Google

Cute Or Creepy? Google's Plan For a Sci-Fi Teddy Bear 100

Posted by timothy
from the teddy-ruxpin-pinned-it-on-the-one-armed-man dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Time Magazine reports that Google has designed and patented an "anthropomorphic device" that could take the form of a "doll or toy" and interact both with people as well as tech gadgets echoing the "super toy" teddy bear featured in Stephen Spielberg's 2001 movie AI. This could be one of Google's creepiest patents yet — especially if movies like "Chuckie" still give you nightmares. The patent filing diagrams a stuffed teddy bear and a bunny rabbit outfitted with microphones, speakers, cameras and motors as well as a wireless connection to the internet. If it senses you're looking at it, the fuzzy toy will rotate its head and look back at you. Once it receives and recognizes a voice command prompt, you can then tell it to control media devices in your home (e.g. turn on your music or TV). According to the patent filing: "To express interest, an anthropomorphic device may open its eyes, lift its head, and/or focus its gaze on the user or object of its interest. To express curiosity, an anthropomorphic device may tilt its head, furrow its brow, and/or scratch its head with an arm. To express boredom, an anthropomorphic device may defocus its gaze, direct its gaze in a downward fashion, tap its foot, and/or close its eyes. To express surprise, an anthropomorphic device may make a sudden movement, sit or stand up straight, and/or dilate its pupils."

The patent adds that making the device look "cute" should encourage even the youngest members of a family to interact with it. But Mikhail Avady, from SmartUp, said he thought it belonged in "a horror film", and the campaign group Big Brother Watch has also expressed dismay. "When those devices are aimed specifically at children, then for many this will step over the creepy line," says Avady. "Children should be able to play in private and shouldn't have to fear this sort of passive invasion of their privacy."
Canada

Canadian Piracy Rates Plummet As Industry Points To New Copyright Notice System 222

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-downloading-for-you dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Canada's copyright notice-and-notice system took effect earlier this year, leading to thousands of notifications being forwarded by Internet providers to their subscribers. Since its launch, there have been serious concerns about the use of notices to demand settlements and to shift the costs of enforcement to consumers and Internet providers. Yet reports indicate that piracy rates in Canada have plummeted, with some ISPs seeing a 70% decrease in online infringement.
Star Wars Prequels

Learning About Constitutional Law With Star Wars 121

Posted by Soulskill
from the scalia-shot-first dept.
An anonymous reader writes: In an upcoming paper (PDF) for the Michigan Law Review, scholar Cass Sunstein draws on Star Wars to make a couple key points about how constitutional law evolves. He writes, "Human beings often see coherence and planned design when neither exists. This is so in movies, literature, history, economics, and psychoanalysis—and constitutional law. Contrary to the repeated claims of George Lucas, its principal author, the Star Wars series was hardly planned in advance; it involved a great deal of improvisation and surprise, even to Lucas himself. Serendipity and happenstance, sometimes in the forms of eruptions of new thinking, play a pervasive and overlooked role in the creative imagination, certainly in single-authored works, and even more in multi-authored ones extending over time. ... The misdescription appears to respond to a serious human need for sense-making and pattern-finding, but it is a significant obstacle to understanding and critical reflection. Whether Jedi or Sith, many authors of constitutional law are a lot like the author of Star Wars, disguising the essential nature of their own creative processes."
Sci-Fi

On the Taxonomy of Sci-Fi Spaceships 90

Posted by Soulskill
from the stay-classy dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Jeff Venancio has done some research that's perfect reading for a lazy Saturday afternoon: figuring out a coherent taxonomy for sci-fi spaceships. If you're a sci-fi fan, you've doubtless heard or read references to a particular starship's "class" fairly often. There are flagships and capital ships, cruisers and corvettes, battleships and destroyers. But what does that all mean? Well, there's not always consistency, but a lot of it comes from Earth's naval history. "The word 'corvette' comes from the Dutch word corf, which means 'small ship,' and indeed corvettes are historically the smallest class of rated warship (a rating system used by the British Royal Navy in the sailing age, basically referring to the amount of men/guns on the vessel and its relative size; corvettes were of the sixth and smallest rate). ... They were usually used for escorting convoys and patrolling waters, especially in places where larger ships would be unnecessary."

Venancio takes the historical context for each ship type and then explains how it's been adapted for a sci-context. "Corvettes might be outfitted to have some sort of stealth or cloaking system for reconnaissance or spec ops missions; naturally it would be easier to cloak a smaller ship than a larger one (though plenty of examples of large stealth ships exist). In some series they are likely to be diplomatic vessels due to their small size and speed, particularly seen in Star Wars, and can commonly act as blockade runners (again; their small size and speed makes them ideal for slipping through a blockade, where a larger ship presents more of a target)."
Star Wars Prequels

Rediscovered Lucas-Commissioned Short "Black Angel" Released On YouTube 121

Posted by timothy
from the low-budget-high-value dept.
eldavojohn writes: Youtube now offers Black Angel, a short film shown in UK theaters before ESB. What was once thought lost is now found; enjoy. This may be the best half-hour you spend today, even if you must "set your clocks back 34 years," as writer and director Roger Christian advises. (Christian is also known for directing 2000's Battlefield Earth .)
Piracy

Film Consortium Urges ISPs To Dump Ineffective "Six Strikes" Policy For Pirates 186

Posted by samzenpus
from the pluggin-the-sieve dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The Internet Security Task Force, a group of businesses working to protect content creators and consumers from the negative effects of piracy, has called for an end to the Copyright Alert System, saying the anti-piracy initiative is not only ineffective but actually makes things worse. The group suggest that it be replaced with a new system based on Canada's Copyright Modernization Act. Mark Gill, ISTF chairman and President of member company Millennium films, says "We've always known the Copyright Alert System was ineffective, as it allows people to steal six movies from us before they get an educational leaflet. But now we have the data to prove that it's a sham." The Copyright Alert System (CAS) is set to expire early July.
Australia

Australia: Your Digital Games (and Movies!) Could Be About to Jump In Price 125

Posted by timothy
from the your-lunch-money-was-jangling dept.
dotarray writes with a snippet of news from Australia about expanded taxation for digital goods. From Player Attack comes the gist: Australians really are about to start paying more for digital services — including Steam games — as Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey has confirmed plans to introduce a 'Netflix tax' in this week's Federal Budget. As mentioned last week, this is not a new tax, but an extension of Australia's current Goods and Services Tax to include digital services, adding 10% to virtual items and services purchased online. Details have not yet been revealed, but potential services include not only Steam games but also Netflix subscriptions and even Uber trips.
Network

The Ambitions and Challenges of Mesh Networks and the Local Internet Movement 56

Posted by Soulskill
from the net-positives-and-net-negatives dept.
Lashdots writes: Two artists in New York are hatching a plan to teach kids about the internet by building their own. They'll be creating a small, decentralized network, similar to a mesh network, to access other computers, and they'll be developing their own simple social network to communicate with other people. It's part of a growing movement to supplement the Internet with resilient, local alternatives. "And yet, while the decentralized, ad hoc network architecture appeals philosophically to tech-savvy users fed up with monopolistic ISPs, nobody’s found a way to make mesh networks work easily and efficiently enough to replace home Internet connections. Built more for resiliency than for speed, each participating router must continuously search for the best paths to far-flung machines. For now, that makes them of limited interest to many ordinary consumers who simply want to check their email and watch movies."
Displays

Half-Life 2 Writer on VR Games: We're At Pong Level, Only Scratching the Surface 125

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-wait-until-we-get-to-pitfall-level-VR dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Valve's Chet Faliszek has been in the video game industry for a long time, and his writing has been instrumental for games like Half-life 2, Portal, and Left 4 Dead. Valve is now developing a virtual reality headset, and Faliszek was on hand at a VR-centric conference where he spoke about how the technology is coming along. He said, "None of us know what the hell we are doing. We're still just scratching the surface of VR. We still haven't found out what VR is, and that's fine. We've been making movies in pretty much the same way for 100 years, TV for 60 years and videogames for 40. VR has only really been [in development] for about a year, so we're at Pong level." One of the obstacles holding VR devices back right now is getting the hardware up to snuff. Faliszek says, "There's one thing you can't do and that's make people sick. It has to run at 90 frames per second. Any lower and people feel sick. Telling people they will be ok 'Once you get your VR legs' is a wholly wrong idea. If people need to get used to it then that's failure."
DRM

Microsoft, Chip Makers Working On Hardware DRM For Windows 10 PCs 304

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-what-users-wanted dept.
writertype writes: Last month, Microsoft began talking about PlayReady 3.0, which adds hardware DRM to secure 4K movies. Intel, AMD, Nvidia, and Qualcomm are all building it in, according to Microsoft. "Older generations of PCs used software-based DRM technology. The new hardware-based technology will know who you are, what rights your PC has, and won’t ever allow your PC to unlock the content so it can be ripped. ... Unfortunately, it looks like the advent of PlayReady 3.0 could leave older PCs in the lurch. Previous PlayReady technology secured content up to 1080p resolution using software DRM—and that could be the maximum resolution for older PCs without PlayReady 3.0." Years back, a number of people got upset when Hollywood talked about locking down "our content." It looks like we may be facing it again for 4K video.
Windows

iTunes Stops Working For Windows XP Users 368

Posted by timothy
from the why-it-seems-like-only-yesterday dept.
An anonymous reader writes: iTunes users who still run Windows XP started to experience connectivity issues this week. As documented in an Apple Support Communities thread, they can't log into the iTunes store, meaning functions like buying content, watching already purchased movies and TV shows, playing DRM-protected content, backing up, updating, and syncing all do not work.
Movies

Jack Thompson Will Be Featured In BBC Film 'Grand Theft Auto' 118

Posted by Soulskill
from the enjoy-your-legacy-buddy dept.
New submitter requerdanos writes: Former attorney and professional troll Jack Thompson is set to become a major motion picture figure, played by Bill Paxton, in the upcoming film Grand Theft Auto. According to Cinema Blend, "Paxton is in line to play Jack Thompson. A Miami lawyer, Thompson came into the public eye by frequently blasting Grand Theft Auto, creator Rockstar Games, and video game violence in general. Before that, he was known for attacking media companies who promoted both hip hop and sex. In 2008, allegations of professional misconduct, including harassment, defamation, intimidation, and false statements led to Thompson being disbarred."
News

Madman: Proximity To Black Hole "Not a Big Deal" 53

Posted by samzenpus
from the old-bob-approved dept.
Conventional wisdom says you want to stay as far away from a black hole as you can, but according to one scientist turned madman being close to or even inside one is "not a big deal". Former lead scientist and current overlord of the Cygnus Dr. Hans Reinhardt says he's spent the last 20 years studying the black hole within sight of his ship and is unconcerned. His napkin written manifesto reads in part: "....In addition we have to remember that the main backer of this mission is a company best known for children's movies and theme parks. I find it highly unlikely that they would put us in a situation where we would be in danger of imploding. The black hole is not a big deal. I theorize that a trip through would result in nothing more than a musical montage with fever-like lens effects and eventual plot resolution." According to Reinhardt new visitors trapped by his null gravity field should remain calm, still, and never question his authority. "Once you've been fitted with the mandatory Cygnus crew goggles, you'll see things my way," He says.
Star Wars Prequels

Why More 'Star Wars' Actors Don't Become Stars 360

Posted by Soulskill
from the thanks-george dept.
HughPickens.com writes: When you become an actor, landing a role in a movie as big as Star Wars may seem like a dream come true. But Tatiana Siegel and Borys Kit report at The Hollywood Reporter that six movies in, the Star Wars franchise has only spawned one megastar: Harrison Ford, unusual for a series of this magnitude. Neither Ewan McGregor nor Liam Neeson was helped by the franchise and the list of acting careers that never took off is even longer, from original stars Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher to Jake Lloyd (young Anakin Skywalker) and most notably Hayden Christensen, whose star was on the rise when he nabbed 2002's Attack of the Clones. Even Natalie Portman, who already had a hot career before Episodes I-III, admitted she struggled after the exposure. "Everyone thought I was a horrible actress," says Portman. "I was in the biggest-grossing movie of the decade, and no director wanted to work with me."

So what's the problem? "When you sign up for this, you're signing your life away, and you're keeping yourself from any other franchises out there," says an agent whose client is one of the stars of Episode VII. "They will not let you be in another franchise. They're going to be cranking out a new movie every year. These actors never get to read the script before signing on. They don't even know which [subsequent] one they are in. And then they become known for that role, and it's hard to see them in [another] kind of movie." Still, agents keep pursuing roles in the upcoming films even though newcomers can only command a meager $65,000 to $125,000 for Episode VII. "It secures all involved a place in film history," says agent Sarah Fargo, "and guarantees a huge global audience, enhancing an actor's marketability."
Programming

A Bechdel Test For Programmers? 522

Posted by timothy
from the this-code-feels-different dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes In order for a movie or television show to pass the Bechdel Test (named after cartoonist and MacArthur genius Alison Bechdel), it must feature two female characters, have those two characters talk to one another, and have those characters talk to one another about something other than a man. A lot of movies and shows don't pass. How would programming culture fare if subjected to a similar test? One tech firm, 18F, decided to find out after seeing a tweet from Laurie Voss, CTO of npm, which explained the parameters of a modified Bechdel Test. According to Voss, a project that passes the test must feature at least one function written by a woman developer, that calls a function written by another woman developer. 'The conversation started with us quickly listing the projects that passed the Bechdel coding test, but then shifted after one of our devs then raised a good point,' read 18F's blog posting on the experiment. 'She said some of our projects had lots of female devs, but did not pass the test as defined.' For example, some custom languages don't have functions, which means a project built using those languages would fail even if written by women. Nonetheless, both startups and larger companies could find the modified Bechdel Test a useful tool for opening up a discussion about gender balance within engineering and development teams.
Games

Gabe Newell Understands Half-Life Fans, Not Promising Any Sequels 215

Posted by timothy
from the leave-'em-hanging dept.
jones_supa writes Half-Life 3 is undoubtedly one of the most anticipated games in history. While Valve transitioned from the revolutionary series that brought the company most of its original success, to online games like Team Fortress, Dota and Left 4 Dead, people still desperately want to believe that there is more coming for Half-Life.

In a recent podcast interview he had with Geoff Keighley, Valve CEO Gabe Newell opens up the current situation a bit more: "I'm a fan of TV shows, I'm a fan of writers, I'm a fan of movies, I'm a fan of games and I certainly understand why people are like, you know, hey I remember this awesome experience and I'm starting to get worried that I'm never going to have it again. I am a fan of Terry Pratchett and he has Alzheimer's, it's like, Oh my god, I may never get another great Discworld novel. [...] We aren't going to go all retro because there are too many interesting things that have been learned. The only reason we would go back and do a 'super classic' kind of product is if a whole bunch of people internally at Valve said they wanted to do it, and had a reasonable explanation for why it was."
Graphics

'Chappie': What It Takes To Render a Robot 44

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-the-cycles-you-can-muster dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes: The visual-effects supervisor on the new film Chappie, Image Engine's Chris Harvey, talked with Dice about what it took to render the titular robot. Director Neil Blomkamp thought Chappie needed to look realistic, like something you might honestly expect to see patrolling the streets a decade or two from now. Image Engine took the concept artwork created by Blomkamp and WETA and rendered it in three dimensions, refining the mechanics so the animated Chappie would move realistically for a six-foot-tall, gun-toting robot. As the movie progresses, Chappie begins to take damage from bullets, flames, and thrown debris; if that wasn't enough, he also ends up covered in graffiti. That sort of wear-and-tear complicated things for the effects team; WETA had to produce three physical Chappie "skeletons" and a multitude of body panels representing the increasing levels of damage, and Image Engine needed to make sure every inch of the digital Chappie was rendered accurately to match. The movie itself might be scoring mediocre reviews, but at least the robot looks good.
Sci-Fi

'The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress' Coming To the Big Screen 331

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-first-get-a-permit dept.
HughPickens.com writes: According to the Hollywood Reporter, Twentieth Century Fox recently picked up the movie rights to The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, based on the classic sci-fi book by Robert A. Heinlein. It will retitled as Uprising. Heinlein's 1966 sci-fi novel centers on a lunar colony's revolt against rule from Earth, and the book popularized the acronym TANSTAAFL (There ain't no such thing as a free lunch), a central, libertarian theme. The novel was nominated for the 1966 Nebula award (honoring the best sci-fi and fantasy work in the U.S.) and won the Hugo Award for best science fiction novel in 1967. An adaptation has been attempted twice before — by DreamWorks, which had a script by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, and by Phoenix Pictures, with Harry Potter producer David Heyman attached — but both languished and the rights reverted to Heinlein's estate. Brian Singer, who previously directed X-Men: Days of Future Past, will adapt the screenplay and reportedly direct. Several of Heinlein's works have been adapted for the big and small screen, including the 1953 film Project Moonbase, the 1994 TV miniseries Red Planet, the 1994 film The Puppet Masters, the 2014 film Predestination, and — very loosely — the 1997 film Starship Troopers.
Android

NVIDIA Announces SHIELD Game Console 116

Posted by Soulskill
from the a-challenger-appears dept.
MojoKid writes: NVIDIA held an event in San Francisco last night at GDC, where the company unveiled a new Android TV streamer, game console, and supercomputer, as NVIDIA's Jen Hsun Huang calls it, all wrapped up in a single, ultra-slim device called NVIDIA SHIELD. The SHIELD console is powered by the NVIDIA Tegra X1 SoC with 3GB of RAM, 16GB of storage, Gig-E and 802.11ac 2x2 MIMO WiFi. It's also 4K Ultra-HD Ready with 4K playback and capture up to 60 fps (VP9, H265, H264) with encode/decode with full hardware processing. The company claims the console provides twice the performance of an Xbox 360. NVIDIA demo'ed the device with Android TV, streaming music and HD movies and browsing social media. The device can stream games from a GeForce powered PC to your television or from NVIDIA's GRID cloud gaming service, just like previous NVIDIA SHIELD devices. Native Android games will also run on the SHIELD console. NVIDIA's plan is to offer a wide array of native Android titles in the SHIELD store, as well as leverage the company's relationships with game developers to bring top titles to GRID. The device was shown playing Gearbox's Borderlands The Pre-Sequel, Doom 3 BFG Edition, Metal Gear Solid V, the Unreal Engine 4 Infiltrator demo and yes, even Crysis 3.
Movies

Gritty 'Power Rangers' Short Is Not Fair Use 255

Posted by timothy
from the wait-til-you-see-how-scully-revives-walter-white dept.
Bennett Haselton writes: Vimeo and Youtube are pressured to remove a dark, fan-made "Power Rangers" short film; Vimeo capitulated, while Youtube has so far left it up. I'm generally against the overreach of copyright law, but in this case, how could anyone argue the short film doesn't violate the rights of the franchise creator? And should Vimeo and Youtube clarify their policies on the unauthorized use of copyrighted characters? Read on for the rest.