Fresh Off The Block


May
17
2018

Microsoft developing a new controller for the less able gamer: Meet the Xbox Adaptive Controller

As a blog that has always aimed to make technology understandable to the masses, we at Technically Motivated champion any attempt by a major corporation to create technology that caters for the less able user. So when we heard that Microsoft have unveiled an Xbox One controller designed with the differently-abled in mind, we naturally had to take a look.

A picture of the XBox Adaptive Controller

Image courtesy Microsoft
(click to enlarge)

Officially named the Xbox Adaptive Controller, Microsoft’s latest creation – which will actually support both XBox and Windows PCs – is billed as ‘the most flexible adaptive controller made by a major gaming company’. As Microsoft tells it, When a customised controller from non-profit veterans’ organisation Warfighter Engaged caught the eye of a Microsoft engineer back in 2014, Microsoft decided to create its own disability-friendly controller for the following year’s Hackathon, which is where this project began. Refinements followed a year later; but it was the release of the Copilot function – which allows two Xbox One controllers to be treated as a single controller – that led Microsoft to declare their new controller concept ready for launch.

In fact, Copilot is actually the key to how this new controller becomes adaptable for a wide range of disabilities. Designed to be used on a desktop surface, the Xbox Adaptive Controller features all number of ports to allow additional controllers, headsets, switches and other assistive devices to expand on its base capabilities, allowing a user to create a custom gaming solution whereby a user can combine many different controls into a workable solution for their own body. The ports are labelled such that the user doesn’t need to turn or pick up the device to see what goes where; and each controller can function as one or more physical buttons according to the user’s needs. The Adaptive Controller itself sports two giant buttons, mapped to the A and B of a standard Xbox controller and with enough spacing to allow a hand to rest in between; along with a D-Pad and other smaller control buttons to the left side.

Microsoft have explained the full story behind the controller on their Story Labs, which also gives further details about the upcoming product. The Xbox Adaptive Controller will launch later this year, and will retail for $100 in the US, which is likely to translate to around £100 in the UK after the inclusion of VAT.

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    Previous Articles


    May
    16
    2018

    Microsoft announce Surface Hub 2

    A Surface Hub 2 on a stand, courtesy Microsoft

    Two years ago, Microsoft raised eyebrows when it unveiled the Surface Hub, a digital whiteboard that could handle anything from video conferences, to a shared workspace for working on documents. Despite being plagued with numerous delays to launch and being ridiculously expensive (exceeding $11,000 for even the smaller model plus stand), Microsoft now claims that there are 5,000 companies using Surface Hubs, including half of Fortune 100 companies – and apparently, sales have been good enough for Microsoft to announce a second version is in the works.

    Details are currently scarce regarding the Surface Hub 2, which isn’t planned to retail until 2019; although “selected customers” will be able to test the device later this year. At it’s heart, however, the new Hub is still a gigantic touchscreen-enabled display, which will run Windows 10 and support the Surface Pen. It also has thinner bezels, making it look more like a modern flatscreen TV, albeit one with a wider-than-average 3:2 aspect ratio. Surprisingly, it appears the built-in webcam is also out, meaning you’ll now need to plug in your own to start video conferences – which strikes us an odd move.

    Microsoft appear to be targeting the new Surface Hub as having more potential uses, with the thinner form factor making it easier to create a wall of surface hubs for wide digital displays. To that end, the company has released a Youtube video introducing the Hub 2, which shows off a number of interesting use concepts:

    Microsoft announce Surface Hub 2" /> Microsoft announce Surface Hub 2" />

    The device also contains a fingerprint sensor, so each user can protect their documents and data behind their own accounts and login with just a touch.

    No information is currently available on pricing or technical specifications. We’ll have more news when we get it!

    Feb
    14
    2018

    Apple’s HomePod Speaker is Discolouring Wooden Surfaces

    An Apple Homepod (shown from above)

    While Apple Inc may be gaining plaudits for the audio quality of its new HomePod speakers, some users with wooden furniture are finding themselves less than thrilled with their new purchase, due to a surprising issue that has cropped up.

    Numerous reports have surfaced online from disgruntled Apple customers that the HomePod's silicone base is leaving pale rings when placed on wooden surfaces. Though tests by Bloomberg News failed to replicate the issue, nor does it seem to be replicable with other materials such as glass, several other websites have backed up the wood discolouration claims.

    Although Apple did not originally respond to requests for comment on the issue, it later informed Wirecutter that the company believes the issue is temporary and removing the speaker from the surface should restore the wood colour "within several days". In the event the marks remain, Apple suggested customers “try cleaning the surface with the manufacturer’s suggested oiling method.”

    Sep
    27
    2017

    Atari reveal first information about Ataribox’s specs

    The Atari Logo and registered trademark

    The Atari Logo

    Atari raised a number of eyebrows earlier this year when it suddenly announced it was getting back into the hardware game and working on a brand new console, called the Steambox. Teaser trailers, a preview of the console's planned appearance, and a statement from the company – emphasising that they were "taking things slowly" and revealing information gradually to ensure they get everything right – soon followed; but it's fair to say that we still don't know much about exactly WHAT the Ataribox is… that is, until today.

    In a newsletter to subscribers, Atari has finally let loose some information on exactly what the Ataribox is planned to be. The console will be based on PC hardware and offer "a full PC experience for the TV, bringing you streaming, applications, social, browsing, music, and more", as well as the games. The system will run a customised, lightweight Linux distribution "with a customized, easy-to-use user interface", not unlike a Steambox.

    Atari explained the decision to use Linux with the following statement:

    Most TV devices have closed systems and content stores. Linux lets us be more open; you can access & customise the OS, & you can access games you've bought from other content platforms (if compatible with the OS and HW).

    On the topic of games, Atari have confirmed that the console will come preloaded both with classic Atari titles, and with current-generation titles "from a range of studios". The company hopes to reveal information on the titles in the coming weeks.

    Atari's announcement also put heavy emphasis on the company's desire to have the Atari community "be part of this launch. We want you to have early access, grab special editions (& pricing) and to have you as active partners in the rollout of Ataribox." To this extent, the company has announced that the console will undergo an IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign, planned to launch "very soon". Atari claim that the Ataribox is currently planned to retail for an expected price range of $249-$299, depending on "specific editions and memory configurations". Fans fawning over the previously-announced Atari 2600-homaging wood-based design will also be pleased to hear that this edition of the console will be made with "real wood".

    The Ataribox is planned to ship in late Spring 2018. We'll have more news as it gets revealed.

    Digiprove sealThis informative article has been Digiproved © 2017
    Acknowledgements: Atari Logo and some quoted text (C) Atari
    Some Rights Reserved
    Jun
    26
    2017

    Nintendo confirm SNES-flavoured sequel to Nintendo Classic Mini line

    Nintendo made waves last year when, near the holiday season, it released the NES Classic Mini – a miniaturised facsimile of the original Nintendo Entertainment System, with 30 classic games built-in. Though the console was only available for a few months – with most selling out – before being discontinued by Nintendo as a "limited edition product", even before its discontinuation, rumours were swirling about a potential sequel based on the NES's successor console, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System – often shortened to "Super NES" or just "SNES".

    Well fans, the wait is over. Nintendo has confirmed the rumours, announcing that a SNES-flavoured sequel IS indeed in production and will be hitting European and American Nintendo fans very soon!

    Official banner showing off the European Super Nintendo Entertainment System, courtesy Nintendo UK.

    Like the NES Classic Mini, the Nintendo Classic Mini: Super Nintendo Entertainment System is a miniaturised replica of the Super NES console, seemingly with the localised styling for its region. For us Europeans, that means the sleek and svelte curved chassis embellished on its top-right corner with the four-colour Super NES emblem; Americans will receive the blocky, squarish design with purple buttons that was released in that region. It's not yet clear if the controllers – of which two will be included in every pack – will follow suit. Also included in the package will be a HDMI cable, allowing the classic games to be enjoyed in Full HD for the first time; and a USB cable for power. Annoyingly, the European package will NOT include an AC Adaptor in the box, meaning that if you don't have a powered USB port on your TV, you will need to pay extra for an adaptor to plug it into the mains.

    The less sleek, but still attractive US Edition of the SNES Classic Mini, alongside its controllers (courtesy Nintendo of America)

    But what about the games? While the SNES Classic Mini will feature a smaller software library to its predecessor – containing just 21 games compared to the NES Mini's 30, the titles on offer still give a diverse range of single- and multi-player games comprising many of the original console's favourite titles. All but one of these titles will be available straight off the bat, and all of the titles will be based on their original 60Hz American releases – even in the European edition. For example, Contra III: The Alien Wars, which was remade in Europe as Super Probotector: Alien Rebels, will go back to the original US version for both region's consoles. Star Fox (originally released as Starwing in Europe) and Final Fantasy III (which is actually Final Fantasy VI in the original Japanese numbering scheme, as the actual 3-5 were not released in US originally) also keep their US names.

    Games available from the start:

    • Contra III: The Alien Wars
    • Donkey Kong Country
    • EarthBound
    • Final Fantasy III
    • F-ZERO
    • Kirby Super Star
    • Kirby's Dream Course
    • The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
    • Mega Man X
    • SECRET of MANA
    • Star Fox
    • Street Fighter II Turbo: Hyper Fighting
    • Super Castlevania IV
    • Super Ghouls'n Ghosts
    • Super Mario Kart
    • Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
    • Super Mario World
    • Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island
    • Super Metroid
    • Super Punch-Out!!

    While all the games listed above are available out of the box, Nintendo has also tucked in one final tasty treat. By playing one level of Star Fox, a twenty-first, exclusive game will be unlocked: Star Fox 2! This sequel to the original Star Fox, also originally intended for the SNES, was cancelled just prior to its original launch in all regions, and although it has since been leaked and made available illegally online as a ROM, the game has never been officially released by Nintendo – until now!

    The SNES Classic Edition will hit both Europe and America on September 29, 2017 with a suggested retail price of $79.99 in America; while Nintendo UK has it listed at £69.99 at time of writing. Other European prices are still to be confirmed.

    Jan
    21
    2017

    Need storage? Seagate 4TB Barracuda on Sale at Amazon and NewEgg

    While Solid State Drives may slowly be taking over the world of computer storage due to their fast speeds and lack of spinning parts, if you're looking to store lots of things – maybe you work in a job where regular backups are key, you edit videos a lot, or you're a heavy gamer – or you want reliability, there's still no better than a traditional Hard Drive. And now Seagate is making it easier to get lots of storage for very little outlay – how about 4 Terabytes for $105 (roughly £85.20)?

    That's how much Seagate's 4TB Barracuda drive is on sale for at Amazon's US site, and at NewEgg, which claims the price will stick until Wednesday. At a price that equates to roughly 2p ($0.03) a Gigabyte, this price pitches the Barracuda even cheaper than the cheapest SSDs.

    Take note that the Barracuda line is intended for "general purpose" storage, and thus doesn't have the highest speed when compared to more performance-focused lines like the Barracuda Pro. That said, when the drive is rated to deliver read and write speeds of 146MB/s on average, with a maximum sustained data rate of up to 180MB/s, in most general situations you're hardly going to complain. The 4TB model also sports 64MB of cache, meaning it should get going quickly for your more regular tasks; and also has a SATA 6Gbps interface.

    As of the time of writing, NewEgg is already out-of-stock, so be sure to act fast when the stock comes back if you want one!

    Jan
    05
    2017

    #CES2017: LG Unveils Range of Robots That Will Clean Airports, Mow Lawns…

    Ever since robotic technology became a mainstream thought, people have imagined a future where robots would deal with all of the housework in the home, or even help clean up in the office environment, so that us humans wouldn't have to. LG Corporation wants to make some of these dreams a reality, today unveiling a trio of intelligent robots at CES in Las Vegas, which together offer attendees a glimpse into a future where robots can help you around the house, make sure you catch a flight on-time, mow your lawn, or clean-up trash at the airport.

    The trio of robots are part of the company's movements in developing Internet of Things objects; and are designed to showcase LG’s advancements in artificial intelligence. Leading the pack is the Hub Robot, a robot designed to interact with a household through voice-recognition technology and an anthropomorphic design. Hub's "face" is an interactive display which can show a wide variety of information; and even express emotions using a digitised face.

    The LG Hub Robot

    The LG Hub Robot (Image Courtesy LG Newsroom)

    The Hub Robot connects to other smart appliances you own; then, using Amazon’s Alexa voice recognition technology, the robot can be instructed using simple voice commands to perform tasks such as turning on air conditioning, setting a washing machine, or any other task made possible by the smart gadgets in the home. The robot can also "speak" to guide you through recipes or provide you with information in addition to what's on screen; and the robot can even respond using simple body language like nodding. The Hub Robot also contains a built-in camera; and can be programmed to recognise different family members and respond to them in different ways, for that more personal touch.

    But LG isn’t just interested in building robots to help you around the house; and for the second part of its technology triple-punch, the company has unveiled two robots designed for use in the Airport. The Airport Guide Robot is exactly what the name suggests – already being prepared for deployment in Seoul’s Incheon International Airport, this robot is designed to help travellers by answering their questions in English, Chinese, Japanese or Korean; and can offer directions, provide detailed flight information like boarding times or the gate location, scan a passenger's ticket or escort you to the gate itself. It can even tell you what weather to expect when you arrive at your destination.

    Joining it is the Airport Cleaning Robot, which LG describes as "a super-sized robot vacuum". Using a combination of smart light sensors, multiple cameras, and sensitive bumpers, the Airport Cleaning Robot offers enough cleaning power to clean everything from carpeted floors to tiles – all while avoiding obstacles and passengers to provide the most effective performance in crowded airports.

    On a very similar tangent, the company's final offering is the Lawn Mowing Robot, which uses the same advanced sensors and bumpers as the Airport Cleaning Robot to map out a user's garden and avoid obstacles, hedges and trees as it trims the grass. According to LG, this robot is ideal for all types of yards and uses its fast-moving blade to trim grass safely and accurately.

    All of these robots are now on display at LG's CES booth in Las Vegas, alongside other gadgets such as a smart refrigerator with Amazon Alexa voice-recognition tech and a razor-thin television set. Needless to say, 2017 may prove to be a stellar year for technological advances.

    Apr
    27
    2016

    Nintendo announce planned launch date, Zelda game for NX

    Over a year since it was first teased, we still don’t know what it looks like, plays like, or even what its final name will be – and Nintendo don’t plan to spill the beans until later this year. But now, thanks to a Tweet by Nintendo of America (based on information discreetly hidden in Nintendo of Japan’s annual financial report), we DO finally have one piece of concrete information about the upcoming Nintendo “NX” console – it’s launch date:

    March 2017. Just under a year away from the date of this article’s publication. For Nintendo, however, the launch likely can’t come soon enough. The Wii U has failed to resonate with players, with the GamePad being seen as a gimmick and games such as Splatoon and Bayonetta not doing enough to pull people on side; and the console’s lack of power compared to the XBox One and PS4 has seen its third-party support dwindle into near-nothingness. That Nintendo has taken a hit for the console’s failure was apparent in the annual fiscal report, revealing that Nintendo as a whole made 45.3 billion yen less in the last 12 months than the previous financial year, though this still equates to 504.5 billion yen or roughly £3.116 billion British Pounds.

    Importantly, however, Nintendo’s operating income came in at 32.8 billion yen last year, an increase of 8 billion yen. The company predicts that its move towards smartphones, combined with the launch of the NX, will pay off in the next year and aim to hit 45 billion yen in operating income by the end of the 2016/17 financial year.

    Of course, Nintendo may also have another ace in the sleeve to get people back on-side – a dynamite launch title. Nintendo also announced today, in a separate announcement to the fans, that the long-awaited Zelda Wii U title has once again been delayed to 2017, for “further quality testing”; and that the game will now launch simultaneously for both the Wii U and the NX – meaning that a new Zelda title may well be a launch title for the next console as well as a swansong for the current generation, paralleling the launch of Twilight Princess for Wii and GameCube ten years ago. 2017 may well be an interesting year for Nintendo fans.

    This article first appeared on Sanitarium.FM

    Jan
    17
    2016

    Fixstars launch the highest-capacity SSD yet – and it holds 13TB

    Time was that Solid State Drives were a bit of a compromise. What you gained in speed and safety due to the lack of moving parts and general snappiness of a fully chip-based approach, you lost in capacity – Solid State Drives simply couldn't hold Terabytes of data like classic Hard Drives. Well, thanks to the latest offering from Fixstars, that may soon no longer be the case.

    Fixstars SSD-13000M

    Introducing the new Fixstars SSD-13000M, a new 2.5-inch Solid State Drive capable of holding a whopping 13TB of capacity, making it the biggest SSD in the world at the time of writing. To give some perspective of just how much data that is, you could fit 2,800 full-size DVDs on just one of these monsters, though the company also offers a less-expensive model released at the same time with a slightly lower 10TB capacity.

    Both drives offer read speeds of up to 540MB/s and sequential writes of up to 520MB/s, which means theoretically you could fill just one of those Terrabytes in just 33 minutes and 37 seconds if you've got huge amounts of data to store at once.

    Of course, writing huge amounts of data to a drive at once can severely reduce it's lifespan. However, Satoshi Miki, CEO of Fixstars, commented: "The Fixstars SSD series has been highly regarded for their distinct reliability on steady read/write performance that lasts over time." To this end the drives are temperature-controlled to reduce the amount of heat typically generated when a drive is put under heavy load, preventing heat damage; while the drives offer an optional high durability mode that allows users to cut the storage in half in return for a claimed three times the longevity (so you end up with just 6.5TB usable space, but it will live far longer).

    Naturally, a drive like this is going to be expensive; and the target market for this high-capacity SSD is more tailored towards the enterprise; and for tasks such as heavy-duty video processing. The SSD-13000M's expected retail price in America, where it launches by the end of Febuary 2016, is an eye-watering $13,000 – that's a grand a Terrabyte! This equates to about £9,000 for us British folk, although everything Hardware tends to command a higher premium when it reaches these shores, so take that estimate with a pinch of salt – especially as prices and availability outside the US are yet to be confirmed.

    Aug
    17
    2015

    Samsung Aim For Beyond CD Quality With Latest Wireless Headphones

    One of the main problems with any type of wireless communication is that in order to maintain speed and allow the signal to be transmitted effectively, data often has to be compressed to fit the bandwidth. For wireless audio, this is a problem, as compressing sound signals can reduce the overall quality of the sound you hear, meaning that wireless headphones rarely give you CD Quality sound.

    Samsung, however, believe they can make it work. The company's newly introduced Level On Wireless Pro headphones include a new technology, dubbed "Ultra High Quality Audio" that improves the quality of sound whether you're plugged in or streaming wirelessly. In typical conditions, the headphones are supposedly capable of CD Quality sound, particularly when listening to a lossless audio format (such as FLAC) or streaming service (such as Tidal). However, when paired with a device that supports Ultra High Quality Audio, such as Samsung's own Galaxy Note 5 or Galaxy S6 Edge+ smartphones, and the right source material, Samsung claim the sound experience can reach higher-than-CD fidelity. That's pretty impressive from a wireless headset, though the caveats (Engadget helpfully claims that "you'll need to shop at a service like Pono's to get the right source material") mean that getting this higher quality audio may not always be clear-cut.

    Being an improved version of the existing Level On Wireless headphones, the Pro comes with the same additional benefits of its less audiophile cousin – "extra comfortable" cushions designed to completely enclose the ear, active noise cancelling and touch-sensitive controls – though the claimed 11 hour battery life will slightly reduce if one uses Bluetooth and noise reduction at the same time. Given the existing model tends to retail for around the £140 mark, it can be expected that the Level On Wireless Pro will retail for slightly more; but Samsung are yet to reveal price or shipping dates for the new product as of the time of going to press. Watch this space!

    [Via Sanitarium.FM]

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