be adopted.

And while the Engadget staff found the idea of filtering children by age, race and gender and then swiping away on the results to be rather abhorrent, it turns out it’s a pretty common practice (minus the swiping, that is). A number of adoption agencies do similar things on the web; it’s not hard to find a site where you can search through children by the same filters Adoptly uses and then click a button to express your interest. Prospective parents are encouraged to build profiles and complete background checks ahead of time, but anyone can search these databases.

A good example is AdoptUSKids. The project is run by the Children’s Bureau (itself part of the US Department of Health and Human Services) and the Adoption Exchange Association, a national network to connect adoption professionals and organizations. Adoptly says it is also partnering with legitimate, government-backed organizations. If that’s the case, it’s hard to say the company is doing anything wrong; it’s just acting as an aggregator and putting already-available data on adoptable children into an app.

So why did everyone here have such a negative reaction to Adoptly? Part of it might be the fact that no one I spoke with was looking to adopt a child; if you’ve been doing your homework, the notion of searching for kids by age, gender and race might not seem surprising.

But it’s more than that: It’s the way Adoptly frames its service. Using the Tinderlike UI, something that rose to prominence in an app meant for finding a hookup, feels wrong. That sense of wrongness extends throughout everything Adoptly is doing, from its tagline to the video on the company’s Kickstarter page. At one point in the promo, a young couple is looking for their perfect child, swiping left and right as the voice-over says, “Just swipe right if you’re interested or left to keep looking.” It’s a delicate choice of words for what essentially amounts to “I’m rejecting this child in need based on this photo and basically nothing else.”

Adoptly co-founder Alex Nawrocki defended his company’s choice of the swipe, saying, “We feel like the mechanic of swiping is such an ingrained part of culture that so many people are familiar with that it makes sense.” That said, he also recognizes that some people aren’t likely to be comfortable with this. “We understand that with any new technology there can be some hesitation or uneasiness about what’ll happen, what it means, what it implies,” Nawrocki said, speaking specifically about the swipe interface.

The video’s insensitive tone extends to Adoptly’s chat feature. If an adoptable child “likes you back” (which in this case means that the agency sponsoring the child accepts your request for more information), you can chat directly in the app. Adoptly says that all “liking back” and chat communication are done under the supervision of the foster care or agency responsible for the child. But whether you’re chatting with an adoptable child or the agency, the video makes this extremely personal interaction into something decidedly less so. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t be dropping an “OMG” and emoji when I’m presenting myself as a parent ready to adopt a child. In the Adoptly world, that’s a perfectly reasonable way to behave.

Ultimately, the problem with Adoptly comes down to execution. For many people, a mobile phone is their primary computer, so having a mobile-native service for adoption isn’t a ridiculous idea. And creating a database of adoptable children from multiple agencies could make the search process easier. But Adoptly’s promise to speed up the adoption process feels hollow when you consider that you’re still bound by background checks, in-person meetups and a host of various legal requirements before you can actually adopt a child. The app doesn’t change any of that.

Another question about Adoptify is how it’ll manage to stay in business, because the company says it won’t be charging parents or agencies to use the service. “No money will be exchanged and we’re not looking to make any money from the service,” Nawrocki said. “We’re merely providing introductions, so to speak.” The Kickstarter campaign will theoretically pay for development, but at a certain point even the small team working on the app will need to draw a salary. The company either isn’t thinking about that yet or isn’t talking about the long-term plan.

Perhaps most crucially, though, the company’s presentation and UI decisions make it hard to take seriously. Would pressing a button that says “I’m interested” be any harder than swiping? Not really. But trying to appeal to Tinder-addicted millennials by using the swipe interface feels disingenuous at best and irresponsible at worst.


Protein fingerprinting could shed light on Alzheimer’s

Scientists know that the proteins in our bodies can sometimes fold and form clumps called amyloids, which lead to neurodegenerative diseases. However, they still don’t fully understand the whole process — there’s just no efficient way to examine the clumps. Since understanding amyloid formation could be the key to preventing or developing treatments for conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, a team of researchers have developed a technique to measure individual protein molecules’ properties.

Researchers from the University of Michigan and University of Fribourg call their method “5-D fingerprinting.” It involves the use of a substrate with a nanopore that’s only 10 to 30 nanometers wide so only one molecule can pass through at a time. That molecule causes fluctuations in the setup’s (which you can see below) electric current as it passes through the nanopore. Scientists and doctors can then measure that current to get the protein’s “unique five-dimensional signature.”

David Sept, a team member and U of Michigan professor in biomedical engineering, explains:

“Imagine the challenge of identifying a specific person based only on their height and weight. That’s essentially the challenge we face with current techniques. Imagine how much easier it would be with additional descriptors like gender, hair color and clothing. That’s the kind of new information 5-D fingerprinting provides, making it much easier to identify specific proteins.”

In the future, the researchers want to use what they learned to create a device medical professionals can use to instantly measure proteins in blood and other samples. That can help doctors conjure up personalized medical advice and treatment regimens proven to work for each particular patient’s condition.

Source: University of Michigan (1), (2, PDF)


AT&T’s deal with Nielsen promises more accurate TV ratings

For years, TV ratings data has revolved around a small number of households using specialized gear to track their viewing habits. That’s not completely representative of what the broader public is watching, is it? However, the accuracy is about to jump by leaps and bounds. Mere months after a deal with Dish, Nielsen has forged a multi-year agreement with AT&T to use set-top box data (thankfully, anonymized) to help determine ratings. Info from DirecTV and U-Verse subscribers will supply Nielsen with large-scale viewing patterns on top of its existing samples, providing a clearer picture of the American TV landscape.

The data will be more accurate, of course, but it should also help the TV business understand channels and regions that normally don’t get much attention. A small group of panelists can only watch so much programming, and can’t possibly tell you what a specific market (at least, outside of major cities) is watching. Set-top info from millions of users changes all that — it’ll be more apparent if a specialty channel is blowing up, or if a show appeals to a certain slice of the country. You could see TV providers shake up their show offerings to reflect what people actually want, rather than making a stab in the dark based on limited knowledge.

Via: Lara O’Reilly (Twitter)

Source: Nielsen


GarageBand on iOS is now a more capable music production suite

Apple’s GarageBand is a good place to get started with recording, but it’s useful for more advanced skill levels as well. The company just revealed an update to the iOS version of the app that gives the software a few more tools for tracking on the go. First, the powerful Alchemy synthesizer from Apple’s pro-grade Logic software is now available as an instrument in the mobile version of GarageBand. It includes over 150 patches capable of producing sounds for a range of genres.

Inside the app, Apple has tweaked the sound browser to make it easier to find the so-called Touch Instruments you want to use on a project. The company made the recording process easier as well, thanks to a new Multi-Take feature. Just like in a studio, you can use the tool to capture multiple takes before auditioning and switching between them to see which one works best.

There’s also an updated audio recorder that allows you to employ vocal effects with a single tap. A few of the widely used options are available here, including pitch correction, distortion and delay. More advanced users can expect some new audio processing tools as well. Those include a graphic EQ that handles sound adjustments with the swipe of a finger and the ability to use third-party Audio Unit plug-ins for even more options.

GarageBand for iOS version 2.2 is a free update for anyone with a new iOS device. If you’re still rocking an older iPhone or iPad, you can download the app from the App Store for $5.

GaragBand Video iPad (30 sec) Pro Res 422


Take Logic Pro X projects from desktop to mobile with GarageBand

Despite it’s highly capable tool set, GarageBand is widely thought of as Apple’s beginner audio recording software. Logic Pro X is the company’s option for more advanced users. While the latter app has been around since 2013, Apple regularly adds new features and it’s doing just that today. With version 10.3, Logic Pro X gains a host of new tool to lend a hand with recording and music production. First, the app has a refreshed UI to make it easier to see in well-lit environments. After all, not everyone likes to work in the dark or a dimly lit room.

As promised, Logic Pro X can now take advantage of the Touch Bar on Apple’s new MacBook Pro. With the Touch Bar, you can navigate the timeline of a project (pictured above), get access to Smart Controls and use the compact screen to play instruments. We’re talking things like synthesizers, drums and hundreds more. You can also customize command buttons to keep the items you use most a tap away.

There are a number of other new additions to Logic Pro X, but perhaps the most interesting is the ability to send a project to iCloud for adding sounds on the go with GarageBand on iOS. You can export Logic files in a GarageBand-compatible version to iCloud and load it on an iPad or iPhone. From there, add whatever tracks you like before saving it back to iCloud. When you return to your desktop machine, those mobile recordings will appear in the Logic Pro X project and full fidelity tracks. It’s a feature that could come in handy when inspiration strikes during a commute or road trip.

In terms of the more pro-level tools, a new feature called Track Alternatives lets you experiment with different ideas on the same track. Whether it’s a few different effect options, multiple takes or edits, Track Alternatives make it easier to weigh your options during the recording process. There’s also a new Selection-based Processing tool that allows you to apply any Logic or third-party plug-ins to a specific part of one or more audio regions. In other words, if you wanted to put an effect on the last note of a vocal track, you could do so with ease.

Logic Pro X also gains more powerful pro mixing abilities thanks to a 64-bit summing engine and 192 additional busses, bringing the total to 256. The software now features true stereo panning controls as well. If you already own the app, you will get all of these new features as part of a free update. If you’re looking to nab it for the first time, expect to pay $200.


You can play three hours of ‘Watch Dogs 2’ for free

In an unusual move, Ubisoft has announced a free three-hour ‘trial’ of Watch Dogs 2 for console players. As of today, PS4 owners can hack their way through San Fransisco for free, before the trial comes to Xbox One on January 24th. PC gamers, however, get no such luxury. This extended demo will allow players to experience a range of solo missions as well as three of the game’s online modes: Hacking Invasion, Bounty Hunter and two player co-op.

While brief downloadable demos are fairly common practice, a big publisher releasing such a lengthy game trial after launch is almost unheard of. With Watch Dogs 2 hitting shelves during one of the busiest holiday seasons in recent gaming memory, it seems as though this is Ubisoft’s attempt at luring players into a game that many overlooked.

As Watch Dogs 2’s global sale figures are currently a close guarded secret, no-one knows how well the game truly sold. UK charts revealed that sales quickly dropped by 80%, though, and it looks like the game didn’t quite get the audience that Ubisoft wanted.

The French publisher wasn’t the only game company to suffer disappointing sales last year. With the latest Call of Duty also under-performing, Activision performed a similar stunt last month, offering players free access to Infinite Warfare for five days.

Given Watch Dogs 2’s quality, the move makes perfect sense. Where its predecessor offered a depressing narrative and repetitive missions, for the sequel Ubisoft righted many of its wrongs, giving players a fun and unique sandbox to hack to their heart’s content.

If you’re looking for an engaging open-world experience, then you can do far worse than three free hours of Watch Dogs 2.

Source: Ubisoft


Hulu iOS App Updates With Personalized Profiles for Multiple-User Accounts

In December, Hulu announced a new feature for the streaming service that brought unique user profiles to families who share one account, with personalized profiles offering each user their own Watchlist, viewing history, and recommendations based on their favorite shows. Available at first only on, profiles are now available to all users who have Hulu on their iOS device, through the new version 4.10 update [Direct Link] on Hulu’s iOS app (via TechCrunch).

Profiles will keep families organized as well as happy, according to Hulu, since everyone’s favorite shows will no longer conflict with content they might not prefer that another member of the family watches frequently. There are also kid-centric accounts that parents can make without having to be concerned about mature content popping up in recommendations.

Users on single accounts will simply choose their existing name on the app’s launch screen to continue watching their shows as normal, while multiple-user accounts can begin adding new family members and friends with the “Add Profile” button.

“Creating individual profiles enables you to keep track of all of your favorite shows and movies regardless of what other viewers in your household watch. Each profile created within the same Hulu account will have its ow personalized Watchlist, recommendations, and viewing history, allowing everyone to get the most out of their Hulu experience. You can also create profiles for your kids, where they can watch kid-friendly content without worrying about mature shows or movies being recommended to them.”

There are limitations to user profiles, however, namely that users can still only stream content on one profile at a time, even after creating multiple profiles for each family member. The company said that this is due to various license agreements it has in place with each content creator.

Although it hasn’t been updated with mobile steps yet, anyone interested in learning how to create a user profile can follow the steps on Hulu’s help website to learn more about the feature on and TV/living room devices.

Tag: Hulu
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