Archive for July 2nd, 2012

This EX Troopers trailer isn’t banned, is still anime-infused goodness

EX Troopers, a stylized spin-off of Lost Planet for 3DS and PS3 (hey, it is lost, after all), is in development from Capcom, produced by Monster Hunter’s Shintaro Kojima and directed by Resident Evil 5’s Yasuhiro Anpo, Siliconera reports. Anpo contributed to Lost Planet itself as a “library programmer” as well.

EX Troopers will feature co-op multiplayer, a cel-shaded anime art style and is set to launch later this year. Unlike the version we asked you to stare at last month that has since been banned, Capcom’s official trailer above shows off the revamped art style in, well, style.

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LittleBigPlanet Karting can’t stop here, this is beta country

LittleBigPlanet Karting is accepting beta applications right this very moment. If you’re interested in a PS3 Sackboy-Mario Kart-style mash-up, sign up through the PSN Beta page.

Sony of course warns that not everyone will qualify for the beta, but we assume the question “Do you own a PS3?” may be one with a correct answer, while “Which of the following games have you played before?” may be more lenient.

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Google’s Glass project lets technology slip into background

I have seen the future, and it is wearable.

But before I tell you about this future, let’s take a short trip into the past, specifically to the mid-1400s, when a German by the name of Johannes Gutenberg was hard at work inventing the printing press. There’s a common misconception that Gutenberg’s press instantly changed society. This isn’t quite so.

Those first books were immense. The Morgan Library and Museum’s copy of the Gutenberg Bible weighs 33 pounds, 8 ounces. A book wasn’t something that you took on a walk to read on a park bench; it wasn’t something that was shared with friends. Instead books were immobile, often read only at a lectern. And, as most people were illiterate, there were a select few who could read them.

Those books were essentially equivalent to computers 30 years ago: large and inaccessible to almost everyone in society. In the early 1500s, an Italian by the name of Aldus Manutius invented the pocketable book, changing history. Manutius realized that instead of printing one large page of a book on a printing press, he could print several on a single large sheet of paper, then cut them up, and make smaller, portable books.

Manutius’ transformation is like the shift to the smartphone, which are really just very small computers.

To continue our history lesson, another huge shift occurred in the late 1800s when the motion picture was invented. It enabled visual storytelling and at a mass scale unimaginable before.

The equivalent to that moment, of a technology that works regardless of age, education, literacy or intelligence, is happening right now with the advent of wearable computing. These wearable technologies like Google’s glasses that project information right where a person is looking will have the same effect on smartphones and computers as the motion picture did on books.

All these things share one distinct trait – a theme that has helped usher in new technologies since people drew on cave walls: storytelling. Storytelling for information and communication.

The ultimate form of communication occurs when “technology gets out of the way,” as Sergey Brin, Google’s co-founder, said this week at Google I/O, the company’s annual developer conference.

Brin noted this during a demonstration of Google’s Project Glass, the company’s glasses. See a person, and the glasses could tell you his work history. Look at a landmark and its significance could be explained.

I had a brief opportunity to try the glasses, and the experience was as mesmerizing as when I saw the Apple iPhone for the first time.

The screen of Project Glass sits off to the side, clear and unobtrusive. You interact with it when you need to. When an email or text message comes in, you can look if you want, or simply ignore it. It’s not as if a large red stop sign is jammed in your face when messages arrive.These things obviously have their share of problems. They cost $1,500, for a special pre-order. Although I’d gleefully walk around with a pair on, my sister and the majority of readers of this newspaper would probably say, “No thanks. Way too geeky for me.”

But that will all change.

Brin said the glasses changed the way he posts his activities. “I have found myself responding to a text message or emails asking what I’m doing with a picture,” he said.

He told a story of repeatedly throwing his son, Benji, in the air with both hands, and then catching him. Google Glass took pictures and documented the moment. “I could never have done that with a smartphone or a camera,” Brin said. Instead, it was just Brin and his son, playing.

The technology was barely there.

And that’s the point. When technology gets out of the way, we are liberated from it. Wearable computing will free us from peering at life through a 4-inch screen. We will no longer have to constantly look at our devices, but instead, these wearable devices will look back at us.

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Cloud a game changer for technology giants

June 2012 may well go down as the month the tech world entered a new era. On June 11, Apple showed its next operating system for iPhones and iPads. It offered maps and speech recognition, plus music and movies on iTunes, all tied via the Internet to Apple’s “cloud” of servers.

A week later, Microsoft, known better for software, demonstrated the Surface tablet, its answer to the iPad. The Surface interacts with both the Web and Microsoft’s cloud, called Windows Azure. And, on Wednesday, Google introduced its newest cloud-connected phone and tablet, as well as a media player called Nexus Q.

The player works with the devices, the Internet and the Google cloud. Remarkably fast, a multibillion-dollar industry is moving away from personal computers made mostly with Microsoft Windows software and Intel semiconductor chips.

The combined revenue from these largely “Wintel” desktops and laptops last year was about $70 billion at Dell and Hewlett-Packard. But these companies played virtually no part in the June shows.

Asked what part it hoped to play in the cloud-dominated future, Dell declined to comment. An HP spokesman said in a statement that his company had computer servers and software in “eight of 10 of the world’s most trafficked sites, four out of five of the world’s largest search engines, the three most popular social media properties in the US” He said nothing about PCs.

The tech future also poses challenges for Intel, which has been diversifying. Its chips are now in Apple computers and a host of other devices. Intel still has a significant place in the market, but often with lower-margin chips, and increased competition.

Another chip company, Nvidia, got a shout from Google’s stage. We are seeing a new business ecosystem with all sorts of mobile and cloud-connected devices. Each is a powerful computer, with connections to a nearly infinite amount of data storage and processing in the cloud.

“We’re entering this era where consumer electronics is the hardware, and the software and the cloud,” said Matt Hershenson, Google’s hardware director. His view increasingly holds for bus- ness computing, too.

Coincidentally, Friday was the fifth anniversary of the iPhone’s introduction. Next week, cloud-based software applications for the iPhone from outside developers will have their fourth anniversary. And, already, cloud devices that Google called experimental last year are now almost mainstream.

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Smartphone shoots: The local call

The day is not far off when Indian film-makers would be able to shoot films with simple smartphones. A couple of Indian researchers at MIT are working on a light-field camera technology which can revolutionise the way films are shot.

Kshitij Marwah and Professor Ramesh Raskar and their team at MIT are working on light field cameras which help you adjust the focus of photos after they have been taken. “If you take a shot where there are two actors in a frame, the focus invariably will be on one of the actors. If the director/photographer feels at a later date that the second actor in the frame needs to be focused, he can do that even after the cast and crew have packed up and left,” explains Kshitij Marwah.

“This can be done by fitting a coded mask between the lens and the sensor of the camera. When you capture the image, the camera also takes in a sample of all light rays in that scene. Later on, you can use simple computations or editing techniques to refocus anywhere in the scene,” explains Marwah.

“Such a camera can help directors shoot directly in 3D in a single shot,” says Mr Marwah. These light field cameras can also help you eliminate glare and even introduce one, as and when needed. It can also help you get better dynamic range, bringing the colours and contrast similar to that of film cameras,” he says.

The team has built such a light field camera in their lab and is also working on how these light field cameras can be mounted on normal smartphones.

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Anti-virus solutions for connected homes too

SAN FRANCISCO: Ever thought that your refrigerator could send spam, while it appears to be innocently making ice cubes? The thought might not have crossed yours but it has Symantec’s.

Symantec, makers of Norton anti-virus software, is preparing for a very-near future wherein our houses will be full of smart appliances each with their own sophisticated computers.

Adding to the plethora of smart gadgets that already dot our home will be smarter refrigerators, washing machines and cars that can connect over the Internet, some with tweeting powers. Over five-billion devices are likely to be connected by Wi-Fi in the home by 2014.

“And by 2015, the number of devices connected to Internet Protocols will be twice that of the world’s population,” says Ed Doe, product line director at telecom chipmaker Broadcom’s Networking SOC business.

This is why, just like our PCs and email inboxes, connected homes too urgently need to be protected from viruses, malware and phishing scams. Broadcom and Symantec’s Norton Labs are working on an anti virus solution which is scheduled to be out later this year.

Codenamed “Project Apollo” the gateway-based solution will run on Broadcom hardware and will help households manage and secure all the connected devices in the home. “The solution will be built into the router because the router is always on. It is never switched off,” says Shaun Cooley, a Norton Labs’ Distinguished Engineer. This is a feasible solution because the common thread between the clutter of devices is that they are all Net-connected.

“In the future, security will have to move from securing a specific device (typically a PC) to securing a home network, as well as securing devices under multiple operating systems. Ideally, the consumer could have a common interface to configure security that maps out the overall network rather than needing to understand each device’s specific configuration settings,” says Sam Rosen, practice director – TV & Video, Broadband and Connected Home at ABI Research, a tech consultancy.

Hacking into your refrigerator’s computer to send spam is one thing. “Someone could develop a vulnerability attack and change the physical appliance from operating correctly in the first place,” says Lawrence Pingree, research director of security technologies at Gartner.

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