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Is More ZEN Information Coming This Month?

December 5, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

While waiting for Zen is remarkably like waiting for Godot, we have just been told that AMD will be holding a sneak peek of its high-performance Zen CPU on 13 December.

The preview will be streamed at 1 p.m. PST on December 13. You can sign up at AMD’s website to have a shifty. The host of the event will be the video gamer hack, Geoff Keighley and it will be called “Watch New Horizon.”

According to the email the event will be an “ exclusive advance preview of our new ‘Zen’ CPU ahead of its 2017 Q1 launch”.

“See eSports & Evil Geniuses legend PPD put ‘Zen’ through its paces. There’ll be appearances from special guests and giveaways. This is the first time the public will be able to try it themselves and see its capabilities. If you’re serious about gaming, this is an event you do not want to miss.”

What we are expecting is that AMD will show off the quad-core version of Zen. AMD will have four Zen-based CPUs in the “Summit Ridge” family launching early next year.

The top end will probably include two eight-core chips with Simultaneous Multi-Threading, and an SR5 with six cores, and a quad-core SR3.

What we are curious about is if the pricing rumors are correct. The highest-end 8-core will be $500, while a second, slower eight-core chip could be as low as $350. This will really scare the bejesus out of Intel as it is promising better performance for half the price.

Other rumors say that the six-core SR5 will hit the shops for $250 and the quad-core SR3 will be $150. Intel gear will set you back $320 for its quad-core Core i7-6700K chip, and the cheapest six-core costs $380.

Courtesy-Fud

Are More PC Games Appearing On Valve’s Steam?

December 5, 2016 by  
Filed under Gaming

The number of games on Steam continues to rise at a daunting rate. According to new data from Steam Spy, the number of full games released on the store this year rose 40% over 2015.

Steam Spy founder Sergey Galyonkin published a chart on Twitter that indicated a total of 4207 games launched on Steam in 2016, up from 2964 last year. If accurate, that means 38% of all games on Steam were released within the last 12 months – a sobering thought for any developer trading on Valve’s market leading platform.

Of course, the notion that Steam is crowded with product is hardly new, but Steam Spy’s chart – republished above – clearly illustrates the pace at which the trend is playing out.

The only small consolation is that the 40% rise over last year is actually lower than the 67% increase in new games between 2014 and 2015. Galyonkin noted that the chart doesn’t include movies and non-game software, but it also filters out relevant content like DLC packs and “games without owner data.”

Valve is certainly cognisant of the issues that Steam’s teeming inventory has created for both developers and consumers. It has responded with two “Discovery Updates” that gave more control over the experience to both groups, the first in 2014 and the second little more than a month ago.

Following the second Discovery Update, GamesIndustry.biz talked to developers about the “huge impact” of the changes.

Courtesy-Fud

Gooligan Malware Gains Access To Over 1M Google Accounts

December 2, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

google-bldg-150x150A new Android malware has succeeded in gaining access to more than 1 million Google accounts, and it continues to infect new devices, according to security firm Checkpoint.

“We believe that it is the largest Google account breach to date,” the security firm said in blog post.

The malware, called Gooligan, has been preying on devices running older versions of Android, from 4.1 to 5.1, which are still used widely, especially in Asia.

Gooligan masquerades as legitimate-looking Android apps. Checkpoint has found 86 titles, many of which are offered on third-party app stores, that contain the malicious coding.

 Once Gooligan is installed, it attempts to root the device, as a way to gain full control. The malware does this by exploiting well-known vulnerabilities in older versions of Android.
“These exploits still plague many devices today because security patches that fix them may not be available for some versions of Android, or the patches were never installed by the user,” Checkpoint said.
Gooligan will then go on to steal the user’s Google authorization tokens, giving the malware access to Gmail, Google Play, and other related services.

Of the 1 million Google accounts breached, 19 percent were based in the Americas, 9 percent in Europe, while 57 percent were in Asia, according to Checkpoint.

Facebook Developing Artificial Intelligence To Patrol Live Videos

December 2, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

fb-logo-3-150x150Facebook Inc is developing a way to automatically flag offensive material in live video streams, building on a growing effort to use artificial intelligence to monitor content, said Joaquin Candela, the company’s director of applied machine learning.

The social media company has been embroiled in a number of content moderation controversies this year, from facing international outcry after removing an iconic Vietnam War photo due to nudity, to allowing the spread of fake news on its site.

Facebook has historically relied mostly on users to report offensive posts, which are then checked by Facebook employees against company “community standards.” Decisions on especially thorny content issues that might require policy changes are made by top executives at the company.

Candela told reporters that Facebook increasingly was using artificial intelligence to find offensive material. It is “an algorithm that detects nudity, violence, or any of the things that are not according to our policies,” he said.

The company already had been working on using automation to flag extremist video content, as Reuters reported in June.

Now the automated system also is being tested on Facebook Live, the streaming video service for users to broadcast live video.

Using artificial intelligence to flag live video is still at the research stage, and has two challenges, Candela said. “One, your computer vision algorithm has to be fast, and I think we can push there, and the other one is you need to prioritize things in the right way so that a human looks at it, an expert who understands our policies, and takes it down.”

Facebook said it also uses automation to process the tens of millions of reports it gets each week, to recognize duplicate reports and route the flagged content to reviewers with the appropriate subject matter expertise.

Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg in November said Facebook would turn to automation as part of a plan to identify fake news. Ahead of the Nov. 8 U.S. election, Facebook users saw fake news reports erroneously alleging that Pope Francis endorsed Donald Trump and that a federal agent who had been investigating Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was found dead.

However, determining whether a particular comment is hateful or bullying, for example, requires context, the company said.

Is The PSVR Really Selling?

December 2, 2016 by  
Filed under Gaming

As the numbers from Black Friday and Thanksgiving weekend continue to trickle in, many analysts are examining how the holiday sales picture is coming together this year. While The NPD Group is not ready to give its full assessment just yet, the firm did note to GamesIndustry.biz that digital promotions on PlayStation Network and Xbox Live were much more aggressive this year and may have impacted the retail channel. Digital aside, the sector that seemed to struggle the most is virtual reality, according to SuperData, which said VR has been the “biggest loser.”

Thanks to “notably fewer units sold than expected due to a relatively fragmented title line-up and modest marketing effort,” VR headsets are now expected to sell even fewer than previously thought. SuperData’s revised forecast for 2016 calls for under 750k PlayStation VR units sold (their previous estimate was 2.6 million) with Google’s Daydream selling just 261k (down from 450k). Previous estimates for HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Gear VR remain unchanged at 450k, 355k and 2.3 million, respectively.

As you can see, expectations for PSVR have seen the most dramatic shift. Stephanie Llamas, director of research and insights at SuperData, explained to us, “PSVR had the best opportunity to benefit from the holidays but their supply inconsistencies and lack of marketing have put them behind their potential. They did not offer any first-party deals this weekend, restock bundles or market the device, pushing instead for the PS 4 Pro. They have also pointed out that VR looks even better on a Pro than a standard or slim PS 4, so the message to most gamers is: Get the Pro now, then the PSVR later. As a result, we won’t see them break 1M shipments until well into the new year.”

Llamas added that Sony may be deliberately limiting PSVR supply until it can do a better job with supporting the platform. “Had Sony pushed the PSVR the way they’ve been pushing their other new hardware, the demand would have certainly fulfilled a supply of over 2 million. However, given its quiet release it’s clear they’re being cautious before fully investing in the tech. Without the ‘killer app’ and the slow, steady release of AAA content, they will release less than 1 million devices until they have content they feel confident will bring in the praise they want. They can afford to take it slow since they have no competition for now, so their supply and sales will rise steadily into 2017 as opposed to riding the seasonal wave,” she said.

As for Oculus, Llamas believes they’ve taken a risk by possibly splitting their own user base. “The Rift’s Touch controllers are an opportunity for Oculus to penetrate, but not many headsets have moved, especially with their round-about deal where purchasers earned $100 Oculus credit rather than just getting $100 off. Oculus’s hardware release strategy has also slowed them down and split their user base, so developers are having to make some choices around whether they should develop for both Touch and non-Touch users. This means development has slowed and is becoming another barrier to growth,” she remarked.

Looking at the non-VR games market, Nintendo may actually prove to be the biggest winner, thanks to updates both to Pokémon GO and selling out of its NES mini. “On mobile we recorded a spike in earnings as players made the most of the Thanksgiving special for Pokémon GO. The game’s ability to stay in the forefront of people’s minds as we approach the release date for Super Mario Run may prove beneficial for Nintendo, which has yet to make a convincing claim on the $38 billion mobile games market,” said Joost van Dreunen.

Overall digital game sales this holiday are down 2% from 2015 so far, but the impact of digital has grown tremendously in just a few years. “In 2012 full game downloads accounted for only 6% of total unit sales around the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States. For 2016E that number was four times higher at 24%,” van Dreunen said.

The other big contributor to the slow holiday start has been big discounting, according to Wedbush Securities’ Michael Pachter. “We saw greater discounting of high-profile new video games this Black Friday compared to last year. Last year’s top sellers, Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty: Black Ops III , Bethesda Softworks’ Fallout 4, and EA’s Star Wars Battlefront, saw sticky pricing on Black Friday, with the $60 price point remaining largely intact. While discounting of sports games happens each year, many other titles that maintain pricing on Black Friday were listed at discounts of 40% or more this weekend,” he observed.

“For example, Walmart had EA’s Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2 at $27, and Microsoft’s Gears of War 4 and Take-Two’s Mafia III at $35. Walmart also had Activision Blizzard’s Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare Legacy Edition, which includes Modern Warfare Remastered , for $57, a $23 discount. Discounting of Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare began earlier in the week, with widespread discounts of roughly $20 for the different versions of the game. Hardware discounting for the PS4 and Xbox One was largely consistent with 2015, as $50 discounts were commonplace.”

Pachter also agreed that the “pace of the mix shift to digital full game downloads continues to be brisk,” but we probably won’t know whether digital sales fully made up for retail declines until we get the complete NPD report for 2016 sometime in January.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Is There A Need For A Mobile Netflix?

December 2, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

hatchA former Rovio exec has formed a new firm that hopes to revolutionize the way mobile games are played with Hatch, a new cloud-based streaming platform for smartphones.

Unveiled during this week’s Slush Festival in Finland, the venture is headed up by CEO Juhani Honkala, previously SVP of Rovio Entertainment, and centers around an instant game collection that players will be able to access without the need for downloads, installations or updates.

The service is planned for soft launch on Android in 2017, with iOS and other platforms to follow. There will be around 100 games available at launch, with Honkala promising Slush attendees that users can “start playing any game as easily as watching a movie on Netflix”. The cloud-based server technology has been run in partnership with Huawei Technologies.

Major partners already on board range from Bandai Namco, Taito and Ubisoft to notable independent developers such as Ustwo Games and Double Fine Productions. Titles already on the way will include Badland, Broken Age, Cut The Rope 2, Leo’s Fortune, Monument Valley, Pac-Man CE DX, Rayman Fiesta Run, République, Space Invaders Infinity Gene and more.

“I’d like to invite you all to be part of this journey,” Honkala said, addressing the developers in the audience, before giving an overview of Hatch’s new business model.

Honkala’s firm will handle the monetization of games on Hatch so developers can focus on the creation process without having to think about how to get users spending. Games will be monetized with “integrated, unobtrusive advertising and brand storytelling, as well as optional paid subscription that unlocks additional features and content”, according to the official release. There will be no in-app purchases, with Hatch’s library focusing on “full-featured, premium experiences”.

The service will also eventually feature exclusive games known as Hatch Originals, for which Honkala and his team are currently seeking investors.

The CEO pointed to how Spotify and Netflix has changed how people enjoy music and movies respectively, as well as how the rise of YouTube, Instagram and easily-shared content has “created a completely new generation of superstars”.

“There hasn’t been that kind of disruption in the mobile gaming industry,” he said. “We are playing mobile games exactly the same way as we used to play them five years ago. There has been no real innovation.”

In addition to its role as a games-streaming platform, Hatch’s built-in social functionality is designed to get more players connecting. Users will be able to rewind their gameplay and select video clips that can instantly be shared via Hatch or more established social media platforms.

There will also be multiplayer capabilities, and not just in the way you might expect. Recalling his childhood of playing single-player games together with friends and family, Honkala said Hatch will allow users to work together on titles such as Cut The Rope – even if they’re in different locations. Connected players will be able to share the game’s controls and chat about their next move or strategy.

“It’s not only about gaming,” he said. “It’s a new way to spend quality time with the people you love.”

He added: “The mobile has become the major gaming platform on the planet and mobile games bring joy to millions and millions of people around the world. But somehow I feel something very important got lost in the process.

“The numbers show that yes, we are playing more than ever but we are not really communicating, we are not sharing and we are not really playing together any more. When was the last time you really played together with your friends and family?”

The introduction of Netflix-style subscriptions is one experts have been predicting, with App Annie’s CMO Al Campa recently telling GamesIndustry.biz he expects to see the model break into the mobile games space soon. While game-streaming has previously been tried – most notably in the form of troubled service OnLive and Sony’s PlayStation Now – the complexities and high production of console-style titles has made it difficult for this concept to take off. The relative simplicity, at least in terms of file size and so on, of mobile games means Hatch could stand a good chance of delivering the cloud-based service the industry has been striving for over the past five years.

Courtesy-GI.biz

Toyota Puts Bigger Focus On All Electric Vehicles

December 1, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

toyota-logo-150x150Toyota Motor Corp has tasked its president to lead their newly formed electric car division, flagging its commitment to develop a technology that the automaker has been slow to embrace.

The change comes as the United States, China and European countries are encouraging automakers to make more all-electric battery cars as they push alternative energy strategies.

Akio Toyoda, grandson of the company’s founder Kiichiro Toyoda, has been at the helm of the world’s largest automaker since 2009. He will head the company’s electric vehicle (EV) planning department along with Executive Vice Presidents Mitsuhisa Kato and Shigeki Terashi.

 “By putting the president and vice presidents in charge of the department, we plan to speed up development of electric cars,” said Toyota spokeswoman Kayo Doi, following a personnel change announcement by the company.

“The president will directly oversee the department’s operations to enable decisions to be made quickly and nimbly.”

The department comprises a new in-house unit to plan Toyota’s strategy to develop and market electric cars as part of the company’s efforts to keep pace with the tightening global emissions regulations.

Toyota is also shifting the chief engineer of its Prius petrol-hybrid to its EV efforts, appointing Koji Toyoshima to head the division’s engineering team. Toyoshima will also join the four-member EV strategy unit, which will include representatives from group suppliers – Denso Corp, Aisin Seiki Co, and Toyota Industries Corporation.

Rivals such as Nissan Motor Co, Volkswagen AG  and Tesla Motors have touted pure electric cars as the most viable zero-emission vehicles.

However, Toyota until recently said it favored EVs for short-distance commuting given their limited driving range and lengthy charging time. It has been investing heavily in hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles (FCVs), which the company considers as the ultimate “green” car.

Earlier this month, Toyota said it will develop cars with up to 15 percent greater range and battery life in the next few years.

Is TSMC Going 12nm Too?

December 1, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

According to industry sources, TSMC is planning to introduce a 12 nanometer half-node process to enhance competition with 28nm and lower process nodes that have been adopted over the past few years.

The chip manufacturer’s 12nm process node will join its existing 16nm process portfolio as a smaller option in order to give it a competitive advantage against Samsung and GlobalFoundries. It is expected to offer improved leakage characteristics at a lower cost than its 16nm lineup. TSMC currently offers three variants of its 16nm FinFET process designed both for high-performance devices, as well as for ultra-low power situations requiring less than 0.6 volts.

Back in September, GlobalFoundries was the first to announce a 12nm process using Fully Depleted Silicon-On-Insulator (FD-SOI) planar technology. The foundry claims that 12FDX can deliver “15 percent more performance over current FinFET technologies” with “50 percent lower power consumption,” at a cost lower than existing 16nm FinFET devices.

TSMC currently supplies 16nm chips to a number of American, Chinese and Taiwanese companies including Apple, Nvidia, Xilinx, Spreadtrum and MediaTek, while GlobalFoundries provides chips using 14nm FinFET technology for AMD’s Polaris graphics cards and upcoming Zen processors. Meanwhile, Samsung provides 14nm LPP technology to Qualcomm for its Snapdragon 820 series and for use in its own mobile device lineup.

Although TSMC’s 12nm process was originally planned to be introduced as a fourth-generation 16nm optimization, it will now be introduced as an independent process technology instead. Three of the company’s partners have already received tape-outs on 10nm designs and the process is expected to start generating revenues by early 2017. Apple and MediaTek are likely to be the first with 10nm TSMC-based products, while the 12nm node should become a useful enhancement to fill the competition gap before more partners are capable of building 10nm chips.

Courtesy-Fud

Intel Makes A Score With Delphi Automotive

December 1, 2016 by  
Filed under Computing

Intel has signed a deal with Auto parts maker Delphi Automotive Plc and Israeli technology firm Mobileye.

The move will put Intel chips under the bonnet of their joint effort to produce self-driving vehicles by 2019.

Intel is also working with German luxury car maker BMW AG and Mobileye on self-driving technology. However so far, the chip maker has not made much of a dent in the autonomous vehicle market.

Glen De Vos, Delphi’s vice president of engineering announced that Intel will provide a “system on chip” for autonomous vehicle systems that Delphi and Mobileye are developing together.

UK-based Delphi is talking with established automakers and new or niche vehicle companies, such as manufacturers of commercial vehicles, interested in automating vehicles, De Vos said.

The system Delphi and Mobileye are developing would likely come to market first in a commercial vehicle operating in a limited area, such as an airport shuttle or a ride-hailing service, DeVos said.

Delphi is testing its autonomous driving technology in vehicles in Singapore. By the end of this year, Delphi hopes to choose a city in the United States to launch a test fleet of self-driving cars during 2017, De Vos said. The company is also looking for test site in a European city.

Courtesy-Fud

Nissan To Offer Maintenance Alert Option For Internet-connected Cars

November 30, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

nissan-logo-150x150Nissan Motor Co will mark its first major entry into internet-connected cars by offering an option in some new vehicles that will use big data technology to notify drivers when vehicle maintenance is required.

As automakers compete fiercely to develop self-driving cars and improve the customer experience inside vehicles, Japan’s second-largest car maker said on Tuesday it will begin rolling out the service in Japan and India in 2017, followed by other countries through 2020.

With the availability of new mobility options including ride-hailing and car-sharing services threatening to cool demand for individual car ownership, automakers are looking for new ways to attract loyal drivers.

 Toyota Motor Corp, Japan’s biggest car maker, announced earlier this month that it will have a similar alerting feature in the domestic version of the upcoming Prius plug-in model.

And Ford Motor Co last month announced that by year’s end, some of its models will be able to communicate with smart home devices using Amazon’s Alexa voice service.

Nissan said that it would also market the device required to access the service, which can be retrofitted into existing models. In the future, 30 percent of its existing vehicles would eventually be equipped with the hardware, it said.

The new service will be enabled by a telematics control unit which will enable the automaker and its dealer network to access information about the car’s diagnostics and location, alerting the driver to any required maintenance work.

“With connectivity we can provide better information and better service offerings to our customers,” Kent O’Hara, Nissan corporate vice president and head of its global aftersales division, told reporters at a briefing.

“We’ll know what’s wrong with that vehicle, we’ll know where the vehicle is, we’ll know what parts are needed for the vehicle … and we can provide convenient service and alternative transportation options.”

He added that connectivity services and other new technologies would contribute 25 percent of the automaker’s aftersales revenues by 2022, from “low, single digits” at the moment.

 

Delphi Automotive, Mobileye To Use Intel Chip For Self-driving Cars

November 30, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

mobileye-1-150x150Auto parts maker Delphi Automotive Plc and Israeli technology firm Mobileye NV will use an Intel Corp chip for their joint effort to produce self-driving vehicles by 2019, the companies said on Tuesday.

The move is a boost for the world’s largest semiconductor maker, which is also working with German luxury car maker BMW AG and Mobileye on self-driving technology, but has not been able to extend its broader chip dominance into the fast-emerging autonomous vehicle market.

Companies from Alphabet Inc’s Google to Uber Technologies Inc and Tesla Motors Inc are vying to put autonomous vehicles on U.S. roads, which could radically reshape transportation across the country.

Intel will provide a “system on chip” for autonomous vehicle systems that Delphi and Mobileye are developing together, Glen De Vos, Delphi’s vice president of engineering, told Reuters.

UK-based Delphi is talking with established automakers and new or niche vehicle companies, such as manufacturers of commercial vehicles, interested in automating vehicles, De Vos said.

The system Delphi and Mobileye are developing would likely come to market first in a commercial vehicle operating in a limited area, such as an airport shuttle or a ride-hailing service, DeVos said.

Delphi is testing autonomous driving technology in vehicles in Singapore. By the end of this year, Delphi hopes to choose a city in the United States to launch a test fleet of self-driving cars during 2017, De Vos said. The company is also looking for test site in a European city.

“We are looking at Pittsburgh and Boston and a couple of others,” De Vos said. Pittsburgh is where ride services company Uber is testing its own self-driving vehicles.

Delphi and Mobileye will stage a demonstration of their self-driving vehicle system at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, De Vos said. That system will use current, electromechanical laser imaging technology, or LIDAR, that is too expensive for use in consumer vehicles, he said.

Delphi is also working with Quanergy Systems, a maker of solid-state LIDAR systems, De Vos said.

Can Virtual Reality Find A Voice?

November 30, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

As we near the end of a pivotal year for virtual reality, it’s clear there is still a lot of work to be done. With the arrival of Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and PlayStation VR, consumers finally have access to the technology that has commanded much of the industry’s attention and excitement for the past four years but only now can we gauge how popular it may become.

That’s according to Aki Järvinen, founder of research and consulting initiative Game Futures, currently working at Sheffield Hallam University. Järvinen will be speaking about trends in virtual reality development at this week’s Develop:VR conference in London. We caught up with him ahead of the event to find out his thoughts on the industry’s next step after this year’s long-awaited hardware launches.

“There is a definite need for VR to find its own voice,” he tells GamesIndustry.biz. “We know very little about user habits with the headsets, for example. How does the isolating, solitary nature of current VR tech affect the frequency of use and thus retention with games? Early data shows that game time spent on VR titles is nowhere close to PC titles in the same genres.

“Kevin Kelly, the former editor of Wired, has talked about how the Internet has proceeded to its current form as streams and flows, from its ‘newspapery’ web origins. I expect something similar to happen with VR games; currently, it’s about imitating existing genres with the added value of VR-enhanced sense of presence, but developers and designers should experiment with other paradigms.

“2016 has been the first proper year for developers to test the waters on if the market is profitable yet and learn about releasing games for the actual retail platforms. Strategic product decisions are being made as we speak, based on these early experiences.”

Many developers have said that virtual reality tears up the game design rulebook, requiring completely new theories and practices when it comes to game creation. By now, studios have poured years into experimenting with VR games and it would be fair to argue that the early pages of that rulebook have been written – but Järvinen believes the conventions and best practices established so far are largely temporary.

“There is a definite need for VR to find its own voice. We know very little about user habits with the headsets, for example.”

Aki Järvinen, Game Futures

With more changes expected from the headsets themselves, plus the accessories and controllers supporting them, Järvinen argues that the time span has been “too short for [findings] to stick” and that gameplay design solutions in use now will be almost irrelevant in just a few years.

“If one looks at games like Batman: Arkham VR, for example, the designers have clearly tried to turn the current constraints of the platform – lack of movement in particular – to their advantage, and design gameplay around the constraints,” he says. “They’ve done this with very deliberately crafted, static setpieces that leverage VR’s other strengths, such as experiencing the scope and scale of things in a more startling, life-like way. Yet, once those movement constraints go away, it’s hard to see anyone designing in that paradigm anymore. So it’s an agile rulebook in constant change.”

The future of virtual reality will, therefore, be defined by its hardware rather than its software, and the Game Futures founder predicts significant evolution from the devices people are picking up in stores this Christmas.

“VR has enough momentum now that it will go along the typical development path of similar technologies,” says Järvinen. “Headsets will become smaller, untethered, of higher resolution, trackers invisible, and so on. When these developments are able to coincide with lower production costs to the degree that retail price points become truly affordable, then we are on the cusp of a real breakthrough. Parallel to this, software has to evolve.”

It’s easy to argue that virtual reality software is already quite unevolved. With a handful of more ambitious or high-production projects being the exceptions, the vast majority of launch software for Oculus, Vive and PSVR is limited. Most current virtual reality titles offer a more immersive first-person perspective for long-established gameplay genres, with little more than the novelty of viewing the action through the headset to differentiate it from what has come before. Perhaps the most blatant examples are the waves of shooting gallery-style VR games, where players are restricted to either an on-rails experience, a gun turret or standing on the spot, blasting away at waves of enemies that appear in often scripted patterns.

Järvinen says the prominence of these games so far is “a concern” but believes that as the market evolves, both in terms of hardware and software, “the lesser formulas will wither out”.

He adds: “So far developers have benefited from the rush of early adopters who basically purchase or download everything. This might lead to vanity metrics, such as bloated download figures, or bloated revenue estimates, as there has been lots of free promotions, bundles, and so on. But the VR market cannot be sustained with spikes from early adopters and therefore the more inherently ‘VR’ titles and game design aspects will eventually prevail.

“VR in its current form still has too many disabling contexts in play, such as retail price, PC requirements, and the fact that many people experience nausea. While finding the new genres is important, they do not matter much if enough enabling contexts are not yet in place, and that means also cultural ones – such as social acceptability in a living room, or in public places with mobile VR – rather than just technical ones.”

The cultural challenges that virtual reality faces are by far the most significant. 2016 has seen VR find the audience it was originally intended for and would inevitably appeal to the most (that is, avid consumers of video games and emerging technology) but hopes remain high that the tech will grow to have mainstream appeal. Certainly, that seems to be the intention of Facebook, which acquired Oculus back in 2014 and earlier this year showed off new social communication functions such as virtual chat rooms at September’s Connect event.

“While finding the new genres is important, they do not matter much if enough enabling contexts are not yet in place, and that means also cultural ones – such as social acceptability in a living room, or in public places with mobile VR – rather than just technical ones.”

Aki Järvinen, Game Futures

Järvinen believes the social network has spent enough effort and money on virtual reality that “they’ve gone past the point of abandoning creating its mass-market appeal” but suggests future forms of the hardware will have more impact on the technology’s attractiveness than the companies backing it.

“True mainstream appeal would require technological developments, such as miniaturisation, but also use cases where users see obvious benefits. Facebook seems to bet on the social dimension being the latter. Creating accessible tools for VR content creation could be the home run.”

As such, we can expect to see more companies from beyond the games industry investing in the technology and those developing for it. While it might not reach the headline-grabbing heights of Facebook’s $2bn Oculus acquisition, there is little danger of funding for virtual reality projects drying up any time soon.

“The wow factor with VR is strong enough that, when executed innovatively by a capable team, investors will get on board,” Järvinen says. “Therefore I believe investments will stay steady but perhaps we won’t see news about the more exuberant sums before the market finds its own Supercell.”

Järvinen concludes by stressing that the non-games, even non-entertainment, applications for virtual reality will go a long way to not only broadening the technology’s appeal, but writing more pages of that agile rulebook.

“We should not forget applications of VR beyond games and entertainment,” he says. “I believe journalism can use similar aspirations for a heightened feeling of empathy, achieved by leveraging that sense of presence VR can produce. We are already seeing signs of this with 360 video pieces distributed via VR platforms.

“Lots of interesting stuff is also going on in medical applications and research, such as burn victim therapy via VR. Real estate market could benefit in a big way from virtual viewings. So VR will not have one end goal, but many.”

Courtesy-GI.biz

U.S. Government Dispute Claims Of Cybersecurity Skills Shortage

November 29, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

cybersecurity-jobs-150x150The U.S. government has publised what it claims is myth-busting data regarding the shortage of cybersecurity professionals. The data points to its own hiring experience.

In October 2015, the U.S. launched a plan to hire 6,500 people with cybersecurity skills by January 2017, according to White House officials. It had hired 3,000 by the first half of this year. As part the ongoing hiring effort, it held a job fair in July.

At the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), “We set out to dispel certain myths regarding cybersecurity hiring,” wrote Angela Bailey, chief human capital officer at DHS in a blog post Monday.

One myth is this: “There is not a lot of cyber talent available for hire,” said Bailey. “Actually, over 14,000 people applied for our positions, with over 2,000 walking in the door. And while not all of them were qualified, we continue to this day to hire from the wealth of talent made available as a result of our hiring event.

“The amount of talent available to hire was so great, we stayed well into the night interviewing potential employees,” said Bailey.

The experience of the U.S. government seems counter to what industry studies say is actually going on.

For instance, a report released one day before the government’s job fair in July, Intel Security, in partnership with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), pointed to a “talent shortage crisis” of cybersecurity skills.

David Foote, co-founder and chief analyst at Foote Partners, is skeptical of the government’s findings, and says there’s really no unemployment among people with cybersecurity skills, “so why would they go to a job fair?”

In particular, asked Foote, why would someone take a government job that will pay less than a beltway consulting firm?

The salary for a senior cyber security specialist, with five or more years experience, in the Washington D.C. metro area is is $132,837, said Foote.

The salary range for an IT specialist in cybersecurity ranges from about $65,000 to to $120,000, depending on skills, experience and educational attainment.

Foote said the appeal of getting a security clearance may have motivated some to apply for a government job. A security clearance can open up subsequent private sector jobs.

But Foote suspects that the U.S. is focusing on hiring people it can train, and not on hiring someone with experience and who would command much higher salaries than can government offer.

In cybersecurity, experience is critical, said Foote. “Cybersecurity is something you have to do, you have a develop an instinct and you only do that with hands on,” he said.

 

Researchers Working On App To Prevent Death During Dangerous Selfies

November 29, 2016 by  
Filed under Mobile

dangerous-selfie-150x150Researchers are attempting to design an app that could prevent people from being killed while taking dangerous selfies.

Carnegie Mellon University announced that researchers there are working with colleagues at Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology in Delhi, India to take on the issue of deadly selfies.

People around the globe have been putting themselves in reckless situations – on railroad tracks, on cliff edges — to grab a memorable selfie. Researchers found that individuals died falling from high places, while the most group deaths happened around water, with some dying in capsized boats.

“In India, a number of deaths occurred when friends or lovers posed on railroad tracks, which is widely regarded as a symbol of long-term commitment in that culture,” Carnegie Mellon reported. “Gun-related deaths in selfies occurred only in the U.S. and Russia. Road- and vehicle-related selfies and animal-related selfies also were associated with deaths.”

“In India, a number of deaths occurred when friends or lovers posed on railroad tracks, which is widely regarded as a symbol of long-term commitment in that culture,” Carnegie Mellon reported. “Gun-related deaths in selfies occurred only in the U.S. and Russia. Road- and vehicle-related selfies and animal-related selfies also were associated with deaths.”

According to Carnegie Mellon, the system was able to tell the difference between a dangerous selfie and one that is not risky 73% of the time.

That technology will be critical to developing an app that could be used to decrease the number of selfie deaths.

An app, which has not yet been developed, could be designed to warn a user or even disable the phone if a selfie is being taken in a dangerous situation. The problem, though, is that some people might use a warning as bragging rights that they’re brave enough to put themselves in a dangerous situation.

“There can be no app for stupidity,” Hemank Lamba, a Ph.D. student in Carnegie Mellon’s Institute for Software Research, said in a statement.

The app also could be used to pinpoint areas where people are routinely taking dangerous selfies so they could be marked as “no selfie” zones.

Carnegie Mellon also noted that an app could be used for augmented reality games, like Pokemon Go, to keep users from putting themselves in risky situations while playing.

 

BMW To Launch New Version Of i3 Electric Car Next Year

November 29, 2016 by  
Filed under Around The Net

bmw-i3-150x150German luxury automobile maker BMW plans to roll out a new version of its i3 electric car next year with a longer range and revamped design, German weekly Welt am Sonntag reported, citing company sources.

BMW will rework the front and rear of the i3 and equip the car with a new battery to increase its range substantially beyond the current 300 km maximum, the paper said, adding that the increase would be below 50 percent.

BMW has been torn about whether to accelerate development of new electric cars given its expensive early investment has only resulted in lackluster sales, with 25,000 i3s delivered last year.

 To help improve sales, BMW has already increased the battery range of its i3 city car by 50 percent this year.

BMW was not immediately available for comment on the newspaper report.

 

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