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Magic Leap signs content deal with comics giant Grant Morrison

July 21, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Magic Leap

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.

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The first 'Overwatch' Nerf blaster arrives in 2019

July 21, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Hasbro

So far, replicating the distinctive weapons of Overwatch has usually meant a whole lot of crafting, and you still aren’t likely end up with something that works. Hasbro, thankfully, is about to make your life much easier — it’s partnering with Blizzard on official Overwatch Nerf guns. The first of the bunch, the lengthily-named Nerf Rival Overwatch Reaper Wight Edition, is due in 2019. It mimics Reaper’s iconic shotgun in looks, though not in functionality. The toy weapon carries eight of Nerf’s Rival rounds and includes both a ready indicator and a safety lock.

Hasbro hasn’t mentioned pricing, although this probably won’t be the most affordable Nerf gun in your arsenal — especially not when you’ll need two if you’re going to be true to the character (very clever, Hasbro). The real question is what comes next. Some guns seem like obvious fits, such as the straightforward guns of D.Va, Soldier 76, Sombra and Tracer, but what about the more exotic weapons, like Mei’s freezing blaster or Lucio’s sound gun? It’s safe to say that you won’t see Wrecking Ball’s hamster ball of doom or Brigitte’s flail, but here’s hoping that Hasbro is willing to go beyond the ‘safe’ choices.

Tech News

The Macallan distillery opens up for 4D virtual reality tours

July 21, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Denis Balibouse / Reuters

Not everyone has the means to travel to Scotland and visit their favorite distillery a la Ron Swanson. To help connoisseurs live out their dreams of traipsing through its facilities, The Macallan has created the Macallan Distillery Experience. VRFocus describes it as a “4D multi-sensory” group tour that guides folks through the company’s process for making its Single Malt spirit. Along the way you’ll explore the Scottish distillery an the estate it resides on, learning about the outfit’s history along the way. Visitors will step into a “15x15x15 cube-like projection structure” with 360-degree videos beamed to the installation’s walls.

This won’t be the first time Macallan has experimented with VR-tech. Back in 2016, it released a 360-degree video featuring its 12-year double cask liquid. The experience apparently makes use of scents and wind machines to help sell the illusion.

It will debut next week in New York at a private event in Brooklyn on the 23rd, and a few days later it’ll take up temporary residence at Grand Central Station, running from the 25th through the 27th, National Scotch Day. Everyone not in New York will have to make do with talking a walkthrough via their home VR devices. Hopefully if Macallan hands out samples it’ll happen after you take the headset off. Shooting the spirit is kind of beside the point, VR can make you sick while sober and adding booze to the mix can exacerbate that uneasy feeling.

Tech News

Magic Leap’s lackluster AR demo proves hardware is still hard

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Magic Leap announced last week that its mixed reality glasses — which have been shrouded in mystery and hype for almost four years — will be available later this summer. What should’ve been exciting news unfortunately fell flat. In a developer chat on Twitch that same day, the company showed off a less-than-impressive pre-recorded demo of a small rock golem throwing some rubble around. Compared to earlier videos of a crashing whale in the middle of a gym and a floating solar system, this just came off as disappointing. Was this all there was?

The next day, Magic Leap co-founder Rony Abrovitz went on Twitter to explain that the video was a teaching tool for the creator and developer community. “Any video or 2D medium (photos) is completely inadequate to actually deliver the experience of a digital lightfield on ML1,” he tweeted, saying that the Magic Leap hardware is tuned to the way the human eye works, and is not designed for camera sensors. In short, it’s better if you try it.

While that might be true, it’s clear from the backlash that the public’s patience for Magic Leap has grown thin. Over the past four years, the company raised over $2.3 billion in funding, with a chunk of early investment from Google all raising our expectations. The company also released those aforementioned teaser videos, where it really seemed as if it could conjure up virtual creatures and have them interact with the real world.

DEMO MOVIE2 #magicleap #magicleaplive #マジックリープ pic.twitter.com/3jrbIcjqtg

— Sadao Tokuyama@MagicLeaper.unity (@tokufxug) July 11, 2018

As great as it seemed, the company has been incredibly secretive, letting only select media try it first hand. There were also reports that some of those early videos were fake, and created with special effects. Combine that with the lackluster golem demo and the fact that it’ll be an AT&T-exclusive and Magic Leap seems like an overhyped mess.

Which, unfortunately, casts doubt on the state of augmented reality in general. While virtual reality is slowly gaining popularity, AR just doesn’t seem to have succeeded in the same way. Google couldn’t make Glass work despite its deep well of resources, and Microsoft’s HoloLens is still very much in the developer stage. Even Apple, which is said to be making its own AR glasses, apparently won’t have anything to show until 2020 at the earliest. What is it that makes AR so difficult? And why hasn’t it taken off?

Except, it sort of has… in the enterprise world, that is. “There are actually over 50 smart glass manufacturers out there in the market now,” said Ori Inbar, the founder of Augmented World Expo and partner of Super Ventures, a venture fund that focuses on augmented reality.

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Those manufacturers include Vuzix, ODG, Meta, Solos, Epson and Atheer to name a few, and almost all of them make some kind of AR headset, primarily for businesses — helping technicians fix a

Tech News

Dr. Julius Neubronner's fantastic flying cameras

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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The first aerial photograph was taken in 1858 by Frenchman Gaspard-Félix Tournachon, also known by his alias Nadar, from a tethered gas balloon suspended over Paris. While the images captured on this flight have since been lost to time, there are plenty of surviving examples of aerial photographs shot during the latter half of the 19th century. In addition to balloons, kites and rudimentary rockets were used to send cameras skyward. Even Alfred Nobel was drawn to the practice, with one of his last patent applications being for a method for rocket photography. It’s hard to grasp how challenging this was at the time. We need only load up Google Earth to see our house from space, or buy a hobbyist drone to capture our own aerial panoramas. Long before satellites and quadcopters, though, Dr. Julius Neubronner started strapping cameras to pigeons.

Credit: Library of Congress / Bain News Service photograph collection

Julius Neubronner was an apothecary, which to his time was the equivalent of a pharmacist today. It was a family business, and homing pigeons were counted amongst its employees. Just as his father had done before him, Neubronner used pigeons to send and receive medicines and messages. As the story goes, sometime around 1903 Neubronner sent one of his pigeons out on assignment only for it not to return. The bird wasn’t taken ill and preyed upon, however, eventually turning up a month later in suspiciously good condition.

Neubronner grew curious about the movement and habits of his pigeons when they were away from home, and being an avid photographer, he saw how his hobby might be useful in answering some of his questions. Inspired in part by the Ticka Watch Camera and the quality of test photos he took on a speeding train and a sled ride, he began devising his own miniature camera that could be attached to pigeons via a harness. What he ended up with was a light wooden camera and pneumatic timer that engaged the shutter at set intervals. He filed the first patent for his invention in 1907 with the German patent office and its counterparts in France, Austria and the UK. The German bureau initially refused to grant it, believing what he described to be impossible. A camera was far too heavy for a bird to carry. This changed the following year when Neubronner provided the patent office with photographic proof from his flying friends.

Credit: Rorhof / Stadtarchiv Kronberg Neubronner’s dovecote and darkroom carriage Franz Maria Feldhaus, Ruhmesblätter der Technik

Between 1908 and 1909, Neubronner’s pigeon camera was covered in various newspapers, including the New-York Daily Tribune, The Columbian, the Los

Tech News

Porsche’s Panamera hybrid brings sports car fun to a station wagon

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

The Porsche brand has never really been synonymous with family. The legendary 911 just doesn’t lend itself to playdates, Target runs and road trips with the kids. Then the German automaker introduced its SUV line in 2003 and suddenly the offspring had a place to sit. But an SUV is not a sports car. The Panamera line, on the other hand, has the potential to be a bit of both.

Gallery: 2018 Panamera 4 E-Hybrid Sport Turismo review | 29 Photos 29 +25

The 2018 Panamera 4 E-Hybrid Sport Turismo, starting at $104,000, checks off a lot of boxes for potential Porsche owners that also have family obligations. There’s room for more than two people, for starters. There’s also an honest to goodness cargo area for shopping runs. It’s a hybrid, too, so the more judgy parents you know won’t get on your case and finally (and really more importantly) it’s a sports car. Also, it looks 100 percent better than the first iteration of the Panamera and it does all this in a way that makes you realize that station wagons can be cool. Very cool.

When I received Panamera, Porsche made sure I was aware that the hybrid system wasn’t an efficiency play. The automaker is known for sports cars after all. Still, the vehicle has four modes: E-Power (pure EV mode), Hybrid, Sport and Sport plus. During startup, it defaults to E-Power mode and when fully charged Porsche says it has a range of up to 30 miles at speeds up to 90 miles per hour. That seems pretty efficient to me. If you plug in the car at night and the majority of your trips per day are less than 25 miles, it could be weeks before you hit the gas station.

In hybrid mode (which includes options for saving and charging up the battery), the Panamera is ready for longer drives on the freeway and surface streets. The switch between the gas engine and electric motors is seamless during regular driving. But going slow (below 10 miles an hour) does feel like you’re holding back an excited puppy. Sometimes it jerked a bit more than expected.

It’s that excited puppy that’s at the heart of the vehicle and once you drop off the kids or finish picking up your organic quinoa at Whole Foods, you can put the Panamera E-Hybrid into Sport or Sport plus mode and really understand what the automaker was talking about when it said that the hybrid wasn’t an efficiency play.

Driving in either of the two sport modes, the car aggressively recharges the battery so it can use that power and electric torque to deliver outstanding acceleration. With a zero to 60 of 4.4 seconds, it’s one

Tech News

Under Armour’s Sport Wireless Train headphones are ready for the gym

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

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Last month, Under Armour launched its Project Rock on-ear headphones, which are built for intense workouts and were designed in collaboration with Dwayne Johnson (aka The Rock). But not every fitness buff is going to be a fan of him (even though they should be, because gains), so it only made sense for the company to introduce a model without all his Rock branding. Enter the Sport Wireless Train, Under Armour’s latest on-ear headphones, created alongside audio firm JBL. The new set was first revealed in 2017 and looks nearly identical to the Project Rocks, with the only difference being the UA and JBL logos on the earcups and headband, respectively.

Outside of the design, Under Armour and JBL tuned the Sport Wireless Trains to be more neutral than the Project Rocks, which are quite bass heavy. I was able to notice that right away when I listened to a couple of albums on the Sport Wireless Trains — the vocals just seemed to pop and be more clear in every track. The other main difference, and this is a big one, is that UA made the Sport Wireless Trains $50 cheaper than the $250 Project Rocks. $200 is a much more compelling price point, especially when it still has all of the features that make The Rock’s pair appeal to people who hit the gym frequently.

The Sport Wireless Trains are made from rugged, sweat-resistant materials (IPX4 rating) and come with breathable ear cushions that can be removed and washed — that’s going to make it easy to clean them after your workouts. They also feature 40mm JBL drivers, a 16-hour battery life (5-minute charge will get you one hour of listening), oversized volume and playback buttons, as well as a 3.5mm audio jack in case you don’t want to do Bluetooth pairing. Additionally, Under Armour is throwing in a 12-month premium subscription to its Map My Fitness service, which is usually costs $30 per year.

Unfortunately, as with the Project Rocks, there’s no active noise-cancelling — and that’s likely going to be a deal-breaker for some people. But if that’s something you can live without, the Sport Wireless Train headphones are hitting stores in early August, though you can pre-order on July 24th from the Under Armour and JBL sites.

Gallery: Under Armour’s Sport Wireless Train headphones | 11 Photos 11 +7

Tech News

Oculus' Marvel Rift bundle lets you play as Hulk and Wolverine

July 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Oculus

When it comes to releasing VR game bundles, Sony is miles ahead of Oculus. But if you’re not a console gamer and have only been waiting for Oculus to come up with a bundle of its own, then we hope you have a few hundred to spare. The studio has launched a special edition Rift + Touch package with Marvel Powers United VR for $399, the same price you’d pay for one with an Oculus headset, a pair of sensors and a pair of controllers without the game.

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You and three other friends can play as any of the available Marvel superheroes, giving you a way to wield Cap’s shield or smash enemies as the Hulk, in the first-person co-op title. Captain Marvel, Deadpool, Loki, Doctor Strange, Rogue, Wolverine, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Star-Lord and Spider-Man are also in the game, but unfortunately for Iron Man fans, Tony Stark seems to be missing from the roster. You can get the bundle from the Oculus website or from select retailers in supported countries starting on July 31st. In case you already have a Rift, though, you can also just buy the game for $40.

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iFixit puts the MacBook Pro's anti-debris keyboard to the test

July 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

MacLife Magazine via Getty Images

Users have complained that the butterfly switch keyboard that comes with newer MacBook and MacBook Pro models is too sensitive to crumbs and dust, with difficult-to-repair keys becoming “sticky” overtime. But when iFixit took a look inside Apple’s newest MacBook Pro, it discovered silicone barriers around the keyboard switches — a new addition that a MacBook Pro service document states is to “prevent debris from entering the butterfly mechanism.” Now, iFixit has put those barriers to the test in order to see how effective they really are at keeping particles from damaging the keyboard.

To test the silicone barriers, iFixit exposed the 2018 MacBook Pro keyboard to a fine, powdered paint additive and the team observed that the dust remained at the edges of the membrane and away from the switch. However, adding more particulate and throwing in some “aggressive typing” caused the dust to penetrate beneath the clips and get to the switch. Taking it a step further, iFixit added some sand to the keyboards and found that doing so caused keys to stop working. So it looks like the the barriers do a decent job protecting against dust, at least in the short term, but larger particles may still be an issue.

Apple has faced lawsuits over its butterfly switch keyboards and last month, it finally acknowledged the issue by launching a repair program for certain MacBook and MacBook Pro models. It’s good to see that the company is making some effort to fix the issue in newer models, but as iFixit notes, only time will tell how long these silicone membranes hold up.

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Microsoft's strong quarter was powered by the cloud, Surface and Xbox

July 19, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Bloomberg via Getty Images

It’s honestly getting a bit tough to write about Microsoft’s quarterly earnings without sounding like a broken record. For years, its booming cloud business has pushed revenues higher, and the same is true for the past fourth quarter. The company reports that its revenue is up 17 percent from last year, reaching $30.1 billion compared to just $25.6 billion. Mostly, that’s due to the continued strength of its cloud segment, which is up 23 percent ($9.6 billion) compared to last year.

Additionally, its More Personal Computing group, which includes Windows, Surface and Xbox, increased by 17 percent ($10.8 billion). Drilling down a bit, the Surface line continued to have a strong year with 25 percent revenue growth, while gaming revenues increased by a surprising 39 percent. The company points to third-party titles as a big reason for the growth. But really, it’s probably all about Fortnite.