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Tech News

Magic Leap signs content deal with comics giant Grant Morrison

July 21, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Magic Leap has teamed up with Scotland-based Square Slice Studios, which was co-founded by comic book industry veteran Grant Morrison, to create content for its mixed reality headset. You might know the prolific writer for his work with Batman and All-Star Superman, as well as for creating the boundary-pushing sci-fi comics The Invisibles, among many other things. The studio will conjure up interactive experiences for the headset, though it has yet to reveal their exact nature. While we can probably expect some interactive comics, it’s worth noting that Morrison co-founded the company with a number of other creatives, including Grand Theft Auto artist Stewart Waterson.

Morrison’s statement hints at something big, though:

“Storytelling is my passion and I’ve found that new platforms allow me to extend my creative boundaries. We see Magic Leap as the next great platform for storytelling and we are excited to collaborate on content that helps bring our wildest dreams to life in the near future.”

Magic Leap also has a partnership with Madefire that will make the service’s mixed reality comics available on the headset from day one. But by teaming up with Square Slice Studios, it’s showing that it’s willing to invest in creating good content for its platform in addition to giving users access to existing non-exclusive offerings. The investment could pay off in the future when the company can no longer rely on years of mystery and hype to sell the device. Magic Leap’s mixed reality headset — one of them anyway, since there are supposed to be multiple versions — will start shipping this summer.

Tech News

'Emojiland' review: Come for the 💩, stay for the 💗

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Warning: This review contains mild spoilers.

Spending two hours of my life watching emoji deal with existential crises isn’t something I ever expected to do. That almost feels fitting considering that the show’s creators, Keith and Laura Harrison, never expected they’d have the chance to stage their emoji musical off-Broadway. Emojiland runs through Sunday as part of the New York Musical Festival, and it endeavors to deal with weightier subjects than you might expect from a show in which a woman dressed as a 💩 brings the house down with a brassy, gospel-inspired number in a bathroom stall. But what is it like to actually sit through? Not bad, actually, as long as you’re walking in with an open mind.

The narrative is, as you might expect, pretty thin. All is more or less well in this microcosmic kingdom until a software update arrives — which obviously calls for a party at the Progress Bar — bringing a handful of new emoji with it.

Packed with endearing characters and scene-stealing performances, Emojiland is a charming way to kill an evening off-Broadway. Just beware of the show’s uneven pacing and scattershot character development — it’s been four years in the making, and the show still feels like it needs more focus.

The newcomers instantly give the cast a jolt of energy: The feckless, domineering Princess emoji (played with scene-stealing verve by Broadway vet Lesli Margherita) suddenly meets her match in a flamboyant Prince (Josh Lamon) who can belt just as well as she can. And Emojiland co-creator Keith Harrison soon appears as Nerd Face, the endearing, nasal pseudo-protagonist who quickly forms an emotional connection with the Smiling Face With Smiling Eyes emoji (also known as Smize) played by the show’s other co-creator, Harrison’s wife, Laura.

Given their years-long marriage, it’s little surprise that the moments the Harrisons share onstage feel so substantial. Even though the circumstances of Nerd Face and Smize’s meeting are somewhat trite, their affection embodies an earnest magnetism that’s totally absent in the bond Smize shares with her douchebag boyfriend, Sunny. (You might know him better as 😎.) It’s at this point that Emojiland reveals its true colors. Sure, you’re there to see how emoji deal with a world-ending crisis in two hours, but it revels in fleshing out the relationships that the world is built around.

Especially affecting was the easy, natural romance between the female Police Officer emoji (Angela Wildflower) and female Construction Worker emoji (Megan Kane), which provided a satisfying contrast to the show’s other love story. While Nerd Face and Smize spend the show sorting out their feelings for each other, PoPo and CoWo, as they refer to each other, have an established, caring relationship between two working women devoted to their careers and each other.

Theirs is the most mature and functional relationship in Emojiland, and the fact that the show portrays a gay, interracial love story without so much as

Tech News

'Mario Kart 8 Deluxe' update adds Link from 'Breath of the Wild'

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Is Link your favorite racer in Mario Kart 8 Deluxe? Good news! A new version of the Hylian hero has been added to the game. It’s based, unsurprisingly, on the wonderful Breath of the Wild that was released for Wii U and Switch last year. You can play as Link in his Champion’s Tunic and jostle for position, if you like, on the Master Cycle Zero that featured in the Breath of the Wild DLC Champions’ Ballad. The update also includes some Ancient Tires and a new glider based on Link’s handy paraglider.

The new Breath of the Wild update is free, and adds some mysterious “revisions to improve gameplay,” as well as some unlisted content, according to Nintendo’s support website. We can’t help but wonder — will the company add any more characters to Mario Kart 8 Deluxe? We would love to see ‘Treasure Tracker’ Toad and some of the ARMS fighters…

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Tech News

Spotify lets artists submit unreleased tracks to playlist editors

July 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Christian Hartmann / Reuters

Spotify announced today that it’s making it easier for artists and labels to submit new music to its playlist editors. The company has released a new feature, which is still in beta, that will allow artists and managers with a Spotify for Artists account or labels using Spotify Analytics to submit an unreleased song for curated playlist consideration. That track will then be available to the over 100 editors Spotify has around the world, who can search through submissions for appropriate additions to the playlists they design.

Spotify says that it’s important for those submitting tracks to provide as much information as they can about the song. That includes genre, mood, whether it’s a cover, the cultures the artist or the song represent and other data that will help editors find the song and make sure it lands in the right playlists. The company also said that as long as artists and labels tag and submit a song seven days in advance, it will automatically be added to the artist’s followers’ Release Radar playlists.

Recently, the music-streaming giant reportedly began offering advance fees to indie artists and managers who license their songs directly to Spotify, and it began displaying a track’s songwriter and producer credits earlier this year. The company said today that it features over 75,000 artists on its editorial playlists each week and another 150,000 on its Discover Weekly playlist.

Since the submission feature is still in beta, it’s subject to change. “We’ll continue evolving this feature based on your feedback, so artists, labels, managers and partners can all help us create better playlists for Spotify listeners,” Spotify said.

Tech News

The Tour de France deserves a better video game

July 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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The Tour de France is one of the toughest and — in my opinion — most exciting sporting events in the world. Every year, close to 200 riders saddle up and race across a 21-stage course that spans over 2,000 miles. Aside from the occasional rest day, it’s a non-stop marathon that pushes competitors and their carbon bicycles to the limit. Lung-busting mountain climbs are punctuated with deadly descents and hard-fought sprints. Riders frequently crash, breaking bones and bending bike frames in the process. Only the fittest, smartest and luckiest athletes stand a chance of finishing with the tour’s ultimate prize: the yellow jersey.

With this year’s race in full swing, I recently decided to try the official video game. My hope was that titles based on so-called “niche” sports — anything that EA or 2K doesn’t publish, essentially — had improved since the original PlayStation era. As an adolescent, I spent many afternoons sinking hours into terrible cricket and rugby games. (I stand by Jonah Lomu Rugby, however.) By now, surely the industry had moved forward and figured out a way, both economically and technically, to do these smaller sports justice? Not in the case of the Tour de France, unfortunately.

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The biggest problem is the visuals. The game, quite simply, looks like it could have been built for PS3 hardware. The buildings are boxy and strangely immaculate, with zero signs of aging or that anyone actually lives in them. I noticed six or so designs that are repeated every 30 kilometers with minor alterations (one might have a TV aerial at the back, for instance, or an extra skylight on the roof). The spectators, meanwhile, have a limited number of animations and slide back robotically if your bike gets too close.

The cyclists are as bad as the set dressing. From a distance, they look accurate enough, with colorful jerseys and appropriately lean, muscular physiques. But take a closer look and you’ll notice that they’re all eerily similar. Every rider has the same face, for instance, with negligible chances in height, body mass or skin tone. That’s a problem given the growing diversity of the tour — Colombian climber Nairo Quintana, for instance, looks nothing like British hopeful Geraint Thomas or Italian star Vincenzo Nibali. During each stage, then, it’s impossible to tell which rider is sneaking past you without consulting the game’s on-screen name labels.

Many cyclists, same face.

With almost 200 riders on the Tour, I didn’t expect the game to meticulously recreate everyone. The best and most prolific riders, though, should be recognizable in my opinion. The electric sprinter Marcel Kittel, for example, and the current champion Chris Froome. It’s these personalities, after

Gaming News

Swiss Town Replaces Church Bells With Ringtones, Ushers in Hell on Earth

July 19, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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While the local catholic church and its bell tower undergo renovations in Lucerne, a small town in Switzerland, the city reached out to students at the nearby university to help find a replacement for the hourly chimes that are now silenced. Their solution? Blast out the sounds of a smartphone’s ringtones instead, the BBC reports.

It originally started out as a joke, but thanks to two art students from the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences, St. Peter’s Chapel now plays ringtones throughout the day—that includes the iPhone’s highly recognizable Marimba chime, which must have the town’s 80,000-plus residents instinctively reaching for their phones to make sure they’re not missing a call.

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To ensure residents and tourists aren’t driven completely mad by the art project, the ringtones will only sound until July 31. There’s no word on whether the church’s bells will ring once again starting in August, or if the locals will be subjected to other artistic alternatives until the renovations are complete. Has anyone suggested Laurel vs. Yanny yet?

[BBC]

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Gaming News

Predictive AI & Comic Artist Make New Friends For Hello Kitty

July 18, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Beginning with this Verge article on AI-created character bios, comic artist Adam Ellis decided to take the text and finish the job of creating some new—and very cute—Sanrio characters.

The bios themselves, made using predictive text, are great on their own. But Ellis’ images take them to another level. Especially Delicious Bradley and his birthdays.

There is also Sunflower Boyfriend, who is an asshole:

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And Rice Frog, who looks familiar….

You can see more of these at Ellis’ Facebook page.

Tech News

How 'Mission Impossible' made the leap to 4K and HDR

July 18, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Mission Impossible is an unusual film franchise. It’s spanned over 22 years and five directors, each bringing their own distinctive touch to Tom Cruise’s increasingly over-the-top escapades. Brian De Palma’s 1996 film, which kicked off the series, hearkens back to classic ’70s conspiracy thrillers, while John Woo’s Mission Impossible 2 is pure ’90s action blockbuster excess, complete with dueling motorcycles, elaborate shootouts and his signature doves.

To prime audiences for the next film, Fallout, Paramount re-released the entire Mission Impossible series on 4K Blu-ray last month. The new discs aren’t only a huge upgrade for cinephiles — they’re also a fascinating glimpse at how studios can revive older films for the 4K/HDR era.

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“In terms of any re-transfers or remastering that we are doing for our HDR releases, we will go back to the highest resolution source available,” Kirsten Pielstick, manager of Paramount’s digital mastering group, said in an interview. In the case of Mission Impossible 1 and 2, that involved scanning the original 35mm negatives in 4K/16-bit. As you’d expect, the studio tries to get the original artists involved with any remasters, especially with something like HDR, which allows for higher brightness and more nuanced black levels.

Pielstick worked with the director of photography (DP) for the first Mission Impossible film, Stephen H. Burum, to make sure its noir-like palette stayed intact. Unfortunately, the studio couldn’t get John Woo to visit for the second film’s restoration, but Pielstick says they had multiple conversations with him about how it was being handled. Though they’re very different movies, they each show off the benefits of HDR in different ways.

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Watching the first film on 4K Blu-ray was like seeing it for the first time — I could make out more details in the dark alleys of Prague and in the infamous aquarium explosion set-piece. Mission Impossible 2’s bombastic explosions and vehicle chases, on the other hand, almost seemed three-dimensional thanks to HDR’s enhanced brightness.

“Our mastering philosophy here is always to work directly with the talent whenever possible, and use the new technology to enhance the movie, but always stay true to the intent of the movie,” Pielstick said. “You’re not going to want to make things brighter just because you can, if it’s not the intent of how you were supposed to see things.”

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When working with directors and DPs, Pielstick says some are more aggressive than others during the restoration process. But if they can’t get the original talent involved, Paramount’s mastering group relies on the original film as a reference, and works together with studio colorists for every project. “[A remaster] should be what they were seeing through the lens of the camera at the time they were shooting it,” she said.

“But, on the other hand, we’ve also

Gaming News

Retro Style GIFs That Celebrate Beloved Japanese Games 

July 18, 2018 — by Kotaku.com0

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Over the years, I’ve seen some amazing retro style GIFS, but I’ve never seen anything like these. Artist Kutsuwa creates some pixel-style dioramas, with the action unfolding in short GIFs.

The result is amazing and charming. I love these.

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For more, check out Kutsuwa’s Tumblr site Wanpaku Pixels.


Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.

Tech News

‘Emojiland’ blends musical theater and existential angst

July 17, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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The thing about musical theatre is that pleasant surprises are never too hard to find. A rock musical about 19th-century German teenagers exploring their sexuality won a Tony. And right now, a man playing a cartoon sponge from Nickelodeon is charming audiences on Broadway. Is it so strange, then, that someone out there decided a musical about emoji needed to happen? Nah.

The real surprise is that such a show — Emojiland, which makes its off-Broadway premiere tonight as part of the New York Musical Festival — seems set to defy expectations. That’s because married co-creators Keith and Laura Harrison haven’t just spent the last four years writing a musical about emoji. They spent the last four years writing, staging, performing and rewriting a musical about emoji, all in hopes of sharing a piece of art with real emotional resonance.

Let’s get a few things straight up-front. Yes, every character in the show is an emoji. Yes, there’s an actual narrative here. All of the action is contained within a phone that has just received a software update and, sure enough, things start to go awry very quickly. And no, humans aren’t a part of this story (though they sort of were in earlier drafts).

Thankfully, the Harrisons understood that trying to create a valuable piece of art about emoji of all things meant having to grapple with the concept’s intrinsic absurdity. Rather than continuously wink and nudge at the audience — as if to say, hey, how weird is this? — the creators chose to frame the show’s many conflicts with some good, old-fashioned existential angst.

“We have certain characters that have romantic conflicts, political conflicts, dietary conflicts — whatever,” Keith told Engadget. “Essentially it’s framed by [the Skull emoji], who is the embodiment of death and is therefore more important than anythig else. Skull is the one that believes emoji are as insignificant as all the people in the world who go ’emojis, really?'”

As the update-based chaos continues to unfold around the cast, it’s Skull the nihilist that serves to skewer the show’s silliness. At one point, when the antics subside, he asks a poignant question through song: “Who is it among us who has really lost their noodle? Isn’t it a fact, my friend, you’re more or less a doodle?” To the Harrisons, moments like that are crucial injections of context — the conversations that preceded the song are immediately called into question because, as Keith puts it, “they’re all just dust sitting there, who the hell cares?”

This “textistential” quandary is made more complex by the different layers of distance at play here. The audience is separated from the cast by an invisible fourth wall. The emoji are separated from the human world by unseen layers of metal and glass. Because emoji aren’t much more than characters on a keyboard, and Skull is around to remind us of their frivolousness, the emoji’s problems