Brain implants help nervous mice find their competitive side
Social competition and establishing dominance are a part of the culture of many species, from humans to mice. That’s why the results of a recent study published in Science are so interesting. A team of Chinese scientists changed the behavior of mice to turn “loser” mice into “winners.”
The experiment used a standard practice called a dominance tube test. Two mice are placed at either ends of an open tube; the tube is only wide enough to accommodate a single mouse. Because they cannot move around one another, once the two mice meet, they must compete in order to determine which moves forward and which moves backward. The mouse that is able to press forward is the “winner” mouse.
The team discovered that the winning mice had higher brain activity in the dorsomedia prefrontal cortex (dmPFC), which has historically been associated with social dominance. They theorized that winning, and what they call the “winning effect,” is just as important to a mouse’s results as personality traits and mental strength. The researchers then used a technique called “optogenics,” which consisted of a fiber optic implant and using photostimulation, or light, to enhance the “loser” mouse’s dmPFC. It changed the subordinate mice’s behavior: “Under photostimulation, the originally subordinate mice not only resisted pushes from the opponents for a longer duration, but also pushed more.”
While it’s easy to have a knee-jerk reaction to this study — we really do not need artifically aggressive creatures, whether humans or mice — it’s important to note that the photostimulation didn’t change a mouse’s physical prowess, nor did it affect testosterone levels. It’s the number of wins that most affected the future “winner” status of the mice; the more they won, the more likely they were to win upcoming encounters, well after photostimulation was over. The team was also able to show that the winning behavior transferred to other activities.
The results of this study are fascinating for many reasons, but specifically because mouse brains and human brains are very similar (though, clearly human brains are much more complicated). The last thing we need right now is overly aggressive photostimulated humans running around, but the implications for people with social anxiety are much more interesting. Could research like this pave the way for giving people with crippling anxiety a little help and confidence in social situations? It’s certainly possible. While we should be wary of running straight to “brain implant” to solve our ills, this research opens up interesting potential for future study.
Via: Ars Technica
Amazon’s Meal Kits are already available for some customers
Earlier this week, reports surfaced that Amazon had registered a trademark for a meal kit service with the slogan “We do the prep. You be the chef.” And apparently those kits are already available to some AmazonFresh customers, one of whom told GeekWire that he began noticing them in his shopping searches a week or two ago.
There are reportedly 17 different options available including Tacos al Pastor with Pork, Veggie Burger with Harissa Aioli and Smoked Eggplant as well as Steak Au Poivre with Parmesan Fries and Snap Peas. Vegetarian options are priced around $16 and other kits range up to $20 for two servings. Those prices are comparable to HelloFresh’s and Blue Apron’s where servings are around $9-$10 each.
When news broke of Amazon’s plans to move in on their business, Blue Apron’s stock fell more than 11 percent. The company has hit some bumps in the last year including reports of safety and crime incidents at its fulfillment center. And its stock has performed poorly since its IPO last month. Amazon on the other hand, keeps adding grocery-related services to its offerings. In just the past few months, Amazon has opened drive-through grocery stores and acquired Whole Foods.
It seems the meal kits have been available at Seattle’s Amazon Go store. As for its online availability, we’ve reached out to Amazon for more details on the rollout, but as of now, it’s unclear when it will begin reaching a wider customer base.
Via: The Verge
Snapchat now lets you record up to six video snaps at once
Snapchat has unveiled two new features designed to give users greater flexibility in their storytelling. Multi-Snap lets you record up to six consecutive 10-second Snaps at once, while Tint Brush does pretty much exactly what it says on the tin. To add color to any object in your photo Snaps, simply select the new Tint tool, trace an outline around the area you want to edit and then select whichever color you want.
Tint Brush is a fun addition to Snapchat’s tool set, but the Multi-Snap feature seems genuinely useful. Press and hold the capture button to record a video Snap, and continue holding after 10 seconds to seamlessly record another. You can do this up to six times, and delete any Snaps in the sequence you don’t want to use. Each Snap will post individually to your Story but appear in chronological order, so your friends can still skip through your everyday activities if they want to (and they probably do). Both features launch tomorrow, but Multi-Snap will only be available on iOS devices — Android users will have to sit tight for now.
Twitch teams up with Crunchyroll for five-day anime marathon
Twitch marathons try to target different demographics, and an upcoming one specifically caters to anime and manga fans. The video streaming platform has teamed up with Crunchyroll for its first ever anime marathon, which will run from 6:30PM ET on July 27th up until August 1st. Twitch will reveal all 15 titles it plans to stream during the five-day event on July 21st. But we know that the list includes Mob Psycho 100, Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid, and Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers and one of 2016’s biggest hits, the figure skating anime Yuri on Ice.
The platform will host the marathon on the Twitch Presents channel, where viewers will be able to access exclusive emoji designed after the 15 titles. In the past few months alone, Twitch hosted a six-day ‘MST3K’ binge, streamed all episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood for 17 days, and celebrated Science Week by broadcasting Carl Sagan’s Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. Needless to say, it’s slated to host more marathons in the future.
Source: Twitch Presents
Leaked memo says hackers may have compromised UK power plants
State-sponsored hackers have “probably compromised” the UK’s energy industry. A leaked memo from the National Cybersecurity Centre (NCSC) identifies links “from multiple UK IP addresses to infrastructure associated with advanced state-sponsored hostile threat actors.” These threats are “known to target the energy and manufacturing sectors,” the document says.
The memo, obtained by Motherboard and verified by a number of sources, goes on to say that as a result of these connections, “a number of industrial control system engineering and services organisations are likely to have been compromised.” The NCSC has neither confirmed nor denied the authenticity of the memo. However, in a statement given to the BBC it said: “We are aware of reports of malicious cyber-activity targeting the energy sector around the globe … We are liaising with our counterparts to better understand the threat and continue to manage any risks to the UK.”
The leaked memo follows claims that Russian hackers have tried to infiltrate America’s nuclear power industry via phishing emails, as well as allegations that Ireland’s Electricity Supply Board has been targeted by groups with links to the Kremlin. These reports appear to be connected, suggesting there may be a large-scale effort brewing to identify vulnerabilities in global energy industry. It appears that despite the hack no actual damage has been done, but we’ve seen the consequences of cyberattacks on critical infrastructure — this development will no doubt call into question the effectiveness of national security once again.
Via: The Guardian
This Japanese VR arcade put me inside ‘Mario Kart’
Back when Bandai Namco opened its first VR arcade in Tokyo last April, I was keen to check out its various HTC Vive-powered VR games. My first ride there would have been Gundam VR: Daiba Assault, just so I could get a taste of what it’s like hitching a ride on a Gundam’s hand. The problem was by the time I got to the city the following month, this pop-up store already had a three-month waiting list, and I never got around to visiting before it closed in October.
Luckily, as of last Friday, VR Zone is back in new form. Not only is it now the world’s largest VR arcade, but it’s also moved to Shinjuku, a more accessible downtown area in Tokyo. And this time, it’s staying for two years. More importantly, the arcade has added some widely anticipated games that may sound familiar to you — namely, Mario Kart Arcade GP VR, Dragon Ball VR: Master the Kamehameha and Evangelion VR: The Soul Seat. As a bonus, Gundam VR has also been brought over from the previous site.
It’s hard to miss VR Zone Shinjuku when you’re walking around the famous Kabukicho entertainment district. At night, you’ll see this brand new building showing off colorful lights and the occasional wall projections. (For those familiar with the Yakuza game series, VR Zone is located at the same site as the bowling alley in Kamurocho.) The two floors have a total space of about 3,500 square meters (37,600 square feet), and it’s expected to serve 1,500 visitors per day — about five to seven times as many as the old Odaiba store.
According to Bandai Namco executive producer Junichirou Koyama, the expansion is intended to ride on VR’s increasing popularity among families, as observed by his team back in Odaiba. In the process, his team focused on multi-player VR, which gets a more impressive reaction from both the players and the spectators. Koyama added that there are still relatively few people who have experienced VR, but with Bandai Namco’s iconic IPs, he’s confident that VR Zone will encourage even more people to give VR a try, just so they get to play as their favorite characters. If all goes well, the company may roll out more VR arcades across the country and maybe even overseas.
Unlike the appointment-only Odaiba store, VR Zone Shinjuku lets you buy tickets at the door, but only if reservations aren’t full that day. For that reason, the arcade still recommends booking in advance, especially for the “1 day/4 Ticket set,” which costs 4,400 yen (about $40) and gives you access to four games. The catch is that you can’t just pick any four games; you have to choose one of the three games pre-defined by each of the four colored tickets. That said, if the store isn’t too crowded that day, you may be able to buy a single VR game ticket for 1,200 yen (about $11) afterward, so that you can pick another game from that list, or even go back to a title you really enjoyed.
It’s worth pointing out that on top of the game tickets, you’ll also have to buy admission tickets: 800 yen (about $7) per teenager or adult (so anyone age 13 and older) and 500 yen (about $4.40) per child (between the ages of 6 and 12); children under the age of 6 can enter for free. Once you’re in, you can stay for as long as you want.
All told, the VR arcade features 12 game titles, but there are also three non-VR physical games set up next to the in-store restaurant to let folks take a break from VR.
Mario Kart Arcade GP VR
Naturally, as soon as my tour ended, the first game that I dashed to was Mario Kart. There were two sets of four driving simulators, with car number 1 designated as Mario, number 2 as Luigi, number 3 as Peach and number 4 as Yoshi. My Taipei colleague Ross Wang and I hopped in and were given a pair of Vive Tracker gloves to wear. That allowed us to wave at each other as well as to grab and use weapons — a shell, a banana or a hammer.
Once I put on my Vive headset, I found myself inside the body of Luigi seated in a go-kart. It took a while for the others to be strapped in, but I didn’t mind, as I was having fun by merely looking around the vibrant world of Super Mario Bros. Then the engine kicked in, and I realized that my seemingly ordinary ride also included motion feedback. Suddenly, Bowser and Wario came out of nowhere and rudely pushed in front of me. I thought to myself, I’ll definitely be throwing some koopa shells today.
Even though I had never played Mario Kart in a driving simulator before, this faithful rendition made the experience feel surprisingly familiar — from the graphics, the music, how the race started, the steering, the obstacles, the crashes, and even how I finished the race (and I’m proud to say that I was the champion both times). The only major differences were having to reach out to the weapons that were hanging on floating balloons and then either throwing or striking them at my foes, but that felt natural. I was simply in awe of the fact that the cartoonish racing game that I grew up with had become very real.
Dragon Ball VR: Master the Kamehameha
Mario Kart was clearly a tough act to follow, but the next title didn’t disappoint. Dragon Ball VR is a game that requires two players and you’re both taught how to master the iconic Kamehameha attack move from the game’s namesake anime. The preparation was a little more complicated than the other rides, though, as I had to put on a total of five Vive Trackers: one on each foot, one on each hand and one on the back of my waist. Just to be safe, the waist belt was tied to a pole behind me to soften any forward fall. The gloves also had chunky rumblers wired to the back, which I found to be a little uncomfortable at first.
Soon after the game started, I was greeted by Goku who served as my mentor (the booth next door featured Vegeta instead). Given my limited proficiency in Japanese, I could not understand a word of Goku’s instructions, but I did figure out that he was teaching me the correct posture for shooting small Ki blasts. With every blast I shot out, the gloves rumbled accordingly. This felt cool indeed, but I had terrible aim and managed to almost tear down the Martial Arts Temple in the first scene. I think it was because I didn’t squat low enough.
Looking disappointed, Goku then teleported me to the wild where I could shoot at large rocks instead, and that was where he taught me the ways of Kamehameha. First, I had to build up my Ki energy by squatting slightly and pulling my fists closer to my waist. I could feel the platform vibrating as if my Ki were really shaking the earth, and more impressively, there was actual wind blown at me to go with the glowing updraft in the game. In the next step, I had to cup my hands together on one side of the waist to concentrate the Ki into my palms, and I could tell my beam’s readiness both visually and by how hard my palms were rumbling.
There were a couple of occasions when I accidentally lost all my Ki, presumably due to my bad posture, forcing me to restart the process. At least that way I proved that this game does have some challenges, as opposed to just letting one goof around in the anime setting. When my beam was fully charged, Goku and I yelled the iconic “Ka-me-ha-me-HA!” scream, and then we pushed our hands out to shoot our Kamehameha beams. Boom! I destroyed a hill and left a massive trail on the ground. I’m not actually sure if the yelling made any difference, but who cares? This is Dragon Ball.
After a few more practice shots, I was teleported to the battlefield to face the player next door. It was then merely a matter of who shoots first with the right aim — there was a fair bit of distance between the two of us. Alas, my first shot was too low and I ended up with a massive trench in front of me. As I desperately tried to charge up my second Kamehameha, my enemy sent a perfect beam right into my face, which was accompanied by a quick gust of wind in the real world. I died. Luckily, it wasn’t game over just yet, as the game shortly resurrected me back onto the battlefield. After another missed aim, I eventually redeemed myself and defeated my opponent right before the game ended.
Evangelion VR: The Soul Seat
I continued my anime frenzy by jumping into Evangelion VR. This game places the player inside of one of the three most iconic Evangelion giant cyborgs: Unit-00, Unit-01 and Unit-02. The story here is that Tokyo-3, a fictional fortress city where paramilitary agency NERV is headquartered, is under attack by a creature called Zeruel, aka the Tenth Angel, so NERV deploys all three Evangelion units to the surface in the hopes of defeating the Angel.
Much like the rides made for Mario Kart VR, the Evangelion VR ones come with motion feedback and identical chairs, except the players have to lift their legs onto a leg rest to match the cockpit’s design in the anime. Also, I didn’t have to wear any Vive Tracker this time. To move around, you have to move both joysticks in the desired direction. Shooting is done with the right trigger using your head to aim, and you can equip a different weapon using the left trigger.
The game started off with me inside a dark Evangelion cockpit awaiting activation. To establish a neural link between the human pilot and the Evangelion unit, the cockpit is slowly filled up with a transparent orange fluid (it’s known as “LCL,” which is actually blood harvested from the Second Angel, Lilith). As a pleasant surprise, the ride enhanced this part of the experience by gently blowing cool air up my body as I watched the liquid creeping up. I was impressed even before I got to mobilize the Evangelion suit.
Soon, I was in sync with the suit and could see the heads-up display overlaying the outside world. Even though I was still being pushed out of the loading bay, I was already admiring the detailed graphics from a great height while my seat rumbled accordingly. Just as I was approaching the launchpad, I could also see my fellow Evangelion suits on both sides, and then we were rapidly shot up the shaft to the surface.
The massive Angel showed up soon after our arrival, which prompted us to run around and attack it from all sorts of angles while trying to dodge its beams. Truth be told, I had no idea which part of the Angel’s body to aim my rifle at, but it didn’t matter as I was mainly enjoying the immersiveness inside this massive cyborg, courtesy of fantastic view combined with motion feedback from the seat and the joysticks. It took me a while to realize that I could pick up more weapons from some of the walls, but by the time I got to equip a new minigun, the Angel had already penetrated the wall and totaled me in the process. As a pre-death humiliation, I was forced to watch the ugly beast slowly devouring me with its alien jaws.
Dinosaur Survival Run: Jungle of Despair
Just because the remaining VR titles lack the iconic IPs doesn’t mean they aren’t also fun. In fact, I would highly recommend a thriller game called Dinosaur Survival Run: Jungle of Despair, in which up to four players are tasked with rescuing plane crash survivors on an island where dinosaurs roam free (we never learn, do we?). It’s pitch-black, human corpses are scattered all over the forest, and you’re only given a self-balancing scooter — simulated by a rumbling platform and a handlebar — plus a flashlight with limited battery life. Basically, you can expect lots of screaming.
I also enjoyed Hanechari, which literally means “winged bicycle.” You have to fly this vehicle on what’s essentially a stationary bicycle. Even though this required some exercising, I was able to fully appreciate the stunning landscape in the game, and the breeze generated by the two fans in front of me made my three-minute flight more realistic. Most importantly, I managed to dodge all the obstacles to reach the castle in one piece.
Fishing VR: GIJIESTA
If you want something even less physically intensive, there’s Fishing VR: GIJIESTA, which can be a one- or two-player game and is all about catching the biggest fish possible within six minutes. Although I’m not a fishing expert, the fishing rod controller and the fake scoop net made the experience a tad more realistic, plus it was also fun for others to watch as I wrestled the virtual fish. After letting two fish escape the hook, I managed to catch an 86-cm (33-inch) fish that set a new record for the day, until someone else came along with a 90-cm (35-inch) catch later.
Given the limited time I had at VR Zone, I only managed to try the brand-new titles there, but I do hope to return for the games that were brought over from the old site. The most notable ones are Gundam VR and VR-AT Simulator: Armored Trooper Votoms Battling Dudes, both of which are based on their respective classic anime series though only the latter lets you pilot a robot.
The remaining games include Argyle Shift, which puts you inside the cockpit of a giant battle robot; Hospital Escape Omega, which pushes you through a bloody hospital on a wheelchair (I tried this at Tokyo Game Show last year and failed to hide my fear); Ski Rodeo, which is a ski simulator; and Fear of Heights: The Show, which requires the player to walk a plank protruding out of the top floor of a skyscraper.
Ghost in the Shell: Arise Stealth Hounds
One ride that wasn’t available for demo at the time was Ghost in the Shell: Arise Stealth Hounds, as it wouldn’t be ready until August. The setup was all shielded off so I couldn’t even get a glimpse, but based on the official info, it will use MSI’s VR One backpack for untethered gameplay in a 20-by-12-meter (65-by-40-foot) arena, and up to eight people can play in this two-team game. Much like the futuristic warfare in the anime, you’ll be able to apply optical camouflage in the game, which makes me wonder if players will keep running into each other by accident.
In the end, I spent about three hours playing games at VR Zone Shinjuku. I got around to six VR titles (two of which I played twice) that day, which was already a record for me, but I still wanted more. Nowhere else have I seen a VR arcade — not even HTC’s own Viveland — matching the same level of scale and sophistication, so kudos to Bandai Namco for such dedication. That said, there’s always room for improvement: I’d love to see VR Zone incorporate even more sensory features like haptic suits and thermo-electric devices, but what it’s offering now is already leagues ahead of most other so-called VR arcades. Hopefully the lines won’t be too long because I definitely have to go back at some point; I’m kicking myself for still having not tried Gundam VR.
Engadget Chinese’s Taipei Editor Ross Wang contributed to this report.
Drone noise is driving people crazy
Do drones’ characteristic lawnmower-on-helium sounds drive you batty? You’re not alone. NASA researchers have conducted a study indicating that people find drone noise more annoying than that of any ground vehicle, even when you put the two at similar volumes. It was roughly equivalent to a car being twice as close as before, according to the researchers. And while there were just 38 people in the test, none of them were told what they were hearing or what the study was accomplishing. The results seem obvious if you’ve ever heard a drone, but there’s a big question: why are they so irritating when cars create plenty of aural annoyance on their own?
It’s not necessarily the high-pitched buzz by itself. For one, most drones (with notable exceptions) are slower than cars — your irritation may grow simply because you have to put up with the sound for longer than a car speeding down the highway. Also, drone sounds are more likely to pick up rapidly (particularly during takeoff) and startle you. There’s also the simple matter of familiarity, NASA says. You’ve probably grown up listening to cars all your life, but drones are a relative novelty — you may balk at drone noises just because they still sound strange.
The findings are part of a broader look into managing low-altitude drones, and suggest there’s still a lot more work to be done before these robotic vehicles can regularly fly over busy areas. They either need to be truly quiet (not just comparable to cars) or choose flight paths that minimize the disturbance for the humans below. If that happens, though, it could lead to widespread use of drones without making you reach for a pair of earplugs.
Via: New Scientist
Source: ARC, NASA (PDF)
Apple Pay Expanding to AIB in Ireland, CaixaBank in Spain, and Other Banks in UK, France, and Italy
Apple Pay continues its global expansion today with several new participating banks, and more coming soon, in France, Italy, Ireland, Spain, and the UK.
In France, Apple says Apple Pay will be available later this year to Banque BCP and Arkéa Banque Privée customers, and through mobile-only banking and/or payment solutions Orange Bank, Lydia, and N26.
In Italy, as promised, Apple Pay is available now for American Express credit cards issued directly by American Express.
In Ireland, Apple Pay is available now at AIB, one of the so-called “Big Four” financial institutions in the country.
In Spain, Apple says Apple Pay will be available later this year at CaixaBank and mobile-only banking app imaginBank. Visa in general will also begin supporting Apple Pay in Spain by the end of the year.
In the UK, Apple Pay is now supported by mobile-only banking app Starling Bank.
Earlier this month, Apple announced several other new and forthcoming banks with Apple Pay support in France, Italy, and Spain. Apple maintains a complete list of Apple Pay participating banks in Europe on its website.
Update: Canadian bank Tangerine says its debit cards now work with Apple Pay following credit card support last year. (Thanks, Chris!)
Related Roundup: Apple Pay
Tags: Italy, Spain, United Kingdom, France, Ireland
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Huger Tech’s new line of electric skateboards won’t break the bank
Why it matters to you
If you love electric skateboards and also love saving money, this new Indiegogo campaign may be the one for you.
Your passion for skateboards shouldn’t be poking a hole in your bank account. Luckily, Huger Tech has launched a new Indiegogo campaign for it latest line of premium electric boards. And while all these skateboards promise a large range, their price tag (at least for Indiegogo backers) is quite small.
Each of the three new skateboards in Huger Tech’s new line is rechargeable and depends upon Huger’s ergonomic, Bluetooth-enabled remote controls. That means that you can accelerate, brake, or hit reverse with just the tap of your finger. You can also use the controller to check the battery life of a board.
All the new skateboards are composed of a durable Canadian maple wood deck and boast an IPX6 waterproof rating, which means that you can take these guys out for a spin even in inclement weather (though given the electrical component, that may not be the best idea). And of course, the Huger Tech boards come with a companion mobile app for both iOS and Android, which features an odometer, speedometer, and more.
The three styles newly available on Indiegogo are the Travel, Racer, and Classic.
The Travel Board is designed for the city commuter who needs to get from Point A to Point B as efficiently as possible. Featuring front and rear LED lights that safely signal braking and turning, top deck LED lights for GPS navigation, and a 22-mile range on up to a 20 percent incline with a top speed of 20 miles per hour, this board certainly sounds effective. Weighing in at 14.6 pounds, the Travel Board has a removable battery that recharges in 2.5 hours. Early backers will be able to snag this board for $500, which represents $400 off the retail price of $900.
The Racer Longboard boasts similar specs, but is meant more for the adventurous thrill-seekers. With a top speed of 25 miles per hour, this board is a bit heavier and larger than the Travel Board. It’s now available for pre-order on Indiegogo for $600, or half off the retail price of $1,200.
Finally, there’s the Classic Board, which promises minimal resistance from the motor, allowing riders to push the board more like a traditional skateboard. It has a smaller range of 8.5 miles with a top speed of 15 miles per hour, but its battery recharges in just 90 minutes. This one is also the most affordable at $300.
All boards are expected to ship in October.
Mira wants to give iPhone owners their first taste of augmented reality
Why it matters to you
We often isolate ourselves with our smartphones, but Mira wants to bring us closer with its AR headset for iPhone.
If you’re looking for ways to stop staring at your smartphone screen — especially when friends are over — augmented reality (AR) may be the solution for you. The tech isn’t anywhere near as good as Iron Man’s heads-up display yet, but a new headset from a company called Mira wants to offer social AR experiences for the masses by creating Prism, one of the first headsets that brings augmented reality to the iPhone.
“Although we’re getting so closely connected in the digital world, it actually brings us a lot further apart in the physical world,” Benjamin Taft, co-founder of Mira, told Digital Trends. “That’s simply because the interface to that world is a screen. It forces us to either focus on the screen or focus on the world around us, and you can’t do both at the same time.”
Augmented reality can change that, Taft said, by digitally enhancing the real world.
The Los Angeles-based startup’s Prism headset doesn’t have any tech inside, but it does use the iPhone in a creative way. The headset houses your iPhone and content is reflected from the phone’s display onto hanging glass that sits in front of your eyes. This allows you to see the person sitting in front of you while still viewing augmented reality content. It’s a unique approach, more like Google Glass than a typical mobile virtual reality headset.
The glass is slightly adjustable, making it easier to stow, and the headband can also be tightened or loosened for a more comfortable fit. The smartphone slides in easily, and there’s a snap sound indicating it has been inserted properly. At launch, the Prism will only work with the the iPhone 6, 6S, and 7, but Mira’s creators tell Digital Trends that support for larger iPhone Plus models and smartphones running Google’s Android operating system, are on the roadmap.
The Prism uses the iPhone’s display to reflect “stereoscopic imaging off the lenses into the user’s eye, so they can perceive objects at depth,” Taft said. Basically, it reflects light from the phone screen into your eyes, and utilizes the smartphone’s accelerometer and gyroscope, as well as the camera, for object tracking and environmental understanding.
It looks sleek, and it’s well-built, but there’s no denying the Prism headset looks like giant safety goggles meant to be worn in a laboratory or a construction site. I got to try it on, and while it was comfortable, it felt a little silly to wear — I would never consider wearing it outside my home or the office. The Prism also comes with a controller that’s very similar to the one Google ships with Daydream View.
The setup process of the Prism was a mini-game, where I controlled a rocket ship and got used to the controller by shooting at asteroids. I could move my ship closer and further away, and I rotated in my chair a full 360-degrees to find and destroy all the rocks. The social aspect is easy to discern — the Prism allows you to see other people around you, while also allowing them to see you, and what you’re doing. It’s also easy for another person with a Prism headset to connect to yours and join in on a game, and if you don’t have the headset, all you need is the Mira app to participate with your smartphone’s camera via the Spectator mode.
Mira hopes Prism will bring augmented reality technology to the masses, like how Google introduced VR to a lot of people with Cardboard VR. There’s two key parts Mira believes it needs to be successful — the price of the headset, and content. The Prism will cost $100, and though that’s a lot more money than Google Cardboard, it’s equal to or similar to the prices of mobile VR headsets like Samsung’s Gear VR or Google’s Daydream View.
Content is also important, and it’s partly why the Mira team is situated in LA. Launch apps will focus on 360-degree content, but ultimately the team is looking to “enable walk-around, room-scale experiences,” Matt Stern, co-founder of Mira, said. Mira is developing some content, but the company is primarily working with third-party studios to create content for Prism owners. AR app developers utilizing Apple’s ARKit will also be able to easily port over their app to work with the Prism, as the Software Development Kit is built in Unity.
Some of the first content we’ll see for the Prism are tabletop games, and the company said it will be making some content partnership announcements at Comic-Con this week.
The Prism is available for pre-orders now, but the headset will ship to developers in August and September. Mira will continue working with developers and content creators throughout the fall, and the Prism will ship to consumers close to the holiday season.