Archive for March, 2016

Virtual Reality Comes to Roller Coasters

VR Roller CoasterIt looks like Virtual Reality is going to sweep the nation with Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and some more Google Cardboard stuff. It could really take our society by storm, and most say it will affect a lot of entertainment.

It would appear that it affects amusement parks, and not just games. There are two places that have them, but I’m sure they are not the only or the last ones.

The first is at Magic Mountain, with New Revolution, which is a traditional roller coaster, but the riders wear a Samsung Gear VR headset. The advantage is that the VR gives an interesting CG kind of world which you really feel. This will be in Six Flags parks across the nation, starting April 21.

The second is Alton Towers’ Galactica, and I am assuming that it might have something to do with Battlestar, maybe. It is a flight from a space station through an asteroid belt to the canyons of an alien world.

Now, with the second example, it reminds me of a ride that I went on that used computer animation and hydraulics to create a cool effect. Having the graphics on your head makes it a better version of Star Tours.

With the first example, I can’t help but wonder if this is taking away the roller coaster experience. After all, I like the idea of visiting some virtual world, but with a roller coaster, I want to be outdoors. Yes, this is another example of how technology keeps us indoors.

Source 1 and Source 2

Posted by on March 31st, 2016 No Comments

Our Gaming Review of Epistory-Typing Chronicles

epistory_screenshot02_fullEvery once in a while, I try out some new game on Steam, and I have to admit that I have found a new favorite. Since I have to make good use of my time, I can only try out a game for a little while before I have to write a review. Usually, an hour or so is good enough to get a good idea for the game, and then I stop. In this case, I found a hard time stopping.

Epistory-Typing Chronicles is from Fishing Cactus, and it has one of the most highest of high concepts. The press release says that there is an author trying to write a story, and is calling to a muse for help. This muse takes the form of a young girl or woman who rides a fox with three tails. The muse goes through this land that literally unfolds.

Yes, this place unfolds like paper to reveal a forest, and then words appear on the ground, which are presumably the story that is told, which reads like a fairy tale. To make things a little more confusing, sometimes there is other writing happening, presumably from the writing.

Oh yeah, did I mention that all the controls are made with typing? Oh yes, and this makes Epistory totally unique, because it isn’t subtitled Typing Chronicles for nothing. No joystick is required, needed, and probably wouldn’t work anyway. Instead of W-A-S-D to move, this uses I-J-E-F for controls. Yes, that is somewhat confusing, but you can use W-A-S-D if you want.

So, as you walk through this land, a story is being told, based on what you are doing. Occasionally, you can see some things in your way, and if you hit the spacebar, you have to type something to destroy it. Or something else will happen. Also, there are these insect-like creatures that show up, and only by typing can they be killed.

By the way, there are some times when the enemies just gang up on you, and then you have to repel them. It is pretty tough, and in addition to the difficult controls, that is the low point of the game.

However, I love this game’s high points. This game really captures what it is like to be a writer and to have a story stuck in you. I know that probably doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it is just so much fun.

I have no idea if Epistory is supposed to be some kind of an educational game, because the gameplay is all about typing. It reminds me of a game called Master-Type, where you have to type some things in order to shoot aliens.

I highly recommend this game, and you can find it on the Steam Early Access games here for $12.99

Posted by on March 30th, 2016 No Comments

WinnerGear MicFlip Fully Reversible Micro USB Cable

MicroFlipSo, when I heard that I was reviewing the Micflip Fully Reversible Micro USB Cable, I thought I was reviewing a product that would allow me to flip the big end when I plug it into the USB port.

That is not what this is, but this allows for flipping the micro USB cable, so you don’t have to orient it. Apparently, WinnerGear is the first micro USB cable of its kind, and it probably won’t be the last one. Shoot, I can easily see this becoming a standard.

In addition to this, there are other bonuses of this product such as a super strong nylon braided cable that makes it tangle free. Oh, it also has gold coating for corrosion resistance.

I would highly recommend this product, and you can get it on the WinnerGear site for about $19.99.

Posted by on March 29th, 2016 No Comments

Secur Products Part 3: Bluetooth Speaker Lantern and Flashlight

Secur SP-5004_product_aOkay, I finally got around to reviewing my last of the Secur products, and you can read my reviews of the Folding Solar Powered Lantern and the Bluetooth Flashlight and Powerbank. This time, it is the Bluetooth Speaker Lantern and Flashlight, or SP-5004.

Let me start with the Bluetooth Speaker. I have no idea if this is a standard for Bluetooth Speakers, but it does tell you when it is time to pair, and when it has paired. It was pretty easy to get that set up, and I had some terrific sound coming from this thing.

Oh, and lets talk about the flashlight. As you can see from the picture here, the device can extend like a lantern thanks to a spring thing inside it. So you can turn on the thing and it will light an area around it. You can also flatten the thing, and it will shine in one direction like a regular flashlight.

So, like most Secur products, it can do a lot in one single package. It is just a matter of specs like can it play music in 8 hours, 4 hours of charging time, and 3 Watt Bluetooth Speaker. You should able to purchase it for about $59.95, and there is more information at the Secur site.

Posted by on March 28th, 2016 No Comments

Speculative Fiction Saturday: Over the Garden Wall

over the garden wallSince I have been reviewing a lot of animated shows like Gravity Falls, I decided to review another show that I have heard nothing but good things about. Over the Garden Wall is a limited series from the people at the Cartoon Network, who has been kind of hit or miss lately when it comes to content.

Over the Garden Wall is one of those shows that tries hard to be original, and it works completely. The show is about two boys named Wirt and Greg, and it begins with them wandering through the woods. Why they are wandering there is not revealed until the second-to-the-last episode, as well as why they are dressed they way they are. Wirt has the outfit of a gnome, and Greg has a teapot on his head. The two brothers, who are from different families, encounter things that are supernatural and have a certain woodland spirit to them. They will encounter things like magical people who live in cottages, talking animals, and all kinds of other things.

For example, the first episode has them meeting a woodsman who lives in a shack all alone, and he tells the boys about a monster out in the woods. Then it gets pretty weird from there, and they also meet a talking bluebird. Maybe I should reverse that last sentence. I’m not certain that it would be a good idea to talk about every episode, but I could, as there are only ten. Also, each episode is only about eleven minutes long, so the whole thing is about two and a half hours total.

The way the show goes feels like something from a dream. Even the way the events unfold in the individual story feel like something plucked from a weird dream. In fact, there are times when it goes into nightmare territory. As an adult, I can honestly say that it never gets too scary, but it does get pretty freaky every once in a while. However, this is part of the charm, and the show is really about overcoming fear, so the show has an odd, if not planned, psychological effect on the audience.

In fact, the reason why it feels nightmarish to me is that it used that old style of cartoons from the twenties and thirties, with a mix of Studio Ghibli. I guarantee that not everyone will like it, but those that appreciate the emotional power that animation has realize that Over the Garden Wall is a gem.

So, is it so good that it will get a second season? Honestly, I hope not. The story is such a closed loop that I don’t want to see a sequel, and this is a good lesson for Hollywood to learn.

Posted by on March 26th, 2016 No Comments

The Drone Pilot’s Handbook Review

Drone Pilots HandbookIt’s not often that I get to do reviews of books on this blog, because it often takes me several nights to get through a book, and, like many, I don’t read much. The Drone Pilot’s Handbook by Adam Juniper is a fun read that is really for all ages, and it is about an interesting habit that a lot of people are getting into with drones.

Yes, the drones of quadcopters, hexacopters, and other models are starting to become very commonplace, and it is good to have a book about how to use them. Not only that, it shows some information about how drones actually work, but some methods about how to manipulate the controls.

It will also show the user how to create a better flying drone, and it is quite interesting. Another part of the book is devoted to missions that drones can handle, along with some photography. There is also a section on drone safety as well.

The best part about the book is the illustrations. They are very minimalist, and yet they really capture the fun that is droning, and now I wish I could afford at least several of them to try out.

The Drone Pilot’s Handbook will appear on Amazon on May 3, 2016, so you should check it out when it gets there, or get is somewhere else.

Posted by on March 25th, 2016 No Comments

Nintendo to cease production on Wii U by the end of this year

Nintendo Wii UI’m pretty certain that I have stated before that Nintendo’s days might be numbered. Yes, I have a Wii U, and maybe you do to. The issue is that only 12 million of these units have sold, and the original Wii sold over 100 million.

Yeah, the Wii U seems like a failure in comparison, which is why it shouldn’t come to any surprise that Nintendo is ceasing production of the Wii U hardware.

Since there is a lot of rumors about what the Nintendo NX is about, this makes sense. If you aren’t familiar with the NX, it is the next generation of Nintendo console.

So far, there isn’t any news from Nintendo when the NX could come out. If it is coming out during holiday, then Nintendo would probably announce it at E3 2016.

If Nintendo does cease production on the Wii U, then they must have a lot left.

Source

Posted by on March 23rd, 2016 No Comments

What Apple is Doing

iPhone SESo, yesterday was a pretty big event, so what exactly happened? The answer is everything except one thing, and I will get to that.

After some announcements about Apple in general, the first thing that was brought up was the new watch bands as well as a price drop for the Apple Watch at $299.

Then there was talk about “a smaller iPhone”, which is called the iPhone SE. It has a 64-bit A9 chip with M9 motion co-processor. It also has a 12 Megapixel camera with focus pixels, and it can shoot 4K video. The 16 GB iPhone SE starts at $399 and the 64 GB model will be $499.

ipad stuffThen came the announcement of the new iPad, with a new iPad Pro with a 9.7-inch Retina display. It has the A9X chip like its big brother, and there is a keyboard case for it as well. There are also other new accessories like a Lightning SD card reader and USB camera adapter. The camera is also the same at 12-Megapixel sensor. The price is 32 GB model for $599, the 128 GB model for $749, and the 256 GB for $899.

Other announcements is the availability of iOS 9.3. However, what wasn’t announced is the new MacBooks. It is possible that they won’t be announced until WWDC 2016 in June.

Source

Posted by on March 22nd, 2016 No Comments

Someone is inventing Sophia the robot lady, why do we need this again?

Robot LadyWell, this robot looks like something right out of Ex Machina, complete with the plastic dome on the head. I should probably get around to seeing that speculative fiction film for Speculative Fiction Saturday, but perhaps I don’t have to with this.

This is Dr. David Hanson’s Sophia, and it is inspired by Audrey Hepburn and Hanson’ wife Sophia. Sophia’s skin is made from silcone, and she has cameras in her eyes so she can “see” other people.

You know how Watson can talk and win on Jeopardy? Well, Sophia can also speak and respond, remembering facial expressions and having some of her own.

There is a drawback. Apparently, my Source has a video where someone asks Sophia if she wants to take control of all humans, and she agreed, jokingly, I think.

Okay, so now here comes a question that I just have to ask. Why does anyone want a robot like this? I mean, is there not enough humans in the world that we can talk to? I thought the goal was to make robots that we want to do work we hate, do we need to give them sentience so they can complain about it?

Unless you want to create a robot that you can love…and…ewww! Isn’t the whole point of love based on that you don’t have control over the other person, or am I just being old-fashioned.

Source

Posted by on March 21st, 2016 No Comments

Speculative Fiction Saturday: Jessica Jones

Jessica-Jones-1-1200x674Okay, I probably should have written about these Marvel/Netflix shows earlier, but I have to admit that I do a lot of writing about them on The Gospel Herald with my most recent article here. Even as I write about the first season of Jessica Jones, I am watching the second season of Daredevil.

In case you don’t know about these shows, Marvel made some deal with Netflix for four shows that are based in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is the same universe that the Avengers reside in, and these Netflix shows, which include Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, all have a grittier feel as they are based in darker comic book source material.

When I grew up on the eighties, I was very familiar with Daredevil and somewhat familiar with Luke Cage and Iron Fist. I stopped reading them at the end of the nineties, and Jessica Jones was not created until 2001, so I had never heard of her when I watched her show. I have no idea how well the show matches the source material, but it generally does not exactly for this transition. Therefore, I’m not going to judge it based on the translation from comic to screen.

Jessica Jones is a show that doesn’t waste any time talking about that whole “origin story thing” from the first episode. It is established that she has some kind of superhuman strength, and has started a job as a private investigator. It is also established that she has a best friend name Trish who used to be a teenage TV star for a show called Patsy, but now has a radio show called “Trish Talks”. Jessica also has a lawyer friend known as Jeri Hogarth who often is a source for Jessica to find work. These characters are as flushed out and developed as Jessica herself, and that is saying something.

The issue with Jessica Jones is that she has as much weaknesses as strengths. She is an alcoholic, and she is suffering from PTSD. Why is she suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder? It is because of an evil man named Kilgrave, who she thought was dead, is alive.

Kilgrave is played by David Tennant, who used to be Doctor Who. He easily one of the best and worst villains on screen. The reasons why he is the best and the worst is the same, because his power is legitimately scary. Kilgrave has a power to take control of your mind verbally, so if Kilgrave tells you to kill someone or yourself, you have to do it, even if it hurts yourself. It makes me glad the metahuman powers only exist in the world of make-believe.

At one point in time, it is revealed via flashback that Kilgrave once had Jessica Jones under his control. If you think that the show didn’t “go there” in showing what Kilgrave does to his female victims, think again. For all intents and purposes, Kilgrave made Jessica his forced sex slave. The worst part about this is that Jessica Jones shows Kilgrave from a certain point of view that makes him sympathetic. Yeah, I said it, and you should watch it so you can see why I agree with this.

You can imagine that Jessica has a lot of anger and fear when it comes to Kilgrave, and what is interesting is how she attempts to stop him. The two characters switch places playing cat and mouse with each other, and Jessica Jones becomes a psychological study more than a speculative fiction story.

This is one of those times where I don’t want to reveal anything more about this show, because it really needs to be seen. Unfortunately, it might not get its second season until 2017, but it is established that it will have a second season.

As I mentioned before Jessica Jones is one of four shows that take place in this Marvel/Netflix universe, and the next new show to premiere in this share world is Luke Cage. This character was introduced on Jessica Jones as a love interest and superhuman partner, and I look forward to watching his show.

Posted by on March 19th, 2016 No Comments