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Science

The Science of 4th of July Fireworks 37 37

StartsWithABang writes: There are few things as closely associated with American independence as our willingness and eagerness to celebrate with fiery explosions. I refer, of course, to the unique spectacle of fireworks, first developed nearly a millennium ago halfway across the world. But these displays don't happen by themselves; there's an intricate art and science required to deliver the shows we all expect. So what's the science behind fireworks? Here's the physics (and a little chemistry) behind their height, size, shape, color and sound, just in time for July 4th!
Displays

SlideN'Joy Extender Adds Up To Two More Screens For a Multi-Monitor Laptop 77 77

MojoKid writes: Nothing beats the portability of a notebook when it comes to getting work done while on-the-go, but with that portability comes a number of caveats like a smaller keyboard and being forced to use a touchpad if you don't want to lug around a portable mouse. Then there's also the limitation of a single display, for those who need more screen real estate for certain tasks. Enter Sliden'Joy, a Kickstarter project that's set to launch on July 6. There's not a lot of technical detail given about it so far, but the basics are easy to understand. Sliden'Joy effectively hooks onto your notebook to allow you to extend one or two screens out of either side, giving you an effective dual or triple monitor setup. Two models of Sliden'Joy are going to be produced, offering either 1 or 2 displays, and sizes of 13, 15, and 17-inch are all going to be supported. There's no word on pledge levels quite yet, but the ultimate goal is to reach 300,000€ ($~332,000 USD) in 30 days.
Cellphones

iPhone 6S New Feature: Force Touch 190 190

New submitter WarJolt writes: Apple is adding Force Touch to their iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus. I'm not sure if Force Touch enough to convince an Android user like myself to switch, but there are definitely some interesting possibilities for app developers. A challenge for App developers will be to make apps compatible with both Force Touch iPhones and non-force touch iPhones. (Here's the Bloomberg report Forbes draws from.)
NASA

Touring NASA's Space Shuttle Cockpit Trainer 18 18

An anonymous reader writes: Now that the space shuttles have been retired, NASA has been shutting down and cleaning out all of the equipment dedicated to keeping them in service. One such tool was the Crew Compartment Trainer II, a full-size replica of a space shuttle cockpit. Astronauts trained on it to become familiar with the operation of many onboard systems. Just before it was removed, Ars got a chance to tour it, and took a ton of pictures in the process. Quoting: "The forward windows are surprisingly small, and visibility dead ahead is limited to a very narrow section of the window. Both the pilot and commander have fighter-style HUDs (heads-up displays), which are used mainly during landing to keep them lined up and on target with the runway. ... Bloomfield walked me through a few procedures, and it was fascinating how complex the shuttles were in some areas and how primitive they were in others. The on-board computers of course received numerous updates throughout the vehicles' lives, but even in their final iteration they wouldn't have won any speed awards."
Censorship

IMAX Tries To Censor Ars Technica Over SteamVR Comparison 190 190

Cutting_Crew writes: An article published last week at Ars Technica looked at the SteamVR virtual reality headset created by Valve. Contained in the article is a quote from game designer Alex Schwartz, who said in reference to the device, "The jump between a regular game and playing a room scale VR experience is X times 100. It’s like saying, 'I have an IMAX theater in my house.' It’s so much better that we can get away with a cumbersome setup." Now, for that single quoted reference, IMAX has sent a trademark complaint to Ars and demanded that they take the story down. "The company said our story required a retraction because it included a brief reference to IMAX—included without IMAX's permission. 'Any unauthorized use of our trademark is expressly forbidden.'"

If you look at the letter from IMAX (PDF), you'll see they think the reference to IMAX is "misleading to readers." They further request that "all future articles regarding this "room-scale" virtual reality system make no reference to our registered trademark." Apparently, IMAX has never heard of the Streisand Effect.
Update: 06/19 19:26 GMT by S : IMAX has apologized.
Displays

210 Degree VR Headset With 5K Display Revealed By 'Payday' Developer Starbreeze 79 79

An anonymous reader writes: Starbreeze Studios has taken wraps off of StarVR, a new VR headset with dual displays comprising a 210 degree horizontal field of view with a total resolution of 5120x1440. The headset's origins come from InfinitEye, a company working on a super-wide dual-display headset back in 2013, which went into stealth mode for quite some time before being reborn as StarVR in partnership with Starbreeze Studios. The studio is the developer behind the Payday franchise, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and now Overkill's The Walking Dead, which will have a VR component utilizing the new headset.
Hardware

Ask Slashdot: What Hardware Is In Your Primary Computer? 558 558

An anonymous reader writes: Here's something we haven't done in a while: list the specs of your main system (best one) so we can see what kinds of computers Slashdot geeks use. Context would be interesting, too — if you're up for it, explain how and why you set it up as you did, as well as the computer's primary purpose(s). Things you can list include (but are not limited to): CPU, motherboard, video card, memory, storage (SSD/HDD), exotic Controllers (RAID or caching), optical drives, displays, peripherals, etc. We can compare and contrast, see what specs are suitable for what purposes, and perhaps learn a trick or two.
Youtube

Ghost Towns Is the First 8K Video Posted To YouTube -- But Can You Watch It? 181 181

Iddo Genuth writes: 4K videos and movies are still far from common and now 8K seems to start making its appearance online. A few days ago, what might be the first 8K video entitled "Ghost Towns" was published on Youtube and you can now watch it for yourself in its full 7680 × 4320 pixel glory — that is if you happen to have access to a 8K display (or projector).

The video was created by cinematographer Luke Neumann who used a 6K EPIC DRAGON camera using some advanced and complex techniques such as shooting in portrait orientation and then stitched the video together in Adobe After Effects. Some shots simply scaled up by 125% from 6.1K to meet the 7.6K standard and handheld stuff was 6K scaled up by 125% and sharpened up.

Youtube is now offering an 8K option and according to Google: "8K video has been supported since 2010, but that labeling for 8K video (the 4320p/8K quality setting like pictured above) was added "earlier this year — but presumably there was noting to view — until now...
Businesses

Foxconn Offers Electric Car Rental Service In China 20 20

Taco Cowboy writes: Foxconn plans to expand its electric-car rental business in ten more cities in China. Since starting the business in Beijing last year, they have launched similar services in Hangzhou and Changzhou. Another business in Guiyang will open with 100 electric vehicles in July. The service is activated through an app, website, or WeChat platform, and customers will be able to use the car with a QR code. The vehicles come equipped with internet connectivity and warns drivers of low battery and shows the nearest charging stations. The company is also working on a platform for the operation of new energy vehicles saying: "Foxconn's telematics devices have also entered BMW's supply chain, and the company is also shipping 17-inch in-car displays to Tesla. Additionally, Foxconn has also teamed up with China-based Chery to supply the automaker with digital dashboards, telematics devices, wireless charging boards and vehicle safety systems."
Classic Games (Games)

1-Pixel Pac-Man 41 41

szczys writes: Retro games just aren't the same since the display technology resolution has exploded. I went the opposite direction and chose a display with less resolution than the original. This reinvention of Pac-Man uses a 32x32 RGB LED module which are made for LED billboards. This makes the player just one pixel. Add in an Atari joystick and we have a winner.This is a great programming challenge. If you've never looked at Pac-Man AI before, it's fascinating and worth your time!
Graphics

Epic's VR Demo Scene For the GTX 980 Now Runs On Morpheus PS4 Headset At 60 FPS 35 35

An anonymous reader writes: Originally created as a Unreal Engine 4 demo scene to push the limits of VR-capable graphics on the Oculus Rift 'Crescent Bay' prototype VR headset, Showdown is now running flawlessly at 60 FPS on Morpheus, Sony's PS4 VR headset. The demo was previously only able to run at Oculus' 90 FPS target VR framerate on the Nvidia GTX 980, a GPU which costs nearly $200 more than the PS4 itself. To the delight of UE4 developers, the performance improvement comes from general optimizations to UE4 on PS4, rather than specific optimizations to Showdown.
Television

Why Apple Ditched Its Plan To Build a Television 244 244

Apple has been rumored to be developing their own line of HDTVs for years, but a new report from the Wall Street Journal (paywalled) says while those plans did exist, they've been abandoned. Apple began pondering the idea of jumping into the television market roughly a decade ago, as iTunes started hosting video content. The AppleTV made a foray into living rooms in 2007, and other devices reached the prototype stage. The company continued to do research and work on their ideas, but eventually gave up more than a year ago. Apple had searched for breakthrough features to justify building an Apple-branded television set, those people said. In addition to an ultra-high-definition display, Apple considered adding sensor-equipped cameras so viewers could make video calls through the set, they said. Ultimately, though, Apple executives didn't consider any of those features compelling enough to enter the highly competitive television market, led by Samsung Electronics Co. Apple typically likes to enter a new product area with innovative technology and easier-to-use software.
Firefox

First Smart TVs Powered By Firefox OS On Sale In Europe, Worldwide Soon 119 119

An anonymous reader writes: The first smart TVs powered by Firefox OS have gone on sale in Europe. Panasonic's line of Viera smart TVs includes six that are powered by Firefox OS — CR850, CR730, CX800, CX750, CX700 and CX680 — including their first curved LED LCD TV. The full global launch of the TVs is expected “in the coming months.” From the Mozilla blog: "We’re happy to partner with Panasonic to bring the first Smart TVs powered by Firefox OS to the world,” said Andreas Gal, Mozilla CTO. “With Firefox and Firefox OS powered devices, users can enjoy a custom and connected Web experience and take their favorite content (apps, videos, photos, websites) across devices without being locked into one proprietary ecosystem or brand.”
Graphics

Oculus Rift Hardware Requirements Revealed, Linux and OS X Development Halted 227 227

An anonymous reader writes: Oculus has selected the baseline hardware requirements for running their Rift virtual reality headset. To no one's surprise, they're fairly steep: NVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD 290 equivalent or greater, Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater, and 8GB+ RAM. It will also require at least two USB 3.0 ports and "HDMI 1.3 video output supporting a 297MHz clock via a direct output architecture."

Oculus chief architect Atman Binstock explains: "On the raw rendering costs: a traditional 1080p game at 60Hz requires 124 million shaded pixels per second. In contrast, the Rift runs at 2160×1200 at 90Hz split over dual displays, consuming 233 million pixels per second. At the default eye-target scale, the Rift's rendering requirements go much higher: around 400 million shaded pixels per second. This means that by raw rendering costs alone, a VR game will require approximately 3x the GPU power of 1080p rendering." He also points out that PC graphics can afford a fluctuating frame rate — it doesn't matter too much if it bounces between 30-60fps. The Rift has no such luxury, however.

The last requirement is more onerous: WIndows 7 SP1 or newer. Binstock says their development for OS X and Linux has been "paused" so they can focus on delivering content for Windows. They have no timeline for going back to the less popular platforms.
Displays

Oculus Rift Launching In Q1 2016 84 84

An anonymous reader writes: Oculus has announced that their Rift virtual reality headset will be coming out sometime in the first quarter of 2016. They've also posted a couple images of the final consumer headset design. The device was Kickstarted in August, 2012. Consumer-level release dates have slowly slipped further and further out since then, though they've shipped two different development kits. Ars points out that a 2016 launch date will bring the Oculus Rift to market after the Valve/HTC VR headset, and possibly after Sony's Project Morpheus.
Input Devices

The Challenge of Getting a Usable QWERTY Keyboard Onto a Dime-sized Screen 144 144

An anonymous reader writes: Researchers from Spain and Germany are building on Carnegie Mellon's work to attempt to create workable text-input interfaces for wearables, smartwatches and a new breed of IoT devices too small to accomodate even the truncated soft keyboards familiar to phone users. In certain cases, the screen area in which the keyboard must be made usable is no bigger than a dime. Of all the commercial input systems I've used, Graffiti seems like it might be the most suited to such tiny surfaces.
Displays

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

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."
Patents

Vizio, Destroyer of Patent Trolls 104 104

An anonymous reader writes: We read about a lot of patent troll cases. Some are successful and some are not, but many such cases are decided before ever going to court. It's how the patent troll operates — they know exactly how high litigation costs are. Even without a legal leg to stand on, they can ask for settlements that make better financial sense for the target to accept, rather than dumping just as much money into attorney's fees for an uncertain outcome. Fortunately, some companies fight back. TV-maker Vizio is one of these, and they've successfully defended against 16 different patent trolls, some with multiple claims. In addition, they're going on the offensive, trying to wrest legal fees from the plaintiffs for their spurious claims. "For the first time, it stands a real chance, in a case where it spent more than $1 million to win. Two recent Supreme Court decisions make it easier for victorious defendants to collect fees in patent cases. The TV maker is up against a storied patent plaintiffs' firm, Chicago-based Niro, Haller & Niro, that has fought for Oplus tooth and nail. ... For Vizio, the company feels that it's on the verge of getting vindication for a long-standing policy of not backing down to patent trolls."
Displays

Recon Instruments' Sports-Oriented Smart Glasses Now Shipping 25 25

First time accepted submitter krouic writes Earlier this week Recon Instruments started shipping their long-awaited Recon Jet heads up display for sports, to real-life actual consumers.
Jet's core features are designed for the cyclist and runner, and allow automatic upload of stats to activity tracking services. They feature an on-board GPS generating real-time performance metrics, an on-board high definition camera for short videos and photos, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and ANT+ for connectivity to 3rd party sensors for heart rate, cadence and power data and smartphone connectivity for caller ID, text messages and music player access and control. Initial review by DCRainmaker.
Graphics

NVIDIA's New GPUs Are Very Open-Source Unfriendly 309 309

An anonymous reader writes: The Nouveau driver developers working on open-source support for the GeForce 900 Maxwell graphics cards have found this new generation to be "very open-source unfriendly" and restricting. NVIDIA began requiring signed firmware images, which they have yet to provide to Nouveau developers, contrary to their earlier statements. The open-source developers have also found their firmware signing to go beyond just simple security precautions. For now the open-source NVIDIA driver can only enable displays with the GTX 900 series without any hardware acceleration.